Zero budgeting is hard / by Jamie Young

I meant to blog about this months ago. I know, I've been so behind. But this blog is for me, mostly, and I want to talk about things I've been doing that have helped me, or new things I've learned. And sometimes...they're not going to be super fun things, but necessary things.

This is one of those times.

So, I took a financial class last year. I think everyone should take a course to help them understand more about their money and more about how to manage it. It probably would have helped me more if I took this class in my late teens, however, I'm not sure how much I would have gotten out of it. I was quite an angsty teen. I didn't think I needed to listen to anyone. Only myself. So perhaps it's a good thing I took it late — despite minor money mistakes I made in my early twenties.

One of the best things I learned was how to zero budget. Which, despite using Mint for nearly a decade which kind of forces you to do this, I never really understood.

And, well...it's harder than it looks.

I've always just budgeted for the major expenses, or the ones that occur monthly, the ones I'm used to dishing out for. But, with zero budgeting, you must. Budget. For. Everything.

Looking at where exactly my money was going — *cough* tshirts *cough* video games — really helped me buckle down and start saving more. I feel like a responsible-ish adult now. (It's about time.)

I have a very addictive personality. So, once I get into something, I'm in it. And I do it almost compulsively (like being a workaholic). I became obsessed with my budget. To the point where I was tweaking it every single day so that it was perfect and no expense went untouched. I made myself aware of every cent I spent and for some things, it was excruciating. When you see that you've spent $200 on tshirts in just under a month, you know you have a problem. You know you need to buckle down.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the budgeting, but it helped me tremendously. It's great to look back and redo your budget every once in a while for two reasons.

1) Keeping tabs on where all of your money is going and where it should be going. When I could actually visualize my expenses in budget form (via Mint), I knew changes had to be made.

2) Sometimes you'll see you have money freed up that you didn't previously, and then you can start saving more or using it to pay off loans faster. At the beginning, this was not the case for me, but now that I've been doing this for a while, I have saved a ridiculous amount of money I previously would have spent unnecessarily.

I guess I just wanted to write about this because I was surprised at how much I got out of the financial class, and wanted to share that it doesn't sound like a fun idea, but it's a good idea. And you'll be better off for it. Learning how to manage your money is something everyone can benefit from. I don't care if you're 16, 25, 30, or even 60 — find a class to take or even just read up online about money management. Just make yourself more aware. Revisit your budget every month. Tell yourself you're not going to spend $200 on tshirts every month, no matter how funny or clever those Teefury mashups are.

And, despite having had one shitty experience with Mint customer service recently, I have used Mint and will continue to do so for a long time. If you don't use any financial software, or are scared of the overwhelming features some come with, try Mint. It's free and very simple to set up and use.

Man, they should pay me for writing this post...