Nicole and Maggie discuss budgeting (both individual and family) and link a lot

I hate budgeting so much, as you will read in one of these links.  Basically I pay to not have to budget by saving a huge amount extra so that there’s always slush.  Technically, our spending is always one month behind our income, so what we did last month determines what we do this next month.  I can look into my check register and go, yep, we can afford more stuff, or nope, we need to cut back.  This only works because even when we were in graduate school and spent 40-60% of our income on rent for a 300 sq ft apartment, we spent a lot less than we earned and had a relatively large emergency fund (compared to our income).  Some of the sacrifices included not buying meat for so long that the first time I had a steak (to celebrate paying off DH’s student loans), I threw up.  That’s not normal.

What I’m saying here with this illustration is that 1.  I don’t do detailed budgets, and 2.  There are a lot of different ways to spend less than you earn and keep on firm financial footing for different people.  If one method just does not work for you, you can sacrifice in a different direction and try a different type of budget.

What you shouldn’t do, though, is to keep going into more and more debt (or not doing any saving for future you) through inattention to your finances.  Some system is necessary, even if that “system” is always to spend far less than you bring in.  Most people want to spend a bit more than we did while we were in graduate school at that income, and there’s no reason not to if you want to unless you really value not budgeting, which I apparently value more than I do red meat (at least on a graduate student stipend).

For a third note, 3.  Your system may change with your income levels and required expenses, and that is AOK.

Here’s where to start if you’re in debt.

Posts on whether or not to have a detailed budget:

Do you budget?  MSN Money used to have a fantastic post of Liz Pulliam Weston’s about when it’s ok to ditch the budget, but unfortunately that post has gone to the ether.  Nick from Step Away From the Mall did a nice summary of her post that you can read here, though he notes that this list is really a general budget, just not a detailed one. And here’s bit of a personal post (from when DH was unemployed and we had to keep a tighter rein on spending) in which I talk about how much I hate budgeting.  You can also combine a loose budget with tighter monitoring of spending as Leigh (who doesn’t need a detailed budget but enjoys tracking her money) discusses in this recent post.

Different types of budgets:

General guidelines

The general idea behind a budget is to allow you to balance all of your spending/saving needs and goals.  In general you will want to balance saving for long-term goals like retirement with medium goals like automobile replacement and with short-term goals like eating.  You want to do it in such a way that keeps you out of high interest debt and allows you to save for the future while still enjoying today as much as being a responsible adult will allow.

A good general guideline for people who don’t want or need to retire early is the Balanced Money Formula by Elizabeth Warren.  This is really  just the idea that you spend 50% of your income or less on fixed expenses (she calls these “needs”), things you would have to pay whether or not you have income.  Then 30% goes towards variable expenses (she calls these “wants”) that you could cut if you lost your job and 20% or more goes towards savings.  These percentages don’t have to be perfect, but if you’re a member of a dual income family then keeping to these guidelines will put you on a good track for the future while insuring against catastrophe if there’s a job loss in the family.  If you’re interested in the balanced money formula, Get Rich Slowly has some really great posts on it, including this nice worksheet from back in the day when JD Roth was figuring things out.

Another possibility to get those percentages for yourself for a general budget is to look at your specific circumstances in the case of a job loss or other emergency and do a financial fire drill. Think of the worst case scenario and run numbers for that, then based on that set your major recurring expenses like housing, car, etc.  It will also show you if you need to target debts or sell things you couldn’t really afford to get rid of regular payments and so on.

Some people argue that you should target only big expenses and let the little ones figure themselves out.  Others argue that the latte factor, money you spend on little things, adds up and is important.  Both these arguments have elements of truth and elements of untruth.  We talk about these two belief systems in this post on the latte factor vs. big item spending.  Here we address gazingus pins, which is a type of latte factor.

Detailed Budgets

As much as I dislike them personally, detailed budgets are incredibly useful and a really healthy thing to have.  Probably the most popular method of doing a detailed budget on the PF blogosphere is YNAB (You Need a Budget).  Some people prefer Quicken or make their own spreadsheets.  Some people just use MINT, though many people use MINT in conjunction with YNAB or Quicken.  MINT is great for tracking your expenditures by category and if you’re new to finances and use a lot of credit cards, it’s a great thing to just do.  However it’s not as good a budgeting software as YNAB or Quicken.  Ana talks about how she makes a budget here.

A zero-sum budget is one in which every dollar is accounted for.

Some people have strict envelope budgets.  Instead of dealing with spreadsheets and so on, they will have cash-only budgets.  This is especially useful if you truly have a limited amount you are able to spend without going into debt.  Once the cash is gone for the month, you’re done.  Some people allow you to take cash from one variable spending budget to add it to another (ex. if you spend less than expected on food, you can add the additional money to fun) and some people don’t.

