Saving to Buy a House

I’ve written a hundred iterations of this post but never hit publish before.

I shared in this post that D and I were planning to spend 2022 fast-tracking our savings in order to purchase a house. I see a lot out there that talks about how to save money, and a lot that gives unrealistic ideas for how to store up funds in order to do so.

I’m not interested in setting myself up to fail.

So, instead, here’s some of what we’re doing in order to store up money, and how much we’re saving by doing so.

Please note: this is all in the very unrealistic-for-everyone setting of living with my mom and dad. I 100% acknowledge the privilege that’s inherent in being able to safely and comfortably do so for any length of time.


Not Buying “Stuff”

Whenever I go to organize or declutter a space, I pull all the items out and sort them into piles of like items. Inevitably, I end up with a pile of “stuff” – objects that don’t have a category, that I’m holding on to for no clear reason (not even sentimental reasons!) but can’t bring myself to toss. The hard truth is, these items came into my space because I brought them in here.

As a general rule, D and I try really hard not to buy things that don’t serve a purpose. But it happens – you’re walking through the grocery store, hardware store, anything store, and something catches your eye and you impulse-buy it. Those things are typically what make up my “stuff” pile.

We’re avoiding buying “stuff” the surest way we know how: by staying out of stores. This is easier for D than it is for me since I’m typically the grocery and present shopper. Instead, I’m ordering the majority of our groceries online and picking them up (no fee for that at most stores!) except Aldi, where I often find a better deal by going in the store. In Aldi, I stay out of the weird aisle that’s floormats and socks and benches, because I will buy something from there.

The other shift is harder: presents. We have a lot of people we buy for over the course of the year – D and I together have nearly 15 people just in our immediate families. I’d like to say that we handmake all our gifts and wrap them in paper we recycled, but that’s often more costly than buying a pre-made item (we do sometimes handmake items). Instead, I don’t go to a store for ideas. I sit and think about that person – young or old, male or female. I think about what my year with them has been like since the last birthday or holiday, and I take my time coming up – on my own – with a gift for them. Then I purchase that one thing.

Believe it or not, people gave gifts in this way for literally 1,000’s of years before Amazon was invented.

What I’ve found is that when I take the serious time to consider the individual, I’m so confident about what I’m getting, that I don’t feel compelled to buy any more than just that.

I also buy fairly generic paper and use it for all occasions. I switch up ribbons and name tags, etc. to with the holiday. The exception to this is David’s niece. She’s four and could care less about the wrap-job, and we typically buy her one large item. I almost always get a roll of wrapping paper for just her at Dollar Tree. It works out to be more cost-effective.

You may have noticed that I did not mention a strategy for shopping at the mall or department stores. That’s because I’m not doing that for the next six months. That’s it. I bought some leggings, a shirt and a dress at the end of 2021 to make sure I could get through the six months. The end.

A while ago, I went through five weeks of spending and averaged it. The average for five weeks: $152.83.

Our goal is to bring this to $0, but let’s give us $10, for the sake of human error (the reality that sometimes I just straight up forget my lunch). That’s a savings of $142.83 per week.

Eating Lunch for Under $2.00

My mom told me not too long ago that she tried to always make dinner for under $2 per person. I was fascinated by this idea – that she picked what we ate based on money. I grew up eating balanced, delicious dinners and I figured she’d based what we ate off of nutrition and taste. Nope. She set a financial parameter and made it work.

I haven’t gotten there with dinner yet (I’m close!) but I’m there when it comes to lunch. I think I’ll do a whole post on this because y’all over on Instagram seemed to be really intrigued with my lunches when I was working from home. I’m a hardcore meal planner and prepper, so usually, I make myself three lunches for the week, and I bring two days of leftovers (at least). To keep costs down, I eat a lot of vegetables, but when it comes to buying and storing vegetables, I do a lot of freezing. For example, two weeks ago, I bought a head of cauliflower, which will never get eaten if it’s not chopped on the day it gets home from the grocery store. It did not get chopped. So, before it had the chance to get bad (about a week after buying it), I chopped it up, left a little in the fridge (which got eaten), and froze the rest.

