My friend Sarah sent me this book a few months ago. I saw the cover and thought the whole thing was a little cheezy (no offense Sarah!). But the way I figured it, books don't become New York Times Bestsellers by being terrible (if they are, at least there is probably a good steamy scene or two in them). Based on the book jacket photo though, I knew that Elizabeth Warren or Amelia Warren Tyagi (mother-daughter team) would not be getting down and dirty in this book. The content had to be solid.
Since I had lots of time to stroll around HospitalTown last week, I thought I would finish the book once and for all (among a few other things) while Sean napped. (A bulk of this was read in the ER and the fact that I still got a lot out of it is testament to how good the book is.)
So the basic idea is a simple formula: 50% of your money should go towards your needs (food, shelter, insurance, and transportation), 20% should be spent on savings, and 30% should be spent on all your wants. Sounds easy, but it does involve doing a little math initially.
I'm a sucker for a book with exercises in it so while Sean watched baseball, I did some math with the included worksheets to see if my spending was in balance. My prediction was that I spent most of my income on my needs. I'm not an extravagant person yet I seem to be saving very little compared to what I want to be. The money must be going to things beyond my control…
I was quite surprised when my needs came out at 50%, even with my increased gas budget and factoring in a regular copayment for doctors visits. I've been saving 9% of my income, which doing the math means I'm spending 41% on my wants. Yikes! Where is it going? (The book has you calculate your needs and savings and subtract them to determine what you're spending on wants. Talk about making you fess up!)
A few things to consider. Technically, my dog is a want for example, though sometimes I wonder about that. Gifts are also wants. But when I started listing my inevitable wants, I began to understand how much power over these funds I did have.
I see that my current budget with all its small categories makes it easier for me to lose track of small amounts of money. (Though I will say keeping an exact budget for six months helped me really understand my incoming versus outgoing funds in an amount of detail that was really helpful.) Now that I know how much things cost (in terms of dollars and in percent of my income) this simpler 50/20/30 method makes things much easier.
According to my calculations, I have $400 a month to freely spend on my wants. That sounds like a lot. So if I take out $100 a week from the bank and only spend that, I am on track. It may mean that Sadie gets the cheaper dog food once in awhile, and it may mean that I use $80 this week to get a massage. I like the freedom this money allows me and the accountability of the cash in my wallet.
Don't think you can cut anything from your budget? These ladies have an answer for every excuse I could think of. They've empowered me to shop for the best auto insurance rate and negotiate my medical bill. They give you the tools to succeed and punctuate the sometimes not-so-entralling text with actual case studies of people they've worked with.
I highly recommend this book to anyone and because of it, I'm throwing out my detailed budget I've kept monthly for an entire year. While my budget has really allowed me to show growth but I don't need it anymore. I've got my typical expenses then $100 for everything unexpected that comes my way in a given week. Maybe I will book that massage after all…