Budgeting Like a Badass


If you’ve read my blog a few times, you might know that I work as a secretary. Not a corporate secretary or an executive assistant–nothing fancy like that. I’m just a plain, vanilla secretary (with an incendiary dash of peanutbutter cup tossed in, but that comes from my winning personality!).

As you might suspect, secretaries are not, on the whole, highly paid. I am fortunate in that I get an awesome, incredible benefits package from my job, and I also receive overtime pay. In any event, I thought I would put a breakdown on how I currently manage my finances, in case people were interested.

Things that are important in my personal budgeting manifesto:

  • I pay my credit card off in full EVERY MONTH. I have 0 credit card debt.
  • All of my monthly expenses (except rent) are paid automatically from my checking account
  • The small amount of money I put in savings each month is also taken out automatically
  • I actually pay $60 extra on my car loan each month, so I can have it paid down in 3 years, as opposed to 4
  • If you’re not 100% certain of an expense, always round UP
  • If you’re not 100% certain how much money you have, always round DOWN

Budget Breakdown

If I include my overtime pay, I make just shy of $2000 a month. However, for the sake of this budget plan (and any buget plan you might want to make) it’s best not to include overtime pay. I’m using my lowest pay stub from 2013, rounded down slightly. Just concentrate on the bare bones, and anything you have leftover at the end is yours to play with in whatever way you see fit.

My monthly take home pay (not including OT): 1750

Whenever you’re budgeting for anything, look first at your fixed expenses. These are the things that will be the same month after month, and will under no circumstances change in cost. I’ve rounded up on a few of them to make it simpler. Here are my fixed expenses:


You might have noticed a few things on this list that are missing or extremely low. For example, my phone bill is only $27 a month. I use the AT&T super basic pay-as-you-go plan. I don’t have a smart phone. I also don’t have cable. My awesome boyfriend lets me use his Netflix account, and I stream things for free online when I can find them. Additionally, you’ll see at the bottom I put $50 in a high-interest savings account each month. It’s not much, but I’ve built up a decently sized savings fund this way.

Other expenses

After figuring out your fixed expenses, it’s time to take a look at the things that are a little more malleable. Grocery costs, gas for your car, etc etc. It’s important to note at this point how much you have left to work with, and what expenses are the most important. Since I live alone with my cat, my grocery costs are relatively low. (I’m including toiletries, cosmetics, cat care supplies in the Grocery category as well). Also, I only live about 5 minutes from the office where I work, so my monthly gas costs are pretty low as well.

After paying all my major expenses, I have $750 left to work with.

budget_otherexpensesSo you see, once all of my expenses are paid for, I’ve got about $305 left at the end of each month, to spend or save or do whatever with. I know, it’s not very much, which is why you won’t see me go on many shopping sprees.

Of course, my grocery and gas bills do change from month to month. Some months I eat more, or run out of toilet paper. Some months I drive 3 hours to visit my sister at college. I also added my monthly yoga-class cost. It’s technically a fixed expense, but since it’s definitely something I can live without, I added it on the end.

On top of that, I have my overtime money, which I usually use for entertainment and dining out.  And thanks to my little savings account, I have about $1300 squirreled away in case of emergencies.

A few quick tricks

There are certainly no “cure all” type tricks when it comes to managing your money, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself.

  • Automatic Payments–When you pay things off or put money in savings automatically, you learn to live without that money. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of trick. If the money’s not there in your wallet or in your account, you’re not tempted to spend it. Automatic payments also make your life easier, since you’re not paying late fees on your credit cards or loans.
  • Tracking your spending–For a really long time I used Mint.com to track my spending habits (this requires you to use a credit/debit card rather than cash on most purchases). Tracking your spending can help you identify bad habits (like my problems with fast food…) and help you curb that unnecessary spending. I don’t use Mint anymore because my online banking changed and isn’t compatible with it. If you can use Mint, you totally should. It’s so helpful!
  • Brown bag it!–Bringing your lunch to work or eating at home can save you butt-loads of bucks. Trust me. When I first started my job, I ate fast food for lunch almost every day. The cost added up FAST! Nowadays, I try to limit myself to 1 fast food lunch a week, and I save sooooo much! Added bonus: I eat MUCH healthier stuff when I’m not hitting Arby’s all the time.
  • Also, this book: I Will Teach You to be Rich. Bought it, loved it. Not all of it applies to me yet (401ks, Roth IRAs, and investing info is all a bit beyond where I am financially), but the book is awesome. There’s also a great website by the same guy.


Final Thoughts

I know that, comparatively, my financial situation can seem ridiculously great or pathetically low.  I’m hyper aware of how fortunate I am to have a job with health insurance and overtime (I work a lot of Saturdays). I’m also aware that, although it’s possible and many people do it, I probably couldn’t support another person on this salary.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people who don’t agree with how I manage my money. And if you have your own methods that work for you–that’s awesome and I applaud you. This is just what’s worked for me in the last year. I haven’t overdrawn my account in years, and I haven’t missed a payment for anything. Ever.

So hopefully this post will be helpful to some, or at least put my financial situation in perspective, for those who are interested in that kind of thing. Thanks for reading!

This post was orginally posted on Kate-Book.com

5 thoughts on “Budgeting Like a Badass

  1. huh, cool! This is very similar to how I manage my finances. I particularly like your manifesto thing. Also, moving money to a savings account automatically is a great trick. I moved somewhere cheaper this year, and although things were tight around Christmas, I’ve actually had money left over the last couple of months, which is a huge relief. I’m expecting to have a month’s gap between the end of my PhD and whatever job I get after, so I’m saving for that.

    As somebody without a credit card (never needed one) and therefore not much in the way of a credit history, one tip I was given was to get a credit card and use it for all my grocery shopping and then to pay it off in full each month. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s something I’m thinking about.

    1. Hi Nessie! Glad you liked my manifesto! :-)
      Saving for your post-PhD life is DEFINITELY a good idea. What will you have your PhD in?
      In response to your mention of not having built up your credit, I definitely approached getting a credit card with trepidation. What I do with mine is actually really simple. I set up my credit card to pay my auto insurance, renter’s insurance, and internet bill automatically each month. Then I set up my checking account to pay my credit card off in full automatically each month. So my credit card is ALWAYS paid off, I never have to worry about my bills, and I’m building up really good credit. Aside from those few bills, I almost NEVER use my credit card, but it’s nice to have in case of emergencies. I keep the limit on it really low, also. If you want to build up good credit, but you’re worried about having a credit card, this is a good way to start.

      1. The PhD is in biosciences – cells and microscopes and things. Unfortunately, I have no desire to stay in academia so I face the delightful prospect of finding a proper job when I have no idea what sort of thing I might fancy. Woot.

        That does sound like a good way to do credit cards for starters. The idea of being without the safety blanket of a free, ginormous student overdraft is a little upsetting, even though I think I’m going to be able to swing it so that I have no overdraft to pay off at the end. I’ll be keeping it in mind for when I have to fully join the adult world this time next year.

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