Reader’s Request: Budgeting

by Holly on August 4, 2010

in giveaway,reader's request

If you are reading this Daddy Everythingtarian, please don’t laugh at the fact that your precious, formerly frivolous-with-her-money daughter #2 is indeed doling out financial advice on her blog.

But I am.

Because I am a 25-year-old single gal with a full-time job that earns an income who is learning to balance her sometimes astronomically high grocery bills (damn you Justin’s Nut Butter!) with paying student loans, credit cards and bills. Similar to food + nutrition, I am firm believer that we can learn things from each other and incorporate what works for us into our daily lives – including spending habits.

source

Here is your disclaimer: I am NOT by any means a financial expert (in fact, I’m more Becky Bloomwood). Nor a banker. Or even always financially responsible.

Since I get paid once a month on the first of the month, I usually set-up my budget about a week or two before the start of the new month. At first, it took me around 1/2 an hour to set everything up, but since I am an old pro now, it only takes me about 10 minutes or so. Super duper easy.

In my handy dandy $1 notebook from Walgreens (fancy schmany electronic tools like Mint don’t work for me), I outline my income (money coming INTO my account), fixed expenses (money going OUT that stays the same from month-to-month – i.e. rent) and variable expenses (the ones that can change from month to month – i.e. shopping budget).

I take my income and start by subtracting the fixed expenses, which include:

  • rent
  • student loans
  • car loan
  • car insurance
  • cell phone
  • gym
  • internet
  • utilities
  • Netflix

Those items are the same price each and every month (give or take a couple dollars), which makes it really easy to plan for thems. After I’ve subtracted my fixed expenses, I am left with around $800 to spend on variable expenses.

For me, variable expenses usually include:

  • credit card payment(s)
  • savings
  • spending money

These are costs I can adjust each month depending on how much money I have. After paying my credit card + putting away money in savings, I am left with around $250 to spend. Clearly, this is not enough spending money to last me the month. That is where the extra dough I make freelancing comes in quite handy.

In an average month, I give myself roughly $400 in spending money. Instead of relying on my handy dandy debit card, I take out $100 in cash at the beginning of every week and FORCE MYSELF TO SPEND ONLY THAT MONEY. I put that in all capitals because it isn’t easy. I literally do have to force myself.

Sometimes I make it, and sometimes I don’t.

source

This money is often used towards:

  • groceries
  • Target runs
  • eating out
  • entertainment
  • gas
  • happy hours
  • shopping

You catch my drift.

That, my friends, is roughly the way I budget.

It’s not rocket science, but it definitely is something that can help tremendously if you are tight on cash – which from comments left by readers, seems to be a lot of us.

Some people could look at my budget and find obvious corners to cut. However, I find certain things I spend money on to be non-negotiables…chiefly, my gym membership, Netflix and groceries. I am willing to sacrifice other things in order to enjoy these in my life. I don’t shop for clothes as much; I try to limit how much I eat out; I don’t have a couch in my apartment still; and I don’t really buy many “luxury” items.

It’s all for the Justin’s Nut Butter.

So, if you are looking to get your dolla dolla bills in order, here are some helpful hints that work for moi

The Healthy Everythingtarian’s Top 5 Budget Tips

  1. Prioritize. What is important to YOU? It could be food, new clothes, traveling, saving up, having a nice place to live, eating out, etc. Whatever it may be, decide what that is, and be prepared to sacrifice other things to spend money on what you deem important.
  2. Recognize wants vs. needs. This is admittedly my other pet peeve. Why must a girl be forced to decide between what she wants (like this this Anthropologie dress) and what she actually needs in her life (ugh, toilet paper)? However, asking myself the age old question, “Is this a want or a need?” helps me keep in check.
  3. Debt. Pay it off first. Don’t argue. Just do it.
  4. Set aside some fun money. As I like to say, life is meant to be lived. If you blow $40 at the bar on a Saturday night kickin’ back brews or – gasp! – $10 on a jar of nut butter. C’est la vie. Just know you will have to cut back somewhere else to balance things out.
  5. Carry cash. While some rando could jump you on the street leaving you penniless, I find the odds of that happening are slim. For me, what is much more likely to happen is pulling out the plastic at four different grocery stores and before I know it, having burned a $100 hole in my pocket. Cash is tangible – you see it; you know how much you have; and you can monitor it much better.

