Not to call you out, but you're cheap.
You wouldn't be perusing items such as these if you weren't
(any "1 percenter" in the audience is likely reading just for
giggles), and, in all honesty, there shouldn't be anything wrong
with that label. An unfortunate coarseness has been attached to
the word, when all you're trying to do is create a responsible
life and future for you and your family.
"Cheap" can come in all shapes and sizes, and today we'll look
at the case of being realistically cheap -- that is, fiscally
responsible with the understanding that you live in a real world
that you don't want to just endure, but truly enjoy.
The realistically cheap person follows a budget but allows for
adjustments as the twists, turns, and temptations of life change
As Kimberly Palmer, author of
Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending,
Investing, and Giving Back
, said in a piece for
, "[M]ost of us are not letting our debt define us."
The primary audience for Palmer, the personal finance
U.S. News & World Report
, is the 20-to-30-something generation struggling with the first
flush of real-life money matters wrapped around careers,
marriage, and children.
Budgets are always associated with cost-cutting, so let's flip
it by looking at what you shouldn't do away with just because
you're on a budget.
Rent and/or mortgage payments, utilities, gas and/or public
transit, and groceries are essentials that go without saying, so
Your car is going to need more than the regular fill-'er-up,
so be sure to set aside monthly funds for the irregular expenses
associated with oil changes and repairs.
If you live in an urban environment, go the extra length by
setting aside funds for the parking tickets you are absolutely
guaranteed to get semi-frequently. Believe me, this will save you
a great deal of aggravation.
If your employer offers a 401(k) retirement program into which
you've chosen not to contribute for budgetary reasons, you aren't
doing you, or future you, any favors. It's time for an
about-face. There shouldn't be any reason you can't contribute
even as little as 2% of your paycheck toward this fund. As your
situation changes, so can the amount you contribute. You'll thank
Along these lines, it is always smart to plan for the
unplannable. Set aside an emergency fund that can cover anything
from medical emergencies to home maintenance issues. Having this
money factored in can fill in the gaps without knocking your
budget off track.
And you may think this goes against the grain, but don't
eliminate entirely the idea of a meal out. Just because you're
budgeting doesn't mean you stop living. Just be reasonable about
the amount of times you dine out. Make it a once-a-week family
on-the-town thing or a regular date-night occasion, but banks
will not be broken by the occasional meal out, and some sanity
could be built up in the process. Consider this a treat for all
the times you've sacrificed with reheated leftovers at home.
Revisit your hobbies and various entertainment options to see
what you need versus want. If your gym visits help maintain the
balance in your life, continue funding them while seeing what
other activities could be considered luxuries. Continue to build
upon your comic book collection if you will, but do so after an
evaluation of what else in your life you could do without.
Palmer, who in her writings has laid bare her own budget
quandaries, offered the following example of a personal budget,
broken down by percentage of total budget, with wiggle room
- Basics of food, housing, and transportation: 50% of
- Savings, such as a 401(k) account: 25%
- Household expenses: less than 5%
- Professional expenses: less than 5%
- Debt payments: less than 5%
- Entertainment: 5%
Jim Staats is a technical support analyst at
the leading, free and secure service that helps consumers
simplify and organize all of their bills and household accounts
in one place online or via the four-star-plus customer-rated
He has a bachelor's degree in industrial technology from
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.
Wedged between stints supporting products at firms including
Intuit and Sybase, Jim worked as a journalist reporting on real
estate, business, technology, and other issues for print and
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