I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with budgeting and keeping track of my money. Organization for that matter has always been both the life and death of me. I love being organized in all areas of life, but when life gets overwhelming, I tend to let my organization skills fall by the wayside…until things get too chaotic and I have to put everything in its place before I completely lose control.
That’s been my story with budgeting, too. I’ve always loved the idea of it and, at my dad’s request, began creating budgets and balancing my checkbook at age 14. But I quickly realized how overwhelming keeping up with monitoring my spending could be. So I gave up balancing my checkbook in high school, and have gone on-and-off the budgeting wagon since then.
But after reading helpful financial blogs, I now understand that there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed with budgeting or keeping track of money. All I needed to do all these years was simplify and change my mindset. How can keeping track of money be overwhelming if spending is limited?
Now my financial mantra is “spend less, save more.” Easy peasy. I’ve only seriously practiced this for the last two months, but even in this short time span, I’ve learned that spending less and saving more is not only doable—it’s fun.
I’m now über conscious of every dollar I spend. My dad used to tell me, “When you spend a dollar, you’ll never see it again.” While that’s true, it’s also depressing. To avoid feeling depressed about spending, I used to think, If I’ll never see these dollars again, I might as well spend them and spend them on things that I like. (A shocking thought today!)
But money doesn’t buy happiness. In fact, it bought me anxiety. I replaced the idea of never seeing spent dollars again with the notion that, every dollar not spent can turn into more dollars. Investing 101!
That idea is so validating and affirming—it makes me want to budget and keep track of my money so I can effectively save and invest more. Perhaps early retirement? Hmmm…
After slashing and decreasing expenses, I created a super simple budget with the main goal to spend as little as possible and save as much as possible (see budget below). I save all my receipts and add them up at the end of the week, which is easy because they pretty much only consist of fuel fill-ups and weekly grocery receipts.
I get to see the fruits of my labor and frugal spending in my simple Excel sheet each week. It’s fun to watch the savings grow and has become a hobby and game. The best hobby is investing in your happiness! Every time I want to buy something, I imagine my Excel sheet and remember that a dollar saved is dollars invested (and eventually a million-dollar investment!). Instead of feeling like I’m withholding something from myself by not purchasing something, I feel like I’m expanding my happiness by investing in feeling financially stress-free with a comfortable present and future.
For transparency, here is my budget. March and April see the following differences: 1) Rent was raised $250; 2) Cut my cell phone bill in half as I no longer pay for a family member’s line; 3) Canceled my Pilates membership; 4) Cleaned out my storage and eliminated the bill (blog to come!). This income is based on my day job and doesn’t include my minimal income from my small business since I invest those extra funds.