I saw this in Money Mag over the weekend, and it took me a while to figure out if I loved it or I hated it ;)
At first I was like “Genius! Whey haven’t I ever heard of this before??” but the more I let it sink in, the more I started having doubts. Even though deep down I really REALLY wanted it to be the best idea ever! Haha… and it just might be, if you’re one to especially despise budgeting or tracking where all your dollars go.
Here’s what they say will cut out the stress of budgeting:
Stop counting. Calculate what you need to save each month for your long-term goals — retirement and college, say — then have the money automatically pulled from your bank account or paycheck, if it isn’t already. The remaining cash is yours to spend. “You don’t need to know where every dollar is going.”
Well ain’t that something! See, in theory this works out REALLY really well – and it’s super easy to understand. “I want to save $500 every month, so all I have to do is xfer it out into my savings and then voila! I just live on all the rest.” It’s hard to argue with that. Except that VERY few people can really pull that off. Because what we WANT to save every month, and what we actually CAN save every month can be completely different. And without budgeting or tracking your money for at least a few months to really *understand* your flow of money in and out, it’s hard to know exactly what you can easily afford to save every month.
On the other hand, if you pull that money out FIRST, and for real don’t touch it at all, then you may just force yourself to save and come up with a plan to live more efficiently knowing you only have $X left over. Which would be awesome! Until you slip and and have to pull money back from that savings account, pushing you toward that slippery slope of xfering money back and forth between all your accounts each week. Like I used to do the entire 7 years after graduating college ;) And the reason for it was because I wasn’t budgeting properly!!
In fact, now that I think about it I was doing EXACTLY what this article says to do: I was putting a few hundred dollars into my savings every month and TRYING to live off the rest. Wow… I totally forgot about that… and I can tell you damn straight that did NOT work, haha… unless it makes you feel better seeing money in your account for 28 of the 30 days each month ;) I know that’s what got me going. But every time I had to go in and pull it all out each month it just stung even more. Like I “failed to budget” yet again. And that’s because I WASN’T budgeting! I was only looking at one side of the game the whole time – my savings.
This anti-budget Money Mag presents leaves out the entire other part of proper money management — the spending! Or rather, our bills. If you turn this idea around, and pay the bills first and THEN save the rest (which I’m not advocating necessarily), you’re left w/ the same sort of problem except you never had to go through the trouble of pretend saving in the first place. And really, this is the way most of the world works — paying our bills first and THEN trying to save. Again, not saying that’s the best way to go here, just playing devil’s advocate.
At the end of the day, whether you save or pay the bills first, you’re still only gonna have a certain amount of $ left on the table each month. You don’t magically get more or less when swapping methods, so in my opinion it’s better to first FIND OUT where all your money is going (by tracking it for a few months), and THEN coming up w/ the plan to attack your savings/debt now that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. And each route is totally fine, all depending on your own personality. For me, saving first ended up irritating me the whole time, so I switched to paying the bills first and now I get MUCH better results at the end – both mentally and financially ;) So it’s always good to test out.
What do you guys do first? Save or spend? What do you think about this non-budget, budget?
(Photo, and likeness, by JMoneyyyyyy)
Get blog posts automatically emailed to you!
I put all my money into my savings account, then transfer smaller amounts back into my checking account every week to cover that week’s expenses.
Yeah, there are months I undersave, but that has nothing to do with my methods of handling cashflow! It would probably be worse otherwise. I’m a zero-budgeter, and having money in checking makes it easy to spend/overspend mindlessly.
I did this when I first started my job (2 yrs ago), and it did wonders for me. I figured out what I needed to live on and threw the rest into savings. It took a few months for me to figure out what the right amount was, but eventually I got it set to where I don’t even have to think about a budget.
The best part about this scheme: if you can pull it off, you’ll only save more as time goes on. When I got my first pay raise last year, I knew I already had enough money to live on, so I put the rest into savings. I wasn’t used to living off it, so why see it? You could always split raises and put half in savings and keep half, but either way, it keeps you living within one set of means and not raising your standards of living with each raise.
Both! My long term (ie, BORING) savings (~10% net) is automatically taken out of my bank account each month. I spend what I spend during the month (I try to keep it within a certain range but it is very very fluid so I never feel restricted) and the leftovers (however much that may be, it was 25% net in October) go to my fun short-term savings goals, like travel and a clothing shopping spree and all that. I love it because it feels like I have the best of both worlds. I never feel guilty because that long-term savings is always done. And the short-term savings plan motivates me to spend less and track every penny, because the less I spend during the month, the more I get to spend on my fun goals later. :) Of course, this only works because a) I’m a frugal, delayed-gratification kind of person who doesn’t have a car or go out to eat much and thrives on meeting goals as quickly as possible and b) I make enough to cover all of my monthly desires/expenses and more (~$40K US; $50K NZD using the current rate).
