Adulting My 2020 Budget

I was laid off with no notice, no severance, and no health insurance at the end of January last year, and it’s been a battle to keep our heads above water since then. We had just depleted our savings moving my spouse’s grandmother up here (he’s now her guardian) and paying for a bunch of related ongoing costs. Thanks to a lot of Paypal donations and an active surge in patreon subscribers to make up the loss of income, as well as cashing out some 401(k) accounts (I know, I know. Millenial problems, fam), we were able to make it through most of the year all right until the end, when payments I had expected were just… not forthcoming.

The major reduction in income forced us to take a hard look at our finances, and while we did all right for awhile, those last two months of the year, Christmas and etc. really put us over the edge. So this year I’m taking on day job work and working out a REAL budget that takes into account EVERYTHING we want to do this year, from our Thanksgiving trip to ABQ, to the electrical work outside, the gardening hardscaping, and my website update.

The biggest goal, of course, is to pay off the debt we’ve accumulated these last 2-3 months and restore our savings account so we have a six month contingency. Getting laid off like I did was absolutely horrifying. We had like $50 in savings and $200 in checking at the time. Just a disaster.

A friend recommended the “You Need a Budget” software, and after juggling multiple spreadsheets and my Mint account for months trying to find something that worked that I didn’t have to pay for, I finally signed up for the free trial and – so far so good. Like Mint, it integrates with all of my financial accounts, and also allows me to create “goals” and tells me how much I need to save each month for each goal in order to reach the target amount by a certain date.

It also has a way to set up dates where you expect particular payments to come in, whether regular salaried payments or monthly Patreon money, or even when publishing check are due (which I of course schedule to ‘arrive’ at least 30 days AFTER they are contractually supposed to arrive, because… publishing). The software won’t actually add the money to your budget until it hits the account, but it’s a nice way to see what’s coming up and track what I’m owed. I can even assign those amounts to where in the budget I want to apply them when they arrive.

This is a much easier solution than trying to balance a bunch of spreadsheets, for me. I have the 34 day free trial to see how well it works, and after that it’s $6.99 per month, which, if I continue, I will also need to add to the budget. Ha.

I’ve been tired of feeling like I’m working paycheck to paycheck when in fact when I’m hustling on full-speed with my 77 jobs, we do bring in a decent income, despite the cost of health insurance. What I want to start to do is actually plan for events instead of just being like, “Well, we’ll use our next check for that.” Because INEVITABLY, something comes up in the mean time that eats that book check, and then we’re back to square one and using the entirety of the NEXT book check to pay taxes. It’s an anxiety-inducing cycle, and I’m pretty tired of it here in 2020 when I’m nearly 40 years old.

I don’t consider myself an especially dim person, and being able to manage my money like an adult should not be this difficult. Managing money is something I was never taught. We didn’t even get a regular allowance to handle, let alone a whole class on financial management in high school or even college. Money comes in, money goes out, is how I’ve been living for 40 years, even and especially in my parents’ house.

And it sucks.

So here’s to hoping that this helps me get better organized with my income in 2020, so I never have to have a financial death spiral like the one in 2019 ever again.

Next up? Working on how to organize and break down my current book into manageable scenes that I can tackle using Scrum/Kanban project management tools.

Look at me, adulting!

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