First, I want to thank Jane for letting me write a guest post on Sustainable in the South. Some of you might already know this, but in case you don’t, Jane and I have known each other since middle school. I feel privileged to have had her as a friend so long. She is great, and so of course her blog is, too. I’ll do my best to live up to the excellence.
Like many of you, I recently spent a lot of money on holiday gifts, drinks, and eating out. I never regret spending money on gifts for people or fun experiences with friends and family. However, my bank account is screaming at me to stop spending so much money.
As an aside, I continued spending more money after the holidays, because I recently went through a very painful break-up, so I did a “Treat Yo’Self” for myself, as they do in my favorite TV show, Parks and Recreation. It felt good, but now I am feeling the post-holiday budget tightening more than usual.
Anyway, with support from Jane, I am embarking on a month-long budgetary experiment in February. Jane is restricting her spending by choosing a set amount of cash to spend, and that is a totally valid way to watch spending. It works for her, and I will do my best to help her achieve her goal. But, for me the easier way to restrict my spending is to limit when I can spend money on certain things, and which categories of spending I need to cut out altogether.
Disclaimer: This is a demonstration for one month only, so I am not canceling any standing expenses, like a rolling donation I make to NPR, my curbside composting program, or accounts like Spotify. However, if I were to establish a more permanent strict budget, I would reevaluate such monthly expenses.
Below is a list of expenses which will be allowed in February:
- Gas for my car (2 full tanks – at current prices about $40)
- Social events with friends / family on weekends (in February this will include two birthday celebrations, one of which is a weekend-long trip to Asheville, so this category may actually end up being large, just because of timing)
- Necessities (groceries, bills, loan payments, insurance)
- Emergencies (medical and car) Note: I am a bike commuter, so if something should happen to my bike in February, I will try to fix it myself or with the help of a knowledgeable friend, using YouTube and Google as a guide.
Below is a list of expenses which will NOT be allowed in February:
- Eating out during the week (this will definitely require some diligence on my part to never forget to bring food to work)
- Getting drinks during the week
Note: #2 and 3 simply mean that any socializing I do during the week will have to be free — hanging out at someone’s house, exercising together, Netflix, etc. I don’t plan to be a hermit during February 🙂
- Buying things online (e.g., books, stuff for my bike, those random Amazon purchases you know we all make sometimes)
- Material gifts for friends / family
- Alcohol for at home — no six packs or bottles of wine allowed! This may have some other health-related benefits as well 😉
- Anything at my favorite coffee shop/pub, Walker’s. (Yes, this is an actual spending category. You should see how many times Walker’s comes up in my bank statements.)
Below is a list of things I will reduce, in an effort to save money:
- Grocery bill — no impulse-buying snack food or ice cream. I will stick to my list.
- Heat / electricity — my roommate and I will be more diligent about our habits (lower our thermostat, be more careful about turning off lights, etc.)
- The number of drinks / food I order while out with friends on weekends.
- The amount I drive, which is already pretty low, but can always be reduced.
Currently, I do have a budget that I follow. I recently graduated from my master’s program and turned 26. It’s exciting! Aaaand now I have some new monthly expenses, namely loan payments and health insurance. I have two part-time jobs, which give me enough money to live and put some in my savings account (for the first time since before grad school). However, in this budget I have categories which will be temporarily cut for this demonstration. They include ‘clothing,’ ‘miscellaneous,’ and ‘necessary.’ The necessary category includes things like OTC medicine, household cleaners, and other items which are not needed regularly, so they cannot necessarily be included monthly in ‘groceries,’ but which I need to buy.
I felt it necessary to explain that I don’t normally spend money willy-nilly. Rather, I understand that some things I budget for could be lived without. And, since I am hurting for cash this month, I am making sure I am responsible and disciplined enough to go without them for a while, until I can build back my bank account.
Please follow along to see how this works out! Thanks for reading, and happy spending (or saving)!