Dear enraged feminist readers – don’t worry. This is not a sexist diatribe.
“$1,412. No. That can’t be right. I can’t possible have $1,412 in credit card charges from this month,” I began muttering to myself.
The portion of my brain housing a financial panic button started buzzing and I ran through four of the five-stages of grief.
- Denial: Do I have fraudulent charges, again?
- Anger: What did I spend all this money on?! And why did I decide to spend so much on a ticket to see It’s Only a Play?!
- Bargaining: I picked up some extra side-hustle income this month, it’s really okay.
- Depression: Why didn’t I do my regular, weekly budget crunches this month?
Poring over my statements I started to see these charges were indeed made by my hand (or finger in the case of online purchases).
The financial panic button began blaring as the picture came into focus.
Being a woman ruined my budget and for the first time in a very long time, I would have to dip into my savings account to pay off my credit card bills.
But let’s backtrack to why my ownership of lady bits is directly correlated with my busted budget.
Part I: Letting My Emotions Control My Budget
As a feminist, I generally begin seething when I come across any of the countless stereotypes of women and money. Oh you know, the ones about how we don’t invest. We don’t save as much for retirement as men (with no nod to the pay gap). We can’t negotiate well. We only want to marry rich men. A woman is just out to spend her husband’s money. A woman should be the primary caregiver and take her husband’s last name – oops ranting – let me reign it back in.
It appears there is a woman-centric stereotype I did not receive proper immunization for: the desire to nurture*.
Peach moved to New York City just over two months ago for a three-month stint as a student teacher. His reasons for coming were two-fold.
- He’s interested in being a teacher for inner city youths and wanted to experience teaching in a major urban environment.
- We wanted to spend a few months testing our relationship in close proximity to each other after nearly three years of long distance.
Unfortunately, student teachers are glorified unpaid interns. He works a full, 40-hour (or more) week and receives no compensation, while still needing to take some other graduate courses, which makes it tough to get a part-time job. Peach also had to quit his full-time job (which he did on top of being a full-time grad student) in order to move to New York.
Peach saved up for a long-time to move here and has a nest egg to live off of for three-months. Regardless, I still feel a twinge of guilt at times that he’s here spending thousands of dollars when he could be living at home, rent-free and getting his student teaching credits accomplished. He also isn’t living with me and paying a subsidized rent (I didn’t think it would be good for us), so he’s spending over $2,000 in living expenses alone for his apartment.
This seed of guilt started to grow into a sapling and then a full-blown oak tree, which I tried to chop down by beginning to cover small costs.
If I wanted to go out to dinner instead of having to cook, I’d offer to pay. Or I’d pick up the tab at happy hour. Or I wouldn’t tell him the real amount it cost for us to travel to my cousin’s wedding and cover 70 percent instead of 50 percent.
These small financial gestures – which I tried to space out, so I didn’t emasculate my boyfriend – began to add up until I reached a point of crunching numbers and facing a financial panic attack. [I’d also like to take a moment to appreciate my boyfriend who is confident enough to be okay with me picking up tabs and encourages the notion that I may be the long-term breadwinner in our relationship. Talk about an evolved man.]
After assessing the damage to my bank account, I called a meeting with Peach — or more accurately asked him to pause How To Get Away With Murder so I could rant.
I admitted that I’d been trying to sneakily cover some expense of him living here so we could enjoy living in New York together without putting too much of a burden on his wallet. He told me I didn’t need to cover for him. He’d been diligent with his finances and built some discretionary spending into his savings.
We spoke through my plan to get back on track and ways to have him hold me accountable.
Part II: Getting Back on Track
First, you may be wondering why $1,412 busted my budget. To many of you this probably sounds like a relatively small sum.
I don’t typically disclose income or real financial numbers on this blog (a blogger needs to keep some secrets). But for the sake of explanation, I’ll break it down a bit.
After contributing to my 401(k), putting money in my savings account, paying for rent, utilities, cell phone and metrocard – I have just over $1,000 left to spend in a month. For the sake of clarity and full-disclosure, all my side hustle income goes directly into savings and I don’t count any of it towards discretionary spending.
So, when I ran my budget and saw $1,412 – I realized for the first time in a very long time, I would need to pull some money out of savings to pay off my credit card. I also don’t tend to keep much in checking other than what I’ll need in the month.
