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The 2018 Budget: How I Plan to Slay my Debt

The 2018 Budget: How I Plan to Slay my Debt

I had some pretty big expenses in 2017. Most notable, I spent about $3,000 in car repairs. I had to replace my catalytic converter and water pump, among some other lesser things. (Maybe they were broken, maybe they weren’t. I just assume I’m being screwed over both because I’m a woman and I was at my car’s dealership and go on with my life.) So next year will be the year I try and recoup as much of that as I can. (It does not help that my one credit card has charges from way back in 2014 that I’m still paying off. I need to buckle down and pay off that credit card.)

But first, the rules:

  • Round down the amount of pay you take home.
  • Round up the amount of expenses you are paying for.

So, if your take-home pay is usually around $950 each paycheck, then round down to $900. If you pay $545 for rent, then round up a little to $550. Not everyone does this but I find it’s the best way to make sure you have a little extra left over at the end of the month.

Secondly, the break down:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Credit card
  • Food
  • Gas
  • TV/Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Other

Some people may have a car payment or medical bills or what-have-you. Add what expenses you need to. The biggest expense is going to be rent or mortgage payment. (If you don’t have either, then you are a lucky person.) For me, utilities include gas and electric payments. Water, trash, and sewer are included in my rent. I separate the TV/Internet from other utilities so I can get a better handle on how much it is. Food is food; toilet paper and soap and such comes out of Other.

Third, the calculations:

Add your biweekly pay, or however often you get paid, together to get a monthly total. For me that’s:

 $900 + $900 = $1800

I rounded my pay down a little in my calculations. So, $1800 is my total budget. Now to add up expenses.

$550 rent +
$135 utilities +
$250 food +
$60 gas +
$160 TV/internet +
$40 cell phone +
$150 other =

You can see I left out the credit card. Since the credit card is something I want to pay off quickly, I’m going to subtract the rest of my expenses from the total pay and see how much is left and how much I can comfortable put toward the credit card bill. Now subtract expenses from total pay. I rounded my expenses up. My rent is actually $545, the utilities are $125, etc. Give yourself a little extra padding by rounding expenses up and income down a bit.

Forth, the end total:

$1800 – $1345 = $455

So at the end of the month, if I stay on budget and nothing else comes up or there are no emergencies (just had a good laugh at that), I will have $455 left at the end of the month. I’m going to round down, and say that there is $400 left, to give myself a good cushion. This cushion is for emergencies and other surprises.

My credit card bill stands at a little more than $3,000. If I am able to pay the full $400 each month, that means I will completely pay off the credit card in 8 months. (7.5 months.) All that rounding up and down also leaves me extra, which will stay in the bank account as emergency money. Hopefully, no emergencies big enough to completely ruin that month’s budget but one can only hope.

Can I do it? To be honest, probably not. Something is going to happen, either to something I own, my cat, or myself. The world is a unpredictable place and trouble finds me when I least need it. But this is the plan. I’m not depriving myself. I can survive comfortably on this and have a couple luxuries. (Candy, mostly. A geeky, fun item or two.) This is doable.

Remember, you are never going to follow a budget that is completely restrictive. Or at least you are not going to follow it for very long. Create a budget that has space for fun. My Other budget includes money for a meal or two out and maybe a movie or something. Luckily, I only have myself and my cat to worry about.

If you are a two person income household, add both incomes and round down before subtracting your expenses. Give your household a larger Other budget, for things like kids shoes, field trips at school, and emergency trips to the doctor for when your kid brings home the plague from school. You are more likely to have an emergency expense involving a child than anything else.

So that’s my budget plan for 2018. I’m going to try and keep to it all year and then reevaluate in the New Year. Hopefully, I’ll have no more credit card debt and will begin to start saving more and more money. (My big dream is to have enough to take a vacation to Europe for my 40th birthday.)

Fingers crossed! Happy New Year, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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Budgeting: tips and April roundup.


April was the first month I tried to create a budget and stick to it. After the last couple of months had slowly eaten away at my bank accounts, I decided it was time to buckle down and stop spending money willy-dilly. I’d never given money much thought until I opened my online banking website in early April and found my account sitting at -26 cents. I moved money over from my saving account but it was a shock to find I had overspent.