One way to allocate “fun” money for non-necessities is the use of an adult allowance.  Adult allowances are also great for balancing “fun” spending between partners while keeping below a budgeted sum and removing resentment.  Here’s two posts on adult allowances:  In praise of DH’sHow they work.

What about that nebulous idea of “savings” and “emergency fund”?  Some people will include things like vacations and so on in “targeted savings” either virtually or in actual separate accounts and others will include all short-term savings into one general fun.  We talk about when to use targeted savings in this post.

For people who don’t use detailed budgets and can wing things because they’re already saving a large portion of their earnings, it may still be useful to compare the cost of things when trying to decide whether to, for example, hire a house-cleaner.  This post discusses how to make those kinds of comparisons.

Special budgetary topics:

Financial Independence

A good heuristic to reach financial independence, definition here is to “simply” save 70% of your income until early retirement (there are more complicated formulae as well, but they all require a lot of saving or a lot of luck).  Partial financial independence can be achieved at a lower savings rate and is a wonderful thing to have even when you’re still working.  We talk about how having partial financial independence as a goal can make your life a lot less stressful because you will not be trapped by a bad job.

Not spending can be hard, even if you know you have to not spend now that you’ve looked at your budget.  Here’s some recommendations for how to delay gratification.  One that works really well for me is telling myself I can have it later!

Blitzing with a spending challenge

Some people do spending challenges for various time-lengths.  I love reading about these and they can make really big changes to people’s mindsets.  (Please link in the comments for spending challenges you enjoy reading.  I also really like reading about “the compact.”  Here’s our challenge tag, but we do more than just money challenges and we’re not that interesting.)  They’re really great for stopping an addictive behavior or bad habit, such as buying clothing every weekend because you’re bored even though your closet is already full of things you never wear.  Here we talk about how maybe no-spend days aren’t really the appropriate length of time unless you have real problems.

How to deal with joint finances

We at grumpy rumblings are not going to take a stand on whether you should fully merge your finances with your partner or not.  There are a lot of different methods for sharing finances that we discuss here.

Ok, Grumpy Nation.  What have we missed?  What do you want to know more about?

Just spend the money? Why the answer to Mr. Money Moustache is not Spend All the Things.

(Yet another ‘moderation in all things’ post from Grumpy Rumblings, but it’s been a while)

Recently it seems like a lot of mommy bloggers have been reading frugal living blogs, looking at their finances, realizing they’re not saving for the future to the extent they’d like to be.  Often, in the comments section without knowing anything about the bloggers’ income, net worth, or fixed costs, commenters say, “Buy that latte, spend money on that vacation, buy those clothes, get that babysitter, spend spend spend.  It’s worth it.”

And maybe that’s the right answer and the blogger is brainwashed unnecessarily by reading too many ultra-frugal-living blogs.  Or maybe that’s a terrible answer and the commenter makes a lot more or has way smaller fixed expenses or is in terrible financial shape.  Each person’s individual situation is different.  Each person has a different budget constraint.  Without knowing the actual situation, it is likely to be terrible advice that will make it more difficult for the blogger to get into good financial shape or will make the blogger feel bad for trying to get into good financial shape (or both!)

Something that seems to be missing from a lot of these posts, both mommy blogging and the bigger personal finance blogs is old fashioned “make a budget advice.”  With GRS gone downhill, we just don’t see these posts anymore on a regular basis.  You know, the ones that talk about how much to save when you’re not planning on early retirement, where you learn to make a budget, or discuss the pros and cons of taking directly out of your paycheck instead of having a budget etc.  It seems like everyone is strapped onto the frugality at all costs bandwagon or is reacting against that and suggesting that the answer is always to throw money at things.  Like there’s even more bifurcation in the PF blogosphere and less moderation than there used to be.  Maybe we’re just not looking in the right places, but that’s what our little corner of the internet looks like these days.

In reality, the choice isn’t “spend all the things” vs. “spend none of the things.”  Spending today means you’re making trade-offs for spending tomorrow.  The more you spend today, the less you will have to spend tomorrow.  That’s just a reality.  Those manicures or vacations or nice cars or meals out will have different trade-offs depending on your overall income and current savings/debt level.  It might mean less in your will, or retiring to Florida instead of California, or your kids taking out loans for school, or having to work a few more years, or not being able to change jobs when you have a terrible boss, or having to take out a loan to fix your a/c, or fighting with your spouse, or living in your parents’ basement in the event of a job loss (which might mean that your parents have to put off their own retirements because you didn’t save), or losing your house, or not being able to afford meat after you’re unable to find work.  Some of these trade-offs may be worth it, some of them may not.  Your income and savings determine the trade-offs being made.  You get to pick which choice in each trade-off to make based on your preferences.

