Happy HUMP, friends! First off, a huuuuuuuuuge big fat THANK YOU is in order to all of you were *so* insanely kind/sweet/supportive/wonderful after our big announcement to kickoff the week! You guys are just the best. Like I mentioned, I’ll be doing a more thorough baby post later this week with more first/second-so-far trimester details, so if you’ve got ANY Q’s at all you want A’d in that post, drop me a comment, or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ask away! 🙂 NOW. I’m pretty stoked about this post, cos it’s a doozy and has been in the works for more than a hot sec. We’ve talked budgeting before around these rosy parts, but that was literally 2+ years ago at this point (where the heck does time go?!), and a lot has changed since then. So we’re back at it again with more in-depth tips that go beyond the high level fluff, in the hopes of truly *helping* you with your own budget, wherever you’re at in your own budgeting journey. J + I have always been pretty on the ball with budgeting. Granted, I’d give that more to his credit, cos he’s the budgeting baller of the two of us. But thanks to him, I’d say my act is pretty darn together, too. 😉 ESPECIALLY with a bub on the way now, we’ve been all the more diligent about regularly chatting + checking in with our family finances, + budgeting up a storm to account for a new, expensive arrival circa December.
But REGARDLESS of whether or not your family is growing, it’s still hella important (actually, essential) to make a budget + stick with it. I KNOW, I KNOW. But what about Target runs, E???
As we all know, Target is excluded from any + all budgeting, as it is simply impossible to budget for Target runs. They’re like bad accidents. They just happen. Pray to the sweet Lord that they don’t do much damage, and carry on. 😉
SO. I’ve teamed up with my friends at Allstate for a WHOPPER lesson on budgeting – basically, Big Girl Budgeting 101. We talked a bit about budgeting for beginners here + here with the help of the hubs (the second one has a downloadable Excel file for ya – woo!). But we’re kickin’ it up a notch since LIFE just kicked up a notch around here. 😉
Become a Track star.
No worries, no running required. 😉 But one of the most *important* pieces about budgeting like a pro is tracking like one (and Allstate agrees). Organization is KEY, so it’s essential to keep track of errrr’thaaaaang to have a.) accurate records, and b.) records that you can make smart decisions based off of down the road.
SO, a few things to track…
- Bills, groceries, rent, insurance, etc
You’ve got your regular bills, groceries, rent, any insurance costs, etc. Differentiate here between mandatory expenses versus optional slash editable expenses. Meaning, your utilities are set – there’s no negotiating with the water company or electric. Rent is set, too, unless you consider bringing on a roommate to help with that expense. But something like your grocery bill is more editable, in that it can obviously fluctuate HUGELY depending on how you shop. Allstate has a few suuuuper helpful grocery-bill tips – they’ve got a built-in calculator to figure out how much you *should* be spending on your grocery bill, as well as tips on menu planning (+ an AWESOME tool that lets you search by ingredient for easy meal ideas and nutrition info!) + making the most of in-store savings to get the most bang for your bucks.
Beyond that, create categories for your expenses! This might look like…
- Bills: Entertainment (Netflix, Spotify, etc), Home (utilities, phone, etc)
- Pleasure: Shopping (Nordstrom, Target, etc), Entertainment (Concert tickets, movie night, etc)
Also, don’t forget more “irregular” expenses – like quarterly or annual bills! If you’ve got an HOA fee, license plate renewals, etc., that goes here. (Thanks for the reminder on that one, Allstate!)
2.) Spending habits
Starbucks? Target runs? Online shopping? It’s time to track WHERE exactly your moolah is moving to, + when. Are you grabbing a latte every day in the drive thru on your way home from work? Is Target a weekly pitstop after your paycheck is direct deposited? Are you a total sucker for the word SALE? Be *honest* with yourself here, friend. It’s OK – no judgement. Just get real about simply *tracking* and not yet *analyzing* what’s going on. The point is to paint a picture that is as accurate a portrayal as possible of what your spending habits really are, so that we can budget for ya accordingly!
Lemme A you a Q: How much do you have in your savings accounts RIGHT NOW? …Do you HAVE a savings account???? First thing’s first: Get to saving, sistah! Second thing’s second: TRACK said savings accordingly. A healthy budget involves budgeting for specific savings amounts. Saving shouldn’t be an afterthought or an “if I have enough this month…” line item – it should be a given, like paying your phone bill. 😉 Because as we all know, tomorrow becomes never. So instead of doing it “tomorrow” and then ending up with zero dollars at the finish line, track + save today. MK? MK.
4.) Outstanding debt
Do you have a credit card balance? Student loans? Mortgage? Car payments? Chances are, you do. And that’s called DEBT. We know it, we hate it…but we’ve got it. A lot of it is just our current phase of life – we graduate from school, and BAM. Real world means real bills + real responsibility, which oftentimes comes with a bit o’ debt since cash cows went extinct a few years back. 😉
Know exactly how much you’re bringing in (after taxes).
If you’ve got a more traditional employer, chances are, your paycheck already accounts for taxes and has that all taken care of. (Those of us on entrepreneurial paths have to cut that big check to the IRS every quarter, and it’s a sad, sad day). But for as much as budgeting is about watching + tracking what’s going out, you also want to keep a solid handle on what’s coming IN. You should be able to note an *exact* amount that you can reasonably expect to come in every week/bi-week/month/etc.
