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Wow! I've finally mastered the art of the budget
on January 17, 2002
I had the misfortune to fall in love with a profession that doesn't pay beans. I also have tastes that would be more in line for an heiress. What to do?
Well, what I -did- do was overspend, get myself into credit-card debt, get myself out of it and still not have any idea how to save money or manage a budget. But this great little book changed that.
There's some advice and encouragement from the author here, but that's not the focus here. The focus would be extremely easy-to-use charts that help you plan your spending and keep track of what you actually -did- spend.
It's pretty easy: First, figure out your yearly expenses (the author provides a long list of these to jog your memory). These include car maintenance, professional dues, subscription renewals, haircuts, vet visits -- the whole shebang. There's also a great worksheet that lets you figure out your gift-giving expenses for birthdays, holidays and so on. Add them all up and divide by 12. That's the amount you need to save every month for these occasional expenses. (Why didn't I think of that?)
Then, for each month, there's a one-page worksheet where you figure out what your income will be for the month and what your expenses will be. You can easily chart when you'll get paid and when you'll need to pay your bills.
Finally, there's a two-page worksheet for each month to keep track of what you actually did spend. (It was a real eye-opener for me to realize what I actually spent on snacks each month!)
This is the first time I've every been able to create and stick to a realistic budget, and I have to say that it's pretty awesome. I actually have money left the second week of each pay period now, and I don't have to skip paying one bill so I can pay the others.
Here's a tip that I used to keep track of my budget: I copied it into my planner every week, so after I spent my allocation for, say, dining, I would cross it off. That way, I didn't get confused about how much of my budget for the week I'd actually used.