Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How I Budget and Why It May Surprise You

Guess what? I write a blog about being on a budget ... but I don't actually keep a hard and fast "budget" at all.

Persona ruined? I think (and hope) not.

How do I do it? It's not by making big bucks, mind you (ha!). I have just tried to match my lifestyle with my income, roughly estimating when I need to save and when I can spend. Today, I wanted to talk a little about that, since I know so many of you come over here to learn more about "living on a budget." That can mean a lot of different things, so I wanted to share a peek into how I have been doing things in my world. It's been working for me so far, though I have aspirations to change things up a bit soon.

It started in high school, where, as a allowance-less gal, I was challenged by my parents to go out and get jobs to support all of the mall trips, movies and silly outings we planned with friends. I was lucky enough to pick up a swim coaching job that lasted me each summer through my high school graduation. I stocked that once-yearly income away into savings, kept up the money flow throughout the year with babysitting, and managed to get by just fine. I didn't make a ton, but it was enough. By early summer, when my funds were running low from the previous summer, I took up extra swim lessons and all-day babysitting jobs to make up for things.

Did I ever tell you how I lived at home for 15 months when I first graduated college? What is seen today as a totally normal progression given the horrible job market for graduates, the move home then was something not as common. I lived with my (super cool - thanks, guys) parents in the 'burbs while I juggled a long commute downtown and long hours with a social life I didn't want to let die. I was a pro at changing into workout gear on the fly (yes, I may or may not have changed in the car a few times!) and crashing at a friend's on a Friday night when the party went too late. But what was tough on my social life then came back as a big bonus in the end -- I was able to save for and buy my condo completely on my own and take that leap into the next phase of my life as an adult while being able to splurge on things I desired in the meantime, too. 

Source: bitly.com via patience on Pinterest
As an adult, I have tried to keep the mantra going. It's always been and always will be a delicate balancing act of income vs. expenses. I have always felt, though, that if you can manage those dollars that come in, however many they are, you have the choice of how to spend them.

I may not keep a budget as defined by most financial brains, but with the wedding fast approaching (4/13/13!), money has been top on our minds. We coupon and sale-shop, save a lot and are trying to spend less. Some months I cut out mani/pedis and impulse shopping. Other months, I realize I have some extra cash that could buy that new pair of heels. I try to spend roughly around the same amount at the grocery store each week, and know what clothes are within reason to purchase and which are not. We eat at home most nights and I try to bring my lunch to work at least four times per week. Most recently, I set up an extra savings fund that I won't touch until the honeymoon (a big step, hooray!). And those Chais I crave? I have long since recognized that most often what I need with those is a break from the day and a treat for my soul, so I indulge when needed :)

So that's that! I don't "budget," but I am actively aware of my expenses and savings. We have goals to increase our savings month over month as we head towards and start our new married life together, and in the meantime, we are ticking away at the mortgage and enjoying life. Right now? It works. Down the road? I'd like to become even more aware and more savvy. It helps that I am marrying a financial analyst who loves this stuff ;)

Now I'd love to hear from you -- how do you budget your life? Are you a strict budgeter with daily/weekly/monthly limits for categories of daily life, like meals, shopping and daycare? Do you ignore your budgets altogether and wing it? Are you somewhere in between, like me? Share your insights and tips!

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2 comments:

Lisa said...

I use mint.com for our budget, which I absolutely love! It helps me easily see where I'm under that month and where I can splurge, plus it saves me a ton of time because it automatically categorizes everything on each of our credit cards and bank/investment accounts. And I like all the charts and graphs -as a CPA I just can't help it... :)

Katherine Malone said...

Lisa - your response doesn't surprise me at all ;) You and your man both must be really good at budgeting! :) :) Thanks for the mint.com rec!