All my adult life I have refused to set budgets. I see budgets as anathema to my very way of being (i.e. living a “problem-free philosophy” a la the Lion King). Since starting my career 7 years ago I have never wondered how I would pay for something or how much something costs—I would just buy it and, apparently, hope for the best. Now at 32 I am beginning to see the flaws in this living-in-the-present-by-crapping-on-the-future logic.
Even without living the budget life I have managed to build up some net worth. I bought my condo in 2012 for 160k (16k down) and have a 401k that is around 80k. While it is a quickly depreciating asset you can add my car into the mix and that’s worth 21k. I’d say having a net worth of nearly 200k (not counting debts) when you’ve 1) never budgeted 2) haven’t really tried, is pretty good.
Now, matured and ready for adulthood, I will seek to actively lower my spending by, wait for it, BUDGETING! I am not a big believer in assigning a role for every penny and dollar that is spent—I have neither the inclination nor the dictatorial need for control which that requires. I just want to know where my money is going, where I can cut back on expenses, and not stress about the whole endeavor.
A Helpful Budgeting Tool
A great and free website I have discovered is Mint. When you hook up your bank accounts, loans, 401ks, etc. to Mint it will automatically track your spending and upcoming bills. Mint allows you to set goals, see your credit score, and easily set budgets (with helpful alerts) on monthly spending. With this tool I have managed to cut my spending on morning coffees and eating out. I was spending upwards of $150 a month simply on eating out! I also discovered I was spending a lot on grocery shopping so I decided to start going to Costco and we’ve been saving money ever since. It also has an app that makes it very easy to see where you’re at budget wise throughout the month.
As you can see below Mint’s interface is very simple to follow and requires very shallow learning curve.
I am hoping that if I can adhere to the budgets I’ve set up with Mint that I will be on my way to resolving my debt and affording my dream home (which’ll be somewhere around the $500k range, yikes!).
As mentioned in my previous post I have also managed to save money by consolidating my student loans through SoFi. SoFi allows you to lower your interest rates and puts all your loans in one place. For me I was able to lower my repayment period (from 7 years to 5), keep my payments the same, and lower my overall payback amount by about $3000. If you use my link above you’ll receive $100 once you’re approved.
Digit periodically transfers small amounts of cash from your checking account into a Digit savings account. The amounts are small so you barely notice them and they’re tuned to your unique situation so they are affordable. Digit is helpful for those who need a little more assistance in saving/those too undisciplined to regularly save (like myself, natch).
As far as what to do with your money once you have it saved I have to recommend Capital One 360 (using this link will get you $25 once you deposit $250 or more). This is the savings account I use and it is getting around 0.75% APY, which beats nearly every brick-and-mortar bank. Capital One 360 allows you to set up an automatic savings plan and set savings goals (like a new boat or Ferragamo shoes). It’s a breeze to use and I’ve had it for several years now.
Now if you absolutely have a need to spend there are better ways of doing so. Raise is a website that allows you to buy and sell gift cards. I myself was able to buy a Regal Cinemas gift card worth $100 for about $75, which lasted me an entire year. I have also managed to save quite a bit by buying Target gift cards on Raise. You can regularly see Target gift cards for as much as 20% off their face value. You can even set alerts so you’ll be notified when someone posts an especially discounted card. Signing up and making a purchase within 30 days with my link will net you $5 in Raise rewards.
Seeing that my twenties are becoming further and further away, and middle age is quickly creeping up on me, I have come to accept budgets. Luckily in this day and age we have technology that makes this once-mundane chore a relative breeze. Additionally, if this small sacrifice helps me accomplish the goals I have for my family then it is well worth it.