Sitting on Sophia’s couch, she and I sipped wine and could barely keep up on the movie playing in front of us. Wine and movie nights with my best friend was a tried and true tradition and our way of trying to save money by not going out. 

There was a lull of silence between us after Sophia had told me about a funny story that happened that week at work. She then followed it up with three of the most dangerous words ever spoken on a fiscally responsible girl’s night: “I’m kinda hungry.”

And with those three words, we spent just as much money on takeout that we would have if we’d gone out drinking for the night. 

Many of the goals I hope to accomplish before I turn 27 will take a lot of money. Buying glasses, getting my dog’s teeth fixed and especially paying off my debts will surely leave a dent in my bank account. Being well aware of this made cutting back on spending a must, and putting together a budget became very necessary. 

When I first made these 26 goals I knew I had to start saving money, but it didn’t go very well at first. Most of August, I kept saying to myself, “Okay, eye appointment is next month and I need to buy glasses, so don’t spend too much money.” But for some reason, even though I kept saying that I needed to save, I still wasn’t saving money. I tried blaming it on bills and the “surprise” necessary spending like buying flea medication for my animals, but it wasn’t that at all.

This may come as a surprise, but I wasn’t saving money because I wasn’t actually budgeting. I know. I was floored by this as well. 

And get this, saying to myself that I need to save money didn’t actually help me save any money. Calm down, I was as shocked as you.

Coming to this realization, I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was not very good with money and I easily gave into spending temptations. I had to sit down and really think about how I was spending my money and where I needed to cut back. If you’re anything like me when it comes to needless spending, here’s the budget plan that worked for me:


Adding Up All Major Bills

Before I could even think about how much money I could save each month, I had to break down all my big expenses for the month. This could differ from person to person and will depend on your lifestyle. For me, my major bills consisted of rent, phone, electric, gas, and credit cards. These are the bills that I cannot miss and have strict deadlines. Once I added these up, I subtracted it from how much I typically make in a month. This was a little difficult for me since I work off of tips and my earnings can vary from month to month. 

After I calculated what I make in an average month and subtracted my bills, I moved on to my spending.


Oh My God FOOD

It didn’t take long for me to find the culprit who was stealing all of my money. I love food. Food is amazing. Food is my friend. Food is also why I have been having trouble saving the money I need to go to Machu Picchu.  Every week, I try to keep my grocery budget between $30-$50. More often than not, I’m closer to the $50. This isn’t the issue. The issue comes when I spend money on groceries, but then I walk down to Rite Aid to buy ice cream, potato chips, and other munchies I’m craving. This is fine to do every once in a while, but I was doing it so much to the point where my spending on munchies was getting close to $100 a month. This $100 could have easily gone to my nonexistent savings account or to pay off a debt.

When setting up a budget for yourself, it’s important to find your weaknesses. Whether it be spending too much money on drinks at the bar (which I’m guilty of as well), excessive online shopping (my sister’s vice), or buying too many beauty products (Looking at you, Justine). 


Sticking to a Timeline

One of the biggest reasons I have gone so long without paying off many of my debts isn’t because I didn’t have the money to pay it off. It’s because I kept focusing and stressing over each one at the same time. I would continually remind myself of who I owed money too and how much I owe, which would discourage me every time. In that mindset, it felt like I would never pay them off and subconsciously just gave up trying, but would constantly be burdened and over-stressed about my debts.

It wasn’t until I sat down, looked over how much owe and who I owe it to that it seemed almost easy to pay them off. 

  • September: Huntington
  • October: Geico
  • November: Progressive
  • December: Comcast

Each month is dedicated to paying off a certain debt. After looking over how much of my monthly earnings would be used for major bills such as rent and utilities, I knew I could afford it. I also knew how much I could afford to save every week if I cut out a lot of my useless spending. I set a goal for myself to gather $50-$100 out of my tips a week to put toward my savings. This may seem like a lot to some, but almost nothing to others. For me, this was an affordable and attainable financial goal.


Changing My Mindset

A lot of the time, many people will think budgeting and trying to save money means giving up the things they love to do. Admittedly, I thought the same thing at first. But honestly, saving money is doing the exact opposite. Budgeting is giving me a strong foundation that I need to accomplish all of my goals. 

When I’m tempted to go out drinking with my friends for the second night in a row or eat out instead of eating the food I already meal prepped, I take the time to reconsider: would I rather have this beer now or save this money so I can hike Machu Picchu for my birthday? Once I started thinking this way, I became a lot smarter with my spending.