March Budget Update

Better late than never, I wanted to write about a few money lessons from my March budget.  (I now realize it’s only the 7th, but my brain is like weeks ahead because of all the plans I have and I’ve convinced myself that it’s practically May.)

I already mentioned how March was all about begrudgingly digging into my e-fund.  Yesterday was my last trip to the dentist for his overhaul and the cheapest (I think because I reached my deductible, yikes).  Man, I’m going to miss him.  Or not.

Still, at the end of the month, I was able to put a little savings back into my e-fund, my planned $50 into the wedding fund and even a little something-something into my wanderlust fund!

That’s because when it came to my actual budget, I kind of rocked it.  With $38 left on the 31st, I paid my entry into my last 10K of the season (and really, only my second 10k ever) and ended the month $10 under budget!

With every month I’ve had a budget (since December now), I’ve learned something new and gotten better at it.  In March, I learned that budgets are all about mindful and planned spending. 

Having no-spend days (goal was ten, had nine, not bad) means going to the grocery store on a day I know I have an automatic bill coming out of my account.  It also helps my sanity.  I actually don’t like shopping all that much, so if I hold off on going to Target or Sports Chalet until another day, I’m more than okay with that.

Planning my budget for the month ahead means considering all expenses (as many as I can, things pop up of course).  Like, for April, I put extra money in my car fund because I need to get my oil changed and extra money in my phone category because I’m upgrading this month. 

In March, I also got more realistic about my “going out” category.  I avoid eating out and didn’t have many opportunities for it before (because guys always pay on a first date and most of the men I date don’t make it past the first date and my social life has been lacking) but now I’m going out more, so I’m giving myself more room in that category.  And when I do go out, I’m setting nightly spend-limits, if I go to happy hour or something, I’ll tell myself that I’m only going to spend x amount to stretch that going out budget.

My April budget looks good and includes some fun and some savings, which is exactly the balance I wanted when I started making and following budgets.

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I’m a Big Kid Now

Last summer when I made my 101 list, I felt silly putting “pay for my own cell phone” on the list. For goodness sake, I was 25 and saying that SOMETIME before I turned 28 I wanted to pay for my cell phone myself? Spoiled. Brat.

It’s just something my mom has always done because we were on the same plan and contract lengths and unemployment and underpaying jobs and blah blah blah. I’ve told her many times I was going to do it, but never got around to it.

Today, I finally made myself an account owner to basically separate our phone bills and got my own login info and…drumroll please…paid my own cell phone bill like a big girl.

It’s silly to be so excited, but it was like when I made my last car payment and was jumping around saying, “somebody hug me!”

Except today is the opposite. A first payment and, seeing as how I could never imagine going without a cell phone,  these will never end. As much as I hate spending money, I love that I’m spending money on this.

I’m also going to redo my budget tonight to include this new monthly expense and allow myself more flex room. It’s pretty much bare bones right now and it’s based off the fact that I spent about $2000 a month when that’s about what I was making, so now even though I’m making more, I should still spend that amount.

Change of plans.

I’ve earned the freedom to spend more. I have a good job and make more money now. I paid off my car and credit card.  I overpay on my student loans while still building my savings. Everything left is MINE.

I don’t want to spend money for the sake of spending it, but I want to be okay with going out for happy hours and buying some cute new date clothes.  Going from super-saver mode to okay-to-spend mode is difficult, but having a budget to tell me it’s okay without letting me go overboard is a good way to start.

Who needs a tiara? Give me a Roth IRA.

Finding this clip was supposed to make me feel better, but I remembered it differently.  I thought she straight out googled “finance,” but she didn’t, so it didn’t.

I work in finance and sometimes I wonder how the hell that happened. Scratch that.  I work in the finance industry and I was hired because knowledge of the industry was not a key requirement.  My bosses actually find it slightly humorous, and I like to think charming, that the TV by my desk – meant to keep guests in the office informed about the markets – is more often tuned to The Today Show and Oprah.

It’s mostly frustrating to me personally tonight because of the “rollover 401(k) to Roth IRA” cloud that has been looming over my head for years!  I’ve got step one crossed off my list, but don’t know where to go from here. 

21-year-old Emjaye never really expected to be here, but 26-year-old Emjaye is glad she is. 