Recognize what’s most important.
Aiiiiiiight peeps – time to start prioritizing. But before we can cut things out (or add things in), it’s important to call out the essentials – the most important things to us in life, so that we ensure we’re not cutting corners that shouldn’t cut. SO.
Family. Health. Home. Car.
Things that really matter and/or matter when it comes to not skimping, to ensure the utmost safety, etc.
Each may very well be (slash is) its own line item in your budgeting process, so I think it’s good to actually write down little stars as that important reminder to dedicate solid time + attention to getting the above right. Each has corresponding short term AND long term goals, too, so it ain’t necessarily a cake walk.
BUT, it’s a walk that we can do together…cake (+ coffee) in hand. 😉
So we’re tackling a few short term goals + short term budgeting tips today, and we’ll be back soon with the long term flip side since my Allstate friends have ALL THE RESOURCES to get our acts in order. For the short term, we want to differentiate between…
Wants vs. needs…
When you tracked your expenses above, hopefully you went all Honest Abe with it and noted the more “embarrassing” expenses, too – like your $280 Target bill when you went in to buy avocadoes and socks. #whoops 😉
This should’ve come out in tracking not just your regular and irregular expenses + bills, but in tracking just general expenses that you had in any given month. To do this right, actually TRACK YO’SELF. Pen to paper, your favorite pretty notebook, or a good ol’ Excel sheet – write it all down for at LEAST a month. I’d recommend tracking for at least 3 months before beginning the next process of setting short term goals + drawing conclusions, so that you can track TRENDS, too. This is important.
Now that you’ve come back 3 months later with your data in hand, label your expenses as wants versus needs. I’d recommend using a pretty highlighter for this one. 😉 If it’s a WANT expense, highlight one color. If it’s a NEED expense, highlight another color. Now, observe.
- Too many wants?
- Try: Cutting back on coffee runs (make it at home!), waiting 48 hours before hitting buy online, shopping your own closet, eliminating unnecessary/unused subscription services that add up on your credit card bill (hello, random iTunes’ bills).
- Too many needs?
- Too high rent? Move somewhere cheaper, or scope out a roommate.
- Too high car payment/insurance/gas cost? Use public transit a few days a week.
- Too high food/home essentials bill? Don’t buy everything at the same place – hit up cheap markets for fresh produce, pitch in with roommates to split up purchases, buy paper products in bulk when you can.
- Don’t want to cut out/change your current lifestyle at all? Adopt a side hustle and make it happen.
Try envelope budgeting.
AH, good ol’ envelope budgeting. Yannno, I feel pretty darn proud of Little E. Little E was en envelope budgeting WIZARD. And she didn’t even know it. 😉 But back in the day, I *rocked* the envelope budgeting game. I had envelopes for all of my savings, each corresponding to a different goal. They were short term goals in the grand scheme of things, but at the time, they felt like my life savings at work. I mean, a Disney trip to a 15-year-old ain’t no joke!
To appropriately envelope budget, simply designate different envelopes to different “goals.” Maybe it’s a specific item (that new bag!), maybe it’s a trip (Disney World!), maybe it’s just a way to not go overboard at HomeGoods – the key is being able to set aside actual CASH $$$ to allocate towards purchases that might not be “needs,” but are smart/significant “wants.” It also helps on any shopping trip out, so that you don’t get swipe happy with the credit card (#BeenThereDoneThat) and *gulp* at your balance later that night.
Today, envelope budgeting is something I use for more short term goals since it’s easy to throw a few big girl bills in every pay day to help save for that new bag you’ve had your eye on at the mall, or for a big family movie night out (with popcorn, because duh).
For planning purposes…
Know how much you “should” have in the bank before bigger purchasing decisions, then add a few bucks. This extends straight into long term budgeting, so we’ll save the juicy stuff for then. 😉 But budgeting is really all about planning! It’s about tracking to then plan, so that you know what has been and can influence what will be. (I just made that up, but it feels bumper sticker-worthy – someone quote me on that?! Ha!)
If you’re looking to move into a new apartment, for example, you can’t JUST know how much you’ve been spending on utilities every month. You’ve also gotta know what to expect from the new place in terms of rent, since “they” say to put aside 3 months rent + a security deposit before making the actual move. In addition, you’re of course going to consider the same ongoing expenses that you had before, at their updated rates at the new place – utilities like electricity, heat, water, AC, cable, internet, and any add-on’s like Netflix, etc to add onto your monthly expenses list.
The short term process above could/should all help propel you straight into long term planning, since you’ll have all of the basics + groundwork set and ready to go.
What’s your short-term budgeting process like? Have you kept a budget up to this point?
Were all of the above budgeting tips helpful for ya? HOPE SO. Let me know if you’ve got any specific budgeting Q’s you want A’s in Part TWO of this Big Girl Budgeting doozy-of-a-blog-post…I’ve gotcha (AND your bank account) covered. 😉
*This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. As always, all thoughts and opinions presented are entirely my own. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!