I took a vacation—pretty much the entire month of July.
Turns out, when you move to Colorado, everyone wants to come visit you! No complaints here, but it did at one point feel like l was running a hostel. Washing sheets, planning adventures, dinners out—let’s just say that August will be a much quieter month for both me and my wallet.
Nothing beats checking that credit card statement at the end of the month…oh wait, literally everything is better than that.
But as they say, the moment you least want to check your bank statement is the moment you NEED to check your bank statement.
And oh boy, did I need to.
Now that I’m done going crazy with trips and visits for a while, it’s time to get serious about a budget. But uh, how do you budget when you have no predictable income? Pretty much the same way you do when you have a steady income, except now your “fun” expenses are just a lot smaller (read: almost zero.)
Based on my savings and how long I plan on living without a traditional income, I’ve allotted myself around $500 per month of spending money. Feel free to shudder at the thought.
Here’s how my month breaks down*:
Groceries: $100 ($25/week)
Health Insurance: $150
Everything Else: $250
(*I should point out that I secured a pretty sweet deal with rent/utilities so those aren’t part of my current expenses, and car insurance is already paid up through the end of the year, thus also not part of my monthly breakdown. Also, I’m debt free, which is the only reason any of this is even possible.)
Simple enough, right? Only three categories!
I can see that you already have some questions.
How I Make it Work
First off, groceries costs are easy to keep low. I cook 90% of my meals at home and have frugal shopping down to a science. I’ll talk more about conquering the grocery budget later on — it really deserves it’s own post!
Health insurance is obviously a non-negotiable for me, and thanks to my not having an annual income over a certain amount, I get tax deductions on the monthly cost of my health insurance which makes it A LOT more affordable. Thanks, Obama!
As for “Everything Else,” well, the downside to this category is that some of the expenses already include recurring costs (Spotify, Adobe software, Buffer, etc.) so it’s more like $200 of free spending, and that goes for everything else. Gas, eating out, drinks, state park entrance fees, etc. Everything.
Basically, aside from the necessities, I’m on a shopping hiatus. Womp.
The “Everything Else” category is the most challenging and the one I have to keep an eye on. Depending on how often I’m out and about, I can spend this entire budget on gas!
So I have to be mindful — sometimes I’ll take my bike to get somewhere close by, or I’ll ask to alternate driving responsibilities with friends. I suggest daytime movies over nighttime ones. And I’ll always hit up a happy hour over full-priced drinks (so DC of me!) I’ve had to become very comfortable with saying no to plans or suggesting cheaper alternatives.
The Challenge is Real
No doubt about it, this is a tough budget to live on. I envy my friends who don’t think twice about grabbing an Uber home or eating out just because they don’t feel like cooking. I’d love to buy a fancy coffee a few times a week or pick up the check for a visiting friend’s dinner. I honestly miss having that kind of freedom with my money.
But this budget keeps me creative in my saving tactics and allows me to keep building my career without totally breaking the bank. And considering the fact that I’ve been on fairly tight budgets for the past three years, I’m pretty used to it by now. Frugality is just a game at this point.
Hmm, frugal bingo… now that’s an idea…