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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am 29 years old and my take home pay monthly is approximately $1,620. I have some massive student loan debts (32% of my net pay). I am looking to pay these loans down, down, down. It's the only debt I have and it's about $75k, plus interest.

Charitable Gifts - $7
ER Fund - $158.84
Rent - $150 (I live with my mom and this is my portion of the rent and utilities. I do housework and yard work to make up the monetary difference.)
Phone - $45 (Mom and I split this bill.)
Cable/Internet - $50 (Mom and I split this bill.)
Grocery - $180 (I am a vegan who tries to eat organic, non-processed foods, which sometimes cost more. I also am obese and eat more food than the average person. This total is just my food costs.)
Restaurants - $30 (I rarely use this much. Leftover money gets used to grocery stockpile hot deals or to my ER Fund.)
Gasoline - $90
Oil Change - $10
Auto Repairs and Tires - $38.33
Car Insurance - $40
License and Taxes - $10
Clothing - $32 (Hard to find used clothing in my size.)
Shoes - $10 (I go through shoes really fast.)
Dentist - $10
Optometrist - $10
Prescriptions - $7
Toiletries - $34 (This covers a broad range of items.)
Cosmetics - $13 (I know this is high but I use specialty makeup b/c of allergies. Any leftovers go to ER Fund.)
Hair Cuts/Brow Wax - $15
School Supplies - $15 (Books for class.)
Pets - $20 (After food and litter, the leftover money goes to an account for vet bills.)
Subscriptions - $10 (This is the YMCA subscription that I canceled this month. The money will go to ER Fund after this month.)
Organizational Dues - $3 (For a professional organization I belong to.)
Gifts - $33.33 (This includes money to put back for Christmas.)
Misc. - $14
Blow - $20
Entertainment - $20 (I usually don't use this much on entertainment. Leftover money goes to ER Fund.)
Vacation - $25
Student Loan 1 - $228.50
Student Loan 2 - $241
Student Loan 3 - $50

Total: $1,620

I've put in some details to help you all as to why I spend the amount I do in a category. I know I need some work in cutting back on some things and have really already reduced a lot (though it may not look like it.)

In my ER Fund I have $1103 (Will be $1262 at the end of January after my payday.) I am looking to get my baby ER Fund to at least $3,000 before I start on my debt snowball. I have an 8-year-old (paid for) car and a job that is done by yearly contract. I feel I need more than $1,000 in the BEF.

In my Lump Sum savings I have $794. This is money put back for car tags, car repairs, car license and taxes, dentist, optometrist, gifts, and maybe someday a vacation!

I have $550 in my checking account that I pretend I don't have b/c if my checking account goes under $500 I get hit with fees. The lower the account gets, the higher the fee. This money is technically ER Fund but I choose to ignore it.

I also have a small cash stash in my safe. It's about $100. I keep this cash on hand in cash of any emergency that may occur where cards can't be used (though I rarely use a card anymore).

I do have one credit card but I have NO CC debt!!!

Please tell me what you think! I'm open to all suggestions and comments!

Thank you all! I have learned so much from this forum already and can't wait to hear from you.
 

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You have blow and entertainment money. . . any chance of cutting one or both amounts for the short term?

What does the toiletries category cover exactly, and how does it differ from the cosmetics? Any way to cut back there? For instance - I brush my teeth with a mixture of baking soda/peroxide. Cleans well, freshens my breath, prevents gum disease, etc. (this is on the recommendation of my dentist). I use sale purchased shampoos and conditioners, even though I have long, coarse hair (Native American). . . just some things to think about.
 

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Do you keep envelopes for each of those categories or do you keep track on a spreadsheet of what you spend in each category each month or ?????? Just trying to figure out how you came up with the $ #s for so many categories.


What stores do you have? Do you use coupons at all? Like a previous poster mentioned, you can get most toiletries (shampoo/conditioner/style products, toothpaste/toothbrushes/floss/mouth wash, etc.) free after coupons and/or the extra buck program at CVS or the register rewards at Walgreens. RiteAid has some awesome deals but I don't have 1 in my area to comment much on that store. A lot of coupons are either from the Sunday newspaper or available online to print.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
do you know how to do CVS and thier Extra Care Bucks? Because it would help your hygiene items. I havent paid for toothpaste in 3 years! That was just one thought I had right away. HTH!
I don't have a CVS in my area but I do have Walgreen's and Rite Aid. I just got back into doing coupons and unfortunately, I have to send away for any coupons that are worth anything. I just got a few deals this past week and am working to get a stockpile going. After I get a little stockpile I'm comfortable with, I will begin to "cherrypick" the free deals only. Thanks!

