A Look Back at My Budget – 10 Years Ago

aaron_image1I thought it would be fun to take a look back at my simple budget 10 years ago this month and see what I was buying with my money and what type of income I was bringing in. Granted, I was less than a year into my “get-0ut-of-debt” journey, but I was well on my way and was going to stick to it.

It’s amazing to think back to those times. I never thought I’d get out of debt. Fortunately, I had been given a couple of family loans (one from my mother and the other from a half-brother – which was yet to come). Although I ended up paying these back, they were able to give me some breathing room in that I didn’t have the accumulating interest. 


>>> I’ve written before about loaning from family – it can work, if you do it right

My life 10 years ago

Just a little bit about what was going on in my life at the time. A year before, in 2003, I had gone through my first, tough break-up (remember yours – it felt like the world was coming to an end!). I had also been unemployed for about a year and then worked freelance for a friend. It wasn’t making ends meet – so I began taking cash advances to keep up my lifestyle and pay bills.

Soon, I had racked up about $20k in credit card debt and I was in deep do-do. I decided it was time to change things up and ended up moving in with two other guys to share a duplex. It was a great time for me to regroup and the rent was really affordable (check it out – under $300!). It really ended up being a pivotal point in my life for many reasons – most importantly in terms of spiritual growth (learning greater dependence on the Lord) and changing the direction of my finances. Plus, I really met some godly and inspiring people.

At the time of this budget snapshot, I had just landed a long-term contract assignment as a designer for a large manufacturer. It was a nice bump in pay that really helped accelerate my get-out-of-debt goal. This was also the first time I broke down and finally got a cell phone. I was literally one of the last people I knew who didn’t have a cell phone.

The budget

So, here she is (taken as a screen-grab off my high-tech, proprietary budgeting system: a Word doc). It was more of a tracker for expenses/income than a working budget:

budget ten years ago

It’s crazy looking back at my financial life now and am glad that I kept this. A couple things to note:

  • As I said before, my rent was really cheap. And, this was right in the heart of a downtown major metropolitan city! We literally walked to the stadium a few times from our house. Normally living downtown comes with a high price tag. I had just read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, so I was ready to “live like no one else, so I could live like no one else later“.
  • There’s a few evidences here of the “stupid” taxes I was paying:
    1. Car loan that I couldn’t afford. I had this sweet VW Jetta that a guy sold me on in 2001 that I was half-way through in paying down.
    2. High car insurance because the car wasn’t paid off and was relatively expensive.
    3. Mother loan. As I said, my mom helped me to pay off some credit card to save on interest payments.
    4. Other credit card payback
  • April was tax month – so I had a little expense there from monies owed.
  • $90 for gas! Wow. We’re lucky if we don’t pay over $200 for each of our two cars/month today.
  • Food. You can eat relatively inexpensive when you are single!
  • No cable bill or utilities. We had one TV in the house – and no cable. During this period I hardly ever watched television (even though I loved it – I really didn’t miss it in those 3 years I lived there). The utilities were paid for by the landlord.

I think it’s fun to see how things have changed – especially in how costs have gone up and how we’re paying (today) for more things. I now have pet, child, cable bill, internet, cell phone plan(s), gym membership and mortgage costs I never had 10 years ago.

But, I’m blessed to have gotten rid of all that credit card debt and the school and car loans.

Am I odd, or do you save your budgets like this (and take a peak at them now and then)? How have things changed for you?

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8 comments

  1. I think it’s neat to look back on stuff like this, Aaron. Unfortunately, I never budgeted before last year, so I don’t have any budgets to look back on (I know – shame!) but I do remember the days of little to no rent payments. :-)

  2. Dianne says:

    It’s amazing to look back! In the ’70s, I bought my first house for $27,500, and went from rent at $90 a month to $243 house payment (which included taxes and insurance), and I was so worried about making that payment! I remember having no credit card debt, nor a car payment (I owned a cute 1966 Volkswagen Beetle!), and I budgeted $70 a week for gas and groceries to feed me and my two kids.

    Back then, I thought it was hard, but looking back, life was so much more simple back then. I guess you could say then was the “Good ol’ days!”

  3. debT debS says:

    Alas I don’t have a budget from ten years ago even though I should have, but when I recently looked back to where we were 2 years ago until now, it does give motivation that we are winning this debt war.

    Glad your walk down memory lane inspired you too!

  4. I don’t have any old budgets (well, at least not THAT old) given my wife and I really just started budgeting over the last year to 18 months. I’d love to look at what we’re doing now 10 years from now though. I loved your comment about the price of gas…I remember in high school filling up my tank for less than $15. I filled up yesterday and it was about $70. Yikes!

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