Can we talk finances?


Level 8 Valued Member
Jak, a program I have found of immeasureable help is YNAB (You Need a Budget). Based on the "envelope" system of forecasting ahead, guessing what you are going to earn, just putting your money into categories, however many you choose, sort of like putting actual cash into envelopes, that way you are spending real money. Eventually you will build funds up as a cushion against emergencies. Great forums, webinars to help use the softwear, great customer support. I really like that you can do things like set savings goals like for quarterly or yearly bills, and it will calculate how much you have left to contribute as well. You can try it free for 34 days.

YNAB. Personal Budgeting Software for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android

Otherwise, automate as much as you can, so it is done for you....debt taken off automatically, a sum for bills, etc. If you have trouble tracking things even take out the remaining $$ once your crucial expenses are covered, (with your living situation, provided you can secure it).....and when it is gone, it is gone.

Hope this helps you out.


Level 9 Valued Member
I like to keep a certain safety fund for emergencies like @crazycanuck said. I also like the automation. If there's any extra left and the cushion is full and reasonable luxuries etc have been purchased, there's compound interest. Index funds and such make investing easy and profitable.

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@Jak Nieuwenhuis Many of us would be more than glad to help, but some specifics would improve the chances of getting something that is helpful to YOU. What areas are you looking to improve?

And if you went to a financial discussion forum and asked, "Any tips on exercise?", imagine what you might get...


Level 6 Valued Member seems to be good to give you control of all your assets and liabilities. However, one needs to spend time still, monitoring.

Stuart Elliott

Level 6 Valued Member
@Jak Nieuwenhuis I'm assuming you are in the US.
Check out Jeff Rose, Certified Financial Planner in Illinois – Certified Financial Planner in Illinois, Author, Entrepreneur
I've read his book, I'm in the UK but found it really useful.
Also in the US there are plenty of FIRE blogs which offer good advice.
If you want advice on investing check out index trackers, Vanguard is a good place to start for these, also plenty of blogs on index trackers.

Jak Nieuwenhuis

Level 6 Valued Member
@Anna C

Of course and your point is a valid one.

Income: paid weekly from job, 35-48 hours/ wk, usually always over 40. Overtime on a lot of days. I think i get paid min. Wage $12/hr. Usually $450-500 dollars per check weekly.

Main bills:, pretty much all i can think of.

Cell phone, about $70/ month everything included.

Gym. $20 monthly.

Transportation: $125/ month in various passes, Uber, will probably buy a cheap bike with some of this months fund.

Toilettries: $50/ month. If i skimp I suffer in this regard.

Rabbit care: probably my largest expense per month that caps out at $300 including food and board elsewhere. I currently have to board my rabbit with a sitter since i dont have a place to keep him and care for him properly. The rabbit has been with me for years and i will not give him up in this current time, although next month im going to try to get someone to foster him for free or for the same price ($8/ night). The price of board is 250 the price of supplies is 50 because I supply the supplies hah

Clothes: $30/ month.

Food & water: $300/ month.

Duolingo: $10/ month.

Storage locker: $50/ month.

Safety deposit and PO box: estimate of
$40/ month. Getting one today.

Tools for the trade: $40/ month. This gets spent on shears, stethoscopes, sharpies, pens, notebooks, etc. Lose a lot of this over the course of a month.

Living: 150 spent on things to make my current situation easier. This includes items like the wool blanket i purchased a couple weeks ago as well as things like a replacement backpack or a box cutter, a deck or cards.

I currently have $200 in a checking account after paying my rabbit sitter and phone Bill.
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Level 8 Valued Member
First thing I would suggest, if you do have any debts, is to not spend your overtime money. Base your budgeting on the minimum income you know you will get, plus dip into the OT only to cover essentials. You can then sock any OT to any debts

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
When it comes to survival finances, do whatever you can to get your food budget down while still providing proper nutrition. This is the one part of the monthly expense load that you have the most control over.

Consider scrapping the gym membership and build up your home equipment instead.

Use OT to pay down debt and buy stuff that isn't normally budgeted but should be - like seasonal clothing/footwear and replacing the clothing you have. Look for opportunities to collect OT or get a side job with flexible hours if possible. Maybe teach CPR on the side?

The bike is a great idea. I owned a house before I owned a car (well actually I owned a car when I was younger than that but also a ton of tickets and unaffordable insurance...), and rode my bike 3 seasons to work for a couple of years.

Never stop looking for alternative employers that might have better pay. As what amounts to skilled labor, many employers don't want to pay what you're worth if you learn/accumulate experience with them, but will pay more for someone with experience who learned elsewhere - IDK why this is, but I've run into it many times over the years.

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Good summary, @Jak Nieuwenhuis !

The things that jump out at me -- just advice to take or leave:
  • Always be thinking about your future income and how you might put your income or career on a path to increase... Because life's not all about money, but there is a point where things get much easier so keep working towards that.
  • Your expenses seem pretty well distrubuted. Transportation and the rabbit care seem the best candidates for trimming. Maybe think about the rabbit... why you want to keep him, would either you or he be better off with another scenario... could he go to a family member, etc.
  • Do you keep track of your tools of the trade so you can deduct the expenses on your taxes? Or does your employer reimburse anything? Best scenario is if you can start your own business and claim expenses.
  • Start saving some money in somewhere you don't touch, even if it's $25/month. The feeling of having a reserve will change your life and your whole relationship with money.
Hope that helps.


Level 9 Valued Member
I'm sure you have done this simple math... your stated earnings minus your stated expenses indicate $1,000/mo potential savings. (Approx.) So if you keep that up, your chequing account should grow nicely.

I think you already lead a frugal existence. (Folks who don't read your training log may not know some of your situation) You would be hard pressed to trim much. (with one obvious exception)

You have however received some good advice thus far.


