Sometimes, practice makes perfect. I’ve definitely learned that much about budgeting so far in my journey to being debt free. Like so many other young college graduates, I thought that debt financing was normal. I thought that financing things I wanted would let me get them quick while putting off actually paying for them. I was dead wrong. Now that I’m working through Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and paying off my debt, I’ve vowed to post monthly progress reports to share the lessons I’ve learned and keep myself on track.
Before I get started, I just want to say thank you everyone who read and commented on last months Budgeted Life post! It means a lot. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.
Last month I talked about the connotation of a budget. Everyone thinks being on a budget is a bad thing. In reality, it’s just a plan. But what do you do when things don’t go according to plan? What if your plan wasn’t right in the first place? I learned the answer to both those questions this month as I tried for a second month in a row to perfect my budget. Like I said before practice makes perfect. In his “Financial Peace University” course, Dave Ramsey says that it will take at least 3 months to perfect your budget. Last month was month one and I lived on 35% of my income, putting everything else towards my debt. However, due to my income being affected by my hours, and my hours being inconsistent at the moment due to school commitments, I decided to use a different metric. This month 66% of my spending was on debt. This holds consistent with last month, despite making some mistakes along the way.
This month I learned a lesson about a habit that a reported 63% of Americans have. I learned a lesson about my drinking habit. I was pretty gung-ho about my budget for month 2. I was going to cut costs all over the place and squeeze even more money out of my paychecks to put towards my debt. That is, until I was a week into the month. It hadn’t even been a full week and I had spent over 100 dollars on groceries alone. For just one person! How could this be? I took a look at my receipts and quickly discovered the answer. I bought a 12 pack of Shock Top to keep at my girlfriend’s apartment, and a 6 pack of Blue Moon to keep at mine. This wasn’t unusual, but I realized I had enough beer to drink one every other day for the month of April. I realized I spent way too much money on alcohol.
While 18 beers seems like pretty light drinking to some, it was a weird realization to me. I used to drink on occasion, but after I gave up caffeine and artificial sweeteners, beer became a lot more common in my life. I realized that instead of buying packs of beer at the grocery store, I could get a beer or two every week at a brewery with some friends and take it out of my restaurant budget instead. This way I’m being intentional about hanging out with friends, I’m saving money, and I’m drinking better beer. I can drink the free water at home.
After the bad first week in April, I had to come up with some crafty ways to cut costs. I have a couple great ones to share. First off, breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. It can also be the cheapest. I started buying plain Quaker Oats in bulk, these huge half gallon sized tubs of them for only six bucks apiece. I keep one at the office and one at home. Then I just bought ingredients like brown sugar and cinnamon to mix in. Now I have maple brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal for cents on the dollar per serving compared to the instant packs they sell for an upcharge. I also considered this bulk style for lunches. I bought brown rice in the bags for less than a dollar per bag. I cook that rice and stir in some carrots, steamed peas, soy sauce, and a fried egg and I have super cheap “stir fry” that I can eat off of for days. Again, less than a dollar per serving. Meals don’t have to break the bank; they just have to taste good. If you actually take the time to make them yourself they don’t have to be unhealthy either.
Secondly, I increased my income by selling my blood. I have been part of a research study for quite a few years now that pays me for my diabetic blood to conduct research. This helps in efforts to find a cure, and it helps me make more money. While not everyone can sell his or her blood to specific research, you can always consider donating. Blood types that are in high demand may garner some monetary compensation and plasma always sells! Even if you don’t get paid, donating blood saves lives. Consider going to a donation center near you.
That’s it for this month! Next month is my third month and the final one where I am expected to be making the foolish beginner mistakes. It’s also the one where I start my new full time position. That will lend itself to some interesting budget lessons! Anyway, thanks again for reading! If you learned anything or you have any tips or tricks to share with me, consider commenting below, or on whatever site you saw this posted on. Have a great day!