January: My first month on a budget.

In 2020, I bought myself a budget journal — my first ever — to get a better grip on my finances in 2021. So, I used the journal the entire year last year.

But I really didn’t set a budget. Instead, I used the journal to track where my money was going and I could see how ALL my accounts were doing, including any credit card accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

I kept up with the journal and reconciled it at the end of each month, and it was really helpful.

So, I ordered a new one for 2022 (I got mine from Ivory Paper Co), but this time, I vowed to set an ACTUAL budget. I’ve never done it before (which may sound silly to some), but it was the only way I was going to meet some financial goals.

My budget journal is organized by month and divided into sections:

  • Income
  • Savings: I have a savings account for emergencies and one for car expenses
  • Personal/Fun: I put subscriptions here and any amount for shopping/random errands
  • Transportation: Gas, tolls, rideshare
  • Debt: Credit cards (currently my only debt)
  • Home: Rent, water, electric, gas
  • Insurance: Renter’s, vehicle
  • Food: Groceries, food delivery, wine subscription
  • Other: Charity

Then, you can put the total budget for each section. At the end of the month, you put in how much you actually spent in each section and see where things differed.

Sample budget page from the planner I use!

When I set my January budget, it appeared totally doable — almost easy.

But, several things came up during that month that I didn’t plan for in my budget.

For one, my income is different because of a difference in taxes. So, I bring in a few hundred dollars less each month. Whoops!

Then, I had some medical copays to cover — another few hundred dollars.

And finally, items I shopped for in December when I was not trying to be more mindful, were still charged to me in January.

So, I was several hundred dollars OFF my budget, but I’m not here to punish myself!

It’s a work-in-progress, and the great thing is, I can see exactly what happened, and set my February budget in a more informed way.

Plus, I didn’t contribute to any credit card debt (huge win) or use any savings; instead, I put $1,000 toward my debt and $1,000 into savings.

When I set my January numbers, I wasn’t even entirely sure how much some of my subscriptions cost or how my weekly groceries added up for a monthly budget. Now I know!

So, I set my February numbers knowing my actual income, how much things cost, and am on a roll with my mindful spending.

I also found out that I can get reimbursed for my medical copays from my FSA, so I’ll take care of that this month.

Using the planner has been a bit a reality check — which is sometimes tough, but it helps to be more informed about my finances.

Do you set budgets?

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