Budgets & Cats- Because You’re Going To Die Alone Anyways, is a new budget series found exclusively on Money Smart Latina. Since a man isn’t a retirement plan around these cat lady parts, we need an ample amount of savings and personal finance knowledge. And if our cat decides to let someone else share the bed, it’s all gravy anyway. Hope you enjoy!
Two years ago I came home to a house full of cat vomit. Fellow cat ladies, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all fun and games until the cat eats too much and pukes on the carpet. Except, Harrison had never thrown up before. Sure, a random hairball every few months (is he supposed to have more?!) but not actually throw up. Concerned, I decided to keep an eye on him which only lasted for a few minutes because then he threw up again. So off to the vet we went.
$1,300 later (thank you emergency fund!), we had a new diagnosis of FIV, a cool cone to keep us company and a prescription for an anti-viral. Oh yes, I now had a new expense I needed to make room for. He is also susceptible to a variety of secondary infections that have us in the vet now quite a few times a year.
If this has ever happened to you (unexpected expenses, not FIV), fear not fellow cat ladies. I got the tips and tricks to keep you covered!
Do A Budget Analysis
The first thing I would recommend to anyone who is looking to find extra room in their budget is to complete a budget analysis. A budget analysis is when you compare where you think your money is going to where it’s actually going after you’ve tracked your spending. Most people recommend doing this for a month to get the most accurate picture. I would second that a month would be most accurate but have been able to notice spending habits sooner. For myself, I can notice in as early as two weeks.
Tracking your spending can be as easy or as hard as you want to be but I suggest grouping similar items into a budget category and using a free tool when just getting started. There are so many free tools such as software like Mint or Personal Capital, spreadsheets such as Google sheets or just a regular pen and piece of paper. Find what works for you and track everything you can for at least a month to see where your money is really going. For myself, I know I eat out a lot but it’s always more shocking when I see the grand total of what I really spend versus what I think I spend.
See What Can Go
Once you have seen where your money is actually going, see what exactly can go out of your monthly budget. Stuff that can often go for me in my budget is any subscription boxes I have signed up for. In the past, I have participated in subscription boxes like Birchbox and Hunt A Killer. I loved getting treats in the mail as well as trying something new. But eventually, with Birchbox, I started getting junk instead of items I would actually use. I never received junk with Hunt A Killer but I ended up not having enough time as I thought I did to keep up with the monthly tasks.
Along with subscription boxes, see if there are any memberships you aren’t taking advantage of such as one to a gym, class or food co-op, but no longer need. Other memberships or subscriptions you may not be using could be something entertainment related such as Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Really look at your budget to see where your money is going and if you are paying to use something that is no longer bringing you joy or just collecting dust. But don’t worry, you can keep Catster magazine, I give you full permission.
Chop Chop Chop
After you have weeded at any subscriptions, memberships or bills you have decided you no longer need, it’s time to start trying to make the bills you do have lower.
Gather all bills and start analyzing what exactly it is you are paying for. For instance, are you paying a fee for insurance on a credit card? Or something like a new internet modem you never received anyways? It’s important to make sure all fees and expenses you are being billed for are not only accurate but correct as well. You could be paying a significant amount in fees without even realizing it.
Next, see if there is anything you can call and negotiate for a lower rate with your provider. I have my cable company on speed dial and know that I need to call the loyalty department once a year to ask for a promo code that I am entitled to. I’m also currently stacking a few discounts on my cell phone bill that I was eligible for by doing research, such as looking into my ADP employer portal. Discounts and lower rates are everywhere so don’t be afraid to do research and ask.
And if you are in a desperate time calling for a desperate measure, don’t be afraid to walk away from a current provider and seek an alternative one who’s cheaper. It may be harder in a smaller town but in a major city, there are always alternative providers to the one you currently have. In Phoenix, for instance, we can pick between at least two providers for any type of service, including utilities. Anything is up for grabs, even rent if you are renewing your lease!
Figure Out The Cheapest Way To Buy Something You Need
One of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve ever heard was from my boyfriend. We were talking about spending or rather lack thereof, on certain things. To be honest, I was probably willing to spend more than him on something because I’m the one that usually thinks I’m a baller, not him. He simply replied, “Just because you have money, you don’t have to spend it.” This motto has been seriously part of my MO while shopping and looking for the most frugal ways to do something, especially when creating wiggle room in my budget.
When looking to buy items you need, ask yourself how you can get them for as cheap as possible. A lot of household items you may need can be purchased at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar. You can also purchase snacks, spices, and a few other items there like trash bags or Ziplocs. You can even get cheap supplies for your cats, such as toys, bowls, and bedding!
Groceries can easily be saved on by purchasing whats in season, using coupons and buying items when on sale. You can even get gift cards and promo codes at Target as well as using in-store coupon apps. By building this frugality muscle, you can even use these habits to save even more without thinking about it. And for cat supplies, such as meds and cat litter, I have found Amazon to be surprisingly cost effective.
Look For Alternatives
I believe challenges, such as Whole 30 and No-Spend Months can really help us jumpstart our goals, in terms of fitness and finance. I’m also a firm believe that moderation is key to having long-term results and maintenance.
When cutting something out of your budget to make room for something new, make sure it’s sustainable and that you have a backup plan in place. For instance, I am a caffeine freak. There is no way cutting Starbucks out of my budget was going to allow me to also give up coffee nor did I want to. Instead, I now drink coffee mostly at the office when I get in and now on days I’m in the field or having meetings, I remember to pack my thermos. But by allowing Starbucks to be a treat, I am no longer spending $30 a week there like I was. $25 of that is now being redirected towards something else.
If there is an item you like or prefer, take time to see if you can get it cheaper at a different store or utilize a friend’s warehouse discount. If you are giving up Netflix or cable, see what you can find at the library for cheap. Consider a movie night in with friends instead of going out to the bar. There are a ton of frugal alternatives to things you already do, you just have to be creative.
Keep The End Goal In Mind
One of the things that help me when cutting back on my spending, and trying to find extra wiggle room in the budget, is to remember why I am doing this in the first place.
Being a social butterfly and living in a big city makes it very easy for me to always find something to do. As much as I love hanging out with my cat reading a book from the library, I also love going to concerts and trying new restaurants and bars. And I love everyone in my life. So, it’s hard for me to not want to go out and spend money with the best of them.
Remembering why I’m doing this in the first place is what really helps as well as trying to find the bright side. When you remember why you are cutting back for that wiggle room and spending less will help you when the times get tough. Sure, you could go out to eat three times a week or you could save like you had planned to go skiing instead. Or maybe it’s medication you really need to prioritize and self-care, like me. Whatever it is, it’s important to remind yourself this is your why.
Practicing gratitude is also a great way to remember your why. You, like many other people, may have more than you really need. That’s great that you have been so blessed! So it may be a great time to remind yourself of what you already have and what you don’t need to pay for. Maybe you have some crafting items collecting dust or books that you’ve been meaning to read. Give thanks for the stuff you already have and keep yourself busy at home. Your cat will also be grateful that you’ll be home more.
Finding wiggle room in the budget may be hard at first. Even figuring out items you can cut and do without is really a privilege on its own since others are not so lucky. But if you are, it’s good practice to see what you can do without so that you can free up some extra money for whatever the next step in your life may be. For you and your cat!