Revamping the budget: austerity edition!

January 6, 2011 at 10:23 am (budget)

Last night, the first time in 8 months, I opened up my budget spreadsheet. I figured, no better way to be extra frugal these next few months than to actually track my spending and pay attention to every last dollar. This was also a good opportunity to revamp the budget and make some hard decisions on where to spend my money and what to whittle down.

My goal? SPEND LESS. Seems simple, but that means tightening the belt when those little desires creep up. The kind that tells you how tired you are in the evening, and why not just go out for happy hour down the street and let them cook for you? $15-$20 later, not so happy. The kind that says in mid-afternoon at work, my, wouldn’t it be nice to get some fresh air for 5 minutes and go to the espresso stand and get a hot chocolate/mocha as a pick me up? That is the dark side and I am feeling virtuous.

Plus, I really really need to pay more debt. I’ve been slacking and getting lazy, and getting too comfortable with the smaller luxuries. Time to change that for a while. Time to focus on the important goals and accomplish things and be proactive not reactive!

So, today I present you with… my budget!

Category 2010 2011
Food $300 $300
Restaurant $150 $100
Gas $110 $150
Bills $1,200 $1,130
Credit Payments $400 $155
Pets $100 $90
Coffee $35 $20
Liquor $50 $30
Entertainment $25 $0
Photo $40 $0
Clothes $70 $50
Fees/Subscriptions $25 $0
Home $25 $0
Car $100 $150
Gifts $50 $50
Health $100 $0
Xtra $115 $250
Total Budget $2,745 $2,450
Income $3,400

Food/Restaurants: I have habitually been over in restaurant spending, but going forward that will change. I can’t afford it. Simple as that. As for food, I often spend more than I budget on grocery spending. Partially that is because of buying wine at the store, about a bottle every trip. At $6-7 each, that adds up! Hopefully eating at home more often and making lunches won’t make this go up. I’ll be closely monitoring this in the next few weeks and see if it needs to be tweaked further.

Credit: At the start of 2010 I had a variety of minimum interest payments to make. Having paid several off completely, I now only have 2: $50 to my BECU credit card, and $115 to my SBA loan. In a few months, hopefully by April, the BECU credit card should be paid off and I will be down to $115 with my SBA, and then that should begin to decrease every month as I pay that loan off.

Coffee: Hopefully I will spend less than I’ve budgetted. $20 comes out to about 5 luxury drinks (grande mocha is my drink of choice). I can avoid having more than 1 a week, I think, particularly while I’m in dietmaven mode! However, when I do go to B&N to hang out and read, particularly since it is immediately adjacent to my gym and I am going there at least 4 times per week, I will need to get something to hang out in their chairs. A $1.50 cup of tea should be more than fine, and I’d need to go a lot to spend $20!!

Gas: Gas is more expensive. Simple as that. Plus, I know I’ll be spending a lot more money driving on trips – this past summer I went hiking every weekend with my girlfriend (March – August), and driving 50-100 miles away uses a lot of gas in my truck! Even if we alternate driving, it adds up. So I increased the budget since this is more a healthy necessity for me rather than a luxury. Now that I have a brand new pair of snowshoes, I expect that driving to be year round (why let snow stop me?)!

Bills: I no longer pay for a cellphone since I gave it to J to use and pay for. However, the utility bills have finally started arriving and boy is that expensive! $895 rent, $65 internet, $110 for water/sewer/garbage, $60 for gas (average, may be higher in winter, $10 in summer).

Liquor: Buying less, ’nuff said.

Entertainment/Photo/Fees/Home/Health: I decided that these were wierd semi-used categories, and made them all $0. Instead, I put them into my “Extra” budget to cover any and all sundry things that I may do in a given month. If I go to a movie (usually ’bout once ever 5 months). Photo is for costs of printing my photography, or framing work, or matting, or buying art supplies – I want to start making encaustic artwork for shows and to sell on Etsy. It ain’t cheap, but I don’t always do it, or at least don’t do it much. Fees? Tickets, subscription costs, etc. I rarely have this, so it’s a maybe cost. Home. I don’t really need any new baking, cooking equipment, curtains, or such, or at least often. Health. I was gong to save $100/month last year, to pay for copays, etc, and I didn’t go to the doctor or the dentist. I need to start going and when I do, it will be expensive, so I decided to do zero for now. Instead, I am budgetting $250/month for all of the above items. If I use it, fine. If I don’t, it will go into my emergency fund. Currently it is at zero. Yes. Zero.

Clothes: I bought a lot of useable clothes in 2010, bring my wardrobe from uber minimal to having enough variety to be comfortable, without being extravagant. I often went over budget, but not by much. But this year I think I have enough to tide me over. I don’t need extra pants this winter. I have plenty of workout clothes. I have new shoes and sneakers and hiking boots and snowshoes. I do need to buy some bras this month, and a winter hiking pant, and more new socks, but I can get any extras at the thrift store. I had some good hauls last time I went, so will just have to continue not shopping at department stores. Doubt that will be much of a problem this year.

Vehicle: I have continually maxed out my vehicle fund when big things happen to my truck. I decided to kick up my contributions to this mini-fund so I don’t have to dip into my EF or my debt payments. My truck is at 170K miles. It now has a new clutch. I don’t think I’m quite ready for a new vehicle, but about the time my debt is paid off, I will need to consider saving up for a new vehicle. So in 2 or so years I will probably have to put int $300-$500/month. But not yet.

Gifts: I’ve found that $50/month seems to be about the right amount. I can be a little extravagant during xmas and get gifts for all my close friends. I haven’t been buying gifts for my family 3,000 miles away, but that’s ok, I don’t think they need anything and we’re not all that close. There’s also enough here for the odd birthday gift.

Savings/mini-funds: Until I get back on course, I will need to beef up my emergency fund back to $1,000. That will take some doing. For right now, I will put whatever extra is unspent in any category into the EF, before I apply anything to debt. I plan on being uber-frugal, so that should be ok. I should be able to get $100-$150 in this month at least. I have decided to not contribute anything more to my kitten fund, for now. I know vet bills can be super high if something catastrophic happens, but I need to beef up other things first. Plus, $750 is pretty good to have already! Vehicle fund, need to beef it up starting now, and get some tires pretty darn soon (as I mentioned previously, I may wait until Feb or so to get them, to the tune of about $200 for 2). Savings vs. payment debt, it’s always a struggle to decide which one is more important.

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