The Classic Brunette: Setting a Budget

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Setting a Budget

Creating a budget that works for you is highly important when you're a college student, or just a young adult in general. However, what may work for your best friend, cousin, or even your sister, may not work for you. From what I've gathered about my experience of budgeting as a whole, the plan needs to match the person, no one can determine your own budget better than you.


When you decide to save up for something, you will be giving up something else in your lifestyle. With that, you need to prioritize what you want. Is going out to drinks with the girls or eating out 4 times a week important to you? If your goal is to move into a nice apartment, would you be willing to give up those nights out and substitute them for cheaper meals at home? No matter what you decide to do, make sure you understand what you are giving up as you gain more of something else. If you choose buying every designer purse you say you desperately need, be aware that you may be stuck at home every night of the week eating ramen and microwave pizzas (unless you can afford to do both, then more power to you).


I cannot stress how important it is to save your receipts! Receipts help you keep track of everything you purchase and it's an easy way to see exactly where your money is going every month. If for some reason you don't get a receipt when you buy something, ask if the sales person could print you one, or write down how much you spent (for when you buy something online). Every month, go through and write down all your purchases and look for where you are spending the most money. If you see that you went out to eat at expensive restaurants multiple times, consider eating at home. Make a list of everything you will be spending money on (groceries, gas, eating out, rent, clothes, loans, etc.) and try to document how much money you want/need to spend per month in each of these categories. Also mark within each category which of these things are necessary for your everyday lifestyle (rent, gas, groceries) and which you can afford to skip out on sometimes (clothes, eating out, alcohol, etc.)

While you're keeping track of all the money you're spending, don't forget to document everything you're earning! If you have a job where you get tips, consider placing all the tips you get into your savings. If you have more of a fixed income, attempt to place 10% of your monthly paycheck into savings. If that isn't an option for you, find out how much of a percentage you can afford to put into the bank to get by every month. Doing this will certainly help you save up some extra cash!

Find Out Your Main Goal

Are you saving up for a designer bag or an apartment? Are you saving to pay off debt or to not have debt at all? Your goal is what will construct the main part of your budget. If you are saving just to save, there isn't too many restrictions except for slowly putting money away every day. However, if you do have a goal in mind, the size (or value) of that goal is what will tell you how much to spend/save. If you have debt, whether from credit cards or student loans, that should be your priority (at least in my mind). If you are saving for that designer bag then you can put away a couple dollars a week until you reach what you need. 

Deciding your goal means coming up with a rough number of how much money you plan to save. Taking out the unavoidable expenses like rent and food from your income, you will then have the amount of money which you have for flexible spending. Now, from that amount, you should place a portion of that into your savings. This way, you still have some extra money to spend that you aren't using to attain your goal. I'm a firm believer that if you limit yourself to just saving, your budgeting plan will fall through. But, give yourself a little wiggle room and you won't feel as though you are restricting yourself too much.

Keeping it up

To save money, you need to keep it from being ready to spend in your wallet. Go to the bank. The bank is your friend (sometimes) and you will need to go there to put money away so you won't be able to get to it so easy. Try to stay away from using your credit card(s) and stick to cash, it's easier to stick to a solid amount of spending that way and won't lead to debt being built up. Speaking of credit cards, when/if you use them, pay the bills as soon as you get them to stay on top of things. 

As long as you keep track of your income/expenses and keep putting that money into savings, your budget should hold well and you'll be on the way to achieving your goal(s)! 

Also, my pro tip to staying on my budget is to be aware of the less than $20 purchases. You know the ones, the items that you carelessly throw in the cart while at Target or the supermarket. Those $5 movies and $8 nail polishes really add up even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. I know Target has tricked me into buying more movies than I can recall by the low prices that they advertise, and it would suck my wallet dry if I'm not careful. So keep an eye out for those pesky purchases and if you really put the effort in to saving and maintaining this lifestyle you can make anything work for your income!

I would love to hear your tips for saving and budgeting your money in the comments!


  1. This is such an important thing that can take some people a long time to learn (if they learn it at all). You give such good advice for people who need help with budgeting. It's always the small purchases that get the best of me! I'm always like "but it's on sale!" lol.

  2. The sales always get me! Haha, but definitely paying off bills first I totally agree is the right way to go, that way you get the necessary payments out of the way before everything else in your budget!

  3. What a relevant post to start 2015! I like starting the year out with a budget, but these steps will help me be more effective.


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