Our credit counseling belief is that learning to budget will never fail you! That’s one reason the Talking Cents Blog loves teaching all about budgeting. Our monthly budgeting series explores how real life affects a budget. December looks to be another tough month for our couple. Let’s find out if their income has gotten back into place since last month in the December budget example.
December Budget Example & How to Avoid Debt
Here is a quick rundown of the highlights that happened during November and a few plans for December:
- Couple still has only one salary.
- A spending freeze was instituted. They spent less in several spending categories, like Household Items, which we will adjust for December’s budget.
- A job has been landed for Partner #2, but they start January 1st.
- Couple decided to make DIY Christmas presents to save money.
- They cancelled cable to save money.
- Utilities will start to go up with the colder weather.
While Partner #2 will be gainfully employed soon, December’s budget will still suffer from another month of lost income. In these times, our debt counselors know that it’s so easy for credit cards to be used to maintain standard of living. People will use their credit cards to eat out, buy clothing, go see movies, groceries, home goods, etc. It seems like a good solution to get through the tough times, right?
Well, if we could predict the future, then yes, it would work out. However, things change! What if the job offer fell through? Or the car broke down? If you don’t have enough income to cover your credit card bill at the end of the month, then you can’t actually afford it. This is even more true when you are bringing in less income than usual.
December Budget Example
Take a look at the December budget example to see how the couple is balancing another month with less income.
(The bolded items have been adjusted since last month.)
- Salary 1: $2,700
- Salary 2: $0
- Income from selling unused household goods: $300
MONTHLY LIVING EXPENSES
- Groceries: $400 (down from $600 for savings and Christmas gifts)
- Household Items: $30 (down from $50)
- Clothing: $0
- Cellphones (2 phones): $100
- Internet & Cable: $75 (down from $125)
- Rent: $1,100
- Electric: $100 (increase from $90)
- Gas: $60 (increase from $50)
- Trash: $10
- Auto Maintenance: $40
- Auto Insurance (2 cars): $175
- Health & Dental Insurance: $350
- Renter’s Insurance: $10
- Entertainment: $0 (help cover loss of income)
- Netflix/Hulu: $20
- Gym Membership: $60
- Student Loan Payment: $425
- Auto Loan Payment: $175
- Vacation Fund: $0 (help cover loss of income)
- Pet Care: $75 (down from $100)
- Credit Card Debt Payment: $200 (smaller payment to help cover the loss of income)
- Savings & Investments: $0 (help cover loss of income)
- DIY Christmas Gifts: $50
- TOTAL: -$3,455
$3,000 – $3,455= -$455 loss for the month
This means that our couple does not have enough money to cover their monthly expenses. Even after lowering or eliminating many expenses, they are still short close to $500. They have decided to use their credit card. Since the amount is on the smaller side and there is a job on the horizon, it’s not too risky. While still ill advised, they will probably be just fine using their credit card in this scenario.
Other options to cover the gap might be to ask family for help, continue to sell personal items, or start a side hustle. Online surveys and other jobs might bring in some more money to bring the deficit even smaller.
How to Avoid Credit Card Debt
Finally, a budget is a great way to track and direct your money to avoid credit card debt. Another financial practice is to have a quick emergency fund of $1,000 and a larger emergency fund of 3-6 months of necessity coverage. That $1,000 can cover an immediate bigger need that is a one time situation. The larger 3-6 month emergency fund would be used for this couple’s job loss scenario. While they don’t currently have an emergency fund, they do save money. It won’t be too hard to shift some money towards an emergency fund once their debt is paid off in a few months time. More on this later.
If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.