In this recurring series, young women from all over the country are coming clean about how they’re actually managing their money, honey! For one week, the confessor tracks all of her transactions, shedding light on how much she spends and saves. I’m breaking down her budget, helping her find areas where she can improve, and giving her props when she makes great money moves. Want to volunteer as a Cash Confessor? To spill your spending and saving secrets, slide into my Twitter DMs @thecashlorette!
Age: 23 (myself) and 24 (husband)
Location: Small suburb outside of Little Rock, Arkansas
Occupation: Journalism (myself) and lawncare (husband)
Salary: $65K* (combined—we share a bank account) *This figure has been estimated.
Take-home paycheck amount/frequency: About $460 each Friday, but varies a little depending on overtime (husband) and $1,100 twice a month (myself)
Married or single: Married
Number of roommates: 0
Rent/mortgage payment: $531 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
Monthly loan payments (student/car/personal): We pay $800 per month on my husband’s student loans—it’s way more than the minimum, but we want to get them paid off ASAP!
Utilities: About $110 per month.
Internet and cable: $95 per month.
Insurance (car/health/dental/etc.): Our car and renters insurance are on the same policy for $102 per month. We are both still on our parents’ health insurance since we’re under 26!
Cell phone: We are part of my husband’s parents’ family plan—it’s cheaper for everyone that way. We pay our portion of $110 to his parents each month.
Gym memberships: $22 a month for both of us.
Savings contributions: We put $600 a month in a savings account, plus 10 percent of my salary (or $232 each month) goes into a Roth 401(k) before I even get my paycheck.
Other monthly expenses: $10 a month for Ipsy bag, $10 a month for Netflix, $39 to sponsor a child through World Vision.
How many credit cards do you own? 0. All of the purchases in this Cash Confession were on debit cards.
The Cashlorette says: Very impressed with your commitment of consistently saving toward your retirement and emergency savings account, while doubling down on your efforts to pay off that student loan debt! It definitely shows that you are prioritizing in a responsible way.
Building credit can be scary; we’ve all heard those horror stories of drowning in credit card debt! But you two seem like responsible savers and spenders, and you could benefit from a credit card with no annual fee that hooks you up with rewards like cash back. Credit cards also serve as a great way to build good credit, as long as you pay off your bills in full every time, all the time.
2 p.m.: Max’s* friend was in town from Florida, so he took the day off and they got Chick-fil-A milkshakes for $7.30.
*Name has been changed for privacy.
8 a.m.: I woke up with a sore throat so I stopped at Starbucks on the way to work for a honey citrus mint tea. Since I had to reload my mobile pay, I spent $10 (even though the drink costs less than that).
8:15 a.m.: My gas light had already been on for a full day (I’m the worst about that), so I decided I should fill up before I went to work. I used my 10 cents-off-per-gallon reward and the total was $24.78.
The Cashlorette says: Yass girl, reap those rewards! Gas is one of the biggest expenses millennials spend money on, so it’s great to see you using rewards to your advantage. For even more savings, try downloading a gas app!
1 p.m.: I came across a little boutique website that was having a 70-percent-off sale—I couldn’t resist. I bought a top and a pair of wedges for $37.10.
5:30 p.m.: We got Zaxby’s for dinner—$13 for two meals.
6 p.m.: My throat hadn’t really gotten any better since Tuesday morning so I stopped to get cough drops at Walgreens for $3.57.
6 p.m.: Can’t go wrong with BBQ for dinner, especially when it’s only $21.06 for both of our meals.
7 p.m.: We wanted to get our friends who are having a baby soon a gift off their registry so we bought a stroller and some bath toys for $42.52.
3 p.m.: Max doesn’t work on Fridays so he got a haircut on his day off for $17.
4 p.m.: We had friends over for dinner so I needed to stop at the grocery store for a few things—the total came to $35.
1 p.m.: We spent the day at a state park and went hiking and then decided to rent a canoe for an hour for $11.
