The beauty of a budget

I have a pretty basic budget.  Although I get paid biweekly, it is easier for me to set it up monthly because I pay most bills monthly.  Reviewing my situation for next year, I was just able to make some adjustments to it that felt quite good.  Both my rent and gas money went down because the apartment I’m moving into is both less than I expected and very close to where I work.  I plan at taking a look at this whole thing again in late September –early October, after I have been situated for a while and I can see how close I am in my estimates.

 

Rent – $400/month.  (This includes utilities.)  I am moving to a fairly small town and sharing an apartment with a roommate.  Both of these things mean that rent is pretty low. 

 

Gas – $80/month ($20/week) While it’s nice out, I can easily bike or walk to work.  As the weather starts to change, this might get more difficult.  But even then, it would take an extraordinary week or some sort of emergency for me to need more than $20.

 

Food – $80/month.  This is the one area I’m most unsure about.  This would have easily covered my expenses in college, but my roommates and I did a lot of cooking together and frankly-there were lots of opportunities for free food.

 

VISA – $100/month.  Again, this one is harder to calculate since my minimum payment will actually be decreasing (yes!) but until I re-do the budget, my plan is to stick with $100 and get a bit extra paid off.

 

Phone – $30/month.  I’m actually still on my parents’ plan and it benefits us all if I stay on it, so I just pay them about my share of the bill.  $30 sounded fair to everyone and I wasn’t going to argue about a few dollars either way when I can swing it pretty easily.

 

Store CC – $15/ month.  I cannot believe that I fell for a gimmick for a store card, especially after beginning to read so many other blogs.  But, there is only a relatively small amount on here ($95) and I plan on paying it off ASAP and then I’ll decide whether or not to close the card.  (It is one of only two cards that I own, so it might be better to keep open with a zero balance.)

 

A few things might be notably missing from this.  First of all, I have no cable/internet package because I have no television.  I don’t think we will wind up getting one.  I rarely watch television anyway.  Once my roommate and I settle in, we’ll decide whether or not we want internet in our apartment.  My guess is that we will get it, especially because we won’t have a tv – but we’ll see.  Secondly, I’m very healthy.  I’m only on one medication and because of the coverage I have through work, it only costs me about $10/month, which I can pay out of the cash in my wallet.

 

Also, I currently do not have any type of emergency fund.  I realize this is horrible and I plan to change this fact as soon as possible.  $1000 is my starting goal and I’m going to start saving, but I don’t know how much per month I’m going to be able to stock away until I re-do this in a month or so.

July 31, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

It’s the clothing, stupid

On a drive home from a friend’s house last night, I was musing about the fact that I have already cut out some expensive drains from my budget. Switching to brewing my own coffee took maybe a week to get used to – and now I even prefer it black. Except for when I’m studying and need more space and quiet than I have here at home, I don’t eat out when I’m alone. I realized that I used to eat at home almost always anyway; I was just bringing to-go food home. That was easy to let go of. I cut down my cell phone plan and saved a few dollars there every month.

However, amongst all of these changes, I still find my self lusting after far more clothing than I need. I can’t help it. Well, I can keep myself from spending so much on clothing, but the lust will always be there. It hasn’t helped that I have actually needed to buy clothing for work and have been looking around as a result.

So, as a result. As soon as I have all of the clothing I need (I’m still in search of a winter pencil skirt and trousers) I will NOT buy any clothing for a month. I will not even browse a clothing website, so as not to be tempted. No, a month is not very long – but it is a start. Wish me luck!

July 24, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Emergency Fund, Emergency Fund, Emergency Fund

There. I’ve got it. It took a while, but the importance of having an emergency fund finally set in for me this morning.

I use my bike as my main form of transportation when I’m at home. And, I have a babysitting gig every weekday morning that I ride to. Well, I go outside this morning to grab my bike, and find that the back tire is completely flat. Flat as in it must have a hole, because I just put air in it last night. Wonderful.

I now need a new tire and would have been late for work except that I was able to borrow another family member’s bike.

The bike will have to wait to be fixed, because I’m short on cash right now. Because I don’t have an emergency fund that would take care of this exact issue.

Lesson learned.

July 22, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Expensive Weekend!

I titled this post only slightly shamefully. In all honesty, I spent all three days this weekend (Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday) with three good friends/groups of friends that I will probably not see for another four or five months.

Before more details, here’s the breakdown:

Friday night – concert tickets ($30)+ dinner ($6) transportation ($10)
Saturday – movie ($10) + food ($10)
Sunday – ice cream ($6)

The concert was a band that I absolutely love and the tickets were purchased well in advance. As for transportation, there really was no cheaper way to get there. If we had driven, parking would have been much higher. Dinner that night was sandwiches on the way from the train station to the concert. Saturday’s movie was Harry Potter. I’m not at all a moviegoer, but this was one that I was excited to see. The food was what killed me. My friend and I decided to share something. Then, in figuring out how to split the bill I wound up paying more than my share, which made me a bit annoyed. That really wasn’t worth it and could have been skipped.

