Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How I started to Budget

Maybe it was turning 40 this year and having a new job in a new town that made me start monitoring my spending like a fiend. In my previous blog post I mentioned that I was motivated by student loan repayment, which has led me to think about retirement. What will retirement look like when you haven't had a cushy corporate job for 30 years?

I've been watching a bunch of YouTube videos and reading blogs and listening to podcasts while I'm grinding steel at my day job (probably another blog post). I decided I want to stop living in the dark side of my financial moon. I want to scatter the roaches of ignorance about my finances. This is what I've come up with for the past few months.

Auto-pay up sucka!
You gotta understand how much easier everything is now with the internet and being able to automate payments. This has been a godsend to me since about 2006 (this is old news for me). Before that, I wrote checks and paid late fees. If I can automate it, I do it. I even pay rent through automatically having my bank send a check to my own landlord's mailbox in my apartment building...instead of writing a check, finding an envelope, walking down 5 steps to the mailbox. Sounds lazy, but its one less thing to think about. If you're still wasting time on this, you're still living in the 1990's! This is old news, but worth the mention because it was such a crucial baby-step for me.

Budgeting 101 for dummies 
The more I read about how to save for retirement and paying off student loans, the more I hear about how you need to have a monthly budget. A few year ago I tried to keep one on  Google's excel, but I don't know how to use it right. Fortunately there's a App called Everydollar, a program started by Financial granddad guru Dave Ramsey. If you're a standard issue MFA-er you probably have never heard of him like me (but my Veteran brother sure does). So instead of spending 99% of my phone time on Instagram, I decided to use this keep my shit in check.

I get paid every month from my day job, but also get some "side hustle" flow from pottery sales at farmers markets.  Usually I would deposit this into my checking account and spend the extra on cocoon deliveries and so I've decided to become an adult moth and fly...to the light of financial freedom.

Everydollar Budget Bro

While I was at the NCECA conference in Minneapolis, I went to a lecture by Nicole Gugliotti about how to budget and save for retirement for artists. Sounds familiar? It was right up my alley! I took some notes and pictures of her presentation. I also left the lecture feeling like I actually had a better grip on PF than what I perceived of myself.

Fast forward months later and I'm looking for a budgeting app, I dug up my notes and found Nicole's  Art of the Budget YouTube channel. She has been learning how to budget in real time showing us her weekly expenses and income. There's a bunch of other videos of folks doing similar things, but what I like about Nicole's is that she is so relate-able A) she's a ceramic artist too B) she's a teacher, even though I'm not one now, I relate to that way of life C) her income is similar to mine. Many of the other PF YouTuber's are making way more me. Its nice to watch someone budget that's isn't making $100k a year. At first I was thinking, why am I watching this random person do her finances online? But as I started to play with the app, it was helpful seeing someone else navigate it.

Here's a link to her demonstrating how to use Everydollar, also I get a mention! haha!

I've only been doing using this since August 2019. How has budgeting helped me?

1. Instead of guessing at how much I'm spending, I can really see it is! Wow $150 in gas!
2. I can see how much I'm spending on booze versus food. I can split restaurant bills to reflect this.
3. When I "reconcile" at the end of the month, I can see what I need to work better at. See above.
4. After "reconcilation" I can see what money is left over that I can throw into my student loans or my emergency fund, or my house payment. Normally, I would just guess and spend it randomly.
5. When you're thinking deeply about every purchase you make, it forces you to double-think it. Should I really buy this? My friends already know that I'm a cheapskate, so this is validation. 

There's a few budgeting apps out there. Everydollar is the only one I've tried. Do some research and find the one for you.

I usually watch some (streaming) TV before I go to sleep. There's a bunch of good TV out there now. But now I've added YouTube videos to the mix.

My MVP's (so far).

Art of the Budget. See above. :-)

Brad Finn. This super hyped fello is a really clear concise speaker. I feel like I'm dyslexic when it comes to numbers and its helpful to have someone break it down for me simply and with enthusiasm. Here is a good one to start. If you are thrown off by his "bro-like nature", ummm its free info, Check Yourself.

Mr Money Mustache. (link) Dude is known for his groundbreaking popular Blog and for revitalizing the recent FI (financial independence) movement. His YouTube channel isn't as polished as Brad Finn's but it endearing and he's helpful in explaining this stuff succinctly.  I just wish he'd do more. It seems he's really taking the retirement thing to heart. His blog is excellent. Note also his environmentalism and anti-car and anti-consumerism is very DIY punk Fugazi to me.

ChooseFI.  (This is a podcast.) These bros have sort of taken over from Mr. Money Mustache. They are very lively with 2 podcasts a week. Every time I listen to them I either learn something about personal finance and/or get pumped to save money. Don't be put off by their "bro-like nature" as they strive to be all-inclusive. Also noted that they are still in their 30's and are clearly still learning as they go. Also noted they are based in my hometown of Richmond VA.

Random Thoughts:

1) One thing I've learned is to make PF fun. I think having an app to learn and having Nicole to watch has helped me to relish financial planning.

2) I love how the ChooseFI guys talk about you are influenced by the closest 5 people that you spend the most time with. They posit that if you listen to their podcast then they will become one of the 5 people. Thus their Early Retirement podcast talk will influence you into saving money. I know it might be a insidious way to keep people listening to them, but I think it is true about the rule of 5 or whatever you call it. So I've decided to keep listening and every week I get motivated and learn something about Personal Finance.

3) Wish I found this last year. Wish I found this 3 years ago. Wish I found this 10 years ago. Wish I found this 20 years ago.

4) If you think this is something for rich people. I would say, as someone that has lived on food stamps, that budgeting might be for "poverty-level" folks most of all. Fight me. ;-)

What are your favorite youtubers or blogs or podcasts? Comment below.