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How I Keep My Spending Balance At Least $2,000

A little while back, I tweeted a screenshot of my Level “spendables” page. Right away, I received replies asking me what app I was using and how it was working out. Although Level is the most functional and user-friendly app I’ve ever used to track my spending, it’s only a little part of how I keep from going over-budget. Some of my methods are a bit archaic and old-fashioned, while others are habits I’ve developed over the years.

Treat your savings account like a bill.

Every month, I “pay” $200-300 to my imaginary friend called “Moe Money” aka my savings account. This way, I can guarantee that I’ll always have money on the side to use for emergencies. It’s also a way for me to keep my checking account from being too big. Not “big” meaning I have money falling from the sky, but big in the sense that it makes me feel like I can spend money impulsively. I’ve learned that when I see a big enough amount in checking, I tend to buy on the whim, without thinking of the repercussions!

Split up your paycheck.

I like to split up my paycheck by 80% and 20%. The larger amount goes to savings, while the smaller amount lands in checking. That way, I sort of trick myself into thinking I earn less, which brings me to my next point.

You are actually broke.

Probably not, but it’s saved me thousands thinking this way. Usually around the time when everything is due, towards the end of the month or the first, I start to tell myself that I’ve only got $500 left. Not in checking, not in savings, but in total. This whole saving money thing actually deals a lot more with my mindset than it does the tangible habits like adding, subtracting, tracking, etc.

Write the numbers down!

Even though saving is a mental thing for me, I still need a way to make sure everything balances. I do like the apps that help me do this, but being the kind of person I am, I still like to write down my expenses or bills paid that day. I fill in my bills ahead of time. If a day is already filled in, I don’t spend money at all that day.

Eat at home, pack your lunch, make restaurants a luxury.

This, by far, was the most difficult habit for me to develop because anyone who knows me knows that I am a foodie. At the same time, I do love to cook and if it wasn’t for that I don’t think I would have been able to keep this up. Back then, I’d spend so much at restaurants and cafes near work. Now, if I am absolutely craving something from a restaurant, I go out and buy the ingredients to make it at home. I think of restaurants as a once in a blue moon kind of thing.

Carry cash!

I used to have my debit card readily available, since it was my only payment option. I’ve learned that carrying cash makes your bank account last longer. I make sure I carry about $100 give or take. I treat that $100 like it’s the only money I have. So, for the most part, it stays in my wallet and is sort of like a physical reminder that, again, I’m “broke.”

Use a black wallet and a big bag; make your money hard to find.

This last “trick” is a weird personal quirk of mine. Again, I’m going with the mentality that I have no money. I carry a big bag and keep my wallet at the very bottom, or bundled up with other items. That way, if I was even wanting to spend money on something random, I’d have to think about the fact that I’d need to dig my wallet out. And, for me (and my OCD/personality), that is annoying and I’d rather not.Β  It might seem odd, but I kid you not! This has worked for me and I mostly pull my wallet out if someone has to see my ID.

TL; DR? I live like I’m broke, write down all of my expenses, make spending money feel like a chore that I hate doing.

How do you keep track of your spending?

Note: The spending balance on this post is based on my personal monthly earnings. This post is not necessarily a guide to save $2,000 in one month.Β 


  1. Pingback: My Travel Planning Process Step By Step

  2. Do you live on your own? If you are then damn, you’re really good at saving. I’m living with my family and I used to bug my mom to pack me lunch when I was still in my previous work because 1) it helped me save a lot and 2) mom’s cooking is 100x better than what our pantry had.

    PS: I admire your self-discipline!!!!!!!!!

    • I’ve lived away from home since I was 18! πŸ™‚ (American style, I guess?) Packing lunch is the easiest way to save money, I think! πŸ™‚

  3. Living as if I’m broke definitely helps me save money hahaha. I’ve also been more conscious of what I buy as a consumer which helps me save money too! My skincare and makeup routine are all simple, for example, so I find myself not having to spend as much on products as I could be. Avoiding magazines and Youtube channels help me not get tempted. XD I have a simple (read: boring) life in general, which means I don’t spend a lot in general. :’D

    • I want a minimal skincare routine, but I’ll try anything once (or thrice). So, I kinda have a problem there haha

  4. I really need these tips. I have been spending like crazy for the past few months. πŸ™ One tip I can share, though, that helped me very much: leave your credit card at home! LOL.

