thread for budgeting

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Postby kid8 » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:39 pm

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Postby Milk » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:42 pm

i keep a budget in my head but with my life/expenses it's not difficult. I always know exactly how much i can afford to spend and i always stick to it. I never buy any food that's not on sale ever.
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Postby Jefferson Zeppelin » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:11 pm

Pikul has some good advice in this thread. I'll underscore these points:
- enter everything manually for a while, it will help develop your intuition. Save receipts or just retype from your paystubs, checkbook, and CC statements
- "get 1 month ahead so you have a cushion" is **really** good advice. Once you get 1 month ahead, try and get 2 months ahead, and so on
- YNAB can certainly be intimidating, so even if you want to invest the time to learn it, take 20 min RIGHT NOW and get your income and major expenses in a Google sheet. Then you've gotten started and you can come back and improve things.

I'll add my own perspectives:

1) where in SF are you living? Where is your job? I know you just got here but you may have some headroom if you move and/or are willing to commute a bit. Yes everywhere in the Bay is expensive but some places are more affordable than others. You could also revisit this in a year or so.

2) Chinese grocery stores in the Sunset / Richmond are cheap. Alemany farmers market is the one to go to (Ferry bldg is $$$ as are most of the neighborhood ones)

3) it looks from the OP like you're currently not in debt. BIG congrats and you should be very proud of that accomplishment. Do everything you can not to take on more, it's a killer.
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Postby powderfinger » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:34 pm

Buying a house with cash is not really something you should aspire to at most stages of your life. Buying a house with a mortgage is one of the only leveraged investment vehicles accessible to a normal person - for 20% or 5% or whatever equity you put down and a low interest rate, you get to keep 100% of the capital gains! Not to mention being able to invest the rest at a rate of return that exceeds your mortgage interest rate, the option value of having liquid cash, etc.
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Postby aububs » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:35 pm

^this is all true and like i said the guy i know who bought his house with cash is...very odd
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Postby draw » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:38 pm

mfw I pay for my new house with cash
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Postby important dentist » Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:10 pm

morris buttermaker wrote:I do a self-managed budget in google sheets, everything is set up on formulas so I just have to plug in actuals and it does everything else itself. I tried Mint for a while but barely could get started and then my checking wasn't synching or some shit so I dropped it.

About a year and a half ago I started the budget because my gf and I were moving in together in Brooklyn and I just needed to get on top of my money in general. Since then it's helped me put money away, pay extra on my loans, save for a move to Austin, and just generally keep me calmer and understanding what's going on with my money. I break it down similar to Ted did on the top of page 2.

Money is dumb but once you start talking about budgeting more with your partner and spending 5 minutes at the end of each day adding up your expenses on your budget it gets really easy. good luck!!

i do this as well and it rules. i do it by week and transfer money to my savings every monday so i'm always thinking ahead to get that transfer to be as big as possible. i also keep a separate column for big purchases and stuff that i can dip into if i spend more than expected in a week but the combination of flying up north twice last winter, no christmas bonus, friends visiting last month, and a $1200 car repair has fucked that for the foreseeable future.

what are the good side hustles? i'm thinking about applying to host trivia, it pays $50 plus a $25 bar tab a gig
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Postby waldojeffers1 » Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:17 pm

I just have a google spreadsheet for keeping track of expenses in a sort of informal ad hoc way too. it has worked out so far
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Postby Geoff » Sat Feb 24, 2018 5:29 pm

powderfinger wrote:Buying a house with cash is not really something you should aspire to at most stages of your life. Buying a house with a mortgage is one of the only leveraged investment vehicles accessible to a normal person - for 20% or 5% or whatever equity you put down and a low interest rate, you get to keep 100% of the capital gains! Not to mention being able to invest the rest at a rate of return that exceeds your mortgage interest rate, the option value of having liquid cash, etc.


