The most freeing time in my life has been losing everything. With tax money, I'd settled the credit card debt I collected when in college and free to buy for the first time without asking permission from someone. Due to tragedy in my life, I have ended up living with family, perhaps on the verge of disability. I insist that they keep track of my 'rent' so that I can pay them back when I have an income again, but otherwise my only necessary expense has been a monthly payment toward a course I'm taking in hopes of being able to work again. The idea that I only need $55 a month...makes even a $1 coupon look like money in my pocket.
Then I tried to work again. At first, it was awesome having a few extra dollars. Gradually, I realized more things were filling my plate and eating up my money until I had a negative income. On top of my course fees were now gas, paying my own way when we went out as a family, paying rent. When I worked for a few months, it was suggested I buy my own car, or buy theirs. A good idea, until I realized I'd be taking on not just a vehicle, but car payments, car insurance, registration, inspection, oil changes. All this, and employment still being a test, still uncertain whether I would be able to keep working for long, definitely not able to work the hours to pay for these added expenses.
It got me thinking about life's expenses. Why do they pile on so heavily and so fast? Is it just the sudden shift from child to student to adult and a lack of financial education? I think it is the American culture of debt. Debt is not talked about with family and friends, yet you are expected to simply take it on and struggle with this bear on your back stealing every step forward you make in life.
I've decided to place myself a $1000 cap. With disability, I would supposedly make $900 a month, to date the most I've ever made was $600 a month working, so it seems $1000 would be an achievable goal, that maybe I would be able to struggle through a job to make my target amount, knowing I need no more and no less. Here is my breakdown:
- $300/month for housing. I don't need much space, being the computer-slave I am, and if you live in a decently rural area this should be achievable as rent on a small apartment. This would be your mortgage payment or money set aside for taxes with a house.
- $160/month for transport. This includes any car payment, car insurance and some set aside for your yearly registration/sticker. I have ideas to make my own car, rather than buy some piece of junk tailored toward gas guzzling while being labeled 'green'.
- $60/month for healthcare. I'm not certain how achievable this one is, as I've been on government healthcare and copays my whole life. It seems with the right amount of shopping, you should be able to find health insurance, knowing what medications and how regularly you see the doctor, that would fit into this limit.
- $70/month for utilities. In my neck of the woods, this is heat and electricity. Most people have septic tanks and wells. I fully intend to invest in solar or similar sources of electricity, simply because I'm fed up with 'delivery fees' being tacked onto your electric bill simply to line CEOs pockets. If this profit flowed down so that even their bottom-level employees made a decent wage, I wouldn't mind so much.
- $130/month for food. This can be difficult, but without a budget it is easy to grab the snacks. With a number in mind, you have to weigh if that package of cookies is worth as much as that package of chicken for your month of food.
- $100/month for paying down debt. We all have some, try to lump it all together and make this $100 cover not just your interest but some of the actual debt, too. I'm looking forward to adding this to savings. ^.^
- $100/month for savings. Be very strict on this one. Ideally, you want a base of a few months of bills so if you can't work for a bit you don't have to freak. This is also money set aside for big things, like your water heater breaking, flat tires and upgrading to solar. Oh, yeah, retirement fund, too! I'm not relying on anyone but me to pay for my 'Golden Years'.
- $80/month for misc. This is your fun money. Clothes, take out, game subscriptions...This is the first area to be paired down if you have a tight month.
This budget would stifle many people, but the way I see it, accomplishing this small molehill will feel like a mountain when I'm living comfortably for the rest of my life. True, I'll still be 'below poverty level'. That rather makes me laugh. I'd rather be 'impoverished' than 'rich' when it means being content with my lifestyle and knowing that every major purchase I make is via savings, not a loan. I still have a ways to go, I'm still in the unemployed category, with health issues pushing me toward disability. The idea of $1000 a month is a goal I should be able to make. If I search, find either a job I love at minimum wage or a decent paying part-time job, I should be able to live on my terms.
If you are reading this, think on how much it would take, debt aside, to simply live. Having the newest thing is cool, but is it worth the stress of living paycheck to paycheck? Some of you are parents and this sounds naive of me, but if you are willing to put some effort into looking, you can get clothes for cheap or free, you can use cloth diapers or search for those wallet-saving coupons. I've also heard you can make deals with the companies themselves to buy their products at a discount in exchange for only buying their products. You don't have to do all the research, either. Simply do a search for mommy-blogs and such which will walk you through and give you links to how you can do it too.