When I was younger, I was not so great at saying no to things that took up time and energy that I didn’t have or just didn’t want to give. I found myself struggling, exhausted, or flaking out on things I’d said I would do. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that my time is a zero-sum game. If I say yes to something, that means I might have to say no to something else. I can’t do it all.
It took me longer to see that money (for most of us) works the same way. Money has always stressed me out, regardless of how much I have saved up or coming in. I spent most of my adult life up to now carefully monitoring what was coming and what I was spending and keeping that all stored up in my head, which worked OK for me. In the last year, I’ve realized that keeping this all in my head has kept me afloat for sure. But it’s meant that money is always somewhere in the front of my mind. Since I was budgeting 24/7, every purchase seemed like I was taking away from something else and caused a little internal battle.
Realizing how much stress this was causing me took a while, and realizing that there were other options for living in a way that was money-conscious but not constantly nagging took even longer. I think I’ve finally figured out something that works for me and I want to share it, but there are a few caveats:
First, it’s no big revelation. People have been creating budgeting systems for years and there are only so many variations.
Second, this works for me right now, but your mileage may vary. This might not even be perfect for met yet and will totally be tweaked later too.
My Budget System: What’s Going Out
I love spreadsheets! Oh my god do I love spreadsheets. So I started my budget with a spreadsheet. I made a list of my monthly expenses in these categories: Rent, Phone, Electricity, Internet, Yoga/Gym, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Medical, Food, Student Loans, School, Medical, Shopping, Car Insurance, Gas/Car Maintenance. These categories will surely be different from person to person, but that might give you a headstart on yours. There are a few things I think are important here:
- List out all of your subscriptions separately! You can set a certain amount for entertainment/TV/whatever, but having to write out each subscription service and what you pay for it makes you realize how much you are spending on each one and whether or not it’s worth it.
- Of course some of these are variable. My electric bill in May is vastly different from December. I budget for the highest amount I have seen in the last year or so, that way I should be good no matter what.
- “Food” is a broad one, and I did that intentionally. This includes what I expect to spend on groceries in a month and a little extra for going out a few times. I love both cooking and going out to eat, so putting these two together helps me balance that and save on both.
- My biggest piece of advice here is to be realistic. I have a budget item for “shopping” that, for me, includes buying new clothes, gifts, whatever else comes up. If you try to pare down your expenses to the very barest necessities, it’s going to be hard to stick to. Sometimes you really have to do that, and that’s ok, but give yourself some room to treat yo’ self if you can. Tracking this monthly helps me to see that it’s OK to spend some money on not-necessarily-vital items. It also helps me see that I have to spread out my Tom Haverford moments.
The other half of my spreadsheet lists my income sources and what I make monthly from each one. This can be variable too, so I do my best to average. The difference between how much I need to spend and how much I make is what I expect to be putting into savings each month.
Paying the Bills
I wait until the end of the month and pay all my bills at once. This is a big deal for me. I used to jump at every chance to pay a little bit on a bill, but again, my new system is more holistic and less about micro-managing every single day and penny. I’ve found it’s much easier to keep track of what I need to pay when I do it all at once anyways. After I pay my bills, I put what I’ve got left into savings. If it’s drastically different from what I expected, I look into why and adjust my budget/income sources as necessary.
Stuff comes up in our lives. Cars break down, people get sick, pets get sick, holiday gifts need to be bought, and most things that come up cost money. Savings helps me with that. I try not to be hard on myself if I have to pull out some money or can’t save as much as I expected. But I am mindful of why it is happening and if it’s something I can handle better in the future.
This is in no way a sponsored post or anything like that, but I’m currently trying a new app called Clarity Money to get me outta the spreadsheets and into 2017. I like what I’m seeing so far, so the tools might change soon, but I think these principles will remain the same.
Over to you, yogis? How do you deal with budgeting and money stress? I’m dying to know! Tell me in the comments!