Thursday, April 20, 2006

Will she make it?

This is the time of month when I start looking at my Quicken budget summary-- well, I'm always looking at it, but this is when I start trying to figure out if I'll go over budget on anything for the month. 2/3 of the month over, 1/3 yet to go, how am I doing?
Overall, I'm doing ok this month. I'll be fine on most categories unless I really go nuts in the next week. I keep trying but failing to buy clothes-- though I do have my eye on a pair of sandals. Anyway, I think I'll be under budget for clothes. I'm also doing ok on telephone. Miscellaneous looks worrying, because of a mysterious $37.20 balance adjustment to my cash account. I hate it when that happens!
I'm over budget on entertainment because I bought some books. They were books by a friend of mine, who was doing a signing... so really I should categorize that as patronage of the arts rather than entertainment, perhaps. I won't go so far as to call it "gift given" or "charity!"
But the kicker, as always, is food-- I've spent $497 so far, so I have $153 left to spend in the next 10 days.
There are 6 working days left in the month. 6 breakfasts at an average of $2, let's day. 6 lunches at $6. $40 worth of groceries. A takeout dinner or two totalling $40? That would put me at $128 so that would mean if I go out this weekend, I'd better make sure someone else picks up the check! And I'm running out of wine... But if I bring lunch from home a few days, which I am planning to do tomorrow, and if I cook every night instead of ordering takeout, I think I"ll make it.
I don't always do this kind of strategic planning. I base my budgets so much on my past spending, which has never felt especially disciplined, that there is always this assumption that things will pretty much stay on track and balance out in the end. And they usually do-- over a little one month, under a little the next, it's all fine-- I'm pretty much a creature of habit. But I'm trying to really focus on avoiding those "over" months, to prepare myself for the near future when I'll have a much larger housing cost each month, and less leeway for impulse spending. I save so much of my income right now, in some ways I never really feel like I have to worry about it. Controlling my budget more tightly will be quite an attitude adjustment at first, I think. I just hope I don't have to do it for too long-- if I get a decent raise this year, or even better, the promotion I'm hoping for, after a couple of years I should be back to having the same kind of monthly savings cushion I have now, and I won't have to worry as much. Ultimately, that is my goal-- buying a home, budgeting, investing, saving money: the whole point of all this is to free myself from worry, but you know how they say "you have to spend money to make money?" It's the same thing: you have to worry in order to rid yourself of worry.


Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed that you make it to the end of the month :)

It has taken me almost exactly 2 years since purchasing my home to build my cash savings back up. Those first two years are the hardest and when I felt the most vulnerable. Now I am in a position to handle an emergency (job loss or non-paying tenant, etc.) You are wise to mentally prepare yourself now for that "rebuilding" period.

mapgirl said...

Interesting. I'm about 18 months after settlement and by the time the 2 yr mark rolls around, I will have built up the first cash cushion I've ever had. But I admit, I did it primarily through getting a serious raise by changing jobs and some disciplined savings, i.e. choosing to save over paying down debt.

I've found myself doing the same dining budget strategy with my paycheck challenges. It's kind of a fun game to see if you can do it.

Buying new construction is pretty cool, but make sure you keep some cash reserves for small repairs for things that didn't get installed quite right, etc. I know I really had a little shock when realized all the things I wanted to change or was tempted to buy when I first moved in.

Good luck!

Madame X said...

If all goes according to plan, I should have a cushion of about 7 months' worth of expenses-- or maybe 6, because as Mapgirl says, I think I'll want to buy quite a few things and I may want to change a couple of the doors.
Then it will just be a while before I go from saving the $200-300 a month I have budgeted to the $1000 or so that I would like to save.