I hate money.
I mean, I love it, but I hate dealing with it. I’ve had a few successful go-rounds with budgeting and planning over the years, but I always fall off the wagon. Up until recently, I didn’t even track transactions in my checkbook (I had a tracking method, it just wasn’t that one). So when Jon started his new job and we upgraded to a fancier pants apartment, I figured I’d better start acting like an adult.
Our new living situation (which commences in July) came at us with a few challenges, and it was those challenges that made me realize I needed to handle our finances better. The first thing I had to tell myself was that whatever budget I came up with wasn’t going to be perfect. I’ve tried to do perfectly detailed budgets in the past, then the first time I wavered, I scrapped the whole thing entirely. Much like dieting, a strict budget is not for me.
I mapped out two months of a tentative budget, tentative because even though I know what our current bills are, I had to do some estimating as to our post-tax and post-loan income. However, instead of focusing on the money itself and all the of the little costs, I instead made a plan of how I was going to organize the money in a way that worked for us.
First, I set up a couple new savings accounts. I use a credit union because historically, I’ve had way better experiences with CUs than banks, and my CU is great. I can do everything online, and as long as you start with $25 for each one, you can open extra share accounts. We already had one for travel, so I opened two more: one for housing and one for our car. These are going to be our two biggest payments, so the plan is to take a set amount out of each check, move it to each account, then use that money to pay those bills on their due date.
I’m sure other people have been doing this all along. Not us. I’ve been a member of the “take it all out of this paycheck” club for as long as I can remember, but we’re no longer going to be able to do that for various reasons.
I also made a plan to start grinding down our credit card debt, which includes putting extra into regular savings and taking a big chunk out of those bills when we’ve accrued a set amount. Once those are done, we plan to apply the principle to some of Jon’s smaller student loans, a 401k loan, and eventually the car. Besides that, we’re going back to eating at home more and packing lunches, which means going back to grocery lists and meal plans. We’ve done this sporadically over the years, but we always get caught in those fast food and delivery loops that suck money out a bank account super quick.
In fact, since I’ve also started tracking all transactions in my checkbook again, I’m a little unsettled by just how quickly and easily we spend money. It’s so easy to do: a lazy dinner out here, social time with friends there, and before you know it, we’ve burned through anything we had leftover after bills were paid. Besides all the planning, I’m also trying to avoid that as much as possible.
A lot of this will be easier when we’re living back in MHK. One of the reasons we eat out so often is that if either of us has a social engagement in the evening, there’s no point in running all the way home to make dinner, then coming all the way back to town. We’d spend more in gas anyway. Even cheap options are expensive. We can make meal for both of us for about three dollars. Each fast food meal ranges from 8 to 15, depending on what we’re in the mood for.
Not to mention the fact that it’s really easy to get burned out on fast food, and while there are healthy options to be had, it’s not usually recommended for peak performance.
I’m hoping I can stick with this. My grandfather was great with money and always wanted me to budget, but I was a brat and never wanted to put the time into it. However, I do remember some of the things he taught me, so I’m hoping to implement some of those in the future. This is going to be a work in progress, but I’m hoping it gets us where we want to be. If anyone has any other ideas, tips, or magic spells we can use, please send them my way!