New Year, New Budget

Shoe Budget

Budgets are cool and all, but I’m not a huge fan of ’em. Most of you probably budget weekly or monthly. In the Ninja household we are budget rebels and only tweak the thing once a year. Apparently it’s time to do just that. 2012 Ninja budget meet my readers, readers meet my budget….

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Like I said before, I’m not a big fan of budgeting and therefore my spreadsheet might seem a little confusing. Let’s see if I can help you make some sense of it…

Gross Income:

Does anyone know why we include Gross Income in our budgets? It’s kind of pointless really. It just reminds me how much of my income I don’t get to keep. I haven’t included Girl Ninja’s gross in this section for a very important reason; I’m lazy.

Below my gross income, I have a section called “Side Hustle”. This pretty much accounts for my blogging income, now that I don’t do much housesitting or tutoring. I like to keep it conservative here by estimating only $500/month in side hustle income. I’ve already made $2,000 this month from PDITF, so I’m hoping I can blow that projection out of the water (Can someone remind me why I get paid for writing this silly blog?).


I use to contribute 5% of my gross income to my 401K, but I decided to step things up a bit by kicking it up to 8% for 2012. With the 5% match my employer provides, I’ll have 13% of my gross income going to my 401K plan this year. I’ve also been lucky enough to max out my Roth IRA every year since I graduated college in 2007. Ultimately we want to have about 15-ish% of our gross income going towards retirement. Girl Ninja also has a 401K plan, but she’s asleep so I can’t ask her how much she contributes. This is why I left it off.


Pretty self-explanatory. I include a 10% “random” category at the bottom of the expenses as it seems like most months have unexpected or non-budgeted things come up (household stuff, a weekend trip, birthday parties, etc). Instead of making random guesses how much we spend on cleaning products, clothes, etc we just try to keep all those miscellaneous expenses less than 10% of our net income. We also tithe/donate to charity every month, but I have removed that section from our expenses as we consider that a private matter.

Left Over:

This is the most important part of the budget, as it really gives us a look in to our financial future. According to the spreadsheet, we have the potential to add about $36,000 to our savings account this year. I don’t know how realistic this number actually is, seeing that the $36K estimate doesn’t account for our charitable gifts, but I’m hoping some extra blog income will help offset the loss.


In the top right of the spreadsheet you will see a section for my annual financial goals. We have always reached our goals — often earlier than planned — so this year I really decided to shoot for the moon. We are gonna work our butts off to try and reach $100,000 in savings by years end, but as you can tell from our “left over” section, we aren’t suppose to be able to. Maybe I can convince Girl Ninja to start selling drugs? Know anyone that needs some Tylenol PM or Vicks VapoRub?

Do you budget every week, month, or year? Does your budget dictate every dollar you spend like the envelope system would, or is it more of an estimate for what the future might hold? What’s your preferred budgeting tool (Mint, Quicken, Excel, Paper/pencil)? Do you add any additional sections to your budget (like Goals, Payoff dates, etc) that I should consider adding?

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38 thoughts on “New Year, New Budget”

  1. I do our budget monthly, but it is usually the same every month. As my husband’s good, steady job brings home $2900 after taxes, and then we pay $1200 for the mortgage, I have to be very tight to get everything paid in the month, plus for a family of 5 we need at least $400 a month just to eat.

    Although it is still important to budget your money and know where it is going, when you make enough to have an extra $3000 every month, it is far less critical to track every penny.

    • I should also add that I do all my money managing in a spiral notebook, with a pencil. Take our checking balance, minus any outstanding checks, then subtract our monthly expences: Mort, car and life ins, school loan pymnt, phone, water, electric. Then I pull out cash for gas and groceries, $200 for gas and $450 for groceries. If there is any leftover I pull some for church. There isn’t usually much left over.

      • I think that’s awesome you guys are making it work! Speaks wonders to the discipline and dedication you have to looking out for your family. It’s not about how much ya make, it’s about being happy and doing the best you can with what ya got, and you all are doing just that! Rockstars!

  2. Our monthly budget is pretty boring and steady…..the fun part is our automatic withdrawals to our dedicated online savings accounts – emergency fund, car fund, tuitin fund (3 teenagers – yikes!), and the best of all – vacation fund! It’s fun to watch those accounts grow and plan how we’ll spend them.

    Even though your budget is pretty loose, it’s good to see that you have some annual goals “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it everytime.” so just having those goals will help you reach them – good luck!

