At least one reader was shocked by my disclosure that my monthly budget is $1,200. In a comment about whether a $533 mattress purchase should come out of my budget or my savings, Cindy said, “If you easily have $1200 free cash to spend in a month…wow! That’s not being very frugal.”
Let me explain my budgeting system and why I give myself so much leeway.
I have tried many, many budgeting systems, from tracking every penny to estimating monthly costs by category. None of them worked because they all relied on past purchases to predict future ones. What I spend my money on varies widely. One month a plane ticket may eat up a good chunk of my dollars. During another month a wedding or home project may account for much of my spending.
What does not change is my total spending, certain fixed bills, and my income.
I decided to use this information to create a forward-looking budget (the pdf is safe to download). I start with my income, subtract my fixed bills, and am left with a monthly spending amount (my budget).
My fixed bills include basic necessities and any bills that must be paid including my rent, savings contribution, 1-tank of gas, student loan payment, cell phone bill, and regular prescriptions. Everything else comes out of my monthly budget.
- second and third tanks of gas
- movie rentals
- meals out
- drinks with friends
- hair cuts
- yoga classes
- gardening supplies
- car washes
- anything else
Still think $1,200 sounds like a lot?
I gave up credit and debit cards this month to try to reduce my monthly budget. Previously, I went on a spending moratorium to learn new habits. My 15-minute budget may or may not work for you. The first month I used it I reduced my credit card bill by $2,000. Give it a try and let me know what you think.