We all have different priorities, circumstances and money personas and this all gets reflected in the way we earn, spend, invest and feel about money. We are truly one of a kind! To complicate matters more, we most often don’t feel like we can talk about money and because we keep this very important relationship close to the vest, we don’t get to learn from the successes and mistakes of those around us. This is why I’m so excited to share another real life money journal with you. Enter a southern gal with a serious knack for frugality and joy.
INDUSTRY: Healthcare – Risk Management
LOCATION: Dallas, Texas
# ROOMMATES: 1 (boyfriend)
SALARY: $70,000 (does not include side hustle)
$ PAYCHECK: $1,600 every two weeks (includes health, dental, taxes, and big 403(b) investment)
– Rent: $432 (I know this is ridiculously cheap! My boyfriend and I live in a 1 bedroom apartment that I honestly love in East Dallas. East Dallas is about 7 minutes from downtown and has yet to be discovered, but is on it’s way to gentrification. Total rent is $863 which includes a garage downstairs that we use as a workout room)
– Electricity: $40 (my half)
– Internet: $35 internet (my half)
– Cell Phone: $60
– Car & renter’s insurance: $80
– 403(b): $1,500 a month pre-tax (I bumped up my retirement savings a bunch while I’m young because I know I have 40 years of growth ahead of me. Plus, if I have kids and need the extra cash, I can reduce my contributions and my nest egg won’t suffer)
– Savings goal: $1,500 (this is a big goal, but I’ve been able to meet it most months. I’m interested in buying a house and want to put a big down payment on it to reduce the interest I’ll pay and hopefully have a 15 year instead of a 30 year mortgage. I know I can get a good mortgage rate and it will be lower than investing that money in the market, but I just hate debt – It’s a mental thing)
I used to have a lot of other monthly expenses including CrossFit gym at $150 a month, Netflix at $9 a month, and cable, but I took Ashley’s 30 Day Money Cleanse in January of 2015 and realized I could get a great workout on my own and save the $150. My family also decided to go in on Netflix together so we all pay a small amount at the beginning of the year. It’s nice to not see that recurring payment every month and only pay it once a year.
My boyfriend is a fireman so we usually only get one weekend day together. The day that he’s off, we make a huge brunch with gourmet coffee, fresh bacon, omelets and pancakes. It is honestly my favorite part of the week. I used to go out to brunch every weekend with friends and spent over $30 on eggs (and more depending on how much champagne I drank…) but really started to get into cooking about a year ago. Now we have lazy weekend mornings and cook and it makes me the happiest! We also like to host people for brunch and spend hours talking at our table. After brunch, we go for a walk around our historic neighborhood and maybe I can talk him into popping into a boutique or two :).
We go to the grocery store in the afternoon and I pick up all my groceries for the week and do food prep while music is playing or he has a movie on and I watch from the kitchen. Groceries include food for breakfast and lunch for myself and some shared dinners (depending on our schedules). $70.
We spend Sunday evening watching one of our shows or reading. We are hooked on TIME magazine so we’ll read that or books from the library up the street. We used to buy books all the time from Amazon or Half-Price Bookstore, but have decided to make use of Dallas’ vast library system.
My Feelings: I love that Sunday (or Saturday) is focused on spending time together, not spending money. I used to spend an insane amount when I did social things but now I realize that I just want to spend time with my boyfriend or a friend and don’t have to shell out lots of cash to do so.
Ashley’s Thoughts: It’s been so much fun to see her incredible transformation and inspiring money journal unfold since we first met a few years back. She has gotten so clear on what’s important, what she wants and what gives her the most joy. She truly puts her money where her heart is and maximizes the joy she gets from each dollar she spends and saves. Even taking her Sunday as an example. She knows that spending time with her boyfriend is what matters most and that’s what she spends her time and money doing.
I’m a teaching assistant for a Technology Bootcamp called Tech Talent South and I volunteer on Monday nights downtown. Dallas has a rail system, but it’s slow and doesn’t have stops near my home so I have a car and drive. If we had a better rail system I’d ditch my car in a second. I pack dinner and eat during a break. I pay for parking. $4.
My Feelings: I enjoy cooking because I know exactly what’s in my food and I like to eat really healthy (mostly vegan except for bacon 😉 ). Plus the money savings is great. I don’t exactly enjoy having a car or paying for parking (or insurance or maintenance…) but being on the rail for over an hour to get home from work vs 20 minutes driving isn’t even a question!
Ashley’s Thoughts: It’s wonderful and often that the most beneficial money decisions coincide with what’s best for our health and happiness. Cooking for her is one of those win-win situations. It’s also great to hear how she thinks through her decision to have and maintain a car vs. using the rail system. There’s no right answer for all but there’s an answer that works best for each of us as individuals.
