Budget Shmudget

I don't often talk money around these parts, but I'll admit that it's something I think about quite a bit. As we've moved to one salary (and some student loans), I have adjusted how we're budgeting our dollars and cents quite a bit.

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:
  • Groceries
  • Electricity + water + internet
  • Mortgage
  • 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
  • Haircuts
  • 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. 


missris said…
I'm always amazed at how much we can save if we just eat out less. $30 here, $50 there, it really adds up! I'd rather eat at home and then go out for a cheap beer or dessert anyway, which are things I can't/don't make at home :)
Amber said…
We take out cash every month for groceries, gas, entertainment (eating out basically) and pet food. We take out the cash to cover all of that on the 1st of the month and basically live by the rule that if we run out we run out. We also have pretty much every cent we both make budgeted towards something (whether that's savings or paying bills) and then we each have an allowance of approximately $160 per month each that we can spend on whatever we want no questions asked. Some months we go over on our allowance and some months we're under. I do always try to have wiggle room in our budget though in case an unexpected expense comes up - those are the worst!!
I also rarely eat out, as I would rather eat homemade food for a week and then splurge on a night out once in a while instead. In fact, I think items like lunches and coffees out can add up more quickly than most people realize! Being single, I don't have to worry to much about working out a budget with another person, so I pretty much spend what I want. However, I don't really want (or need!) that many things! I often make do with an older thing (slacks for work etc) instead of buying a new one. I have also found some great deals on unworn clothes at thrift stores!
I got pretty serious about budgeting/managing my finances when I hit 30. Before that I was kind of willy nilly about my spending (and saving). Now I have an excel spreadsheet where I track what will come out of each paycheck and I set other goals like paying down debt or building savings to a certain amount and I track my progress toward that goal throughout the year. And then I also use mint because I like seeing the breakdown of my spending.

We also save by not eating out much. I eat lunch out one day week, have 1 coffee/week and we usually have 1 dinner out/week, sometimes less.

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