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One Month of Budgeting


“Ok, so we went over the grocery budget, but only by $60. I think that’s pretty good. Are you ignoring me?” I’m sitting at my kitchen counter staring at our budget, doing a postmortem on the month, but Jack’s attention is split between me and the news.

“Hey, we didn’t pay our car insurance this month?”

“It comes out every three months,” is his response, but I know I’m not going to be able to compete with Wolf Blitzer long enough to convince him to switch over our joint checking account from his bank to my bank.

In the spirit of my “one goal per year” rule, I had picked working on our finances, but wanted to set goals for health and wellness. Sunnie had suggested a workaround — being healthy, but putting physically healthy, emotionally healthy, and financially healthy under that umbrella.

I’m not convinced that’s going to work, but I have made major strides with one of them. We’ve never been reckless with our money, but we’ve certainly been less fastidious than we’d like to be. I decided we’d come up with a monthly budget and track our spending and stick to it. I recognize lots of people do this, whether out of necessity or habit, so we’re not making big waves here, but it’s never something we’ve been able to run with long-term.

But I started the month off zealous and ended it like a new convert, so maybe things are looking up. I paid for a subscription to YNAB, inputted all of our bills and our best guesses at spending, hooked up all our accounts to it, downloaded the app for every financial institution we use, and moved all of those apps to my phone’s front screen.

(This is a stupid image and I really resent websites and blogs requiring that I need one in order to share on social. One day I’m going to give up and use a stock photo of geese for every post.)

Every day, before I start work, I take five minutes to log into YNAB and move each transaction into a category. If a bill comes out of our checking account or if I pay for something with a credit card, it’ll ask me how to divvy it up. Spent $30 at Target? $5 was on new school folders (Girls’ Expenses) and $25 was on cleaning supplies and decaf green tea (Groceries/Household).

It’s been fascinating and a little bit of a new obsession. This is our first winter in our new home, so there’s some learning curves involved as well. This house is bigger so our utilities are higher, and we’re still not exactly used to the bill we’re handed after a man and a trunk comes and fills up our tank of oil. There’s also the cost of working at home, because I’m using up our own heat and electricity instead of the heat and electricity at a would-be employer’s office. The YNAB experience isn’t without some irritations (we’ve used Mint, too, but ultimately I’m liking YNAB better), but overall it was very positive and I have high hopes for my retirement fund. It probably says something that it took us this long to meticulously stick to a budget for one month, but I’m going to call upon the power of the “better later than never” adage and call it a day.

As far as physical health, I’m on the very tail end of a virus with a three-month-long lifespan — it’s a very boring story, so I’ll spare you, but it’s no big deal and also … very boring — so I’ve made myself chill out about trips to the gym and eating kale regularly until February.

As far as emotional health, I’m deliberately not mentioning the political climate in this post outside of this sentence. I needed a thirty minute break from being mad on Twitter.

And as far as the other goal I mentioned about advising x amount of people a month and expecting nothing back, that starts this month, too. I’ve emailed the people for February, and here’s hoping they don’t block my phone number before the month is over.

Your turn — to tell me about goals or how much you spend on groceries (!!!!!!!AVOCADOS$$!!!) — if you want.

Fewer and Better


Last week, on Facebook, I shared a video on ‘fast fashion’ and its effects on the environment. (Before we go on, do bear in mind that there’s no judgment here whether you’ve got a a shoe closet that would make Imelda Marcos jealous or not.) Retailers are churning out clothes, […]

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