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.

My only large expenses this year were my birthday dinner, a camera lens, my custom number plate, and my ticket to see the Don Quixote ballet.

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.

Comments on this post

I like the idea of $5 a day into a “savings” for yourself. It’s a neat idea. It was so much easy for me to budget my money when it was just my income.

Now as a married women, mine and my husband’s income go into the same account. We share money and and it’s not my money nor his money, it’s our money. Which is nice some days but he likes to spend money where I like to save. It hasn’t really cause any issues yet. Since we both understand we do have a house and a car payment and those things always come first. But at the end of the day when I put $25 a week into a savings account and he wants to spend that extra money it does make it harder to budget. It takes two.

I think you have got a nice hold on it. PS: Sorry for the long comment. lol.

Haha no problem Jenn! Some of my friends used to leave comments the length of novels a few years back… :P

It sounds like you are both smart and reasonable with your money, even though sharing money isn’t for everyone. It goes to show neither of you are selfish or greedy, hopefully you can keep it up without any troubles! I know I would want the same kind of attitude from a partner.

I have a similar sort of system for managing my money. I have a set amount of money each week to spend on food and necessities (after subtracting my bills and such from my income) and if there is any left it rolls over. It’s how I managed to save so much money each year at uni. Seriously, I must be one of the few students who goes to uni and makes a profit!

I’m pretty good at sticking to my budget. If I’m about to buy something but I’m not 100% sure, I always think to myself that I could be putting that money towards a holiday or a concert, and I instantly stop spending.

Best of luck with learning to drive. I really need to continue learning and pass my test before I have to get a job.

It’s so important to have savings for emergencies! The general consensus is six months worth of needs-based expenses. I’ve had that money saved up for quite a while now, and it’s a weight off my shoulders to know that if anything were to happen, I won’t be penniless. After that though, I went back to my normal spending habits. :P I should budget more strictly again.

Your situation sound very similar to mine right now. I live with my in-laws so no rent and utilities (though we’re moving out soon), eat out a bit too often… I did recently pass my driver’s test so I got my license, so I’ll have to budget for gas now. It’s all feasible if I start taking lunch to work instead of buying and stop impulse buys. It’s just hard for me coz I like stuff haha. Budgeting is very much an attitude change too.

Am I glad that I now have someone to share my pain with over $200 a month for the train. LOL don’t get me wrong – that’s a lot of money you have to work hard for and budget, but for the past three years (note I’ve only dropped student status a month ago) I’ve paid $243/month for the train and another $90 for the subway. I’ve felt so so alone while everybody tells me how cheap their transport is.

I’ve recently downloaded the Spendee app when they were giving it out for free and have been recording all my expenses since I work a full-time job now and pay for everything I need when I’m not with parents. Excluding transportation, I spent $250 in June, and $70 of that went to video games. I blame the Steam Summer Sale. I will have to learn how to manage money better, especially since all the rest of that is food. I’m trying to cut down from $8 meals to $4 (I already pack my lunch drink) but there’s so much good stuff to eat around here. =(

Having good things to eat is always an issue when you want to save money. Our company is moving to the heart of the city soon, and there are more food options (I used to work in that part of the city last year, and bought lunch almost every day). I don’t know what I’m going to do!

I have ignored Steam for a while. I really was going to get back into games, but (as I just explained in a comment on one of your blog posts) I don’t have the time and I’ve sort of lost interest in, well, making it an interest of mine again. But Steam sales are good because you’re getting more bang for your buck! That goes for any sale, muahaha.

This is actually a good idea. When I lived with my dad, I was saving a lot. $200.00 a month. I was able to purchase my own computer (a nice one), after that I saved again for nice bedroom furniture, and carpet. However, when I was living on my own, I struggled daily. I had people vouching for me and my meals and I would return the favor. Even if I didn’t have it.