This is essential.

I was throwing away a crazy amount of produce, and I’m sure you do too! But most non-leafy vegetables can have the yucky part cut off, and then be stored in the freezer to be roasted, boiled, steamed, whatever! They’re definitely not great to have as an uncooked snack, but they can 100% be used for cooking. So, I stick with veg for my lunch (even for protein), shop my freezer, and bring leftovers.

I went back through roughly six months of lunches (vaguely; I tend to eat pretty similar stuff, so I was able to estimate), including going out to lunch or buying a coffee and calling it lunch and found that on average, I spent $5 per lunch, or $25 a week. My goal is to max out at $2. Even on the high end, that’s a savings of $3 per meal, or $15 per week.

Eating all the Leftovers

See above – ha!

Let me start this by saying that we enter into dinner with the goal of not having leftovers. And that doesn’t mean that we eat mountains. It means that over the last five years, we’ve really worked at assessing how to cut down what we’ve made – maybe there could be less potatoes, or less meat, or even just cooked in a smaller pan. By figuring out how to cut down the meal to be the right size for two people, we limit the number of leftovers that we have to eat in the first place.

Potatoes were the big one for us. I know they’re not super expensive but we eat them often, and leftover potatoes are only good the day after Thanksgiving on a sandwich. Otherwise, no thank you. So we started out with three yellow potatoes for D and two for me when we made mashed potatoes. From there, we figured out that D eats two potatoes and I eat one. So now we make mashed potatoes with three potatoes instead of five. That may not sound significant, but we probably have mashed potatoes twice a week. That’s roughly 50 pounds of potatoes per year, which is about $50. Now, $50 may not sound like a lot, but that’s $50 for one side dish twice a week. Imagine if you did that with something more expensive, like meat, or salad dressing. Or if you did it with every side dish every day of the week. Suddenly, you’ve made a significant dent in your budget. But I digress…

I make a specific point of eating the leftovers if they’re something I like, and if they’re not, I try to repurpose them into something I do like. If you aren’t following @shelfcooking I highly recommend it. It’s definitely changed the way I think about things.

Fridge, then Freezer, then Pantry, then Store

This is another one that I should probably do a whole post on. Fridge, then freezer, then pantry, then store is the order that I “shop” for groceries. So, I make a monthly meal plan, and it’s flexible. There are a lot of repeat items in there. D and I could both eat tacos every day of the week, so it’s on our meal plan weekly. Same with spaghetti and chicken salads. What this means, is that if I open the fridge and discover an overabundance of something, or know that something is about to go bad, I kick out a repeat meal and cook that instead.

But something I didn’t talk about when I wrote about the monthly meal plan is that I make it in order to clear out the fridge, then the freezer, then the pantry. That’s the order that the items are most likely to go bad, based on the way that we purchase. We got a deep freezer about a year ago and it has been a total game-changer in how we operate. I am well aware that not everyone has the luxury of owning an item like that whether because of cost (I got mine during the President’s Day Sales, combined it with a coupon and gift card which made it about $60) or space. BUT, this system follows either way. I keep a list of what’s in the freezer on the actual freezer itself. When the cats inevitably walk on it too much, I wipe it off and start over.

Pro Tip: Wet Erase markers. Not Dry Erase. Dry Erase comes off too easily.

Since a lot of what goes into the freezer has different “best used by” dates, and it’s SO easy – even on the freezer that’s attached to the fridge – to lose what’s in there, I found it was easiest to just sort by date and that’s the order we use it. This freezer is filled with:

  • Meat that was a crazy cheap price
  • Vegetables we grew ourselves
  • Vegetables that were a crazy cheap price
  • Meals for the week that I didn’t eat because I was eating leftovers

So I start by looking at the fridge and seeing what’s going to go bad soon, then follow that process with the freezer and pantry. And THEN I make my grocery list.

By making these changes, and by committing to eating leftovers, our grocery bill has dropped from $1000 per month to $600. My goal is to bring it down to $400. So, let’s do a conservative estimate that we’ll be saving $200 per month. This doesn’t include the work that’s been done to get it down to $600.

Why am I talking so much about groceries?

