I’ve struggled over the years; the last six to be exact.
Some people have asked me how the hell I did it. To be honest, when you have no other choice but to float, you float. Two children’s well-being depended on it. I floated though a long, drawn out divorce. To this day, I still don’t receive child support. I floated. There were some days, I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t catch a break. we were eating ramen noodles for a few days before I got my next paycheck. I was in a financial hole, so deep, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see a 600 credit score. Most of my credit card APRs were 25% and up. I’d get one card paid off, and then something would happen, like my engine throwing a rod the month I paid off the loan. Or my transmission would go out right after Christmas. Emergency fund???? What the hell was that? I was hurting, and I felt I couldn’t get out.
Fast forward to 2017. And here I sit. I bought my FIRST house as a single mom, with one income, and with A LOT of BUDGETING. Now, keep in mind I am still in debt. BUT it’s not terrible anymore AND I haven’t missed a payment in 5 years. I still am far from debt free, but the reality is, I refuse to be negligent and get back to my financial hole. Below is some key principles I keep, EVERY paycheck(2 times per month).
√ . Write down your bills that are due. I use sticky notes and put them in my agenda that goes EVERYWHERE with me.
√. MEAL PLAN. This is the simplest yet, most efficient task I do. I used to spend almost 500 a month on 3PEOPLE…Yeah, I changed that, simply by planning. My meal plan is 7 meals. We eat left overs, so very rarely do I plan any more than that, because we eat left overs from every meal. I also don’t do go crazy on meals with 8 different recipes. SIMPLE, like pork tenderloin and BBQ sauce in the slow cooker. BOOM, best pulled pork sandwiches ever. Excluding frozen pizzas, I try and avoid the ready to make dinners. I’ve found they are not only expensve, but flavorless and full of sodium. My grocery bill is now $76 dollars for the 1st of the month grocery trip(excluding animal supplies and laundry) and 89 for the 15th’s shopping time. I make two lists for groceries. One for Aldi’s, and one for the local grocery store’s where I get some bulk meat, dog food, cat food, and laundry from.
√. I ensure I put SOMETHING into savings every single month. Right now, its $400.a month. Once I reach my goal, I will allot that money to somewhere else, like a credit card bill. Right now though, it’s important to always have a small cushion, for those ‘holy shit, my hot water heater just cramped out’ moments.
√. The envelope budget just didn’t work for me. but what I did do, since its free with my financial institution to set up checking accounts, I made one I labeled “filler”. It’s the account where I add a certain amount a paycheck (right now its 50) and that is there for new tires on my vehicle, vet appointments, GLASSES, whatever else little thing that comes up that isn’t a normal bill. This is the money I use to fall on so I don’t have to touch my savings account. I only put 50 a paycheck right now, but it fluctuates. I used to have a budget for all that stuff, but I had a hard time keeping up with it and when I needed money for one thing, i took it from another. So that’s why I just added them all together and put that into my filler account.
√. NO SPEND pay Periods. I thought I was going to die. 14 whole days of not spending a dime. I made it though. So now, I do it when I want. Like, for instance, this pay period, I decided to do it. I’ve done all the budgeting, savings, grocery lists. The only thing I spend money on is that first day. Gas and groceries. I do extra shopping when I do this. But mainly because it’s for fillers, like frozen pizza or ravioli. I’ve found that having those quick meals on hand during no spend periods, curves the want to hit the drive thru on my way home. Especially on days where it was long and mom just doesn’t feel like cooking (hey, I’m human).
√. REWARD yourself!! Seriously, what is more important than giving back to yourself and I don’t mean by setting up a savings for retirement. I mean a SOON reward. My reward to myself is a vacation, to EUROPE! It’s one that I’ve been planning for many years, and this year, I finally was able to do it. it can be whatever you’d like a vacation to an exotic place, a trip to the day spa, new car parts. I just priced out my trip (tickets, trains, spending money, etc. $5,000 total). it took a while to have my dream come true.
√. Cut cable. I only spent a few hours a week watching TV, and usually that was to catch up on all my DVR’ed shows, which HULU carries and if they don’t, I can order it off Amazon Prime. Hell, I am so behind in all of my shows, that I will just find a day off and binge watch everything. This alone saves me an average of $50/month
√. I cut my cell phone data package. I’ve been a loyal Verizon member since 2011. I used to have the unlimited data plan, but really needed a new phone and guess what, had to lose it. Worst mistake. Anyway, I do the 4GB a month for I dk how much. But on the months that I go over, I have this awesome thing that Verizon has that is called Safety mode. When you go over, instead of having to buy more Data, Safety mode just takes your speed from a 4G speed to 2GB. I haven’t even noticed a difference in loading. I only use my data from maps, when I need them, Pandora when I run, and my fitness apps when I workout. I don’t know all the technical specifics on doing this “safety Mode”, but if my Pandora still streams and my MapMyRun still logs my workouts, I am a happy camper.This saves me $20/month.
There’s no one specific way to do your budget. I make decent money, but I struggle different times of the year and I’ve found what works for me. The most important thing is that you still always save, whether it’s the filler fund, an emergency fund, or your reward fund, always put something away every paycheck.
Happy 2017 and hopefully you can use a few of my tips to help create what works for you.
**photo credit: http://picturesofmoney.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/cash-on-the-dresser.jpg