Is there a best budget?
Yes. There is the best budget, and we’ve outlined below the 7+ steps to make it. Or, you could save yourself the time and hassle and get so much more by signing up for the Budget Buster Bundle here.
What’s a budget and why do you need one?
If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, not only do you need to know where you want to go to create the best budget, you first need to know WTF you are.
This is how a Financial Snapshot can help you. Get our Financial Snapshot to know where your X is here in the Budget Buster Bundle.
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Do you ever feel like you’ve gotten sucked into the debt/depression cycle? To be fair, the depression we are referring to here is not the deep clinical depression, but rather the depression that many of us face because we don’t feel adequate or that we measure up to societies pressures to be successful or have all the $hit everyone is “supposed to” have. How does the cycle start? It happens when we feel a level of depression, jealousy or FOMO. We then attempt to feel better (a natural response) by spending on some form of temporary self-care. Temporary self-care that in the moment feels good but isn’t long-term. Self-care that on the outward appearance seems healthy but can actually be hurting us financially or physically. Next, we get the bill for said self-care. That round of shot we bought out with friends to feel like we fit in or that we’ve arrived. That pair of red bottom shoes that we know we cannot afford but makes us “look good” to those in the office, on the runway or at the show. Whatever it may be for you. Then… we look at that bill and start the emotional cycle all over again. We feel inadequate because we don’t make enough money. We feel like everyone, with their IG/FB life is always one step ahead of us. We feel the pain of not getting what want out of life. Where do we head? We head right back to that temporary self-care that hurts us, but in the moment feels thrilling, gives us some pride or allows us to show off a bit. How do I know this? Because this was me! I did it. I did it week in and week out. Always hating that I wasn’t a “good enough gay.” Hating that I didn’t have friends that liked me for who I was, but what I could buy them at the bar, at dinner or in the shops. How did I get off the merry-go-round to financial ruin? I asked myself, “what would I spend on that would really make me happy? What spending aligned with who I really wanted to be? What spending added value to my life rather than make me sad about what I didn’t have?” If you want to get off the same merry-go-round, join us in Living Fabulously Not Fabulously Broke. #debtfree #livedebtfree #debtfreeguys #LGBTQ #livefabulouslynotfabulouslybroke #queermoney #
X marks the start of your budget
We’re SciFi nerds. When we’re maxed out on SciFi movies on Netflix, we’ll watch space science documentaries. We may have even been known to watch a space alien conspiracy doc or two.
We’re no stable geniuses when it comes to science. We’re just fascinated by space and everything that is and what may be.
Last night, we watched a documentary on NASA’s Voyager (V’Ger) Program. The stated missions of both Voyager I and Voyager II were to study Jupiter and Saturn. That’s what the public was told anyway. It’s what Jimmy Carter was told to get his Johnny Hancock.
On the DL, several NASA scientists had a secret mission: to reach the outer edge of the Milky Way.
They figured if they planned correctly and maximized the alignment of the planets over the next 30 years, they’d whiz by Pluto (which at the time was a planet then wasn’t and now is again but maybe not) to reach the outer edge of our galaxy.
Well, in 2012, Voyager I entered interstellar space, meaning it left the Milky Way Galaxy. It won’t pass another star for another 44,000 years – nearly as long as homo homo sapiens have existed.
What’s the point of us nerding out on this nerdy doc?
There are several reasons why Voyager I is now farther away from Earth than even the smartest NASA scientists expected: Voyager I’s space scientists were crystal clear on its starting point. The Earth, along with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune had to be in perfect alignment for there to be any hope of getting V’Ger past Neptune.
This is why knowing where you are with your money, your X, is so critically important. It’s more than just getting a budget. It’s knowing your full financial picture – your Financial Snapshot, which the Budget Buster Bundle will do for you.
Here’s why you don’t need to make a budget:
Still want to fly Han Solo (like the space theme?) with your own budget? Follow the 7+ amazing budgeting tips below.
How to make your best budget
1. Know your after-tax (and other stuff) income
Now let me ask, “How much money do you make a year?” No, not that inflated, round figure your boss quoted during your annual review. How much money do you bring home after taxes and deductions?
That’s the number we want.
Realistically, we know our quoted annual salary isn’t near what we bring home. We know we pay taxes before our pay hits our account. Don’t forget the escalating healthcare cost deducted from our paycheck.
However, most of us still live and spend as if that plump, round figure is what we bring home.