It’s the most malleable part of your budget. We can talk about this more if you want, but I think it would be better if you tried something. Take out a piece of paper and write down the top five things you spend the most money on. I would guess it would look something like this:

  1. Rent/House payment
  2. Groceries
  3. Utilities
  4. Transportation
  5. Student loans/car payment/other type of debt

Am I close? You cannot change the price of your rent without moving. You can only somewhat control the cost of your utilities without freezing in the winter and baking in the summer. Chances are, you are going to have a minimum amount of you have to pay for transportation, whether it’s gas or bus/train passes. You cannot change the price of your student loan, car payment, etc. without changing your payment plan and even then, that may not be significant.

But you can easily increase your groceries by impulse buying, only ever buying name brands, and cooking for the wrong amount of people. Conversely, you can tweak your groceries to lower the cost of the items you buy and change the way you shop to bring that price down significantly.

Rotating Subscriptions

At one point in time, D and I had subscriptions to:

  • Netflix – $13.99
  • Hulu – $12.99
  • YouTube – $11.99
  • HBO Plus – $14.99
  • Disney Plus – $7.99
  • Audible – $7.95
  • Spotify – $15.99
  • Pandora – $4.99
  • Cable – $80

Let’s add that up, without including cable: $90.88. We started with the easy one: we didn’t need both Pandora and Spotify. We both listen to music pretty much all day at work, and most evenings, so we opted for the service we were using more – Spotify. AND, we discovered that we were on the old plan pricing – we were paying for 6 people when we only needed two. So we were able to bring $20.98 down to $12.99. Over the course of the year, that’s almost $100.

So we did this with everything – are we really using it? We kept basic cable because somehow that’s cheaper than just having internet, but we weren’t using Audible anymore, and we only used HBO Plus and YouTube Premium everyone once in a while, so we canceled those. So now we’re down to, $47.96.

So, where do we go from here: we’re going to pick and choose what we keep. Some months we’ll have Netflix; some months we’ll have Hulu. We’re going to keep Spotify for as long as they’re around, but otherwise, we’ll rotate through Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. That means that instead of paying $47.96, the most we’ll pay in one month is $26.98.

For those of you playing along at home, that’s a $63.90 savings per month. For the year, that’s $766.80.

Total Savings

So, here’s what we have for one week:

Not buying “stuff”: $142.83

Lunch for $1: $20

Changing the way we grocery shop: $50

Rotating subscriptions: $63.90

Total: $276.73

For the entire year, that’s a savings of $14,528.33.

Let that number really sink in. That’s a car. A down payment on a small house. College tuition at an in-state school. And that’s without removing anything significant – that’s still paying your car payment, having cable, using the heat in the winter.

So that’s one piece of the plan. We’re also obviously cutting down some significant bills by having the luxury to move in with my parents, but this alone is something you could do without having to make drastic life changes. I’d like to help you do it, so tell me down in the comments what would be helpful for me to talk more about? How can I best help you?

Looking Forward

The last few months, I’ve been locked into thinking about our wedding. I don’t think I did anything else – which is why I wasn’t doing much writing. I feel like my life went moms heart attack – masters project – COVID – 900 jobs changes – engagement – 900 more job changes – wedding – pass out from too many things. Now, I’m finally settling into reality and trying to get a sense of what is coming next.

D & I have chosen to move out of the apartment we’ve been living in for the last five years. They’re jacking the rent up and it’s just not worth what they want for it. As a result, we’re also considering (he’s sold on the idea; I’m feeling trepidatious) living with my parents for a few weeks to stack up our savings before buying a house.

I’ve been entertaining adding an additional stream of income to my life. I’m contemplating teaching a SkillShare course on either budgeting or sinking funds. Budgeting is my favorite thing ever to talk about, but I feel like sinking funds are easier to grasp. I’m also considering the idea of a little Etsy shop. I have so many lovely little crafty things I make for no real reason, and it would feel so good to share them with the world.

The main thing is that I’m back to thinking about being creative – which is a space I haven’t been in for a long time. I’m looking forward to spending more time making things, and less time thinking about making things. So, subscribe if you haven’t, or join that email list on the side – there’s hopefully going to be an entire moving process, budget updates, cat stories and more.