On top of the explicit trade-offs with tomorrow’s spending, being in good financial shape (having retirement savings, low required monthly outflows compared to your inflows, and a nice emergency fund) just gives so much peace of mind.  I hated having to worry any time the check battery light would go on or we’d have a home repair, or a reimbursement would come slowly or someone would charge us incorrectly on a bill (or worse, screw up a paycheck!).  Peace of mind that it’s just money and we can afford it is worth forgoing fancy vacations for a few years to me.

I think there’s need for some more fundamentals of money management posts out there that aren’t just “don’t spend anything.”  “Don’t spend anything” is necessary for some people (and, given widening income gap in the US, for far too many people) and not spending is just the natural way of being for others, but by far the majority of people reading these blogs are in the situation where they have to think about at least some of our their spending.  The money won’t just take care of itself.  But there’s also no reason to cut spending to the bone.

Side note:  To be honest, I feel a little out of place commenting on these discussions now because we’ve made a commitment to spending more than we earn this year (since I’m at half pay this year while our expenses have doubled or tripled).   We’ve been at the “don’t spend anything” point and at the “don’t worry about money” point (though not completely– we haven’t yet been able to pull the trigger on a kitchen remodel– that may take another year or two).  But by far the majority of our lives (adult and otherwise) have been in that murky “you can have anything but you can’t have everything” stage where we have to think about things and make choices.  Of the three stages, “make way more than your fixed expenses so you don’t have to think about things” is by far the best place to be.  But it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck to get there.  And, being honest, “don’t spend anything” kind of sucks, though it doesn’t suck as much as it could– the trick being that it only sucks less when you know it is temporary and for a good cause and that the future will be brighter.  I’m all for temporary Dave Ramsey style saving blitzes to get into the black and on the road to investment.  Mostly I’m for having done that in the past!  But that’s the point, that they’re temporary and the future is brighter the earlier you do them (and now is the best time to start).

Although it seems like our last ‘moderation in all things’ post was about 3 years ago, we’ve got a bunch of them:

Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam and Expanded ramblings on extreme living

Is it ok for personal finance bloggers to be balanced?

Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire (this one was written before DH’s new job, so the numbers have changed, but the ideas are still the same)

Why we pre-paid our mortgage early on, but didn’t just pre-pay it (and now we’re no longer pre-paying it, partly because we’re in a better financial situation!)

Why you shouldn’t spend all your money on experiences (or on stuff)!

Why are our stop feeling guilty and relax posts so popular?

Two related posts:  Satisficing as a life philosophy and There is no best

Why it’s ok to buy a new car (or a used car, whichever)

In the near future, I will collect posts on different kinds of budgets and different ways of spending/budgeting (including couples’ finances!), and I’ll point out some classic Get Rich Slowly posts that are well worth reading.  If there are gaps in that list that I see, then I will try to find some time to come up with some new posts to fill in those gaps.  I’ve resisted doing a 30 days to better finances series because people are so different and different things work for different people at different stages of their lives, but maybe I should dig that out and try again.

Do you have a handle on your finances?  Do you balance fun spending and future spending?  Are you happy with your balance?  Do you feel like you need to cut back or loosen up?

2014 WordPress Year in Review Report

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 290,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 12 days for that many people to see it.

In 2014, there were 257 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,353 posts. There were 16 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4 MB. That’s about a picture per month.  (We should have more pretty pictures!)

The busiest day of the year was June 4th with 1,940 views. The most popular post that day was The Shoe Drop’t.

Attractions in 2014

These are the posts that got the most views in 2014.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2014.  Your writing has staying power!

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2014 were (we love you guys!):


Some visitors came searching, mostly for grumpy rumblings, nicole and maggie, phd in accounting salary, and tiaa cref vs vanguard.

Where did they come from?

162 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & The United Kingdom were not far behind.

Who were they?

Your most commented on post in 2014 was Getting some kind of exercise routine

These were your 5 most active commenters:

Hm, we should send chacha1 something as a prize… Suggestions?

What makes a blog post popular? Drama or the hope of redneck jokes?

Laura Vanderkam had a post last week that inspired a lot of interesting comments.  One of the commenters noted that hir most popular blog posts were always the sad/drama-filled ones and more cheerful posts weren’t so popular.