So, what’s the amount of money you bring home every other week after you subtract your medical, dental expenses and other benefits after you pay federal taxes, Medicare and other expenses and after you deduct 401(k) contributions?
What’s that number?
That number is the number you need to live on every two weeks, and it’s the true start of your budget.
Your current Financial Snapshot is more than your paycheck
Now you see the connection between NASA’s Voyager Program and your pay. You’ll understand that to completely and accurately chart a successful financial roadmap, you need your entire financial picture . . . the whole thing and not just what you want to see.
Doing so starts by calculating your true take-home pay. When you know your true monthly take-home pay, subtract your ballpark monthly living expenses. We’ll talk about a doing a comprehensive below and the Spending Analysis you get with the Budget Buster Bundle here.
For now, subtract your estimated monthly expenses from your net take-home pay. According to this math, do you have money left over each month? Are you in the negative or the positive?
Next, total all your debt. This includes all your credit cards, the debt you owe family or friends, your car loans and any other loans you’ll repay within five years. These are your short-term liabilities. Because they’re liabilities, we’ll soon create a plan to pay them off.
Once you’ve calculated your short-term liabilities, add up your long-term liabilities. These include your mortgage, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), student loans and other loans that’ll take five or more years to repay.
Then, add your short-term and long-term liabilities to get your net liability – all the shit you owe.
Next, add all your assets. These include the cash you’ve saved in your emergency savings account, your money in individual and employer-sponsored retirement accounts and any other cash or investments you have every and anywhere.
Finally, subtract your net liabilities from your total assets. Do you have a positive or a negative balance? If you have a positive balance, great! If you have a negative balance, don’t feel bad. At least you know, and . . . . “knowing’s half the battle.” It’s a GI Joe cliché, but it’s true.
If you have a negative balance, don’t fret, mon frere. You may currently have a negative net worth, but the best way to create the best budget is to, like NASA, know where you’re starting.
Congrats on starting!
2. Do a Spending Analysis
Other people think you’re doing well. Your income’s high, and you have a good job, but you don’t feel rich. Wonder where all your money’s going? You need a Spending Analysis.
After we admitted that we had $51,000 of credit card debt and were broke, we asked ourselves how this could be. We were two financial services pros making okay money. Where was our money going, and why did it feel like we never had any?
Being the number cruncher that David is, he grabbed all our statements and got access to all our accounts everywhere. From every single credit card account to our 401(k)s to our tiny and frequently overdrawn checking account, he got it all. Then, he put every single expense for an entire year under several headings or spending categories on an Excel spreadsheet.
Every. Single. Expense.
Other than $1,600 in ATM withdrawals, we identified why and how we spent every dollar+ that year. We could make educated guesses on how we spent our ATM withdrawals:
- Taxies to clubs
- Cash for door queens at clubs
- Entrance fees to clubs
- Partying in clubs
- Drinks at clubs
- Tips to bartenders at clubs
- Gatorade at 7-11 after the clubs
See a pattern? Because of our spending analysis, we saw a clear pattern. When everything single expense was itemized, we were shocked. We were making good money. We were just spending it all and then some – unconsciously.
All along we were blaming everyone – it was our bosses’ fault, it was the President’s fault, it was everyone’s fault but ours.
Turns out, it actually wasn’t them. It was us. All us.
For many of us, our problem is our spending and not our income. This is why a spending analysis is important.A personal spending analysis is the foundation for financial freedom. – John Schneider of the Debt Free GuysClick To Tweet
The analysis of our spending analysis
Even though we were spending $400 a week on groceries, we were still spending $400 a week dining out. That’s $3,200 a month on food for two (formerly) skinny men. How does that happen?
Then, I was spending $300 to $600 a month on new clothes to wear to the clubs or when we traveled or when we went out for dinner or whenever I could find a reason to buy more clothes.
You might say we were assholes, but we were masking our pain with spending, clothes and clubs.
If you do your own spending analysis, you’ll be shocked where all your money is going, too. Or, make your life easier and get a copy of our Spending Analysis worksheet here.
Get all the details about the Spending Analysis here:
After you’ve done your Spending Analysis, confirm again if your spending exceeds your income. If it does, follow Step 2 below.
2. Do a Spending Reduction Analysis
If you’re like us, your money problem isn’t that you don’t make enough money. It’s that you’re not managing the money you make. For eye candy example, see Johnny Depp. Here’s where our Spending Reduction Worksheet will help you like it helped us.
No one gets rich spending more money than they make.