I’m now living with my boyfriend’s grandparents, and I pay rent to them to help them out. The only other bill I have to pay for is my phone bill. That’s all. I get about $300.00 extra each month after that. I do have to pay for my cat’s food and once there is money left, it is mine to do with whatever. Usually, Tristan and I would buy books, and go out to eat. Starbucks is nice on occasion, and since I bought my iPod recently, I’ve only treated myself to ONE Starbucks this month. I think we’ve been going overboard with going out to eat. But, we’re slowing down. Especially, since we’re both wanting to start saving. Since I earn $300.00 a month, I’m thinking of maybe saving $100.00 a month for my life savings. No more toys. Of course, I’ll still treat myself to the occasional book or what have you. But since school is coming up for me and Tristan, my money will be saved up when I’m in school. Only fair.

But, I do like your idea of budgeting. Everyone has an excuse to spend money on something. Sometimes, we regret the decision after we’ve spent that money, instead of saving it. For instance…I purchased an iPod this month, as it was a necessity and I wanted an iPod for years, and could never buy one. I love my iPod, it put me in the whole this month, but it was a well-thought out purchase. I’m not regretting the decision to buy it, the only regret I have is going out to eat so much and buying Starbucks. So maybe, cutting out Starbucks (since I can only have their teas and smoothies) would probably be a good idea and stop going out to eat (unless we’re dying to go out) may also be a good idea.

Seeing this post has made me realize, that I should really buckle down and start saving! Regardless if it is $10 a month, or even just $5. I’m still going to try and save! Less Starbucks means more money!

You really did think about that iPod! I have made some impulse purchases in the past, but anything hugely expensive, like a camera lens, or my MacBok Air – I definitely put a lot more thought into.

I have been less interested in Starbucks lately, but yes, you can often go without it, and treat it like a reward instead. One Starbucks drink a day can really add up. So I hope you can put that money aside each day and see how much you can save. :D

Yeah, I didn’t want to impulse buy that iPod. Although, I came really close to impulse buy the day I went to price check. I had to thinkb if there were any expensesy that I needed to pay. The deciding factor was will I get a lot of use out of the iPod. And yes I am. Yeah, Starbucks and fast food and eating out in general can really add up. So far, I have yet to save up because that iPod put me back this month. Oh well. There’s always next month. :-) .

I am THE WORST at budgeting. My parents constantly complain about it, and I know I should do better, but I just can’t seem to do it. You have the right idea though– $5 a day will eventually add up to a lot over time. It’s good that you are budgeting though and devoting your time to doing so. I’m really bad at it myself, and I know that I should do it in order to save more money– but I can’t help but impulse buy sometimes. :/ I’m hoping that in the future I can control it more. But for now, I’ll take baby steps. Maybe using an app like you will help!

I attempted to do this this month, but I’ve failed terribly. I’m working a lot now though so hopefully that means I#ll stop spending because I won’t have time to do so. Hopefully!

Hope you manage to stick to your budgeting plan. Your plan to do so sounds pretty good. Keep us all updated!

Yes, I have seen the Lego Movie. I loved it, up until the point where Will Ferrell came in and ruined the magic. I wanted them all to be real! I loved how they animated it though; it was very cleverly done!

This is a good idea, I’ve been dying to start properly saving up for a new camera. I’m downloading the Moni app now :)

That is really great that you have been able to budget and track your money, because it is important if you want to try and make some savings, or you know, have an idea where your funds are going.

I have been keeping an excel spreadsheet of my income/outgoing for years. I guess, because of owning a business I have to do this anyway, but it makes keeping your personal finance in check, a good tool. :D

That is so awesome about the accreditation to photograph. I have missed a few of your blog posts, so may have to backstalk to see if you wrote more about this. :D ♥

I like your idea of budgeting through rewards even though it’s really saving. That’s pretty much what I’m doing. Though I went from $7 a day a couple of years ago to $10 a week. With all of your noted situations, being on a $300/month budget definitely sounds doable! It’s helpful that your work accommodates to some meals :).

Good luck with getting used to your car! More experience definitely helps. It helps that you can go to gigs for free now. There are many alternatives to help you save. Do what you gotta do and you’ll be good :D. Good luck!