I moved to my current location a few months ago and accepted a job that pays $7,000 less a year than my last job. While it may sound crazy to some, I think most would agree with the statement “Money isn’t everything”. Because it isn’t. I love my current job. When I am there, I’m happy. I like the people I work with, I find my actual work interesting, and I feel needed and appreciated. I leave it at the end of the day and never think about it after I drive out of the parking lot. But did I mention I barely make above minimum wage and have bare bones health insurance with a $5,000 deductible?

So I have decided to use the last two months to figure out my budget, which I need to stick to pretty closely. Here is what I’ve figured out so far:

My Monthly Budget
Rent: $350, electricity, heat, and phone/internet included (my boyfriend=my landlord, though I think any roommate would work out to a similar situation)
Retirement account: $200
Gifts: $200
Groceries: $125
Insurance (car): $100
Dining Out: $100
Entertainment: $80
Gas (car): $75
Personal care (clothes/toiletries): $75
Dog: $50 (did I mention I have a geriatric beagle mix?)
Gym membership: $25 Coffee: $10

Total Money Earned every month: $1,420
Total Money Spent every month: $1,390

This means I have $30 net. Of course, there are areas you can see where I can cut into if I say, have to have $400 of work done on my car to pass inspection (which happened last month).

Making a budget is not so bad. I’ll be honest, I thought it would stink. It doesn’t. Really. I’ve found it really helpful to see where my money goes and when I finish the month in the black, it is a real sense of accomplishment as I have been actively working towards it all month.

Making a good budget requires writing everything down, even a coffee. (Commit to doing this for two months because after awhile, you’ll get into a routine after that point and may no longer need to do it anyway!) Once a week, I go through my receipts and enter them into a spreadsheet to track my expenses.

Do I have time to write a blog and check Myspace everyday? Yes. Do I have time to make a pretty looking spreadsheet? No. But it is more motivating to put information into a good looking and well set up spreadsheet. Microsoft has some good, ready-made budget templates.

If you do end up trying this, let me know how it goes and if it works for you.

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