OFB Interviews: Budget SOS

OFB Interviews: Kelsey

TGIF! We have another installment of our interview series to share today. And this week, we need your help! Our guest, Kelsey Y., is having a budgeting dilemma. We really appreciate her honesty and openness in sharing her situation. We hope we can help her out today!

Tell us a little about your situation.

I’m 23 and almost 9 months into my first full-time job since graduating from college in December of 2013. Previous to this job, I was working at a local hospital in the nutrition services dept., where I was in a very casual position. Transition to my new job was hard, as I had been living paycheck to paycheck for quite some time; I saw this as normal for being in college and never felt I was really struggling. But the budget was tight. I had high hopes that since I was working full-time, I’d be making more money and would be able to budget better — but it’s been hard. I’m up $2 from my starting wage, which puts me at $15/hour. We moved right before I interviewed for this job, so a change in rent/utilities affected my budgeting as well.

I’ve found a way to make sure I break down my paychecks into bills and savings, and while it’s worked, it’s hard with my boyfriend not making as much as I am. I find myself picking up the extra errands (trust me, we only get the essentials at Target) and bills because I feel bad that he isn’t making as much. But I’m close to being a bit fed up. I really want to start putting more money towards my student loans, but it just isn’t feasible at this time. I’d really like to be able to find a budget that WORKS and that I can manage easily. I’ve tried Mint and Every Dollar, and it just hasn’t clicked yet. I want to learn how to better allocate money for groceries, ‘essentials’, gas, etc., and find a way to still enjoy the little things in life.

So what are your goals? And what’s the “why” behind each of them?

  1. Increase my savings. I want to be able to have a nest egg so that when car issues arise, I’m not strapped for cash out of my normal checking account.
  2. Start to pay down my student loans. I want this $22,000 to be out of my life as soon as possible. I want to be able to get married in the years to come, and not feel that I have all of that weighing down on me.
  3. STOP living paycheck-to-paycheck and budget in a way that works for me. I think it will help me to have a game plan that works for me.

What do you struggle with most with budgeting?

Figuring out how to allocate money for groceries/gas/etc. from paycheck-to-paycheck. I also think about how to balance the “fun” purchases — coffee dates, a lunch out every once in a while, etc.

Walk us through a regular month of income and expenses: what do you take home and where does it go?

$1823.62 is the total of my April paychecks; I’m paid hourly, so some months/paydays it can vary.


  • Rent: $343 (of $685)
  • Electric: $24–30
  • Heat: $53 (of $105 – budget billing)
  • Car Loan: $118 (only have about $500 left!)
  • CrossFit: $157.50
  • Car Ins.: $95
  • Student Loan: $40 (this is the only one I’m paying on at this time)

There’s also gas, which can range depending on when I decide to get it; a full tank is around $35, I think. Groceries are about $50/week, but that can vary based on how long we go in between visits. I have a few mail subscriptions, totaling only about $16/month.

Any final words?

Help! Haha…I just want to be able to find a way to budget that can work for me and also maybe roll over into helping my boyfriend figure out a budget for himself as well!

Thanks, Kelsey! If you have any budgeting tips/tricks/methods/secrets that have worked for you, please share them in the comments below to help Kelsey out!

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  • Reply ali July 24, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Less than two months of Crossfit fees plus your normal payment will wipe out your car loan, so maybe it’s worth it to put your membership on hold a couple months. Once you’re done with your car, you can take all that money and allocate it to fun money. Add Crossfit back in, if you want. Then the rest (which is a good chunk, by my calculations) can be split half savings, half towards your loan. Also, does your company offer direct deposit? If they do, set it up so you automatically have a certain amount go to savings every month. Some places will let you set it up to where any bonus or overtime you accrue automatically goes into savings. Maybe do this for a few months (or even a year) until you’re completely comfortable with your budget and you have a hefty savings account behind you. Then just throw everything extra at that loan! Good luck!

