on budgeting

hello internet! it’s been a few weeks.

trying to get back into the swing of things with writing despite a crazy summer!

something that may have been more helpful than reading shakespeare or learning geometry would have been how to realistically budget yourself — monthly bills, that giant 4-letter word called RENT, speeding tickets, some semblance of a life, obligatory work happy hours, the list goes on. how do you balance your income with your output? and god forbid you throw a credit card into the mix that your dad said you needed to give you some credit and build it — how do you control it all?

i’ve found that there’s really only one way to do it — and no, its not balancing your checkbook (no dad, people don’t actually do that anymore).

the secret, as nerdy and annoying as it is, is really excel.

there are about a thousand templates online you can download for free, like this one, this one, or this one. having formulas that automatically pre-populate your discretionary spending and how much you’re able to save are super helpful. plus, being able to play around with numbers like how much you can put towards your credit card this month, or what picking up an extra couple of shifts will allow you to save for that flight to LA with your friends this fall is helpful for setting long-term and short-term financial goals.

on goals: set some. it’s important to try to save towards things short-term (ex. that trip, being a bridesmaid in a few weddings this fall, the bachelorette party) and long-term (like a down payment, new car or tires, and retirement) and even more importantly, a rainy day fund. 

for setting those short- and long-term goals,  in my perfect world i save 30% of my monthly income. in the reality that is a spontaneous brunch and just the entire existence of TJ Maxx, i’m unfortunately saving closer to 20% if that.

a super helpful way to save towards those long-term goals is by having your employer (if it’s an option) automatically take out money per paycheck for your retirement. out of sight, out of mind. you don’t miss it, and at the end of the year it’s nice to see how much you saved without even realizing it. ditto if your job allows you to split your direct deposit and you can put some money into a savings account (that you don’t have a debit card and easy access to).

if you work as a server or in a job where you take home cash more than a paycheck every two weeks, there’s an argument to be made for hiding cash for a manual rainy day fund in your house since you’re not getting money wired to you. it’s a lot harder to track cash, so you have to really pay more attention to how you budget yourself. a weekly quick stop at a bank on a non-friday and linking bank accounts together can help with that as well. bonus if you do get paid in mostly cash though: you’re not constantly used to credit cards and [hopefully] aren’t running the risks of overdraft fees and hefty credit card bills.

one of the most helpful budgeting tools i’ve found lately in addition to my trusty spreadsheet is a new app called clarity. there are several out there (think digit, qapital, and tip yourself). clarity is great because i can set it to automatically pull as little as $10 out of my checking account at whatever timely increment i choose, and it breaks down my spending to me weekly or monthly based on all of my linked credit cards and bank accounts.

sometimes, the sheer shame of making a trip to Ulta and Target more than necessary in a month (let’s be serious, a week) plus my contributions to jeff bezos’ zillionth home is all i need to get myself back in check. these apps are accountability boosters and also secretly save for your rainy day fund that you can empty out for anything within a few days — for me, recently used the $250+ that was saved for a minor water issue that popped up unexpectedly at the house. we didn’t have to tap into our savings — that’s exactly what that fund is there for.

anyway; hope that’s helpful. with a move and some fun emergency expenses lately, it’s nice to have the cushions that i’ve recently set up for myself. budgeting is annoying and scary because honestly, i don’t like seeing how much is going out when i don’t have more coming in — but who does?

take a look at the apps, find a spreadsheet that looks for you, and give it a try for a few months. you’d be surprised how your spending behavior changes or your mindset shifts when it’s all out there.

until next time,

e

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