  3. I keep one file in Notepad called “Finances.” It lists everything I need – checking/savings/IRA balances, dates due for recurring accounts, less frequent expenses like refilling maintenance prescriptions and tuning the piano. My system is simple: deduct all anticipated expenses from this biweekly period’s net pay, add a fixed amount to savings, keep a reserve in checking, and the balance (divided by 14) is the average I can spend each day. I see no reason to make things any more complicated than that.

  4. In the past, i always make a budget and dont try very hard to meet it. i look at budgets as a guide to where my money should go. This year i want to see how close i can get to meeting the actual budget. I have budgeted each dollar this time but give myself the freedom to do what i want… this may have to change. i also have a snowball spread sheet where i track debt, interest paid, and time remaining on each debt till gone at current payment levels. After looking over my debt history from where i started to track things the best advice i can give is dont buy an expensive vehicle with lots of up keep un-less you need it for work. i use excel for everything

    Larry – i like the idea of just dividing what is left over by the number of days in the pay period, simple and straight to the point

    • I believe it works very well. If I spend nothing on a particular day, or I spend more than my computed average, I simply re-compute. Many days, most weekdays in fact, I spend nothing as I usually bring lunch from home. This way, there’s no guilt or self-flagellation if I choose to eat out or buy a DVD or take a trip to the city one day.

      • Totally agree this is a good comprimise compared to the Dave R. detailed budget/envelope model which i never liked. i should have done the daily budget before

  5. I have a spreadsheet with anticipated income projections through the next several years. I have a ton of debt and I have those all listed out with anticipated pay off dates.

    I only get paid once a month, so it’s actually pretty easy to budget. I get the same amount each month, so I deduct the payments due and automatically know how much is left over. Which, what I’m calling ‘left over’ is really just how much I can spend on food and gas for the month. Sometimes it’s a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

  6. We have a base level budget ($3000 a month) which my steady income covers (Housing, Phones, Insurance, parking, groceries, emergency savings, “fun money”..etc).

    My husbands income is ALL over the place. It used to be identical to mine, but in the last year he has made anywhere from $3500-$8500 (woo-hoo!!) in a month. We basically talk it all out on a weekly basis–how to distribute his income into our accounts. We have found that if we don’t discuss it right away. we fritter away money on going out to eat too much and other random purchases. Also, he has both flights and merchandise to purchase out of his income for his career, so we have to make sure we are always connecting and planning ahead for $500 flights or upcoming $1200 merchandise orders.

  7. My wife and I just started to keep a budget so it is the developing stages. I took the budget you gave me and tweaked it a little bit to include end of the year goals, our assets and debts. Then I added our net worth and a net worth goal to it. Although we are in the process of a refinance that should save us around an extra $250/month I still included our old payment in our expenses. I did this because we plan on continuing to pay the same payment which would pay our 30 yr mortgage off in a little under 10 years. We both contribute to our 401k’s but I do not include the contributions because they are pre-tax and I only include our take home pay on our budget. We do not stick to our budget 100%, we just use it as a basic guideline.

  8. The old lady and I are in the process of updating the budgets since we now have a little one on the way. So we are in discussions (negotiations would be a better term) on how we are going to allocate future funds. We do know we want to contribute to a 529 plan since that will help pay for college and give us a nice tax credit on our state taxes (we always end up owing money to the state!).

    The only suggestion I might have for you, is I know you are saving to get to 100K for a house, but I don’t see any contributions to a taxable investment account. You may want to consider setting some money aside for that. I know everyone has different goals, but this could help you get there and leave you fairly easy access to your money.

  9. I noticed your budget has $0 listed for both electricity & natural gas. Are these expenses included in your rent or something?

    I’d save a small fortune each month if I didn’t have those two expenses!

    • That is correct. Technically our rent is $975/mo with a $200 flat rate fee for all utilities (including cable/Internet). So I just treat our rent like its $1,175. Keeps it simple.

    • He covered that: “We also tithe/donate to charity every month, but I have removed that section from our expenses as we consider that a private matter.”

    • We definitely tithe each month as well as donate to a few charities, but like I said in the article we believe it’s best to give without boasting.

  10. Hubby and I reconcile every single expense at the end of each month to see if we have met our goals. Our goals are reasonable, and we enjoy making minor lifestyle changes to meet them. We have more categories that the Ninja household, which ensures that we live according to our values and spend our money likewise- categories like: hosting friends, non-dinner dates (activities/shows). Breaking things up and monitoring our monthly standing helps us evaluate if we should cool it on Met Market groceries, plan a dinner party, or if we’re due for an outing together. It works for us.