While this $412 isn’t a massive amount of money by any means, it’s significant to me and sets me back on some of my financial goals for the remainder of the year.
In a silver linings moment, this experience does reinforce my militant mentality about saving and proves the importance of a fully funded savings (and/or emergency) account.
Part III: Rectifying My Error
This long story brings us to my final confession: swiping with a credit card makes you spend more than handing over cash.
There. I said it. All you Dave Ramsey loyalists can start amen-ing and nodding fiercely towards your computer screens.
I will still 100% continue to use credit cards and in no way blame my credit cards for my overspending last month. Frankly, I’m sure I would’ve still just taken more money out of the ATM if I were a cash-only kind of woman.
However, I will acquiesce to the proven psychology that you think longer and harder about purchases made with cash over the swiping of plastic.
On that point, I woefully admit I’ll be participating in a cash-only diet challenge and tracking each penny I spend for the month of November.
Typically, I budget by saying I have X-amount to spend in a month and then I run my numbers weekly to see how much I have left to spend. As a woman with no dependents and no debts to pay off, it’s been effective until last month.
This month, I plan to give myself an allowance of $200 a week in cash. This money will need to cover groceries and all extracurricular activities. If I don’t spend all $200 in on week, the remainder is allowed to roll over to the next week. If I buy using a credit card, for example a book on Amazon, I’ll either a) put the cash equivalent in a savings envelope or b) subtract it from the $200 I can take out for next week.
Four days into the challenge, I’ve spent $96.98 of my weekly $200. Granted, this included grocery shopping. But the rest of the month will certainly be interesting and I anticipate will encourage me too enter hyper-saver mode.
I will post updates throughout the month to keep myself accountable and allow you to gleefully poke fun at my fall from financial grace. Hmm, I’m suddenly craving an apple.
What have you done to rectify a busted budget?
*A few of my friends reading this just choked on their water laughing at that line. Those who know me well don’t see me as a particularly, well, nurturing, individual. In fact, I get accused of being more akin to those with a Y-chromosome instead of my fellow double-Xers.
GIF taken from GIPHY
38 responses to “Being a Woman Busted My Budget”
How did I “fix” my broken budget?
I gave up budgeting.
So long as my net-worth is climbing, everything is good.
I find that everyone budgets, even when they say they don’t. I don’t commonly live by a “X-amount here” and “Y-amount goes to this” type budget, but I do know how much I have to spend in a week/month/year based on my income and financial goals. While it isn’t an itemized budget in a traditional sense, it’s a budget nonetheless. If you have no understanding of how much is coming in and how much is going out (aka a budget), then how is your net-worth able to climb efficiently?
The relationship I recently got out of was also lopsided financially. We weren’t serious enough to really discuss things but enough that me making more money definitely wasn’t an issue for him. (Is it still common for men to be bothered by this?)
I also frequently would cover entertainment like you mentioned. I didn’t necessarily consider it nurturing. It wasn’t to take care of him in any way but more so that I wanted us to spend time together and do fun activities. It seemed fair (percentage-wise) for me to pay a little bit more towards the fun.
In general, even when things are 50/50, I (personally) spend considerably more money when in a relationship than when not in one.
I know a significant amount of men who still maintain they want/need to be the primary breadwinner in a relationship — so I guess it’s common enough. But glad to hear you’ve dated guys that don’t feel that way.
Perhaps I’m seeing it as nurturing because I want to be able to treat him to fun things. Once he’s back to earning money, I won’t feel the same obligation to cover him. Even pre-student teaching when I still made more, I didn’t feel this need to foot the bill.
And I completely agree with you about spending more when in a relationship than not.
Erin, I can sympathize with the overspending when your significant other comes back from a long time away. Mrs. Done by Forty was away for about a year, and we found ourselves splurging on some small stuff repeatedly. It adds up. Also, when I went down to half time to complete student teaching, the belt definitely got a little tighter. I can only imagine doing the same in NYC.
My budget secret is to borrow from the following month when I go over (which still happens quite a bit). If I have a tough November, since I use credit cards, I can literally just borrow from December’s income. I try to take away the delta from discretionary spending (eating/drinking out, date nights) rather than from any savings goals though.
Thanks for sharing your experience too!
I also take money away from discretionary spending over saving. Reaching my savings goals are too important and I can nix a few happy hours or dinners out for the next month.
