I Tried To Keep A Budget For One Month & Here’s What Happened

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know I’m all about being a betch on a budget. But I have a confession. I don’t actually “budget” my money. Sorry, I’m a fraud.

To earn back your trust, I decided to turn things up a notch for a month and set hard limits on how much I can spend on shopping, going out, groceries, and literally everything else. Here’s how it went down.

Part 1: My Plan

TBH I had a head start when it came to managing my funds. I’ve been tracking how much money I make and how much I spend for the last three years. No, I don’t use an app designed for this exact purpose. How do I do it? Yup, you guessed it! I created my very own color-coded, personally-customized spreadsheet, complete with formulas, monthly summaries, and labels galore. But I don’t budget anything. I literally just tally up how much comes in and how much goes out every month, then cry about how much I could’ve saved.

Here’s how much I usually spend every month:
Shopping: $100
Going Out: $300
Groceries: $200
Coffee: $100
Gas: $250
Bills: ~$2,000
Total: $2,950

I promise I didn’t just pull those numbers out of thin air. To prove it, here’s a screenshot from my spreadsheet so you can see what the weekly damage typically looks like:

As you can see, I love egg sandwiches, but those delicious bad boys add up. So do groceries, and lattes, and sushi lunches. I obviously had to reel it in to save any money. I had to try to spend as little as possible on everything I’m generally so carefree about.

Here are the hard limits I planned to enforce for the month:
Shopping: $0
Going Out: $100
Groceries: $200
Coffee: $50
Gas: $200
Bills: ~$2,000
Total: $2,550

I planned to cut back my spending by $400.

*gulp*

Part 2: What Happened (By Category)

Shopping

Since my monthly allowance was a whopping zero dollars, I wasn’t supposed to shop. At all.

Whereas I’d normally fall for sponsored Instagram fashion posts on the regular and risk taking a $10 loss on lingerie from China I’ll never wear, I had to not do that. Do you know how hard it is to close out of a website full of amazing deals, or scroll past an ad for super cheap bikinis? REAL HARD.

Anyway, I had ants in my apartment for the first time ever so, of course, I had to blow my limit on something super boring like ant traps. So I went to Target to buy them and bought one box instead of two to save $5. I could’ve only spent $5, but I ended up spending $24 because I also needed nail polish, and then I found a cute bra on clearance…because it’s Target and nobody ever walks out of Target with only what they originally came for. Don’t judge me.

Goal Spend: $0
Actual Spend: $24
Pass/Fail: FAIL

Going Out

I rarely go out to bars, but I always go out to eat, which is where a lot of my money goes every month. The month I was budgeting, I only went out a few times and kept my orders to a minimum when I did. I also let people treat me to dinner or a drink for once in my life, so I didn’t have to be a total hermit. Shout out to my real ones. #blessed. It was a struggle fighting off all of my brunch, sushi, and margarita cravings—but I did it!

Goal Spend: $100
Actual Spend: $86
Pass/Fail: Pass

Groceries

I have a huge appetite, and I f*cking love food. So, yeah, I basically starved this month. Jk. I was just forced to eat and cook the stuff that’s been in my fridge and pantry, when I’d typically go out to eat and let perfectly good groceries go to waste.

I forced myself to get only what I needed, when I’d normally buy a ton of new snacks and random sh*t that caught my eye while wandering around Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I also meal prepped for the week and tried to not eat all of it in two days. And I succeeded.

Goal Spend: $200
Actual Spend: $194
Pass/Fail: Pass

Coffee

I write for a living, and I love getting my work done from coffee shops 3-4x/week. But a $5 almond milk latte with cinnamon plus $1 tip every time I hit Starbucks or my local coffee shop adds up to almost $100/month on coffee that I could brew at home for free. This month, I basically worked from home more often and went to the coffee shop less often to save a few bucks. Not much else to document here. Love you, caffeine.

Goal Spend: $50
Actual Spend: $37
Pass/Fail: Pass

Gas

When I’m not at the gym, on my couch, or hanging with friends, I drive around aimlessly for hours. Weird? Let’s call it therapeutic. Doing this obviously eats up gas. I drive a Jeep that fills up at around $30/tank. $30 in gas for a week can easily become $60 if I end up driving to the Hamptons just to look at crazy houses two times per week. Shut up, it’s inspiration and motivation to achieve my goals. I stopped doing this, though, and put my time to better use instead—and definitely saved some cash in the process.

Goal Spend: $200
Actual Spend: $126
Pass/Fail: Pass

Bills

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I’m too expensive for myself @hannahmlplanet

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Between my rent, phone, car, phone insurance, car insurance, Netflix, and other little expenses that pop up, like doctor visits and monthly cloud storage subscriptions, I spend about $2,000 every month in bills. Bills are a must, so I couldn’t reel that in any more than I already have.

Goal Spend: ~$2,000
Actual Spend: ~$2,000
Pass/Fail: Pass?

Part 3: Final Results & Thoughts

Here are the final numbers:
Shopping: $24
Going Out: $86
Groceries: $194
Coffee: $37
Gas: $126
Bills: ~$2,000

Usual Monthly Spend: $2,950
Total Goal Spend: $2,550
Total Amount Spent: $2,467
Total Goal Saved: $400
Total Amount Saved: $483
Pass/Fail: PASS! (WITH ROOM TO SPARE)

I was able to save almost $500 just by budgeting my spending for one month! Not shocking, but definitely difficult.

I realized that I spend WAY too much money on unnecessary sh*t when I could be saving it instead. I have goals, like eventually owning a house and traveling the world, so I need to be more mindful about where my money is being thrown around in order to achieve those goals.

As tough as it was to fight the urge to get an egg sandwich or a margarita when I desperately craved one, it felt awesome to exercise willpower that I didn’t know I had, and save money while doing it.

Moral of the story: Budgeting your money is 100% possible and 200% worth the struggle when you have hundreds of extra dollars laying around at the end of the month. Do it.

Second moral of the story: I really just need to be a gazillionaire who doesn’t need to budget her funds anymore. Venmo me, plz.

Images: Giphy (2); @morganmandriota, @betchesluvthis / Twitter; @betches / Instagram

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