Tuesday, August 03, 2010

budget or bust

seeing green
let's talk about money.

we all know that money can't buy love (or happiness). but having enough of it around NOT to stress about it sure helps.

medical training is an interesting experience, financially. you go through years of scraping by, often with loans and no true income to speak of. then comes residency -- with a real monthly paycheck!

it's certainly not a gigantic paycheck (and in my opinion, not a paycheck to match the amount of hours/blood/sweat/tears that goes into the job). however, coming from the lean years of school, what we get as residents feels pretty clutch!

josh and i live in a one-bedroom apartment and drive 8 year old (non-gas-guzzling) cars. we don't have cable or smartphones (yet). neither of us frequent starbucks. we've never had anyone come to help clean (i'd rather scrub the toilets myself and receive 'payment' in anthro goodness). i bring my lunch to work every day.

but i am typing this on my new mac book pro. we go out to eat a lot, and i buy 90%+ of our groceries at whole foods. we take nice vacations (usually one big one per year). i spend a small fortune on my hair and i've certainly laid down a few bucks at anthro.

we do have a savings account that i have declared VERBOTEN (ie: do not touch!) and we put away money into retirement funds each month. but i'm not going to lie -- we've had some pretty epic credit card bills recently. things seem to be balancing out all right for now, but there are changes on the horizon, namely:

we will most likely be moving to durham in a year or so, and we may need a bit more space (which costs $)

hopefully, by that time, we will be undertaking the most expensive endeavor of our lives.

so rather than wait until it's too late, i think that now might be a good time to take stock and think about our spending. josh agrees, and he suggested that this be a month to just pay attention to our habits so that in the end we could work on drafting a budget that fits our current (and hopefully future) lifestyle.

therefore: this week's HP goal will be creating a system to track our spending for a little while, and just being more cognizant of day-to-day purchases.

do you have a budget, or do you freestyle it like we do? any suggestions for tracking or money-saving habits that you have found invaluable? i would not consider myself financially savvy in any way, shape, or form, so i'm definitely open to any advice!

so: am i wrong for posting a few of my favorite sale items just listed at anthro last night?

(if so: i don't want to be right. and remember -- just because i post it doesn't mean i buy it!)

faint lines tee, $30 from $45. an easily transitional tee.

akira tank, $40 from $68. just sculptural enough.

the annika cardigan, $40 from $88, looks to be quite a practical piece.

i often have trouble with these long cardis on my short frame, but the shadowsleeve cardigan, $40 from $78, still entices.

ooh, and so does the delicate winds cardigan, at $40 from $68.

now, i have absolutely no need for more dresses at this point. but that doesn't mean that you all aren't in the market for a late-season wedding or party frock!
get the pretty graphical dress for a mere $60, from $128.

or rock some stripes in this super-flattering perilla dress, $60 from $128.

actually, i was just talking to my shopaholic sister about objectively going through each other's closets and mercilessly weeding things out/identifying gaps before fall. i never venture to the grocery store without a list, and yet this logic never applies when i hit the mall! hmmm.


  1. i'm definitely a freestyler. sometimes i want to change (in fact, i set up the whole mint.com thing though it doesn't seem to be working all that well with canadian banks just yet), but we don't spend that much and i do put away a big biweekly chunk into various savings accounts (for house buying, retirement, etc) so i'm not too worried. i don't think i could do that much better by tracking.

    those anthro finds are gorg!!

  2. Marcie9:06 AM

    mint.com.....life changer

  3. Hi Sarah, enjoyed this budget post! We also have a frugal/not frugal budget divide in that I cloth diaper, we don't have cable, and we live in a tiny half of a duplex, but we also travel often to see far-away family and friends and I spend too much money on groceries, as I love to cook. Anyway, Quicken has worked well for us. You can link your debit card (s) and credit cards to the program and then you "approve" transactions to review your budget--what I like about it is that I have to click on "accept" for every transaction to post into our account (takes one second) and it really helps me to realize exactly how much is being spent. There are tons of other feature--monthly budget reports, etc. We really like it!

  4. I use Pearbudget, which is cheap ($3/month) but you have to enter everything in by hand. This usually takes me about 10-15 minutes/week and I do it first thing Monday morning because that's when (most) everything from the weekend clears. We are like you and the above commenters in that we are frugal in many ways (living arrangements, no fancy gadgets, etc) but also go out too much and spend too much on groceries. I think we have naturally found a happy balance between saving and spending, but we will definitely have to re-evaluate when baby time rolls around.

