How I Budget

I’ve gotten a few requests to talk about how I budget from bills and shopping to travel and retirement, so let’s start at the beginning.

When I first started my graphic design business back in 2007, I saved money by living at my mom’s house. Only paying for my car and basic expenses allowed me to set some money aside which is how I was able to afford my move to Chicago. I bought furniture slowly and would set some money aside whenever I wanted something. It was a process but it all came together in the end.

After launching The Everygirl, I continued to work on design projects full-time until we were able to salary ourselves  for almost another two years. That first salary didn’t fully cover all of my expenses, so I cut my clients by about 2/3 which helped pick up the slack. Two years ago, we were finally in a position to pay ourselves enough to cover all of my expenses. The past year, I’ve been putting 1/3 of my paycheck into savings, but between my blog, rewardStyle commission, and the occasional photo shoot or interior design project allow me to travel, shop, donate, and put additional funds into savings.

Track your spending

I’ve used and both Learnvest and Mint and would recommend both. My checking, savings, credit card, and even my IRA are all linked to my Mint account, so making it easy to see what I have, what I owe, and how I spend my money. Check your accounts every week–look over spending patterns to figure out how you can save, know what you’ve spent the past few weeks, and consider what’s coming up, too.

You can set budgets for fixed expenses, shopping, travel, and groceries, and can even set savings goals. So if I want x amount of money in savings by July 1, I know how much I need to put away each month in order to make it happen.

Going out to dinner and ordering take-out are enjoyable experiences, but it’s all about balance. Figure out your budget and set reasonable number of days for you to pick up lunch or dinner. Consider meal prep to reduce your bills–it helps!

Think before you buy

After tracking your spending, figure out how much you have to spend in each category, and be mindful of both big and small purchases. Why are you buying those shoes? Can you really afford them? Do you actually need them? I do buy things I want but often pine over big purchases. Saving is very important to me, and I always put aside 1/3 of my salary.

How I redecorated my new home

Media/bloggers will often receive media rates (a percentage off) or gifted product in exchange for promotion. If you ever see a “c/o” next to something, that means the item was given care of a brand in exchange for blog and social media posts. There’s often some sort of contract or agreement and I only ever feature products I actually love.

Conor’s dad is a furniture designer/antiques dealer and gave Conor a vintage cabinet and dining table base. We installed this chandelier c/o Lamps Plus and this lighting c/o Rejuvenation. I bought our dining chairs a few years ago and our the light grey velvet bench cushion arrived c/o Loom Decor.

The Everygirl designed two sofas for Interior Define and as part of the partnership, we were given pieces from the collection to promote in our home tours. Conor ordered our coffee table before we talked about moving in together, we bought and split the price of our jute rug, and the Flag Halyard chair was purchased with a 40% media discount. I bought our curtains and our new curtain rods arrived c/oRejuvenation. Our media console is the one I had in my last place.

We’re using my dresser, split the cost of our bed, nightstands arrived c/o Kathy Kuo, bedside lamps c/o Lulu and Georgia, this mirror was purchased with a 25% discount, and these velvet pillows arrived c/o Rejuvenation a few months ago.

  • Keelan Murphy

    Hi Danielle, thanks for sharing this. I am also budget-savvy (saving 1/3 as well) and an avid user. It’s so interesting to see how much I am spending and tracking it by category (although NYC rent is NEVER fun to see). I recently started receiving LearnVest emails…how do you use it specifically?

    I am astounded by the partnerships you have with brands and the discounts you have received. How incredible! How do you initiate those conversations with brands?

    PS. CONGRATS on your engagement & enjoy Portugal! I was there through study abroad in college. Lisbon was such a hidden gem and had everything. Bars & live music in the streets…my kind of night life! The seafood, the ocean…ahh! Enjoy!

    • Hi Keelan! I used Mint the same way as learnvest but have been using mint regularly the past few months. I’ve had a relationship with most brands I’ve worked with. Some reach out and others I’ve emailed asking about a possible media rate.

      Thank you so much for the congrats! We loved Lisbon but Porto is magic. It’s amazing!

  • Georgia Keam

    I really enjoyed this post and appreciate your honesty. I really admire the lifestyle you show on Instagram and The Everygirl and as a young women really question how I will be able to live a life like that. Showing up much you save and what is gifted to you gives me a great insight. Thanks!

    • So glad this was helpful! Let me know if you have any Qs.

  • Rachel Machen

    So refreshing to see a blogger be transparent and honest about c/o! Love this!

    • Danielle Moss

      I’m so glad! Feel free to reach out with any more budget Qs!

  • Jenn

    Thank you so much for sharing about how you budget. This line especially resonates with me: “Why are you buying those shoes? Can you really afford them? Do you actually need them? I do buy things I want but often pine over big purchases.”

    Right now, my priorities are a wardrobe refresh, desire to travel, and a want to decorate my home, but it’s definitely a very slow process. Also, the pace of friends getting married has definitely picked up, so attending those events is definitely a budget killer! That line has definitely reminded me that I need to be mindful about how I spend my money and to save more! I have been using Mint, but I’ll look into Learnvest. I’ve been putting money into my 401k, but I really have no idea where to start when it comes to investing.

    • Magdalena

      Jenn – I highly recommend reading The Boglehead’s Guide to Investing. I’m not a blogger, just someone who has taken a more active interest in my own finances, and the basic principles to cover include: 1. Eliminate credit card debt 2. Practice passing investing by contributing to your 401k/403b (at least enough to take advantage of any matching your employer offers to take advantage of pre-tax savings) and slowly increase until you are maxing out your contribution +/- your FSA or HSA 3. Have at least a 3-6 month emergency fund (more frequently you will start hearing 6-12 months) 4. Continue saving – this is where looking at post tax savings (such as back door Roth IRA’s) or individual stocks (much more risky). In regards to the “type” of investment to select for your pre or post tax accounts, generally target date funds and index funds offer you a wide exposure to US and International Markets in both stocks and bonds, depending on the investment mix you choose. Good luck!

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