Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Going Forward with My Budget

To say that being on a budget this last month has changed my life would be an understatement. I can't even imagine going back to my pre-budget days. Sure, it's still an adjustment to not just swipe my debit card each time at the cash register, but I'm slowly getting used to using cash and I definitely value each dollar I spend more than I used to. My biggest issue before was that I thought I could keep a running total between pay days, but I would fail miserably. To be honest, I would frequently dip into my savings. Maybe even just $50 a month, but that adds up quickly! Before, I would just move over to credit cards and use those when my "cash" ran out, and I'm literally still paying for that mistake today.

Using the budget has changed my thinking about money all around. I've upped my car payment (starting in May) so that I'm now paying about $35 more than the minimum payment, compared to just $10 a month extra that I was paying before. With that extra $35 a month, I might be giving up a new blouse or one or two meals out, but I'm going to have my car paid off in December 2014 (with a very small final payment), which is about four months early. That's really exciting to me!

Every time I think about my envelope system, I think to myself "why haven't I been doing this all along?" It makes me sad to think about how if I had been smarter with my money since I got my first job in 2007, I would have a cushy savings account and most likely be debt free right now. But I'm doing it now and that's better than waiting a few more years, or even a few more months. Right now, I've cut WAY back on eating out. I hardly shop any more and now I'm saving up for items that I truly do need/need to replace. I like it this way.

Because of my new budget, I've been looking for ways to save money on the things I am buying. I downloaded the Cartwheel app for Target and lucked out when they had a deal on toothpaste and some other "medicine cabinet" items I needed. My biggest struggle with Target has been whether or not to use my Red Card. I want to save the 5%, but it seems like too much of a hassle right now because I'll have to go to the bank after and deposit the cash from that envelope back into my checking account. (Any one have a system for the Red Card already?) I've also found it a little tedious when I need a few groceries and, say, toothpaste. I have to check out twice, but I've been making separate trips or going to different stores, so I have encountered that yet. Anyway, I also use rewards programs, like the Regal Crown Club Card. I only go to movies on days when it's $5 and I use my card so I can collect the points for free movie tickets and discounted concessions.

This will be my third pay day using the envelopes, but I'm making some changes. Starting this month, I'll keep the money budgeted for gas in my checking account and use my debit card to fill up my tank all the way. I've also cut my budget for clothes in half since I'm just not shopping that much right now. I don't want that money to just go unspent, and I don't want an excuse to shop just because I feel like I have to spend it. I'm also going to really try to remember to get receipts. Some places don't offer them when you use cash and I'll forget to ask. I also want to start keeping receipts organized by envelope, rather than by month like they are right now.

I've been keeping some stats about my spending in June versus the first five months of the year. I compared each week to the average of the previous five months. Week one, I spent 45% of the average of what I had been spending. Week two, it was at 55%, but week three it was down to 41% (and I actually spent the month money that week). Week four, I spent 14%. (I seriously only spent $27! $23 on sushi, $4 on a ticket to a Rockies game.) Throughout the month, I spent only 39% of what I had been spending earlier this year. What a change!

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