When I was in college learning about project management, we talked a lot about scope creep. That’s when your project slowly grows bigger because the manager is allowed new things to be added. It’s not a good thing because it makes the project take longer, cost more, and can impact quality.

Spending creep happens when you slowly start spending money outside your budget. You might spend a little extra when you learn you get a raise. Or when you get a tax refund. Or maybe there’s some special occasion this month and you’re only going to do it this once. Spending outside your budget one time will lead you to justify it another and another. Before you know it, you’re not sticking to your budget at all. Most people end up blaming the budget rather than their spending habits.

You can avoid spending creep all together by not starting it at all. Only spend what’s included in your budget. If you get a windfall or your income increases, adjust your budget for that month. You’re less likely let spending creep become a habit that way.

If you’re already caught in a trap of spending creep, pull your budget back out. Make sure it accurately reflects your income and spend only based on your budget.