    • Reply Kelsey July 24, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      The direct deposit idea is something I’d love to do, but being part of a small family business, handwritten checks are most cost-effective for them than setting up a system like that. I have been better in the past few months since I sent my story to Joanna and Johnny about just getting $20/paycheck into savings and haven’t had to touch it for any financial emergencies. =)
      Car payment is at $150, so I’ll make a payment with my next paycheck and the final one next month! My plan is to still deduct the $118 car payment, and use it towards my loan and savings. I know cutting out CrossFit at that price would help, and would ‘make sense’, but it is something really important to me, more than just the physical aspect. I haven’t had to go back to therapy, so it is a good bill for me to pay. =)

      • Reply Aurelia July 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

        How about trying to put in some hours at your CrossFit center? Ms. Frugalwoods from another frugal blog does free yoga by working as a receptionist for a couple hours a week, and in return she does two free yoga classes. One of my friends works at the YMCA as a prep-cook for 2 shifts a week mainly for the free membership (where I live gyms are extremely expensive), but also to use the extra income for fun money. Good luck!

  • Reply TT July 24, 2015 at 7:55 am

    I’m all for health and personal fitness, but that CrossFit expense seems disproportionately large compared to the rest of your budget. I know there is a social element to CrossFit that is part of the draw, but if I’m you that is the first thing I’m looking to trim. You can find cheaper gym memberships, or cut it out entirely and workout on your own. At the very least try going without for a few months, maybe until the end of the year, and then you can decide if you think it is worth it. Imagine what it would be like with that car paid off soon and no CrossFit–an extra $275/mo to save and pay off your student loan! Maybe not what you were asking for, but my $.02.

    • Reply Kelsey July 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      I truly appreciate your comment, and realize it would certainly help to cut that out, but it is an important part of my life that I’m not willing to get rid of or downsize on. I’ve tried all the other methods, and this has been what works for me and keeps me the most healthy, mentally more than anything. I’m looking forward to my car being paid off next month ($150 left), so that will help to add more to my savings/loans.

      • Reply TT July 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        If you’ve taken the time to think about it and decided that in fact the benefits out weight the costs, then sure, keep CrossFit. You have some utilities like heating and electric, what about cell phone and TV? You may be able to trim some fat by finding a discount cell carrier or cutting out cable and sticking with just internet service; then again, maybe you’ve already done this.

  • Reply Ellen July 24, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I would have to agree with Ali above. I don’t think it’s necessary to cut out CrossFit completely because I totally understand having that one thing that keeps you going but it may make a lot of sense to put it on hold for a few months long enough to pay off your car. Also, pending on what kind of car you have and the year, you may be able to shop around for insurance that could cost a little less. If there’s a way you can cut that down by $20, that would give you enough fun money to go get coffee here and there or lunch. Unfortunately, besides that, CrossFit may be the one thing you really assess.

  • Reply JS July 24, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I’d suggest actually writing down every single cent you spend for a month or two – whether you use pen and paper, excel, or mint to do so, I think that will be eye opening for where everything is going. After you do that you can set goals for the categories and track to those goals. Adjust goals as needed for what’s realistic. I’d also suggest checking in on your budget at least once a week to see how you are tracking to your goals.

    There is a lot of money unaccounted for in the list you provide, so you may surprise yourself with where it is going.

    As other’s mentioned, I think Cross Fit is an option to cut out, or substitute with a regular gym.

    Also, since you get paid hourly, can you request to pick up extra hours and get paid overtime? Use the overtime pay to go straight to your student loans or savings account.

  • Reply Suzanne July 24, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Always happy to help! Firstly, once your car is paid, I would put that same amount of money and put it towards your student loans. As for Crossfit, $157 a month seems really high…I definitely would shop around. Maybe Google the program and do it yourself if possible by utilizing a local gym. If you combined $118 with the $40 towards your student loan and maybe cut your gym fees by $100 per month, in one year you would pay over $3000 to your loan against just under $500 now!! Its a no brainer really…you need to cut your cloth according to your measure. Having said that, you’re doing really well and are being responsible by WANTING to pay off your debt as quickly as possible and with your mindset that way, you’ll do great! As for you picking up more than your share because your boyfriend earns less, maybe have a chat with him and explain why you can no longer do that, except for the odd occasion. If you keep going on this way, i.e. being fed up over it, your relationship will run into trouble and I’m sure you won’t want that. Best of luck with everything Kelsey!

