Get Rich Slowly is my new favorite blog. It is a blog devoted entirely to helping people grow their wealth in a very simple, common sense way. It's probably one of the best finance blogs I've ever read. Why? Because it addresses normal people problems in a way that is very straight forward and missing a lot of the finance mumbo jumbo that usually turns people (or me, at least) off to finance blogs in general.
As a person who has always struggled to strike a balance in their budget between meeting all their needs, paying down debt, keeping a healthy savings and (this is important) having fun, I found their post on developing a well-rounded budget to be very useful. The basic idea here is that 50% of your income should go toward your needs, 30% to your wants (my weakness is eating out), and 20% to savings or paying down debt. This is a good way to make sure you're paying for your current lifestyle (and past lifestyle, in the case of debt), you're making plans for a future lifestyle, but you're not letting your money worry you too much in between.
I really like this idea because it makes it possible for you not to feel guilty about spending money on things you don't need. At the same time, though, I don't make enough money to have 50% of my income leftover after paying for my needs (something the blog addresses, but doesn't offer very reasonable solutions to--moving or finding a new job aren't really viable options.) About 75% of my income goes to needs right now. I'm hoping that after I move, I'll be able to get a roommate* and that number will come down substantially (very close to, if not at, the 50% range.)
But until then...I've decided I'm going to give myself a ratio to work with when it comes to the left over money. I'm thinking for now of just divvying it up 50/50 between the two, giving me $85/wk of my post-bill, post-gas, post-grocery spending to put toward debt/savings, and $85/wk to put toward things that are fun. This is actually a very reasonable number for me because, for the most part, I never spend $85/wk on fun. And if I end up in another situation where I have to pay out a boatload of cash a month (for instance, when I ended up paying the entire $500 deductible on my insurance right after Christmas -- can you say bad timing?), I'll just take more money out of the fun pot. Like I said, I never spend that much anyhow.
I feel a lot better about my spending at this point. I'm beginning to see a little light at the end of what was starting to look like a long, dark tunnel, what with adding a car payment and extra insurance to my monthly set-up. Getting a roommate this summer and upping my workload (I'm going to start doing some freelance work with oDesk.com and also probably some web design work on my own) would definitely help out my pocketbook. So I have a few goals to help me manage the coming months. It's just a matter of not letting my worries get to me.
* You might have noticed I said "get a roommate" and not "have my boyfriend move in with me and take over half the bills." We found out that Kellen probably won't be living with me this summer today. Pretty depressing news and not at all what I wanted to hear. But I'm hoping this puts an end to my bad luck for a little while. Keep your fingers crossed.