Before I started budgeting, I was horrible with money. I had a minimum wage, part-time job, and was living paycheck to paycheck. I also got help from my parents with tuition and some living expenses. But, I still wasn’t making any progress in my financial situation, as my checking accounts always dwindled back down to zero at the end of the month. I couldn’t build up any savings or emergency fund, which was horrible since I couldn’t come up with the funds for an emergency root canal.

In 2014, I started to learn about personal finance and budgeting, and tried YNAB. I credit the YNAB method on getting out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle. Here, I want to go over how I got out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle and was able to save for emergencies and future large purchases.

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My husband and I are frugal, but we’ll pay for long-lasting high quality items. Here are some of the items that saved us time and money in the long run. It’s also better for the environment since I’m not constantly replacing broken things. We bought most of these items on sale by looking out for deals and coupons. We also used camelcamelcamel.com to track prices on Amazon. And I found some of these items used on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Kitchen items We eat rice almost every single day for lunch and dinner. And I’m not the type to cook rice in a pot on the stove. When our cheap Aroma rice cooker died after just 5 years, I decided to buy a Zojirushi neuro fuzzy rice cooker. While it wasn’t cheap, it had really good reviews. 7 years later, it still makes great rice every time we use it.

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Today I want to reflect a bit on my gradschool budget. I got a stipend of about $2350 each month. We split our bills 50/50 in gradschool, and we each had our own spending categories. Below was my average monthly budget, including my half of the bills. Monthly bills Rent – $567 (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment) Water, sewage, trash – $30 Electricity, gas – $45.50 (on a budget billing plan) Cellphones – $15 (Mint Mobile was really cheap!) Internet – $46 Netflix -$5 Groceries – $225 Food – $60 (we cooked a lot at home) Fuel – $40 (this includes a few pandemic months with less driving) Household stuff – $37.50 (too much TJ Maxx) Oskar – $140 (includes vet bills, pet insurance, food from Chewy, sweaters for Michigan weather) Amazon prime – $2.60 (we were on the Student Prime plan) Costco membership – $2.50 My own expenses This

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My husband and I lived on a monthly stipend of about $2400 and his savings during gradschool. So, we tried our best to stay frugal in order to save money. These habits allowed me to put $5000 towards my car downpayment, invest $6000 in my ROTH IRA almost each year, and travel to Paris and New York City on a limited budget. Housing On-campus housing: The first year of gradschool, we stayed at graduate student housing. This was a really great deal, because all the furniture was provided, and all utilities were covered. Off-campus housing: After the first year, we decided to move to off-campus housing nearby, because we wanted to get a puppy. The rent was comparable for a 1 bedroom apartment, but we did have to pay for utilities ourselves. We split the rent 50/50, so my share of the rent was about $500. And we didn’t live

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