Don’t get me wrong, I like what money can get me (Lilly dresses, Elizabeth McKay blouses, Kate Spade earrings, Tory flats, iced lattes, etc.), but I don’t like money itself. I like cards. I like paying for something with a card. I give you something and you give it right back to me. See, in my head, I don’t feel like I really gave you anything at all. You just looked at it and gave it right back.
When I began my new job, my parents sat me down to talk about money. They offered that I could live with them for 6-12 months as an opportunity to build a healthy savings account. “Savings.” I don’t like that word.
They helped me put together a budget in Excel, listing each item that would need to be paid for every month. As I looked through these numbers, I could feel my heart begin to race, my palms begin to sweat. At the end there was a chunk of money left over. Then, they asked me how much I’d want to ideally have saved before I moved out. I gave them a figure. We then calculated how much I needed to save each month in order to achieve my savings goal. Any money that was leftover was my “spending.” I like that word.
The next hurdle was figuring out how to stretch that amount over each week. How would I hold myself accountable to not go over that set amount? In a dream world, if I reached for a new pair of shoes I technically couldn’t afford, the budget police would magically appear and tackle me to the ground, holding me back from those beautiful new Tory boots that would look oh so cute with everything I own. Sigh. I looked into Mint.com because from what I’d heard, it sounded like the electronic budget police I had in my head; however, once I researched further, it was yet another long list of things to fill out in finite detail: happy hour budget, coffee budget, etc. By now, after looking at all these numbers, I’m feeling dizzy and need some water and a lap around the house.
Let me be clear, it’s not that I don’t have enough money to get through each month. I do. The cold hard truth is that numbers, money and budgeting freaks me out. Like none other.
I wish I could escape to a commune where if I do this much work for you, you allow me to live here and eat. Perfect scenario. Except they probably wouldn’t have Lilly and do communes have mailboxes? I’d need some way for my Elle and Vogue magazines to arrive each month. OK, maybe that’s a terrible idea.
Back to reality.
Last week I went to happy hour with a friend who thank goodness had the perfect solution to my anxious feelings about budgeting. Just explaining money and numbers and budgets to her caused my anxiety to rise. Her solution? Cash. She suggested that the lump sum I mentioned was my “spending” amount be cashed out and put into envelopes, one for each week. The cash in the envelope for each week would be all I was allotted to spend for everything, no more micro-budgeting (like with Mint). As she explained the system that she had used and loved, I literally felt my anxiety plummet. Relief. Cash. I can do that, because when I pay for something, I give someone something and they give me back less. As the week goes on, the money in the envelope will dwindle. She said, I’d learn how to make that amount stretch and I’d prioritize my spending. The bonus (quite literally)? She said that she discovered that there were some weeks that she didn’t end up spending all the money in her weekly envelope, so she set that money aside in a separate envelope. She added to that envelope whenever there was leftover cash. In a month or so she discovered quite the stash and allowed herself a shopping trip. Brilliant. I was relieved and thrilled. A plan that I knew would set me up for success.
I realize that if ever there were ever a time to learn how to be wise with money, it’s now. Especially given the opportunity to save and live with my parents. I’m young, I’m single and no one is dependent upon me for anything. This is the BEST time.
Oh, and my credit card? I’m handing it over to the parents, aka putting it under lock and key.
So that’s the plan folks. And I’m going to stick to it. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Do you struggle with budgeting?
What system do you use?