Financial Wellness

Setting (and Sticking to!) a Personal Budget

Lauren Guite | 18 Jul 2019

Coming to Landed was a career transition for me. After years of being a teacher, I had moved into a commission-based sales role at an edtech company, where my paychecks varied from month to month. Now, joining Landed, I was taking on an operations role with a consistent paycheck and a different kind of financial stability. 

Because of the work we do, homebuying education and guidance is a big topic of conversation at Landed. Our Customer Experience team frequently helps customers better understand their financial position as they begin the homebuying journey, and we offer resources to help folks learn at their own pace online.

With employees, Landed focuses on personal growth and wellness – “own your growth” is one of Landed’s recently established core values, and it is exemplified in many activities that we partake in as a company. Some of those activities include a weekly “Armchair Economist” session (where we learn about different topics in finance, real estate, and education) and “Personal Accountability Check-Ins” where we share personal goals that we’d like to focus on over the next six weeks. 

A few weeks into my time at Landed, we had a loosely facilitated Armchair Economist session where we discussed our personal financial practices, financial products we have found useful, and more. This session helped me start thinking about specific tips and strategies for holistically managing my financial picture. It was reassuring to watch people I admired and was impressed by open up about their own financial questions or insecurities. 

Since my new role focuses primarily on analyzing data, I started to wonder: if I was focused on data analysis at work all day, why wasn’t I paying closer attention to my own financial data? And now that my income was more predictable, why couldn’t I make a concrete plan and stick to it each month?

A few weeks after that, I experienced my first Personal Accountability session, and that’s when I decided my goal for the next six weeks would be to create a budget and stick with it, with the goal of paying down debt and starting to save more intentionally.

That Saturday, I sat down and set my budget. This was the process I followed: 

  1. I downloaded my transaction history from January through April 2019 from all of the places where my money was flowing, including: my checking and savings accounts, Venmo, two main credit cards, and student loan payments. 

  2. I enjoy working in Excel, so I compiled all of the transactions into one Excel sheet and began to set categories based on my spending habits. Honestly, some of it was a little cringe-worthy to look at (did I need to take that many Lyfts in one week? Should I have really bought my friends a round of drinks when celebrating my new job?), but I felt it was important to face my current reality with eyes wide open. I also felt it was important to have the categories customized to me and to my habits. 

Here are the categories I decided to use:

  • Clothes 
  • Credit card fee
  • Doctor
  • Electricity
  • Entertainment 
  • Food out
  • Groceries
  • Gym 
  • Home supplies
  • Internet
  • Lyft
  • Nails & hair
  • Online subscriptions
  • Personal loan 
  • Political & charitable contributions
  • Rent
  • Skincare
  • Student loans
  • Transportation 
  • Travel 
  1. I calculated the average amount per month for each category and used that as a starting place for my budget. 

  2. I totaled it up and compared it with my salary (which was now so much more predictable, yay!).

  3. I decided how to better allocate my money. An overall goal for me is to pay down debt that I acquired in grad school, so I wanted to use this budgeting process to help me accomplish my goals. Therefore, I needed to reduce my spending in certain categories in service of my larger objective (you can now see me commuting each morning on the N Judah light rail and inviting friends over for wine nights at home).

  4. I set a budget for the month of May and set a recurring calendar invite for myself for the first Saturday of each month called “LOOK @ YOUR BILLS.”

While there was initial discomfort in diagnosing my situation, I felt proud to have done so and excited to actually stick to the budget! So far, I’ve had two months of staying generally on budget, while continuing to refine the amounts allocated to each of the categories. I also have a lot of gratitude to Landed’s culture for having open and honest conversations about the difficult and taboo topic of personal finances. It has already helped me get on a better path to becoming financially secure – and to perhaps one day being able to own a home.


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Financial Wellness

About the Author

Lauren Guite

Lauren works on the Customer Experience team at Landed, and is focused on making sure the team's operations run effectively. She is a former elementary school teacher who enjoys cooking, reading, and listening to political podcasts in her spare time.

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