Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Budget, Do You Have One?

I am considering moving to cash-only management of my variable expenses in an effort to control my spending and monitor progress I am making on my revised budget. This won’t be too difficult given the fact that my job is right next door to my bank. In an effort to control my spending better, I will also enforce a weekly grocery store visit (armed with a list and perhaps even coupons) instead of randomly going throughout the week. I just find it too easy to spend more money than I mean to when I use my debit (or worse credit) card.

After looking at my spending through the website, I realized a disturbing amount of my money goes to the grocery store which is also right next door to my job. It also does not help that my job is also directly across the street from a Target. I find I make random purchases at both Target and the grocery store I don’t necessarily need and spend more money on prepared foods to grab quickly for lunch instead of taking the time to prepare lunch at home which would be cheaper. I will be a little more flexible with travel-related expenses for the months of June-August when expected (and unexpected) travel will arise. Here is the breakdown:

Fixed (Approximate Percentage of After Tax Expenses)

Student Loans: 16%

Public Transportation: 3 %

Cable/Internet/Landline: 5%

Cell Phone: 0%

Savings: 5%

**Retirement: 6% (employer match included in this percentage)

Variable (Approximate Percentage of After Tax Expenses)
Utilities: 6%
Note: This bill should be considerably cheaper in the upcoming months since I’m not a big fan of air conditioning.

Credit Card Payments: 15%
Note: Windfalls get applied to this category

Travel/Entertainment/Personal Items/Gifts/Clothing/Etc.: 15%
Note: This category has always been the hardest for me to adhere to…

**Retirement contribution is taken out of each pay check pre-tax

In 2009, after a significant amount of my credit card debt is paid off, I will bump my savings up to 10% and bump my retirement savings to 12% (employer match included in this number). Separating my "needs" and "wants" is not always as easy as it sounds, at least for me. I will limit my clothing/shoe shopping after making a few summer wardrobe additions (I'll give an update on those later this week). I'll have to make do with what I have unless absolutely necessary. All trips home this summer will have to be made on the bus (Note: I can't stand taking the bus! But you can't beat the price) because it is more economical than Amtrak.
Do you strictly adhere to a budget or is it more flexible? Has budgeting helped you to achieve your financial goals?


Forest Grey said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I was going to come over and wish you encouragement on your weekly trip and to urge you to make a list and stick to it, but it looks like you're already going to do that. Keep me posted on how it works out for you!