I’ve always considered myself to be pretty decent with handling my money, but I would also admit pretty readily that in the past, I was a bit lazy about it. Sure, I’d made a loose budget of some sort or other most months since my husband and I first got married nearly 12 years ago, but I definitely wasn’t hardcore about it or anything.
Then a whole bunch of factors converged last year so that I could no longer be lazy about it — I quickly realized I needed to anticipate as many expenses as I could, be smart about windfalls and larger income months, and hone my frugal skills even more.
Enter the yearly one-off expenses spreadsheet.
I don’t know why it took me so long to do anything like this, but now that I have, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. It has been so freeing to know at a glance when the majority of our expenses will come up over the course of the year, and it’s taken away the constant pings of stress I was having whenever I’d forgotten (yet another) random expense that only came up once a year.
Below I’ll detail what my spreadsheet contains and the benefits of using one, along with specific examples. If you want to actually see an example of the spreadsheet I use and download an editable version of it for your own use, you can buy that from my Etsy shop HERE for just $1.99.
Note: There may be affiliate links to books, products, or services mentioned.
What Is a Yearly One-Off Expense Sheet?
Basically, a yearly one-off expense spreadsheet shows you which expenses you anticipate over the course of the year that only come up once annually, or sometimes once quarterly (like an insurance premium). The way I did my spreadsheet is that I divided it into different broad categories (house maintenance and projects, car, medical and insurance, holidays and birthdays, travel, and miscellaneous), and then I wrote down all the expected expenses I could think for for the whole year in the column below, followed by the anticipated amount and the expected due date. Once again, you can see what that looks like HERE.
This is different from my regular monthly budget spreadsheet, which includes the categories for recurring monthly expenses and then several blank lines at the bottom to add in specific monthly expenses. This is also different than just doing sinking funds for each category; a sinking fund is basically created to specifically allot certain dollars to certain categories, but it doesn’t necessarily say when those dollars will be used, or what they will be used for. For example, we have a sinking fund for car maintenance and repairs, but that largely acts as kind of an emergency fund for any unexpected repairs that come up, as well as a general slush fund for the expected oil changes, DMV registration, etc. This yearly one-off expenses spreadsheet specifically tells me when certain expenses need to be paid, as well as the anticipated dollar amounts. It allows me to see exactly how much I need to anticipate spending each month above and beyond our normal monthly (recurring) expenses.
In addition to just outlaying the expenses for the year, I also utilize my spreadsheet to show which things I’ve totally paid off, which things I put on a credit card and still need to be paid off, and which expenses ended up not being necessary. I do this by highlighting the amounts with different colors (green for paid off, yellow for something that’s on the credit card and in the process of being paid off, and red for no longer needed). I also used the spreadsheet to calculate out the grand total of money that I expect we’ll need to go towards one-off expenses for the year, as well as the amount I’ve already paid off.
What Are Some of the One-Off Expenses to Consider Adding?
If you’re tired of constantly coming up against one-off expenses you forgot about and want to create your own spreadsheet or list, here are some things to consider. First, you need to consider your broader categories. Perhaps you want to add additional categories to mine, such as “kids” if your kids are involved in multiple extracurricular activities, or maybe you own a small business (as we do) and want to include a spreadsheet for big business expenses you’re expecting.
Below I’ll just include the most common categories you’ll probably want to include, and what you might consider putting in each.
Home Maintenance + Projects
Under the “Home” category, you’ll want to include any quarterly or annual expenses that you might expect to come up in the course of the year concerning any renovations or projects you’re hoping to do, any repairs that you already know will need to happen, as well as any payments you might need to make (such as to home insurance or property taxes) that aren’t automatically covered in your escrow/mortgage payment.
On my spreadsheet right now, I included the payments I need to make to pay off the windows we had installed last year, two anticipated repairs that need to happen (two plumbing leaks and our doorbell), and a few home projects (like getting new baseboards, and finishing off our kitchen floor). We also currently have a broken dishwasher and have decided to replace it rather than repair it since we didn’t like the original dishwasher much to begin with, so that’s in there as well.
Medical + Insurance
Under the medical category, you’ll want to include any insurance premiums that AREN’T paid monthly (such as a life insurance policy), as well as any medical or dental procedures you plan on getting done that year. Additionally, you’ll want to include costs for anything that comes up on a variable basis, such as certain prescriptions, new contacts or glasses, eye or dental exams, etc.
On our spreadsheet for the year, we currently have when our quarterly life insurance premiums are due, as well as the quarterly payments for our kids’ insurance. We also have the expected cost for the delivery of our baby in May (both the hospital bill and the physician bill), as well as money for an eye exam and new contacts and glasses.
All of our regular health insurance and dental insurance premiums are paid on a monthly basis, so those are not included on the spreadsheet. Remember, you’re just trying to prevent the panic of a “Oh no, that was due this month?!” moment, which wouldn’t come up with expenses you pay on a monthly basis, so you’re just including payments that DON’T come up every month.
Under the car category, you’ll want to include the usual annual expenses such as your car registration (and an emissions and/or safety test, if you need one of those too), as well as the expenses that come up more variably, such as oil changes. If you know of any car repairs coming up (or that you anticipate will come up), include those as well.