  • Reply Shay July 24, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Even subtracting out gifts, personal supplies, entertainment and tithing, I still come up with $500 left. That’s a great savings!
    wipe out your car payment, bulk up your emergency fund, and then throw everything at your student loan!
    Still feeling like you are coming up short?
    There’s a great place to go, to work!
    get a second job, bartending, tutoring, creating something to sell. Make extra money, plus what you were paying on your car and throw every penny at your loan!
    $500 extra +$118 old car pmt +$400 extra income = $1,118 a month. You’ll pay off your loan in less than 24 months!

    Then you can work 2 more months and go on a really nice vacation to celebrate!

    Good luck!

  • Reply Heather July 24, 2015 at 9:21 am

    If your pay cheques vary, you should look at what they have been over the past few months, and take the lowest amount as your monthly budget. That way you likely won’t ever fall short, and then you can take any extra if they are larger and put that towards your debt repayment.

    Take the amount you earn, and deduct all your ESSENTIAL expenses from it – food, rent, utilities, any minimum debt payments (although paying just that gets you nowhere…). Then figure out how much you want to set aside for savings and extra debt repayment. If you are serious about that, it must be included in your budget before you account for the extras.

    Then what is leftover is your non-essentials, fun money. I get that fitness is important, but if you are paying for Cross fit at the expense of saving/debt payment…not a smart financial decision in my books. There are much cheaper ways to get exercise. And if you don’t have a lot of money left over for the fun stuff, well, sorry, but you don’t get to do the fun stuff. Or you find a way to earn more money on the side so you can afford it.

    Not the advice people want to hear, but there is no magic bullet to paying off debt and staying on a budget. Suck it up, get yourself out of the hole and then you can have some fun.

    [Have you talked to your partner about finances? If not, it might be time to have that tough conversation…]

  • Reply Erin July 24, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Kelsey, I feel your pain! I’ve been out in the workforce for almost 6 years, and my budget is something I have to overhaul almost monthly. I’ve found the greatest success with setting up a budget in Excel and using envelope budgeting for all discretionary spending–like groceries, gas, personal care, gifts, etc. It’s helped me remain accountable and learn to say ‘no’ to social invitations and ‘no’ to myself when I’ve run out of money in specific categories.

    Also, one of the best tricks my father taught me when I went out on my own, was to split my hefty rent bill between my bi-monthly paychecks. Although rent isn’t due until the 1st, I make a note on the 15th in my checkbook for half of my rent so that when my rent is due, I’m not out the full sum. Starting out, your rent can almost equal a full paycheck, so it’s helped ensure each paycheck is more even. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Raia July 24, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I would start with an honest conversation with your partner, spending more because of feeling bad and getting tired of it are red flags to me that something needs to change in the balance of who pays for what and why. Silent resentment can poison an otherwise great relationship. Conversations about money can be tough because there are so many emotions and baggage that come with them , but if you’re even thinking about getting married they are important to start sooner rather than later.

    I applaud you for thinking and trying to make smart choices about your money! You’re off to a great start by simply asking the questions. We’ve been using YNAB software and it’s working well for us, particularly the “live on last month’s income” which relieves the variable monthly pay dilemma.

    • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls July 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      Agree on this as well…if this is someone you love then you have to accept his financial situation at this time. On your shared expenses either it’s going to be 50/50, each of you pay certain bills or you can split by percentage. So if you make 60% of the household income then you pay 60% of the bills.

      While I do understand the fitness as a priority, for a short amount of time you could find a different method. Short term sacrifices will make it easier to hit your longer term goals. It’s not easy at all! However, it will put you so far ahead in your financial life.

      Cash envelopes for those categories that you tend to overspend on will do wonders for you.

  • Reply kirsten July 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    With your current expenses (including food, gas and subscriptions) I am getting a balance of $631 leftover a month, plus once your car is paid off another $118/month. I think you are actually okay to keep cross fit. Once your car is paid off your monthly discretionary income is $750. With the $750 I would probably keep $150/month for spending money, put $500 toward student loans, then put the remaining $100 plus all additional income (overtime, bonuses, tax refunds etc…) toward savings per year.

