My husband and I recently got amazing jobs after not working for months and now our income is something we have only ever dreamed of earning. We’ve scraped by these past months and now with this extra money we want to spend, spend, spend.
How can we save money and not feel like we are still broke all the time? I guess I am not sure how to budget spending money since I’m not even sure what percentage should go where after our main bills are taken out. We are newbies at saving and really need help. -Samantha
Congratulations on your new jobs and higher income! How exciting!
Here’s some advice I would have for you:
1. Sit Down Together and Set Goals
Before you even think of setting up a budget, I encourage you to sit down as a couple and talk about your goals. Where do you want to be financially in a year from now? What about five years from now?
Do you have debt that needs to be paid off? If so, this should be one of your top priorities when you set goals. Do you have an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in place? If not, this should be your second goal.
In addition, talk about what things you need to save to pay cash for: Is your car on its last leg? Are you setting aside money for retirement? Is there something fun you’d like to do as a couple in the not-too-distant future (go on a trip, purchase something, etc.)?
Discuss all of these things and make a prioritized goal list denoting your top three goals to work toward right now. These goals will give you purpose for implementing money-saving tactics and they will also give you momentum to make wise choices financially.
2. Break Your Goals Down Into Bite-sized Pieces
After you’ve determined your goals, you need to take those big goals and break them down into manageable pieces. I recommend that you set yearly goals and then break those down into monthly goals. Then, take those monthly goals and break those down into weekly goals.
For instance, if you want to save $2500 this year, you’ll need to save a little over $208 per month. That means, you’ll need to save $52 per week — or around $10.50 each weekday.
When you break your goals down into these small pieces, they become much less daunting and much more manageable. Plus, you have a very concrete number to work toward instead of a huge, seemingly overwhelming goal.
3. Create a Written Budget
Once you have your goals in place, it’s time to set up your budget. If you’ve never had a budget before, my book, The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget, outlines how to set up a grocery budget, then a barebones budget, and then a full-fledged budget. I included spreadsheets and step-by-step help to walk you through how to do it. This process is especially beneficial for people who are brand-new to budgeting and completely stressed out over how to pull it off successfully.
If you’re ready to jump in with two feet, Dave Ramsey offers a free online budgeting tool that walks you through setting up your budget and includes suggested percentages to include for each category. Remember to budget for your financial goals before budgeting for fun stuff and extras. Short-term sacrifices will always pay off in the long run!
4. Plan for Strategic Splurging
Once you’ve set up your budget and covered all your necessary bases and your financial goals, now comes the fun part: budgeting for strategic splurging! A lot of people have this idea that a budget is a straight jacket that removes all of the excitement and spontaneity from your life and instead relegates you to a miserable existence.
I heartily disagree. A budget actually gives you freedom!
When you make your money work for you, you have more to work with. In turn, this means you can budget for fun and splurging — and you can enjoy it more because you know that going out to dinner or that occasional coffee at Starbucks is something you planned for, not something that’s going to wreck your finances or keep you from being able to pay your electric bill.
Life is meant to be savored — and a budget can be a tool to help you enjoy life a lot more, without the guilt!
What advice do the rest of you have for Samantha and her husband? I’d love to hear!