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My Budget Breakdown (For The First Time!)

  July 15

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My Budget BreakdownIt’s kind of hard to believe that I’ve never really shared a budget breakdown on this blog.

I guess I’ve been comfortable telling you about all of my money mistakes and my credit card debt (that I eventually paid off.) I’ve even blabbed about the six figure student loan debt that the hubs and I face daily, and I have tracked my spending for a week and shown you too.

I am really comfortable writing about my debt because I feel like it helps other people to read about it. However, I’m worried that showing you my budget breakdown might not have the same effect.

I guess, if I’m being honest, I’m worried that you will think my budget breakdown is lame or that I am not managing my spending well. However, Tonya just shared her budget breakdown, and everyone was super supportive, so that inspired me to post mine for better or for worse!

I guess it’s important for me to note that my budget breakdown has gone through a lot of revisions, and this particular one really works for my little fam right now. Of course, there are a few things I want to highlight before showing you the numbers:

1. Grenada Is Different

One thing I hope you’ll keep in mind is that I live in a developing country that makes a ton of money off of the American and Canadian students here. You’ll notice my car rent is $500 a month, and that is not a typo. It is a 1995 Honda CRV, and I’m sorry to say, that is not a typo either.

I know that amount for a car rental sounds legitimately crazy to most of you, but that’s what it costs to do business here. Yes, I could have paid around $350 like several of my friends to rent a more beat up vehicle, but they often have car trouble, switching out rental cars as often as they switch out their underwear.

As a professional who has to be at work on time every day, I can’t have a beater, so I pay a little more and my car starts every day! Quite the luxury, right?! πŸ™‚

I could also be taking the free bus, which I did for the whole first year and a half of living here. However, I did the math: Ever since I started working full time and since my freelance writing projects started increasing, I would actually be losing money by taking the bus, because of the hours of time lost spent waiting on them, riding them, and switching between them if I needed to go to the store. And speaking of the store…

2. Food Is Crazy Expensive

I know I’ve mentioned this a few times around the web, but I really can’t stress how much food costs here in Grenada. $550 in groceries for two people is my budget for a month that has 5 weeks. I usually spend a little less than that for a shorter month, but I want to stress that this is a grocery bill with no extras. No chips. No soft drinks. No pickles. No candy – none of that.

We eat mostly chicken with veggies on the side, a few crock pot meals, and big pots of spaghetti or soup. I used to buy local chicken for cheaper, but I got really rotten ones one day and pretty much stood there gagging in my kitchen for a solid 30 minutes. So, now I do buy the imported chicken, which costs more.

It really is a constant battle when it comes to food here. I know that some couples who live here, even those with kids, probably spend less than us, but they likely do not buy as many organic products as we do. I buy those types of products because the hubs lost over 50 lbs. here, and we’re both so much healthier. I want to keep it that way, since the hubs is going to be a doctor and all. We actually used to spend $1,000 a month just on groceries and eating out (aka the hubs grabbing late night food while studying), and I’ve cut that way down to what it is now.

3. It’s Not Going To Cost That Much More To Live In Brooklyn

We are most likely moving to Brooklyn next April after the hubs takes his board exams. So, I got a wild hair and decided to do a budget breakdown for Brooklyn too based on what I’m seeing in terms of rental prices online and what my friends who live there have told me.

Basically, I really love budgeting, and the idea of making a Brooklyn budget breakdown (say that three times fast!) is my idea of a good time. So, I included it below as a comparison. Nerdy, I know – but oh so fun too.

Can I just say that it’s kind of crazy that Brooklyn, one of the most expensive cities in the US, will only require a budget increase of about $200.00 a month. Wow! I can live with that, but it really shows how much it costs to live in Grenada when you look at it in that way.

4. I Didn’t Tell You My Income In My Budget Breakdown

I totally love reading about people’s incomes just as much as the next person, but I’m still not comfortable with sharing that part. I have way too many friends in Grenada who read this blog, and in such a small community, it would be hard to have something so personal be so public.

So, take the budget below with the understanding that a large portion of my income is variable due to the nature of my writing/blog business. So, some months, I’ve made more than the total amount listed there, and many months I’ve made below the amount listed.

In sum, this budget is, in many ways, an ideal scenario. If I don’t make enough income to meet the requirements of this budget, the category that gets cut is usually student loan repayment, though I always try to make up for it later if I have a particularly good month.

It’s all a fine balance really, a numbers game, but I think it’s better to actually have a budget set up, even if it’s not perfect!

Brooklyn Budget

So, what do you think about the budget breakdown above? And how’s about that budget breakdown for Brooklyn? Anyone else live in a place that is expensive?

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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67 responses to “My Budget Breakdown (For The First Time!)