  • Reply Jessica @ Our Young Adventures July 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    To be honest, I like seeing the perspective of someone just figuring it out and not completely set/ debt free. I feel like we have found a balance that works for us, but we come up short sometimes too. If your car is almost paid off (yay, that is awesome!) it looks like your insurance is really high, even though you are young. Have you ever looked at comparing other companies? I told a coworker that one time who was about 28 at the time and paying much more than I was when I was about 24 and she had no idea she was paying too much! While crossfit is an easy thing to say to ditch, somethings we just have to keep or budgeting is miserable. How about try and really track the exact amount you spend on groceries/ food. That has always been our shocking number and the easiest thing to curb if we are aware. The little things add up SO quickly. It blows my mind every time. Good luck!

  • Reply Danny July 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    The budget you are looking for can be made in an excel spreadsheet and helped by your bank account statements or your Mint account, similar to what OFB had you do by writing down your monthly expenses. What I noticed is that you only wrote a handful of maybe what you consider your main expenses. But those seven items only add up to $836.50 versus your income of $1,823. Where is the other $1,000 going?

    Everyone either currently has or used to have this problem at some point. Not exactly knowing where every penny of our money is going, just knowing that it never seems to be enough. I thought I was averaging about $5 per day on lunch. It was $8.50 once I tracked it. Same with gas, I was off by $50 per month.

    Put every expense into your budget based on what you actually spend. You can lump it into bigger categories, but every penny needs to be there. Then you will know what you are really spending money on and where you can attack.

    And paying yourself first really works. When you get your next raise, act like it never happened and save the difference by transferring it into a separate account as soon as it hits your checking account.

    You can do this! You’re on the right track.

  • Reply Jen C. July 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Doing quick calculations based on what you provided for information, there is one glaring problem here–you have $500+ slipping through your fingers with no idea where it’s going! Before you can make a budget that works for you, you have to figure out what you are spending your money on. It is remarkably simple to let small purchases add up and just disregard them, until suddenly $500 is gone.

    Mint is great for tracking individual purchases, as long as you are logging in at least weekly (if not daily), and categorizing those expenses. If Mint isn’t working for you, then you need to get more extreme and keep a journal, either by paper or excel spreadsheets, tracking literally every purchase you make. Do that for a month, and then evaluate your expenditures. Figure out what your “weakness” is for spending, actively try to adjust your habits in those areas, and try again next month. The next month, evaluate it the same way. Eventually, sooner rather than later I hope, you get a feel for how much you spend in certain categories. That is when you can set up a budget. Aim for staying within that budget, and if you exceed the budget, STOP SPENDING MONEY. Set your goals, include those goals in your budget, and SAVE! 🙂

    I have a quote I keep handy so I’m constantly reminded. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Every single purchase, you should be asking yourself, do I really need this? Can I do without? Can I purchase something cheaper that will work just as well? Can I make something I have work for what I need?

    Good luck!

  • Reply Rob July 24, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Hi Kelsey!

    In reading your story, a number of thoughts come to mind, some of which others have already commented on. The way I see it you have a number of options but also a number of decisions to make, mostly dealing with priorities.

    The only ways to tackle debt are:
    – spend less than you earn
    – apply your spending in the most effective means possible by efficient budgeting
    – earn more money in various ways
    – maintain discipline in taking the time required to eventually retire debt.

