I have just entered month four on my new, much tighter budget, and against everything I imagined, it is going extraordinarily well. I’ve actually- shock horror -managed to save $900.00, which is insane. And counter-intuitive.
I was lucky with timing as July was a bountiful month in terms of cash flow. I structured my budget based on two pay cheques a month, but July happened to be one of those moths where I am paid thrice! So that started me off in very good financial standing. I also received my income tax refund and a couple other government rebate cheques. That is where all of my savings has come from. I am currently looking at my savings strictly as “in case of emergency” money, though as it’s my birthday I might treat myself to a little something something.
Also, to fully disclose, I have been helped out every so often by my wonderful boyfriend, who picks up the tab for meals out and the occasional grocery trip. I like to think that I pay him back by feeding him doughnuts.
But the most important part in any kind of financial planning is to not spend more than you earn. And I am most certainly keeping within those bounds, and Mint has been a crucial part in managing all my money. It allows me to account for every single penny I earn and then subsequently spend.
Now that I count every single penny I spend, I spend my pennies much more wisely than I used to. Here is a fabulous pie chart showing the break-down of my monthly spending for September:
The most conspicuous changes in my spending are that I haven’t bought a single article of clothing since April (except for two bras which were not only VERY necessary but also VERY on sale!), I bring lunch in to work pretty much every day (added bonus being I am cooking a lot more, which makes me happy), and my restaurant and alcohol expenditure has been cut significantly. I still budget in dinners and nights out, just not nearly as much as I used to. Now, I actually look at the price of the products I buy. I am fortunate enough, however, that my tighter budget allows me to continue making meaningful choices. For example, I allocate enough money to groceries that I can continue to buy organic, free-range meat and eggs, as these things are important to me.
There are some things in my budget that surprisingly were a surprise. My dog, for example, is the thing I spend the most money on after rent and groceries. Because I’m a sucker, or responsible, – you decide – she gets fancy brand dog food that costs $60 a month, pet insurance for another $60, and a bag of treats for $7 or so each month. I could cut those costs by more than half by chucking the insurance and getting crappier food, but as I’m 100% in charge of her life and welfare it’s just not something I’m inclined to do. While I feel no remorse for living off ramen myself, I don’t want to purposefully inflict a crap diet on something that has no other choice, so Sprinkles dines on wild boar and sweet potato. I do fine too, as I noted above, with my affinity for local, happy livestock. Though, man, do I love a bowl of ramen.
Thus far, I’m doing really well. I’m pretty proud at my self-restraint and my abilities to manage money, as I have been known to be a little out of control. I’ve also learned what things are important to me that I am more unwilling to bend on: Coffee still gets a budget, while H&M has lost some business.
Let’s hope I can stay the course!