  1. Best way to save on groceries in Brooklyn– join the Park Slope Food Coop. It’s a bit difficult to join as you have to participate in an orientation and slots fill up the same night they’re posted. But you only have to work one shift every four weeks (all members of household must work) and pay a deposit and fee per person in household. After those initial costs, your produce bill, especially in the organic, seasonal realm, will drop dramatically.

    http://foodcoop.com/ for more info.

    1. Great advice, Tara! I’ve actually heard of that. The only issue I see is having all members of the household work it. The hubs will be doing a lot of crazy hospital shifts with an unpredictable schedule. Still, it’s worth looking into!

        1. yes, the shifts aren’t bad so if you had to work two, it can be fun really. My fiancee and I work together on Sunday nights in stocking and we usually can spend most of the 2.5 hours of our shift in the milk fridge stocking the dairy products. Because the store gets so busy on Sunday nights, it’s kind of fun. They even offer a shift called an “FTOP” that means you can work a bunch of shifts within a short time frame which is great for freelancers and even better for folks who need to cover the shift of a household member.

      1. I read your budget, $25 for car insurance – no way . Once your hubby starts to practice you will need disability insurance as well as term insurance . You as well will need term life.

        1. Hmm where are you seeing $25? It’s actually $60 for car insurance. It was $100 but I installed a progressive snapshot device and got a huge savings. Hubby does have insurance through his school as part of his fees. Thanks for commenting!

  2. The best thing you have about your budget is that you have savings right at the top, coming out first. Too often people only move to savings what they have left over at the end of the month. That ends up being very little (or nothing) because we can all find things to spend our money on during the month. Nice job!

    1. Thanks Brian! I’m glad you got that from the “straight to savings” label. Even if I don’t meet all the budget requirement, I always pay less on my loans but keep savings the same.

  3. Like Brian said, I love that you have savings at the top and have retirement listed as a payment. πŸ™‚ In regards to living in Grenada, it’s all relative to where you live and think you’re doing great. I am the same way on income as well. I have family members reading on a regular basis and, in my opinion, family and money do not mix. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks John! I appreciate that. I’m only putting a $100 a month towards retirement, but I am going to see how much $ I have left over in savings at the end of the year and see about maxing it out or at least getting close to it! πŸ™‚

  4. With the context you’ve provided, I think the numbers work out fine. They’re a little higher than others but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, and I don’t see an obvious area to cut unless something changes re: taking the bus.

    Thanks for sharing your budget figures. I know it’s a tricky thing to do (and one we’ve yet to share ourselves).

    1. Thanks!! I was really hoping providing the context didn’t look like one big excuse (I hate excuses!) but it helps to explain why the bills are a little cray cray here!

  5. First, nice work on paying yourself first Cat! Next, it makes me a little sick on the rental costs in Brooklyn. That is more than my mortgage here in NC. Glad I don’t live in a big, expensive city.

    1. Thanks! I know, right? I’m hoping we can get $1500-$1600 and not $1800. We just want a super safe area, nothing fancy, and possibly a 2nd bedroom for an office and if we add to the Budget Blonde clan. However, I’ve lived in 270sq ft for 2 years now, and I’m not above squeezing all that into a one bedroom. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

  6. I feel like you are my generations Suze Orman lol. I feel the urge to email you all of my financial problems, yet I stop myself for the same reason Suze hasn’t gotten them. You think your husband’s student loans are bad…I’m not even a doctor (just a law school drop out), and mine are worse. I still enjoy reading about your financial problems though, and I enjoy day dreaming of an $800 monthly student loan bill. Sounds magnificent…one can dream.

    1. Hey Morgan! Ack – Sorry to hear about the loans. πŸ™ The $800 payment is just for my loans. We haven’t started paying his yet since he’s still in school. I think we’re going to be about 350k in the hole for him when it’s all said and done so his payments will probably be in the thousands, which it sounds like what you’re dealing with. Fun, fun times right?! And please e-mail me any time! I’m not a financial expert by any means, but I love to chat about money and offer any encouragement I can!

  7. Great breakdown, Cat. My wife and I have a similar budget in total, but the category splits are a bit different. First off, we don’t have to rent a car or pay any loan payments so that helps. On the other side, our rent is a bit higher. I guess there are costs and benefits to everything, but it sure looks like things are expensive in Grenada.

  8. Do you have to have a car when you move to Brooklyn? I’m assuming your low gas budget is because you don’t plan on using it often? Since gas is over $4/gal here. Do you know what neighborhood you plan to move to? Your rent budget looks spot-on for a studio in a nice neighborhood or 1br farther from manhattan.

    Is this budget for 2 people? A 30-day metro card is $112/mo so you’ll need two (unless one person will mainly use the car)

    My Internet (no cable) is $50/mo through Comcast.

    You might find your entertainment budget to be a bit high, depending on what you’re doing. There are many many cheap/free events.