A Week of No Spending

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time.


I have recently become moderately addicted to Megan Fox Unlocked. Seriously, y’all. She’s so sweet and genuine. Totally worth checking out.

I watched a video not too long ago where she tracked what she spent in a week. I thought I might put a spin on it and try to go for a week of no spending other than groceries and gas. And to hold myself accountable, I’m going to take a picture of everything I buy that isn’t a grocery or gas.

Sunday

Flooring

I talked a little bit in this post about helping my mom redo the floors in my dad’s office. I spent pretty much all day Sunday working on that (10am – 5pm) so it made it really easy to spend.

That said, it was really challenging to resist the urge to say, “let’s go out for dinner” to D. I had planned to be done with the floors on Saturday, so I had a more complicated dinner planned and the idea of cooking after all that work was like… ugh. It ended up being fine and we cooked, but it definitely was a good reminder that adapting the plan can help save money – ex. I knew I was going to be tired by the end, so I should have pulled a crockpot meal from later in the month and used it on Sunday to avoid the temptation to spend money.

Sunday Total: $0.00

Monday

IMG_8372

My parents cat, Frank, is basically a giant teddy bear.

I knew on Monday that I was going to see my parents after work. I stayed there for about an hour and by the time I got home, made and ate dinner and started thinking about homework it was close to 9pm. So, I did some homework and went to bed, which made it very easy to not spend any money.

Monday Total: $0.00

Tuesday

I got a hardcore chocolate craving around 2pm on Tuesday. I usually keep some dark chocolate in my desk drawer, but I spaced at the grocery store this weekend. There’s a little on-campus convenience store so I walked over there and got some chocolate milk & Reeses Sticks (aka deliciousness) for $3.

I also totally spaced when I planned to do this no spending week because I had scheduled dinner with two of my friends a month ago. I wasn’t about to cancel because our three schedules don’t line up easily, so instead, I got a water and an appetizer for a total of $9.53 + tip.

Tuesday Total: $15.23

Wednesday

On Wednesday night, I knew that we needed to pick up D’s prescription, so I made some delicious pot roast in the crockpot and we went after dinner.

Our grocery store, Meijer, allows you to accrue points towards money off. We had a $6 off coupon so when we decided to pick up a few extra things, we ended up spending $0.67. I don’t think groceries fall into the no spending category, but since we also got a fancy drink, etc., I’m going to count this.

This was also the day that D and I decided that we’re going to do this for the entire month of March.

Wednesday Total: $0.67.

Thursday

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Y’all. I was so tired on Thursday night. D has a standing meeting on Thursdays so I headed to my parents directly from work. I was there until 7pm-ish and did homework until 8:15pm, when I promptly got into bed and zoned out with some Desperate Housewives (I’m newly re-addicted). So, a super-easy way to not spend any money!

Thursday Total: $0.00

Friday

IMG_8403

I didn’t get any good pictures of Friday night because I was too busy enjoying myself. D and I went to Chik-fil-a, which is somewhere we went to when we thought all was good with their donating and since the more recent news, we’ve stopped going. But, from before now, we had reward points, so we went and had a free dinner and then to our friends’ house. We picked up the girl scout cookies we ordered in February and a set for my parents. Delish!

Friday Total: $0.00

Saturday

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On Saturday, I spent the most of the entire week! My bff and I try to get coffee once a month, and this Saturday we went to Biggby for basically the entire morning, 7am – 2pm! Seriously everything my soul needed. I’m not even kidding. We laughed and cried and it was pretty perfect and totally worth the cost of three coffees – $16.82. This was an eye-opener for me, y’all. Because, legit, on Tuesday, I spent almost $5 less to go out to dinner!

So, I’m never going to stop getting coffee with my bestie, but I’m definitely going to think twice before getting the sugary kind.

Saturday Total: $16.82.

Grand Total

$15.23 + $0.67 + $16.82 = $32.72

So, in order to figure out what I saved, I had to figure out what I usually spend on things that aren’t groceries and gas. So I went through five weeks of spending and averaged it. The average for five weeks: $152.83

When I found that number I was horrified. If you multiply that by the 52 weeks that are in a year, you get $7,947.16.

