Written by Lori Robinson
Illustration by Madison Otten
If Super Bowl LIV and other wintertime festivities blew your dietary New Year’s resolutions out of the water, I’m here to help you get your house back in order. Why, you say? Because I want to get my own house in order by establishing a personal budget and could use a forum in which to compare ideas with my fellow students. What’s more I hope to show others, who may be as averse as I once was to the world of low math, that budgeting is good for us; it helps us examine what we are doing, set goals, and figure out how to get where we want to go.
In the next few months, I plan on launching an independent business, so I had better get used to handling the budget. I can process a new business launch because I’ve done it before — and failed — mostly because I didn’t know how to keep the books. But success is built on failure and my online studies for certificates in bookkeeping and tax preparation from Front Range just might set me straight.
Here’s a way to get the ball rolling: consider the idea that a budget is a living document. It changes from day to day, just as do our diets. That, to me, is good news. Once upon a time, I thought that because I budgeted a certain amount for a certain expense, the sky would fall if I changed that amount based on actual usage. I saw that what I budgeted and what I spent did not match so I got discouraged easily, gave up, and ran around feeling bad about myself because of it. The moral of this paragraph? Like diet and exercise, I need to adjust the budget and keep paying attention to what I make (or eat when it comes to diet) and what I spend (or work off with exercise).
Example: It’s the beginning of the month. I just got paid. One minor interjection, however. Last semester a brilliant professor bestowed upon my classmates and me this elegant advice: Start where you are. Simple genius! I extrapolated on this wisdom because I’m a hedonistic procrastinator, but not to the point of complete self destruction, luckily. My extrapolation is to start where you are when it’s a good time to start. For example: I was going to start my budget Jan. 1. I was on vacation Jan. 1 through Jan. 8. My youngest son and I had a spending budget of $100 a day. We nailed it! Came in under budget. Excellent. Do I typically spend $100 daily in my normal daily life? Absolutely not. More like $100 every two weeks after my regular income less fixed expenses.
Let’s take a look at what the numbers are like when I’m not on vacation.
A sound budget is built on actual income and expenditures so the first step in budgeting is tracking those items. We do this in the general journal, which is the book of original entry and reads chronologically through time. I made my own form on my computer and printed it out so I could keep my journal by hand.
My goal was to have approximately $100 left over after weekend grocery expenditures. I came out two cents shy of my target budget — pretty much on point.
I want to mention housing expenses for a moment because I have set an important goal of getting a place of my own — no roommates. Therefore, I have to work more and spend more on my fixed expenses of rent and utilities. But that’s where budgeting helps! This is exciting news. That small business I’m launching soon has to generate enough supplemental income to help me afford my own place. In the meantime, for the next few weeks, I’m going to track my income and expenditures because those are going to generate my personal budget.
Let’s connect in March! I look forward to sharing my budding fiscal adventures with you. Also if you have any observations of your own to share, please do in the comments below. Best wishes for happy finances until we meet again.
p.s. Want to get your diet back on track after Super Bowl Sunday and other wintertime indulgences? Think of calories as dollars except do all you can to ‘spend’ on exercise and daily chores everything you’ve taken in. Do well!