Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fuss-Budget

So . . . not everything in life has come to me easily, but I have to say I feel like I've been able to "get away with" an awful lot from time to time. For example, until my surgery last year, I was essentially unable to gain weight--or at least, to gain it and keep it on. One of my friends in London used to joke with me that I had a tapeworm. Occasionally I had to ingest kind of nasty things like "Ensure" to . . . ensure I didn't waste away to nothing, but I've never had to go on a diet to lose weight. I'm not saying this to brag (although I'm sorry if it sounds like it, because it probably does)--I'm saying it to make a point.

Likewise, I've managed to live my entire life to this point without a formal budget. I've never made much money, and so I've never had anything left over, really (this means saving for things like Getting Old hasn't really gone too well), but I always have enough for "my daily bread," as it were. And even to do fun stuff. Like travel around the world, for example. Sometimes things get a little tight, or I get a little nervous, but it always works out.

Recently, however, I've decided that maybe it's time I put myself on a budget. I wouldn't call myself a frivolous spender for the most part, and now that I am working full-time at the church instead of at Starbucks, I have a little more settled income. However, I also have a few new expenses that I didn't have before, and I've noticed, too, that maybe subconsciously I've been imagining more of a pay increase than I've actually received, because when I go out with friends, I'm likely to be a little less thrifty with what I order than I used to be.

Thinking about this, I've decided I feel sort of like someone must who goes on a diet and wishes they didn't have to, and is maybe still not fully convinced that they do. Complete with the rationalisations and excuses, I mean. You know the kind I'm talking about. "Do calories count on weekends? Isn't it true that if the cookie is broken, all the calories fell out? Can I eat this bag of potato chips and skip two meals?" That kind. For a budget, for me, they're sounding like this:

"Okay, so I'm putting myself on a budget. But it's almost the end of the month, so I won't start until it's officially October. It'll be easier to keep track of that way." (Implication being I'd better get any splurging in between now and Thursday.)

"Does petrol, to get me to and from non-work-related events with friends, count as an entertainment expense, or can I just make a separate category for petrol? You have to have it, right?"

"If I'm hanging out with people who don't go to my church but with whom I once talked about having a Bible study, can I call it a 'ministry expense' and get the church to reimburse it? Even if the 'ministry' was guacamole and a margarita?" (Don't worry--I won't actually do that . . . next Friday . . . when my friends and I go out for "guacaritas" . . . but I'd be lying if I said the thought didn't cross my mind.)

"Can french fries count as groceries?"

There's a lot about discipline and integrity here, and both of those things are important values to me. On some level, I think I've generally exhibited them in my dealings with money. But as I start thinking about an actual budget, I'm starting to notice some chinks in the fence . . .

3 comments:

Mary Anne said...

oh man. If anyone ever needed the discipline of a budget, it's me, but I've never been able to bear making one, because when you have so little income, the budget looks COMPLETELY DEPRESSING (I can imagine, at least). So yeah, I always just kind of...wing it and hope I end up in the black?

Can't. Wait. To Have. A Real. Salary.

Let me know how you do with yours! I'm very curious.

Financially challenged,
Mary Anne

Mark said...

> now that I am working full-time at the church instead of at Starbucks, I have a little more settled income

Really? I would have imagined that Starbucks employees make more than church workers ;-)

> "Does petrol, to get me to and from non-work-related events with friends, count as an entertainment expense, or can I just make a separate category for petrol? You have to have it, right?"

I have budget categories for Auto:Fuel, Auto:Service, and Auto:Insurance.

> "Can french fries count as groceries?"

I have one category for Groceries, and one for Dining; the implication being that dining out (fast food included) is an extravagance and that I could make all my meals for myself if I needed to be more frugal.

You don't need a budget, at least not at first. You simply need to track your expenses for a while so you can see clearly where the money goes.

Jennwith2ns said...

Mary Anne--yeah. We're related.

Mark--don't worry. I wasn't seriously considering french fries as groceries. Obviously dining out is a separate category. The question was asked in the same tone as one would ask about calories falling out of a broken cookie. As for needing a budget, maybe I don't need a very strict one, but I'll tell you what I DO need: a car. And I won't be getting one any time soon with the way things stand right now.

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