  5. Thank you for all the advice! I’ve been meaning to keep a financial journal so I have an idea of what my spending actually looks like. I’m a lazy writer so I really have to be dedicated to this so I get to minimize my spending. huhu

    Ochi | Ochi In The City

  6. Loved this, Yen! Reading through your saving/spending ways make me so proud of you! Since I’m the financial manager in our household, perhaps I’ll try if the 80/20 rule will work with us, too. Right now, it’s 30/70 (where 30% goes to savings) because SAN DIEGO.

    • I know what you mean! Alaska and California are actually in the top 5 for the most expensive states to live in. Cost of living really puts a damper on the whole trying to save thing. πŸ™

      • I got past that stage of trying to compare the prices in Philippine peso because the conversion drives me nuts, but it’s generally expensive to live in one of the popular tourist destinations here in the US. I guess this is the price we pay for the best weather all year-round! I bet it’s the same there in AK!

        • YES! Tourism, keeping up with the demand, it makes a lot of things expensive even for locals (i.e.: Hawaii, the most expensive state to live in!). We also have to get a lot of our goods shipped here and have to ultimately pay for those costs at the consumer level. Rent isn’t as bad here, but that might be the only takeaway. Purchasing power is also okay depending on what job you have, but in general, wages and salaries are okay here even for entry-level.

  7. Same here, I feel broke every month! I even told my boyfriend, “Ang laki ng sweldo ko pero di ko ramdam” Hahaha
    We have bills to pay, we support our families financially, and we’re saving up for an upcoming trip this summer.
    I also want to keep up with my emergency savings account and with my investments. So many things to do as an adult! Haha

    I don’t prepare my meals, because it’s not allowed in where I’m living right now. But I save a lot on food because I buy from carenderia. πŸ™‚ I also don’t shop a lot, only when needed – toiletries and stuff. Pero kahit sobrang tipid at tight na ng budget, di ko pa din ramdam na may ipon ako hahaha

    • Ok lang kung ganun eh, ganun dapat talaga. Isipin lang natin na wala tayong pera, para di over budget kahit kailan hahaha!! But I know what you mean, tipid na tipid, super kuripot din hahaha but sometimes I still feel like I don’t save as much as I could!

  8. Really, the best way to save money is to think that you’re broke all the time hahaha. “Eat at home, pack your lunch, make restaurants a luxury.” THIS IS SO HARD FOR ME!!!! Because Chipotle is my life! This is a great post Shayne! It’s actually tempting me to go out and look for a job (Panera? or CHIPOTLE?!!) just so I can save a lot more money.

    • Hahaha! If getting a job at Panera or Chipotle will help you with saving in the long run, go for it! Even though I’ve started to eat out less, I still find it hard not to want to go out and do just that! Southwestern eggrolls and calamari are just so good and I just don’t know how to make them that well! huhuhu

  9. This is really insightful! Ahh I want to be able to save more the coming months, especially because I do freelance work and money comes in waves. Haha. T_T

    • I still want to try out freelance, maybe to supplement my income. How’s it working out for you? What platforms are you using to find work? I’d love to know! πŸ™‚

  10. I’m with you in that I usually carry cash. I use my credit cards on expenses that I pay later, but I also keep the due dates in mind on those cards, too. Meaning if I know a card payment is due on the 25th, I pay it off before then and don’t use it again until much later.

    I actually keep my checking account amount pretty high. I keep it above $500 but tell myself that I am not allowed to go under that, hahaha! So far, I’ve been doing okay in that aspect . . .

    I’m horrible about eating out because it’s actually not too expensive to do that here. When I consider that the cheapest meal I can get outside is $3.00-5.00, that’s a huge factor for me since I don’t necessarily like cooking or cleaning!

    • Oh man! If I lived in Seoul, I’d probably eat out every single day! haha When I was in Beijing, we had the option of getting free meals at the canteen. The food there was good, but I always ate at the restaurants and dive bars off campus! It was so cheap!!!

  11. Yes to all this! Especially write the numbers down! I use an app though as I might get too lazy to write it all down and forget about it. I wish I could do 80/20. I’m only working around 50/50 now as I give money back to the fam but I don’t really mind that too much.

    • It’s good that you’re helping out your family, though! πŸ™‚ In a way, that comes back to you, too!

  12. Treat your savings account like a bill. CHECK! I also do it this way!
    And when I borrow an amount from the savings, I make sure that I “pay” it back. It helps keep my savings intact. πŸ™‚

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