I don’t know if I could ever go back to the way I was doing things with no budget or clarity about where my money was going.
Neither, really. I research and plan. I agree with you that without tracking income and expenditure for at least some time it doesn’t work (combination between lack of realism; insufficient information to take any decisions – life and/or money; and lack of midfulness). After having tracked all outgoings I found two things useful: a) the balanced money formula; and b) separating the money that we can spend without the burden of writing and tracking every penny and the expenditure I still track (as part of my budgetting this is done once a month). Back to your question, the two big bills (mortgage and loan), some savings and the ‘I’m so worth it’ fund leave our current account roughly at the same time. Mastery is in having worked out what one can really cope with – this stops dipping into savings (well, usually).
We looked at our general spending and then came up with a budget/spending plan/whatever they’re calling it now. In fact my husband and I have to sit down and update it to reflect our current financial situation.
We set up transfers for saving as soon as the money comes in. While we won’t overspend our accounts, we think that setting aside the money first is the way to keep us on track.
Here’s my take on this, and it’s similar to yours. You can’t just transfer $X into savings and hope for the best with the rest of your money without first taking a good luck at what you have each month, and what you need. I have done the ‘save first, spend the rest at will’ approach, and it worked, but only because I spent some time at the outset making sure that everything would be comfortably accounted for, then deciding what dollar amount to send into savings automatically each pay, and then just living off the rest. Since I don’t spend extravagantly, I never had any problem. But neither did I go into it blind.
I’m in school right now, so I switched up my plans a bit. I’ve been saving like mad for a couple of years, and so I have all of my expenses saved for the next year or two. I have an account with all of the money for this year, and I transfer it over to my chequing account periodically. This means that any income I earn is deposited directly to my savings account…. which is a big rush, even if it is going to be spent eventually.
I despise tracking my spending, so I pay my bills and set aside savings at the beginning of the month, and the rest is mine to do with as I please. No tracking necessary. It’s great!
I’m a big Excel nerd, so I actually like tracking my spending. I know what the goals are for each category each month, so it’s like a game for me, trying to under-spend and over-save.
But as far as which method I use, it’s a little of both, at least for the short-term savings portion. I have $300/month ($150 from each paycheck from my main job) automatically transferred into the savings account, which is the bare minimum I want to save. This usually leaves enough wiggle room for little unexpected expenses that pop up, like having to take a pet to the vet or pay for a minor car repair. If we make it through the month without any little emergencies and stay on (or under) budget, I try to put another hundred or two into savings. But it wouldn’t work if I hadn’t tracked our spending first and figured out how much (and where) we *actually* spend, versus how much we really *need* to spend.
1. First, we tracked our spending for ~1-2 years using Mint.
2. Then, we created a budget using LeisureGuy’s Within Your Means spreadsheet, which is awesome because it has spots to enter every little expense or savings goal, and only allocates 95% of your take home pay (the 5% is a buffer).
3. Finally, I automated my payments – student loan payments, rent, utilities – and my savings – 401k, IRA, cash. We spend the rest that isn’t already accounted for. Any gifts we receive go toward student loans.
PNC has an awesome calendar that shows your upcoming scheduled payments, compares it to your account balance, and shows your available balance (until the next payday) that isn’t already allocated toward bills or savings. We spend this money “freely”. If we stay within that amount, we don’t have to worry! It takes the stress out of budgeting – my husband doesn’t like to track every penny, and even though I do, it does get tiring.
Because the devil is in the details, I’m pretty sure I would panic if I didn’t know where my money was going. I wouldn’t know where I needed to cut down or anything.
I used to do something like this. When I was living with my parents rent-free, I calculated what I needed off of my paycheques for tuition, phone bill, etc. I would transfer all of that money into an account separate from my chequing, and spend the rest on god knows what. To me, it’s just not responsible enough, so I changed my ways :)
This is basically what we do. My old lady and I still live on a yours, mine and ours system. So each paycheck we place a set amount into our joint checking. Then I have my savings pull out (for ROTH and personal emergency fund). She does the same. Then our join account pulls the join emergency fund. Then we pay all our joint bills (water/gas/electric etc). It works pretty well and keeps me from getting mad when she buys another pair of shoes that are “cute.”
When I first got a job I didn’t know how to save or how much really. It took me about a year to man up and throw money into savings. I started with 20 a week and eventually got it up to 100. It takes a while to find what you can live on and when you find that it really feels good to have it in savings for that time when you need a new car or house.
