Project Brief: Getting a grip on my personal budget

18 Apr

[WARNING: This post is boring. There’s nothing pithy about it. If you’re looking for humor, check out the Melons post below. Otherwise, if you keep reading, do so knowing that you’re witnessing a financial experiment. You’ve been warned.]

This year I didn’t really make any New Year’s resolutions, other than to start (and maintain) a blog. Well, it seems like I’m pace with this resolution, so it’s time to scrutinize another area of my life that could stand for a bit of attention. The most obvious categories are fitness, diet and finance, so I’ve decided to choose the one that (seemingly) requires the least amount of work: finance.

That’s not to say that I’m rolling in cash by any means, but I’d like to think I have the fewest bad habits in that area. (C’mon – as someone who regularly eats Slim Jims and Diet Dew for breakfast, a box of Fruit Roll-Ups in a single afternoon, and routinely inhales more than 3,000 calories a day – I would have to pretty much be on the brink of bankruptcy to think that my financial life was in any way as jacked-up as my diet.)

That said, while I generally live within my means, as I’ve contemplated “moving up” to a two bedroom it has become obvious that I would need to tighten my financial belt to do so without living in fear of my mortgage.

The thing is, I’m not even sure where to start. I mean, I have some ideas of where I’m hemorrhaging – and they largely circle around groceries, restaurants, wine, entertainment and travel – but without tracking my expenditures, I don’t know exactly how bad they are. Given that I live three blocks from a Whole Foods and next door to a liquor store, I suspect the findings might be frightening.

In short, my goal over the next three months is to a) track my expenses and establish an accurate baseline, b) create and follow a realistic monthly budget, and c) reduce my monthly expenses by 10%.

See? I’ve read an article or two about goal-setting – writing it down is the first step.

I’ll tag these posts with “experiment” and “finances” so that if you’d like to avoid them, you easily can. Conversely, I’ll provide fair documentation of what I’m doing so that if you would like to join the “financial challenge” and trade notes of encouragement, you can. They tell me misery loves company…

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