Though this wasn’t a normal weekend, I feel like I learned a few things from the experience. First of all, it was interesting to note that the little things I spent money on would not have been a big deal if I had only slightly more money in my account. Secondly, the fact that I could have gotten a better deal on a movie theater snack has really bothered me. It taught me to take a few extra seconds to think about any purchase-and seek out a better deal. Combos or movie theater pairings aren’t a good deal-rather, they’re simply pushed by the theater.

Lastly, I’ve decided that I am someone who needs a fun fund. I am not saving for a vacation or a new car and nor do I need or want anything like a new computer or small appliance. So I think that I can afford myself this luxury. $200 to $500 tucked away somewhere that isn’t easily accessible but that I can draw on whenever something comes up (like a friend visiting me for a weekend or when I come home for the holidays) makes a lot of sense to me.

July 21, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Lessons from my parents

I know that for a lot of people, parents/guardians set an incredibly powerful example on how to handle finances. This rings especially true for me. One of the most important things that they wanted to make sure that they could afford was an ideal home for their children to grow up in.

As I write this, I am spending one of my last few weekends living in my parents’ house. It is a modest but beautifully decorated home that is filled with hundreds of pictures and memoires from my childhood and my parents’ life together. In many ways it is the stereotypical ‘American Dream’ home. We live in a very safe middle-income suburb, in a house that my parents built, complete with a white picket fence (no joke!) and a dog.

I think that for my parents, a home in a safe area with good schools was the most important thing that they believed they needed to provide for their children. Both of my parents grew up in poor and dangerous areas: my mom in one of the worst neighborhoods in a major city, and my dad in a more rural area several miles from that same city (an exurb, in today’s language).

Although this house has been paid off for almost ten years, I know that my parents had to budget and save and cut spending in other areas in order to be able to afford such a residence. Even as their incomes grew, my parents continued to drive old cars into the ground and wear clothing and shoes until they were no longer presentable. We also never took extravagant vacations as a family. We traveled often around the US (by car) to visit our family, but we’ve never been to Europe or on a cruise, something that many of our neighbors have done.

As a result of their prudent decisions, my parents already own (and rent) a second home that they plan on retiring to. They have also begun planning the details of a month-long trip to Europe (we kids will be joining them for a week). I now know that many of our neighbors and friends are jealous of my parents for the supposed ‘windfall’ of money that they have come into. If it is anything at all, this windfall is simply the money that my parents have saved over the years by not being in debt.

And that is a powerful lesson for me, as someone who likes to be able to see the benefits of her hard work and sacrifice. Being careful about my budgeting and spending now (and for the next several years) will lead to big payoffs in the future-like a dream vacation to Europe!

July 18, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Simple Living- Housing

So come August 1, I will be packed and moved to my new home in New England. Although I will be working full time and rent is low, I’ve decided to do something that most people don’t consider past their college days: I’m going to be living with a roommate.

I have never met this girl, although we do have a few friends in common. We’ve spoken on the phone many times and I’m not at all worried about the situation; she’s quite a wonderful person from what I can tell. She’s going to be working as a nurse in the next town over-but not quite at full time. So, money-wise it was smarter for both of us not to live alone.

There are many benefits other than simply paying less rent. It’s not just our rent that is going to be lower. Our utilities, cable and internet, and even some food will be shared. Also, although we both have cars, we can take turns driving to things like the grocery store and church- thus cutting down on gas money for both of us. I have never lived alone in my life and I don’t know how I would have liked living alone in a new city where I know very few people. In college I never had fewer than two roommates, even in the dorms.

We both have similar ideas about just how much privacy we need to be able to live together. My roommate and I realized that we both wanted our own rooms-no exceptions on this. Size didn’t matter; this was more of a privacy thing. We realized that one bathroom would suffice, but that we wanted to make sure that there was a parking lot that we both could have a spot in. Neither of us smokes nor own pets, which would have been a deal breaker for each of us in a potential roommate.

Like I said, we’ve found a great little place for both of us that meets all of the requirements above. I find that a roommate is more of a blessing than a burden. I am very even-tempered, so unless she is quite different than she describes, I cannot imagine us being less than cordial and I likely see us becoming good friends. I felt a bit like an incoming college freshman when we were discussing what we’d bring to the place and what are likes and dislikes were, but after that bit of awkwardness passed, it has been great since then. Neither of us really needs an entire apartment to ourselves (there were no studios in the neighborhoods that we were looking in) and so having a roommate is a great perk for both of us. It would have been wastefully in terms of both space and finances for us to each live on our own.

July 18, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

itreadmill Update

A quick update on itreadmill. I don’t think that I’m going to be purchasing the full version. I tried it out both running outside and on a treadmill and found that it wasn’t accurate.

I have not yet, however, updated my software to the latest version, so that could be why it is not working as well as I would like it to.

July 17, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Picky, Picky!

I returned one of the items that I purchased – the one I was debating about because I didn’t know if it was dressy enough for work and wasn’t worth keeping for fun because I have several cute shirts already. I did try it with several work options- pants, shoes, and jewelry, and decided that it wasn’t quite good enough. Also, it was short-sleeved and lightweight, meaning that I would already have to be layering over it by September. I have been wearing the hair accessories and my new earrings continuously and am still in love with the other two shirts that I purchased.

