A bit on budgeting
Starting this month — no better time than end of financial year, right? — I have decided to reward myself by adding to a digital/virtual money box every time I go a day without spending money on lunch, a train ticket, coffee, tea, or anything. Currently, the reward is $5 a day. This seems adequate because $5 is the cost of a beverage or a couple of rolls of sushi. So effectively, I suppose I am seeing how much I save, rather than it being a “reward”.
It is worthy to note the following:
- I work full-time, 8am-6pm on weekdays. I’m only required to work eight hours excluding breaks, but at times I have to work outside the usual 9am-6pm. Including travel time, I am usually away from home from 6:30am-7:30pm.
- I live with my family. My parents pay for things like electricity bills, water bills, home internet.
- I just bought my car, which I am still learning to drive in, and is registered under my parent/s. At this stage, I don’t contribute to any registration or petrol costs.
- As you may have guessed, I don’t eat breakfast at home.
- My workplace provides breakfast, dinner if I am working late, and snacks. The kitchens are generally stocked with fruit, hot water, and other basic things. Lunch is provided on Fridays, otherwise, instant noodles are always an option (and not one you should take all the time).
- Eateries and restaurants, including fast food and regional cuisine, are within walking distance of my workplace.
- Sometimes I don’t pay for my mobile phone credit, since my dad receives staff discounts for working with the postal service that sells phone credit (yes I am on prepaid).
- I occasionally purchase my own groceries, pay for my own travel (public transport), and pay for most of my clothing.
- The government offers local students tertiary education loans, until they are employed. I have been slowly paying off my study debt with each pay check. This occurs automatically.
Last year, my job didn’t earn me a great deal of money compared to now, and I kept my spendings to $300 a month. This was perfectly doable, actually.
I earn quite a bit more now. This year, no longer a student, I have had to pay double for my travel on buses/trains/light rails (it’s a bit over $200 a month). Starting this year, I have tried a new way of saving. Using an app (Moni) to help me keep track, I add $500 to my everyday balance each month and also record all my spendings. If any ends up unused, I still go on adding $500, so any unused balance will roll over. Unfortunately I am sitting on -$280 at the moment, and July only just began.
In comparison to last year, I no longer pay for most of my gigs since accreditation to photograph gives me free entry; I definitely stopped buying buns from the bakery and tea from the tea shop downstairs every day because I switched jobs; I haven’t shopped on eBay for a while.
Giving myself only $500 a month is a bit strict. It’s enough for the necessities like travel and some bills, leaving more money saved up for things I really want. The $500 is less than 20% of what I earn in a month. I know it depends from person to person, though.
Budgeting can be annoying, and I personally hate the word itself. It’s also so easy to just throw more money in your regular account or give yourself more for the month. However, being strict for a few months or the quick realisation that you’ve spent more than you’ve allowed yourself to — makes you try just that bit harder to do things like skip a coffee or bring lunch from home.
It’s hard to get out of the mindset that “savings” aren’t really savings because you’re not spending the money anyway, so what difference does it make… but if you physically put it aside as money you could have spent on lunch, or could have spent on a drink, but gladly didn’t, it can be a bit of a reward for – and a reminder of – your resistance. That money will be better spent later on for an even bigger reward.
Like I said, it depends from person to person, and I’m certainly no expert, nor am I offering some kind of guide. But the important thing is to see where you can save, and congratulate yourself for anything you’re able to save. Keeping a log of spendings helps, but only if you stick to it.