How L Bee and the Money Tree Budgets Her Dollar Bills

As I sit down at my desk on Sunday evening to hack away at my freelance projects and prepare for the week, I see a mountain of receipts to file, bills to pay, and notes to re-categorize…(I'm one of those people who is always scribbling something on a post it or napkin, and then I bring those home and “consolidate” them into a notebook.) In doing so, I had the chance to go back through all of the old posts and I realized…I've never, not once, broken down for you guys how I attempt to budget and run the finances in my own life. Here's a peek at how “L Bee and the Money Tree” budgets her own single gal money.

How L Bee and the Money Tree Budgets her $$

I have an excel sheet CLOSELY modeled after Cait's at Blonde on a Budget. I use the excel sheet to track my overall spending, and my net worth and debt pay down. In the excel columns I divide my spending into three categories: Fixed Expenses, Savings and Debt, and Variable Expenses or FUN! Money. Since I have a basic idea of what my mortgage and utilities run every month, those are easy to forecast and plan for.

Fixed Expenses pic

Before the first of each month I sit down and calculate what's coming for the month ahead that I need to plan for like gifts, special events and trips, or doctor's visits. I adjust my “fun” money as necessary.

Many recommend the 50-30-20 approach to budgetingΒ -50% on fixed expenses, 30% on lifestyle, 20% on savings.

For me, I have general targets I like to stay within, but for the most part, after I pay my bills, allocate to savings, whatever money is left over is mine to do with as I please.

I rarely say, “I'm going to only spend $200 this month on going out..,” because that's just not how my life works. Some months I'm out all the time, others I stay in. Some months I have a lot of projects going on the house, other times I don't. This kind of budgeting (or the one number strategy as Learnvest calls it) allows me to be more flexible and helps reduce the stress in my life.

 

may rest of budget

 

The L Bee and the Money Tree Budget Breakdown

Unfortunately, this also means my savings goals suffer from time to time.

I have savings targets that I want to hit (ideally, 40% of my take home income each month) but like any human being, that doesn't always happen, so I have to reduce the amount that I'm saving. Last month in May, I landed closer to 30%. This was due to a number of factors, mostly the 1k in car repairs I spent last month. πŸ™

may budget breakdown

If we go by the 50-30-20 rule, I may need a little help cutting back on my lifestyle, but since I save considerably and live on less, this works out. And again, this was just one month in my life.

Sometimes even I am shocked at how much things can change month-to-month, and that is OK too. When things feel a little out of control or I get too crazy during a month, I'll often do a week or month long no spend challenge or financial cleanse to try and get me back on track.

Some may be surprised (given how I'm into personal finance and all…) at how rigorous of a system this isn't. Personally, I feel that asΒ long as I am tracking my spending in my budgeting app (I use Learnvest) and making progress on my monthly and quarterly goals to hit my net worth target by year end, I should be alright.

Since I switched to this less-strict method, I've actually spent less than I made every month in 2014 thus far.

Again, this is just my own method, honed after many years of not having a budget, or budgeting rigorously and failing miserably.

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  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline
    June 13, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I think a budgeting tactic that you can live with is key to sustainability. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving yourself some wiggle room. Since my job doesn’t offer a 401(k) or match, I feel I have to overcompensate with a much high savings rate than I usually would. For the record, I do budget down to my last dollar and make adjustments throughout the month. I think being flexible makes the entire process a lot more tolerable.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter
    June 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t budget. We set aggressive savings goals and let the chips fall from there.

  • Nicola
    June 9, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Our system is pretty similar, although I like the two columns on yours for budgeted and actual – may pinch that idea!

    • Lauren Bowling
      June 9, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      It helps me see where I’m overspending, or how far off I was in any given month, but my Learnvest money center actually tracks trends and displays them on pretty graphs for me, so I can keep up with it in there as well. Cheers!

  • The Stoic
    June 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing the details of your budget and expenses. I always find it interesting to see not only how others budget their money, but on the specifics of where it goes. You can learn a lot about a person from how they spend money.

    Now that I’ve paid off all my debts I don’t budget much, but I do keep track of my spending. Like you I use an expense app and then transfer that amount over to a spreadsheet and then take a look to make sure my spending is alignment with what brings me happiness. It’s easy for me to get lazy and end up spending on things that don’t really bring me much joy. Tracking the expenses helps me keep things in check.

    Have a great day!!

    • Lauren Bowling
      June 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      I feel so honored the stoic followed meeeee to LBMT!

      I actually had a realization last night as I was talking to my boyfriend about my day that I had put out there just what I was spending on and how much for everyone to see. I had a second of doubt, then it passed. Glad you enjoyed πŸ™‚

    • The Stoic
      June 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      I don’t know if you should be honored or not, although I am kind of a big deal. πŸ˜‰ It’s the only way to keep up with how things are going with your housing adventure. Plus, you have some interesting things around here as well.

      Have a beautiful day!

      The Stoic

  • Lauren Bowling
    June 9, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Oh no! It’s called Learnvest, the link is fixed now. As long as you keep up with your expenses and trying to find a system, that’s a lot better than most. Stick with it!

  • Jenna
    June 9, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Hey, looks like your link to the budgeting app isn’t working.

    I’m terrible at budgeting. I pay attention to what I spend so I don’t go over, but in general I just spend and it’s ended up at 10% savings. It’s a skill I will have to figure out.

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