How I learned to cut down expenses and live within my budget

How I learned to cut down expenses and live within my budget
“Living to work or working to live?”

When I was in college, I was given a monthly budget and was not even told how to spend it. Well, during the first semester until my second year I spent my budget as I pleased. Eating out with friends, eating out alone, watching movies, buying stuff I really don’t need, gala and night outs, and many more.

Even when I started working, I still lived and spent as I usually do. I worked for various jobs and spent my salaries solely to myself. No responsibilities, no worries. Hakuna Matata like in the Lion King movie with Simba, Timon, and Pumba.

It was only when I got married that I started to get a sense of budget. Because when I got pregnant and gave birth, I have to quit my job and stay full time at home to take care of our child. But finances got tight and I was panicking. I was not used to this situation. I tried to look for a helper so I can get a job again, but looking for a helper was also a hard task. I started selling my stuff (and my husband’s too, with his permission of course, hehe) just to make ends meet. My husband was a sound technician for a local band and their gigs were dusk till dawn, but still, gigs are not enough to support us. There were even times that we fought over money and almost split up. That’s when he decided to work abroad.

Being apart from him and taking care of our daughter alone, the burden of living within the budget was more real than ever. Oftentimes his remittances were delayed for weeks. It was nerve-wrecking and I sometimes pour out my frustrations on our baby. Then later I would be tormented by guilt and cry. I felt hopeless.

After countless reflections and I decided to jot down all our spending to the cents. After a month, I saw where most of our spending goes. So I tried to cut back unnecessary expenses but I thought all of it was necessary. I even cut milk rations and tried to use lampin instead of diapers. But got tired more often with washing lampins, so we went back using diapers. Even though it was tough, but I still maintained my expenses notebook and kept computing every end of the month. It was either a break-even or a deficit at the end. I was crying again. But with God’s grace, I was converted and became a Christian.

I came to realize that everything comes from God. And to recognize and to honor Him with our finances is obedience because He promised that He will never fail us, He will never abandon us. 

I kept my notebook and having a new perspective, I see that financial difficulties were opportunities for character growth. By God’s providence, a long-time friend called me to work part-time home-based. I was overjoyed and grateful for I know that I did not get the job myself but God provided it.

Now, every time I work, I am always reminded that everything comes from God. He provided this work for us and I must be prudent with the income God entrusts me. I became aware of my spending habits and learned a lot as well from resources He allowed to come my way. One of which is Chinkee Tan’s money handling series.

Just to give a gist, here’s a list of what I’ve learned from listening to some of Chinkee Tan’s videos and from my own experiences:

  1. Know your income (when do you get your income and how much is it)
  2. List down your monthly dues (tithes and offering, utilities, rent, sss, philhealth, etc.)
  3. List down your monthly necessities (food, transportation, household items, etc.)
  4. Put a column also for miscellaneous expenses.
  5. Allot budget for each category and don’t forget to set aside a portion of your monthly income for savings. (savings can be any amount as long as you set aside every month)
  6. List your spending, all the time. (Sometimes I tend to forget this task, but discipline is necessary)
  7. Every end of the month, evaluate your spending. Keep asking yourself if you really need stuff you listed down under miscellaneous expenses.

Financial difficulties may still come and unexpected expenses may barge in on your door. God did not promise a life without troubles, instead He warns that in this world there will be problems.  But with God’s grace and providence, He will keep you strong to persevere and to endure.

-Hazel Grace R. Vega

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