I don’t claim to be a guru of financial stability and smart spending but I think I have my head screwed on tight enough in the area to speak on the matter. Most people know how much they make before taxes, have a good understanding of what they receive in their bank account with their weekly/monthly paychecks and know what their big expenses are. I think I can speak for most of us 20 something year olds in New York City when I say that rent eats up a lot of our paychecks. It is certainly helpful to know how much of your after tax income goes to rent (Mine sits at about 35%). After rent is taken care of though, we lose our spending habits into the abyss of temptations and impulses. Some of us have shopping addictions, love partying, dine out way too frequently or have some creative hobby that drains our wallet. With all of these spheres of influences, how do you maintain rigidity in the face of spending pressures? That is the question that I sought out to answer when I started to look for cookie cutter NYC 20 somethings templates for the different personality types and hobbyists.
Budgets are usually sliding scale breakouts of where you feel your money should go in a given month or year. I personally have created numerous budgets only to later acknowledge the impossibility of stringently following them. My problem has always been that the amounts chosen per category are arbitrary as if to begin a test from this point forth. The approach that I should take is to look at my spending history and take the averages of 3-12 months worth of spending. From there, you could calibrate to provide more cushion in one direction or the other. For example: Lets say that I spent 60, 75, 55 and 100 at cafes in the last four months respectively. When crafting my budget, I should be able to say that the average amount spent at cafes is around $73. Given that I foresee longer nights of writing and reading for this blog, I think I should over-extend this budget to $80. Once a legitimate goal has been determined, you can work toward hitting that goal or falling beneath it for the coming months. These budget categories need to be in line with your overall financial goals.
The technical problem I have experienced is that the aggregation methods for spending have a tough time recognizing various categories. That, coupled with expenses paid in cash or through electronic payment, skew our data gathering for budget building.
Let us create a test case:
Cindy makes $4000 in after tax income every month
Based on the above, Assuming these expenses are her chosen timeframe averages, we can create a budget for Cindy that mimics this or adjusts in a direction that is favorable toward a certain goal. For example purposes, Cindy has made it clear to me that she wants to stop eating out so much and start working out more to get fit. In addition to that, she wants to start investing in the markets to begin her retirement planning. In this scenario, I would advise her to try and get her dining out budget to around $750 and maybe allocate $100 for fitness classes/memberships a month. With that additional $50 to her already 20% monthly savings, we can start to plan out how Cindy can improve her investment strategy. What Cindy does with that residual $850 a month is where I come in.