So, I was curious to see if that held true for us.  (On that day last week, our own posting was a lengthy gripe about the lawn, which did not get so many comments as say, our more positive posts about things like getting tenure or having a baby…)

So here’s what our wordpress history has said:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

From 2011:

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1.  How the used car market is like health insurance September 2010 25 comments
2.    About July 2010
3.  Mortgage Update and a worry December 2010 34 comments
4.  Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire September 2010 18 comments
5.  Searches that find our blog amuse us September 2010 5 comments

Many of our most popular pieces are pf posts about how we don’t need to go to extremes in money matters (or parenting or, you know, life).  We even have a post contemplating why they’re so popular!

In terms of most comments:
1.  Delurk for us today!
2.  Musings on why weight targets bother me
3.  Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post
4.  Do the holidays stress you out?
5.  ******* creationists!

IIRC, the weight one and the creationist one resulted in some nutty commenter going crazy in the comments section.  But none of the above posts are about truly terrible things happening to us, except maybe me complaining about how hard it is to learn about evolution when you live in the Bible Belt.

So… I think we must have either pretty amazing readers who aren’t attracted to us for Schadenfreude reasons or we must be filling some kind of SEO niche that isn’t predicated on misery, but instead on redneck jokes, Mr. Money Moustache, and the love of a happy medium.  (Also, man, we must have been on fire back in 2011!)

If you have a blog, what are your most popular posts like?  Is your readership misery-seeking?  If you don’t have a blog, what are your favorite kinds of posts and what kinds of posts do you keep coming back to check on?

2013 in review: A summary from WordPress

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 240,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 10 days for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 252 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,091 posts. There were 14 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4 MB. That’s about a picture per month.  (We should have more pretty pictures!)

The busiest day of the year was June 24th with 1,209 views. The most popular post that day was Expanded ramblings on extreme living.

Attractions in 2013

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2013.  Your writing has staying power!

How did they find you?

The top referring sites in 2013 were (we love you guys!):

  5. Google Reader

Some visitors came searching, mostly for grumpy rumblings, mr money mustache, nicole and maggie, you know you’re from the south when, and mr money moustache.

Where did they come from?

174 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & The United Kingdom were not far behind.

Who were they?

Your most commented on post in 2013 was Delurk for us today!

These were your 5 most active commenters:

Hm, we should send rented life something as a prize… Suggestions?

Delurk for us today!

I was poking around on some of our posts from a couple of years ago and noticed that some of our wonderful regular readers then, with regular blogs then, stopped their blogs sometime in 2011 or 2012, and a few of them have disappeared entirely.  (We miss you guys!)

Our blog readership has dramatically increased since those days, yet our regular commenters seem to have diminished in number.  We wonder if some of that might be because we’re established now and people who aren’t yet regulars feel like they’re outsiders and aren’t ready to join.  Our regular commenters are pretty amazing, it is true, and that might be intimidating.

So, in the interest of increasing conversation, we’re declaring this Grumpy Rumblings Delurking Day.

If you’re a reader of ours but not a regular commenter, say hi, and, if you like, tell us a little about yourself.  If that’s intimidating, then tell us what you like about our blog or what you’d like to see more of.  If that seems self-serving on our parts, then just say hi (and we’ll understand)!

If the problem is thinking up a screen name, we recommend choosing a type of cat.  Here’s a list, though you may of course choose something else.

There’s no captcha code, so delurk now!

Welcome Scientopia Readers

Welcome to Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured.  Someday (but not yet) to be Grumpy Rumblings of the Tenured or else Grumpy Rumblings of the non-academically employed living in paradise trying to make ends meet.  (Did you know that rent for a tiny 3br in the SF bay area is around 3K/month?  We’re not currently living that dream.)

Who are we?

Well, according to our about statement:

Nicole and Maggie live in two different parts of the country.  We are good friends.  We are untenured, in two different fields.  We are cranky, and we are anonymous.  If you think you know who we are, you’re probably wrong.  Don’t even try to tell us apart; we are of one mind (except when we’re not– only one of us likes mushrooms, and the other one of us likes eggnog).

We’ll be famous on the internet.

Another thing you may need to know is that #1 always starts the post.  #2 is the other person.  Sometimes #1 is #1 and sometimes #2 is #1.  We thought it was less pretentious than saying “This one” and “That one” like unicorns and horses.  Yes, we understand that is confusing and irritating for some of you.  Please refer to our about statement on that front.

Our academic posts can be found under this tag.

On Mondays we talk about money.

Sometimes we are a mommy blog, even though only one of us is a mommy.

Twice a month we answer random questions from Google searches.

You can directly ask us questions too– most Fridays we do an Ask the Grumpies feature.  Ask away!

Once a month or so (depending on how much we want to play) we have deliberately controversial posts.  More often we stick to merely debatable.

We’re not always grumpy.  For example, we love books.  And acknowledge the joy in our lives, which is not always book-related.


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