When You’re Making More, But Seeing Less

Have you ever felt like the more you make, the less you have? You know you’re bringing more money home each month, but somehow it feels like you have less to spend than ever. That’s what it feels like when you don’t have control over your spending, and that’s when it’s more important than ever to have a budget.

I experienced this a few months ago when I got a raise at work. Perfect, I thought, since I was already living off my current income the raise would all be extra. I could set it aside towards a goal in EEBA, add it to my Savings, or whatever I needed. Unsure of how I wanted to use the extra money, I decided to just let it gather in my Unallocated Money. As the months passed, however, I was surprised to find that my Unallocated Money balance wasn’t increasing as I thought it would, but was in fact decreasing. What was going on?

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Paying off Debt

I recently had to make a decision about how to pay my student loans. One option was to follow a standard repayment plan, equal payments each month for the life of the loan. Another option was to sign up for a payment plan based off my income. I would make smaller payments each month -which usually means a longer loan- but then after 25 years the loan would be forgiven.

At first I thought the decision would be easy. Lower payments and a debt that would be forgiven? Why wouldn’t I choose the income based plan? I knew there were good financial reasons to pay off debt sooner: less money paid on interest, better cash flow month to month, etc. etc.  But as I did the math I found that financially the income based plan was still the best option.

So, I signed up. I felt smart for having more to spend each month and gracious to the government program that was making it all possible.

And yet, something felt off. I knew I wasn’t doing anything illegal, I was choosing a repayment plan that was being offered to me, and honestly reporting my income. But I also knew that I could afford to pay more, but was choosing not to knowing that what I didn’t pay would simply be forgiven later.

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How Much Can I Afford to Give?

This spring, I came across an opportunity to help a friend. This friend of mine would be living in the slums of Manila and working with women exiting prostitution, and I hoped to help her get there. There are many cool short and long term projects like this that I would love to support, but my question was “How much can I afford to give?” I wanted to give more money away, but I never knew how far my money could go.

Shortfalls of Account Balance Budgeting

As an inexperienced budgeter, I had trouble finding a balance between excessive spending and fearful thriftiness. I used to look at my checking account balance when making financial decisions. I’d see my balance, try to estimate a needed cushion plus any known future expenses, and then be willing to spend the difference. This elementary form of budgeting kept me from going in the red, but it didn’t give me a picture of where my money was going. It also kept me from making more bold and generous choices with my money.

Creating a Budget with Goodbudget

In order to determine how much I could afford to give, I decided to create a budget with Goodbudget. With each step, I became closer to my goal—

 

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Start Small and Build Momentum to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Financial goals can often seem large and overwhelming. But don’t be intimidated! Start with small and fun financial goals to build confidence and momentum toward larger goals. Not sure how to start? Here are some tips on how to choose a small and fun financial goal to get started.

Make a list of potential financial goals

Start by making a list of potential financial goals. Be creative when you make this list! You can start with the usual suspects like a retirement fund or a college fund for the kids, but don’t stop there. Is there a hobby you’ve wanted to try but haven’t had the cash to get started? Or maybe a trip you’ve wanted to go on but haven’t had the funds? Write those down!

A financial goal is more than just building up wealth, it’s about making choices with the money that you have. Paying down debt or saving for the future are great financial goals, but so is learning an instrument or giving meaningfully to a good cause. Think creatively about your financial goals and you’re more likely to find one you’ll really stick with.

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