Oh that money

For the first time in my life, I am financially stressed.  I used to think I was, back when I lived at home with my parents (rent and utility free) and worked as a server that paid me about $800/month.  I would worry and over-think about buying something that cost $100 or more, and then buy it, and then repeat that about once a week.  I liked to buy things that I didn’t need, but wanted oh so bad.  And then I went to Michigan State for my undergraduate work.  I took out about $20,000 a year for tuition and living expenses, then had a menial little job as an usher at the Wharton Center to pay for gas and…you guessed it, more expensive things (Banana Republic was my favorite place to shop).  But, I still believed myself to be under financial stress.

Now, I am a grad student at Michigan Tech.  I make $1000/month.  $900 is allotted for rent, utilities, credit card bills, phone bill, food, and gas.  The other $100 goes towards paying off other various loans I have accrued.  For the first time in my working life, every single dollar is accounted for.  I get excited when I can put $25 into my savings account (I have $75 now, woot woot!).  The thing that I keep pushing out of my mind is what is going to happen if something major comes up.  Like, oh, the new clutch and tires I’ll have to put on my car before winter comes, or say, trips home (which costs $80 round-trip).

While this money stuff worries me to bits, I am glad that I am under this stress.  I know that in the long run, it may teach me financial knowledge.  It may teach me how to really be frugal and spend wisely.  If all of a sudden I were to come across a few extra hundred dollars, I believe I would put it toward my bills rather than adopt a false sense of security and decide to buy some new books.  I know that this will all come to fruition in about two years when I graduate, but for right now it is nearly unbearable.  I have to winterize my house, which is going to cost money that I don’t have!  In addition, winter is coming, which means that heating costs will shoot up, which is going to cost money that I don’t have!   I know my roommate would object to keeping the house just above sub-zero temps.  I would object to that too.  But, I need to figure out something, hopefully before I dig myself into too deep a financial grave.  Now, I’m really not complaining about this (really!).  I consider it a blessing that I know what it’s like to have to spend consciously, because so few people do it, and only then it’s usually out of necessity rather than desire.  I would choose to do it out of desire.

Here’s a list of what I’m doing to budget as wisely as possible:

1.  Envelope system- a certain amount is allotted to groceries and entertainment.  If I run out of money, I don’t use my card.

2.  I buy food staples like brown rice pasta, flour, sugar, and dry beans in bulk.  Then I buy a lot of fresh veggies.  If I have extra cash, I’ll stock up on a few canned or frozen veggies and beans (I found a great organic/ GMO-free source for frozen veg) to use when I need something quick.

3.  I cook from scratch and make meals that last me a few days and are easy to take in to school for lunch- soups and stir fry are great!

4.  I’ve started making my own toothpaste.  Baking soda, ground salt, and peppermint extract.  Not sure how I feel about it yet, but I also don’t like $7 toothpaste!

5.  I am going to start paying at least $10 more than the minimum on my credit card statements to try to get a little shaved off on the balance, rather than just paying the interest.  Hopefully this will get my bills down a little by the time I am graduated so I can focus on other things.

So far, I’m loving the envelope system.  I no longer go to the store and pick up little extras that I don’t really need.  It is relieving some anxiety because when I check out, I don’t feel so overwhelmed at the cost because I have cash allotted for everything I purchased. Financial freedom, by use of a budget system, is looking like a stronger stress reducer than I thought it could be.

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About aletalane

I am a learner.
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2 Responses to Oh that money

  1. amyleebell says:

    You may already be doing this, but sometimes you can save tons of cash by rethinking simple things like the grocery bill. For instance, I completely stopped buying breakfast cereals and breakfast bars. The kids and I eat oatmeal, and I make Jiffy Mix up the night before to send muffins with my husband. Also, I started making my own laundry soap. At 1 cent per load, I’ll probably save over 100 dollars over the course of an entire year. I really didn’t want to start doing that because I thought it would be difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was so easy! Also, if you have an expensive cell phone plan, you should look into Net10. They have a $15 plan that give us 200 minutes a month. I love it! If Amazon happens to sell things that you need occasionally, try selling your textbooks or other books to them through their trade-in program. You enter your book’s isbn, and they tell you what they’ll give for it. They pay shipping and everything! But they only give gift cards, so it won’t help you pay your bills. You could buy other stuff you need from them though, instead of having to take it out of your cash. I have some other budgeting tips on my blog. I think you can just click on my “budget” category (or is it a tag?) to find them. Good luck!

    • aletalane says:

      Thank you for all your advice!

      I do have a plan for my groceries- I put aside $150/month in an envelope. I use it on the essentials- dry beans, rice, flour and sugar, and a bunch of fresh veggies. They cost cheaper fresh than frozen or in cans I’ve found, and an additional bonus is that it keeps me using them up constantly so I make sure I’m using every bit of food that I have rather than letting it sit unused while I just eat potatoes or pasta every night. I’d like to know how you make your own laundry soap- I’d definitely be interested in that!

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