Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Budget Rule(s)

Privilege shows itself in a lot of ways. I've recently become aware of another; one in the long list of previously unknown privileges. And it came in the most random dose of clarity. I'd just paid off the excessive amount of debt I'd racked up on my credit card, feeling those first moments of sweet relief pass over me. I'm still feeling that relief today, but it was quickly overshadowed by a new, stubborn desire to never get into that position again. I literally couldn't have bought a cup of tea without maxing myself out. Not a great way to be in.

It was in that moment that it really hit me; I have absolutely no clue how to save money. My ma has made attempts to show me, but when it came down to it I just didn't feel like listening. At that point in time there wasn't the necessity to listen. That right there is privilege. I've never known the feeling of being hungry. And no, I don't mean hungry like "I missed breakfast". I mean hungry like "I missed breakfast and lunch for the past two weeks because I'm trying to keep the power on". Luckily that's something I still have yet to experience, but I'm closer now than I've ever been. Not out of necessity, mostly cause I suck at budgeting.

Or, I did.

Now I've got myself a plan, one I'm sticking to. It turns out that's kind of the whole thing. Making the list of what to spend money on (and what not to) is easy. Keeping yourself in check is where it gets hard. A year and a half ago I still would have found it enormously difficult. But things have changed since then--for the better, I think. For one thing I'm not so selfish. Maybe my parents would disagree, but it takes an amount of selfishness to consistently ask mom and dad for money without changing the spending habits that lead to asking in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm still taking quite a bit from my parent's bank account, but it's an already agreed on amount and the only time I've had to ask for more in the last few months is the result of a flat tire in need of replacement.

I'm also a little more proud, and little more hardworking. I actively ask for shifts at work, I don't let people guilt me into spending what I don't need to spend on. Part of that comes from surrounding myself with people who have the values I want, even if I don't necessarily have them yet. My boyfriend will always put the time in to doing something right instead of sloppy. My roommates all work hard enough to justify playing hard. One just got accepted into her top choice of Master's program out in Texas. My best friend is currently living her dream, making money during the summer and travelling the rest of the year. She saw where she was and decided it wasn't what she wanted. That mindset is true for my coworkers as well; the ones I'm close to are the ones who aren't going to be working at a pizza place the rest of their lives. I know that sounds a little snotty, but the people who have been there years and years are the same ones who aren't moving forward. That's a fine thing as long as they know that's where they want to be, but that's not where I want to stay.

I'm using that drive to stick to my budget, which is actually just a rule. 

It's a pretty simple one, mostly because I don't have too many expenses (thank you ma and dad). They handle my cellphone, rent, and car insurance. That's a huge chunk of money that I used to just spend. Here is the rule to stop that nonsense: any tip money in bills larger than $1 get saved. Any $1 bills that add up to more than $10 get saved too. The second I put my paycheck in the bank I pay whatever utilities/groceries/gas/unexpected expenses I have on my credit card. Half of what's left gets put into savings, and whatever's left is for fun times. That's an important bit; always have something set aside for fun adventure time. I'd drive myself crazy without it, even if it's something as simple as doing homework in a coffee shop instead of at home.

All of this falls under my umbrella rule: Anything I put in savings, STAYS IN SAVINGS. That shit ain't for small adventures; it's for the big necessities. Maybe I need to chip in with tuition, maybe my car decides to die, or maybe I just like the look of a full bank account. It's the first time I've been able to stick with something so long, and it's really jumped up my "proud of myself" factor.

I know this doesn't help those of you who are actual real-world adults in need of a real-world budget, but for someone like me who's just starting out, it's a great first step.

Hope your rules are worth sticking to, friends.


-E.B.