You have blow and entertainment money. . . any chance of cutting one or both amounts for the short term?

What does the toiletries category cover exactly, and how does it differ from the cosmetics? Any way to cut back there? For instance - I brush my teeth with a mixture of baking soda/peroxide. Cleans well, freshens my breath, prevents gum disease, etc. (this is on the recommendation of my dentist). I use sale purchased shampoos and conditioners, even though I have long, coarse hair (Native American). . . just some things to think about.
I have thought about combining the two categories as I usually don't use the whole amount in each category every month. I just get scared that I will really *need* something and will have no money for it. Logically, I know that is what the EF is for, but I can't seem to get around it for some reason. Something to ponder though.

Toiletries consists of toilet paper, paper towels, feminine hygiene items, lotion stuff, soap, hair supplies, OTC meds, dishwasher detergent, etc. I don't buy each of those things every month but I usually go through most of the toiletry money. Cosmetics is solely foundation, mascara, lip balm, eye color.

I use one prescription toothpaste and also toothpaste for sensitive teeth. I also will get the regular toothpaste I can get free with coupons for a rainy day and to give to someone who can use it.

I shop at Walgreen's and Rite Aid for health and beauty and the "deals." I shop at Kroger when I am visiting friends in a nearby city (40 miles away). Other than Kroger my only other grocery options are Walmart and Save-a-Lot.


Do you keep envelopes for each of those categories or do you keep track on a spreadsheet of what you spend in each category each month or ?????? Just trying to figure out how you came up with the $ #s for so many categories.
I have a little organizer (like a coupon organizer) I keep all the money in. I am a little OCD and like for everything to be pretty specific. I pretty much took the categories from DR's book TTMM and then took out categories I didn't need.
 

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Do you live in an area where you can live without a car? Or maybe
share your mom's car? I know it's paid in full (good [email protected]!) but you can make money from the sale, plus reduce expenses by close to $200 monthly.
 

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Your doing really good!!

The only things I can think of are:
Reduce or eliminate vacation
Look into reusable feminine hygiene items Here is a good site: MenstrualCupInfo’s Blog
(Using the keeper has saved me hundreds of dollars.)
Cut back on Toiletries, make a game of it -reduce, water them down see how long you can make them last.
 

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Do you really use $10 a month on oil changes? I commute 35 miles every day, and I only change my oil every 4 months or so, at $20 a time. Check your owner's manual, and make sure you are changing at the required intervals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Do you live in an area where you can live without a car? Or maybe share your mom's car? I know it's paid in full (good [email protected]!) but you can make money from the sale, plus reduce expenses by close to $200 monthly.
No can do. I wish I still lived where I went to grad school. I used the public transit a lot there!

The only things I can think of are:
Reduce or eliminate vacation
Look into reusable feminine hygiene items Here is a good site: MenstrualCupInfo’s Blog
(Using the keeper has saved me hundreds of dollars.)
Cut back on Toiletries, make a game of it -reduce, water them down see how long you can make them last.
I keep thinking about the vacation aspect of my budget and I think I will keep it for now as "vacation" but use it as EF should I need to. I haven't had a vacation in years and just the thought of *maybe* having one sometimes keeps me going. KWIM?

Thanks for the other info too!

Do you really use $10 a month on oil changes? I commute 35 miles every day, and I only change my oil every 4 months or so, at $20 a time. Check your owner's manual, and make sure you are changing at the required intervals.
Many times I can't find a coupon to get an oil change under $25. I keep $10 out every month for an oil change every 3 to 4 thousand miles which is what is recommended for my car.

I did just recently get a groupon deal in my area for 2 oil changes for $30 and I paid for that out of my cash stash. The next 3 months of oil money is going to replace the cash in the cash stash. I also have another oil change coming my way from a value pack I bought. After I get the money repaid to my cash stash the $10 that is currently going to oil changes will go to ER fund until I use the last oil change up that I've already paid for. Then I'll start keeping money back again for it. Clear as mud?