And I have yet to try out itreadmill (busy, busy weekend) but I’m planning on a run tonight and I’ll let you know my thoughts afterword.

July 14, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Movies are Expensive!

Movies are really expensive! I went last night with the boyfriend and tickets were $10 each! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure when movies got so expensive. I thought they used to be the easy date night option for not spending a lot of money. I’m not a big moviegoer, but if I were, I can tell you that that particular hobby alone would break the bank.

So, in honor of the ridiculous expense that we paid last night, I pondered what we could do around my area for some great and inexpensive (or free!) dates. There are probably many more out there –these are ones that appeal to me and came to my mind. Some of these are geared towards the summer; I’ll update the list with some winter additions once the seasons change.

1. Discount movie theaters. You know, the ones that show movies already out of main theaters or even ones that are already on DVD. It’s usually $1 or $2 a ticket around here. ($4 total)
2. Biking/hiking trails. Free, and lovely in summer and early fall. We’d have to drive a bit further out into the suburbs for this one, but it’s totally worth it. We call this a “Saturday date” because it’s more of a daytime thing and requires a drive as well. ($0)
3. Free days at museums/art galleries/etc.
4. Dollar bowling nights. We would probably play two games so $4 for games + cost of shoes.
5. Wii night. This could just as easily be any other gaming system, but as far as I know, the Wii has the widest range of appeal to all types of audiences. Provided someone has a Wii, free entertainment.
6. Destination drives. The bf and I are a big fan of this one. We’ll read about the best ice cream or hot dog stand or coffee house or whatever- in a small town within an hour or so of us and head out there and check out the town and particular establishment. (Cost of gas + treat)
7. Bookstore nights. We grab a coffee, a bunch of books and magazines we’re interested in and plop down in comfortable chairs and spend a few hours in air conditioning and away from everyone else. ($6-ish for coffee)
8. Music/movies in the park night: Most towns around us have free outdoor entertainment during the summer. Local bands will play or they’ll show movies on a big dropdown screen at night.
9. Day at the beach/on the river/lake. We consider this more of an event for a group of friends rather than a date, but the beaches are free and we generally bring in a cooler of food and a Frisbee – plenty of entertainment, again for a Saturday.
10. County fairs, town festivals, etc.
11. Garage sale shopping. In honor of my move, we’ve been hitting up garage sales for cheap furniture or home goods. We haven’t had a lot of luck, but between the two of us we’ve found some interesting treasures and oddities that we just couldn’t pass up – probably spending about $5 in 10 or so hours of shopping.

July 11, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

IPod Love

I just graduated from college this past May. I got a lot of very nice gifts for graduation from family members, but my two absolute favorite were from my grandma and my parents. My grandmother gave me a bracelet that she received for her college graduation. It is sentimental and beautiful and I would wear it forever if it were a bit less delicate.

My parents got me an Ipod Touch. I have never been a ‘techie’ or a gadgets person, but I absolutely love this thing! It is great for checking emails and bits of web browsing (like blog reading) from anywhere on a Wi-Fi network. I’ve mentioned that I’m studying for the GRE and often study at places with free Wi-Fi like Starbucks or Panera. If I’m going to be there for hours, I can drag this tiny thing along instead of lugging my laptop just for the purpose of checking email. It has more than enough memory for my music and two movies that I watch often. (I normally wouldn’t want to watch a movie on such a small screen, but it’s perfect for an airplane trip.) My one fear was that it wouldn’t be comfortable to run with, but it fits securely into a strap on my arm, so I feel safe running with it. And I don’t know if this is an improvement from the first generation or not, but it is really quite lightweight, so it doesn’t feel like a huge burden on my arm or in my purse.

The applications that are available with this make it hands-down the best Ipod ever. (In my humble opinion, of course.) Tons of great applications are free and tons of paid applications have trial or light versions that are free. If you are thinking about a paid app, I highly recommend searching out a free one to make sure that you like it first. I have found this very useful.

I now have apps for just about everything. I have a few games (Scrabble and Paper Toss) for wasting time while waiting for an appointment, in an airport, long car rides, etc. I have an app that keeps track to make sure that I drink eight glasses of water a day. I have an app called Lose It that keeps track of caloric intake. I have an app that tells you the nutrition facts of food from fast food places. (Restaurants) All of these apps were free. The one application that I’m considering purchasing is the iTreadmill, which keeps track of your running distance and pace. I have the free version right now and after I use it I’ll let you know my thoughts after a few runs with it.

Finally, there are a few things that come with the Ipod that I use often. The calendar keeps track of all of my appointments for a day. Maps and weather are great for getting directions and checking the weather when I have an internet connection. (Note: Here, I have one most of the time. When I move it’s going to be a different story.) Finally, the notes feature lets me keep track of my to-do lists for the day, and I don’t have to worry about losing the little slips of paper that I used to write them on.

Happy Friday!

July 10, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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