Thanks for the advice. 🙂
Great post, Erin! And kudos to you and Peach for having the ability to discuss finances so openly. I’m struggling a bit with a lopsided financial relationship, as well. B prefers to eat out, own hockey season tickets, and generally spend more freely. With my recent decline in income, I’ve had to make some tough choices – either stay in or allow B to pay. Previously, we’ve always split expenses 50/50, so it’s been an adjustment. Thanks for sharing your situation!
Hockey season tickets. Man – if Peach could have season tickets to the Bills, he’d be in heaven! I can imagine it must be really tough to adjust spending habits after you take a pay cut. But the pay off of a happier work life probably makes that a bit easier.
I also try to limit myself with $200/week. I sometimes fail on that weekly budget, but it helps me focus on my debt repayment
Oh man, if I had debt repayment I can’t even imagine how uptight I’d be about my spending! Good for you setting limits like $200 a week.
I went back to cash recently too because I’ve been going over budget lately. It’s amazing how easy it is when you’re not tracking everything.
I’ve never been an intense tracker. Mostly a “I have X to spend” and then just stay within that amount. But this recent break has really just shaken me a bit about how easy it can be to spend blindly. I’m not sure I’ll successfully make it through the month with only $200 a week, but we’ll see!
I just work my butt off until I’ve earned back what I’ve ‘lost’. That way, it’s like it never even happened.
I have taken on more side gigs this week to compensate! But the strict budget is making just feel more in control, which I like too. Me a control freak? Who knew?!
Thanks for this post! I just did a reckoning today for October, which is our first month living on less than two full-time paychecks. It was pretty strange for me to come up with a multi-hundred dollar deficit when we are using to having a little left over every month (that’s after saving so our net worth did go up, but still). I can’t really say that it’s a busted budget, though, because like Peach we were prepared for this lower-earning period.
I don’t really think your overspending is due to being a woman, though. You mentioned being nurturing but if the genders were flipped in your situation maybe you would have just used the word “provider.” In any case I think you were just being generous beyond your level of comfort (once you added it up).
Good luck with the cash-only plan! I admit I’ve never done it, even when our grocery budget needed it – I just find cash so inconvenient and gross. But I’m sure it’s the most effective method to curb spending if you really hold yourself to it.
I won’t stick with the cash only after this month because yes, it’s inconvenient, and hey I like cash back and travel rewards!
About the gender comment, that’s fair to say. I do think some of it does play into traditional roles and that yes, if I were a man it would be seen as provider. But just knowing myself, I think part of this weakness feeling came from wanting to nurture. I’m typically not a very nurturing individual, so it felt like something had triggered in me (which may be a provider instinct as well).
Totally agree with you on hating the stereotypes about women and our finances! It’s enraging to hear people slip into the trope that women are less frugal, spend more, don’t invest, and are always shopping. GAH!! I have to restrain myself from saying “have you met me???” in real life. Don’t even get me started on other stereotypes about how women “should” behave :).
More to the point, I think it’s great that you were honest with your boyfriend and able to have a frank conversation about his (and your) finances. That bodes well for your future together (in my humble opinion 🙂 ).
Awww, well thanks. I agree it does bode well. He’s great at also having abstract conversations about how we’d handle different financial scenarios, which basically makes me swoon.
And speaking of stereotypes, my least favorite one is that we want a big engagement ring. I always say my idea of a romantic proposal is a man pulling out a piece of paper showing he’s debt free. I’d go weak at the knees!
I totally FEEL you!!! The first 8 years of my life with my hubby were like this because as you know, I am married to a teacher and always made more money than him. I did have a period of time, though, that I resented my hubby because I was spending so much, and he didn’t contribute as much financially. We have worked through those issues, though, and the last few years we have scaled back our lifestyles and we are actually both happier because of it.
That reminds me a lot about what I read in Farnoosh’s book. I anticipate a lot of those issues happening for me in the future — so maybe you’ll be my personal life mentor too! It’s great to hear you scaled back together and feel happier as a result.
I can’t do cash only because I actually go through that faster… each person is different in how they spend.
