01
Jan
08

Comics are Budgeted Under ‘Essentials’

I’ve spent much of the last five months reading various ways and means of budgeting, from Dave Ramsey all the way to The Housewife’s Guide to Home Management (published 1921). I didn’t *buy* any of these books, mind you. Powells is like a giant library with a coffee shop, and if you’re really careful and don’t spill on the pages, they don’t freak out. Plus, they get a whole bunch of my money anyway, and then I sell them my books back, and then give them the money… it’s a vicious cycle. Budgeted under Entertainment.

 Anyway, most of the tips these books gave were either things I was doing (work two jobs!) or things I couldn’t do for various and sundry reasons (Sit down with your husband and add up your combined debt).

But the essential advice from all of these books is going to be Point One of my Fangirling Plan: Show Your Work and Cite Your Sources.

Translated to English, it’s write down every dollar you have coming in, and then spend fewer dollars than that. In the financial world, they call it a zero-sum budget. I use Google Docs for this. It’s free, it’s got a spreadsheet, and I can access it anywhere there’s a computer with an Internet connection (Libraries are like Powells, except they have public computer access).

First thing I do, I sit down and figure out what I need/want/will probably look at and go “Oooh, shiny!” and purchase on a whim this month. I write those all down on individual lines. I like detail. I’m into detail. Detail helps keep me from blowing several hundred dollars on a light-up sonic screwdriver (see above re “Oooh, shiny!). I do a quick formula to add those numbers up, and put a negative at the front of it. Because this is money that is going far, far away from me. *sobs* Nooo! Money! Don’t Goooooo!

Then I figure out how much money I will take in this month. Eventually, I’m hoping to be a month ahead (i.e. paying for January with the money I earned in December), but as I’ve been unemployed and/or temping for a while, I’m still often living exactly paycheck to paycheck. I can guess pretty close to how much I’ll earn, and I put that number at the top. Then, I do a quick formula that adds up all my income sources (one day soon we’ll talk about Point Three: Compound Interest is Sexy OMG). 

Do you know what’s coming? I bet you do! It’s a formula! And it subtracts your expenses from your income! The way I have Google Docs set up, it’ll make that number black if it’s positive (I’m making more money this month than I want to spend), and red if it’s negative (I’m wanting to spend more money this month than I’m making). 

Next, I want to get that number to zero. If it’s red, well, that sonic screwdriver will have to wait, and I’ll probably not go out to lunch as often. If it’s black, I now have a choice: do I go buy that sonic screwdriver or do I put that money towards my credit card debt?

Point Two of my Fangirl Financial Plan clearly points the direction I will go:  Credit Cards are Evil and Must Be Vanquished!

Now, there’s much debate in the financial blogosphere about whether or not credit cards are actually evil, or if they’re just a subsidiary of Wolfram and Hart. I don’t care if you’re a master debator (*snickers to herself*), I’m stuck under 27.49% APR and therefore my credit card debt must be destroyed utterly, and right damn quick, too. 

Once the first of the month rolls around, I do NOT make changes in the budget. I move one column over, to a column I’ve helpfully labeled “Actual”. And this is where I put in things like the fact in December I, um, uh… I bought the new Kushiel book new hardcover thereby blowing a giant hole in my New Books budget line.

The great thing about having my budget on Google Docs is that when I go out at lunch and spend THIRTY FREAKIN’ DOLLARS on a book, I can come back to my desk at work and put that number in. And I can, theoretically, do something like, not eat out a couple of times and make that money back up so that at the end of the month when I do the same formula on the Actual as I did on the Budget column, and if it’s in the red, I have to take that money out of my Savings (nooo! Money! Don’t GOOOO!)

And that’s how a Fangirl handles her budget.

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