“I’d like the Miscellaneous combo with a side of Other, please.”

What on earth would you get if you ordered that? A pair of socks, some oil for the car, and a keychain, maybe?

Of course you’d never hear anyone place an order like that, but it’s common for budgets to have a category called “miscellaneous” or “other” in them. (Or sometimes both!) Things like socks, oil, keychains & more are regularly plopped into those categories without a second thought. (In my spreadsheet they’d go under the categories of Clothing-me, Auto-Maintenance, and Gifts — gifts on the keychain because I haven’t bought a keychain for myself since I was 16.)

I’d like to encourage you to eliminate those non-descriptive categories from your spending plans.

When tracking current expenses or planning for future ones, you should be able to describe the expenditures well enough that a stranger reading the categories could have a pretty decent idea of what you spent your money on. The real point of doing so is to keep YOU aware of and on-track with the choices you’re making with your money. If you’re plopping things into a catch-all category like miscellaneous, all too easily that category can fill up like a junk drawer.

If you’ve already got a miscellaneous category, remember that you can’t buy a miscellaneous. Commit to putting future expenditures into their real categories. Maybe you’re not thrilled with the idea that you spent $200 on eating out last month, but if you have a category for eating out, at least you’ll know exactly what you need to do if you decide to change things. If you’ve got eating out lumped in to “other”, how will you know where to start? Will you even remember, 6 months from now as you’re glancing back over previous months, that $200 of the $363.24 in “other” was spent on eating out? Focusing in on things and getting specific empowers you.