How the Heck do I Budget?

Art by Sam Truong Dan

Here you won’t find the kind of click-bait stories where a person claims they were able to retire by 40, but their parents paid for their college, they lived at home rent-free, etc. etc.

So before I begin to talk about money, let’s have a quick privilege check. This is the disclaimer where I get real with my own experience and I recognize that not everyone comes from the same background with the same opportunities. Here’s my disclaimer: my parents are middle-class, and it’s from them that I learned about budgeting, saving, and investing, they paid for half of my private college tuition, a quarter of the remaining tuition was paid for in scholarship, and the rest I took out in student loans. However, I’ve also been working since I was 15 doing part time jobs after school, in summer, and during college.

The short explanation is that I have some privilege with never having to worry about food on the table or keeping the lights on, but I’m also very driven towards independence and being as self-sustaining as I can.

Now let’s get down to business. I divide my income into three main sections: savings, tithing, and spending.

1. Savings

Early on, my dad taught me to save half of everything I earned. With my first allowances I dropped the coins into a little piggy bank, which I would deposit at the bank with my dad. Because I started so early with this habit, it truly seems like second nature to file everything away. Recently as I was talking to my parents about my law school plans and budget, they were surprised (but pleased) to learn that I still kept up my savings habit. Now I have about $10,000 squirrelled away in my bank account and in investments (which I’ll talk about later).

2. Tithing

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I donate a portion of my earnings to the Church that are allocated to missionaries, congregations and members that are in need of more assistance, maintenance of our temples and meetinghouses, and many other need-based areas. To get spiritual for just a second, I’ve really been blessed in my life for paying my tithing and giving back.

3. Spending

Also sometimes called “The Rest.” In my best times, I have little subcategories that delegate funds to the gym, food (a lot of food), my transit pass for getting around the city, and for credit cards. For the past few months when I was working in retail, it was a lot harder to keep up the subcategories because I didn’t have the same amount of hours each week. Now that I’m back to the 40-hour work week, I’m ready to get back to spending my money more wisely (i.e. Katherine you have got to stop spending all your money on food).

One last thing…

If you have a good nest egg in your savings account, it’s not going to grow by much in the bank. Here’s what I recommend if you have enough funds that you’re not going to touch anytime soon: invest it. I personally use T Rowe Price and distribute into mutual funds, so that even if there is some variation in the money I get back, over a period of months or years you’ll see a lot of growth.

Initially you do have to start out with a relatively big investment, not just pennies, but you can add to what you’ve got in increments. I’ve noticed a big difference in how my savings grow in investments instead of in a savings account, but it doesn’t hurt to put some funds in your savings account just in case.


If I could sum this all up in a sentence, my advice would simply say, be smart and be patient.

xoxo kat


24 thoughts on “How the Heck do I Budget?

  1. These are some decent money savings tips. I know I made a flexible excel sheet to help my budget and really track my savings and spending usage. Thanks for sharing.


  2. For me the budgetting part is not the hard part – it’s the not trating myself… I am so torn between wanting to save a lot of money and wanting to treat myself, go out and have nice dinners while I’m young & child-less etc. I’m better at it now but it’s soo hard. Impressed by your ability to save!


  3. These are some great tips on learning how to budget! It’s harder than I thought it was when we first got on our budget! I used quite a few apps on my phone to help us stay on our budget!


  4. My parents also taught me to put away half of each paycheck when I got my first job. While I can no longer put that much aside now that I’m older, the habit of saving has stuck with me!


  5. Good advice. Now that I’m getting to the end of my work career, thinking about my retirement savings is becoming more important. Great tips to consider.


  6. These are some honest and decent tips. I follow most of them regularly. Financial security in today’s world has become so important.


  7. Budgeting is very hard on me. I know how to do that in theory, practice is lacking, hehe. thankfully I have husband to protect me from being broke


  8. $10,000 in savings is absolute goals to me! I think that being extremely cheap and using coupons helps me be able to budget my money better. Also shopping at thrift stores or resale shops for different things is great too if you’re on a budget.


  9. Such a great and very detailed post. My husband and I are very strict when it comes to our budget. We save and invest in our kid’s education and health.


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