I have to get gas on the way to work WHICH IS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE, but y’all have figured that out by now, right? 😉 $26.
My boyfriend works today/tonight so I have the night to myself. Usually when he works, I work on my own stuff. $0.
My Feelings: In all seriousness, I am appreciative that I can afford a car and I choose a car and it’s expenses over hours upon hours in Dallas’s public transit system. I hope they keep working on a better one! I work at a hospital by day and am a freelance web designer at night (read: in all my spare time). It’s a lot of fun and I enjoy using a different skill set than what I use at my day job.
Ian and I are both off tonight which means we spend the evening cooking, taking a walk, and catching up on some reading. In the summer, we sometimes go swimming during the week (it’s HOT down here y’all) and it’s a perfect way to end the work day splashing around having fun. It’s also one of my frugal joys! $0.
Sports package for my baby brother. $117.5 (my half).
My Feelings: My baby brother starts college this fall, which is so exciting and not going to lie I cried when he graduated high school! I have another brother who had the great idea to get him a sports package ($250) for his freshman year so he could enjoy going to all of the college sports games without worrying about the cost. The best idea! I love spending money on experiences and not things, so I was happy to get this for him.
Ashley’s Thoughts: What a thoughtful gift! You know I LOVE frugal joys and the gift is another great example of her values-based spending. I’m sure her brother will love it!
Frugal unicorn day of free stuff. $0.
My Feelings: My friend is in events at the hospital so she was invited to a Dave and Buster’s event to check out their Christmas party packages, try their food and play games. She invited me to come with! We had so much fun (and ate a lot of free food and played games I hadn’t seen since my childhood)! I mean, they may have converted me now too! Then, after work, one of our vendors took us out to dinner and drinks. It was fun getting to know them better since we work with them on a regular basis. I also got home at a reasonable hour, which made for an awesome day!
Today was a crazy day at work and I stayed working on a project until after 7 (yes, on a Friday!) A group of friends had invited me to a comedy show, but I was just too tired after the day and really wanted wine on my couch (a true introvert through and through!). On the way home I was thinking about stopping to grab something for dinner when I remembered my boyfriend made glazed lamb for his friends earlier in the week and made extra for me! Y’all, that’s ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT on the way home! That totally made up for staying late on a Friday and missing the comedy show. I hit the jackpot with this guy, for real. I settled in with some comfy clothes, wine, lamb and potatoes, and watched Brooklyn. I think I cried about 5 times during this movie. If you haven’t watched it YOU HAVE TO RIGHT NOW. In all seriousness, though, it’s amazing.
Ashley’s Thoughts: This is such a great example of how planning really works. While there would have been absolutely nothing wrong with stopping to buy food on the way home, she seemed way more excited to have the leftovers her boyfriend made and saved some money in the meantime. If you want to let go of some of your dining out expenses, having food ready and available makes it so much easier to dine in after a long day of work. It’s all about what works well for us and setting ourselves up for success!
I made plans to get dinner and drinks with some girlfriends Saturday night. I’m not as social as I was in my early 20’s, but I definitely make sure to get out every now and then to enjoy the fun Dallas nightlife. PLUS I love me some girl time. I never feel bad about the few and far between nights out with friends – they are such a special treat to me! Dinner and drinks. $50.
My Feelings: My boyfriend has training today so I get the apartment to myself. I enjoy having one day each weekend to myself so I can work on my own projects. I’m thankful we have this time now to build our careers and put in the extra hours because we both want a family and won’t be able to be as selfish then.
Ashley’s Thoughts: It’s so important to be make room in your spending for the things that are important to you. We often think of budgets as restrictive (that’s why I call them happiness allocations!) but having a plan gives us the freedom to spend and truly enjoy the money we plan to. If we don’t know what we can and want to be spending in any given area, every expense will feel guilty. Her girls night out is case in point. She fully enjoys spending that $50!
Monthly fixed expenses = $647
Monthly income (after tax) = $3,466
Monthly savings = $1,500
Monthly discretionary budget = Income – fixed – savings = $1,319
Weekly discretionary budget = $304
This week’s spending = $268
My Feelings: I’m happy with this amount. I know the bulk of it is for a graduation present for my little brother and that’s money I’m so happy to spend. My spending strategy usually involves minimizing spending during the week so I can spend a little more on the weekend and not feel guilty. Sometimes I can be TOO thrifty and I have to remind myself that money is a tool to provide happiness, and it’s okay to use it sometimes!
Ashley’s Thoughts: Looks like she is right on track, even under, to meet her goal. When we’re meeting our goals, it’s so important and beneficial to spend the money we planned to and to truly enjoy it. She puts it beautifully – money is just a tool, that when used right, allows us to have and experience everything we truly want!