Budget is No Longer a Four-Letter Word

Sun, Mar 20, 2011

budget, debt

Budgeting used to be one of those things I thought were for other people, not for me. I thought a budget was a good idea for someone who couldn’t manage their money, and I was managing mine just fine on my own. Never mind the fact that I was racking up debt and overdrawing my bank account every few weeks!

When I finally realized I was out of control, I broke down and made a budget. And failed miserably at staying within it. Why? It wasn’t realistic. I had no trouble organizing my fixed expenses, but I severely underestimated how much I spent on variable expenses because I was in denial. I never budgeted for my pack-a-day smoking habit, for example, because I told myself I was going to quit soon. Yet I kept buying cigarettes and wondering why my perfect (on paper) budget wasn’t working.

Now that I have a bank account that helps me track expenses, it’s easier to see where my money goes and budget accordingly. If I exceed my limit in a particular category, I have to decide - was the amount I set insufficient, or did I overspend? Usually I find I spent too much.

I only bring home $1075 every two weeks, or $2150 a month, after taxes, health insurance, dental, life insurance, long/short term disability, etc. My agency does not offer a match on their pathetic 403(b), so I don’t contribute. My salary sucks! Still, that’s what I’ve got until I start my second job next month.

Here’s the breakdown of where my money goes:

  • Car payment: $360 (accelerated to pay off sooner)
  • Groceries/household stuff: $250
  • Gas: $200 (I commute 500 miles a week for work)
  • Roth IRA: $200
  • Savings: $200
  • Utilities: $150
  • Restaurants: $150
  • Credit card payments: $130 (debt snowball)
  • AT&T: $110
  • Cigarettes: $100
  • Car insurance: $90
  • Cable/internet: $60
  • Misc./clothing/other: $150
  • TOTAL: $2150/month

You’ll notice there are lots of places where I could cut expenses. The sad part is, this is my budget after making a ton of cuts already. After I’ve learned to maintain this budget for awhile, I’ll make further changes. I really do need to quit smoking - it pains me to see that $100 being thrown away each month.

So that’s what I’m working with for now, and I’ll post updates every month to see how I’m doing.

13 Responses to “Budget is No Longer a Four-Letter Word”

  1. Perfect Dad says:

    Hi Andrea: I love your blog so far. I read a lot of PF blogs and am a frequent commenter- I work in the finance dept of a huge company. My own blog is a parenting blog, but there will be some PF content as well.I see you have a child. Maybe we can work together, at least comment on each others blogs, like each others pages, put each other in the readers, cross-promote relevant posts, etc.I would have sent you an email but I couldn't find a contact form …


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