I have to save first (by way of budgeting every single dollar), because if it’s in my checking account then I’ll probably spend it.
Every few days or so I recalculate all my outstanding bills (or miscellaneous incomes) for the pay period so I can see my “true” balance. I only like to have $20-50 for a buffer and if there’s more in my calculations, it immediately goes to savings or debt repayment!
I do a combination since my monthly pay varies from month to month. Basically, I averaged what I made in 3 months and have a set amount go into savings every month from that for my Roth IRA/ other long term saving goals. Then at the end of the month I figure out the difference of what I made and what I spent and add the rest to saving for short term goals. I will admit that since this is the first year I have had a “real” job, I am still trying to figure out how I like budgeting best.
That’s a good point, that whether you pay the bills first or last, you are spending the same amount. The only difference, from what I can tell, is a question of your mind. For me, I like to pay the bills first so that I know that those are out of the way. That way, I don’t have to feel guilty about spending on nonessentials.
I pay bills first. Then where there is a choice, I spend the least amount possible to get the most value. What is left is for saving for annual bills, unusual expenses and future income.
Whoa…I just had some sort of creepy, blog-induced sense of connection, J. Money–I read that article this weekend and had the same reaction as you!!! I was even planning to post about it…haha.
When I read the article, I cringed while imaging all the people who might take that last sentence as a green-light for spending beyond their means. As you mentioned, Money Magazine didn’t indicate the necessity for keeping the money in savings once you transfer it, so most people who don’t have a handle on their spending or budget would naturally gravitate towards pulling out of savings to cover monthly deficits. A head-in-the-sand approach to spending does little to nothing for boosting your bottom line in the long-run–it pretty much ensures that you’ll eventually deplete that wonderful savings account.
The only caveat I see to this would be people like us who have returned from the financial doldrums and have finally gotten a handle on their budget. I could stop tracking all of my spending for a short while and rely on the resolve to make good financial choices I’ve built over the past 5 years, but I know that eventually I’d have to track where the $$ is going in order to make sure I’m not creeping back to my old ways. So in this sense, the Money advice makes sense if you’d like a –temporary– escape from the stress of budgeting.
I know from personal experience that there’s snowball’s chance in hell that I would have finally climbed out of my self-created credit card debt abyss had it not been for tracking my spending and knowing exactly where my $$ was going.
Holy long comment, batman…my apologies!
I get paid twice each month and each cheque is roughly divided up into three categories: savings, rent and spending. I set aside a portion of each cheque for rent because it is such a big expense. I don’t have any automatic withdrawals to my savings account because I enjoy the satisfaction of manually moving the money into my savings account but I understand why that would be easier for some people.
I am a big fan of Excel and put everything in a category. I don’t stress over every little thing just the end receipt amount and what most of it was for. Like for instance, if I have a receipt that has food, fun and car parts, it will just end up in one of the categories. All I worry about is if I over spend overall and if I save as much as I can.
I’m still using the ‘toss it all in the checking account and spend from it’ mentality. I’m getting 2.65% interest in the checking account ONLY, so I want to keep all my money there. I know roughly how much I spend per month and where I need to cut back on spending (food is a killer for me, but I’m getting better). Sometimes I’d like to know exactly how much I’m spending and on what, but I consider myself ‘comfortable’ now and don’t panic over every little expense.
I did a bunch of analysis two years ago on expenditures, so I do have an idea of where I need to be. I’m nearly at the point where I can release a big breath and smile because the money is working for me instead of against me!
I save, then pay bills, then save, then spend, then pay bills.
My RPP contribution is deducted off my paycheck before I get it. Then I make all of my bill/debt payments. Then I take some RRSP(similar to RPP) money over to another bank. Then I live life. Anything left over at the end of the two weeks is then dumped onto my debt.
We save first by auto deducting the 401k. After that we pay bills then we try to spend reasonable and usually have some money left at the end of the month. What ever is left goes to saving/investment.
This works pretty well for us because we usually have money left at the end of the month.