    Ok, so let’s discuss some details on the above points as it relates to both you and boyfriend – not just you alone:
    Tighten up your budget. Document it in more detail. If stuff like using Mint isn’t for you then try using an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve used one for our family budget for years and it’s dead easy to use.
    Your income is not totally allocated. As mentioned already, there is leakage. Allocate every dollar that you earn to a specific purpose. One thing I bet that you don’t do well is to record every dollar that you spend each month. Sure it sounds totally anal but if you make the effort at the end of each day for (say) just one month you would better see exactly where your all your money is really going.
    Prioritize your expenses better. Do you really want to have a high $22K student debt hanging over your head for years to come? Well paying only $40 monthly against it isn’t going to cut it, right? So look for ways to increase this payment.
    Consider this:
    1. Drop those “only about $16 per month” mail subscriptions. You can easily survive without them.
    2. Stop helping (enabling?) boyfriend with helping him handle his share of the expenses but instead have a serious discussion with him to: (a) actively look for a higher paying job and (b) set up his own detailed budget to handle his share of the expenses (such as food, gas, etc). You guys have to work better as a team, each equally pulling your own weight if your relationship is to work for the long haul.
    3. After you pay off your remaining car loan in the next few months then take that monthly car loan payment and continue to put some of that money also against your large student loan. I say “some” because the remainder of that payment should be put into an Emergency Saving Fund. You don’t have one of those, do you? Well you guys really need one – trust me.
    4. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you have to accept the fact that it will take time to pay off your debts. Thus you need to be patient, but also disciplined and determined to stick to it. Don’t expect to have a lifestyle that has taken others (such as your parents) years to achieve. We all have to pay our dues.

    Others have been in your shoes. It does take time but it is very achievable to lick debt over time. Browse the internet’s financial blogs (like this one). You’ll see many stories of other young folks and what they’ve done. Educate yourselves in financial matters, in how to properly budget, in how to effectively save, in how to effectively shop, in how to set goals and priorities, in how to invest.

    Kelsey, you and your boyfriend can do this so long as you both are determined and are seriously willing to make some sacrifices in reaching your goals. There’s no free lunch in life. You can do it!

  • Reply Julia July 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    First, I really want to echo what other commenters have suggested about tracking your spending. Using Mint was the first step we really took towards budgeting. I hated it at the time, but it really opened our eyes to what we were spending. 6+ years later and we still track 99% of our purchases (we miss a receipt or two occasionally, but we end up figuring it out when we reconcile all of our accounts every month, including cash). It has become a habit to just log a purchase in the app we use every time we spend money and it is amazing knowing where you are spending your money.
    I’d also agree that you should really have a conversation with your boyfriend about money. Is he on board to budget with you? Does he have the same or at least similar goals financially? Given your (I think) shared finances, I think it’s even more important that you be on the same page regarding your finances.
    Another thing I noticed is that your expenses don’t include health insurance/medical, cell phone, or internet/cable. I’m not sure if that’s an oversight or something else. I mainly bring this up to suggest that when you do create a budget, that it be comprehensive and cover all your expense categories. It can be very easy to forget things that you only pay for once a year or don’t come up as frequently. It may help to be very specific about categories when you first start out (i.e. rather than having one big category that covers “additional” things like gifts, hair cuts, etc. have one for gifts, one for personal care, one for …) I would also suggest that you start saving a certain amount every month for medical expenses. That could just be part of your “emergency fund” or you could create a separate medical savings, but that way you have money to cover whatever might come up.
    Congratulations on wanting to take control of your finances! You’ve taken what I think is the biggest step, in deciding to look at what you are spending and wanting to do better.

    • Reply Kelsey July 27, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Since submitting my story to Johnny and Joanna, I’ve started to log in Excel. I’ve tried most apps, and just realized they didn’t work the best for me. I’m actually enjoying it, so I think I may have found what works for me right now as I just try and start the tracking. An app may benefit me more once I have a better idea of where to set the limits per month.
      Haha – the conversation will be happening! I guess I didn’t realize how much it could be affecting my budget. I think we are pretty similar with goals, so that does help.
      At the time, I was on my dad’s medical (I’m 23 and my job doesn’t provide it) and his cell phone plan. He retired in July, so I’ll be adding a premium come August for health insurance. I am still on his family plan, because it is such a low cost for me to be on there versus starting an individual one. I may start paying him as we switch carriers, but I’m not certain about that yet. Lastly, my boyfriend pays for our internet. I guess it would have been helpful to list that, but it was an afterthought.

  • Reply Kelly July 24, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I have found personally, that when I started using YNAB budgeting software to allocate my income (‘give your money a job’ in their speak) I have been far more accountable to myself for my discretionary spending and my savings/debt payments have seen more cash thrown at them. Perhaps check them out! Well worth the one-off start up cost. Good luck!