I don’t spend money regularly but if I do have occasion to spend money, like a special shopping trip to the antique mall or going out with friends, I don’t give much thought on how much I am spending. Meaning, that while I don’t constantly spend money, when I do, I spend a lot. An antique mall trip might only happen a couple times a year but each time could see a couple hundred dollars going out the door. (I have a vintage teacup obsession.) Then I don’t really think about how much I am spending at normal places, like the grocery store.

But I’ve had some big bills recently. I broke my arm in November 2014 and the ER trip, surgery, and then physical therapy bills are still coming in, even 6 months later. In February, I took my car in for a normal oil change and a message about the air bag on my radio dash and left with a new battery and brakes. Money has been flowing through my fingers like water lately and it needed to stop.


So I set up a budget. As my first budget, I went easy on myself. I made a promise to shop for the majority of my groceries from the local discount store, only going to the regular grocery store for special things and those things I can’t get at the discount store. So, this meant most of my food shopping was done at ALDI with only sporadic trips to Schnucks or Dierbergs.

Budget Tip 1: Discount grocery stores are awesome.

In my area, ALDI is the best discount grocery store. Their food is fine. Milk is milk and eggs are eggs no matter was label you put on it. I actually prefer their Bremer Pepperoni Pizza Hot Stuffed Sandwiches to the Hot Pocket brand pepperoni pizza sandwiches it could get at other stores. Most of my essentials were bought from ALDI. They even have a nice selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, including mushrooms and bagged spinach. I only go to the specialty grocery stores for anything like Yukon gold potatoes and perhaps bigger cuts of meat, like roasts. What I’m saying here is, if you are hesitant to shop at discount stores because you think they are lesser quality or only truly poor families shop there, don’t. They are a resource everyone should be utilizing.

Budget Tip 2: Writing expenses down on paper.

The second thing I started to do was keep an expenditure log. I’m just like everyone else; I don’t carry cash anymore. I pay for everything with a debit card. A single swipe and I’m on my way. The problem with that is it can be hard to understand the amount of money you are spending when using a debit or credit card. Either I could have started to carry cash on me, which frankly didn’t sound like a good idea for several reasons, or I could start putting more effort into tracking my purchases.

Pinterest is full of budget printables. Simple do a search for ‘budget printables’ and a whole host of links will pop up. Here is the one I used from Queen of Free. I wanted something fairly simple looking but there are choices that are colorful and will allow you to add whatever information you want to the log. I used one side for fixed expenses; like the rent, utilities, and internet/cable, and I used the other side for variable expenses; like food, clothing, and entertainment. I made sure that for every purchase, I put it on the expenditure log so I could physically see where the money was going and how much I was spending.

I set a sliding budget for groceries up to $80 a week but with a goal of $50 a week. This gave me a bit of wiggle room while I get used to shopping at the discount store. Disregarding the first week of April, when I wasn’t keeping a budget, I did pretty well. I fell between $50 and $60 each week. That’s pretty darn good for my first try. I was spending about $40 at ALDI and about $20 at the regular grocery store.

I didn’t deprive myself either. I ate pork chops and chicken legs and mashed potatoes but I was more aware of what those things cost and that they were cheaper at ALDI. I knew if I suddenly went on a diet of cheap boxed mac & cheese, that the whole budget thing wouldn’t last a week. I was very mindful of what I was spending my money on. As a result, I bought less junk food. I didn’t cut it out altogether. I still had potato chips and nutty bars for my junk food cravings. But I spent the majority of my food budget on whole foods like veggies and meats and made big enough meals out of them that there was enough for 2 or 3 meals. That way I wasn’t cooking every single night and getting annoyed or tired of it. So, I ate well and didn’t mind being on a budget because it didn’t feel like I was. Be mindful of what you are buying and know the best places to spend your cash.

moneynotesEven with only keeping a budget for 3 weeks out of the 4 weeks in April, I still saved almost $400. I used my federal tax refund to pay a medical bill and then had to move some more money from my saving to my checking account to pay for my car insurance renewal. But taking out those two non-normal one time expenses, I saved $400. I hope to do just as well in May but I have another medical bill to pay and I need to throw money at my credit card bill. (My credit card has my vacation to Colorado, new glasses, and dental work from summer and autumn 2014 on it. I’ve been making the minimum payment on it for about 10 months now. I know, that’s bad. As soon as I pay this last medical bill [I hope to all the gods it’s the last medical bill.], I’ll start paying off the credit card.)

It will still be several months before I start saving money instead of just coming out even. I have a lot of work a head of me. Fingers crossed, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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