An Editorial On… Budgeting: I suck at it much less.

Cash

It’s that time of year when I start going over my budget and the expenses I have incurred so I adjust for the coming year. Yes, this is the last thing I want to do. Yes, this usually shocks me and drives me to drink. Yes, this is truly adulting.

I am the first to admit I love to spend. I can always fine a good excuse to justify a splurge:

“I’m single, I need to spend $250 on face cream until I find a husband. It’s an investment.”

“I really need to go see ____________ artist/band!!! And I really need to see them as close as possible… what if they die after this tour and I never saw them perform live!”

“Trying to make new friends and I need to impress them. The $35 per whiskey round will do it.”

YOLO!” (At least while this was cool to say.)

This landed me in a lot of debt a few years ago – like $$$$ debt. And it is not like I didn’t know how to draw up a budget – I was an Econ major for 3 years and I assist with the accounting at work. I’m actually quite good at working with other people to help determine their financial problems and help them figure shit out. It’s like that idiom: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. I was just lazy and had the childish idea that I would have someone around to save me. Whether it would have been my parents, boyfriend/husband/sugar daddy or a random stranger handing me a duffel bag with thousands of dollars, I just assumed someone would be there to rescue me from whatever destructive shopping spree debt I had gotten myself into.

Luckily, I have matured enough these last five years to realize my irresponsible behavior and it all began to change when I set up a simple excel sheet. I had read about the basic 50- 20 -30 budget and with that I sat down, looked at my bank statements for the previous 2 months and came up with the basic categories and using the 50-20-30 formula figured out how much I could afford in each category. Then came the hard part; following through with the set plan. I still use the same template but I slightly adjusted the categories to now be:

  • Rent
  • Credit Cards – [ashamed face]
  • Gas – mostly fuel expenses, although I sometimes include parking or DMV expenses in this category
  • Student Loan – yep.
  • Health Insurance – big expense but I have never been more aware of my vitamin D levels than now
  • Auto Insurance – I live in L.A. A must have.
  • Life Insurance – while I don’t have a house or kids, I bought this a few years ago when I was able to get a good rate
  • Groceries – this also includes dining out
  • Home Supplies – I shop at Costco for these so I get a lot for money
  • Utilities – electricity, gas, Internet, Netflix and Hulu
  • Charity – while it isn’t much, it makes me feel ‘rich’ to be able to donate to a favorite organization every month
  • Savings – ideally, this would be 20% of my take home pay, ideally in quotation marks
  • Fun Money – few times have I been able to stay within my set limit, apparently I fun a lot

That was 6 years ago. About two years ago, I signed up for Mint.com and it really helped rein in my spending even more since I could just look things up on my phone and made me think twice about how much I could spend and saved me mucho dinero in overdraft fees. And super-added plus: I have savings! Savings that I have learned to invest! Self high five!!

I’m not saying I follow my budget to a T every month, this may shock some people but I am not perfect. I live in a very expensive city and have very fancy tastes so I do fall off the wagon ever so often. So then I go back to checking the Mint app very day, reading a few money articles daily to inspire me to continue on my financial sanity quest and try to find discounts or alternatives to more expensive items. It is not difficult to do, it just takes some time.

And it really helps that in the last few years I have matured a lot as a person (at least I think I have) and have begun to value my relationships differently. I no longer need to buy the über expensive face cream, serum, exfoliating scrub combo all the celebrities are using to look “young” enough to hunt down some poor fool to trick him into becoming my husband. I have prioritized my list of must see artists/bands and have come to terms with my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out for my non-millennial reader aka mom). I know my value as a friend is not in the amount of money I spend when buying a round or the perfect outfit to fit in with people I have come to realize are just acquaintances or casual friends. I no longer hang out with that one ‘friend’ who always needed to borrow cash for coffee or whose credit card not going through was becoming a habit. My friendships, while few, are real quality relationships. They are close knit bonds – something along the lines of the Fellowship of the Ring – but less hairy. And while it’s true that you only live once, I rather not live my later years surrounded with materialist stuff and stressing about money. I am no longer a damsel in distress when it comes to money, a little bit of financial literacy can make wonders in a person’s life.*

 

*Notice how I got a little mushy towards the end – the wine was finally kicking in!

 

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