Wrangling Those Dollars

Budgeting In Progress

I’ve got complete budgetary tracking for the first time since I moved out of my house in September of 2015!

Our hamster wheel culture breeds anxiety around money. One of my Major Quests is to replace that anxiety with a feeling of surety and safety in a socially just way. The single biggest tool in my arsenal is my budget. For years I’ve tracked all of my spending, known where my money was going, and how long I could survive on what I have before I was in trouble. Things changed so drastically when I sold my suburban home and moved out to the farm that I could only make ballpark guesses about how much my new life would cost. My best guess was about $1300-1500 less than my previous, already-stripped-down life. I got a big chunk of money from the sale, justifying the crazy course of events that got me there, but I haven’t had anything resembling a “real job” since 2010.

I’ve only been tracking expenses strictly for a month, so it will take a few more months before a clear picture of the New Normal emerges. But in the meantime, the mere fact that I’m tracking my spending means I’m spending *less*.

In the meantime, I’m already restricting my Food and Entertainment budget every week, which is by far my biggest expense. I take out the cash for it right at the beginning of the week, and that’s it. I don’t have to track my expenditures to stay on budget. I spend the cash one whatever I want, and don’t withdraw any more until the next week. If I have Big Purchases coming up, like a trip to Costco, I save up some of that cash for a few weeks until I have enough to make the trip.

One of my Major Decisions is that I’ll be publishing almost all of my financial activity and balances online. Because I intend to ask for money from other people Patreon-style as part of my long-term income, I want people to make the decision of whether to contribute or not based on my actual situation, not just how much they like my work. And once I’ve met my income goals for a given period, which will include money for retirement, etc., I won’t accept any more until the next period. I think a lot more people will be willing to donate when 1) they know exactly where their money is going and 2) they see me walk away from money I could have earned because I have ENOUGH, that being maybe the monetary concept most Americans need the most help with.

I’m excited to have gotten started on the financial part of my post-suburban life!

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2 Responses to Wrangling Those Dollars

  1. Vasa says:

    Withdrawing the cash and just using that seems like a great, simple way to control spending. Especially since handling cash apparently has more psychological impact than charging a card.

    • Scott Mauer says:

      I found that having the money staring me in the face each day really helps connect me to the budget. There have been countless times where I’ve either 1) chosen not to buy something because I saw how little money I had left for the week or 2) been able to gleefully purchase something because I knew I would still be under budget. As you said, credit cards make it *much* easier to spend the money without thinking about it. They’re practically designed to encourage unmindful spending. And it’s really nice not to have to keep track of every single receipt all week just to stay on budget. It keeps me there without a lot of extra paperwork.

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