Friday, January 10, 2014

Frugal Friday - Budget Beginnings

Being frugal is something that just comes naturally to me. It probably has something to do with being a weird little kid who liked to read The Tightwad Gazette. The first time I talked to J he was extremely excited (J is either really kicked back or extremely excited) because he found a pair of gloves on clearance for a dollar, and I should have known then that we were made for each other!

Our propensity for good deals and saving money has served us well thus far, too. But up until a few months ago we didn't have an actual budget, and I felt like we weren't saving much compared to what we were making. I didn't think we could save too much more, but I figured a budget was in order. So, with a little trial and error and relying on all the financial information I've read over the years, we came up with one. Now most months we are saving about 30% of our income, and I'm still looking for different ways to save. (I'm a little obsessive, I freely admit!) We still have fun, too, its not like we're sitting home in the dark eating ramen. And before you decide we must make a lot of money, we both make under the average American hourly wage from what the All-knowing Internet tells me!

So, how do you come up with a budget, anyway?

The first month I talked J into this we decided to try a budget, I simply tried not to go over board and I put everything we spent into an Excel spreadsheet. I got a template off a website and modified the categories to my liking, because I'm awful at Excel. For some reason the link just downloads the template for you but it does work!…mages/0611/budget_robinson.xls

At the end of the month, we'd had fun, but we had spent a LOT on eating out and driving around and home improvement projects. Being in the height of the summer it was to be somewhat expected, but we could do better. 

So the next couple months we adjusted the numbers and came up with some that make us both happy. For 2014 I've cinched it in a little more just to see if we can do it!

My tips for success:

  • Don't look at it as having to deprive yourself! Make a game of it, see how long you can make things last, if you can get a better deal, etc. 

  • You're NOT depriving yourself. If you earn a dollar, you have to pay taxes on it, and then you have to pay sales taxes to spend the same dollar. If you save a dollar, you're saving the dollar PLUS all that tax money, so instead of the old adage "a penny saved is a penny earned" is more like "a dollar saved is $1.15 or so earned". 

  • Decide what is important to you and your household, even if it doesn't make sense to other people. We have 2 dogs and a cat, which cost us about $35 a month. We could save that money, but its worth it to us so we can have our house covered in fur  because we love our pets. We also budget for several meals out, J's homebrewing habit, and some "fun" money for both of us. Is it completely economical? No. Does it make life worth living? Heck yeah! 

  • Everything in moderation, though. The kinda silly thing about us humans is how quickly we get bored. Remember when you were a kid and a 25 cent bouncy ball made your day? (You don't? That was just me? Hmm.) Eventually you got tired of the bouncy balls and your parents had to get you a real toy, and then you grew up and wanted cars and TVs and they're still not as exciting as that stupid bouncy ball. When our favorite thing to do gets boring, we up the ante until we get tired of that, and so on and so forth. If you step back and don't (eat out, go to the movies, buy random crap) as much, it becomes more of a treat than it was. Dial it back some and watch spending $5 on yourself become just as much fun as $50 was before!

  • Do it Yourself  Chances are if you are reading this, you already know that doing the job yourself is normally cheaper AND more satisfying. We live in a time where it is possible to learn how to do all kinds of things on the Internet, so next time you need to buy something, look into making it yourself! 

  • Save on the boring stuff More on this in another post, but to me it makes the most sense to save on utilities and gas and food and stuff you HAVE to have, so you have more to save for later or spend on the "fun" stuff. Its the most painless, too. 

  • Repurpose Remember Milly's sweater ? That project probably saved me $3 and it took me about 25 minutes. But to me, it was fun to be able to use what I had to solve a problem. PLUS I didn't have to spend the same amount of time going to the store to buy something else, so I really wasn't out any time at all, and I saved gas! Make new clothes out of old ones if you can sew, build things out of pallets if you can build, cook new meals out of leftovers if you can cook. 

Hopefully this gets you a little excited about saving some dough and becoming more self-reliant! Its an awesome feeling even if it takes some getting used to for some of us.  

NEXT WEEK: My take on saving on food.


  1. Good ideas, although I don't think ANYBODY will EVER be as cheap as y'all. ;) ...and I think you saved far more than $3 on Milly's sweater. (plus who else's goat has designer duds? lol)

  2. Well, I just read an article by someone claiming to be saving 60% of their pay, but they also made about 1300 more a month than we do and they were saving to buy a homestead outright. Glad you liked it, thanks for commenting!