At 21, I talked vaguely with my dad about finance as I started my first real job, opened those damn 401(k)s and began supporting myself.  At 21, there was a big hullabaloo about transferring investment accounts into my name, but I haven’t done much with them (besides, fortunately, watch them grow). 

At 21, I thought by 26 I’d have found someone to know about finances in the way I’ve always relied on my dad to know about finances.  When I say finances, though, I mean the bigger stuff.  Day-to-day, I feel confident about budgeting and spending and saving. 

Luckily, I never got myself into huge debt expecting some prince to come along and get me out of it.  I just expected some prince to come along and help me plan a comfortable life and retirement (like my prince of a dad has with my mom).

At 26, I know it’s up to me.  And just like at work, I’ll get there.  Neither is going to be about step one, now step two anymore.  I work better when I know WHY I’m doing step one and HOW it helps me at step two, so I’m engaging myself.

I might have a little talk with Pops this weekend, but those talks usually just remind me that I’m quite capable and knowledgeable if I just give myself a break.  And that I don’t need a prince and his castle and his piles of money.  I just need a man who will treat me like a princess – maybe even one who is a little turned on by my financial savvy!

December Budget Update – Week 1ish

So far, I have spent $977.26.  Yep, almost half of my budget in a week-ish!  But it included a lot of my big expenses that come at the beginning of the month (plus my school loan payment that usually comes at the end, but I made early).

So far, I have really wanted to stop at Taco Bell and get froyo and buy candy at the checkout counter  (restricting my budget apparently brings out my inner fat kid).  But, I haven’t.  I don’t need or “deserve” these things.  I don’t even like Taco Bell.  I need, want and deserve to SAVE money (and prove to myself I can) and SPEND it on things that are actually important to me. 

I have been frugal with my gas usage because even though I drive a compact car, I’m always surprised at how often I fill up!  Walking to the grocery store also really helps you stick to a list!  I made my own black beans, buying a dry bag for less than the cost of one can, which makes a lot.  How much?  I don’t know.  A LOT.  In other news, I’ve been eating A LOT of black beans. 

I got the personal shopping bug out of my system, using a gift card (a Thanksgiving gift from my company, which my coworkers mocked, but I was thrilled about!) to scoop up some cozy lounge wear – and still have $11 left on it, yay H&M and Target!  Now I can focus on my Christmas shopping for others, which is where a good chunk of my budget is allocated. 

Other “free” items I plan on cashing in on this month:  taking my empty bag of Starbucks ground coffee in to the store for a free tall drip coffee ( it’s how I rationalize buying it over a less-expensive bag), a register-generated coupon for a free grande anything at SB (free coffee gets my panties in a twist in a good way, obviously), my monthly extra rental from BB and a free medium pizza from Papa John’s for donating blood.  I have been craving pizza!

Me V. The Budget

December is not going down without a fight.  I’m participating in Reverb 10.  I’m continuing my training for my half-marathon.  I’m taking my personal training certification test.  What am I most scared of tackling next month?

Spending my money responsibly.  I’ve been tracking my spending for years, but have never come up with or attempted to follow an actual budget.  Until now. 

My spending has been out of control.  It doesn’t feel out of control, but when I look at what I’ve spent, the little things are adding up like I can’t believe. 

I have an idea of what I can live off of per month because it’s what I was spending before.  Before being when I had a job that paid absolute crap and that’s all I could spend.  It’s not anywhere near what I’ve been spending lately, although the idea was to maintain that and focus on saving.  If I can avoid spending money today, I’ll have saved $123 for the month and that’s because of a last-minute hail Mary (I’m still getting paid out PTO from my last job).  Not what I had in mind. 

For December, though, I’ve worked out a plan of how I can spend that amount – gifts, charity and fun included.  It’s based on what I have been spending in certain categories and what cuts I think I can make.  Here it is:

$30           groceries 
$70           eating out (including dates, bars, etc.)
$820        rent and bills
$120        gas
$100.61  insurance
$21.68     entertainment (Blockbuster subscription)
$127         health
$15            toys for tots
$150.25   school loans
$25            credit card 
$370.46  gifts
$50            travel
$100         misc. spending 

It definitely seems manageable, but like I said, I’ve never followed a budget.  I’m such a rule follower, except when I’m the one setting the guidelines (diet, study schedule, stay away from this or that bad boy…forget it!).  If I stick to it, I will also be able to exceed my savings goal for the year.  The idea, of course, is also to NOT put anything on my credit card.