The only way to be financially successful is to live below your means with a financial plan, keeping more of the money you make, then saving and investing it. If you’re currently spending more than you make, a Spending Reduction is your next step.
What’s the Spending Reduction Worksheet?
When you’ve analyzed your spending for the last 12 months . . . okay, at least the last three months, it’ll be an eye-opener because you’ll know exactly where all your money’s going.
It is for the better because, just as you can’t drive from New York City to Los Angeles without clear directions, you can’t reach financial goals without a financial plan.
A sound financial plan includes knowing your financial starting point and your ending point or your financial goal because. But we all know that “the more you know” is bullshit unless you do something with what you know.
It wasn’t until we knew which direction we wanted to go with our financial lives and our lives in general that we went from a negative net worth of $51,000 to a positive net worth $1,000,000.
Our financial success could be your financial success!
How do you do the Spending Reduction Worksheet?
- Grab your spending analysis, whether yours or ours
- Then, pick a spending reduction strategy. Popular strategies include:
- Cutting all expenses by a percentage evenly across the board, say 4%
- Picking a target percentage to reduce/save, then reducing and cutting spending categories as needed
- Cutting all expenses by a dollar amount evenly across the board, say $100
- Picking a target dollar amount to reduce/save, then reducing and cutting spending categories as needed
- Then, use these new targets as the foundation of your budget
Why are you waiting?! When we did this, we were able to pay off $51,000 in credit card debt in under three years.
We then amassed over $1,000,000 in net worth in ten years. Before we started, $1,000,000 seemed impossible. In hindsight, it was easier than we thought. We just needed to start.
Watch us share 9 tips to trim your budget ASAP:
3. Pay off debt
Debt anchors your future earnings to your past.
While minimum monthly fees for credit cards and student loans may be affordable because of your current salary, there’s a good chance the interest on your debt is easing up a significant portion of your paycheck.
When we were in $51,000 of credit card debt, we were paying $10,000 a month on high credit card interest rates. Yikes! What would you do with an extra $10,000 a year of spending money?
Fortunately, we can give you the fastest plan to not only pay off your debt, but it’ll also save you more money in the long-term than any other system out there and it’ll get your credit score over 750.
Whether you want to follow that plan 100% solo or do it with a group of other like-minded folks is entirely up to you. See both options here and sign up today!
There’s no point in giving credit card companies more of your money.
4. Assign every dollar a job
One of the biggest mistakes people make with their budget is that they only focus on paying their bills and then do nothing with any surplus money they might have.
What happens then? This extra money gets spent unconsciously, which is a missed opportunity. These same people then ask, “Where did all my money go?”
Ever ask that? At one time, you had a nice little surplus on your checking account and then suddenly – poof! – it’s all gone.
Here’s the solution: assign a job to every dollar.
After all the little dollar bills go off to cover your bills, make sure all the remaining dollars have something to do, too. Otherwise, they’ll walk off and go missing (again).
What jobs can these extra dollars do for you? Here are some options:
- Pay off debt
- Be invested in your Roth IRA
- Build up emergency savings
- Become seed money for a custodial account for your kids
- Go toward the savings of a large, aspiration purchase – think a new house, new car or new furniture
- Get invested in your side-hustle
Hear more about assigning a job to every dollar on this Queer Money®:
5. Automate your bill payments
We humans no longer need to bore ourselves a couple of hours a month with writing checks to all our billers and lenders and then itemizing those checks in a ledger. Why? Because it’s the 21st Century and we have robots.
Long before robots were taking the jobs of your favorite financial advisor, they were making paying bills easier than ever. That science is settled.
So, set up as many of your bill payments in Bill Pay or with auto-deduction from your favorite rewards credit card (pay your balance each and every month) and stop messing with the small stuff. Then, just monitor your checking account – be the overseer – and make sure you don’t miss any bills.
Not only will this save you hours or boredom every month, it’ll improve your credit score because you’ll never being late or miss a payment again.
6. Use cash
Despite all our modern conveniences, cash is still king.
Yes, we appreciate our new robot overlords, but they have their limitations. The more disconnected we are from the money we spend, especially with discretionary spending, the more unconsciously we spend.
Did you know that studies show that people who use debit and credit cards spend on average an additional 12% to 18% respectively?
Even Martha would say, “That’s not a good thing.”
This is why cash was, is and will be king. So, for all your expenses that aren’t paid by Bill Pay, withdraw the cash from your checking account and use the envelope system. What’s the envelope system?
