My grandmother knew how to save a dollar. She’d turn old clothes into rugs and split every open face sandwich in half. She worked hard for her money and made her money work hard for her. She of course instilled this philosophy into my mother and my mother instilled it into me. Penny pinching is most definitely on the nurture side of things. Of course, I’m not handy enough to make my own rugs, pillows, table clothes, sweaters, underwear, nighties, slippers, and booze, but boy, do I know to use a coupon code. What I’ve lost in Estonian fiber arts skills I’ve surely gained in ability to turn on a computer. That is to say I take saving money seriously, just like my responsibility to be an informed citizen of Bachelor Nation. However, I’m aware that I’m not exactly in the majority with this position. If budgeting scares people then budgeting software is being stranded underwater with limited oxygen and ginormous CGI sharks. Don’t fret, Mandy, I’m here to help you navigate those waters (lolz). Yes, it’s possible to live in New York and not go broke, actually enjoy saving money, and keep yourself honest about what you’re spending and WHY.
As a rule, people don’t like talking about money. Pretty funny since everyone I’ve ever met enjoys talking about money, or at least hearing about it. I understand why- people don’t want to feel judged for having too much, too little, or for spending their entirely weekly food budget on cold brew (#guilty). Well that’s all fine and dandy but I’m pretty sure we’re all judging each other all the time regardless of knowing the exact dollars and cents. I refuse to do a budgeting post without a healthy dose of transparency as I’ve appreciated it when others are willing to give me insight into their finances to help me manage my own money better.
So, Danny and I make roughly $6,000/month after taxes combined. Shock and awe! Let the judging commence.
Danny and I started using software to budget our money about 2 years ago. Danny read about You Need A Budget (YNAB, for our purposes) on Lifehacker and suggested we try it. I can’t quite remember why but I’m sure it had something to do with an argument over money. YNAB’s essential philosophy is that every dollar needs a job. That job may be to do absolutely nothing (savings), go to Hawaii, or buy more pens- it doesn’t matter, it just needs to have a job. The idea that you’ll just spend whatever and save the rest isn’t budgeting, it’s getting lucky. So we set up a system where we budgeted our monthly expenditures (rent, utility, groceries, loans), our joint “going out” or leisure budget, separate “going out” budget, and buffer (savings).
I an a saver by nature. Saver is actually probably too kind a word for what I am. I’m a money hoarder, a cheapskate, a troll living under a bridge grasping at travelers’ pocket change. I have a hard time being generous (sorry every barista ever) and get a lot of anxiety from the idea that I’m NOT SAVING ENOUGH. Believe it or not budgeting actually helped me get a sense of control over my saving habits because I had proof that I WAS SAVING and therefore it felt safer to spend money. It’s obvious to say that we never could have bought a house if it weren’t for saving, but what’s probably less expected is that I never could have spent the money on the house if it weren’t for budgeting.
So with our budgeting we realized that we could save about $1,000 a month while we were living in Bay Ridge.
This was largely in part to the fact that our rent was $1,200. If you follow the golden rule of thirds (30% of income going towards rent/mortgage) this was pretty much spot on and meant that we could afford a mortgage/maintenance payments of $2,200. Which go figure- our current payment is $2,011.36. THAT MEANS THE TROLL STILL GETS TO HIDE $188.64 A MONTH IN HER TROLL PURSE. #goals.
I understand that this probably feels unreasonable to most folks living in NYC, because the truth is that most people pay far more than 30% of their monthly income on rent. We justify this to ourselves saying that it’s just the cost of living in the city- well it is, but it’s also the cost of living close-ish to the city. Living at the nether regions of the R train doesn’t have many perks but it sure does help you save. However, lest you think I’m too amazing ::eyeroll:: we saved a ton for our place we also had family help. Like everyone else. Remember what we said earlier about judging people?
People find tons of ways to stop themselves from budgeting. I think for many it’s depressing and anxiety producing to know how little they have. This is the ostrich head in the sand defense. These ostriches obviously get anxiety from their finances but not so much that it catapults them into saving troll status. So how does one get motivated to make a change and confront this stressor head on?
How do you balance your budget and also balance the way you think about your budget?
Think less about what you’re giving up and more about what you’re gaining.
I swear to god this isn’t the beginning of a pyramid scheme.
Sure, spending money is fun. You know what’s also fun? Being able to quit your job that you hate and know that you’ll be okay. Sometimes I look at our budget and consider about how long we could live off the grid in Mexico. Probably not the most healthy way to spend my daily commute- but hey it works for me. Budgeting gives you options, and that freedom is worth a lot to me.
Mostly our money just turns into stuff, and we all know that our stuff weighs us down. We’re a society of storage spaces and two day shipping. We can get things so easily. Ain’t none of us ever made a rug from fabric scraps. We work, spend, work, spend, work, spend- without any signs of slowing down or increasing pleasure with our purchases.
Welcome to the Hedonic Treadmill.
Both Danny and I were concerned with having a constant sense of wanting more, and not being happy enough with (the exceeding reasonable amount) that we have. Apparently this is human nature, but I don’t think we should give up so easily. I want to be happy with what I have, because it’s enough. Why do we need more? So in our monthly budgets we both get $600 a month to spend at our own digression.
This includes the food that we eat on our own or with others (yes we have a financial incentive to eat together, #marriagegoals), stuff, denim jumpsuits, and any events we attend solo (like movies or shows). We’ve kept the $600 allotment the same since we started the budgeting in 2015. We’ve found that $600 gives us enough wiggle room to feel comfortable but encourages careful reflection on any purchase over $100 in a given month. Good thing that denim jumpsuit was $65. You know what it also means? I don’t need to ask for permission. That $600 a month is my business and if the troll wants to spend it all on denim jumpsuits and iced coffee ain’t no one going to stop her. Yes, the trolls expenditures are more complicated than you initially thought.
It’s a system that works for us. It keeps us honest about what we’re spending and helps us to work towards the larger goal of saving for something big (retirement? illness? babies?) rather than getting lost in the minutia of the latest color in NYX’s soft matte lip cream repertoire. Which you can get a coupon code for here.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on budgeting and money management. Any trolls out there? Self identified spend thrifts? For something that we have to think about EVERY DAY we sure don’t talk about how we cope with these issues enough. Let’s come in for one big money related group hug. Safe space, ya’ll.