Level 2 Valued Member
Sounds rough :(

-Rabbit expenses jump out to me. Can't you find a relative or friend who can take care of him/her for you for a while?

-The telephone bill is really high. How come? Can't you find a better deal? Wifi is free in a lot of places and is usually what costs the most. Calling and texting should be real cheap, even if you use pre-paid cards.

-Food and transportation might be other places you can save some cash. Rice, beans, frozen veggies and low-fat burger meat is usually real cheap and can be bought in bulk and prepared in different and tasty ways using basic spices.

-If we add up all the things you listed we are under 1400$ incl. what is left in your checking account. Are you forgetting additional expenses or are you getting paid less than you think? With 4 weekly paychecks you should have a budget of 1800-2000$ per month. With saving potential of ~250$ if you can fix the things mentioned above.

Tobias Wissmueller

Level 6 Valued Member
I have just finished reading the book "Profit First" and liked it. It is meant for business owners, which I am not, but it provided me with some additional ideas for managing personal and family finances. The last three chapters were the most helpful.

In the end it does not matter which system you are going to use, what you don't spend is still yours, no matter about the amounts we are talking about.

Jak Nieuwenhuis

Level 6 Valued Member
Just wanted to update- thanks for the advice everyone.

Will think about the rabbit. Transfer of care to someone else isn't abandonment, I'll explore my options. Takes some work wading through the emotion. For all who are unaware, the $300 / month rabbit budget is something relatively unexpected and very new. My pet needs a place to live right now and believe it or not this was my best bet. We all have our priorities I suppose.

I bought a little bike this month for $65. This will save money on transportation.

My next goal as far as job promotion is to start teaching cpr on the side, I'm going to talk to my mentor this week to get advice on the process. May be a little bit of cash to start but i think that would be a worthy investment in myself, the education / teaching cert.

With the rabbit living in someone else's care I could also consider working / volunteering for disaster relief for part of the year. They are always in need and i feel really good with my skills right now. Would also be a place to live.


Level 7 Valued Member
Cell phone is one. Are you on a postpaid plan? Is cell phone your primary internet now? I'm on a $40/mo AT&T prepaid plan and I think there are cheaper ones out there with a solid data allotment.


Level 6 Valued Member
The key point for personal finance is simple: Spend less than you earn

Simple, but not easy :) This sounds very obvious, but most people in trouble don't actually do this!
This can clearly be done by either augmenting income (hard to do but highest impact), or reduce spending (see below)

There are some basic principles of personal finance that are valid for everyone:
* you can't manage what you don't track
write down every single little expense that you incur for a few months (down to a cents level, including small expenses like coffee, parking, etc, up to big expenses like food etc). Categorize them into different buckets that are descriptive enough to identify small recurring expenses that add up over time (these will be your easy wins)
* Every dollar has a purpose
As you already know major expense categories, budget for them! Take the full amount you get paid, deduct your fixed and budgeted expenses, then you know what you have available for daily life). Set aside these amounts each time you get paid so that you are certain to cover your fixed expenses
* build an emergency fund
every month sock away some money towards a savings account that is easily accessible. You need this money for unforeseen expenses like broken car, appliances, medical expenses (especially since you have a pet) etc. It doesn't matter how much you save each month, but you have to do it! A good starting goal would be a 1 month salary, and go from there
* manage your expenses
After a few months of tracking, review your monthly spending. Find patterns and the easy wins (like a coffee habit that costs you a lot of money where you can easily reduce or switch to cheaper). This includes things that can be had for cheaper with a simple phone call (like your phone bill, or car insurance, or reducing spending on items that you do not care about etc). now the key part: do not spend this money! instead add it to your emergency fund savings! This will give you traction without actually changing much in your life. The mental impact of this cannot be overestimated, having an emergency fund gives you a lot of mental peac e
* reduce debt
After some time of tracking, deducing patterns, saving that money into emergency fund, and optimizing your budget and expenses, you get to tackle the big one that will give you awesome freedom of mind and make everything click together: pay back your debts!
There are multiple ways to do this, but essentially you list all your debts, and decide which one to pay back first using money freed up in earlier steps (reduce your emergency fund contributions and push some of it towards debt repayment). I personally would advise to list them in order of amount (least amount first) and interest rate. By paying back the smallest amount with the biggest interest rate first you gain a lot of track early.
Now the key thing: Once you have paid back a debt in full, do not spend the money you used to pay every month! Use it to pay back the next debt in the list! Now you get a lot of traction, as you can pay back the initial amount, plus whatever you freed up by removing the previous debt! Rinse and repeat!
* continue to track and manage your expenses and find ways to reduce/optimize them
This is a long term project, continue to invest into emergency savings, removing debt, and analyzing and optimizing your spending. At one point you will find something astounding: you start to have control over your finances! You have money to spend on the fun things in life and are fully aware of what impact it will have, and most importantly, you know you have full control over your finances and can make educated decisions!

That's all there is to it... track, manage, save, control!
Once you get ahead of the game, you can start looking at investing etc, but for now, do the above steps as best as you can and you will be far ahead of where you are today!

Most people would recommend Dave Ramsey's books for this. Ramit Seti's I will teach you to be rich is good also
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Level 6 Valued Member
Thrift stores can be an amazing source of clothing/furniture/supplies that are in good shape. Americans like to buy things and then give up on them quickly. I find nearly unused items all the time.

Also, for "toiletries" do you include razor blades? If so, you can save a ridiculous amount of money by using an old-style safety razor. Blades can usually be purchased around 20-25 cents each. I use an old Gillette that I found in an antique store for less than 10 dollars. Here's a link to an example of the style of razor I'm talking about:
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