Wednesday, December 03, 2008

tightening the financial belt

OK. Deep breaths. In addition to watching what little money I have in a retirement plan dwindle to complete bullshit amounts, we have just been informed by our CEO (who probably makes a 6-figure salary) that we will not be getting raises in 2009. Also, our 2oo8 bonuses are being held off until March. Can you just hold off on Christmas, too? Thanks.

Now even though I've never made a lot of money (or even what most of you guys would probably call a little money), I've never really budgeted. I just get what I want, if & when I can get it. I know, I'm 32 and should know better but honestly, I'm just not wired to think that way. But I am going to start self-inforcing some rules.

Starting January 1.

So, I have 2 checking accounts. One is for my "base" salary, and the other is for whatever, if anything, is in my check over that amount (expenses, per diem, etc). From that 2nd account I pay my corporate American Express, in full, as soon as I get paid, whether it is due or not. Sometimes if I have been on the road a lot I have some extra money, and when that happens I pay bills from that account instead of my base account. That makes for a nice month. Twice this year I paid my rent out of that account and it was SWEET. So, I'm keeping this arrangement; I think it works for me.

Rule #1- In effect January 1, I am living on a fixed $X/week. Out of my checking account, I will have only the following withdrawals: rent, electricity, cable/internet, cell phone, and my allowance- $X/week, in cash, to do what I do. Everything else will go to that pesky little thing called "debt and saving up for grad school." This allowance includes (but is not limited to) groceries, laundry, bus fare, movies, eating out, buying books, buying clothes etc. (Obviously, special circumstances will have to be made every once in a while; for example, if I go to the dentist or get my hair cut, or renew a yearly magazine subscription, or something else I do a handful of times a year or less, I will pay out of my checking account, etc. This rule is not the fancy china; it is for everyday use.)

addendum: due to my almost constant travel schedule, partial weeks at home will get $X/7 per day.

And that's it. I will get out my $X every Friday, and if I run out on Tuesday, I'm eating at home for the rest of the week, and that's that. On the flip side, if I have anything left of my weekly funds by the following Friday, it will go into a coffee can in my bedroom, with the idea that at some point I will have enough for an extra night out, or want something that costs more than my weekly allowance will allow. For real, I'm using a coffee can.

Rule #2- In effect January 1, on the road, I am keeping track of my per diem. No more than $Y/day, which my company gives me, period, which means, in theory, that every week I'm on the road will accumulate an extra $X in my checking account. If I go somewhere super awesome, like New York City, I will allow myself my company's $Y/day + my normal $X/week.

Rule #3- no more cabs in my home city. I am taking the train or the bus, period. Just because I don't feel like waiting is not an excuse. I can't afford it. The jig, she is up.

Rule #4- find a boy to start buying me dinner and stuff, preferably one that is into girls. (OK, this one is not a real rule. But going on dates every once in a while could have potentially positive financial side effects. Why are married people the ones that get the tax cuts when clearly those of us who only have one salary and no one to help out when things are tough are more in need of one?)

What do you guys think of my plan? Are there any gaping holes? Did I leave anything out? My head hurts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holding back bonuses? You need to go Cousin Eddie on him, or you're going to end up with jelly of the month club.

And I am proud of you, J, for setting out this budget goal-- and I mean that as unpatronizing as possible. As you get the hang of it, if you want to take it a step further, divide the money into four or so envelopes corresponding to major spending categories (for example: groceries; general merchandise; restaurant/ bars/ entertainment; clothes). You can always redistribute or fine-tune the allocations, and I think some insight this way into how you're spending may be useful.


December 03, 2008 3:38 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Good luck with #4. I would say out of the last 10 dates I've had with boys (who are into girls - ie. ME) ALL have accepted my offer to pay my portion of the tab. Now, you may say it's my fault for even offering, but I'm just trying to be polite. It does NOT mean they should least within the first 3 dates of going out with that asking too much??? *end rant*

Good. Luck. :)

December 04, 2008 6:56 AM  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

Well, times are tough for everyone, I guess, but I'm with you. Whoever does the asking should do the paying, IMHO.

But, what do I know? ;)

December 04, 2008 7:04 AM  
Blogger RedCircleLine said...

i need to try something like this as well, but the times i have, i always end up underestimating the amt i need per week, or just trashing it in favor of going out for an expensive dinner. I need something like a visa card that *only* has a certain amt on it, so i just can't spend more than that in a week without being declined (and, heavens, how embarassing).
in fact, i'm going to look into that... on the 19th, of course (day after the last final).

December 04, 2008 1:32 PM  

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