How Do you Budget?
I am not a fan of money being a taboo subject. I honestly believe if we all were a little more open with finances than so many of us wouldn’t be in the holes that we can find ourselves in. If you admire how someone lives their life and it looks like they have a decent amount of financial freedom, then ask them what they do! It wasn’t until I started asking those around me about finances and saving that I finally got around to creating a solid budget and gained a better understanding of where I’m at versus where I want to be. So today I want to share some of the ways I budget and save (even though I’m far from “perfect” and definitely no master at this). But I figure someone out there might benefit from me opening up so why not share?
In the past: I used to use the Mint app to track my expenses and realized it was WAY too easy to let little purchases slide because they’d end up in the “misc” section and I didn’t have that section in my actual “budget.” So unless you are really diligent you end up thinking you’re doing better than you really are.
Currently:I switched over to Google Sheets and started using this template I found online (thanks Blissful Mind) as the skeleton for my budget. I sat down with my fiance (oh yeah, I’m engaged!) one night and we went through everything I spend money on and where my money should really be going. Let me tell you, this was not fun. Basically I spend way too much on food every month (groceries and eating out) and seeing him cut my food budget a bit was a harsh pill to swallow but definitely required. I also have a tab in my budget to manually input all of the items I purchase. I then categorize the items by color and at the end of the month I add up each category. I also make sure to check in throughout the month that I’m staying within budget. This has helped a ton. But here are my breakdowns based off of the template and then adjusted to better fit my own life.
Living: rent, utilities, student loans, car insurance, phone payment, tithing, groceries and eating out.
So about 50% of my income goes here
Lifestyle (this is where it is so unique to you!): coffee shops, gifting, personal care, donating, shopping/house, car upkeep, entertainment. I also had a spot for Christmas gifts during November and December.
About 30% of my income goes here
Gifting is my love language so it was important for me to have a separate fund for gifting. I also wanted to be able to donate some money towards a charity/a family of my choosing every month on top of tithing to my church. And as for coffee shops, I just love coffee and like to spend a little more on some good beans. :)
Saving: The template I used said to save 20% of your income and because of my student loans, it’s not really feasible right now so I save about 15-18% of my income every month.
how i save
Emergency savings: I lived at home after graduating from graduate school for about 10 months and saved a lot of money because my parents were gracious enough to let me build up my savings for a while before paying them rent. I have this in one savings account that I can easily access but is still separate from my checking so it’s not something I dip into unless it’s an emergency (aka what it’s used for haha).
Qapital App: This is not an ad in any way but I love this app. If you know me in real life then I’ve probably talked to you about it for quite some time. I was able to save $3000 extra to put towards my student loans in about 6 months because of it!! Basically you set a goal and then set 1 or more rules that help you reach that goal. Some of their rules include rounding up your purchases every time you buy something, putting some percentage of your paycheck into the goal, or every week setting aside a certain amount of money to put into the goal. I’ve used a variety of all these goals. What I love is that you can set as many goals as you’d like (though I think you have to pay now to have more than 2 goals…). Also, every time you make significant progress towards your goal (25/50/75% of the way etc.) then all this confetti shows up when you open the app and it makes me really happy. It’s the little things! Here are some of my goals right now:
Retirement: I’m saving a certain amount to start putting into a IRA account soon because my employer does not have a 401K set up for us. If your employer is matching your contribution into your 401K then DO IT!!!! That’s free money!
House/wedding: I have a set amount of money going into this goal every Sunday to help with some of the expenses of trying to buy a house and plan a wedding right now. Ya know, just the little life things.
Travel: I have quite a few weddings to go to this year on top of my own so I want to make sure I am saving for all the travel expenses coming up. I set a rule to take money out every Sunday like the house/wedding goal.
Honestly, the biggest change I made to help me stick to a budget was making sure I have to manually input everything I purchase and organize it by category (I like to color code). Also keeping the budget on Google Sheets makes it so I can access it wherever. For some reason managing my budget on my phone didn’t work for me (maybe it’s because it’s a small screen?) but I know a lot of people love being able to update information on their phone so to each their own! At the end of the month I go to another tab called “Overview” and I describe whether I was over or under for the month and if I was over, why did I go over and what can I do differently in the next month.