Y’all. That’s a car, a vacation, half a down payment on a house. Holy smokes.

With a grand total of $32.72, I saved $120.11, which if you multiply by 52 weeks you get $6245.72.

So, I definitely will be doing this again hahaha. I don’t know that it’s realistic to do this every week – D and I like to go out to dinner. But I don’t seek why I couldn’t be more intentional about saving.

I think I’ll track this for the month of March and I’ll let y’all know what I come up with at the end! For now, this savings is going straight into my savings account and I am thrilled.

For more posts about budgeting, you can find all the posts here.

A. Rose (1)

 

 

How to Budget When Your Income Fluctuates

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time. 

Like this topic or just want to know more? You can find the full series here


I’ve been thinking lately about the fitness / wellness posting that I’ve been doing and how it’s easy to think that’s my main priority if you don’t know me. I recently told a friend that one of my primary motivating feelings is safety: I do certain things because I want to feel safe – particularly, because I want to feel financially safe. Even exercising and eating healthy is, in some ways, about that: healthy people spend less money on doctors, etc. As I was explaining this to him, I found myself saying that is the topic that I really want to focus on here.

Changing Income

So, a little background about me: I currently am in, essentially, a salaried job. I get paid hourly, but I have enough and accrue enough PTO throughout the year that I haven’t had to go without full pay since I started working here three and a half years ago. I also work Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. This is really dreamy, but wasn’t always the case.

For the majority of my adult life I was either worked a shift job as my full-time job, or I was working two jobs and one of them was a shift job. So, for nine of the last 12 years, my income has changed week-to-week. When I wrote this post about budgeting when you don’t make a lot, I think that what I really wanted to talk about was how to budget when your income changes. So, let’s get started.

*Quick note: I am using whole numbers because it’s easier. You’ll want to look at your pay stubs to figure out how much gets taken out for taxes. I typically assume that about 10% is being taken out for taxes and that helps me to always come in under budget.

Figure Out Your Minimum

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Let’s say that I make $10/hour.

Usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400.

The key word there is “usually.”

Sometimes, I work as few as 5 hours a day, four days a week. Sometimes, I work as much as 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Track back through the last six months and figure out the week you worked the least amount of hours because that was what you were scheduled for. If you worked zero hours because you were on vacation or sick, that doesn’t count.

In this example, the least I worked was 5 hours a day for 4 days a week. 5 x 4 = 20, so 20 hours a week. I make $10/hour, so 20 x $10 = $200. $200 a week for four weeks, $200 x 4 = $800.

That $800 is what I need to base my budget on.

Fixed rates

From there, I figure out what’s a fixed rate. Usually, rent is a fixed rate, or has a “base rate” if you look at your monthly statement. Some common “fixed” rates are:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Cable
  • Credit Card payment
  • Insurance(s)

For this example, I’m going to use even numbers because it’s easier to do math that way. Let’s say that your fixed rates look like this:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40

If we add those things together, we get $370. So then, we subtract $370 from $800.

$800 – $370 = $430

Variable Rates

With the remaining $430, we want to overestimate the remaining categories of the budget. Those categories might be things like:

  • Gas
  • Food
  • Fun Money
  • Miscellaneous
  • Savings

For two people, we would divide that up to look something like this:

  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

$150 + $250 + $15 + $5 + $10 = $430

Every single dollar is accounted for. That’s really important. When we don’t have things categories, we spend it on stuff we don’t need. I’m sure there’s psychology behind why we do that – and if you know why, I would love to know! I just know that when I don’t have money in a bucket, I spend it, instead of saving it.

I was told that you should pay yourself first, meaning that you should put into savings before you do anything else. I think that’s a great goal to strive toward. I also think  it isn’t always realistic. There have been many times in my life where after gas and food, I had $11 that got swept into savings. I think the important thing is to always put something – even if it’s 50 cents – into savings. This helps create the habit so that when you do have a surplus, it gets put away.

What about when I make more?

Yep. I know. The burning question.

