A Dollar Here, a Dollar There


Money—if you don’t control it, it may control you. Here’s how to get the upper hand.

Money—there never seems to be quite as much as we’d like. But there is a way of stretching that cash to include some of the things you really want. If you really want to go to college, or if you really want to go on a mission, or if you really want to be a full-tithe payer, or if you just want to be able to buy a birthday present for your sister, there is a way. It’s called budgeting.

Yuck!—budgeting. Budgets are not just for older people with families to worry about. Just answer this question honestly. At the end of the year when you go to tithing settlement and you add up what you have made all year, does it shock you? Do you wonder why you aren’t rich? Do you wonder where all that cash went? To find out where that money went and to do something about it, you really need to learn about budgeting.

We asked six young people to make a budget plan for one month and record exactly how they spent their money. Then we had them take a look and see what they learned about how they handled their money.

Stacie Lloyd, 18, Draper 8th Ward, Draper Utah North Stake. Stacie entered BYU in the fall as a freshman. She needed to earn as much money as she could for college. She and her parents agreed that she would pay tuition, and they would help with housing and food.

Stacie had a regular job in a flower shop, but it was a slow time for florists and she was needed only in the afternoons. She got a second job working in the mornings at a local restaurant as a prep girl, making the salads and cutting up vegetables and garnishes. Since she is paid hourly, she didn’t always know precisely how much her paychecks would be. Here is what Stacie estimated her income and expenses would be for one month, and then what actually happened:

 

Estimate

Actual

Income

$495.00

$526.35

Expenses

   

tithing

49.50

52.64

savings

315.00

326.69

lunches

20.00

22.00

miscellaneous

25.00

33.69

gas

13.00

4.00

fun

35.00

35.00

clothes

35.00

37.00

total

$492.50

511.02

Stacie followed her plan fairly closely. She only had a few minor problems. She had used up her lunch budget by the middle of the month, so she chose to cut out going out to lunch to meet her plan. In the future, she may have to increase the amount she needs for lunches. Also in the miscellaneous section, she knew she had some expenses for girls’ camp and planned for them. What she didn’t plan on was the birthday cards she bought that month. That put her over in the miscellaneous section. She got a break on gas because she didn’t use the car as much. Stacie’s “fun” category was a little higher than normal because she and her friends had planned to go to a concert and she budgeted in the price of the ticket.

Stacie looked over the month and said, “It was good that I took my savings out first because I spent nearly every single penny I had left until my next paycheck. If something else had come up, I would have been stuck.”

Stacie also just opened her first checking account. She said, “I’ve heard the bad side, that you just write out checks all the time. But I keep forgetting my checkbook, and I don’t have cash very often. I know if I have cash I just spend it. My checking account actually kept me from spending sometimes.”

Now that she’s ready for college, Stacie says, “I wish I had started saving when I was in the ninth grade when I really didn’t have that much to spend my baby-tending money on. I wish I had always put half into savings.”

Steven and Robert Van Wagenen, Crescent 8th Ward, Sandy Utah Crescent Stake. Steven, 17, is a senior in high school and Robert, 15, is a sophomore.

Steven, like Stacie, worked two jobs. He had been trying for some time to get on with a travelers’ check company that offered a good summer part-time job working with computers. This year he got the job. He also works all year around as a custodian at an elementary school near his home. He regularly puts money into savings for college and a mission.

Steven is interested in photography and wanted to buy a camera. He found a used one he wanted and decided to work and save for it. He estimated his budget and kept his expenses in general terms:

 

Estimate

Actual

Income

$800.00

$800.00

Expenses

   

tithing

80.00

80.00

savings

350.00

310.00

camera

290.00

290.00

new shoes

50.00

50.00

entertainment

30.00

45.00

miscellaneous

-0-

25.00

total

$800.00

$800.00

Steven reached his goal of buying his camera. He had trouble when he did not plan in a miscellaneous category to cover gas and lunches. That money had to come out of the amount he planned to save. He also bought a music tape and went over in his entertainment category. Writing down what he actually spent was a little surprising to Steven. “There’s probably $100 over the summer that I don’t even know where it went.”

But Steven can’t cut out everything fun or impulsive that he does with his money. He just needs to plan a miscellaneous category into his budget.

At 15, Robert is not old enough to get a work permit, but he mows lawns and does weeding for a landscape contractor. He earns $4.00 an hour and usually works six hours a day in the summer. Robert had some music tapes he wanted to buy and planned those into his budget.

 

Estimate

Actual

Income

$200

$200

Expenses

   

tithing

20

20

savings

80

80

music tapes

40

40

entertainment

30

30

Scout camp

30

30

total

$200

$200

Robert made a realistic plan and was able to meet his goals. He usually cashes his paychecks at the grocery store and divides the money he plans on using into envelopes. He then takes his savings straight to the bank. “If I let it sit around, then there isn’t quite as much to put into savings. Once it is in the bank, I won’t touch it. I like putting money in.”