This is true but is dependent on asset prices increasing and for you to not fall into negative equity. When the average price for a 2 bedroom flat is over $800,000 and you have the disaster of Brexit rapidly approaching there can be no guarantee for capital gains, and if you buy an inflated asset even on a low mortgage, you’ll likely suffer and bear brunt of future impending interest rate rises as the era of cheap money is likely ending
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Postby scarsdalevibe » Tue Feb 27, 2018 2:22 am

Jefferson Zeppelin wrote:Pikul has some good advice in this thread. I'll underscore these points:
- enter everything manually for a while, it will help develop your intuition. Save receipts or just retype from your paystubs, checkbook, and CC statements
- "get 1 month ahead so you have a cushion" is **really** good advice. Once you get 1 month ahead, try and get 2 months ahead, and so on
- YNAB can certainly be intimidating, so even if you want to invest the time to learn it, take 20 min RIGHT NOW and get your income and major expenses in a Google sheet. Then you've gotten started and you can come back and improve things.

I'll add my own perspectives:

1) where in SF are you living? Where is your job? I know you just got here but you may have some headroom if you move and/or are willing to commute a bit. Yes everywhere in the Bay is expensive but some places are more affordable than others. You could also revisit this in a year or so.

2) Chinese grocery stores in the Sunset / Richmond are cheap. Alemany farmers market is the one to go to (Ferry bldg is $$$ as are most of the neighborhood ones)

3) it looks from the OP like you're currently not in debt. BIG congrats and you should be very proud of that accomplishment. Do everything you can not to take on more, it's a killer.


We just got moved into Richmond district, it's beautiful and I love it and I really want to try and stay here. There is a pretty great looking asian food market across the street and beautiful hikes a few minutes away. My company paid moving expenses and it was a nightmare moving with a toddler so honestly I feel like I need to stay here for a bit anyway. I think it might be better to get a bigger place in the East Bay eventually but we don't have a car at the moment and I can't see living out there without one. I'm feeling a bit more optimistic on the food thing now that we have all our appliances back (rice cooker, slow cooker, etc) - I went to trader joes on sunday and got everything I needed foodwise for $150 for the whole week, pending any major surprises. Even coffee! I just need to adjust to the giant canister of $4 coffee being totally acceptable alternative to the $16 artisanal beans I used to get in Brooklyn.

I have been keeping track in a spreadsheet but it's not super well organized, I definitely want to get better at planning what i will spend rather than just writing it down after the fact.
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Postby grace cathedral park » Tue Feb 27, 2018 2:38 am

re: coffee i like to keep a bag of The Good Shit for weekends and drink trash the rest of the week. it makes the good stuff feel special and it'll last you a couple months
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Postby Jefferson Zeppelin » Tue Feb 27, 2018 4:36 am

oh but the Trader Joe's $4 coffee is quite good
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Postby scarsdalevibe » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:39 am

oh yeah it’s surprisingly good - and it’s not like my palate is that discerning at 6am anyway
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Postby powderfinger » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:22 pm

I think I've figured out YNAB for the most part. Seeing the "credit card float" come into focus - brutal.

It's kind of frustrating since it's commonly assumed that using a credit card for month 1's expenses and paying it off with month 2's income is a responsible habit. But this puts you a month behind in YNAB. To transition to YNAB you either need to (a) front a month of expenses out of savings by both paying off the credit card balance from month 1 and budgeting for month 2 with cash instead of using your card; or (b) don't pay off the balance and instead muddle through on an austerity budget, using cash to pay off the balance slowly along with your regular expenses.
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Postby Ted Pikul » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:44 pm

It's fine to still follow that habit
Your credit card billing cycle doesn't line up with your budget cycle so it will always show a balance

Once you pay your card off and stay within the budget, the balance is irrelevant
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Postby lights » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:53 pm

I've never liked things like Mint and YNAB specifically because it seemed to require too much work to keep up. My habits don't make this any easier, since I go to one store to buy beer, cigarettes, lunch at work, occasional grocery items, etc, so trying to categorize money based on the store doesn't really work. I've just kept up a spreadsheet dating back 7 years or so now, where I track my monthly bills, money we had coming in, how my wife and I split personal money since we do a joint acct for bills but separate checking accts for discretionary money, etc.