On ours, we have registration for both cars, as well as oil changes. To calculate the oil changes, I looked at our past budgets to see when those came out (and how many months we typically went between each), and then planned accordingly. For the vehicle we drive more (our minivan), I planned for an oil change every four months, and for our lesser used vehicle (that my husband mostly just takes to work), I planned for an oil change every six months. I’d also been told by our car mechanic that our van’s brake pads needed to be changed with our next oil change, so I put that in as well.
Travel + Fun
The travel category is fairly self explanatory–simply put in the overall expected cost of each trip you plan to make, and when you’re taking the trip. Don’t forget to calculate the entire cost as best as you can, including airfare or gas, lodgings, meals out, any food you’re packing with you, the cost of certain activities, etc. I usually add about 10% to any planned travel budget just to account for most unexpected expenses that might come up.
I also choose to include in my spreadsheet the costs of any expected day trips we plan to make, such as the trip to the aquarium we’ve planned for when my youngest is finally potty trained. So if you know you’re planning trips to the zoo or a museum or whatever throughout the course of the year, try to include those as well. Bonus: This also helps you to not only be more organized about the financial aspects of things, but I also have discovered that it makes me better at “spacing out” some fun things throughout the year so that we have different things to look forward to.
Holidays + Gifts
One financial guru (maybe it was Dave Ramsey?) once said something to the effect of “Christmas is not an emergency!”, meaning that since you know it comes around every year, you shouldn’t be surprised every November/December that you need to come up with the money to cover it. It’s the same thing with birthdays and holidays. They come up every year, so I shouldn’t be surprised every April when I need to come up with some money for Easter baskets, or every June for a Father’s Day gift.
This category is pretty easy to plan out — just write down what holidays you plan to celebrate (and that you plan to need money on some level to help celebrate), as well as the expected dollar amounts and the month the holiday is in. The same thing with birthdays and anniversaries.
My miscellaneous category is obviously super broad, but you could further break your spreadsheet into more specific categories if you have several items under things like “subscriptions” or “annual fees” or “kids activities/school.” I’ve chosen to just lump all of those into one category since I like my spreadsheet to all be easily viewed without shifting the screen from one side to another and since I only had a couple things under each of those subcategories.
Under my miscellaneous heading, I have yearly subscriptions such as my membership fee for Sam’s Club, our ID theft insurance policy premium, etc. We do currently have an annual Disney Plus subscription, but it was a Christmas gift from my dad and stepmom, so I’m not writing that into our regular budget because I don’t necessarily plan to renew it myself at the end of this year unless our budget easily allows it. I also included the activities I anticipate we’ll sign our kids up for this year (softball, swimming, maybe dance), as well as the yearly fees I need to pay for my blogs, such as my domain registration. I also included our dog’s anticipated vet visits for the year.
Why Is It Worth Making One?
So, to be fair, this spreadsheet is not something you can whip together in a half hour or so. Even if you’re supremely organized with your entire life, I anticipate that it would take you at least 2-3 hours to fill it out for the first time, and then an additional half hour to hour to update it on a monthly basis. If your finances are kind of all over the place, you might need to chunk out more like 5-8 hours to really fill out the sheet to be as accurate as possible.
So yes, it is a lot of work. But is it worth it?
Maybe everyone else is a much more organized adult than I am, but I can tell you exactly how my life has gone for the better part of the last decade before I started doing this —
I would plan out a loose monthly budget, pat myself on the back for doing it, then be totally surprised (over and over and over again) every couple weeks when YET ANOTHER *unexpected but not unexpected* expense came up that I then had to scramble to find a way to pay. Sometimes my memory was good enough to remember that that particular car’s registration was always due in September or that we paid for our Sam’s Club membership in May, but my memory definitely didn’t help me to remember when all the oil changes were likely to need to happen, or when the fees for paying our water rights on our property came due.
During the months and years when we had an easier buffer in our budget, these surprises were annoying, but not catastrophic. I would usually just shift a few things around and continue on with life.
But since for much of our married life, we’ve definitely been on the lower side of the income spectrum, there were SO MANY TIMES when these “surprises” were enough to cause tears and real stress.
Nowadays, I still experience tears and stress when it comes to certain money surprises (ha ha), but they happen very infrequently now. I can’t tell you how freeing it’s been to plan out my monthly budget really thoroughly and know that throughout the month, I actually have the money to cover nearly every last thing that should come up. Sure, I’ll occasionally still have a surprise or two come up, but they’re usually really small (and often optional, like extra meals out or unplanned date nights when we get a willing babysitter).
What’s also been really, really helpful is that each month, not only are our expenses variable, but our income is, too. Knowing ahead of time when we have a bigger month coming up (that will exceed our expected income for that month) means that I can set aside extra money the month or two before in order to cover that larger month that’s coming up later.
When your finances are a bit messy or disorganized or not totally thought out, there’s definitely going to be stress involved. I didn’t fully realize how much this issue of not thinking out my one-off expenses was really taking a toll on me until I finally sat down and calculated it all out. Now that I have, I leave the tab open on my computer so I can easily refer to it frequently (along with my other main budgeting spreadsheets), and I’ve gotten a lot of peace of mind from must knowing more or less what I can likely expect for the year.
If you want an editable version of the spreadsheet I use that you can customize for your own use, you can purchase that HERE.
Drop a comment below with your own experiences managing one-off expenses and how you choose to budget for them, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have!