It’s Week 4 of our Girl On A Budget Series, which chronicles the adventures of a NYC woman trying to live on a budget. This week, she takes us back to the beginning and offers tips on how to set and stick to a budget that works for you. But, as we find, sometimes staying within a budget requires more than casual planning…
This week started out kinda weird….I got a call from a 1-800-preacher who said he knew I was having a hard time and that his prayer circle could help me get back on my feet. Now I know a few Hallelujahs go a long way, but I’ve learned the hard way that real change begins with action–and a budget.
After two months of sticking to my budget, things are going well on $250 a week, and that’s how it should be. It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, I was worried about money, trying to stay out of debt and wanting to handle my finances like a responsible adult (living in NYC, AKA Neverneverland, sometimes one forgets that one is an adult 🙂
Coming up with a budget and weekly allowance required some research and soul-searching. I learned that when you create a budget you’re supposed to pick a weekly or monthly allowance that alleviates stress and mine does. Here’s how I came up with my budget:
1. I tracked expenses for two months so I got a better sense of where my money went (sometimes looking back at how I spent my money was a lit-tle painful!)
2. In tracking expenses, I also divided my spending into needs vs. wants. How much money do I HAVE to earn or have in the bank in order to live? That includes rent, food, utilities, phone, transporatation and all the insurances (health and renter’s insurance!). To that number I added a little somethin’-somethin’ to make sure I was able to go out to dinner here and there, buy a pair of shoes for an important interview, and other incidentals.
3. I try my best to follow the 50/30/20 rule to allocate money. 50% of my money goes to needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings. If you live in NY you might need to adjust the needs due to housing costs. But since I walk to work I can re-allocate my transportation cost elsewhere, like to housing or savings.
Sometimes, though, a little planning goes a long way. This week I went to dinner with a good friend. Usually I do a little comparison shopping between restaurants, but this time I briefly looked at Le Singe Vert’s menu before deciding it was the right choice for us. We chose the restaurant due to its location and had a fancy salad and steak frites. Everything was delicious but I couldn’t help thinking we could have done better price-wise if I’d taken the time to look at other menus. I was right. Upon further review I found that most bistro-esque places (Café Cluny, Bar 6) were the same price but one was drastically different. Les Halles has the same meal we had for only $20.50! Our version was double the price at $46! It pays to remember that expenses can be controlled with a little pre-planning.
The rest of the week was filled with free fun. My favorite neighbor invited me to an Ian Hunter concert on Friday night. My initial response was ‘Ian who?’ but I’ve got to tell you, this guy rocks! I also saw my favorite beau in a free show that he produced. It was the first time he’d been on stage since 1999 and I was happy to be there to support. It’s amazing how many free things there are to do in the city. All were wonderful and helped me stay within $250 for the week.
Girl On A Budget is taking a break from her true confessions blog–but she challenges YOU to find a weekly allowance you can live with and stick to it! Let us know how you do with your comments on this blog and our Facebook page!