  5. I kind of wing it, I suppose...I had a budget laid out initially, but in general I'm not a big spender so I tend to just get what I want. I don't watch prices at the grocery store and if I decide I "need" something, I get it. It's usually practical stuff like running shoes and such. That being said, my credit card bills have been big this summer! With vacations and such, those really add up! However, I think I spend more during the summer than I do during the winter, and I'm still saving a little money, so I figure I'm okay. Also, as my father told me when I was really nervous about booking my recent vacation, "This what you work for. You don't work so money will sit in your bank account." I definitely don't live paycheck to paycheck, and there's certainly a time to watch your bank account grow (looking to buy a house, thinking about having kids, etc), but spending my hard earned money on vacation was WELL worth it.

    Annnd speaking of spending money, I love that first Anthro shirt! I may have to head to your old neck of the woods to check it out. :)

  6. There was definitely a time in graduate school where after I used my student loan money for tuition, rent, electricity, groceries, gas, etc, I only had $20 left a week. To keep myself in budget, I had that money in cash and once it was gone from my wallet, that was it - no more spending allowed!
    Mint.com is also helpful -- you can set budgets for different areas of your life (I made one for coffee!) and if you overspend, you get an email letting you know that you went over your coffee budget by x amount.

  7. Anonymous11:36 AM

    Allen and I have been following a simple budget ($200 week for anything non-bill related, including food/gas) for the past few weeks to save up extra cash for our trip. I can't believe what a huge difference it's made when it comes to our bank account!

  8. I actually do this for a living :) But we recommend Mint.com as an easy budget tool...I also use it myself! It's great to bring together all accounts, see your net worth easily, and create individual budgets. They even email you when you go over and they have an iPhone app. I can email you some budget sheets, debt snowball excel files, etc. if you want.

  9. We use Microsoft Money (though I've heard good things about mint.com). Albert enters EVERY receipt (there is no hiding of any purchases from him!) into Money and each expense is categorized (dining, entertainment, household, travel, etc.). There is a pie chart view that allows you to see exactly where you are spending your money. You would love it! It is also linked to all of our savings accounts/mutual funds, etc. so we know our exact net worth at all times. I'm sure mint.com or Quicken have similar functionality. It isn't that much work to enter your receipts - we just do it about once/week. BTW, bought a skirt on sale at Antro last weekend and I thought of you :)

  10. Anonymous5:06 PM

    I know that you have discussed the value of time in your other posts, but I think you need to address the relationship of time with money. For instance, right now you are happier spending your time scrubbing toilets, so you can feel you can rationalize spending on Anthro. At some point, however, there may not be enough time to do that and attend to you new "time-sucker" (bambino)!! So hiring to get your home even minimally clean may become your new necessity. You will then need to re-prioritize your expenditures. Also, not having to scrub toilets may become worth much more, when you realize how much less time you will have overall when your baby takes over!!

  11. First of all, super exciting expensive endeavor!

    Secondly, my DH and I have a system we like. We have a joint checking acct into which our paychecks go. From that, we pay the bills - rent, cable, insurance etc - and put $$ into savings. From that we also allocate $x into each of our own separate checking accts. The money in our separate accts in ours for the two weeks, for groceries, gas and fun things. It basically keeps us within limits. We don't spend more than that in 2 weeks unless it's for something special. It also allows us keep money separate so we can buy each other gifts without it showing up as an Anthro purchase by Josh in the joint acct. It prevents us from having to document every.little.purchase. but also permits us to make Starbucks stops or whatever we please. We got this idea from a friend it's worked great so far!

  12. thank you all for the advice! i want to take more time to respond specifically, but i just want to clarify that i am definitely NOT pregnant right now (sorry if that was at all misleading!). hopefully at some point though . . .

  13. free form! my two goals re money are:
    1. live within my means (ie, spend less than i make)
    2. enjoy myself

    i can usually accomplish both with minimal planning. time spent on budgeting is time that i'm not taking to do other things.

  14. So I've decided that at some point we MUST visit Anthro together.

  15. I love the faint lines tee!
    I use mint.com, but I'm totally with you on buying items of clothing, not looking at my wardrobe as a whole, and ending up with big empty spots :( In conclusion, lists win!

  16. atilla11:40 PM

    here's a foolproof tip from the old generation so I will confirm for a fact it works. Always pay your retirement plan or IRA before you spend money on anything else. Thirty years from now you'll be glad.