You all have given me some insight as to what I can cut down a bit and I will work on the numbers for February. My budget is never set in stone and has to fluctuate with life. This month's ER Fund may very well have to supplement my car repair fund for a transmission fluid change (routine maintenance and also needed) and a worn serpentine belt.

Thanks everyone!
 

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Looks like you are doing pretty good. To me considering you don't have a family or anything you could get your food budget down quite a bit. The hair cut and brow waxing could be cut out entirely- I don't get these things done anymore either.
 

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I think you are doing a good job, very detailed about your expenses. The only thing I would cut is the credit card. Don't give yourself the temptation, that's what your EF is for. (speaking from experience, as you can see I am good at digging my own holes)

Can you and your mom come up with a plan for those paper goods? Each donate X amount and then buy them in bulk? The fewer trips to the store the better, less temptation.

You mention going to see friends 40 min away, can you schedule some times that they come your direction? Have a picnic lunch or hang out at your house instead of going out? I don't know about you but friend outings get expensive for me when they are not with my usual frugal-friends.
 

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Hi! For only being 29, you are doing well, and congrats on the advanced degree! I know it must be tight, so I'll give some thoughts. My basic suggestion is to try cutting some categories to the bone for a month or two, just to get an idea of how it feels to live sparsely in certain categories. If it doesn't work, bring it back up. For example, if you can cut $10 a month from the food budget and not feel deprived, why not keep on doing it? On the other hand, if it doesn't work, well then, bring it back up. Doesn't hurt to try! I look forward to hearing how your journey goes!!!

Charitable Gifts - $7 Good! Keep on giving!
ER Fund - $158.84 Excellent! Don't give up on this.
Rent - $150 (I live with my mom and this is my portion of the rent and utilities. I do housework and yard work to make up the monetary difference.) Great idea to do sweat equity work.
Phone - $45 (Mom and I split this bill.)Does this mean you actually only pay $24?
Cable/Internet - $50 (Mom and I split this bill.) Again, do you actually only pay $25? Or is the total $100 and $50 is your share?
Grocery - $180 (I am a vegan who tries to eat organic, non-processed foods, which sometimes cost more. I also am obese and eat more food than the average person. This total is just my food costs.) There are many reasons for obesity, so don't think I am trying to pick on you. But can you possibly work on two things at the same time here: 1) weight control and 2) lowering the food bill. Try for a modest reduction to about $160 or $150 per month.
Restaurants - $30 (I rarely use this much. Leftover money gets used to grocery stockpile hot deals or to my ER Fund.) Try to set a goal for the next few months to only go out for dollar menu items. What if you made it a treat to go out once a week, but only spent $2-3 on dollar menu items? For a month, that would total about $8-12. If you find that doesn't work for you, then you can return to your original budget amount. But if you can do this, then you are saving about 2/3 of your budgeted amount!! And I find that knowing I have a weekly treat day is great motivation! Just a burger, fries, and a glass of water makes an OK meal for me.
Gasoline - $90 You seem like the type of person that wouldn't waste gasoline. How far do you commute?
Oil Change - $10
Auto Repairs and Tires - $38.33
Car Insurance - $40
License and Taxes - $10
Clothing - $32 (Hard to find used clothing in my size.)
Shoes - $10 (I go through shoes really fast.)
Dentist - $10
Optometrist - $10
Prescriptions - $7
Toiletries - $34 (This covers a broad range of items.)
Cosmetics - $13 (I know this is high but I use specialty makeup b/c of allergies. Any leftovers go to ER Fund.)
Hair Cuts/Brow Wax - $15 this seems like an easy category to cut
School Supplies - $15 (Books for class.)
Pets - $20 (After food and litter, the leftover money goes to an account for vet bills.) Many will disagree with me, and that's OK, but if money gets really tight, you can give away your pets and eliminate this expense.
Subscriptions - $10 (This is the YMCA subscription that I canceled this month. The money will go to ER Fund after this month.)
Organizational Dues - $3 (For a professional organization I belong to.)
Gifts - $33.33 (This includes money to put back for Christmas.) This also is an easy category to cut back on.
Misc. - $14 Means what?
Blow - $20 Again, try doing without this for a month or two, and see if you can do it.
Entertainment - $20 (I usually don't use this much on entertainment. Leftover money goes to ER Fund.) Many will say that this is not much for entertainment, but I know that we can entertain ourselves for nothing. Can you try to cut this back more?
Vacation - $25
Student Loan 1 - $228.50
Student Loan 2 - $241
Student Loan 3 - $50

Total: $1,620
 

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Out of curiosity: What is your degree in?

