Admittedly, I haven't always had a budget (or a spending plan!). But, I was always fairly frugal, initially because I had to, later, because I wanted to. I didn't spend all I earned, and saved quite a bit. Then, in the mid 1990s, I became interested in finding out exactly what I was spending and on what!
If I may bore you with some history:
Back then, I was reading some magazine articles with titles such as "How to Live on One Income", etc., and wanted to see how I compared! These articles gave a guideline of having 3 months' worth of income in a savings account as an emergency fund; but, if you were a single parent (as I was and am), then, it was advised to have at least 6 months' of income saved! Much later, during the "economic downturn" (or recession or financial crisis; it's known by many terms) of 2007-2009, when people found it hard to find re-employment or had to accept lower paying jobs, single parents were advised to have the equivalent of 1 year's expenses saved!
I started out with a spending log - I kept strict accounts of every penny I spent, and on what, for 3 months. Then, I went back through my check book for 1 year to see what my quarterly and annual expenses were - those property tax payments which took place twice a year, the homeowner's and earthquake insurance, car insurance, etc., that could be paid in installments (with interest) or in a single installment (without interest). I added up each of those payments to get an annual amount and divided them by 12 to get a monthly amount - I was going to set aside that monthly amount in my budget and save it towards when I needed to pay it, so that I didn't have to scramble to find that amount when the bill was due.
Many of the articles I read, admonished two income families to try and live on one income and save the second income. But, I was a one income family (although my mother lived with me and helped with some of the bills - she insisted on paying the water and electricity bill, for example, so that I wouldn't restrict her watering the garden or be at her to turn off the lights! LOL.) My dream was to live on 50% of my net income, but I wasn't able to do that with a mortgage ($1,100) and childcare ($750)! I settled for a budget based on 70% of my net pay, with 30% going to savings.
That was my budget for many years. I made some adjustments, as needed, of course. For example, I had to adjust it, during that same economic downturn, when I had to absorb a 20% pay cut due to mandatory furloughs. There was, too, a very real possibility of being laid-off, which sent me scurrying off to come up with what I called a "bare bones" budget based on a minimum wage job. I found out that, at the time, even with a bare-bones budget, I'd need to have 2 full-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet! This was before I had paid off my house; even if I gave up my house, I'd have to pay rent, and with our high rents in this area, my mortgage on my 3 bedroom house was less than the rent my friend payed for a 1 bedroom apartment (Ha! Maybe this is the basis of my foreclosure nightmare, the other day!).
My newest budget is my latest revision! The entire budget is based on approximately 60% of my net pension (a little under that); just over 40% is still going to savings.
I had some expenses go down (gas for the car, for example, went down from $200 to $50, simply because I am not driving to downtown and back, daily! I used $75 of that $150 in savings to bump up my budget for car insurance, as it seems to go up, every year; I used $25 of the balance $75 to bump up my gardening budget, so I could buy a few extras like peach trees and soil amendments, etc., and the remaining $50 was applied to bump up my utilities budget).
I eliminated some expenses by combining them with other budgeted categories while keeping that budget the same (for example, I combined almsgiving ($50) and rosary ($25) spending as one "prayer gatherings" category, while keeping the budget at $50; and I combined the Christmas budget ($10) with my other gifts (birthdays, etc.) of $25 and left it at $25). The combined total savings of $35 from these two eliminated categories, were applied towards another category!
Finally, I had some categories that I decided needed additional funds! My doctor visits co-pays have gone up from $15 to $20 and so have my co-pays for some of my medications, I doubled the budget from $100 to $200. I realized that I had been underfunding the TV/Cable budget (by about $5) and I decided that I should increase the pet care budget (from $50 to $100 - Dancer's recent vet visits weren't exactly cheap!). Finally, I increased my daughter's Christmas gift (acrobatics lessons) from 5 classes a month, to unlimited (she had wanted to pay the difference, but I told her I will pay the entire amount). These additional increases were funded with money that would have otherwise gone towards savings.
All in all, my monthly budget went up by $190 (earlier, I thought it went up by $260, but that was a mistake). It is $190 that is not going into savings, but, I have asked myself just how much I need to save, and for what, now that I am retired!
This is my current budget, as it stands:
25% of the budget goes to House and Garden, which includes property taxes, homeowner's and earthquake insurance, maintenance, garden care, and household products, such as laundry detergent, dish washing detergent, paper towels, etc.
25% of the budget goes to Utilities, which includes water, electricity, trash collection, sewer service, natural gas (for heating and cooking), telephones (both home phone and cell phones), internet, and cable.
14% of the budget is for the car, including insurance, gas, maintenance, and annual registration renewals.
8% for self care, which includes my doctor visits, monthly medications, parking fees at various medical facilities, clothing, and a $20 personal allowance (to spend as I please, on craft supplies, personal care items, etc.)
The remaining 28% of the budget is for various other categories such as groceries ($75), eating out ($25), toiletries ($10), pet care ($100), the prayer gatherings and donations ($50), gift giving ($25), membership dues (auto club), travel/air fare, tax preparation fees, etc., and the all important "Miscellaneous" ($50)! LOL! I like to pad the budget, a bit - that way, I don't panic when unexpected expenses, such as the $667.14 water bill that I received at the end of December (due to the leaking sprinkler valve) spring up, or Dancer suddenly has a $945 vet bill to pay! It is a bit of a built-in short-term emergency fund.
Because of the way the budget is set up, my actual monthly expenses are less than the monthly budget. The water/electricity/sewage/trash collection bill, for example comes due only every other month; the car doesn't require maintenance every month, the various insurances are paid once a year. The retirement check goes into the checking account, at the end of each month, and the money sits in the account until needed.
Some people think I obsess too much over my budget, that I am too detailed with my spending categories, etc. It may very well be. But, it works for me. I like knowing the details. Financial security is very important to me - there have been times when I didn't have any financial security. Those days are now gone, but I still have that same mental attitude of not wanting to spend!
Oh, dear! This post turned out to be a book, didn't it?
Today, I am grateful for:
- Feeling a little bit better
- Chicken soup (made from items in the fridge and freezer, using the last of the roast chicken carcass from the October prayer gathering)
- My neighbor across the street bringing my trash can in for me
- 6 bags of donations being picked up this afternoon
- Having a spending plan/budget