Grab an envelope for every expense you have that’s not paid by Bill Pay or automatically deducted or transferred for you. Write the name of one expense on each of these envelopes, i.e., ‘Gas,’ ‘Groceries’ and ‘Social.’
You might also have ‘Babysitter,’ ‘Lawn Care’ and more. It’s entirely up to you and your needs.
Then, withdraw the amount of money you’ll need until your next payday to cover these expenses. Apportion your withdrawn money as needed in each envelope to cover your respective expense.
When you need the money for these expenses, grab the cash from the appropriate envelope. If there’s ever cash leftover in an envelope, leave it there and withdraw that much less from your checking account for the next pay period.
This way, you won’t overspend in any category and you’ll eventually have extra money to put towards those six investments we mentioned above in bullet point number 4.
Hear more on this Queer Money® why cash is king:
7. Track your progress twice a month
Back to monitoring . . . specifically with your budget . . . monitor your progress twice a month. This’ll take less time than you think, will ensure success with your budget and increase your chances of long-term financial success.
In fact, this double double-check is so successful, we remind our readers on social media and in the Queer Money Facebook group twice a month to do it.
5 ways to budget betterYou’re never earning too little money or too much money to not need a budget. - John Schneider of the Debt Free GuysClick To Tweet
1. Avoid budget creep
It’s a sneaky little bitch. It’s intrusive and precarious. What is it?
It’s budget creep.
Budget creep, not to be confused with TLC or Radiohead’s ‘Creep,’ is that increase in spending beyond your budget that happens soooooooo slooooooowly you don’t even notice it. It’s the answer to that “Where the fuck did my money go?”
It hurts your budget and thwarts your goals, and it causes even the most responsible among us to blow bigger wads than we have.
Budget creep is often caused by triggers that permit us to either unconsciously or consciously disregard our budget or make exceptions here and there, like that unwise last hook up with your ex.
Know your triggers.
Triggers include stress, sadness or depression, losing someone or something or even celebrating someone or something.
Common symptoms of budget creep include avoiding looking at your budget or your checking and savings accounts. Often the voice inside your head will say something like, “you deserve it” or “this is the last time.”
P.S. It won’t be the last time unless you truly change your mind.
Hear all about budget creep (and how to avoid it):
2. Find Not-So-Expensive (NSE) alternatives
It’s been the cliché for so long it’s in our DNA – gay men live fabulously. Sorry to burst your nitrous bubble, but we’re not all white, upwardly mobile gays living in mod homes and driving Audis A4s – though we may want to be.
Once upon a time, we were living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget as David’s dad would say. Well, Mr. Stein of Steins Law says that something that can’t go on forever won’t. It’s like physics or math or something.
Here’s the deal, there’s an NSE alternative for everything. These may not be alternatives you want forever, but they’ll do for now while you have bigger, better and badder goals. Plus, the more NSEs you find, the easier and longer you’ll stay debt free.
We found NSE alternatives for watching TV, drinking wine and meeting our annual gay-travel quota. If we can do it, you can, too.
David shared more NSE awesome sauce in the video below. Give it a gander.
David opines on the wisdom of NSE:
3. Avoid (too many) guilty pleasures
We get it! Life’s hard, especially these days, and the only thing getting you by are your guilty pleasures. But too much of anything is a bad thing, usually for both your health and your budget.
So, we came up with a 3-step plan to have a FUL (yes, one L) life. Get all the details on how you can have a FUL life, too, and make your dollars stretch further than your waistline.
See how to easily give up (not completely but enough) those guilty pleasures:
4. Pick your milestone rewards
Use milestone rewards to help you reach your money goals.
Milestone rewards are affordable treats we give ourselves when we reach milestones in achieving financial goals. They also don’t wreck our financial goals because they’re too much. Examples are going to the movies, a reasonably priced dinner out, a decent bottle of wine or buying an affordable, yet stylish, piece of clothing – maybe a cool t-shirt.
Milestone rewards should enough of an incentive to keep you on track for your financial goals and not kick you off the saving and investing wagon.
Want to know more about milestone rewards. Of course, we have a video for you.
Reward yourself by watching this video on milestone rewards:
5. Money chunking
In this Monday Money Minute, one of our first videos ever, David shared our money chunking hack. Money chunking will make today’s paycheck last until your next paycheck.
What’s money chunking?
You might think the star of this video is David, but it’s not. It’s money chunking. You know when you go out with the boys and say, “I’m NOT spending all my money at the club tonight” and then you spend all your money at the club that night?
