Until this year, I never really lived on an official budget. I figured that as long as my bank account had a positive balance each month, I was doing okay. I made sure to save a decent portion of my salary, I opened a 401(k), and I only shopped at Banana Republic when I had coupons. I thought that was pretty good for an early-20-something.
Then I got married, and am quickly turning into a late-20-something. The last year we continued to give ourselves a pass, roughly keeping track of our money but not really monitoring our spend. We told ourselves things would turn around after the wedding and honeymoon, and decided on a date of January 1 to come up with an actionable budget and start sticking to it.
It’s been enlightening, to say the least, to see how our actual spending differs from our perceptions. (And we maybe had our first married argument?) Our budget was driven primarily by the fact that we want to start saving significantly more than we have been — when the time comes to buy a house or start a family, I don’t want to look back and wish we made a few more sacrifices at this point in our lives. Then, we segmented our spending into categories and picked a target $ amount for each. We knew there was a lot of fluff in our spending, so for us, we wanted to come up with goals that were reasonable, but would make us think long and hard before making certain purchases.
We made it through January relatively on point — it was, to be honest, draining to constantly think about and compare to the budget, but overall I’m still energized and excited to keep aiming for our target numbers each month. I’ll be chronicling some of our biggest budget busters, differing opinions, and choices we have to make as we go. This is one “New Year’s Resolution” that I’m making sure becomes habit.
I’d love to hear how you’re approaching budgeting in 2013, and if you have any strategies to share!