January 10, 2011

Today is Day 1

I didn't make resolutions this year. I did make some goals.

It's not that I don't believe that you can create a resolution or a goal for yourself at any time, but for me coming off a long vacation, lots of uncontrollable variables (umm, sure, I'll meet you for coffee/go out to dinner/shop until my feet fall off/see a movie/bake 12 kinds of cookies/eat half of the cookies/etc) and then coming back to real life.

*deep breath*

Real life is where I maintain as much control as possible. I'm a control freak.

And I'm anal rententive, if we're sticking to the facts and only the facts.

So, my goals for this year revolve around discipline. It's something I've been thinking about, grappling with, turning my focus toward for a couple of months now. These three areas to be specific:
1. Financial
2. Spiritual
3. Physical

At some point I may feel free to let you know about all three areas, but today, today marks the beginning of financial discipline. You know what that means?? A BUDGET!


[buhj-it] noun, adjective, verb, -et·ed, -et·ing.
an estimate, often itemized, of expected income andexpense for a given period in the future.
a plan of operations based on such an estimate.
an itemized allotment of funds, time, etc., for a givenperiod.
the total sum of money set aside or needed for a purpose:the construction budget.
a limited stock or supply of something: his budget ofgoodwill.


I'm no financial whiz. Trust me, I have spent many a Wednesday and Thursday waiting for my Friday direct deposit. Only to spend the entirety of my check on rent and bills. Whooo...not really.

The first time I built a budget? In massage school. I know, it seems ridiculous, but until I was the ripe age of 26 I had no idea about building an accurate, reasonable, semi-plausible personal financial plan. Here's what I always thought:

you need something+you have money=you purchase it
you need something+you don't have money=you wait until you do


Except that plan doesn't lend it self to building a savings account. Which means that approximately every time I have moved I have spent my life savings in the four weeks it took me to find a job. Leaving me with a savings account balance of $0.00. That's zero dollars and zero cents. Or sense.

Here's how it works, I created a spreadsheet in Microsoft Word. It looks like this:
Here it is as a GoogleDoc.  This is a more intense version, if you want to get more in depth [I didn't make this]. Another really helpful *free* site several of my friends use is Mint.com. It keeps track of your purchases and helps you create your budget--for FREE. Did I mention that it's free? I don't use it, but I've heard mostly positive reviews of it.

Then I started plugging my stuff in. When I try to estimate how much I make a week, I have to truly estimate. I also have a second job [which many of my friends do as well], so I created a second line to insert my estimated income for my second job. There you have it, I have an estimated weekly, monthly and yearly income. *I just patted myself on the back*
Now for the more difficult part...estimating expenses. I take my time here. I fill out all the stuff I know for sure...rent, cell phone bill, Aunt Sallie Mae, credit card bill, health insurance, etc. Basically, the stuff that's automatically taken from my checking account on a monthly basis.

Then I go to the other stuff. I try to be honest with myself, how many times do I want to go out for coffee each week? How much will that cost? Am I OK with that? How much do I spend on groceries? How much do I spend on ____? You get the idea. Go forth, conquer.
You'll notice that in my estimated faux income minus my faux expenses resulted in a negative budget. Mom, stop worrying, my real budget wasn't negative. 

Are you bored yet? You can say yes, it's OK.
You can even stop reading, I'll survive it. We can still be friends.

This is where my goal of being financially disciplined comes in. The portions that say (cash) mean that I use cash for those. Perhaps you've heard of the envelope system? Really it's quite brilliant.

Except that envelopes don't fit in my wallet and they get gross and fall apart. I discovered the Moleskine notebooks back during my time at Borders bookstore.
The memo pocket version of their amazing notebooks is difficult to find. You can order it here on Amazon...and they have it in red too!
I just use three of the pockets for my weekly cash.
You'll notice that there's an unlabeled pocket in the back, that's where I shove all the crap I don't want to put in any other pocket. It's not like I'm a neat freak or anything.

I am rather visual, so I have printed off my actual budget and mounted it upon a lovely sheet of paper and posted it next to my bedroom door, so I am reminded daily to stay disciplined and stick to the budget!

I'm just a slightly neurotic, anal retentive, trying-to-be-budget-conscious girl making an attempt to pad her savings account for something like....oh...moving....grad school....getting a dog.....


  1. I use mint.com. It's a wonderful (FREE) website that tracks all of my spending. The only downside is when I use cash it can't track that. You can add your own transactions, so if you keep receipts you can go back later and add those cash transactions. It also allows you to budget your money and gives you pie charts of how you are spending your money. Did I mention it is FREE? :) Good luck with your goals.

  2. Katie,
    YES! I was totally going to mention mint.com! I have friends who LOVE it and then it just slipped my mind. I'll add it in, thanks for reminding me!
    ( :

  3. Of the three options I vote for "getting a dog". :) Or you can always come and visit mine!

  4. @Leggy
    Hmmm...I'm shocked that this is your vote! I would love to visit your dog, but we all know the first two options are more likely. ( :