    • Reply Kelsey July 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I’ll have to look into YNAB – that is one I’ve never heard of. I’ll make sure to do it at a time where I feel I can put the $60 towards it. Obviously I’ll start the trial before that. But thank you!

  • Reply Tarynkay July 24, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    If you are unwilling to drop Crossfit, maybe check and see if you can elimiate or lower this expense by trading work hours at the gym for your membership. It can’t hurt to ask! If this is not possible and Crossfit is the one thing that you really need to keep, eliminate your other optional expenses. Cancel the mail subscriptions, stop the coffee dates, etc. Meet friends somewhere free instead.

    I agree with many of the above commenters that you need to track every expense, every penny you spend. I am always surprised when I do this. This is the only way to see where your money is going. It does seem like there are a lot of missing expenses here (like cell phone, health insurance, Internet…) Maybe you don’t have these expenses? It seems like not everything is accounted for, though.

    I also agree that a conversation with the boyfriend about finances is necessary. Does he think you should foot more of the bill bc you make $15/hour? Or is this something you’ve put on yourself? I don’t think that you necessarily need to make things more “fair”- relationships are not fair at all. But you both do need to be on the same page about where you are and where you are headed as a couple. Is this a situation where you can both be comfortable sharing all of the money in the pot? In a few years if he is making more than you, is he going to pay more of the bills?

    • Reply Kelsey July 27, 2015 at 11:47 am

      I have attempted to talk with our owner about that, but it hasn’t had the outcome when I do ask. After reading all of these comments, it seems it would be a good idea to try again and get a concrete answer from him. I’m very willing to help out around the gym, so maybe it would be something he would consider.I am planning to cancel down some subscriptions and really cut back on meeting out with friends.

      I started tracking in Excel (for now) at the beginning of July, and it has been helping. There are some missing expenses for good reason – my phone is under my dad’s family plan and I’ll probably start paying him about $20/mo. for that since before it was cheap enough where he didn’t mind; internet is paid by my boyfriend; I’m 23, so I was still on my dad’s insurance, but he just retired so that will be a new expense for me.

      My plan is to hopefully sit down and split our bills by percentages. I’ll have to find how to do it, but I think that may help us. Being married would help a little, since we could contribute into a joint account.

  • Reply Tara July 25, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Hi, I was in your shoes and have some tips.

    1) have a money conversation with your bf and define financial responsibilities and goals. Without this, fights will result. Then stick with any plan you agree to. Don’t spend more than you need to to make up for his inability to keep a budget (if he can’t keep budget). Anyone who can’t keep a budget now won’t get any better. My 60 year old aunt going through her 3rd bankruptcy (after inheriting a $700k house she sold) can attest to that.

    2) completely track your spending. This is why I use credit cards and rarely use cash (I maybe spend $60 a month tops in cash). You can track all of your spending via credit card. (I pay bill in full each month to avoid interest and it’s a rewards card so I earn points for future travel).

    3) Use a zero sum budget. This is where you budget this month’s expenses based on last month’s income. Since your income fluctuates, zero sum budgeting will ensure bills will be paid since the money is already in the bank.

    5) pick up a part time job to earn more. I shop for Instacart and it works great with my day job schedule. There are plenty of places out there that need great part time work.

    6) use Google spreadsheet to pull your spending from your bank/credit cards if YNAB or Mint don’t work for you. I’m a bit of a spreadsheet junkie so I love budgeting with Google spreadsheet. Life After College has a great budget template for free on their website.

    You can do this. Save for retirement now too, even if it’s $100 a month through Betterment. You’re 7 years younger than me and have compound interest working in your favor. Don’t ignore that.