First, it’s important to talk about why it was based on the least amount you made: You have to have a game-plan for those weeks. If you go into a week where you’re working half what you usually work with no game plan, you’re just going to be panicked the whole entire time. But if you’ve got a game plan, you can more forward just a little bit freaked, rather than full-blown panicking. Ya feel?

So, in the example, we said usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400. $400 per week for four weeks… $400 x 4 = $1600.

That’s literally double.

What I did that saved my tail is that I doubled up on the things with variable rates (and actually sometimes quadruple the miscellaneous category) and instead of doubling the fixed rate items, I tossed that into savings. Let me show you what the original budget looked like and then I’ll show you what it looks like with double the income.

Original, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $20 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $250 + $20 + $15 + $5 = $800.

Doubled, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20 + $20 = $40 (I’m assuming $20 is a minimum payment)
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250 + $250 = $500
  • Fun Money: $15 + $15 = $30
  • Miscellaneous: $5 + $15 = $20
  • Savings: $25 + 485 = $510

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $40 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $500 + $30 + $20 + $485= $1600.

So, those may not be super realistic numbers because probably your car insurance is more than $60 per month. And, maybe there’s a month you have three kids birthdays in a row so you need to put less in fun / savings and more into miscellaneous. Also, if you have debt hanging out on your credit score, you may opt to throw money there rather than into savings. Whatever, you do, make sure that money is assigned a name.

Also, I understand that things are not going always be as clean as it just doubling. I recommend adding more money to food first and then adding to the other categories because food lasts the longest (longer than a fun night out, for example).

The trick is to not add too much (so that extra is going into savings) and to spend to your limit.

I know it feels weird to put money into savings when you have a hole in your shoe and haven’t gone out to eat in three months. Your savings account is what keeps you from literally becoming homeless if you get sick, lose your job or your car dies. Your savings account handles the big picture while the rest of your budget is about the day-to-day details.

Hopefully, this process, done enough months in a row will make it so that you don’t have to borrow against the future.

How Can You Possibly Spend that Much on Food?

The answer is: not eating out.

You totally could spend double your budget by eating out, but then when your income suddenly plummets, you and your family will be very hungry.

So, if you all of a sudden have double the amount to spend on food, buy extra of things that go in the freezer – meats and frozen fruits and veggies, not pizza rolls. I also highly recommend that you purchase things like cough syrup and stomach aids when you have extra – those things sneak up on us when we’re sick and so it’s wise to have them in the house. Especially if being sick means you’re not working!

Take stock of your life and figure out what you use often – or what you don’t use often that is a quarter full. Things like salt and spices keep for a really long time, so buy an extra.

Spend ahead as best you can and when you’re maxed out on kitchen space, I also recommend buying for holidays way ahead of time, especially for adults. If you have space, I also encourage you to buy extra shampoo, soap (of all kinds – body, dish, laundry), socks, underwear and even shoes if you have a kind you love. My father buys shirts on sale and saves them until one he’s already wearing has a hole in it. Things like reusable travel containers also help cut down on disposable sandwich bags, etc. The same with washcloths instead of paper towels.

If, at the end of the month, you’ve spent $450 instead of $500, go out to eat if you want. Or put it into savings. Either one is fine – I’m not going to judge you and you shouldn’t either.

This Post Left Me with 1,000 Question

I feel you. I tried to keep this as simple as possible, but I know it’s not easy. I would love to hear questions, feedback and corrections!

You can comment down below, email me at intricatelyimperfect@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram.

I would absolutely LOVE to do an entire post of just your questions about money!

Happy saving, my friends!A. Rose (1)

How to Budget When You’re (Close to) Broke

Ahhhh… Money. Everyone’s favorite topic, right?

Ugh.

It’s one of my least favorite things to talk about. But as I’ve been writing these posts, I’ve realized how much of my behavior is dictated by trying to save money in these little ways. So I thought it might be helpful to write these things down. Maybe make a little series of it.

Here’s the thing though: I’m not a financial adviser or banker or accountant. I’m just a young person who has mostly worked in education and has only managed to make over $11 / hour in the last two year years. If you need serious financial counsel, I highly recommend you consult a professional. But if you just want to learn how to not be freaked out about money all the time, these tips might help.

