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!

Meet our Cash Confessor

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Age: 24
Location: Lansing, Michigan
Occupation: Legislature
Annual Salary: $40,000
Take-home paycheck amount/frequency: $1,269 twice a month
Married or Single: Single
Number of roommates: 1

Monthly Expenses

Rent/mortgage payment: $425 in rent
Monthly loan payment: $277 for car payment
Utilities: $100 on average
Internet: $25
Insurance: Car insurance is $238 a month, renter’s is $9 a month
Cell phone: Still on my parents plan—contract ends in January and will have to convince my employer to pay for my phone or sign a contract
Gym memberships: $99 a month for Pure Barre unlimited membership
Savings contributions (in savings account and/or retirement savings): $100-200 into savings account depending on my credit card bill
How many credit cards you own: Two Chase Visas. (One does 5% cash back on different categories. This month it’s restaurants. The other is 1.5% cash back on all purchases.) And three store cards (Banana Republic, Macy’s and Pottery Barn—the Pottery Barn one I opened for my furniture for the no interest for 12 months).

The Cashlorette says: It’s great to see you taking advantage of cash-back credit cards! Not only is that an easy way to build up credit, but you’re really maximizing your money. Be careful with those store credit cards; they tend to have low credit limits and high interest rates, making them dangerous for your credit score.

It could be beneficial to automate those savings to try to stash away a consistent amount every month; aim for $150 as a compromise!

Also, I’m officially tempted to move to Michigan for those Pure Barre prices! In Manhattan, one-month unlimited membership for Pure Barre classes costs $295. No wonder I’m so out of shape.

Day 1

Monday

7 p.m.: $30 on gas. Paid with credit card. I have a fuel-efficient car so usually I can last a couple weeks on one tank.

Day 2

Tuesday

Morning: $59.94—my HelloFresh box shipped and the payment was processed. HelloFresh sends me three meals [every week], each are two or more servings. They work well for me because I can make dinner and the second portion is my lunch the next day. Using the meal service has really limited my grocery bills because I only buy milk, bread and bananas … and wine … at the grocery store.

11:40 a.m.: $10 for Jimmy John’s lunch. I was in back-to-back meetings/committees so I had to have it delivered, and it tacks on $2. Paid with credit card.

5:30 p.m.: $8 for two glasses of wine at happy hour with friends after work. Paid with cash.

Day 3

Wednesday

1 p.m.: $7.87—build-your-own salad bars are my weakness. I had a work dinner last night, so I didn’t have leftovers to bring for lunch. Paid with credit card.

Day 4

Thursday

7 p.m.: $35.44 on dinner and drinks at trivia. An Irish pub near me does themed trivia nights like “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones.” Paid with credit card.

Day 5

Friday

6:45 p.m.: $34.98 for tapas in Ann Arbor with friends. Paid with credit card.

9 p.m: $10.60 on drinks out with friends. Paid with credit card.

Day 6

Saturday

1 p.m.: $125 to get my hair cut and highlighted. I usually go every three months, so four times a year. Paid with credit card.

4 p.m.: $65 on Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. I needed new foundation and primer and I had heard such rave reviews about her new line. Paid with credit card.

6 p.m.: $10 on a bottle of wine for girls’ night. Paid with credit card.

The Cashlorette says: It’s great to see you’re disciplined when it comes to spending on haircuts and highlights! Those costs can sneak up on you, but it’s definitely important to indulge in the things that make you feel happy and put together.

Having a plan—like limiting your salon trips to only four times a year—shows you have self-discipline when it comes to spending.

Day 7

Sunday

None!

The Cashlorette says: Genuinely impressed by this. Bravo!

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 it down:

Housing: $425
Utilities: $100
Transportation: This week, you spent $30. Since you have a fuel-efficient car and only fill up every few weeks, you’re on pace to spend $60 for the month.
Groceries: You spent $59.94 on HelloFresh for meals made at home, so I’m counting this expense as groceries. If you spent that much every week for grocery delivery, you’d have spent $259.74 on groceries a month. Instead of multiplying $59.94 by four, for a more accurate monthly figure I multiplied it by 52 and then divided by 12.
Insurance: $247 (for renters and car)
Total: $1,092

$1,092 is 43 percent of your monthly take-home pay of $2,538. That’s way below the 50 percent threshold, so good for you! Your fuel-efficient car is definitely helping you save on gas. Meal kit subscription services, like HelloFresh, get a bad rap. But sometimes, they can help you cut costs by hooking you up with pre-portioned ingredients (so you’re not tempted to overspend at the grocery store). Your take-home pay is also boosted by the fact that you’re not paying for health insurance, which is a huge cost-saver. Since you’re under 26, I’m going to assume you’re still on your parents’ coverage plan. Love it.

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: $25
Pure Barre: $99
Weekly discretionary spending on wants, not needs (so everything in your money diary aside from money spent on groceries or gas): This week, you spent $306.89, on pace to spend $1,329.86 this month.
Total: $1,454

$1,454 is 57 percent of your monthly take-home pay of $2,538. That’s pretty steep, and over the recommended 30 percent. Granted, this percentage will likely be much lower next month, since you don’t get your hair cut and highlighted on a monthly basis! That’s the tricky thing about this category; many people will experience severe ups and downs of discretionary spending depending on the month.

For example, during the holiday shopping season, this percentage might skyrocket, while in chilly and icky February, it might flatten. Try cutting back a bit on dinners and drinks with friends (trust me, I know the struggle is REAL), so you have a bit more wiggle room in your budget during those pricer month. Kudos to taking advantage of those cash-back cards, though; that’ll also help bring down this percentage once you cash out on those rewards.

Now, let’s look at the 20-percent portion of 50/30/20 budget, which should be put toward financial goals or obligations, like paying down debt or savings.

Here’s how I broke it down:

Car loan payment: $277
Savings:Estimated $150
Total: $427

You’re spending 17 percent of your take-home pay toward financial goals or obligations, so you can definitely afford to bump up those savings a smidge! Start investing in a 401(k) so you make moves toward retirement (crazy, I know), and beef up your savings account. Overall, saving on essential expenses and living within your means has given you more money to play with, so saving and investing is the way to go. You’re a money maven in the making!

Thank you to our money maven from Michigan for sharing her 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.