Doing that for awhile gave me a good feel for how much walking around money I really needed to be at a point where I'm not a hermit that doesn't do anything but also not on the other end of racking up bar tabs 5 nights a week. It also meant that when my wife took a 60k paycut for her last job I knew for sure that we'd totally be fine, since I could look back to before she got the high-paying gig and saw we were able to handle our bills and such.

The biggest hurdle back when I was broke was just willing up the nerve to actually look at my accounts and take an honest assessment of what my financial situation was. Then I'd just ignore the problem, rack up cc debt/overdraft, try to overcorrect but not be able to handle the sacrifice, swing back to spending too much, and on and on. Breaking that cycle was huge for actually getting a handle on things and be able to plan/make smart decisions.
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Postby dvr » Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:19 pm

lights wrote:
The biggest hurdle back when I was broke was just willing up the nerve to actually look at my accounts and take an honest assessment of what my financial situation was. Then I'd just ignore the problem, rack up cc debt/overdraft, try to overcorrect but not be able to handle the sacrifice, swing back to spending too much, and on and on. Breaking that cycle was huge for actually getting a handle on things and be able to plan/make smart decisions.


Can relate
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Postby powderfinger » Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:44 pm

Ted Pikul wrote:It's fine to still follow that habit
Your credit card billing cycle doesn't line up with your budget cycle so it will always show a balance

Once you pay your card off and stay within the budget, the balance is irrelevant


Right but in the process of getting started you have to pay off the balance you started YNAB with (which in this case is just a normal spending cycle - what I would typically pay off in full) and budget for the upcoming month. If you try to do that with one month's income, it's double spending.

So say I make $2000 a month. In a typical month I spend $1000 on my credit card for everyday transactions. During that time I also spend $1000 out of my checking account on fixed expenses. When I get paid, I pay off the previous month's balance and the checking account has $1000 left for bills. Next month's income pays this month's credit card bill. Everything balances out, it's fine.

Enter YNAB. I start right before payday with a -$1000 credit card balance and $0 in the bank. I get paid $2000, which shows up in my "to be budgeted" pile. I budget $1000 to the credit card balance, because I always pay it off, right? I budget $1000 for bills. I have $0 left to budget, but I haven't accounted for any of the ~$1000 that I normally spend every month on the card. Any additional budgeting puts me in the red. To get out and be able to budget how YNAB wants you to, you either need a one-time infusion of whatever your monthly credit card usage is (e.g., transfer/reallocate from savings) or dig out a month at a time for as long as it takes (this involves not paying off that initial balance like you typically do, and paying it down over time).

And that's just to get caught up to where YNAB wants you to start. If you want to get to "living on last month's income" you have to do that all over again.

I'm probably just going to bite the bullet and reallocate some money from savings, but it's definitely a big leap to take.
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Postby scrumptown » Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:41 pm

hey scarsdale, i think you might find certain types of fresh produce at farmer's markets for better/cheaper than safeway or even TJs (not sure how it is in SF, but it's my experience in the east bay). i also second hitting up asian grocers since you're in the richmond.

i'm with you on how harrowing budgeting can be here - i won't share too much here but there was a recent period where i could really understand just how economically precarious our life here was and i can't shake off the anxiety even though things are somewhat better now. i can't imagine adding a young child as a factor into all this - i guess at least you'll be able to claim some tax credit. speaking of taxes, i feel like your take-home should be higher - perhaps you have really expensive health insurance? the new 2018 w-4 is out so maybe you could modify the withholding to have more cash every month, rather than wait for a huge refund next year.