Copy of Christmas in September

There’s a lot out there on how to make a little side money, and things that people will tell you (like turning off lights in the room you’re not in) to pinch pennies and legit – those things are great and I definitely recommend that you do them.

But there’s this other piece that people don’t know about, I think: how to not feel afraid when it’s time to pay the rent; how to purchase groceries in a way to make sense; and how to still be able to go out with your friends everyone once in a while.

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I’ll be real honest: its taken me almost six months to write this because the topic of money stresses me out so much. So we’re in this fear together. Let’s start with the real game-changer: actually making a budget.

What’s a budget?

A budget is a detailed list of expected income / expenses. Your income and expenses should match. Start by listing every expense you can think of. For me this looks something like this:

Rent
Utilities
Cable & Internet
Credit Card
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money
Misc.

Note: You always want to have a “misc” category – that’s where things like birthday presents come from.

Then, add in the “fixed” rates. So let’s say we have $1000 to work with (because that’s easier). Fill-in what you know isn’t going to change:

Rent: $400
Utilities
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10 (I know I’ll need X amount of money each semester, so I set a small amount aside each month)
Misc.

That’s $515, so you have $485 left over. Next, overestimate each of your monthly bills.

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

Notice the things that aren’t bills. Those are the things you can flex and challenge yourself to bring down.

So now, we’re at $615, meaning we have $385 leftover. I typically do gas before food, because gas gets me to the job that lets me buy the food. I also have a lengthy commute. If you don’t, or if you have a family to feed, you might need to do food first. Estimate how much you think you spend each month on those things:

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas: $60
Food: $100
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

So now we’re at $775, meaning we have $225 leftover. So, that looks like a lot of money to have fun with. Except we’ve only listed expenses. We haven’t listed savings. Month-to-month, my Fun, Fun food, and Misc category change.

There are seven birthdays in the first two weeks of August, so July has a pretty big Misc. section, but Fun as like, $10 in it because I spend so much time just being outside (which is free).

You can do this two ways: you can decide you’re going to save a specific amount and the remainder goes to fun, or you can decide you’re going to spend a specific amount and the remainder goes to savings.

Giving you the option is really counter to what literally everyone says about money, including my dad who taught me how to make a budget.

What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that you will never stick to a budget that isn’t honest. For most of my life, my Fun Food category was four times the size of my actual Food category because I hated cooking. It didn’t feel “grown up” to have things arranged that way, but it did keep me in check.

Those are the basics. What do you think? What about this is scary or feels good or is both at the same time?

A. Rose (1)

Limiting your Wordrobe

When I wrote this day in the life post, I talked about having a limited amount of clothing options for work.

The truth is, I sort of generally have a limited amount of clothing options.

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I try not to have more than 5 work outfits that work in all temperatures and then 5 work outfits per season (season for this Florida girl is defined as hot and not hot) and 4 “play” outfits. So 14 outfits in rotation at a time. Of course, you can mix and match pants / jeans / tops, and I do own six cardigans. But that’s it.

I own two pairs of jeans, grey and black slacks (one pair each) and three skirts (jean, black and grey). Everything else is dresses, and I typically only have 4-5 per season.

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My family and friends are always like “Hoooooowwwww?” and “Whyyyyyyy?” because it’s definitely not common to operate this way.

What really happened is that I hate laundry.

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I started out the way most people do: by getting rid of clothes I don’t like or don’t wear, but I still found myself doing six to eight loads at a time! As a single person, that’s nutty. What was happening is that I hate it so much that I just wasn’t doing it, so it built up and turned into this monster task that took forever and reinforced how awful it is to me.

So, I started to think about how my sister told me once that dreadlocks were a sign of giving up the sin of vanity. I’ve always loved that idea. And I love the idea of not regularly supporting a society that tells me that I must have the current trend, the prettiest hair, the best of everything.

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I like certain things that I don’t really want to give up; things like my Pandora bracelet, flowy dresses and nail polish. I’m not trying to go rogue with my look. But this amount of clothing works for me and picking out an outfit for work in the morning isn’t hard because there are so few things to choose from.