I would suggest as an alternative, after trying a cash challenge, is to still use your credit card but try paying it off weekly as opposed to waiting until the statement ends. You’ll still get any points/cash back even if you pay the bill before the statement ends. I do this with a student loan I am overpaying that also accepts credit cards without fees (a Texas state loan). Since I have the cash on hand, I pay using the card for the points but go ahead and pay that portion off after it shows up online on the card– that way I’m not bombarded with an overly high and scary monthly statement.
You know, I’ve actually met a decent amount of people (usually millennials) who say they spend cash faster.
It’s funny you mention the pay-as-you-go method. I actually used to pay it off as I went, but then realized it helped my credit score more to let it cycle through so I wasn’t at 0% utilization. However, now that I have multiple credit cards (I only use two at a time though) I could use one as the primary and pay as I spend and the other just once or twice and wait for the bill to cycle so I’m showing some utilization and have some credit then. Because credit cards are my only line of credit, I have to be tactical with them. At least I never have had to revolve though!
I think what you write about here is a dilemna that my wife and I face. I won’t go into the whole situation, but my wife is VERY independent, but doesn’t keep track of her spending, which frustrates both me and her when she doesn’t have money for something she wants. She has tried to give herself an allowance, but it didn’t work, and then just tried to be frugal on her own, which didn’t work. A long story short is that it is a work in progress. I think we might need to go back and try some other items.
Going frugal cold turkey would be incredibly difficult. I feel that I’m general frugal by nature, but like to indulge in some of the nicer things in life once and awhile. I wish I could offer some advice for how to handle the situation with your wife, but as long as you two have open communication, I’m sure you can find a strategy that works best for you.
I have to confess, I spat coffee out of my nose when I read “my ownership of lady bits is directly correlated with my busted budget”.
And good for you for admitting that credit cards make spending easy: I understand the rewards system and the advantage of air miles, but the banks offer incentives for a reason. Most people in the PF community are strong enough (and savvy enough) to understand that they need to pay off the balance at the end of every month, and many will make every purchase a conscious decision, but the simple fact is that making payment easy makes it easier for us to spend, and for most people that is a problem.
Hahaha, love to hear that line created a coffee through the nose moment.
I’m glad I’ve never once revolved on a credit card, but last month made me see how easy it is for others to end up there — especially if they don’t have well-funded savings accounts.
Oh yeah, the boyfriend overspend, I’m all too familiar with it. I’m not even covering his costs, but when I spend time with him I just want to do more stuff that costs money- like go out!
Didn’t know you were a feminist Erin! Could I get your perspective on my third podcast on Why Men Suffer In Silence and why women objected to my idea of equal paternity leave for the good of the family?
I think you’ll enjoy the podcast and I really would love your feedback!
Thanks and whenever you got time.
I can relate to overspending for different events or special times. I always kicked myself later, but I wouldnt trade them for the memories.
I enjoyed this peek into the mind of a millennial woman. Thanks!
I must, however, point out that you do not “pour” over your statement. You “pore” over it. Grammatically correct would have you “Poring over my statements ….”
This true whether you’re millennial, boomer or any other generation.
Just sayin’ 😉
Good to know that you have overcome your busted budget. You’re not alone I have been there before. Cheer up! I always overspend especially on dates and catching up with friends. 😀
What a truly evolved man you have there! I think he’s a keeper 🙂
I first started budgeting back in September 2009. I decided to give myself a break in December and when I actually looked back at my spending the next month, I had gone over my budget by around $600! That was lesson enough for me and I decided from then on out to plan better and let my budget guide me instead of restrict me.
I am not Dave Ramsey Loyalist. I try to stick to my budget no matter what but I cannot do much with cash.
I can definitely relate to this post. My erratic spending habits get the best of me more often than I’d like.
I have a bad habit of caving to indulge Tim. It’s gotten better of the years, but I still regret ones once in awhile.
Like you, we just have a set budget amount for each week. It’s the best way to stay on our toes financially.
I am way grown but I have found the most variance in grocery spending. So for a long time, at the first of the month, I’d buy 4 (or 5 if 5 Saturdays) Walmart gift cards for $100 each or whatever your needs are. That really helped me stick to the grocery budget. I’d put “treats” in the top part of the basket and necessities in the bigger part to help me keep on budget. It worked great for years.
there are two thing that could be done… and that i always do..
* juz go back to the cash… juz dump the card unless you gt back on track..!!!
* setting the limits doesnt work always… but still a good option..