Understanding Income & Budgeting

“Man I would love to be able have money saved away, but we just can’t seem to do it.”
Surprisingly I hear that a lot and what people don’t want to hear in response is, “You should manage your money better.” Even though they think they already do, then there should be no reason not to have a savings, right?

Saving money takes dedication and discipline. From October 2013- April 2014 my husband and my 5 kids used to go out to eat frequently, sometimes spending up to $200 a week just in food. Do you realize that’s $800 a month??!! We stopped that once we looked back on all of our receipts. I couldn’t believe how much money we were wasting! Our living arrangement at the time allowed us to have less overhead, but at the same time we were trying to save for our future, so we had to put our foot down and hard. We started planning for our 1-year goal of saving for a down payment on a house. Finally with our savings, an insurance claim and the rest from our tax return we reached our goal to have savings by March 2015.

So my husband and I put that savings towards the down payment on a $69,000 home last year (April 2015) with a 12 year mortgage. While our income was at $1,400 a month. However, because of my money management skills, we’ll have it paid off in 5 more years (June 2021). Our income has doubled that since then, which allows us the ability to save even more towards our financial goals.

A lot of people are smokers or have other habits. That will also be a decision you have to make if you’re really looking to save. October 2015 we decided to quit cold turkey from smoking cigarettes. That’s saved us an additional $108 a month.

Since purchasing our home, his employment upgrade, our budgeting skills and our lifestyle we’ve been able to accumulate a savings that cushions us in such a way that we are not struggling and going “paycheck to paycheck” as most put it. I would love to be able to help others reach some sort of financial freedom as well but my advice is only going to go so far if you aren’t motivated.


Firstly, you have to come to the realization that there is NO such thing as “extra money”.
A lot of problems I see is this:

Jill’s monthly income is $860.00 and her expenses are $684.00 which leaves her $176.00 after paying bills.

Jill decides she’s going to go get lunch then to a nail appointment, she spends $35.00. She runs to a few stores and sees a nice pair of shoes and a shirt, she spends $50.00. Then she takes her boyfriend to dinner and spends $45.00. That leaves her $46.00.

You can see now that Jill could have made better financial choices. Yes, her bills were all paid. But now she has $46.00 cash to last her until she gets paid again, when she could have have saved a larger portion of it.

Here’s an example of why a savings plan is a good idea:

Jill puts $125.00 in a savings account and has $51.00 cash to spend as she wants. She will be more frugal with the $51 than she was with the $176.

Jill could continue to save this way for a year. Making her savings account $1,500.00 before any interest. Considering the lifestyle Jill was living before she started saving. She would continue to be living paycheck to paycheck and blowing away all the “extra”.


I’m not here to tell you all how to spend your money, I’m here to help you understand how to manage it better in your best interest. I know it took my husband some getting used to the idea that money he’s “worked long and hard for” can’t be spent on things he wanted. When he finally realized, he has everything he needs and he wants stability more than he wants material items. Boy, was a happy to hear him finally come to terms with saving and not spending. (I didn’t blame him though, he was accustomed to a job with $6,400+ monthly income before we even met but with nothing to show for it) He’s always joking telling me he wished he had known me back when he was at that job because we’d have things to show for it. I agree sometimes, it would have been nice, but I appreciate the struggle we had starting out and the memories we’ve created since because starting from the ground has allowed us to grow as a couple and to build towards our future.

But… enough about us. Let’s get you started on figuring out what exactly your budgeting looks like. Bare necessities. Get ready to do some math. Get a pen and paper. Write these columns.

  • Housing (rent/mortgage & insurance if any)
  • Utilities & Phone (this is all utilities and all phones)
  • Necessity (Groceries/Food)
  • Misc (toilet paper, soap, shamp/cond diapers, wipes, anything you purchase monthly)
  • Transportation (Car Insurance/Car Payment/ Gas)
  • Entertainment (Cable/Internet)
  • Savings

Now you might not know exactly what your extra expenses look like. Well if you handle a lot in cash and you don’t keep receipts I can see how that can run away from you. I guess a few  tips would be: KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS, USE A DEBIT CARD AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE (to be able to review transactions online) or WRITE DOWN IN A NOTEPAD EVERY TIME YOU SPEND MONEY CASH. Now if you do have an idea, take your total expense for each category and divide it by your monthly income and you come up with your percentage. If your housing is $500 and your monthly income is $1,500, then your housing percent is 33%. Then you continue. Then you add up the percent, whatever the difference is, is the amount leftover for savings. On your paper you should be able to see the exact dollar amount to what you have leftover.

If there is nothing leftover… then you may want to re-evaluate where your money is going and how you can possibly cut back on some expenses. You should not be living above your means, if you are serious about starting a savings plan, you will need to make sacrifices and in the long run it will pay off. Believe me.

I’ve provided an example of my current income budgeting chart. Once you’ve got your numbers, you can create your own over at meta-chart.com



I hope you found this post helpful and maybe inspiring. I wish you all the best. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Meredith.Stone724@gmail.com

Understanding Income & Budgeting

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