My spending this month has been a little bit out of control. I got my big check, paid my taxes, held back an estimated but reasonable amount for my August living expenses, applied a giant chunk to my student loan, and then went hog wild with the rest. I knew that my mother was coming for a visit, and we’d shop and eat our way around town. I knew that I wanted to take a three to four day trip with my folks at the end of the month, and I held back cash for that. I had my eye on some bike accessories and other odds and ends, but it’s been rainy and they haven’t seemed so important. Instead, I’ve splurged on expensive groceries and movies and just having a good old time this summer.
It’s been fun. It’s also been eye-opening.
The difference between no-brain spending and mindful spending is, well, big. And, the whole time I was “no-brain” spending, I was making a deposit in the Bank of Shame and Guilt.
Spoiler alert: It’s not really no-brain spending. Some part of your brain is making the calculation and waiting patiently to wave that balance sheet of shame and guilt IN YOUR FACE.
In light of my ridiculously high shame and guilt balance, I decided it was time to get back on track for August. No better time than the present to start, right? I knew I had my budget neatly typed out right here on this site. I clicked on “My Budget” and realized…that my budget is seriously out of date.
Even in the few months since I shared it, things have changed drastically. One, I’ve stopped making payments in my “car payment” savings. Two, I no longer think of $200 as a minimum student loan payment. There’s two categories I can cut out right there. I also noticed that I’m not meeting my obligation to the vet fund. And, the groceries and entertainment budget is laughably low (compared to what I’ve been spending.)
Time for a revision. Here’s why:
1. Rein in some out of control spending.
I couldn’t spend the money if I’d already allocated it for other things. It’s time to rein it in and get back on track. The ONLY way to do this is to STOP SPENDING and start saving. A budget is a great way to keep that rule in mind.
2. Renew focus on some important goals.
I’m at a point where I want to invest in a few things for this site, another website, and my life in general. I’ve got some projects that I’m working on that I can’t totally DIY my way through – or, I could, but the time it would take me to learn certain skills would detract from core of the projects themselves. If I want to afford some help, and invest in my future, then I better stop buying personal rice crust and vegan cheese pizzas at nine bucks a pop.
3. Keep yourself financially stable.
My momentum is pretty good. I like the trajectory. I hope to be out of debt soon and building more serious cash reserves. I’ll get out of debt SOONER if I recommit to this budget. Gotta do it. Right now.
4. To stop beating yourself up.
I want to reduce the balance in my shame and guilt account. Looking at my budget is a way of getting back on track. Personal finance isn’t a race and it isn’t a perfect science. Sometimes we get off track. Better than beating yourself up is mindfully reviewing your budget so you can do better going forward.
5. Because you straight up need to.
If you have any hope of controlling your money (instead of your money controlling you) then you straight up need to review your budget and revise accordingly. Period.
So here I am, looking at the last budget and working hard to make a better one. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Rent & Utilities – $475 (While I still live with a roommate.)
- Car Insurance – $50 (I cannot find a better quote for full coverage for this.)
- Health Insurance – $160
- Life Insurance – $16 (If I give this up, I lose it all. If I wait until I’m 49, I’ll have something like $3,900 I can get back. It’s the slowest savings account EVER.)
- Vet Visit – $100 (I’m gonna have throw some extra money into this account if I’m going to make my $800 goal by October 1st.)
- Television – $18 (Hulu and Netflix.)
- Gasoline – $80 (I still budget this much even though I drive a lot less in the summer.)
- Groceries – $200 (I could probably spend less in this category, but I’m trying to eat healthier, and fresh produce can get pricey after a while.)
- Entertainment – $100 (I’m going to go on a cash budget for this and be very, very picky about what I do. I’m working on a city guide right now, though, and I need to try a few new restaurants, so this is going to be tricky. We’ll see how it goes.)
I held back exactly $1,200 for my August living expenses, so it’s nice to know that I had an intuitive idea of how much I’d need. If I can live on this much and pull the rest of my “Vet Visit” money from the rest of my pay – and then throw the rest toward the debt, I should be sitting pretty in a few short months. I’ve got to estimate taxes in there, though, which I’m “budgeting” from the rest of my pay, as well. Come to think of it, I don’t have an “irregular expenses” category where I save for car maintenance, registration, bike accessories, dog meds, etc.
This might work for August, but it might need reviewed again before September. That’s okay, though. I’ve got five good reasons to review it.