My final thought? Find free stuff.

Blogs are good for this.

So is coupon cutting, grocery shopping in your parent’s pantry + ladies’ nights.

Along with the soup combination pack they sent me, Campbells also provided me with Sam the Cooking Guy’s new cookbook, which is chockful of unique ways to use everyday foods. And they’re easy! One browse through this cookbook, and I instantly knew I was going to like it…

Let’s just say you’ll be seeing some interesting eats on a certain blog you may just happen to be reading right now. The best part is they sent me one to giveaway to all you lovely readers!

Since I love y’all and want a reason to bake that won’t result in me eating the whole pan, I will throw in some treats along with the book (TBD, depending on winner). I told you free stuff is awesome…especially if it helps take off of the grocery bill (and that monthly budget!).

Here is what you gotta do:

  • Leave me a comment telling me your best budgeting tip OR one unique way to use an everyday food.
  • Tweet this giveaway (are you following me @TheHealthyE yet?) OR leave me a 2nd comment telling me something random about yourself.

Two ways to enter. Everybody is welcome to enter. You have until Sunday to enter.

Happy budgeting :)

{ 42 comments }

Jen August 5, 2010 at 10:18 am

Random fact about me: I hate to touch or be touched when I sleep – I’m 25 and my fiance and I have separate bedrooms! It works though!

Dorothy August 5, 2010 at 10:32 am

I think if I don’t win, I’ll have to go purchase this cookbook… I love Sam the Cooking Guy!
Ever since his sandwich show I can’t stop getting enough grilled veggie sandwiches – such a great twist on an old reliable!

Ashley S August 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

My best tip would be to pay off your credit cards each month. Sounds obvious, but those finance charges can really add up!

VCK August 5, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I pay off my credit card each month.

Laura August 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

So this isn’t necessarily unique, but I’ve stopped purchasing beverages! I am only drinking water at home and refilling water bottles when I’m out. This saves a ton of money considering how much I (used to) spend on coffee, sodas, etc…

Melissa August 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I have the same budgeting technique except I use a spreadsheet in excel :). My best tip is to focus on one expense each month to cut down. I also use my credit card for most things and pay it off right after so I can gain the points on my credit card, I heart points!

Jennifer (take the day off) August 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm

my budgeting tip: have something worth saving for.

this helps me think twice about frivolous purchases and impulse buys–most of the time. it can be a trip, a new dress or a house. in my case, all of the above!

Rachael August 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

My budgeting tip tends to completely alienate people, but here it is anyways. Dumpster. Get your bread from the dumpster of an artisanal bakery, check out the back alley behind your local Whole Foods, farm stand, what-have-you, and get picking. My food bills ever month come to about 40.00 tops – and I really, really like nut butter.
Also, making friends with Goodwill, hosting clothes exchanges with friends, sharing resources (tools, machines, cars, whatever you might need that a neighbor might have) – all the good hippie commune style stuff, saves a ton of money too.
That said, I’m also over-the-top when it comes to not spending money – sometimes channeling my inner monk, minus the whole celibacy thing – isn’t a good thing.

Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) August 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I really need to switch to cash. My aunts always had envelopes that they would stick cash into if they were saving for specific things. When I was bringing home actual CASH this worked really well. One envelope for travel, one for jeans, etc. etc.
I have come a long way with my budget but I also have a LONG way to go.

Diana @ frontyardfoodie August 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Putting away a small amount each paycheck for something you need is a big help. For example, if you really want that high def TV but don’t have $800 to throw down? Save $50 a paycheck for that and make it automatic!

jeri August 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

great post! I’m actually a credit counselor so this is what I do/explain/teach to our clients on a day to day basis. pretty basic concepts but VERY DIFFICULT for most people to do, so kudos to you. My tip to financial success is just to track where your money goes. I budget out my money to a T, and then when the month is over I go back through to see how close I stuck to it as far as eating out, coffee money, going out for drinks. It’s a constant process. :)

Chelsea August 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

pay off your credit cards on time! overdue payments really suck!

