I’m sure this will come as a surprise to you but I’m super pumped about my trip coming up in a few months. However there was some uncertainty about my funding for the next few months so I had to wait to buy the tickets until that was nailed down. Unfortunately that translated to a slightly more expensive ticket than I expected. I can still afford my hotel, trains, etc, but there’s less money than I had hoped for for things like museums or fine dining. As a result, I’ve decided to go on a budget fast in hopes of saving up for a nice meal or two and a few glasses of wine along the way. So far I’ve eliminated my contribution to house improvements, stepped my efforts at riding the bus, crossed off the unnecessary or splurge ingredients from my grocery list, and am attempting to dial back at eating out except for special occasions (like last week’s birthdays). Any other suggestions for me?
Category Archives: Budget
So, I’m now 6 months into this budgeting experiment and have gotten really wrapped up in the day-to-day and monthly expenses. However, I thought I’d take a look and see what my finances look like as a big picture.
- Mortgage: $50,800
- Credit Cards: $5,600
- Student Loans: $20,000
- Total: $76,400
Fortunately, the credit cards are down $800 in 6 months, which isn’t great but once I start my double pay, I should be able to lower that number considerably in the next few months. Also, since I’ve been doing research, the student loan part hasn’t gone up at all.
- House Value: $125,000
- Car: $2,000
- Savings: $2,000
- Total: $129,000
The house value I got off of Zillow, which may not be the best estimate, so make of it what you may. As for my car, Slick isn’t worth much technically, but he’s paid for, fuel efficient, reliable, and to me, completely invaluable. Finally, I’ve been able to put $1300 into savings in the past 6 months, another decent achievement for my rather tight budget.
I have to say, I’m pretty proud of this. Clearly this is mostly due to the value of my home. I managed to buy at the bottom of the market, make a down payment of over 20%, and now it has doubled its market value. I doubt I could actually get that price today but it’s nice to know I did something right along the way.
As I’m approaching the six-month mark in this project, I realized that I’ve never actually published my budget, despite the title “The Budget Grad Student.”
As a graduate student working on a research project, officially my salary includes tuition and fees, such as health, dental, and vision insurance, and access to the student gym, which are taken out pre-taxes. After taxes, I take home $1744 a month, which is fairly average for grad students at most universities. Assuming I put in 40 hours a week, this is the equivalent of earning just under $11 an hour, but I rarely work just 40 hours. Anyways, this is how I divide it up:
- Savings: $150
- Housing: $717
- Utilities: $94
- Internet/Cell Phone/Back-Up: $93
- Car and Home Insurance: $96
- Food/Health & Beauty: $60
- Transportation: $80
- Dog: $50
- House: $50
- Debt Payments: $150
- Entertainment/NY Times e-access: $48
That leaves $156 for whatever else comes up, and something always comes up: textbooks, trip to the vet, extra driving, weddings, birthdays, uncovered dental work.
This does not include the extra money I make by cleaning houses, babysitting, filling out surveys or mystery shopping. Depending on how my month goes, sometimes that covers the basics, others it goes to something fun, or if I’m really good, towards an extra debt payment.
However, I’m fortunate in that in just a few years I’ll hopefully have much more earning power. Also, a lot of my friends are also students, or are former grad students themselves, so are usually up for cheap or free entertainment.
What do y’all think? Any advice for managing this better?
Lately I’ve been thinking about how saving money is a lot like losing weight. Losing weight requires constant effort to move more. You have to think several times a day about making smart food choices instead of what tastes good. And it’s not a short term prospect: it’s a lifestyle change. Saving money requires me to do more work in my life: cook more, drive less, etc. Every day I have to think about what’s the cheaper, most cost effective choice, instead of what’s easy or fun. And it’s not like my financial situation is going to change in a month or two: I’ve got a few more years of this salary, and cost of living is only going to go up.
And sometimes with weight loss you hit a plateau. I’ve worked hard this month, but I still had to dip into my savings to tide over the last few days. Poor planning, a few poor choices, and that was it. I can tell myself that if I hadn’t made other changes, I would’ve had to hit my savings more, but that doesn’t make me feel better. The good side is I will get that money back (I had to pay upfront for a conference, and the school will reimburse me in 4-6 weeks.) I’m taking this to mean that I have to work harder, pay attention to the smaller things and plan better: I knew that conference was coming, I just didn’t budget for it.
Grr. Here’s to a better February.