Next question will be, is there any way you can make money part-time on the side applying those skills?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Looks like you are doing pretty good. To me considering you don't have a family or anything you could get your food budget down quite a bit. The hair cut and brow waxing could be cut out entirely- I don't get these things done anymore either.
The hair cut and brow waxing will honestly be one of the last things to go out of my budget. Getting this done makes me feel good about myself when I look in the mirror. I *would* however cut out my Blow money before I cut this out.

Can you and your mom come up with a plan for those paper goods? Each donate X amount and then buy them in bulk? The fewer trips to the store the better, less temptation.
We do buy in the big packages whenever possible. I just got quite a bit of free toilet paper at Rite Aid so I know we're good for a bit on the TP. I'm also trying to use less paper products all together and use old towels for cleaning, etc. It's a slow process.

You mention going to see friends 40 min away, can you schedule some times that they come your direction? Have a picnic lunch or hang out at your house instead of going out? I don't know about you but friend outings get expensive for me when they are not with my usual frugal-friends.
We usually trade hanging out in our different cities. The city that is 40 mins away though is central to many of us. I have visited there more than usual this month. Usually it's a once or twice a month thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Out of curiosity: What is your degree in?

Next question will be, is there any way you can make money part-time on the side applying those skills?
My degree is in library science. I actually have no debt from my bachelor's degree. All of my debt came from the two years I worked on my master's degree.

I could use my degree to get a part-time job but I would have to travel to a city 20 minutes away to use it. I would actually make more money working at a retail store or fast food place, which is really sad.

Also, right now I'm in a para-professional position. I hope that in the next 5 years I will be in a professional position, earning more money.

I did just sign on to "teach" an English workshop at the community college where I work. I will tutor students in developmental English for one hour a week. The pay is awesome! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hi! For only being 29, you are doing well, and congrats on the advanced degree! I know it must be tight, so I'll give some thoughts. My basic suggestion is to try cutting some categories to the bone for a month or two, just to get an idea of how it feels to live sparsely in certain categories. If it doesn't work, bring it back up. For example, if you can cut $10 a month from the food budget and not feel deprived, why not keep on doing it? On the other hand, if it doesn't work, well then, bring it back up. Doesn't hurt to try! I look forward to hearing how your journey goes!!!
I actually did a "Bare Bones" budget and a "Desperation" budget. I think I will try to make March the bare bones month and April the desperation budget month. Thanks for the tip! I love a challenge!
Phone - $45 (Mom and I split this bill.)Does this mean you actually only pay $24?
My part is $45. We just cut out unlimited texting and saved about $18-$20 a month. We just started another 2 year contract in November so we're in it for awhile.
Cable/Internet - $50 (Mom and I split this bill.) Again, do you actually only pay $25? Or is the total $100 and $50 is your share?
My part is $50. I really love having the internet and unless I get totally desperate (in my desperation budget I cut it out completely) it will most likely stay.
Grocery - $180 (I am a vegan who tries to eat organic, non-processed foods, which sometimes cost more. I also am obese and eat more food than the average person. This total is just my food costs.) There are many reasons for obesity, so don't think I am trying to pick on you. But can you possibly work on two things at the same time here: 1) weight control and 2) lowering the food bill. Try for a modest reduction to about $160 or $150 per month.
If only it were that easy! I did take my February grocery budget down to $150. Unfortunately, lowering the food budget only encourages me to buy more junk. This is a constant struggle for me.

Restaurants - $30 (I rarely use this much. Leftover money gets used to grocery stockpile hot deals or to my ER Fund.) Try to set a goal for the next few months to only go out for dollar menu items. What if you made it a treat to go out once a week, but only spent $2-3 on dollar menu items? For a month, that would total about $8-12. If you find that doesn't work for you, then you can return to your original budget amount. But if you can do this, then you are saving about 2/3 of your budgeted amount!! And I find that knowing I have a weekly treat day is great motivation! Just a burger, fries, and a glass of water makes an OK meal for me.
The only dollar menu items a vegan can get are fries (and at some restaurants, like McD's, even those aren't vegan). Maybe apple slices at McD's. I'm not sure as I haven't eaten at McD's in years. I do drink water when I go out. The mark up on soft drinks is unreal.

