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Living Within Your Means

The basic how-to guide on how to live when you’re poor:

Track your expenses and see exactly how much you need to live on per month to get by.

Here is what mine looks like:

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After years of sharing space with roommates, my boyfriend (J) and I finally moved to a new city and found a helluva deal on an apartment. The rent includes all utilities and we split it in half. The cost of living in Indiana is low and makes it easier to live within our means. This table shows that I only need $711 per month to make ends meet and does not include groceries or healthcare.

This is a more accurate idea of what my monthly expenses look like:

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With overtime, I make $1660 per month, leaving me with $485 left over every month. I split groceries with J and my healthcare and 401k comes out of my check before I ever see it leave. Basically, this means I need to make $40/day in order to live comfortably.  I haven’t paid on student loans in years,  I have income-based repayment. All of this is going to change very soon.

Check back soon to see how we live off of $1600 per month!

Personal Finance

Budgeting

When you make as little as I do, you need to budget. I have tried all kinds, pen and paper, excel spreadsheets, Mint, but none of them has stuck. I used the excel spreadsheet for over a year, and while that was great for tracking what I was spending my money on, it did nothing to help me save.

A few months ago, I (re)-discovered YouNeedABudget (YNAB). I remember in college my brother bought me a copy from Steam and I attempted to use it and quickly abandoned it. I found that it was not user-friendly and intuitive. Flash forward 5 years, and here I am budgeting with the best of them. They have released an app that makes budgeting very simple and easy to stick to.

There are four main premises to the YNAB style:

  1. Give every dollar a job.

Only budget the money you already have. You don’t get to live off of your next paycheck with YNAB. You use what you have. When you budget for every dollar, it makes you realize how precious those dollars really are.

2. Embrace your true expenses.

True expenses are the big budget items that we pay for once a year. If you are savvier than I am, you might know that paying your car insurance every 6 months will cost less than paying every month. YNAB allows you to set a monthly goal in order to save up for these big ticket items so that when they finally roll around, you are prepared to pay them.

3. Roll with the punches.

If you overspend in one category, you are forced to pull those funds from somewhere else. For example, I’ve been saving for a vacation to Colorado for the past 5 months, and any time I want to eat out I have to make a decision: Do I want to eat out today in Indiana, or do I want to eat out in a few months when I get to Colorado? I don’t beat myself up about it, but being confronted with what you really want versus what you really want right now is a useful tool when learning to budget.

4. Age your money.

The main goal here is to stop living paycheck to paycheck. By saving your money instead of spending it as soon as it hits your account, you can create a buffer. When you age your money, you want to be spending last month’s money, not this week’s check.

It sounds easy because it is. If I can do it on $13.00 an hour, then you can do it, too.

Here is an affiliate link. YouNeedABudget! If you choose to sign up for YNAB, then we can both have a month for free! YNAB does cost money after the initial 30-day free trial. I was skeptical of paying for a budgeting app when there were already so many free options out there, but once my trial expired I quickly realized that I was not as in control of my money as I thought I was. YNAB helped me get back on track, and after using it for the past two months I have saved $800.