Working the Budget, Making it Work for Me

January 20, 2012

One of my most needed tools is a budget. I haven’t ever used one effectively.

I’m trying to develop one but it’s difficult when I don’t know how much I’m going to be making from month to month. Jobs come and go (I just lost one this month due to circumstances beyond my control but was able to secure a few more that are as needed.).

I’ve decided to make a budget based on what I currently have on hand and what I know to be coming in for sure.

So for my income categories, I have:

  • Remaining Student Loan Money
  • Writing Income
  • Product Demo Income

I’m not going to divulge what those amounts are. I know that I have done so with my debt but for right now I’m going to withhold this part.

The above income is added up for the next two months. My next student loan payment will be in the last week of March.

Next I’m adding up my known expenses. I think I have everything, please le me know if you can think of something I’m missing.

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Phone
  • Gas
  • Car Insurance
  • Gas
  • Allowances
  • Parking
  • Dell Card Payment (minimum)
  • MasterCard Payment (minimum)
  • Emergency Fund

Categories I would like to be able to include:

  • Clothing
  • Car Repairs/New-to-me Car
  • Taxes
  • Debt Payments

Unfortunately, based on the numbers I currently have, I am short by about $200 each month. I think I will be able to make that up since I’m estimating on the low end of my income.

Now here’s a few questions that I have for you. What is a great tool to use for making a budget? Bloggers, if you’ve done a review to any tool, please leave the link here. I would like to check some of them out.

Are there any categories that I am missing? This is the bare minimum, I think but I could be forgetting something.

I have applied, once again for food stamps. The estimated amount I’m eligible for is $200, that is my monthly grocery budget (which might actually be too low). However, if I continue to get more and more work, I may eventually earn enough to not need the assistance.

I also blog at A Five Star Life. I write about anything that comes to mind but try to focus on finding the good in daily life.

11 Responses to Working the Budget, Making it Work for Me

  1. Kacie
    on January 20, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I think it’s totally ok not to disclose exact amounts of your income or bills.

    Are you counting internet in your utilities? And will food stamps cover all of your food? Do you have an Angel Food ministries near you? You can buy a ton of food for like $30. It’s for people of all incomes, but it’s especially targeted for people who are in rough patches.

    I’m glad to see your emergency fund is a line item in your budget. Even $5 helps!

    You might also call your utility companies to see if you are eligible for assistance on your heat bill. They have programs that can help you stay warm without it being prohibitively expensive (I don’t know if this is included in your rent or what).

    As far as budgeting, I kind of dislike it. I tried using Mint, and other free tools but I just prefer to write it out. I’m now setting up a more automatic system so we can just have money automatically funneled where it needs to go.
    Kacie recently posted..Weekend reading: Too much sent to the IRA edition


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on January 21, 2012 at 10:12 am

      I thought internet was included in the list, if not then no it has it’s own line. The last time I had applied for food stamps (but then failed to complete the required paper work), they estimated $200 in food stamps. That will cover almost all food, I think. And last time I checked, I thought angel food minis. was done with their program?

      I have a long list of products to try for budgeting, I just need to do it.


  2. Kacie
    on January 20, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Oh one more thing I forgot to mention — how skilled are you at couponing? You could really work the drugstore deals to get a lot of toiletries and some food products for free. That could stretch your budget by a LOT.
    Kacie recently posted..Weekend reading: Too much sent to the IRA edition


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on January 21, 2012 at 10:10 am

      VERY skilled at couponing. In fact, I haven’t bought any toiletries in a year because of my stockpile. I’ve still got a few month’s worth of supplies too. I do need to start using coupons a bit more but I don’t have a lot of room for stock piling. I think I will start getting the paper again.


  3. Rob on January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Hey Jessica!

    I totally feel your pain – last year I finally decided to face up to my debts – I was £400pcm down (about $622).. Was NOT a good time for me.

    I totally agree with Kacie, no one should ever knock you for disclosing figures. I was very transparent with my journey but that’s only because I *personally* (i.e. it was an individual choice) was hoping to inspire others.

    Anyway – I tried several bits of software, both web and mobile, and ended up using spreadsheets. I hated every moment of it.

    This is why I teamed up with a great UX designer and started building moflo –

    We are constantly improving, and working as hard as we can to do so – but the highlights are:

    1. “Educate and inform” is a key philosophy, everything works in there the way it does for a reason – normally being that budgeting’s biggest problem is the psychological barriers – we hit them head on (and help you as much as we can!)
    2. We hate spreadsheets and do everything we can to take the best bits (number crunching) and avoid everything else.
    3. A very simple, easy-to-use interface.

    Naturally, I’m happy to discuss more – or if I can be of any help with helping you get organised in your current situation, do email me:

    Good luck and happy budgeting!

    PS: Did you get your analytics thing sorted on your site? :)


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on January 21, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Rob, Thank you for the reply. I may be more transparent at some point with my budget, like i am with my debt but right now, it’s not the time.

      I love the key point of “educated and inform” that is exactly what this blog is based on.


  4. Jackie on January 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I just use a spreadsheet, but actually just wrote about an easy way to create a budget here:

    The biggest thing I see missing from your list is food.


    • Jessica The DebtPrincess on January 22, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks for that Jackie. Forgetting food was an error in this post but not in my actual budget.

      Also, thank you for the link. I had bookmarked it but like so many other posts I want to read, they can get buried.


  5. Wess Stewart
    on January 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Personally, I like to use for my budgeting. It doesn’t help me not spend, but it definitely helps me kick myself when I do overspend…lol.

    Pro tip: For tracking purposes, I made a category in Mint called ‘Crap I don’t need’. This helps be realize that I did, in fact, waste money and it reminds me that I am, in fact, stupid.
    Wess Stewart recently posted..The view from the coffee shop window…


  6. on January 23, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I think, like what others say, that you need to put more on your food since it is a basic necessity and as for the budgeting, fortunately, I get by by just writing it down on my journal and tried to follow it as hard as I can. I don’t really use those online budgeting but I do hope that you find what is convenient for you to use and good luck on your budgeting. :)
    Angel Collins recently posted..MSDSonline Offers GHS Guarantee – Risk-Free MSDS Authoring for GHS Adoption by OSHA


  7. MultiMillionaireRoad on April 1, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Good on you for facing up your financial worries. Many people wouldn’t admit that they have more outgoings than income. I think you were right to budget on the low end of your income predictions that way any extras will be a bonus and you can use it to focus on paying off some of that debt. As for your income shortfall have you considered a small part time job? Minus $200 a month should not be a huge amount to raise. I would also suggest trying to cut down your outgoings but it already seems like you’re doing the best you can.
    Good Luck, keep in touch



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