Chelsea August 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm

hmm…something random… I put ketchup on everything. legit EVERYTHiNG:
any vegetable, bread, meat subs; basically anything except fruit and dessert lol

Dena August 6, 2010 at 11:57 am

My best budgeting tip.. freezing my credit card in a block of ice :) Out of sight, out of mind!!

Kristen Joy August 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Unique way to use everyday food: over-ripe bananas make GREAT cinnamon-banana-blueberry pancakes!
Random fact about myself: I’m the only redhead throughout 3 generations of my entire family, extended and beyond!

Laura@FindingAHealthyBalance....after a 100+ Pound Weight Loss!!! August 6, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I have been living on a Tight Budget since he day I moved out of my parents house 13 years ago, that got even tighter after I had my daughter and became a Single Mother. I then got married but my hubby lost his job in 9/08 and was unemployeed until this June and unfortunatelly did not get unemployement so for the past 2 years I have been supporting a Family of 3 on my own (not the biggest) salary. Not An Easy Feat By Any Means………it meant MANY changes to the way I paid things and budgeted.

Basically, I took an excel spreadsheet and listed all the bills I needed to pay that month. Then I divided it into 2 spreadsheets. One for my 1st check that month and the bills that were due on or right after I got that check. Then one for my 2nd check that month and the bills that were due on or right after it. Basically, one check (budget) covers most of my bills that month and the other check (budget) covers rent. Whatever is left over from both (checks) budgets is what I use for gas, groceries and misc. spending until the next check (budget) comes into play.

Now I have my monthly budgets planned out through year end. So at anytime I can look ahead and see what funds I have for special things or unexpected expenses and make tweaks as needed. It works GREAT for me, who is on a Very Tight Budget with not more then $150 left over each week after the bills are paid for……..food, gas, etc. It keeps me from being late on bills, having my credit messed up and assuring I have enough $$$ to feed my family.

=)

Kate August 6, 2010 at 9:18 pm

My best budget tip – use coupons!

Katie August 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Brilliant post! My biggest tip? Use cash instead of cards whenever possible! The only time I use my debit (NEVER credit) is when I’m buying something online.

Megan August 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Best budgeting tip – always, always, always have an emergency fund back-up! You just never know when expenses are going to pop up, and nobody wants to be left out of the partay because they are broke. :(

Megan August 6, 2010 at 10:45 pm

my random fact…. i like to watch television with “the words on” aka closed captions. there’s nothing wrong with my hearing, but i just want to make sure i don’t miss anything, ya know?! i’m not crazy, promise. plus if i’m eating something delicious and crunchy, how the heck am i supposed to hear the tv?! haha

and p.s. I LOVE that you’re finally on twitter. I did a little squeal out loud when I saw Kailey had tweeted that you joined. :)

Akanksha August 7, 2010 at 1:20 am

I eat jalapeno peppers with EVERYTHING. Probably not your average ‘everyday’ food, but OH DEAR WORLD I love them. Except… not so much with sweet things… but other than that, the peppers make my throat sing.

GREAT budgeting tips, by the way, but ’tis Holly, so I’m not surprised. :)

Akanksha August 7, 2010 at 1:21 am

Oh, and as for something random about myself: if there were a place I know I’d fit in just about perfectly, it’d have to be… Neptune. Always has; always will.

Ellie August 7, 2010 at 5:36 am

My best budgeting tip is to straight-up hide my credit card for a few months. Give it to someone you trust to squirrel away for a bit so you’re not tempted to use it. Then when you’re feeling better about your financial situation ask for it back and hope that they give it to you!

Ellie August 7, 2010 at 5:37 am

My random fact is I have big hands and have to use size large gloves, even though I am a pretty small person. It’s actually kind of embarrassing.

Kristin (Salty Tooth) August 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

Lately, I’ve been making it my goal to not spend any money during the week. It’s not at all easy, but it’s always fun on Friday when I realize that I actually met that goal!

Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum August 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

OK, I truly have a good budgeting/money management tip. My husband and I have a small amount of money going to each of our own individual “spending” accounts each week. It’s like an adult allowance, and it keeps me from over-spending AND feeling deprived.

Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum August 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

And a random fact? I was recently in a bank while it was being robbed. See my blog for details. :)

Erika August 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

I don’t know if it’s a “best” budgeting tip, but I do all my expenses in an excel document. It’s crazy easy to use once you get a hang of it… and it can calculate everything if you set it up right! Averages on gas per month, groceries, etc. I got hooked on excel after having to do this project with fitness tests results for 50 people and needing to calculate alll these damn standard deviations and other [useless] information. But for my expenses… I love it!

Erika August 7, 2010 at 10:08 am

Something random about me… when I was a little kid, you could get me to do pretty much ANYTHING with the promise of Sprinkles yogurt. I don’t know if they even still make the stuff… because it likely contained 87% crack which was why it was so addicting. And limited in my household. :)

Lizzy August 7, 2010 at 11:12 am

My best budgeting tip is to save on pantry staples by embracing the bulk bin! I like buying organic when possible and it can get expensive, so at my local natural foods store I get oats, popcorn, beans, nuts, soynuts, flours etc. all in bulk. It costs less and you can pick exactly how much you want. Also, herbs and specialty items sometimes come in bulk too, so if I only need a little bit of something I don’t have to waste $7 on a jar of an expensive spice I won’t use much of.

Lizzy August 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

A random fact is that this is one of 10 or so blogs I check daily :)
I love love love your approach to food and life.

Haylee August 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

I LOVE couponing, it saves SOOO much money!

Haylee August 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

One random thing about me, I Looooooove love pickles, I could eat them everyday.

Michelle August 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm

My best budgeting technique came from reading the book, Automatic Millionaire. I now have both of my savings accounts set-up to automatically deduct from my checking account every payday. Therefore, I never really “feel” the effect of depositing and then withdrawing money. It just happens automatically, before I even know it, and I don’t have to worry about remembering. I also never have the opportunity to second guess if I really want to put more money into savings. The decision is made for me (and it’s a good one!).

Michelle August 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Random fact about me: I am a hot sauce addict. I just started using/liking hot sauce about a year ago, and it’s turned into a down-right addiction at this point. Can’t get enough.

Sarah B. August 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm

My biggest budgeting tip is to buy in bulk whenever possible. There is an awesome store near my house called Bulk Barn and they have everything you could possibly want in bulk. It’s fantastic!

Sarah B. August 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I don’t have a twitter account so a random fact about me is that I used to hate peanut butter. About a year ago I decided to give it a second chance and I discovered that I love it. I now eat peanut butter every single day and I can’t imagine not eating it!

holly @ couchpotatoathlete August 7, 2010 at 6:02 pm

My best budgeting tip is to use cash for food. That way, I only have so much to spend and can’t quickly decide that I “need” more almond breeze ice cream. I will only buy the essentials that way.

Alexa @ Sohdalex August 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm

My best budgeting tip is a list. As long as I know what I want pre store and stick to it I usually make it out financially sound. My favorite versatile everyday food would have to be the sweet potato, once baked it is good for breakfast lunch and dinner. But not in the way that cereal or pancakes are. Sweet potato can be filled with cinnamon, cottage cheese, and cereal for a sweet and filling breakfast. Can then be chopped and oven roasted with black pepper, salt, and rosemary and eaten with ketchup for lunch, then Served alongside fish and veggies for dinner. Combinations are endless. ;)

Alexa @ Sohdalex August 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Since I am sans a twitter account, I know, here is a random fact about myself: I thoroughly enjoy making collages out of magazine cutouts. I have spent way to many hours on this in the past :)

Heidi August 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm

The one thing that has saved me in the past few years when I was job hunting, yet still having to pay student loans, was to leave my plastic at home and keep only small amounts of cash in my wallet. Unnecessary purchases were cut to a bare minimum, thank goodness!

Danica August 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm

My best tip is to check out the reduced section at the grocery store! It usually has lotsss of spotty bananas perfect for oats!!

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