Even though I’ve mentioned my 2019 $1,500/month Challenge a few times on this blog, I realized that I hadn’t actually shared my budget here yet. So here we are!
To be completely truthful, $1,500 was kind of a really arbitrary value. I spent a few years without a budget, so just picked a random number that seemed reasonable and ran with it after discussing it with Auntie Coco.
I’m going to outline how I developed my budget (in case you want to make one yourself), and then will share my actual budget spreadsheet that you can copy and use for yourself (if you want to just use mine)!
Let’s get crackin’!
Step 1 was to identify where I spend money, and what kind of categories I can sort them in. I identified places where I spend money regularly every month, and then sorted them.
This is what I came up with:
|Utilities||Wifi, Electricity, Laundry|
|Miscellaneous||Travel, Work Out, Shopping, Miscellaneous|
My main costs are Home/Utilities (as you can see in my monthly spending updates, they make up a good 75% of my monthly expenses, if not more). This would include rent, wifi, electricity, and laundry bills.
A rather small section of my pie is composed of Subscriptions like Netflix and the Gym. They make up only a little over $20/month, so it’s really not much to talk about.
My second biggest expense is Food, whether it be Groceries, Restaurants, or Cafes. I’ve been embarking on No Spend Work Week challenge for a while now, so my food costs are pretty low these days as well, but I allow myself to eat “whatever” I fancy on the weekends.
The last category is the all-encompassing Miscellaneous category. My travel costs, work out classes, shopping, and other miscellaneous costs come here. (For example, this month I had to pay my 2018 taxes, so that came out of the Miscellaneous part of my budget.) I’m able to put all these under my Miscellaneous category because I don’t regularly do any of these things.
Creating the Budget
I started out with the “Concrete” monthly bills that I can’t change. These are Rent, Netflix, Wifi, and Gym. I put these into the spreadsheet, and subtracted the costs from $1,500. Again, this was the budget amount I had arbitrarily picked; you can pick whatever number you think would work, and of course, you can always adjust that number later.
The rest are Floating bills, which means the values change from month to month, and depending on what you are doing that month. I just kept every month the same for most of mine, but you might know you need to have $500 ready for Christmas, so your shopping budget might be $500 more in November, or you know you take an annual family trip in June, so you need to make sure you have $1,000 set aside to book that.
For example, I go back to my hometown once every few months. The Amtrak tickets cost $50 each way. So I put $100 for roundtrip fare in every few months as a guesstimation.
I also looked back at my bills and saw that my electricity bills went up and down depending on the season, and how often we use AC. So I adjusted that to more or less match what I paid last year each month.
I gave myself a $50 a month sinking fund for Miscellaneous under the Miscellaneous category. We all have those random costs!
My sister and I are still under my parents’ cellphone plan, so you’ll probably have to add that bill to your own budget.
You can see the result below:
Monthly Budget is how much I have per month ($1,500). Monthly Budget 2 is how much I have after the Concrete Expenses are taken out. Weekly Budget and Daily Budget are the available funds divided by the number of days I have in that month. So generally, I have $17~19 a month to spend on food and shopping.
It’s all nice and sweet to have a Goal Budget, but then you have to sync it up with the reality and actually USE it. So I have an Actual Budget spreadsheet next to my Goal Budget to track how I’m doing throughout the months.
Here’s what my past 2 months (+ week of March) has been looking:
As you can see, I’ve been pretty under-budget for January and February, but March isn’t looking too good! (Mostly thanks to my tax bill…)
You can check out exactly what I spent money on in January and February by checking out my Spending Tag.
Free Budget Spreadsheet
Would you like to try using the same spreadsheet I’ve been using to create a budget for yourself? You’re in luck! You can go to the Google Spreadsheet I’ve shared below, and very easily make a copy for yourself to edit!
Some categories or sections that you might want to add might be Medical Costs, if you pay those out of pocket (I pay mine directly through HSA), Pet Care for your dog, Daycare Fees… The changes you can make to mold this budget into your own is limitless!
You can make a copy by going to File > Make a Copy and putting it in your own Google Drive.
You can’t directly edit the spreadsheet linked above.
The spreadsheet will have both your Goal Budget and your Actual Budget. The Goal Budget is filled out for what you WANT your budget to look like, and Actual Budget you fill out throughout the months.
Fill out only the white areas, and the equations will calculate for you things like totals and how much you have left in the month. Remember to fill out the Monthly Goal so that the calculation for this can run!
What Do You Think?
Would you use a budget like this? Do you have a different system? Do you even use a budget? I’ve been using Mint for years, and honestly, it works perfectly well for me. But since I’ve been trying to make my spending habits controlled and regular, keeping track of every dollar has been very informative to see how my habits are!
After this year-long experiment, I’ll probably go back to having no budget. But in the meantime, I would’ve developed a good financial habit honed through 12 months of meticulous tracking!