This might sound familiar:

  • On the 1st of the month, you buy that new cashmere sweater that you really need.

  • On the 5th of the month, you take all of your friends out to dinner to celebrate that it's the 5th of the month. (Do you need a better reason?)

  • On the 15th of the month, you realize that you already spent 60% of your paycheck, and you haven't paid any of your bills. So you pay your rent, phone bill, and electric bill. You now have $21.75 to last you for two weeks.

  • On the 20th of the month, you realize that you have to wait until your next paycheck to do your laundry.

  • On the 25th of the month, with only $3 left to get you through the next week, you start visiting friends "just to say hello" and you raid the refrigerator when they step out to use the bathroom.

  • On the 26th of the month, you spend your last three bucks to buy a large can of beans, which you proceed to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for the next 5 days.

  • On the 1st day of the next month, with your next paycheck in hand, you buy that leather jacket that you really need. And the cycle continues…

It sounds like you're in need of a good budget. Sure, it's not the most thrilling thing in the world, but a well-planned budget will save you a lot of stress, and will give you more money to have fun with instead of wasting. So read on (if for no other reason than to assure that you have those essential quarters for doing your laundry - you stink).

And just so you know, this SYW is generally directed toward a single-person budget. Of course, you can apply the principles to any number of people, but we're assuming you're flying solo for now.


Contrary to what you may be thinking, the point of a budget is NOT to immediately squirrel away every single penny that comes into your possession. Life is unpredictable, and we're not recommending that if your toothbrush breaks and you haven't budgeted for "dental hygiene" that you're doomed to grubby, grimy teeth for a week. Rather, the main point of a budget is to make sure of two things:

  1. That your basic needs are taken care of each month.
  2. That you are completely aware of how much cash you have for those crazy splurges at the mall (or the Dollar Store).

So with that in mind, you first have to figure out what kind of spender you are:

The frugal type
The extravagant type

The frugal type

Being frugal doesn't necessarily mean you're a Scrooge-esque miser; it simply means that you bargain hunt, pass up wild spending sprees, and generally keep a fairly tight rein on your cash. For example, if the thought of a $20 sushi lunch has you gasping for air, then you may be just a tad frugal.

However, just because you put a tight $5 cap on your lunch expenditures (or flat-out refuse to eat anything but Cup O'Noodles) doesn't mean that you don't need a budget. In fact, you need a budget just as much as an extravagant spender, because you may be skimping on the pleasures of life when you could afford to live much more pleasantly. The good news, though, is that your inherent thriftiness will probably make it easier to stick to your budget and build your savings. And really, there is more to life than Ramen noodles.

The extravagant type

Hey big spender! If you find that you get your paycheck on Friday and you're grubbing for pennies in the mall fountain on Monday, you need some help. There's nothing wrong with having some fun, but you simply won't survive in the real world if you can't manage your money. If money does run through your fingers like water, we won't lie - it's gonna be tough to live on a budget. You'll have to give up some habits and you'll have to make some sacrifices (do you really need that third pair of platforms?).

Remember, we're not here to change your personality - leave that to your significant other. But if you can learn to understand your spending habits, you can make your budget as strict or lax as your wallet will allow.