At our school district, it usually takes the entire academic year for the negotiations team and the district to agree on a salary. When that happens, we are paid retroactively for any cost-of-living raise we may have been granted. We recently got such a raise (1%–woot!–for LAST YEAR) and were paid retroactively. Finally, in February, we got to see what our new pay check looks like.

It was a meager difference–I didn’t expect much–but it prompted me to look, really look, at my pay stub for the first time in a long while.

And for the first time, in maybe forever, I was struck with a thought. I make a decent amount of money. I absolutely make enough for us to live the life we want to live.

And it’s true. Now that I’m working full time and NOT spending $2K+ on health insurance every month, we have the income to live comfortably. I shouldn’t be struggling at the end of each month not to overdraw on my accounts. I should have enough for what I want to do, AND save for the future.

On a previous post Waterbelle suggest You Need A Budget (thanks!) and I’d been meaning to check it out. This “I make enough” revelation spurred me to go to their site and download a free 34-day trial.

Last night I went to work sorting out my budget, allotting certain amounts of money not just to what I know I’ll need to buy this month, but also to monthly “installment plans” on the bigger things I know will come due (car insurance) and even the ones I don’t know will come due (home repairs).

I was tentative at first, worrying that I’d run out of funds before I’d assigned an amount to all the necessary categories. But in the end I felt I’d budgeted plenty in every category, even putting some away for my kids’ college funds–and I had $15 left over.

And none of this includes the $5,000 I get pulled from my pay check tax-free as part of a 125B childcare reimbursement plan.

When I’m done paying off my credit card debt, that “extra” money will go to my student loans. And after that (only $7,000 left!), all that money will go into savings.

Seeing my monthly check this way, budgeted by categories, made me realize that I absolutely should be able to live within my means. Comfortably. Without feeling deprived. Sure I won’t be able to get everything I want. Sure I’ll have to say no sometimes. Sure I’ll have to be creative in my purchases, by bigger items second hand and defer any travel plans for a good, long while. But I can live comfortably, happily, on the money I make.

And I am incredibly fortunate to be able to say that.

Now the hard work begins. Now I need to keep track of how I spend my money, to make sure that I’m staying within the amounts I budged for in each category. I’ve already gone way over for “birthday presents” this month (we have EIGHT birthday parties and I have two baby showers in March!), so I’ll have to save some money in other areas. Of course in the future, I’ll hopefully have a little nest-egg in the “birthday presents” area of my budget, because I don’t have to buy them every month (at least not as many as I budget for).

And so it begins. My new financial future starts now. I even applied for life insurance last night! At 34 I’m finally getting my shit together.

Do you feel like you make enough? Do you have a budget? How to do keep track of it? Any suggestions for a newbie who’s just starting out?


  1. I make an embarrassingly large amount of money compared to most working Americans and still feel like it doesn’t stretch far enough. Adopting, paying 1/3 of a now-abandoned second adoption, selling a house, moving across country, and buying a house would explain where that money went, but yeesh. I am incredibly grateful we had the means to do all that. Now it’s time to get things back under control and start seriously chipping away at our student loans!

    1. Those are all HUGE expenses. HUGE. Most people would go into debt doing all that.

      My eyes keep lingering on now-abandoned second adoption. {{{{{{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}}}}}}

  2. I LOVE YNAB. I keep meaning to write a post about it. I love the ability to save chunks for big one-time expenses (travel) and to move things around when we go overbudget in a category. I also feel more secure just knowing WHERE its all going (even though it is. ALL. going). Now if only I could get my husband to remember to log in his expenses without having to nag (and then get the sigh and eyeroll)
    Just keep in mind that it may be ridiculously off the first month. Don’t be discouraged—the budget will get better when you get more & more data to really match your spending habits & goals. I completely forgot several bills, and WAY underestimated our grocery costs initially. And certain things (like gifts for you, heating bills for us) are seasonal, so overages now will be covered by under-use later. I just realized I did not at all budget for the kids 529 funds for next year. I funded the max tax deductible amount in january for 2015, but need to save up all this year to put some in next january.
    I know lots of people don’t need to budget because they have their spending way down. I thought I was one of those people but I was not.

    1. Another thing that a lot of people recommend for tracking spending is MINT because it downloads things automatically from your accounts. If you never use cash it can be a useful thing to have going in the background because you don’t need to log your expenses– they get logged every time you use your credit card or write a check.

      1. Our bank lets us export our account activity into an excel spreadsheet so we are doing a retrospective “budget” each month to see where we are spending money so we can make changes.

        1. Oh, that sounds nice. I wonder if my bank lets me do that. I’m probably leaving them soon anyway so I guess it’s not worth looking into it too much…

      2. I have MINT but haven’t updated my credit card account numbers since I had to get new ones. I should do that as a back up.

        1. I use Mint as well. tHe combination of Mint and YNAB lets me see the big picture and the tiny details of our money. YNAB I use daily to add spending, and once-twice a month to look at & tweak budget. Mint I look at 1-2 times a month just to make sure I didn’t miss any automatic payments I need to add to YNAB and I would assume I’d look at it quarterly to track investments.

    2. Thanks for reminding me not be discouraged. I’ve been trying to tell myself that this is a first run and it won’t be perfect, but it’s so easy to be hard on myself. I appreciate hearing from someone who’s done it before what I should expect.

  3. It was very startling to do our taxes this year and see how huge our refund was and realize we were objectively broke last year. It’s exciting that we will have two incomes soon. We are attempting to have a proper budget in place before I’m employed so we get off to a good start. I hope it’s successful…

  4. I have a whole excel spreadsheet that I used to put everything into for my budget… this reminds me that I should pull that out again. I’ll send it to you if you want, though the tool you used sounds great as well!

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