I pay bills and save all at once, I guess. When I get paid I open my excel budget spreadsheet and go down the line. I think its the devil Student Loans, maybe rent and then my savings accounts and finally bills, charity etc. That’s how they are listed in the spreadsheet and I handle the transactions in that specific order, unless a bill hasn’t come due yet, or something. So, I’ve predetermined how much I will save each month and stick to it. I couldn’t imagine ‘living’ and then saving what’s left. (though that wasn’t really a scenario you covered was it? LOL) I have to allow myself a certain amount for food, gas and miscellaneous each month and do my best to stick to that. If I go over in one category, I better have some left overs in another because there is no transferring from savings back to checking. (there are exceptions to this: If I want to do something fun (Fun Money Savings), or something out of the ordinary comes up (Back Up Savings), then I can do such a transfer)
I have to say both…what I ended up doing was putting ANYTHING into savings automatically (even small amounts, like $25/week) until I could figure out a reasonable budget. Unless you have a high income and/or low expenses, just putting some money away and leaving the rest to spend doesn’t really work out all that well. Like Stephanie, I’m an Excel nerd and really do like to sit down and figure out budgets and crunch the numbers. Between a couple spreadsheets and MS Money, I have figured out a way to automatically put aside what I need into ING budgetary accounts, a holy-crap-we-both-lost-our-jobs account, and retirement savings contributions as well. I’ve been a spreadsheet-er and MS Money user for about 14 total years now, and honestly, I would totally be in the poor house and would have nothing in terms of retirement savings without really working those tools!
We are not Dave Ramsey minions but we do follow something very close to his plan. We use J-$’s budget spread sheet (which is great btw) which I modified to suit our needs. We make a budget for all major expenses before the month and track it in the spread sheet. Before the end of the year I do a total review of what we spent/saved and I adjust for the following year. Usually I increase most items (elec, utilities, food for inflation of 2-6%) but for items paid off, it either goes toward the debt snowball or into inflated cost (Which is part of a 0 based budget plan). Also, each year I actually lower the amount (on paper) that I get paid so in essence we are living on less each month. This leaves “extra” to play with.
8-10% of net pay goes into savings, period. Then the bills are paid. Typically we have 2-5% leftover from the check as “blow” money.
Imho, most people are just lazy. Its not that they can’t do a budget. They won’t do it or won’t live by it. If you “fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
The anti-budget budget works well for us. We save X for retirement and Y for medium- and long-term goals, then spend the rest. I think that they key for us is create a pretty roomy budget, we round up for variable expenses (like groceries, dining out), and have a pretty large chunk for “miscellaneous” expenses, like weekend trips, etc.
I have never been great a budgeting down to the last dollar, and with two people sharing finances, it’s even harder.
Buy the fridge, but stay conservative on the bells and whistles, and make sure its energy star if your existing fridge is really from the 80’s there are substantial energy savings and most refrigerators pay for them selves quicker then you would believe.. but you can do the math yourself
The anti budget can actually work if you already have a firm grasp of your budget/spending and a put the money in a restricted account.
If you make $1000, your bills are $300 and you know you are accustomed living off $400 for the rest of the month, that leaves you with $300 you could be saving. You could put half that $300 into a retirement account be it an ira/401k/rrsp. The other half you could put into an account with withdrawal restrictions like one withdrawal every three months or put it into something like a cd or fixed deposit or a smarty pig account. Once that $300 is tucked away in an account with strict restrictions and penalties for withdrawing from them you would be really deterred from xfering that money out. So that’s practically the anti-budget there. Lock away your savings and just spend the rest.
Hope I explained it that you can understand.
Always have an Emergency fund. Just in case.
Wow! Thanks for all the great sharing going on guys!! Looking forward to reading all of these :) In a weird way, I’m kinda shocked to see so many of you talking about your budgeting methods… not that I should, cuz obviously we’re on my budgeting blog, haha, but the love today is higher than usual. And I love it!!
Now time to respond to all y’all:
@eemusings – Now that’s a way to do it! Never tried putting all in savings and unleashing from there… interesting one :) I once did something similar w/ our home equity line of credit back in the day (when we HAD equity), but that kinda backfired… was actually one of my first blog posts!
@Drew – I LOVE that move w/ the raises!! One of my favorites. If you don’t see it, it’s hard to miss it! Glad it’s working out for you, my friend :)
@Sense – I like how you break it up into TWO parts: long-term and short-term… That’s an excellent way to do things, I always forget about the short-term! :)
@Maria Nedeva – Glad you found what worked for you!
@Elle – I think that helps a lot of people too – the “save first” method. As long as you’re rockin’ and rollin’, I’m happy! :)
@Kim – That’s the key I think. KNOWING what you’re dealing with first, for sure. I was totally blind all the years back of doing it myself, and now if I ever go back to that method I’ll be sure to have a MUCH better (and realistic) handling of it ;)
@Paige – WOWWWWW, now THAT is sexy!! A year’s worth of expenses up front?? I like that! And hopefully by the time the next year rolls around, and all that earning you’re doing adds up, it’ll be enough to supply another year! I guess kinda the same thing in the long run, but a REALLY different way of looking at it. I’m digging that ;) Thanks for sharing!