Tightening the Purse Strings

I’ve been in my new job for two months now.  I can’t believe how time has flown.  Getting this job was such a blessing.  My last job (and a lot of my coworkers) made me miserable, it wasn’t in the field I wanted to be in and it barely covered my monthly expenses, as in, it usually didn’t and I was frequently dipping into savings, working two jobs and/or milking overtime.

In my new job, I like my coworkers and I’m utilizing my degree.  It also came with a nice salary bump that also contributes to my wonderful feelings about it.

However, the salary bump isn’t as big in reality as it is in my head.  Before I got really good at saying no to, well pretty much everything…nights out, grocery shopping for anything but the basics, fun shopping of any kind.  I had to. 

Now, if I want coffee while I’m out, I say, sure, why not?  I suggest going to happy hours.  If I’m feeling lazy, I don’t pack my lunch and go out instead.

And the clothes.  I forgot how oppressive clothes shopping is.  Every occasion is a reason for a new dress, shoes, accessories.  I shop at discount places and usually only buy on sale, so what’s the harm, right?  Once I get it in my head that I need NEW, I waste SO much time trying to find it, when instead, I could spend 15 minutes in my closet and guess what?  The end result would be the same.  I would be clothes when I left the house. 

The saving – or unsaving – grace is that I haven’t activated my new credit card, so all these expenses, particularly the BIG ones (hello, breakup couch) I’d like to pretend I’m not making and would normally buy with my “fake” credit card money, are actually coming out of my bank account, taking my real money instead.

Which is why, when I checked my account this morning, I got a wake up call.  Just because my new employer values me as I should be valued, doesn’t mean I need to spend all of that extra value (and then some).

Practicing self-restraint is good.  Saying no is good.  It felt good to learn it earlier when I had to and I need to remember that.  I also need to remember that sometimes free things rock, actually they ALMOST ALWAYS rock way more.

I have a free gym membership to use.  I have a pile of library books to read.  I have beautiful fall weather (think 70s) to enjoy from my porch.  I don’t want to spend evenings at the mall seeking the right top.  It’s not going to fill any voids (uh oh, we’re straying from finance into mental-health-issues-land again, let’s get back on track). 

I have bigger purchases I want to make (hello, dying computer).  I have people I love who I want to buy Christmas presents for.  I have experiences I want to save for (running tourism, international travel and the joys of pet ownership).  Oh, and I really want the breakup chair-and-a-half to make a matching set.  Healthy, I know.

Runner’s Body

I spent Saturday moping. I watched Sex and the City 2 and Hope Floats (on repeat…oh Sandra, if only you knew back then). And bought butt paste/judged the girl buying a pregnancy test. And bought a couch (I’m an emotional shopper, but this one definitely takes the cake). Okay, so I guess I wasn’t too big of a mope, I did shower before 3pm and I actually ate for the first time in a while.  Waffles for dinner, nope, that’s not the sign of a mope.

I knew what my body needed – endorphins – but I wasn’t ready to give them to it. I needed a random Saturday.

On Sunday, Hope Floats was still in my DVD player, so I figured, what the hell, but just once more. Then I moved my butt. I took it to the treadmill to work up a sweat. I have my first 10K on Saturday and I’m so unprepared.  I’ve come to terms with that and I’m going to participate and complete it, but those are my only expectations. Trying to force myself to train for it didn’t work for me.

Now I’m running for me. I ran again this morning and despite the soreness I have from running + weights yesterday, it felt even better today. At 4:45am (which truly was 4:45am because in Arizona we don’t do any of that “fall back” crap).

I almost forgot how much I like to work out just for the sake of working out. My runner’s body right now is more like that of a 65-year-old arthritic woman, but it will get better.  I know it’s only been two days and I know I’m only going to be more sore tonight when I try to do more weights and worse tomorrow when I am going to spin class, but I’m going to work through it because my body needs the endorphins and my brain needs the distraction.  And I really like to sweat.