Making a Real First-Time Monthly Budget

Checking my bank balance is literally a nightmare that always ruins my day. I usually try to be active about when I check it — making sure I’m in a good mood and could take a blow. It’s not a great way to feel about my banking situation and I’m trying hard to get better. I guess I need a budget.

Whenever I complain about my financial issues with my friends and family they always say: “Steven, you need to make a budget.” And I agree, a budget sounds like a really good idea. I’m onboard. But — actually sitting down a making one? And facing my actual life and what I actually spend money on? That’s scary. I’m not feeling that. But hey. We’re getting better. We’re admitting that something’s not right and we need to change it.

I probably need to stop eating out every night and taking cabs home on the weekend. I get it. Let’s break this down into a real budget and I’ll walk you through all the crap I spend my money on, and hopefully you can use this to map our your own mess of a bank account.

The Goal

My goal for this exercise is to break down my spending into manageable chunks, and see what I need to cut down on, or eliminate, and how those choices can benefit me positively.

We’re Doing It

Okay, let’s get so real so fast that I feel embarrassed. I don’t make a lot of money. This poses a challenge in the sense that in the city I live in it’s hard to be alive and under a roof if you don’t make a million dollars a year. I make $21,600. Luckily, I can depend a bit on freelance work I do as a video editor and videographer: this doesn’t pay a lot at the moment but I can depend on around $500/month from this revenue. This gives me a total of around $2,200 a month.

Here are the hard costs per month that I can’t avoid:

Rent: $1,200

Electricity: $15

Phone: $51

Internet: $57

Medical: $46

Groceries: $200

Transport: $40

Bank Fees: $20

Total: $1,629

Yikes! Okay. We’re okay. We’re fine. Don’t stress out. I’m a good person.

Subscriptions:

  • Spotify: $10
  • Dropbox: $10
  • Netflix: $10
  • Adobe Premiere: $20

Total: $50

Alright, so that’s up to around $1,700. This leaves me with $500 to put toward my credit card, buy clothes with and go out for dinner on the weekends, right? That sounds doable? Then why am I struggling so much?

This month I only spent $60 on clothes, and I barely went out on the weekends. I bought the occasional 6-pack to bring to friends’ houses, which I estimate was around $80. I also received around $800 in my tax return that I applied directly to my credit card. So where did the other $370 go?

Well, after a depressing stroll through my emailed receipts… I’ve reached a conclusion that honestly is making me feel like a gross monster. This month I spent $366 on takeout food. Pizza and sushi. They’re my vices! I want to be well! We’re getting there, it’s okay.

Conclusion

So ultimately, I need to cut out takeout food and eat at home instead. That’s the obvious headline of this exercise. However, I’m also cutting some small costs that can’t hurt: I’m getting rid of Netflix, and my paid Dropbox subscription. I subscribed to Dropbox when I was doing freelance full-time, and now I don’t need it as much.

I’m also actively looking for a new job, and also pursuing a raise at my current job. I’m just not making enough right now to feel very comfortable — so hopefully that leads me somewhere nice. I’ll keep you updated.

I want to be well. It’s cool. We’re not going to eat takeout. It’s going to be good. We’re keeping it easy. It’s good!