    • Reply Kelsey July 27, 2015 at 11:40 am

      – I am learning this is something we will certainly have to talk about, and I hope I can take advice from above and pay based on % of income – which I think would work great for us.
      – I started (in July) to track EVERYTHING in an Excel spreadsheet. Doing it this way has allowed me to not ‘forget’ about it. It has been holding me more accountable to my spending, which has been great. I dedicate at least 2 nights a week to enter any purchase and see where I’m at. I’m planning to do this for the next two-ish months and adjust. Hopefully by the end of it, I’ll have a better idea of how to break down my budget.
      – I have been thinking about a part-time job, but would certainly need to find something that works with my schedule. I don’t really want to be working 7 days/week. It’d be nice to find something I could do online/at home on the computer…any ideas?
      – Lastly! I have a SIMPLE IRA through my job (I work for a retirement group, aka., financial advisors) so I started that at the beginning of 2015. Even if I’m not at this job for the rest of my life, I plan to convert it and keep it going!

      Thank you for all your advice!

  • Reply Peta July 27, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Hi Kelsey!
    I’ve never posted before but your story struck some chords with me so I thought I’d chip in. My now husband and I have been together for 7 years, but after our first year of dating he was unemployed (just finished uni coursework and doing unpaid work experience to complete the degree) and I had just bought an apartment. He understandably couldn’t pay anything, we were living together and I covered all mortgage, bills and groceries. Things were very tight! I had friends being good friends and worrying that I was being used (married with a toddler now so clearly not), but I saw it as that was my time to pay my way in the relationship, just as now that I only work part time he has to pay more and cover me.
    We always used a budget to cover our bills – figure out annual cost of all bills and divide out to put money away from each paycheck into a separate billing account to know our bills were covered. We have only started in the last year tracking expenses (I use Money Owl, a simple app where you set up categories with a set amount and time frame for each category) and have given ourselves monthly allowances for personal spending that we have to save from if we want anything large. We have the same allowance regardless of income to keep it fair, and everything else goes to the mortgage/savings . Maybe some of these strategies can help you.
    Good luck with it all, the first step is definitely that conversation, but remember that eventually it may be you earning less, and you are both in it together for the long run.

  • Reply Shannon July 28, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I agree with those above that you need to start out by tracking all of your expenses. My personal favorite is called Accounts, it is $1.99 for the app. I put all of my transactions in there immediately, and can setup my own categories. It gives you monthly reports of spending by category, so you have good numbers to work with to write your next months budget. I know that when I do this consistently I never blow my budget, but not tracking even for a weekend I blow it every time. Also, don’t get discouraged if you do blow your budget and give up. Keep on plugging along and you will get the hang of it!

  • Reply Kelsey July 28, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Kelsey!

    So we basically have the same life… name included! It is really encouraging to see someone who is going through a similar situation, but also pushing through it. I, too, live with my boyfriend who makes less than me, have student loans and am trying to figure out how to balance everything, and it has been a complete struggle. There’s been a couple things that have made this past couple of months easier:

    1) Communication : My boyfriend and I have a very open dialogue about our money almost weekly, and we be sure to keep each other accountable. We don’t hide anything that we spend from each other or play down how much the price tag was on anything.. even my ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY lulu lemon workout gear, haha!
    2) Cook as much as can, even if that means sandwiches… we eat those a lot. See if any stores in your area have double coupon days and plan meals according to what is on sale that week!
    3) Don’t cutout something that helps you be a better person! I completely know where you are coming from about having the expensive workout bill… mine is barre classes. You go girl!
    4) Slowly decrease the amount that you are turning on your A/C, you will be amazed at how your body can and will acclimate to a hotter space. This might not save you a whole lot, but my roommate and I did this our senior year of college and we probably cut our bill by 25%.
    5) As far as finding ways to earn money, have you ever donated plasma?? I did this sometimes in college for like weekly spending money and I usually made like $50 a week and it took like 45 min tops! I also made quite a bit of money from selling my older clothes that I never wore anymore at re-sell shops.

    I hope this helps, maybe you have already done all of this, but keep going! I’m sure it gets better eventually, that’s what people keep telling me anyway.

  • Reply Danny Lloyd July 29, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I am really grateful to see a post from someone who doesn’t have it all together and is still trying to figure out this budgeting thing. I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability it takes to put all your junk out there and have people comment on it. As someone who doesn’t have it all together budgeting-wise, it’s refreshing to see I’m not alone. 🙂 Thanks Kelsey!

    I am also grateful for those who have systems in place and have a savings accounts with money in them, they are a great model to strive for.

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