How To

How to: Live on a budget

One of the crappier parts of law school is learning to live cheaply. Each semester, I get a set amount of money for a loan disbursement and whatever I make from working. It’s a bit easier living with two incomes instead of one but it doesn’t mean we don’t have to use a budget.

Our budget is fairly set each month (though we are a little behind this month since I don’t get my disbursement until tomorrow). The budget is broken down into income, expenses, and savings/debts. I use excel to keep track of everything because I’m absolutely terrible at math and it’s so much easier. What we typically do is print a hard copy for the fridge and write down every single cent we spend during the month. About once a week, I put everything in the computer and make sure we aren’t over budget on anything too much.

Income for each month
Income for each month

This is how we lay out our income for the month. I get $1,000 a month in loans, plus I work about 20 hours a week. Patrick is hoping to have a full time (almost full time) job this semester so we guessed at his income. When we put something in the actual column it will automatically populate the difference.

Expenses
Expenses

These are our monthly expenses. Our rent is the only bill we have paid this month so far and because I don’t technically have income yet, we aren’t tracking expenses. Right now, we have no budget for eating out or going out to have fun because I’m living off of loans almost exclusively. Each month, I go through and figure out how much we can estimate to spend on things like groceries. Since we were able to get a lot of groceries from my parents and have giftcards to use at the grocery store, our grocery budget is significantly less than it usually is.

Savings/Debt
Savings/Debt

Saving and debt to us is a huge expense that we should be planning for each month. We hope to put away $100 each month into our joint savings (plus a little in our separate accounts). Right now, my school loans are in deferment and Patrick doesn’t have loans so we don’t HAVE to make any payments on those if we don’t want to. I also have an Old Navy card and Patrick and I both have credit cards that need to be updated and put on a repayment “plan” in our budget, though we try not to carry balances.

Outcome
Outcome.

Finally, at the end of the budget, we have our monthly outcome. The budget automatically generates the numbers at the end of the month and we can see how well we did in the grand scheme of things.

Living on a budget isn’t easy. It requires planning and attention to what is going on in our life. If you have two incomes and two people spending money, it’s even more difficult to get both people on the same page. I handle the budget at our house but I rely on Patrick to make sure he puts in all the spending on the printed sheet. In the end, I’m hoping we can reach our personal finance goals earlier than we expected by using a budget. Fingers crossed!

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