I Tried: Budgeting

Kicking off the “I Tried” series, where I will be documenting experiences or “life hacks” that I try, is BUDGETING.

Good financial habits and intentionality with spending can benefit people making $30,000 a year just as much as someone making $3,000,000 a year.

Understanding that, I wanted to take more control over my $.

After researching, I found that a envelope-based budgeting system would be a great way to start tracking my earnings, and spending, in order to maximize what I’m saving each month.

***I started budgeting back in October 2019 and am posting this as a 4 month update…having done it October, November, December, and January!***

OCTOBER 2019

I graduated from college in May 2019 and will be starting law school in August 2020. I felt that October 2019 (10 months before law school starts) was a perfect time to try budgeting.

And actually stick to it.

Inspired somewhat by Dave Ramsey’s Zero Based Budget, which inspires users to make their money work for them through assigning each dollar a task, I decided to put my own spin on it and make it more fitting to my lifestyle.

I currently work at a restaurant as a server. This means that my income isn’t always predictable. While I typically average a certain amount of tips per shift, in addition to my bimonthly paychecks, some months are more, and some months are less.

Understanding that, I set out to make a ~realistic~ budget based on a conservative estimate of my monthly income.

First, I stopped by Target and picked up a notebook that happened to be 35 cents. What a steal.

After that, I sat down and wrote down my necessary monthly expenses.

These can include: rent, utilities, car payment, car insurance, gas, phone payment, gym membership, monthly subscriptions, etc.

After determining my “necessary” monthly expenses, I analyzed my past spending habits to make a tighter budget for things like food/drink, coffee/tea, and miscellaneous.

Once I had those numbers down, I went on Amazon and purchased laminated cash envelopes.

I opted for a cash-based budgeting system in order to integrate mindfulness towards the money I am spending.

Using a debit and/or credit card can enable disconnected spending habits. Swiping a card feels less intense than pulling cash out of an envelope, realizing how much you have left in the envelope, and deciding whether or not to purchase something.

Paying cash for things like a t-shirt or an iced coffee has made me realize how much of my $ has been going towards “unnecessary” things.

Moreover, it has forced me to ask myself “do I reallllly need this right now? or do I just want it? or do I just think its a good deal?”

While I can’t really debate my way out of paying for things like gas, I can pass on the takeout iced coffee and make coffee or tea at home. I can also pass on the cute t-shirt when I have perfectly fine t-shirts at home!

Guiding this budget was an overall savings amount I want to hit by August 2020.

Because of that, I wanted to start living according to a budget sooner than later.

I know understand that while budgeting feels restrictive at times, it teaches you to respect the money you have.

February 2020

Since starting with the cash envelopes, I have transitioned to digital budget envelopes through the iPhone app “Simple Budget Envelopes” (how fitting).

How it works is you create “envelopes” for different categories and add the amount (budget) for whatever time period it is for.

In order to make my envelopes, I first take note of my necessary expenses for the month and track when my automated payments (for things like my car and car insurance) will be coming out.

Then, I break up the month into two: the first 15 days, and the remainder of the month.

On the 1st of the month, I simply enter the “budget” for the category in the app.

For example, I set my coffee/tea budget for $17 for the first 15 days of the month and $18 for the remainder of the month ($35/month).

After that, every time I purchase a coffee/tea I enter it into the app.

I input my entries like this:

2/4: Dunkin Donuts $2.50

I put the date, what I purchased, and the price.

Regardless if I paid with cash, debit, or credit, the amount is entered into the app.

While this may seem neurotic to do with every transaction, it keeps me accountable and helps me see where my money goes!

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the best at saying “no” to myself once my budget runs out in certain categories, but I’m working on it!

Despite my shortcomings, I have been able to hit the saving goal I set for each month!

If I have extra money leftover, I send it to my savings account.

I’m excited to continue to practice budgeting and hit that overall goal savings amount come August 2020!

Have you tried budgeting? What tips/tricks have helped you?

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