I know as soon as I hear the word “budget”, my mind automatically clicks to money. But budgeting doesn’t necessarily only mean your finances, it can also refer to budgeting things like your diet, time, or relationships. In my mind, budgeting is simply taking control of some aspect in your life that you want to totally own – #girlboss – and changing it to make an improvement.
In my case, my focus lately has been on budgeting my money and my diet. Moving back into a dorm for my internship (see New Job, New City, New Friends – Oh My!) and not having access to my own kitchen like I’m used to kind of made my life flip upside-down (I’m being just a little dramatic). I am a person who loves to cook and prepare my own meals. Eating well improves both my mentality and my physical strength, which are both big priorities in my world. It led me to spend a lot of money on going out to eat in the first couple weeks because I didn’t have any food in my room – this eventually led to the decision that I need to budget my money, which meant I also need to budget my diet. Although these two might not pertain to you, I thought that sharing the ways that help me stick to my personal budget might be flexible enough to change and tweak them however you see fit.
No going out to eat on weekdays. Believe me, Milwaukee is crawling with restaurants with the best food and drinks, which makes it hard to turn down the opportunity to try out a new spot. I told myself that I can save the restaurant food for Fridays, Saturdays and maybe Sundays. It’s not even that the places I go are over-the-top pricey, but those bills add up eventually and it’s often not as diet-friendly.
Pack lunch for work the night prior. At Kohl’s, we are lucky enough to have an entire cafeteria and coffee shop at our finger tips. It has anything you could ever be craving: sandwiches, burgers, pasta, pizza, tacos, stir fry, a salad bar – literally you name it and I guarantee they have it. It’s very tempting to purchase lunch in the cafe every day because it’s so convenient, but just like going out to dinner those bills continuously add up. Say you spend $8 on lunch each day. . that’s $40 for every week!! That could buy a new pair of shoes! Or a whole outfit if you’re a good sale shopper! By packing a lunch and making coffee in my room, I save so much money. Not to mention, I eat waaaaay healthier!
Stock the fridge on Sundays. So obviously if I’m not buying lunch or dinner, my food must be coming from somewhere. . . enter: a full fridge! Grocery shopping on Sundays (or whenever I have the time to) gives me plenty of meal options for the week ahead. I load up on the veggies – carrots, snap peas, peppers, and cukes were this week’s picks – and stay away from getting anything like processed snacks. Having access to only healthy food plus not allowing myself to spend money on food basically forces me to eat what I’ve got handy haha. My favorite lunch is a little snack box of veggies with hummus, cheese slices with crackers/pretzels, and grapes! A yummy, mobile charcuterie board!
Allocate a certain amount of cash to spend each week. This part I haven’t perfected yet, but ideally I want to withdraw a certain amount of cash at the beginning of the week and only allow myself that much to spend for the rest of the week. If I run out of cash, then I run out of money (but not technically). Everyone is different, but I prefer spending cash because then my bank account doesn’t see the effect after every purchase I make – it’s quite demoralizing if you see a bunch of negative signs on your statement!
It took me a few weeks to figure out my new routine, but three weeks in and I’m finally getting the hang of it. My goal is to eat at home Monday through Thursday and pack lunch every day for work, but I will allow myself some days to splurge every once in a while. Last week though, I achieved my goal! I feel awesome and a lot more in control of how I’m spending my money and what I’m eating.
It’s essential to understand that these new guidelines you’ve set for yourself are going to take a little bit of time to set into stone in your life. Be patient but stern with yourself: set firm goals, write them down, put reminders wherever you’ll see them often. Most importantly: plan ahead!! I plan out meals and prepare them in advance so when the time comes, I am less likely to opt for spending money on another option. “Don’t put all of your eggs into your future self’s basket” – wise words I heard from my fav social media-ist Tori Sterling. She has an awesome podcast episode about how to budget your life on her podcast Manifest with Tori Sterling. I highly recommend a listen!
Following a budget probably means you are restricting yourself of something, and it’s definitely challenging to do. BUT with this post and Tori’s podcast, you’re now a budget pro 😉 It will take some adjustments but remember why you want to budget in the first place – set goals and create a vision of something you want to achieve by budgeting!