Living With the Budget You Have
Living in NYC, it is imperative that anyone with a sound mind develops a budget for managing food, fun, and day to day expenses. As a Muslim couple, my husband and I are trying to navigate NYC while maintaining our Islamic principles and not spending what we don’t have. Here’s our solution thus far:
Step One: Create a Budget
As a Master’s student, I receive two stipends twice a year. My husband until recently was unemployed for six months. So you can imagine how hard it must have been to make ends meet right? Well…we didn’t know that. Not at first, anyways. Since we moved to NYC six months ago, we were constantly living in a “buy now and money will come in later” mentality—charging credit cards, racking up debt, borrowing, etc. All of this changed, however, when we created a budget with only the money we have, not the money we expect in the future. By doing this, we received a brutal wake up call to live more within our means.
To begin, try creating a basic budget that highlights one month of your “old” spending habits (If you have no idea about your “old” spending habits, look at credit card transactions). It should be separated to first list necessities such as rent, bills, and groceries and then branch out to include the “fun” parts such as saving for vacation, dining out, etc. Budgets can also include basic Zakat and sadaqah, but remember that it is still vital to list necessities first.
Look at what you wrote down. It may seem depressing if your income does not add up to your budget. You might be high-fiving yourself and ready to go celebrate with the extra money that you have. Take a look at your budget again. What have you included? Re-arranging and flexibility, besides only budgeting with the money you have, is another important step to maintaining a successful budget. What did you list outside of necessities? Cut your extravagants. If your problem is that you have money left over from budgeting (lucky duck!) than either make a rainy day fund to put the extra money in or donate it to charity. Budgets should be revised every two weeks at first to make sure they fit your active lifestyle. After that, a monthly maintenance should fall easily into place.
Every time you spend money, write it down. Do not rely on your credit cards or checking statements. Be proactive in recording your spending. This makes the budget-er be in control of their money. It reduces temptation to spend on unnecessary and superfluous materialistic things.
Lastly, include every member of your family in the budget, regardless of their age. Since each member of the family spends money (knowingly or not) they should have a say in where the budget goes. This is a great opportunity for husbands to communicate with their wives and for parents to teach children about spending.