Whether you’re in college or a newlywed, I think we all can agree that a budget is important. In today’s post, I wanted to share how Gary and I budget for the two of us and how simple it can be for you too! Don’t miss the freebie at the bottom!
I think I should first mention that I haven’t always been the best budgeter. In college, I spent the majority of my paychecks on food and didn’t save much. My parents always encouraged me to avoid unnecessary debt and pay off any finacial obligations (hello, student loans) as soon as possible. As we were prepping for marriage, Gary and I really focused on saving our money. We knew that we wanted to have a healthy savings account to start out on while also having enough money set aside for a really dreamy honeymoon. Once we entered “real life” – after we got back from our honeymoon, moved to Indy, and Gary received his first paycheck – I started a budget.
I think it’s important to realize that everyone’s budgets are different because of what’s important to them. There is no “one-size fits all” when it comes to budgets. Today, I’m going to share a bit about our budget and some tips on how we save money during the month.
Our Budgeting Process
On the days Gary receives his paycheck, I sit down and create our budget for the month in a notebook. I first like to look over our calendar and write down everything that we are doing throughout the month. This list can consist of haircuts, going out of town, church events, and so on. I like to break down these activities into what exactly will cost us money. For example, going out of town means more money spent on gas and meals on the road. I list these activities on the left page of my notebook (this page is available in the PDF freebie below!).
On the right page of the notebook (this page is also available in the PDF freebie below!), I list our income, fixed expenses, and variable expenses. Our fixed expenses are those that we pay every month such as internet, power, car, phone, credit card (we only use a credit card to pay for groceries and gas to build our credit score), savings, tithing, Spotify premium, rent, and car insurance. Our variable expenses include eating out, groceries, discretionary money, and gas.
For some of our expenses (like our power bill), we estimate the amount we think we will need to pay, while other expenses we know exactly how much we need to pay (car payment).
To make the budgeting process easier for us, we use an app called EveryDollar where I input our budget for the month. This way, if Gary goes out to eat one day at work, he can input the cost and location while also assigning the meal to the appropriate budget category. I can then look at the app to see how much we have left in that certain category after he’s eaten out. The app has done wonders for us because we can keep up with how much we have left in each of our budgeted categories and track how much we’re spending.
As you can see, Gary and I have prioritized certain items in our budget. Right now, our priorities are paying our bills, saving, and tithing (Spotify premium may or may not also be a priority for us since we both use it all day every day). Some months are obviously harder than others with holidays, birthdays, and other irregular expenses, so no monthly budget is the same as another. If we don’t have enough leftover funds for individual discretionary money (funds to put towards anything of our choosing) during one month, it’s perfectly fine because we would have already paid our bills, invested in our savings account, and given our tithe to our church.
The way we budget may not work for your life, but I definitely think that what we’ve learned so far can help you. Here are our tips to make budgeting easier:
01. Set realistic goals. I think that setting realistic goals for yourself is the most important step in creating a budget that works. If you are setting unreasonably high standards, you will most likely fail. Not everyone can put away hundreds or thousands of dollars a month – even the smallest monthly contribution to savings will build into a healthy account balance over time.
02. Eat in more. I highly recommend meal-planning. If your meals are planned for the week, you are less likely to eat out and spend money on a whim. Meal planning has been a serious game-changer in our grocery bill every month! If you’d like to know more about how I meal plan, let me know in the comments below and I’ll write a post all about it.
03. Don’t pay full-price. I’m the kind of person that shops in clearance and sale sections when I’m in the store or browsing online. If I really want something that’s not on sale, I save up my personal discretionary money and buy it. If Gary or I need a piece of clothing, we wait until it goes on sale or find a cheaper alternative. An example of this is when we realized I needed a real winter coat for our first winter in Indy – we ended up buying one in July for over 50% off.
04. Don’t buy just to buy. If you’re feeling spendy (like I sometimes feel), I encourage you to wait at least a week before making a purchase. I think it’s easy to get into the mindset of spending money just to have something new.
05. Sell. I recently mentioned in another post that I had a clear out of my entire closet. I now have quite a few pisces to sell. So, if you’re wanting new outfits this season, go through your closet, find items that you didn’t wear, and take them to Plato’s Closet or donate them. Once you’ve done that, use the money (if you sell them) to buy yourself new pieces.
06. Stick to it. Budgeting is hard work, but sticking to it is even harder. However, knowing where your money is going is the most important factor in living a financially-sustainable lifestyle. Gary and I have definitely struggled with staying within our budget at times, but we just have to constantly remind ourselves that we’re doing it for a good reason and it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Do you budget? What tips would you give me?
Click below for a free, two-page PDF to help you with your budgeting process!