On Budgeting

Illusions of Productivity

Budgeting. You gotta do it.

Living in San Francisco where, as a somewhat-recent college graduate, you can’t really follow the 50/20/30 saving rule, I’ve tried a number of budgeting methods in an attempt to make my income last.

Writing out a budget only works if you reconcile it with your bank statement and analyze your spending habits.

I would write out a budget every payday, listing off my expected expenses; but as I left my budget in my planner, which didn’t always make it into my purse, I found that I wouldn’t look at the budget again, until I scrapped it and started fresh the next payday. I then tried to take a picture of it to reference it on the go, but I would never look back. I just kept swiping my card and telling myself that I would sit down later and reconcile my bank statement. This never happened. So I continued spending, always spreading myself way too thin, especially during those last couple of days before payday.

Withdrawing cash and using the Envelope System prevents you from swiping blindly.

I finally realized I wasn’t in control by just writing out the budget; I felt I would have more discipline if  I saw the actual cash leave my hand. I decided I should do the classic envelope system, withdraw cash,  and divide it accordingly. This worked for a few pay periods. I even made this coolio filing system for my wallet!
At first, I was a little nervous carrying around a good amount of cash, but I played it safe and left some at home; only taking what I thought I ‘d need. Eventually I started to grab cash from other sections, going over my allotted budget and not paying mind to what I took from one, and what I owed in another. I would collect receipts, again, with the intention on reconciling my budget, but this only resulted in a messy wallet, and still no effective budgeting system.

Using a budget app makes it easy to keep track of your spending in real time.


Finally, I decided to give technology a try. I was a bit hesitant in the same way a planner addict like myself first felt towards Google Calendar –  “it’s just not the same!” I stumbled across a few apps I tried simultaneously, and found that I liked GoodBudget the best. To be honest I still haven’t figured out all the app’s functions, but everything I need, it does on the most basic level. It’s the envelope system essentially and what makes it better than the real thing is that it’s on your phone. They even have a desktop version to go with the app.

When I finally got in the groove of using it, I couldn’t believe it took me this long to discover it. I’m now in the habit of opening the app after each purchase and logging my transaction. Once the transaction is logged, it subtracts it from the expenses’ envelope and shows how much money you have left to spend. Yes, I’m sure there are many apps out there, but this interface was personally more intuitive. I’m currently on the longest streak I’ve ever had where I haven’t had to dip into my savings account, and it feels quite nice.

Anyways, just some thoughts from the Adulting Department.

Cheers and Happy Budgeting!