    I’ve learned that living in Brooklyn/NYC, the only thing that’s more expensive is rent. Everything else could average out and your transportation costs are considerably lower.

    1. Thanks for the great feedback, Leslie! I have a car that I own at home, so I was hoping to bring it up to use for weekend trips/emergencies etc. if I can find free street parking near our apartment. If it’s impractical, I can leave the car in Louisiana where it’s been the last two years anyway. I’m hoping to live close to the hospital that my husband will be placed at, and I won’t need the metro card as much because I’ll be blogging from home. It’s just him that really needs to use it, but it’s good to know I might have to up that section a bit. πŸ™‚ It is a budget for two people. Great to know about the Internet. I made it a little high because I’m going to get whatever is the absolute fastest most reliable lightning speed Internet haha — I’ve driven myself crazy trying to work with the slow internet in Grenada! I love that there are so many free events. I made the entertainment section high so that we could live it up while we were there. πŸ™‚ You know, catch a Broadway show or the ballet 4-5 times in a year or go to a super swanky restaurant for our anniversaries etc. I’d also like to take dance classes again. I danced for 21 years before moving to Grenada, and I’d take my dance classes out of that entertainment budget. I’m glad to know I’m not totally off the mark. We’re not sure of the neighborhood yet – We won’t know until about 4 weeks before we have to move, but lots of our friends got placed in Bay Ridge and some are in Park Slope. I’m hoping for the cheaper one. πŸ˜€

      1. Oh neat! Well $1,800 will get you a studio in Park Slope or a 2BR in Bay Ridge πŸ™‚ Bay Ridge is a trek to Manhattan but if you’ll be working from home then that won’t even be an issue! Sounds like you’re looking forward to the change.

        1. Great to hear we can get a 2BR for that in Bay Ridge! I’d love to have an office so that I can close off my work at the end of the day or a nursery for a baby Budget Blonde some day. πŸ˜€ I seriously thought I’d be squeezing a crib in a breakfast nook or something crazy like that, haha. I really am looking forward to the change. It will be quite abrupt and the total opposite of Grenada, but I’m always down for an adventure. πŸ˜€

          1. One way to get around disclosing your income is to list the percentage instead. What percent is rent of your monthly income? That type of thing. Because while your car rental may seem high, if it’s 10% of your monthly income then that’s fine but if it’s considerably higher, then that might be worth questioning. I like doing this for myself in general because sometimes it’s difficult to have a sense of the prices of things in relation to your income.

            I will say, there is little value in the housing market in nyc. The outer boroughs are slightly better but still, you will be living in a small place for a lot of money.

  9. When the hubs goes into residency, will his health insurance start to be covered by the hospital he’s a resident at? Just wondering if your health insurance costs might go down while (hopefully) getting even better coverage. Seems like it would be a no-brainer perk for health care professionals to get great health insurance. =)

    1. Haha, yes! Thankfully residency is like getting a job, so it will come with health insurance!! He’ll still be a student in Brooklyn completing clinical rotations, but after that it’s residency and finally-making-an-income time!

  10. I’m glad I could inspire you to do this! πŸ™‚ It’s hard to tell if you’re doing “well” with your expenses if you don’t say what it is relative to your income, but I understand that need for privacy. A lot of people would look at my expenses as great, but if you look at my income, it’s not that great, especially housing costs. I think your food budget and obviously car are going to be a big savings for you when you move. It’s great you are also able to save something, and put a large amount towards your student loan.

    1. Yes, thanks for the inspiration, and you live in a super expensive area as well so I totally understand that. We really do try to save a lot to prepare for the spring when things will be a bit more uncertain. Cheers to this crazy adventure!

  11. Sweet! I don’t blame you for not sharing your income. I did it for the first time a few weeks ago and got some really strange feedback from it!

    Anyway, like you, I plan on sharing my monthly budget starting in August (too late this month). Since I started sharing my monthly income, it kinda makes sense to do so. I never have before and its scary!

  12. So when I picture Grenada, I picture a tropical island where everything’s dirt cheap. I guess its a lot more expensive than I thought. At least it prepares you for life in NY. I feel like the toughest portion if my budget is eating out. That’s the one that I can never stick to.

    1. I know. You would think that! I guess the best way to explain it is to think of how tourist countries mark things up for tourists, and that’s how it is here except it’s year round!

  13. I don’t budget and never will but I like reading other people’s budgets for some odd reason lol. Thanks for being brave enough to share Cat πŸ™‚

  14. Yikes, the Grenada rental and Brooklyn rent are painful to read. That’s great that you’re looking and planning ahead, I think the budgets look great!

  15. I have to applaud you for sharing your budget publicly! Something I have not done yet. It’s really interesting to hear about the cost of living in Grenada, and I have to say there is no way I would have gone with anything less expensive than the car you are renting. Seems like an expense that is well worth it.

