I'll admit that neither the manfriend or I have been particularly amazing at budgeting previously, but this change in our finances spurred us to sit down several months back and go through our basic expenses and upcoming needs to develop our base budget (i.e. what we could exist on if we really didn't do or buy much of anything "extra").
While budgeting isn't the most thrilling activity or topic to think about, I confess that after going through the process, I feel much more confident about our financial decisions than I did before. Rather than just spending as we wish and making sure to pay our bills, we're being strategic with our $. And I like that.
Our basics include:
- Electricity + water + internet
- Car payment
- Cell phones
- Home/auto insurance
- Savings (a modest amount)
- Private insurance (now that I won't be covered through work)
- Gas + oil changes
- Dog food
- Manfriend's beer/coffee money (gotta keep things a little fun)
Honestly, seeing our basic monthly needs added up wasn't as jaw dropping as I might have expected. It was doable.
Of course, life throws curve balls, so there are things like a new roof or dentist visits that will come up and leave you rearranging said previous budget. But because I have this basic budget set up, I'm not panicking when these things come up.
What has changed?
- I'm not doing as many fitness classes as I used to. Lifeforce has pretty much been removed and I am going to yoga about 1x per week. But I'm still keeping my yogaglo membership so I can do classes at home.
- We're sticking to one meal/dinner out per week. Even if it sounds good to grab burritos or Thai food on a Wednesday night, it's likely not happening if I think we might go out later in the week.
- I am testing out the cash envelope method for groceries. Every two weeks I'll get out a set amount of cash designated for our groceries and then I'll try to only use this $ when I go shopping. Granted, I just started doing this, so it's not yet perfect (i.e. sometimes I forget to bring the cash with me), but it's a start. Plus, cash has me less likely to grab random things I just want.
- I'm getting better at not buying things I really want (but don't need). This means avoiding LOFT sales or heading to REI to grab something I need/want for running. Those $30-40 purchases add up!
- We're prioritizing bigger purchases more than we did before. Things like a new front door, a new chair, a rug for the bedroom, etc.
So, that's it. It's not a perfect system by any means, but I'm happy that we feel in control of where our money is going and that we're making smarter decisions with our money.
Do you follow a monthly budget? Any tips or tricks to share?
I've also noticed that this time of year makes it a bit easier to avoid unnecessary purchases because I remind myself how much we have compared to some and that really, I have everything I need in life. Plus, when I spend extra money on meals or experiences, those are often much more rewarding purchases than acquiring more things.