Brooke Brown, 12, Crescent 18th Ward, Sandy Utah Crescent Stake. Brooke has come up with an inventive way to earn money. With their mother’s help, Brooke and her younger sister, Kristin, have a balloon business. They rent a helium tank and offer balloon bouquets for sale for birthdays or special occasions. They make flyers advertising their balloons, and Brooke and Kristin deliver the flyers door-to-door throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. Then when they get an order, the girls try to walk to deliver it if the weather permits. Just walking down the street with a dozen helium balloons attracts lots of attention and helps them get more business. The proceeds from the balloon business is split three ways—Brooke, Kristin, and their mom. Mom pays to refill the helium tank out of her share. Brooke also earns money baby-tending and doing extra jobs in addition to her chores around the house. Since she couldn’t anticipate her income, she just kept a record of her income and spending.

Actual

 

Income

 

balloons

$27.86

baby-tending

42.00

jobs at home

8.50

total

$78.36

Expenses

 

tithing

7.84

birthday gifts

14.75

food

1.00

movie

2.75

hammock

6.00

total

$32.34

Brooke had $46.02 left over. She is saving money for school clothes. After writing down her expenses for one month, Brooke said, “It surprised me how much money I made and how much money I spent. One of my favorite things is to buy things for other people.” Brooke has decided that she needs to open a savings account. If it is in the bank, she wouldn’t be as tempted to spend it.

Becky West, 16, Murray 29th Ward, Murray Utah West Stake. Becky got her first job working at a local restaurant part-time busing tables. She wanted to earn money for college and for school clothes. Because she gets tips, Becky brings home cash every time she works. To make saving a little simpler, she decided to put her paychecks directly into savings in the bank. Her tips paid for everything else.

 

Estimate

Actual

Income

306.80

396.00

Expenses

   

tithing

30.68

39.60

savings

201.12

233.36

clothes

55.00

58.00

food, makeup, and entertainment

20.00

26.87

total

$306.80

$357.83

Becky did very well with her budget. She even had $36.17 left over that she could add to her savings or spend on other things. Becky learned one trick about not spending too much. “I only take my clothes money with me when I’m going clothes shopping. If I find something another time, then I have to come home, get my money, and go back.”

Matt Hiller, 17, Taylorsville 9th Ward, Taylorsville Utah Central Stake. Matt has a job as a bag boy in a grocery store near his home. He works both during the summer and during the school year. He is saving for college and a mission, but he is also saving to help his family purchase a computer. He saves half of every paycheck. Then, in addition, he takes money out of each check for school and clothing and for his share of the car insurance.

 

Actual

Income

$276.16

Expenses

 

tithing

27.62

savings

138.08

school fees

20.00

clothing (savings)

20.00

share of auto insurance

21.00

food, candy

6.48

books

21.63

miscellaneous

10.00

total

$264.81

Matt met all his budget goals. He saved 50% of his check and was able to set aside money for expenses coming up like insurance and clothing. After keeping a record, Matt said, “I was surprised how much my paycheck shrinks on paper. I got my job because I was tired of not having money.” He got his job through persistence. “I just kept checking back over and over until I got the job.”

All the young people we asked to help with this article were careful with their money. But they all had the same bit of advice for younger brothers and sisters as they start earning money. Pay your tithing first, and get in the habit of saving.

You may think it is a hassle to keep a budget, but it is terribly important that you learn how to be responsible with money. If you catch yourself always running short and asking for money from your parents, you just may turn to unwise use of credit cards when you are grown. Then your money problems or irresponsible debt can be damaging to your happiness and to your family.

If you want to start your own budget, try following these steps:

  1. 1.

    Write down everything you earn and spend for one month.

  2. 2.

    Using that information, make a realistic budget. Set aside your tithing and savings. Then make categories for the rest of the things you spend money on.

  3. 3.

    Plan how much you will need for each category. If there is not enough money to go around, resist the temptation to take it out of your savings. You may have some tough decisions on what you’ll have to do without.

  4. 4.

    During the next month, again write down everything you spend. As you make purchases, subtract what you spend from the category it fits into. That way you can see at a glance if you have enough left for the things you want to buy. For example, if you have $20.00 in your clothing budget, but you find a sweater for $35.00, you can’t buy it and stay in your budget. But maybe you can give up movies with your friends or eating out and take the money out of those categories and add it to your clothing budget. But is it worth it? Is having a new sweater worth having to stay home if your friends are going out for something to eat? Maybe you should save your clothing money until next month and get your sweater then.

  5. 5.

    Stick to your plan. Keeping track of your money will help it go further, and you’ll know “where it all went.”

Survival Tips

  • Pay tithing first.

  • Make your budget realistic.

  • Tackle tough choices. Don’t cheat.

  • Keep track of money and it will go further.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer

[illustration] You can’t save what you’ve already spent. But you can spend what you’ve saved.

[photo] A checking account actually helped Stacie save money.

[photo] Steven learned that some things can’t be anticipated. A miscellaneous category is helpful.

[photo] Taking his savings straight to the bank helped keep Robert from spending more than planned.

[illustration] A key step to wise money management is knowing where it’s going.

[photo] Brooke learned that even small incomes go further when they are budgeted.

[photo] Becky’s tip: when you shop, take only the money you have budgeted to spend.

[photo] Matt found there are so many places for money to go that keeping track on paper is vital.

[illustration] All have the same advice: pay your tithing first and get in the habit of saving.