I have a confession: I hate budgets. I know, I know — the most basic tool of every frugal finance frauline worth her salt and I can’t do it? There are days I feel like a fraud. This is one of them.
I have no problem setting up budgets (I use Mint) — that part is fun! — or mentally flogging myself when I go over them. Where I run into trouble is in the day-to-day tracking and making sure that if I’m approaching a limit I don’t actually go over it. I am often guilty of the “it all evens out in the end” mentality — even if it does and I’m under my total budget for the month, I don’t think that excuses me from staying under budget in each individual category. Forgiving such sins is a slippery slope to frugal failure!
So, this year, I decided to try something different. I took two of my biggest “discretionary” spending categories — buying work-day lunch and clothing — and set a budgetary goal for 2015 that I would spend only $500 on each category. I decided to try the “envelope of cash” approach, which, as an avid credit card points-collector, I had never tried before.
Now that we’re halfway through the year, how am I doing?
First, a failure: the envelope of cash approach is not for me. I hoped to spend only from my two envelopes (one marked “lunch” and the other marked “clothes”) and to keep track of expenses by writing them on the envelope as I spent the cash. While I’m sure this system would work well for some, it was not at all practical for me. I’ve made a few credit card purchases and then tried to withdraw the cash from the envelope in the right amount. For my efficiently-minded tendencies, this extra step is a nightmare that ends up with me doing an even worse job of tracking my budget. So, I’m calling a cow and cow and giving up on my envelopes. So be it.
Second, great success!
On the lunch front, I have spent $71 buying my lunch in 2015. Compared to the $602 I spent in the first six months of 2014, this is huge! I feel proud — while I know I could get to the point of always bringing my own lunch, this feels like a great first step. I’ll have another post about how I did it and the types of food I bring — as someone who doesn’t like sandwiches, it can be a little tricky!
As for clothes, I’ve spent $270 — not bad! I cheated a little bit by subtracting $165 of clothes I sold on Craigslist into my total — if I included it, I’d be just about at my budget at about $435. (I also cheated by not including a $35 pair of earrings that I have worn literally every day since I bought them on April 15; I almost never buy jewelry and was on the fence as to whether it counted as “clothing” — either way, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that was a good purchase.) So I haven’t been as disciplined as I would like, but I’m proud to say I can remember everything I bought and it was all worthwhile: a pair of shorts for a trip I took to the tropics in February (I owned zero pairs of shorts prior to that), a new swimsuit after mine literally fell off in the pool (boobies!), a scarf and pair of shoes for wedding season (probably unnecessary, but good for spiffing up the old dresses that I’ll be re-wearing multiple times this summer), two new casual shirts from Target, a casual summer handbag from Goodwill, and a new shirt and blazer for a job interview that are flexible enough to be incorporated into my regular work and casual wardrobes. I’d feel better about some of these if I can keep my spending in check for the rest of the year and stay under my $500 goal. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can … either way, compared to this time last year, where I’d spent about $1,400 (holy good gracious!), I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well.
What are your financial goals for the year? How are they progressing?
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