I admit for years I had no budget. I really had no idea. I was a typical college student, overextending multiple lines of credit (therefore trashing it for years) and generally not understanding how to get things to work. When I moved back home a few years ago, I sat down, got my credit report, read through all 20 pages, read all the debt I had accrued, and went “well, this is a fine mess I’ve gotten into.”…. okay, it was more me running around freaking out for a while.
I had 2 part time jobs when I lived at home (I was a waitress at a local place, and then I either worked at a grocery store, or at a greenhouse) for over 12 months. 14 I think? I was let go from both jobs right around Thanksgiving in 2009, then after looking around for jobs I finally just went back to school in Fall 2010. In that time frame, even on 2 part time jobs, I managed to learn to budget very efficiently – enough I could still even take trips while managing to pay off at least one bill a month or pay down. (I paid off something like almost $15k worth of debt including some student loan in the time frame.)
Now, here’s the rub. right now, I have very little savings. It is something that right now I don’t have the luxury on, and it makes me very nervous. Which is why even with a full time job I’m working to get back to working on eBay in extra time. I lived for 3 years doing nothing but reselling, and that was really, really tiring and I hope to never have to do that again But it would be extra money, that can be used.
So now, my budget is (roughly) ~$1600/month after taxes.
When it comes to budgeting, I actually have mine in a couple areas. I have a whiteboard calendar that is dated 31 days, and on this calendar, I have the bill and usual price of bill (ie: my water/sewer/trash bill is variant between $50-70).
When you sit down to make a budget, go throughout the month, and write down what day you have what bill due, and how much it is. That’s always the first step in a budget. Make it on a piece of paper you can add/subtract to. Get a pile of all your bills. Write this all down on paper, as well as wherever else you need to remember. It’s easiest for me in multiple places as I always have a notebook with me.
So my budget reads something like:
1st: Rent – $873+60 (rent + covered parking + water/sewer/trash avg)
13th-18th: Credit card $100 (minimum is $68), Cable $50 (usually $40-45), Verizon $94 ($91-94)
13th-21st: Car Insurance – $125 ($110-125), Life Insurance – $17, Student Loan – $100 (minimum $86)
Things I don’t have on my calendar yet: Electricity – because I haven’t yet gotten a bill since it just got turned into my name. Cat expenditures, Car gas, my food. I use my credit card for car gas every month, which keeps a small active balance on it that I can pay a month. (I have some remaining balance from not being paid for work I did that involved travel that had to be paid via CC. long story)
So.. if you’re good with adding, you can see roughly I have less than $200 a month for the rest. Which is why I rarely go out – I quite honestly don’t have the money, because I PAY MY BILLS FIRST. I did have a roommate, whom I charged not quite half of even rent and utilities, etc, but I have since went back to living by myself because when I rely on people to pay bills and they choose not to – for whatever reason – it’s not a help, it’s a hindrance that almost made me lose the apartment. (can’t wait to get the money I am owed remaining from that, for savings.)
When I went back to living by myself, I decided to ditch my storage unit every month. I resigned my lease recently, and my rent went up from $789 to $848/mo for a 2/2. So I have a 2nd room that at the time was empty. I looked into moving into a 1 bedroom apartment, but the ‘cheapest’ option at the time was $750/mo, and I’d have to keep my storage unit at $60/mo.
So, $848 and move my storage stuff into my 2nd room, and set up the 2nd room to work on eBay, writing, stuff like that – or move into a 1 bedroom at $750/mo, keep the storage unit at $60 = $38 difference. I kept my slightly larger apartment – plus, my storage here is climate controlled Also, if it comes that I do eventually need to have a roommate, then I can go ahead and get a storage unit again and find someone. I have options at this rate – I do not with a one bedroom.
But, my budget can take it. Just barely, but it can take it. And I didn’t resign that lease until I knew for certain.
I hope this makes sense for people, if not, I can share more information.
Here’s some rules:
Rule A: Don’t budget on money that is not steady. I sell stuff on half.com, craiglist, etc – I’ve made an extra $60 this month alone from both those. That is extra money for me – either to buy extras or put in the bank. Overtime money? never budgeted. It’s never steady.
Rule B: Rewarding yourself is important but don’t use it as justification for overspending. My reward for working a ton of overtime? I stocked up on things I *needed* (such as cat food/litter on a great sale, stuff like toilet paper on sale) for things like peace of mind (plus, I don’t have to buy TP until like May or June at this rate), and then bought a new hairbrush and nail polish ($10). Yep, big spender. But it IS important to reward yourself now and again. Keep a wishlist.. or several. Ever seen my amazon wishlists? Full of everything from $1 books to $300 cat litter boxes. But it’s always a way to remember things I like or would like to save for!
