Bank Balance Confessions: The Obsessive Budgeter
I’ve always been a saver, but I think my attitude has relaxed somewhat in the last year or so. I try to broadly follow the rule of thirds: I devote about 33 per cent of the income from my full-time marketing job to rent and regular bills, discretionary spending, and savings respectively.
At present my discretionary spending takes up a little more money than it should according to the rule of thirds — I work to a discretionary budget of $310 rather than $280 per week. I know I’m in store for a healthy tax return this year, though, and have committed to diverting this money straight to my savings account, so I figure it’ll balance out.
I keep track of my discretionary spending on a weekly basis through a spreadsheet, with total spend broken into a handful of categories: food (i.e. eating out), alcohol, public transport, groceries, Uber and ‘other’. (The latter category, unsurprisingly, is the most inconsistent.) These categories add up to a total spend figure, which I then measure against my budget ($310/week) via a ‘Difference’ column. I also keep track of my ‘Rolling Difference’ — if I’ve underspent by $50 for three consecutive weeks, for example, my ‘Rolling Difference’ will be $150 and I can go ahead and splurge on something nice. This also prevents me from feeling too guilty if I go overboard one week — I can always get back to parity over the following week (or, more likely, weeks).
I’m lucky to have been able to save up some money before moving out of home — I didn’t fly the nest until well into my degree, when I was able to cover my living costs without dipping into savings. As a result I’ve got a decent nest egg off my own, which I’m trying to grow slowly but surely. I haven’t quite decided what I’m saving for yet; I know that if I can continue to put away $15k or more each year, I could cobble together a deposit for a flat in the not-too-distant future. Having said this, I’m completely clueless when it comes to stamp duty and other taxes associated with property purchasing. I’m also interested in upping sticks for a six-month career break before 30. I’m in my mid-20s now.
Weekly income (net): $842
Debt: a HECS-HELP debt that I’ve started to pay back via automatic deductions, but approach with an attitude of ignorant bliss.
Savings: $35k, accumulated over several years of corporate work
- $30.75 travel — I recently purchased a year-long public transport pass that means I save somewhere between 40 to 50 per cent compared to daily rates. The pass cost $1600 (I charged it to my credit card), but for the purpose of my budget I’ve split that cost out over 52 weeks.
- I bring my own lunch to work and have a quiet night in, so no other spend.
- $8.28 postage — In the run-up to Mother’s Day I post a gift to my Mum on behalf of myself and my siblings.
- $7 pint — I meet a friend after work; we arrive towards the tail end of happy hour so I opt for a pint instead of a pot.
- $12 dinner — Happy hour extends to food! I grab four tacos for $12.
- $99 credit card annual fee – I use my credit card for most of my transactions, mainly out of habit (and to build a decent credit rating).
- $29.98 energy bill — Debited from my cheque account.
- $11.50 lunch — I meet a friend who works down the road for a bite to eat.
- $50 transfer — After weeks of forgetfulness, I transfer money owed to a friend after a night out.
- $13.50 lunch — I eat out with my team at a nearby cafe. I wouldn’t usually buy lunch twice in one week, but I’d normally be eating out on a Thursday night so I figure it balances out.
- $59.99 compression tights — It’s nearly winter, I’m cold, and there’s no accounting for taste.
- $37.75 groceries — This is a relatively big shop by my standards and I figure next week will be more of a top-up.
- $38 drinks — A group of us head out after work. This occurrence (and the spend tied to it) is fairly regular, but I figure it’s well-earned.
- $2.50 snacks — We all pitch in for dip and chips to ensure stomachs are lined mid-way through the evening.
- $11.76 Uber — No surge. Amazing.
- $10.10 fresh food — I make a weekly pilgrimage to my local markets.
- $12.70 prescription medication
- I stay in on Saturday night — I’m lacking in sleep and have an early start tomorrow — so no spend!
- I attend a work event during the day. There are some freebies on hand, so I don’t spend any money on food or drink. In the evening I cook and have a glass of red.
Total weekly spend: $434.81
I allocate my credit card fee and electricity bill as non-discretionary spend, so my discretionary total for the week is $305.83 — slightly under budget!
Because I keep a pretty close eye on my spending normally, there aren’t any huge surprises here (compression tights aside). This week I spent less than usual on Uber and alcohol. There’s probably a correlation there.