4 p.m.: Hiking and canoeing all day made us hungry, so we stopped on the way home for an early dinner at a pizza place. I had a coupon in my email for a free drink, and our total ended up being only $21.
The Cashlorette says: Spending $32 between two people isn’t too shabby! Many people lose a bit of control over their spending on the weekends, so kudos to finding frugal, fun things to do.
10:30 a.m.: $7 on coffee—our church has a little coffee shop inside and they donate the proceeds for mission work.
1 p.m.: We had to fill up one of the cars—gas prices are definitely up a little bit due to Hurricane Harvey, so it cost $34.
3 p.m.: $87.36 on groceries—I’m always looking for deals, and it’s easy to get discounts by just loading coupons on the Kroger app.
6 p.m.: $50 for three entrees and an appetizer. We went to dinner at a local taco restaurant and treated our friend who was in town, as well.
The Cashlorette says: You’ve done an amazing job at really utilizing discounts, whether it’s with a grocery store app or pizza coupons. However, you do dine out pretty frequently (I’m guilty of this too!), so using a credit card that rewards with double points for dining out expenses might be beneficial.
Now, let’s take a look at my fave form of budgeting, the 50/20/30 method, and how it shapes up to your current saving and spending habits! This will give you a good jumping off point to create the budget that works best for you. And keep in mind, your budget is always a personal preference.
First up: Your essentials, which should take up no more than 50 percent of your take-home pay, or the amount of money you take home after taxes. These expenses won’t fluctuate too much month to month, and should include four main categories: housing, transportation, utilities and groceries.
Here’s how I broke down your estimated spend for this category:
Transportation: This week, you spent $58.78 on gas, and you are on pace to spend $235 monthly
Groceries: This week, you spent $122.36 and you’re on pace to spend $489 monthly
Total: $1,467 monthly
With an estimated spend of $1,467 per month, you’re on track to spend 34 percent of your monthly take-home pay of $4,272. (Note: To calculate this accurately, I added back in the $232 that is taken out for your 401(k).) That is TERRIFIC! You’re falling way under the 50-percent threshold.
Now, let’s look at your discretionary spending! This category includes all the spending on things that you want, not need. This is the section of your budget where you’ll typically find all those guilty pleasure purchases sneaking up on you.
Here’s how I broke it down:
Internet and cable (yep, this is a want and not a need!): $95
Cell phone: $110
Gym membership: $22
World Vision: $39
Weekly discretionary spending on wants, not needs (so everything in your diary aside from money spent on groceries and gas): $240.55 this week, at this pace you’ll spend $962 monthly
Total: $1,248 monthly
With an estimated spend of $1,248 monthly, you’re on track to spend 29 percent of your monthly take-home pay, which falls just barely beneath the 30-percent threshold! Pretty impressive. It might not be a bad idea to give yourself a bit more breathing room in this category; this is the area that most people tend to overspend in!
Now, let’s look at the 20-percent portion of 50/30/20 budget, which should be put toward financial goals, like paying down debt or savings.
Here’s how I broke it down:
Student loan payments: $800
Savings account: $600
Roth 401(k): $232
You’re spending $1,632 a month in this category, which is 38 percent of your monthly take-home pay. That’s amazing! By cutting down on the amount you’re spending in other categories (like rent), you’ll definitely be able to pay off that student loan debt faster than most.
Thank you to our Arkansas couple for sharing their weekly spend with us! If you’re looking for a little budget boost, become a Cash Confessor and spill your spending and saving secrets; slide into my Twitter DMs @thecashlorette! And for more Cash Confessions, follow me on Facebook.
BTW, in case you’re wondering why the sum of the three parts is more than this couple’s monthly take-home pay of $4,272, it’s due to taxes taken out when the woman invests in her Roth 401(k). To keep things simple, we didn’t dive deep into her taxes. To learn more about the difference between a Roth 401(k) and a traditional 401(k), check out this article.