Michelle and I got married after 3 years of dating long distance. I know, it sucks. But we were pretty flippin’ stoked to start our little life together, get an apartment and live in married bliss. That was all well and good, but about a month before we got married, I realized something. We needed a budget!
Up until that point, I have been “budgeting” for about a year, keeping track of everything I spent on a sweet excel spreadsheet that Michelle had create in her “World of Math” class her first year of college. But what I realized was that I was not truly budgeting, but just keeping track of all the stupid things I would do with my money. So instead of “I wonder where it all went”, I was saying “whoa, I totally blew $500 on mall food this month….totally righteous dude!”(think, Keanu Reeves, Point Break voice).
Luckily, my brother-in-law dropped a Dave Ramsey audio book in my lap a month before our marriage, and it motivated me to get on a REAL budget. I put everything on paper for our new “marriage” budget, and we were totally set to rock it like a boulder once we got hitched. Except one issue……I didn’t have a job….
Budgets Don’t Work Well Without A Job
Well, looking back, it may have been a small oversight, you know, getting married and moving out of state without a job to go to. WHATEVS! YOLO, right? (j/k. Please shoot me in the face if I ever say YOLO in any serious context, ever. I’ll even buy the bullets). So, after a few weeks of vacation, we realized that I should probably make some money to pay the rent. Also, our budget was pretty awesome, except the $0 of income at the top kept putting everything negative, which didn’t help much in reaching our goals.
We reached out to a friend who had just graduated, and she actually hooked me up with the perfect job. I negotiated the pay, and though they don’t usually budge on pay for a starting position, I told them it was my minimum, and I could not take the position unless they were able to meet my salary demand. BAM! Mission accomplished! I landed my $14 an hour job, and we were set.
How Did We Survive?
Michelle had a job for about 2 weeks. Then her creeper (married) boss was taking shots of tequila in the back room with a lady from the pharmacy next door while his wife was out of town, so we decided she should quit. We weren’t sure how we were going to make it, but we figured that we would just work it out. And WORK IT OUT we did!
Here’s a quick sample of our budget living on $14 an hour while Michelle went to school full time:
Net Income: $2,150
Other Income: $300
Babysitting Income: $40
Car Gas: $175
Cell Phones: $100
Spending Cash: $60
Car Maintenance: $30
Misc: About $150 (usually school supplies or eating out)
Based on this budget, we were able to save $300-$400 a month only making $14 an hour. The first thing we did was get ourselves a month ahead on our bills. Because I was paid twice a month, tracking when our bills were due and adjusting our budget ever month around that got annoying faster than auto tune on a rap song. Getting ourselves a month ahead of our bills relieved that stress and truly made us feel financially fit. We then paid Michelle’s tuition at this time so we didn’t have to take out more loans. We were able to chunk a few grand off of what we would have borrowed by the time she graduated.
Extra Income Made the Difference
Our budget was pretty rock solid (as you can see), and we were frugal to the core, but what really gave us momentum was the extra income outside of my main job. When we moved to Oregon, my job at home told me I could telecommute, working just one hour a day to keep my position open for me when I got back. I performed product research and comparisons for the company, and was able to pull down 5 hours a week, which brought in an extra $300 a month. We also would babysit once a month on average a pulled in anywhere from $30 to $75 extra.
We threw all of this extra cash at savings for getting a month ahead and for paying school tuition so we didn’t have more student loans. We could have easily spent the money, as we lived in wine country and Michelle admits to having champagne (or fine wine) taste on our water budget. Instead, we used the extra money toward our goals, which in turn got us a month ahead, paid down schooling costs, and brought us to a place of having financial peace. And all it took was putting together a simple budget AND STICKING TO IT! Easier said than done, I know, but it really can make a world of difference.
And if you ever want to see how putting together a budget can make your dreams a reality, please check out our Budget Friday feature, and feel free to contact me to help you get started.
Comments: What is the least amount of income you were able to survive on while living on your own? I know there are some super awesome budgeters out there; I want to hear from you. Were you able to still have fun on your low income? What are some great (or even crazy) ways you were able to save money? And what’s the going rate on bodily fluid donation these days?