You Don’t Need More Money to Make a Budget

When people first start hearing about debt repayment, savings, retirement savings often the first thought is – oh ya sure I could do that if only I made more money!

It’s true that more money can get you more things, sometimes. Sometimes more money comes with greater expectation of things (aka lifestyle inflation)

I wrote previously about debunking the myth of needing more money, so I thought my own past budget would be a great example.

Before moving two months ago I was bringing home $1620, $50 of which was my employer’s RRSP match.

This was my typical budget

  April 2013  
Rent 380  
Utilities 43.95  
Car Insurance 70.83  
medical 88 Rx for 4 months
phone 62.23  
coffee 7.89  
groceries 171  
personal care 8  
corner store 13.61  
clothes 21  
entertainment 31  
alcohol 27  
bank fees 14.95  
debt repayment 56 Repayment Assistance Program
emergency fund 200  
retirement 100  
spent 1295.46  
Income 1620  
Difference +325  

During this time I was on the OSAP Repayment Assistance Plan, which I have talked about here. During this time I was actually using this program strategically, aiming to save a certain amount in my Emergency Fund and Savings before starting to pay back my student loan seriously. In fact, the next month, May 2013, I started my loan repayment.

I put up these numbers here because I know what its like to live on this salary. I took home just over $21,000 a year. When I was first interested in personal finance I would read all these bloggers monthly budgets and just be jealous and frustrated- Of course you can put $1000 to your loan you make $4000 a month! Of course you have a massive retirement and savings fund, you bring home $60,000 a year!

And every blog I went people would just talk about making extra money in side jobs or additional part time work or over hours.

I was so frustrated and alienated I thought that there was no way I could ever get ahead on this salary.

I put this budget up to show you what it looks like to budget on any budget! Yes there were things that I couldn’t do because I couldn’t afford. But, my priority was establishing a decent emergency fund and preparing to move.

I still can barely believe it, but in July 2013, after making just over $1600/month for 20 months I managed to have over $6000 in my emergency and moving funds. This was important to me, so I budgeted it and did it.

Start where you are. Start with writing down what you spend. You can see patterns of where you spend too much or perhaps too little. Then you can figure out how to put $10, 20, 50 or 100 away for savings or an emergency fund. Then keep doing it.

You work far too hard in a non profit to have nothing to show for it, so set some financial goals and make an plan to reach them. Both you and I know that these goals won’t be things like ‘buy a brand new BMW’ or ‘buy a condo outright with no mortgage’- at least not in the next 2-5 years. But you, even on a non profit salary, can make financial goals that are important to you and reach them.


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