I like being in control of my life and I hope you do too. Money and consuming are the things that we could, and in my opinion, should control. For many of you, budgeting might be scary, or too mathematical, or boring, but it doesn’t have to be. I have been writing down every single item I spend my money on for a few years now, and I like it a lot for the following reasons:
- I know myself and my priorities. For example, most of my money is spent on travelling, and one-third of my food budget is spent on cosmetics.
- I feel like I am prepared for anything. I could quickly calculate my budget in case of money shortage: this would be my rent, 90% of the normal food budget, my phone bill and a few other things.
- I know how much things cost so I can compare prices in different countries, cities, or shops.
- Having a budget boosts my confidence. I feel responsible, reliable and organized. And, I don’t put too much effort into it!
If you have never had a budget, I would recommend starting to track your expense for at least 2 weeks. Break down the categories that are relevant for you and try writing down every night how much money you spent. It absolutely doesn’t have to be the exact sum, just an estimate. If you see that you spent some money on something you don’t remember, just put it into category “other” or “don’t remember”. Don’t stress too much over it! After doing so for 2 or more weeks you’d be surprised. I am sure you will learn so much about yourself. You could learn that grocery shopping is not that expensive (I spend about £90 a month on mine), and your category “other” is so big you would want to categorize it further. But you will know yourself and your needs to forecast better.
It’s ok if you find out you spent more on something that you feel is “adequate”. We all have our personal priorities! I could absolutely save more if I wasn’t travelling. But I never regret the money spent on it. This is something that I enjoy doing and it’s worth every penny. It could be anything you like, even going out with your friends at night. Just know the average monthly sum you spend on it and don’t blame yourself for wasting money. Money could make you happy in this case and they work for you. You are tracking your money to own your life and not to shame yourself.
When it comes to grocery shopping, I also have a few tips on how to spend less and have enough food. I fill out a meal plan every week, but you don’t have too. What you could do is look at your schedule and see when you are at university or volunteering etc during lunch or dinner time. You would probably want to have some food with you. Doing this every weekend you will know how many ingredients for your home meal you will need, or if you prefer eating out, how much money to plan on it. Look at your week and imagine where you’ll be when you get hungry.
When you track your expenses, you will naturally start to remember how much things cost and would be able to compare prices in different shops or different types of food to each other. Before going for groceries, you could see what you need and how much it will cost. Also, importantly, don’t go there hungry! You will end up buying more than you need. Also, it’s good to have some stock at home with your go-to foods. So, in case of emergency (or the snow storm!), you’re not going to starve. Have some pasta or beans stocked. I like to have some non-sweet cookies stashed because they are good for everything. They can be sweet with jam or salty with butter, your travel food, or the food when you are craving carbohydrates.
I like saving money, and my rule of the thumb is to save 10% of my monthly budget. You could create a separate category for this if you like. I won’t try to persuade you to do this – you probably already know why this is good already. Again, this is a simple thing that could make you feel more confident.
As for the tools, you could do this on your mobile phone, bullet journal, bank app or old reliable Excel spreadsheet, as I do. It’s up to you! For me, tracking my expenses and setting up my monthly budget is a ritual and I do it automatically.
I feel like the budget exists, so we could afford more, not so we mourn over the lack of money. I Hope this inspires you to try it!