Gasoline - $90 You seem like the type of person that wouldn't waste gasoline. How far do you commute?
My commute is about 6 miles total. I don't live very far from work but it is unsafe to walk to work, or I would at least a few days a week.

Pets - $20 (After food and litter, the leftover money goes to an account for vet bills.) Many will disagree with me, and that's OK, but if money gets really tight, you can give away your pets and eliminate this expense.
I will never get rid of my baby!! :)

Gifts - $33.33 (This includes money to put back for Christmas.) This also is an easy category to cut back on.
In my bare bones and desperation budget this category was cut quite a bit.

Misc. - $14 Means what?
Stuff that comes up during the money I need to buy/pay for that isn't covered by any other category.

Entertainment - $20 (I usually don't use this much on entertainment. Leftover money goes to ER Fund.) Many will say that this is not much for entertainment, but I know that we can entertain ourselves for nothing. Can you try to cut this back more?
I am quite a homebody and don't really go out much. I could cut this category back.

Thank you all for your suggestions! :) I have really changed my budgeting because of them!
 

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Not to offend anyone, but I disagree with the person who said to get rid of the credit card. It's hard to get a good credit score without having credit history from revolving credit, and a loan ( student loans don't count, or at least didn't in our case).
Obviously she doesn't need to carry a balance in anyway, but keeping a credit card open and using it occasionally and then paying it off, will build a good history in your credit.
 

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Not to offend anyone, but I disagree with the person who said to get rid of the credit card. It's hard to get a good credit score without having credit history from revolving credit, and a loan ( student loans don't count, or at least didn't in our case).
Obviously she doesn't need to carry a balance in anyway, but keeping a credit card open and using it occasionally and then paying it off, will build a good history in your credit.
You are unfamiliar with the ultimate goal of the Dave Ramsey plan, I take it?
 

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Like some of the others have posted I think you have a good handle on what you spend and why. Now the real question is how important is paying off that debt? Is it more improtant than the misc. fund? If so than the misc. fund goes. So the first step I'd take is that I'd go down the list asking myself that question with each category.

The next step is to look at where can you cut back in a category without eliminating it. I think one of the big things you can do here is cut back the grocery budget. Yes, I have read your above statements and I here you. I also live in Kentucky and am battling our grocery bill as I keep watching the prices skyrocket. The reality is though that I'm not in a place at the moment where it as large a priority (to reduce that bill) to me as it sometimes is. That said let me give you another way of looking at cutting it back. Obviously you are not going to be paying off your debt in full in a couple of months so we're talking long term here. Maybe for the moment your grocery budget stays the same but you can start planning a garden. Somebody you know has seeds from thier best producers last year, talk up your garden and get some. Then start the seedlings inside in recycled something, cups, milk cartons, ect. Plan a variety of stuff, in as large a quantity as you can house. Then if the bell peppers don't do well you have plenty of zuchinni (sp) (which I happen to know grows like a weed here). This will save you TONS on your summer fall grocery budget AND if you learn some basic canning (and again talk this up some one has jars to give away) next winter as well. It also meets your vegan diet.

What??? The problem is you rent. Container gardening can produce BUNCHES or you can see if a friend or relative close by is willing to share thier ground for a joint garden. We do ours at my mother's because my sister still lives home and she seems to have a special touch with plants.

Another area you might be able to cut back is cosmetics. Not by changing what or how much of it you buy but maybe by trolling the internet for coupons/deals/trial sizes of your products. You might even be able to call or e-mail the company and ask specifically for coupons. Tell them you love thier product and hate to give it up but that your budget is really tight. Ask if there are any promotional deals availabel.

After you've really looked at each list item like that then comes the "for me there is nothing else to cut, now what?" Now you think about attacking it from the other end and how can I bring in more income? Online survey sights, a part time job, clearing out the clutter and yardsaling, ect.

Anyhow, that's just my thoughts as I am once again re-evaluating our budget here as well. Wishing you the best with this.
 
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