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Money Diary #001 - New Year, Newish Budget

I had all good intentions of having this post up this past Sunday. Then life happened and Money Mic Drop was put on hold (I will likely convert my my car-related drama into a productive post at a later date). It’s okay, I’ve bounced back!

My first money diary involves providing context and a budget. Otherwise, it’s just gratuitous “look at what I spent” and you’ll end up thinking “wow, this girl is a(n) [expletive].” I mean, that may still very well be the end result, but it’s all about the journey, people.

I’m been very fortunate to have consistently increased my salary in the past decade of working. This has come from working hard, working part-time since 12th grade, transitioning to full-time work, speaking up for promotions, and getting certified in my field. The only "connections" I had were through teacher referrals and my college’s career center. My pay has also increased due to my negotiation skills. When I negotiated my offer several years ago, I realized a 20% increase from my prior job’s salary.

Thankfully with no setbacks in my career, I’ve been able to build up a nest egg for the investments that matter to me. Also, I lived well within my means in the past decade of working. While I do have the occasionally “treat myself” splurge, I have never embodied “lifestyle inflation” because I know what havoc it can do, and frankly, I’m low-key bougie at best.

My two most costly investments in the past few years were culminations of “major goals to accomplish in my 20s”: becoming a homeowner (with a 30 year fixed rate mortgage), and becoming a car owner (vehicle paid in full). These two investments required a lot of monetary commitment and a lot maintenance and costs. I will go into how I saved up so much to have both in my 20s with “Money Mastery - Part II” later this month. My third big investment is grad school, which I started in fall 2017. The program is nights/weekends and I pay 100% out-of-pocket (I didn’t get any merit scholarships, and I didn’t want to take on more loans on top of my mortgage obligations). Don’t fault me for being ambitious! 

Onward to my budget.

After looking at what I spent last year, here’s the monthly budget I’ve laid out for 2019. These numbers are rounded for clarity.

*Converted to monthly; I pay auto insurance twice a year to maximize discounts, and home insurance is once a year.

My biggest line item is savings for grad school. The dedicated 529plan funds I had built up for years has whittled down and this year I’m budgeting nearly $23K to keep my tuition payments on time. I will contribute $5K to get the NYS income tax deduction on the 529plan, but this year I am also taking advantage of my company’s Roth IRA. By having a total of $1,900 directly deposit into these two accounts, I don’t worry about not having the money where I need it.

There is not much to say about my mortgage or HOA fees. I luckily got a very low interest rate on my mortgage so I feel justified in making the minimum monthly payment and ride out the loan. My HOA fees are a point of contention because it has increased every year since I moved in, with no end in sight.... Still, $1,400/month is well worth my privacy and sanity, and I have dedicated parking.

Finally, the last category is “Fun and Frustration.” It seems at least 2-3 times a year, I am tested with a new home or car issue. I am prepared to take that on. I also value traveling and eating and make sure to set enough money aside for that (but I save costs with a backpacking-esque adventures, cheap flights, and AirBnb lodging).

Overall, I have a solid budget that should set me up for success because it's just the right amount of difficulty to attain. I am hoping I can cut back on home/car issues, and push more money into my grad school bucket. I also have two trips planned this year that I plan to pay with bonus points from new credit cards and reduce spending my own money. 

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a longgg post. I'm planning to write a true 'money diary' next week on some of my spending in the new year. Don't hesitate to leave a comment about this post or suggestions about future posts. Please note, constructive feedback is welcome, but bigoted or useless comments will be deleted. 


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