The following is a staff writer post from MikeS. He is a married father of 2. So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house. He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.
I recently made a change to something I had previously considered a need, dry cleaning. I don’t have to wear a shirt and tie to work, as my workplace is business casual, but I prefer it. I have been wearing a shirt and tie for work since my internship in college. I have also been going to the dry cleaners once a week. In the last few weeks, I have been rethinking that habit. I have the money budgeted for the dry cleaning expense, but I began to question whether that’s where I wanted my money to be going.
Expenses Trending Upward
Over the past several months, I have been seeing a couple of my expense categories trending above their respective budget allocations, namely food and what I call house. Other than I think the kids are eating more, I can’t say for sure what is driving the increased food spending. I just know it’s been about $25 a month higher on average. The house category has also seen increased spending. The house category could simply have been under estimated. I have been in my current house for 3 years now and I still feel like I am trying to get a handle on the routine maintenance costs for it. I have a good handle on the things that I know come up on a regular basis, but costs still seem to be outpacing my budget. Again, it’s not a huge amount, probably in the $25 a month range. Since, I won’t receive any salary changes until April of next year; something would have to change if I wanted to address the shortfalls. It may have been Crystal, that triggered me to reevaluate my expenses, but I decided to look and see if there was anything that I could change.
Is It Really a Need?
As I stated earlier, dry cleaning has been in the budget from the beginning and I have always treated it as a need. When I reevaluated my expenses, I questioned that assumption. I was spending about $105 a month for dry cleaning. In the beginning, when I was wearing suits, this made more sense. All of my suits were dry-clean only. Today, I simply wear slacks with a shirt and tie, none of it is dry-clean only. The only thing preventing me from cleaning and pressing the clothes myself was me. I started thinking whether the $105 on dry cleaning was really where I wanted the money to be going or whether there were better ways to allocate that spending that money. It was then that I decided that I could clean and press my own clothes and reallocate the $105 to other areas.
The first two things to account for were easy, food and housing. I will begin to allocate an additional $25 each month to each category. This should hopefully bring those categories back on budget. The next allocation was to additional savings. I will be adding $25 to the monthly amount that I send to my Vanguard brokerage account. That will bring that amount to a total of $75 a month. I then decided to up our allowances, or “fun money”, by $25 a month. I’ll allocate $15 to myself and $10 to the wife. Yes, this is certainly a want, but I reason it that I am doing something to earn it by washing and ironing the clothes myself.
Constantly Changing Budget
My budget never seems to remain the same during the course of a year, which is a good thing. As my opinions change or evolve on what I believe the best use of my money is, my budget reflects it. I certainly don’t make daily or even weekly changes, but a few times a year seems to be the norm. This helps me to stick to the budget as I believe it gives me the best chance to achieve my goals.