That’s budget creep (see above), and money chunking’s your fix.
Money chunking is when you break the amount of money allotted within each category of your budget into smaller pieces that spread your allotted money within each category over longer periods of time.
This step is the final step of budgeting and will stretch your dollar as far as you need it to go.
Watch my hunk give you a dollop of money chunking:
Why you don’t need to make a budget
Now does the thought of creating this budget have your head spinning?
Is your money situation stressing you out by now? Maybe you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, and you’re nervous that you couldn’t even cover a simple emergency. By now, you know that budgeting’s the fix you need, but you’re not sure where to start.
First, stop! Don’t make a budget.
We’ve done it for you.
Below we share the tools included in our plug-and-play Budget Buster Bundle. We discuss the current statistics around budgeting in the US and explain why the Budget Buster Bundle is crucial to your financial success.
We talk about the value in a ‘dynamic’ budget that gives you the wiggle room to live a real-life and allows for spending on the things that make you truly happy.
Hear the best reason for not creating a budget:
Everything you need to know about the Budget Buster Bundle
The Budget Buster Bundle’s more than just a budget planner or budget organizer. You can get that at Target.
The Budget Buster Bundle’s a whole system.
First, we’ll give you then walk you through, step-by-step, including videos with us, our Spending Analysis and the Spending Reduction mentioned above.
Then, we’ll tackle the biggest spending problem for most Americans – your food (grocery and dining out) budget. We’ll share with you our best tips for reining in excessive food spending, while still enjoying eating.
Plus, we’ll give you our exclusive grocery list and menu templates to make your grocery shopping easier and cut food waste, which saves on grocery expenses.
Finally, we’ll give you then walk you through starting your very own Dynamic Budget. We’ll help you decide which expenses are most important to you, then create a plan to fund these bigger rocks in your life so your life feels fuller even while you’re spending less.
See?! Budget’s not a 4-letter word.
Oh, we lied. The real final score with the Budget Buster Bundle is our 47 delicious recipes that your family will certainly love and that’ll fit into your budget. Best of all, many of the recipes can be made in your slow cooker. So, they essentially cook themselves while you’re having fun elsewhere.
As you can see, the Budget Buster Bundle’s more than a monthly planner, more than a budget planner or a budget organizer. It’s even better than YNAB.
Because the Budget Buster Bundle tackles all the areas people struggle most with budgeting and it comes with full-time support from us.
See for yourself and sign up here for the Budget Buster Bundle here.
How to budget better as a couple
“How do I get my partner on the same money page as me?” This is the most frequent question we get.
Here’s the thing. Money’s an emotional topic for people and their solution is to not talk about money.
That’s not a solution.
What’s the best way to get that topic started? Start slowly.
By ‘start slowly,’ we mean that you and your partner should share a little bit of info at a time. As time goes on, share a little more. Then, eventually share a bit more.
Little by little a little becomes a lot. Suddenly, you’re both on the same page and a conversation about money didn’t lead to an argument about your lack of money.
This is why from the moment it was invented, we’ve been recommending the Honeyfi App.
Honeyfi lets couples share individual banking account information as they’re ready to do so.
So, did you just move in together and you only want to share your new joint checking account that you opened to cover your joint bills? Perfect! Get it set up on Honeyfi and you both can keep track of what’s going on in this account.
When you decide on some mutual money goals, then you can each share your savings accounts to motivate each other to stay on track.
Oh, you’re ready to say, “I do.” How exciting! Now share all your accounts and discuss your whole financial picture, so you can prepare for your picture-perfect wedding and marriage.
Honeyfi is a great tool to help you and your partner share and talk more about money only as you’re ready to do so.
Then, hear the CEO of Honeyfi share why couples who talk about money have better sex. Now that makes a happy marriage.
Sam Shultz on Queer Money®:
A basic building block for success with money is a budget. Despite people equating a budget with a diet, budgets don’t have to be a negative experience.
Flip the script, as we did. Our budget doesn’t tell us what we can’t do. It tells us what we can do and when. This way, we don’t regret our spending.
Ridding yourself of spending regret and financial anxiety will make your new budget worth it.
And, don’t worry about searching high and low or spending days on end creating a budget. Just sign up and get the Budget Buster Bundle here.
Here are more ways to end financial anxiety:
- 10 Steps to Super Simple Investing
- How to Retire? 21 Tips for Financial Planning for Retirement
- 29 Easy Ways to Find Extra Money