Learning to Budget

The harsh truth – My student loans came up due last month, so I needed to get serious about budgeting.

Usually when I think about my expenses I experience a panicked reaction of “deny, deny, deny! Ignore, ignore, ignore!” …but that’s just not going to work anymore. I mentioned recently that  before I turn thirty next year I want to pay down my credit card debt and start saving for the future (better late then never). Keeping this goal in mind, I also really needed a new car.

What’s a girl to do?

Even if I chose to lease the cheapest car option I could find, I really needed to have a plan and start eliminating the waste in my monthly spending.

Learn to Plan, Plan to save-

I signed up for mint.com to try to get my financial hemorrhage to clot a little, and it has actually really helped. The biggest reality check I’ve had from seeing my spending habits all in one place (unedited by wishful thinking) is that my small debts here and there are actually not so small added together. Scary. I made a little spreadsheet to keep track of my bills (since not all of them can be tracked by Mint), and started to figuring out where the waste was.

So, where was the waste?

1) I spent too much on groceries.

2) I spent WAY too much on clothes (and yet not a thing to wear… le sigh), and

3) I spent WAAAAAY too much on restaurants (yummm)

I used the recommended budget limits from Mint (and made some adjustments on my own) and  I put a cap on the amount of eating out (good for my budget and waistline). I worried this would mean the end to social time, but I have found it easier to cut back then I expected. Now that I know where my money is going, it seems like it’s worth more and worth thinking twice before I spend it (i.e. do I want this sweater or do I want to wait and save towards our pretty new couch)?

Sweater via Tommy Hilfiger, couch from Art Van

My “this or that” method has gotten me out of a lot of impulse buys (I even talked myself out of a Kindle… at least until I finish all of the paperbacks I’ve already got waiting on my nightstand).With my new budget in tow, I was able to determine what I could afford in my new automobile and start test driving the options.

I loved the look of the exterior of the GMC Terrain, but it was a little big for me. I loved the Subaru Forester (especially the sunroof), but without opting for the most lux options I just didn’t feel great about the interior. I loved the handling in the Toyota Rav4, but I didn’t like the swinging back door and the simplicity of the interior.

After shopping around for cars I decided that even though it wasn’t the very cheapest, I loved the look, handling, interior, and safety of the Honda CR-V. Even without going for lux model, the CR-V was just right.

I know I’m writing about budgeting, but to me that doesn’t mean going for the cheapest option… it means knowing your options, understanding the give-and-take, and making an informed decision.  

In the end, I’m loving my new ride!

My new Honda CR-V (image ReadySetSarah)

Next steps? Learn to really grocery shop on a budget …and finally get around to that meditation routine I started talking about way back when.



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