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Budgets are like New Year’s Resolutions – you need to make it good enough to want, but easy enough to stick. Even though I don’t make resolutions, I am vowing to get savvier with my finances. One of my goals for basically forever is to keep growing and blossoming Coming Up Roses (get it?) to the point where it’s a stand-alone business venture (a girl can dream, right??), so I’m getting on the same page as dreamer Erica and giving myself the tools to make it happen. Step 1 is getting all of my personal accounting in check (pun intended), so I figured I’d share with you the same tips that are working or have worked for me!
Start with the basics: Track yo’self.
- If you’ve never worked out, setting a New Year’s Resolution for yourself where you exercise for two hours a day every day might just be impracticable.
- If you spend $3 twice a week on a vending machine snack pack and drink, take note of that. When you do your morning/afternoon/post-work coffee runs, jot that down, too (and make note of the total cost – your cafeteria coffee pot or home Keurig is probably costing you much less than your venti Starbucks). In order to make your budget at all realistic and enforceable for yourself, you’ll need to be honest about how you already spend your money. That way, you can budget more or less as needed and make increases or cuts in your spending accordingly.
- That being said, don’t immediately jump to depriving yourself! While little things can and do add up, cutting out your caramel latte when the thought of that is the one thing that pushes you through the day on a regular basis can end up doing more harm than good. While it’s important to be reasonable, be sure to allow yourself some “little luxuries” now and again.
Don’t spend more than you bring in.
- May sound simple and pretty self-explanatory, but since the average US household credit card debt is a whopping $15,611 (nerdwallet.com), clearly this concept might not be as “duh” as I originally thought. I mean, don’t get me wrong…sometimes I owe my mom 100 bucks after a shopping adventure to Ulta or Sephora. But $15K?!? The golden rule: DON’T spend more than you bring in!
- If there’s a variable cost you can cut out completely – think convenience store snacks, café drink concoctions, new makeups or eating out every Friday – until you’re at a place where you’re more comfortable spending more on “playtime,” do it.
Keep it simple.
- If you’re more for the good ol’ pen-and-paper method, be sure to use pencil first – your budget is probably going to take a few runs before it’s finalized, because you’ll need to account for all fixed and variable costs to be 100% accurate with your tracking.
- Mint is an easy-to-use application (mine’s on my iPad!) that you can connect accounts to, track budgets, and making savings plans in a secure way. If you’re a techy type, it’s for you!
- As of now, I budget my blogging expenditures and income all via PayPal. If I’m considering a new blog course, sponsorship option or design upgrade, it all comes from PayPal. This helps me keep track of everything bloggy while keeping it separate from my daily livings expenses.
- When you’re ready to go pro, Microsoft Excel has allllllll sorts of ridiculously cool capabilities. My boyfriend’s next job is to help me create a drop-down capable budget sheet via Excel!
Start with envelope budgeting.
- Some call it old-fashioned, but I’ve been a big advocate of envelope budgeting since my 13th birthday pool party. I started putting money I was gifted away in various envelopes, labeled with what it was to be used for in the future. I had a Disney-world fund for my 9th grade choral trip, a clothes fund (as if I had the restraint to limit it to one envelope – HA!), and a savings fund. I guess it became a makeshift savings account of sorts, but even better because it wasn’t attached to a card I could swipe at Target.
- If keeping things in cash helps you spend less, think of 3-5 categories that you can budget accordingly. Maybe it’s “Rent,” “Food,” “Vacation”, “For Funsies,” and “Savings.” Rent and food are obviously necessities, a fun account is your discretionary income or play money, vacation is for a longer term goal that’s reachable in the foreseeable future, and savings gets you started on a nest egg for when it’s needed unexpectedly down the road.
- Keep it broader and – again – keep it simple. The more complicated your system, the less likely you are going to stick with it!
Track yo’self for real.
- The only way to ensure that your budget works in your favor – and just works in general – is to diligently and honestly track all of your income and expenditures as they happen.
- As much as you want a free phone bill (you get “free speech” but no free talking…what IS that amiright?!) and free food on the reg, you probably aren’t getting that unless your job is absolutely amazeballs or you’re good at mooching off of friends. Make sure you’re accounting for all of those seemingly mundane expenses, and don’t sell yourself (or your bank account) short on them.
You’ve tracked yo’self…now, treat yo’self!
- Once in awhile, leave yourself a bit of extra wiggle room if possible. Get that bigger coffee, grab a new lipstick, or put the pennies together and save for that new pair of shoes you’ve been dying to add to the wardrobe. Don’t make your budget about punishment – be sure to reward yourself for sticking with it and for being diligent!
What are your best tips for beginner budgets? Is there anything that’s helped you keep it together and manage your finances successfully?
Disclaimer: I felt the need for this post after shopping my feelings at Target today. I got there to “kill time” between a dentist appointment and a haircut, and happened to hit during clearance markdown time. Let me tell you…Erica is one happy camper right about now. I bought stuff for me, and – wait for it – I bought stuff for you, too!
TWO lucky ladies will win a winter survival package from me, with some of my favorite things to get you by when it’s 4 degrees outside. Each lady will win approximately half of the goodies + whatever else I decide to add before it ends. Brownie points for sharing this post with friends. Extra brownie points for making me brownies.
So with that, I’ll see y’all on Friday. Stay classy, smile a lot, and count your blessings!