Budgets. I'm great at making them. But recent experience forced me to realize I suck at following them. Sure I can balance out my income on paper towards my bills, and I feel I need to brag that I NEVER pay my bills late by the way, but I have a hard time restricting myself in some columns, like entertainment, dining out and transportation.
So when I started college and I needed to have a different relationship with money, I realized 3 important things.
You probably have things at home you can use already, don't buy new ones.
Starting college is exciting. Especially when you haven't been in school for so long. You go shopping at your local superstore and you buy stuff. Lots of stuff. Book bags / backpacks, pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, the list goes on and on. If I stop for a moment and do some maths, I'm guestimating that I must have spent close to $100 on school supplies. Sure, you NEED school supplies. But do I really need scented gel multicolored pens here, or will the normal black and blue Bic I have at home do the job?
I ended up buying 2 backpacks - cause they were on sale! - and surprise, surprise, the school provided me with a super nice quality book bag. Despite those, I ended up using an oversized purse that I already owned. After buying a few notebooks I got home and it dawned on me that I already have quite a few, brand new never used, that would do the job nicely.
Next time you are about to go out and spend some money on supplies, do an inventory of what you do have instead. If I had done that, I would have needed to spend the sum of ONE DOLLAR on my school supplies: all I was missing was an eraser!
You do spend a lot of money on coffee and fast food.
Slave to the Joe should be my nickname. I need my coffee. Daily and beyond. I thought I was thrifty cause I don't buy into the Starbucks hype. Heck I don't even like Tim Hortons! (Don't go around telling that to people here in Canada, you will be lynched). But a quick $1,75 coffee every day does add up. Shall we do the maths?
$1.75 times 30 days equals = $52.50
Fifty. Two. Dollars. And then some. That's more than my share of the internet bill at home! If I had a budget of $50 monthly for coffee at home I probably would drink only super fancy expensive coffee in a Limoges porcelain cup, with my pinky up in the air, thank-you-very-much.
If that wasn't absolutely insane enough, I realized I am actually WORSE when it comes to fast food and take-outs. When I allowed myself $100 a certain month on take-outs, I realized that I actually spent close to $600 in that category.
Six. Hundred. Dollars.
I could have buy a new stove! Not that there was anything wrong with my stove. At all. I'm just lazy and I don't cook at home often. I just needed to visualized that I could have purchased a big appliance, one thing, one tangible object that is meant to last 10-15 years for a few quick dinners each week over the period of a month. And it goes fast.
Sushi restaurant with a good friend and I picked up the bill $103,76
Dont feel like cooking so order food in for myself and roommates $56,80
Cooking is for suckers and I had a sucky day so let's treat myself $59,00
Korean BBQ with my fiancé 67,78 $
Running too late to school to make lunch, stop at McDonalds $23,26
Too tired to cook (see a pattern here?) $34,39
A quick sandwich at the café at school $5,64
Breakfast at the school's café $6,98
Delivery of some crappy food cause I didn't do the grocery and have nothing to eat at home $35,44
Didn't bring a lunch, see reason above, so quick sandwich at school $7,79
I should really do the groceries instead of buying take outs and eating left overs for a few days $65,73
Okay I'm just starting to get used to buy sandwiches at school instead of making a lunch $8,15
Oh man there is a burrito place here! Nice $19,26
Another sandwich at the school's café $5,64
I ended up a good hour too early at school and had lunch at a restaurant nearby 25,76 $
Rotisserie chicken sounds good 29,19 $
The chicken was awesome. Now I want fried chicken today, $43,48
For those of you keeping track, all those fast food and take-outs expenses are on top of my daily Java allowances too! That's just insane. No wonder I am in debt.
Even with grants and loans, life is expensive.
While I am tremendously lucky to be getting a free ride to college, I still have bills to pay. Both bills of past indulgences, like credit cards, and bills of current lifestyle such as my cell phone and Internet access.
My school schedule, study and homework as well as personal abilities makes it hard for me to find employment while I'm pursuing my courses if I want to keep my good grades up. So very little money is coming in.
So what can I control? The money that comes out.