i'd also suggest getting a library card - bay area libraries have this 'discover & go' program that has the occasional discount/free pass to some great museums, plus you'll have kanopy (streaming film) and libby (ebooks) in addition to being able to check out books/music for entertainment.

if you're taking public transit (i assume muni?) you could see if you can buy a monthly muni pass instead of clipper 'cash' on your CSA.
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Postby Spotlight Kid » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:09 pm

Asian grocery stores rule, especially if you're in the Richmond. You can take it one step further and go to the asian-dominated farmer's markets; the one in Milbrae is a short ass walk from BART and they've got every kind of green you could imagine for less than a dollar a bunch. Also regular vegetables if you don't want to like exclusively eat various brassicas and beans.

Also you can eat a lot of buns from Cherry Blossom on 10th and Clement for 5 bucks, either sweet or savory. I ate the chicken mushroom for breakfast like 3 days a week when I was driving for Fort Point.

Safeway's produce is absurdly expensive in the Bay Area for some reason.

Also SF Funcheap is good for stuff to do.
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Postby Ted Pikul » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:26 pm

powderfinger wrote:
Ted Pikul wrote:It's fine to still follow that habit
Your credit card billing cycle doesn't line up with your budget cycle so it will always show a balance

Once you pay your card off and stay within the budget, the balance is irrelevant


Right but in the process of getting started you have to pay off the balance you started YNAB with (which in this case is just a normal spending cycle - what I would typically pay off in full) and budget for the upcoming month. If you try to do that with one month's income, it's double spending.

So say I make $2000 a month. In a typical month I spend $1000 on my credit card for everyday transactions. During that time I also spend $1000 out of my checking account on fixed expenses. When I get paid, I pay off the previous month's balance and the checking account has $1000 left for bills. Next month's income pays this month's credit card bill. Everything balances out, it's fine.

Enter YNAB. I start right before payday with a -$1000 credit card balance and $0 in the bank. I get paid $2000, which shows up in my "to be budgeted" pile. I budget $1000 to the credit card balance, because I always pay it off, right? I budget $1000 for bills. I have $0 left to budget, but I haven't accounted for any of the ~$1000 that I normally spend every month on the card. Any additional budgeting puts me in the red. To get out and be able to budget how YNAB wants you to, you either need a one-time infusion of whatever your monthly credit card usage is (e.g., transfer/reallocate from savings) or dig out a month at a time for as long as it takes (this involves not paying off that initial balance like you typically do, and paying it down over time).

And that's just to get caught up to where YNAB wants you to start. If you want to get to "living on last month's income" you have to do that all over again.

I'm probably just going to bite the bullet and reallocate some money from savings, but it's definitely a big leap to take.


So I looked it up (I started on the old version of YNAB, which handled this situation differently) and reallocating the funds to cover the pre-YNAB balance is what they recommend. Remember you aren't actually taking from your savings account, just moving around money within your spending categories. Disassociating your accounts from your budget took me a while to wrap my head around.
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Postby Jefferson Zeppelin » Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:46 am

lights wrote:It also meant that when my wife took a 60k paycut for her last job I knew for sure that we'd totally be fine, since I could look back to before she got the high-paying gig and saw we were able to handle our bills and such.


Scenario planning is a hugely valuable second-level benefit. My wife and I both work and when we decided to have a kid, we could pretty easily walk through the full-time / part-time / stay-at-home scenarios for when her maternity leave is over. It removed a huge amount of anxiety because we know we'll be okay regardless of what decision she makes, and we know what we'll have to adjust in each scenario.

Gotta get a handle on the basics before you can do this, but it's another incentive to put in the effort.
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Postby Jsn » Fri Mar 02, 2018 3:31 am

With your income to rent ratio it sounds like you are “financially burdened” by your rent. It is what it is. Sounds like you’re doing your best. My advice is Just don’t let debt consume your mind.
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