Do you need a budget? Of course, you do unless you enjoy being broke. Let’s be honest with ourselves, budgeting sucks. I may be one of the only people that started budgeting at 17, “just for fun.” It is a dry, boring, and stressful subject, but is completely necessary.
Budgeting has no exact formula, but budgeting depends on where you live and your income. According to apartmentlist.com, the average one-bedroom in Colorado is $1,045, which is almost double the Missouri average of $6631. I use these examples because Colorado is where I currently live, and Missouri is where I used to live. Like Jimmy McMillan stated in 2005, “The Rent is Too Damn High!” and it is unlikely that rent will decrease. You need to plan for “needs” and “wants” second. Separating these is the hardest part of creating a budget. You need a budget if you don’t do it you will drown.
When you decide you need a budget you need to start by defining your income is step one on creating a budget. How much money do you make? Take that number and start deducting things like rent, utilities, phone bills, and all other recurring expenses. That will leave you with your income for the rest of your expenses, like groceries, fuel, and clothes. Always leave a small amount of cash aside for “fun spending” or to “treat yo self.” Make sure this amount doesn’t exceed 5% of your net income.
A need, by definition, is something that is required to survive. Things that you need to survive are housing, food, water, utilities, clothing, and, circumstantially, transportation. When I spent time living in the mountains, I came to the point where I could no longer afford having a car. Fortunate for me, there was a fantastic public transportation system that only costs $30 a year for a pass. This money is still my transportation budget. Since I lived closer to work I was able to reallocate my transportation budget. Once you narrow down what is a need in your situation, the next thing to consider is what can I afford. If your rent is higher, it is easy to assume that you should decrease your budget for transportation, food, and clothing. Clothing is a need, but you have to decide what clothing is a want and what clothing is a need. Take a day to go full Marie Kondo on your old clothes. Spend the rest of the day thrifting, and feel good about not breaking the bank.
Working in professional environments, you can get away with only owning three button-down shirts and two pairs of pants. The best part is you can save so much money on these items by going to second-hand stores or discount department. Another choice in clothing is going to outlet stores. You could get something of similar quality second hand or at a discount department store much cheaper than you can at an outlet store. The only reason these outlet stores are open is to sell overflow inventory. When the company cannot sell the excess inventory is when it gets sold to a discount department store, and you can get a real deal on it.
Utilities are an obvious need, but you still must monitor your utility consumption. This is a pretty simple process, but you have to be considering it at all times. Make sure lights are not on when they do not need to be. Make sure you turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth and only use the water necessary. Another considerable energy waste is air conditioning. I say this can be a waste because you must understand how to use your A/C properly to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.The most significant factor about A/C is never set it to “ON” and always leave it on “AUTO.” Having your A/C set to on makes it continue to circulate, adjust the temperature, and waste money. There is no need for that. It is a simple thing that most people do not consider. Food is another thing people do not give enough consideration.
Fast foods can be cheap, but not cheap enough. It is so simple to eat cheap. The hardest part is getting the right groceries at the right time. I think the easiest way to go about this is meal prep and small purchases.
You need a budget every time you go to the store. If you go to the grocery store two times per week, you are much more likely to remember what you purchased and how it is to factor in your daily diet. I tend to go on Sunday and Thursday. Sunday is to get everything ready for the workweek and Thursday is to get prepared for the weekend. If you are looking for affordable meal plans, look on Google. I promise you will find dozens. Stop dining out! It is so expensive.For the same price, you can buy double, if not triple, the amount of food.
Let’s talk about transportation. Vehicles have become a statement of status, which is completely fine. But if that is how you view it, you are not going to like what I am about to say. Nobody cares how you get from point A to point B. Public transportation or merely purchasing a bicycle are fantastic options for transportation and have only phased out since we have created a society that revolves around transportation. Fortunately, society is beginning to backpedal on these changes and are enhancing public transit and adding bicycle lanes everywhere. Now, what if you live so far from work you need a car?
Get a car and get it cheap. I recommend going to a major dealership NOT a “BUY HERE PAY HERE” place with little credit requirements or checks. Try to pick a car with financing under $10,000 and aim for the payment to stay under $200. You will also need to buy insurance per your state laws. Once you’ve got the car and insurance, the next things to factor in are gas, taxes, title fees, oil changes, tires, etc.
The list of vehicle upkeep goes on and on so keep that in mind when purchasing a vehicle. You need a budget for your vehicle expenses so when they arise you are ready! Once you narrow down what is a need in your situation, the next thing to consider is what can I afford. If your rent is higher, it is easy to assume that you should decrease your budget for transportation, food, and clothing. Clothing is a need, but you have to decide what clothing is clothing that you want and what clothing is clothing that you need. Take a day to go full Marie Kondo on your old clothes, then spend the rest of the day thrifting, and feel good about not breaking the bank.
Defining a want versus a need is an essential part of budgeting. You may think you need something, but your life will not adjust very much without the purchase of that product, or if you use an alternative good. An excellent example of this is coffee from a shop. You may think you “need” your coffee every morning, but you don’t. You can buy a coffee maker for much cheaper. Your life will not change based on where you get the coffee. Wants can also be accessories.
A need might be a coat for the winter or a swimsuit for the summer, but that becomes a want when you decide you want name brand, top of the line products. Wants can also be very impulsive decisions that you have convinced yourself that you need. If you are at a store, and you grab something in the final isle right when you are checking out, that is a want. What I am getting at here is you need to ask yourself, “How will my life change if I do not buy this?” You have to remember you must stay true to yourself on this accord. If you have to convince yourself that you need something, you do not need it.
Having a savings account set up is a definite necessity. Setting aside 10% of your net income is crucial for emergency situations.
Every once in awhile, expenses come up that need to be taken care of immediately. Sometimes. Emergency doctor bills or veterinarian bills come about with no notice due to the inevitable factor that life is not perfect. As humans and as animal lovers we have to take into account that medical bills are not always expected. Having a savings fund set aside for this very reason can save you stress, time, and credit score. No one wants to have bills affect you negatively. If you are prepared for emergencies, it will make life a lot easier.
So what does this all mean? Well, if you don’t have a budget, YOU NEED A BUDGET! When you create your budget, you need to define your needs. Your needs will be different than everyone else’s.
You need to start cutting out the wants of your life (i.e. dining out, drinking out, morning coffee, and all other pointless purchases). Start disciplining yourself, no one else will do it for you. You need to start saving your money or using it to pay down your debt so you can save more in the future. Make sure you have a predetermined amount of money set aside for an emergency fund.
Pardon my French before I go any further. What I am really trying to say is stop being stupid with your money! You worked your ass off for that money. Let’s make smarter choices and get that budgeting going.