The Cheap Woman with a Lexus
I wanted to address this balling on a budget matter and express what it means to me. So I own a 2012 Lexus ES 350. No lie, that was the worst purchase I ever made. It’s a great car and I haven’t had any major issues with it but I was a silly girl fresh out of school thinking I was a baller.
I graduated college in 2012 and thought “I can afford $450 payment” so let’s do it! When I purchased the car, I vowed to pay more than the payment so that I could pay it off early… SMH. So I made payments of $800 each and every month, yes I paid it off early but the way the interest was catching up to me, it wasn’t that much earlier (about 1.5 yrs earlier). I like to say that I got the Lexus by being cheap with everything else. That’s a half-truth because I know it was really just me being senseless and having to finish paying for my stupid. Sometime after I lost my job and was without a full-time job for about 2 years, life hit me and I had to figure out this whole money thing and exactly what it meant to be a steward of what the Lord has given me.
The Budget Life
Let me just start by saying budgeting is probably the hardest skill for the first 2-3 months! I struggled, trying not to struggle! I generally operate well under pressure so I had to almost scare myself into it. So I researched statistics on the American struggle. I learned that over 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (that was definitely me!), most of us don’t think about retirement and just casually save (that was me, again!), and so I knew there needed to be a shift! I continued to read more books and watch educational videos and seminars for finance and learned that if I don’t start now, I won’t be able to tell the Lord, I took what He gave me and doubled it up like the men in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). So I started budgeting… And sure enough, once I put my expenses on paper, I was managing my money better! I have not completely mastered the investing thing, but I am confident that my consistent budgeting will serve me and my family well.
Tips to Start Balling on a Budget
- Start! There are so many budgeting apps available on your phone. You can even be a super nerd and do an excel worksheet. I like to use the EveryDollar app and for some major things I use excel so that I can do nerdy calculations, but for the most part, the app works for me.
- Ditch the cards and use cash! My ‘uncle’ Dave likes to say, “Cash is King!” He’s not lying! I had a leak somewhere in my car and the people at Lexus told me that it was $1400. Kence 3 years ago would have had a whole heart attack and used a credit card. That day, I had a mini heart attack and went to my car expense envelop and paid cash. No lie, the face on the cashier was priceless. I promise it looked like she thought I had a drug dealing sugar daddy! LOL
- Address your Debt. In order to be a good steward over our finances, we must recognize that the borrower is indeed a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). I’m not saying ditch your bills and everyday needs and go crazy to pay all your debt. But budget, get serious, make a plan and pay off your debt!! Free up some of your money by cutting down on the shopping and the indulgences of ‘balling.’ We have got to move to a place where we are not trying to keep up with the Jones’ and really live under our means. I learned that lesson when I was paying $800 on a Lexus that did everything everyone else’s car did! It was definitely an overpriced toy. If I knew what I know now, I would have bought the car cash 4 years later and paid 60% less than what I paid from buying it brand new!
- Track Your Expense. The app I use allows me to track how much I spend in different categories. Although I operate in cash, I still track my expenses by having my money in categories. For example, I have a groceries budget of $200 per month. I take out $200 in cash and put it in a grocery envelop. When I remove the money from my bank account, I track it on the app (to show the money is gone) and under the merchant (where I spent the money) I say CASH. I even track the little things. Sometimes, I feel moved to give a donation to the homeless person on the corner, I track it. If I have to swipe my debit card for $0.69 at Walmart because I am short cash, I track that! I’ve learned through weight watchers, if you don’t track it, you are only fooling yourself. If you use the money, track it so you know where/how you spent it!
- Recognize your Needs & Wants. Lastly, separate the needs from the wants and prepare for everything! We need food, clothes and shelter. After that, the rest of your money can be spread based on your lifestyle. I will share some of my categories of money. Tithe, saving, rent, groceries, mobile phone, cable/internet, entertainment (audible, apple music), restaurants, gas/oil, transportation, hair/nails, clothing, gifts, debt payments/sinking fund, vacation fund, and pocket money.
My very own tips/tricks: I am very specific with my categories!! I don’t leave room for surprise purchases. Every month changes but by now, I am pretty good with preparation for all purchases. If I buy concert tickets or pay for a conference, I charge that to the entertainment. I have a gas/oil category and transportation. Generally, just gas goes to gas and any other mini car expense (tolls, car wash, etc.) goes to transportation.
Gifts. I am a gift giver, so I had to make gifts its own category. Some months I one or two birthdays. Other months I have 3 weddings, a baby shower and 5 birthdays. That category can get crazy. So If I don’t use the money from the month before, I save it for the following month (especially in the summer- there seems to be a lot of celebrating!) Also for Christmas, I spread that out over a couple of months, using the gifts fund. I buy thoughtful gifts under my budget, and save the leftover money so that I accumulate for the holiday season or major gifting months.
Travel. I love to travel but recognize that I can’t play rich and swipe for trips! So I save for them. I have a debt fund (AKA Sinking fund). It’s pretty much a multi-purpose fund where I make my own ‘credit card’ for myself. I do not have any credit card or loan debt, in order to keep things that way, I plan for unexpected costs and future travel! If you every start googling or minding other people’s business on social media, you will see some ad about a cheap ticket or getaway. I hated those because I would always want to buy! I found that with this vacation sinking fund, it helps me find the money for last minute sales or my regular travel plans for the year. Each month I contribute a few dollars toward that fund so when the sales come, I go to that envelop and use the cash to make payment.
Unexpected Car Expenses. Same thing goes for car expenses. I plan for the rainy days ahead. I never know when I will need a new tire or something funny breaks under the hood, but generally as the car ages, you can expect that it will happen! So I plan for it. Like that example above, I have to replace a leaking something. I have an unexpected car expense envelop where I prepare for the rain (outside of my emergency fund). I go there when an oil change is not just an oil change and I got to dish out a little more. And of course, when you use the money, you have got to remember to pay it back!! Think of it like a credit card. You want to free up room for use. So if you wipe it clean like I did with that $1400 unexpected expense, the next few months, you should be slowly adding money back there.
All in all, Get the budgeting!! I hope this helps anyone thinking about managing their money better. Just do it! We must be able to account for all that we have and what we did with it. Don’t be the one that sat on your money and did nothing or the one that spent it all on junk! If you like junk, plan for it. Have a junk fund. But don’t spend all your money there. Also, you should also be saving toward having an emergency fund. The Emergency fund is for a true emergency, like losing a job. Anything else, is simply a lack of preparation. Prepare for what you know is coming. I hope you all were encourage to keep your finances in check! Let me know if you have questions you want me to address. I truly have a passion for finances and would love to share what I have learned through the years.
Me being a good steward and organizing my financial life!