  11. I don’t know why you get paid, but I do know that I should be getting paid. If anyone knows how to make this happen, please tell me.

    And you make a lot of money, quite frankly. Usually the people who don’t like to talk about money make plenty of it!

    Btw, loving the “girls buy too many shoes” stereotype.

  12. Is there any way to get rid of the storage unit costs?

    You budget about like I do….so you must be doing it right! I have a spreadsheet similar to yours. I only change it when my income situation or expenses change.

    I don’t see the point in making an extremely detailed budget, so I never have.

    • I wish. But we inherited a baby grand piano when my grandma passed away and we want to keep it for when we own a home. We tried to find someone who wanted to keep it in their house, but couldn’t. So essentially it’s a piano storage unit.

  13. I recently went through a minor freak out about our debt and created a budget. It made me feel a little better. I know I won’t stick to it, but it still made me feel better. It also showed me that we absolutely had to reduce some expenses. Got rid of satellite TV, so that was a good thing.

    My first ninja post. Guess I’m not a lurker anymore?

    • Yes!!!!!! I love when people lose their blogging virginity. Way to go!!!

      Glad I’m not the only one that lives and dies by the budget.

  14. Too lazy to budget. But not too rich to not worry about networth. As long as my networth is going up, I’m pretty happy. I do need to set some goals, however. The networth has been pretty stagnant as of late…

  15. I do a monthly budget with good ol pen & paper. My monthly income fluctuates because I often do extra hours at my p/t job. Before the month starts, I list all of my bills/expenses, then I assign which paycheck I’ll use to pay each bill. Ex: I’ll take out money for gas when I get pd next wed, and I’ll pay my car insurance w/ the 2/10 check etc.

    I just got back into budgetting. I was a budgetting fanatic in 08-09 then I lost my job and prettty much lost all hope. So now I’m back to budgetting and trying to do it like a ninja so that I can get out of debt.

  16. I have my mint budget and my excel budget. My excel budget determines which check all my regular fixed expenses come out of. I use my mint budget to help me manage things like food and pet expenses. These damn cats are eating me out of house and home.

  17. We make ours fairly simple. My wife and i each get a fixed amount of pocket money/allowance to spend each week. This covers most of the “misc” things, and I try to save this for trips away, dinners out etc.

    Regular expenses (utilities, childcare, health insurance etc) go straight on a credit card, and after mortgage and other repayments (we have a couple of other interest free loans or investement loans we are repaying slowly), there is a fixed amount left in our joint transaction account. This covers the weekly expenses such as groceries, household stuff and the odd family lunch out. Once this is out, then there’s no more money left.

    I check the regular expenses about once a quarter to make sure that the budget amount we are putting aside each week to cover them matches what is actually being charged on the credit card. But this avoids the need to track the budget in detail – each week is set and when the money is gone, that’s it till next week.

    Makes it easy that I get paid weekly, and that my side income is not budgeted for and goes towards reducing debt.

  18. Lets see:
    Do you budget every week, month, or year? Every month.

    Does your budget dictate every dollar you spend like the envelope system would, or is it more of an estimate for what the future might hold? Basically is an estimate, I try to keep it real, but honestly I leave some space to move ๐Ÿ™‚ like for example if I feel the urge to go eating outside with some friends or if I go shopping with my mom and I see a bag or earings that “I need” ๐Ÿ˜›

    Whatโ€™s your preferred budgeting tool (Mint, Quicken, Excel, Paper/pencil)? Excel.

    Do you add any additional sections to your budget (like Goals, Payoff dates, etc) that I should consider adding? Nop, I keep as simple and general as I can ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. I’m enjoying your blog so far. I’m about 3 posts in (I jump around)… and something about your budget doesn’t make sense to me (same with on anyone’s budget). Storage unit. What’s the point of storing something you’re not using?? Why not just sell it and get money for something you will use/do need, and save the money on the storage unit…
    It just doesn’t make sense to store something that is costing you more and more every time you pay your storage bill.

    • In a few other blog posts i mentioned I inherited a baby grand piano when my grandma passed away. My wife also plays piano and wants our future children to play. I tried to find someone willing to take the piano and keep it in their home til we have a place big enough but had no luck. The storage fee is for keeping the piano in a climate controlled facility to ensure protection. If we didn’t have the piano, we wouldn’t have storage. But we could store the piano for a LOOOOONG time before it would exceed the cost of buying our own piano.

      hopefully that makes more sense ๐Ÿ™‚

      welcome to the bloggity blog.

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