Rule C: If you have a variant bill, either average it over the course of 12 months, or just figure high. My Car Insurance usually has ranged between $110 a month and $125. I always figure on $125/mo. If it’s lower? A little left over is a good thing. Never a bad thing. Also, round up your cents. $93.79 = $94.
Rule D: Any bill that just has a “minimum”, like a credit card or student loan? budget over it. Make yourself pay more. My student loan is $86/minimum a month, and I pay usually $100-125/mo. Not only do you get your bills down faster, you pay less in interest. Pay more for the high interest things, but always pay over your minimum. In the course of a year, even if I only pay $14 more on my loan a month, that’s $14×12 = $168. What’s $86×2? $172. So.. basically, I’m paying 14 months of minimum payments in a year by simply increasing every month by $14. When you are paying over the course of 7 years… well, you can see where I’m going. I can cut almost an entire YEAR off the time of the life of the loan…with an extra $14/month. Pretty simple if you break it down that way.
Rule E(xtreme): PAY YOUR BILLS FIRST EVERY MONTH. When I get paid, I immediately come home and pay the bills. Then, after that, I decide whether or not I can go do something fun or just go get milk, butter, and fruit at the store.
Rule F: If you’re in over your head, contact the companies you owe money to. Talk to them. Many companies will take a lower payment every month as long as you are paying. I remember paying one $2100 bill in $50 increments for a number of years – because that’s all I could afford. But they took it! And they were very happy about it!
Rule G: DO. NOT. LIVE. ON. CREDIT. CARDS. I have one. ONE. it’s cute. And it has a ladybug on it – most importantly, a good interest rate. I don’t need multiple ones. For me, that’s temptation – and I can admit it. I do not need the temptation. Living beyond your means will only get you burned in the end.
Here’s some good hints on budgeting:
Hint 1: If you want to budget in putting money into savings, DO IT. If that’s the only way to get yourself to be able to save, set up a separate savings account that the only way you can get money in and out is to go to the bank and drop off a check – and pay yourself every month. (Credit Unions are -great- for this.)
Hint 2: There isn’t a “maybe I can afford this or not”. Numbers are steady. You know how much money you have and how many bills you have. Sometimes there’s a bit of wiggle room – maybe you worked a couple extra hours overtime, but there’s an item that costs more money than that that you want? Save up for it. You can’t afford it. Learn how to tell yourself no.
Hint 3: Living paycheck to paycheck sucks. And I hate it. But it’s possible if you stick to your budget. If you go off budget, get back on board immediately!
Hint 4: Watch sales. I managed to save on my budget this month – I usually spend $40 month on cat litter, and because of sales, I bought the same amount pound wise for $30. Coupon sites are great, but only clip what you NEED. Don’t go extreme couponing just because you can – great way to throw your budget and make you spend money on things you don’t need just because you’re shopping. If you are saving up for a large purchase that you don’t need omg right away when you get the money, wait for a sale. Use sites like mrrebates.com, ebates.com – I don’t buy much online, but I’ve made over $100 back in a few years from these sites. I also use swagbucks.com – I use it strictly to buy Amazon gift cards. even 1 $5 Amazon GC every month = $60 a year I can use for laundry soap (which I can only find on Amazon, not locally) or books or whatever I’d like
Every little bit helps.
Hint 5: Remove temptation. I don’t go to malls.. or to stores.. when I’m broke and can’t afford things. There’s tons of free things to do around here, there’s always a great outdoors to go walk in, sit under a tree and read a book. I have a big weakness for books, and i never go to a bookstore unless I’m going in for a specific reason, because well….. temptation.
Hint 6: Ways to cut budgets: FOOD PRICES. Make lunches at home, take to work. Buy a french press, make better coffee at home instead of an overpriced Starbucks. Seriously – food is usually a huuuuuuuge expenditure. Add up what you spend in one week by eating out. Go budget what you can do at home… you’ll be shocked. Shop used items – I rarely buy any clothing new, or if I do, I will buy off a clearance rack. Goodwills are awesome, Craiglist is always AYOR, eBay can be great – or a temptation.
Hint 7: Make yourself do it. The rewards are enormous. I’ve never been able to have my own place, like I do now, before having a budget.