    1. Thanks, DC! I can’t think too hard about the car payment or else I’ll go crazy thinking about what type of car that would be in the States. It’s safe and reliable though, and ya can’t ask for much more than that!!

  16. Cat, the budget seems pretty reasonable to me! For rent, I guess it really depends on what area you’ll be living in, how big the place will be, and whether it’ll be a walk up or elevator building. I think you may be overallocating for utilities, which could be a nice surprise and internet at $80? That’s some fast internet! For cable, internet, and two TiVo boxes, I think we pay $105 a month and that’s with an internet speed of 25MB. Cell phone and public transportation are the other categories that I thought seemed slightly low, but I guess cell phone could be about right if you both are using regular phones vs. smartphones and for public transportation, I’m assuming that means you’ll both pay per ride on the subway vs. getting an unlimited pass. Good luck with the move and great work on the budget!

    1. Thanks Roger! Haha yeah you’re the 2nd person to mention the Internet. I think I got overly excited. πŸ™‚ We’re going to try the new pre-paid Walmart plan with iPhones. It’s $30 a month unlimited. My friend DC of YoungAdultMoney just did a review of them, and it seems great. Also, I’m glad I’m over allocating for utilities. It would be awesome if they were less than that!

  17. Your total budget is close to mine and my fiance’s in Boston, though we are putting our money in some different places. Our grocery budget (of mostly healthy food) is equal to your Grenada groceries. I find that produce is really expensive, and Henry does like to get chips and ice cream on occasion. I would think that $25/month would not be enough to insure a car in NYC. If you are going to be in NYC for a while, have you considered selling your car since it will just keep depreciating while it sits in LA? I’m thinking about doing that (as hard as it will be emotionally) and applying the money to my student loans.

    1. Thanks for the good questions! As far as my car, it’s a 10 year old Volvo but it’s in great shape, and it’s a pretty nice car. I tried to sell it over Christmas and got offered $500 for it, so I think at this point, it’s worth way more to us!!! I’ll keep yall updated about the insurance situation. πŸ™‚

  18. Hey Cat nice post as usual and thanks for sharing the budget you currently and expect to have. Couldn’t have imagine that Grenada would cost about the same as Brooklyn. Really liking the fact the savings is the first priority for you guys. But that car rental is crazy high. But seems like you looked at it carefully and it makes since is you losing money by not paying to reliable transport. Rotten chicken???!!!! That’s just not a pleasant picture to think of.

  19. Thanks for sharing your budget. There doesn’t seem to be too much difference from Brooklyn but you are also paying for a car you didn’t have to and your rent is less than in Brooklyn. Our pet we save for shots as well as any potential visits or emergencies like our $1200 dog visit last month each month so our budget is much higher in that category. I think you’ve done well.

    1. Yes, luckily we have one mutt of a dog that has been very healthy, but if she needed something like $1200 dog visits, that would come out of the emergency fund. Vet care is very inexpensive here due to the Vet School so I’ll probably have to adjust this category when we go home!

  20. I’m a budget nerd like that too! I totalled make up fantasy budgets for potential future locations, jobs, and living scenarios. Silly I know but so fun! Your budget seems pretty reasonable to me, it looks like you aren’t spending too much in the areas that you can control. Crazy that it’s almost as expensive as living in NYC!

  21. wow $550 for food is a lot. We are a bit over $200 which is already more than a minimum wage. Otherwise it would be rice and beans every day. What do people eat on a daily basis with a low income?

    1. Well the locals who do not make high income typically grow their own food out in the country, trade food with neighbors, etc. The area we live in is all very marked up due to the university.

  22. Thank you for sharing your budget the way you did! I also don’t feel comfortable discussing my income, and I will definitely be using your method of showing expenses only when I finally reveal my budget on my blog.

    Is having a garden an option for you? Unless you garden like I do (which is extremely unsuccessfully), maybe you would be able to grow some fruits and vegetables to help cut back on the budget. It’s also very easy to make pasta dough and sauce, though I don’t know how much flour and tomatoes would cost in Grenada. I’d be happy to share a recipe, if you’d like.

    1. Thanks Alexandra! My landlords actually have a garden, and they do share it with us which is really sweet! We love making pasta sauce but I’ve never made pasta dough. For sure, I’m always down for a new recipe. Thanks! πŸ˜€

  23. I cannot believe that Grenada is so expensive. The car rental is the item that really caught my attention! I am thinking though that your food budget will be higher as most of my New Yorker friends eat out a lot more than my friends in other parts of the country. Good luck with everything.

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  25. I’m going to have to compare my numbers to this, for grins. I don’t budget regularly. I don’t think I’ve made a budget in years. But it is a good idea.

    I like how you did the comparison.

    I am excited you’re moving to Brooklyn! I’d love to meet you – I travel to NYC about once a quarter.

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