The truth is: I love to get dressed up. I love to window shop and create and come up with a style. Love it. And if my schedule were more laid back, I would probably bring in some more options. Maybe. I seriously hate laundry that much,  y’all.

Mixture of Whites

But one thing I’ve learned from a combo of time and reading (shout out to you sharing your journey, Megan, it’s made a huge difference to me!) and getting older, it’s that need to feel good. I need to look in the mirror and like what I see when I have no clothing on at all.

Learning how to embrace my body has made me care both more and less about what clothes I put on it. I insist on high quality, only wear things that are comfortable, and require they be adorable. But, I also don’t need gobs of clothing like I used to because it’s my body that’s great, not my closet. My wallet thanks me for this.

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Now, if having a lot of clothing is important to you and you don’t mind (or have to do) the laundry that goes with it then rock ‘n’ roll – keep it up and keep doing what you love the way you love it!

I’d like to know – how do you keep your closet feeling fresh and clean? What kinds of things do you love that are in there? What’s your relationship with your clothes?

A. Rose (1)

Planner Inspiration

I basically live my life in my amazing planner.

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This system of putting to do lists over the top of the actual dates isn’t 100% the greatest. It’s been fine this summer, as I’m not taking classes, because I end up using a smaller sticky note and just have one. But the above photo is what my planner pretty much always looked like. #nothelpful

So, I’ve been thinking about making my own. Is that crazypants?

I started searching the internet for ideas.

I know that I mostly use the weekly view to list meetings, appointments and assignment due dates.

I basically don’t use the monthly view for anything, but I do make use of it.

I like the idea of having a little weekly planning page like this one:

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And some kind of meal planning page would be good, especially for during the school year:

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Montly meal plan NO logo

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I also love this financial challenge spreadsheet:

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And any kind of goal setting is also amazing:

goal planner
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Phew. That’s a lot. What do you all think? Is it crazy to create my own planner?

A. Rose (1)

& Cookies, July Part I

I’ve been an avid blog reader for the last six years and my favorite posts are always the personal, here’s-my-life-in-the-last-month-rounded-up kinds of things. I was thinking about this, and about my cousins son whose favorite time of the day is Cookie Time, where he, his mom and his grandma have milk and cookies. So I was thinking about the idea of having milk and cookies with people I like, but I stopped being able to drink milk around age 25, so here we are: & cookies.

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I got to start off this passed weekend with D’s parents and two nephews. They came over for tacos and stayed for laughs. Those two boys love hanging out with “Uncle D” and playing games, and they’re great little helpers in the kitchen!
No AC pro-tip: put a fan in the kitchen, for the love of all that is good.

I did some hardcore grocery shopping: 3 stores, 2 hours, 1 month worth of food, including cat food (not including weekly perishable purchases): under $140! I’ve talked quite a bit about grocery shopping here and here. But I don’t know that I’ve really given an overview of how I’ve managed to bring my grocery bill down as far as it is. Maybe I’ll do that sometime soon; would that be interesting to you?

The other piece is that I got this Tide Ultra and successfully got D’s work pants (read: jeans that are coated in layers of motor oil) clean after just one wash! I can’t even believe it. It was like the laundry version of Christmas!

Black

I went Downtown with my adorable, amazing bestie this week. She’s basically the greatest mom of three. When she isn’t working, she’s doing things for others. It felt really good to facilitate a little mini-vacay for her. How happy she is in the picture above: that’s how much she smiled the rest of the time.

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These are the incredible skills of my cat, the Pirate King, who has been waking me up by screaming non-stop every morning. Ugh. Do you know cats that do that? What causes it? He gets fed in the evening, including treats. Maybe he just wants snuggles?

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And, of course, I had to include some 4th of July fun! My sister and I spent too long in the pool, followed by D and I spending too long in the pool, followed by more pool. Wanna know the key to a Florida girls heart? It’s swimming.

I should probably say some stuff about sunscreen and not letting yourself get melanoma buuuuut….

 

Have a great weekend, folks!

A. Rose (1)