@Rachel @Balance and Blueberries – Haha… you’ve mastered the art of spending less than you earn then :) As long as you keep that going, you shall be free as a bird my lady!
@Stephanie – Yeah Excel nerds!! I track all my stuff in Excel too :) Well, the Google Docs version, but same thing. It REALLY does wonders!
@Jen – “LeisureGuy’s Within Your Means spreadsheet?” I’m gonna have to Google that one… it’s a new one to me! Glad it works :)
@Daisy – Haha… what I wouldn’t do for rent-free living too ;)
@Brian – Haha, we do the same pretty much. We each have our own separate accounts, and then we have our “House” accounts for all mutual stuff… I agree, it DEF keeps the peace around the place ;)
@Tim – Yup! And it’ll keep being tweaked as the years continue to pass too. Always gotta be working on improvements!
@lorakathleen – Nice! I have like a $200-$500 buffer and then xfer the rest at the end of most months… though sometimes I keep it in there cuz it looks pretty and reminds me every month how well I’m doing ;) I never get worried about spending it if it’s there (luckily).
@Rachael – Hey, gotta start somewhere! And that’s not a bad way of doing it either :) It’ll evolve for sure over time.
@@impulsesave – YUP! Me too!!! Exactly how my mind works, actually. You said it much more succinctly than I did though, haha…
@Yana – “Then where there is a choice, I spend the least amount possible to get the most value.” — I always know you’re rockin’ it over there ;)
@Happy Homeowner – NICE! You should blog about it too then and see what your audience thinks about it :) That’s the beauty of blogging – we can all share our own thoughts on the same or different topics! And all of our readers are different for the most part. Lots of new perspectives creep up :)
@changeonabudget – I LOVE IT!!! The satisfaction IS great manually xfering it over, you’re right :) It’s one of the reasons I do it that way too – so fun!!
@LB – Where would one get a receipt like that? Super Walmar? Haha…
@Jen – There you go! I have nooooo idea how you get 2.65% interest either? Scwab account? Do you live in the U.S.?
@Cassie – “Then I live life.” – The most important part ;)
@retirebyforty – I miss my 401k!!! I LOVED seeing that come out every paycheck and watching it build :) Though I don’t miss all the drama that came with it, jeesh…
@Ms. S – Xfering money back OUT of savings always pissed me off… and I literally did it every other week! Haha… SOOOO glad that part of my life is over.
@skrpune – Awesome! I’ve never ever tried MS Money as yet, but I hear good things about it. Old school, right?
@Tom – Most people ARE lazy, you’re right! I should just title my next post that: “Stop being lazy.” but it’s not like it would help any of them ;) Lazy people KNOW they’re lazy, and they’re not looking to be convinced, haha… but one day they will, and hopefully when it’s not too late.
@C – We have a large “miscellaneous” category too ;) It used to be lower, but we ALWAYS went over and then finally I just said let’s raise it and be happy. Been working well ever since! It should have never been so low to begin with…
@paul – Did you mean to put this on my last post? Haha… either way, will check out the link! Thanks :)
@Rafiki – Yup! Totally. As long as you’re GOOD at sticking to that $400 expense category on average :) It def. works for some people, which is awesome.
I feel like for the anti-budget to really work, you would have to hire someone to make your banking transactions for you. Only those with an iron will could do this, I think your advice is solid. You have to know where your money is going and only then can you prioritize and really tweak your budget. To really budget, you need to know where things are going because every month there is something new that comes up. You have to be knowledgeable and adaptable!
I am in debt so i budget aggressively! First, i track my expenses using YNAB (it has been 3 months). After the first month, I sorta figure out how much I need per month, which includes rent and a mandatory 10% into my emergency fund. Then I dump everything else into debt payment. If my plan goes well, I will be debt free by next May, and once I get rid of debt I will start saving for a house!
I love knowing how each and every dollar works for me… budgeting is addictive! :D
The first thing I do when I get my paycheck is put away my tax money. Then I save a certain percent each. For the rest of my money, I use the envelop budgeting method where I mentally put aside money for bills. The rest is discretionary money. As a freelancer, I think it’s harder to budget as there’s always an influx of money coming in.
I had the same problem in right after college. I wanted to save a certain amount of money each month, but I certainly wasn’t budgeting for it. I transferred the money automatically and then always had to dip into savings to pay the bills. I do much better on a budget system than the anti-budget.
@Jen – There you go! I have nooooo idea how you get 2.65% interest either? Scwab account? Do you live in the U.S.?
I live in one of the flyover states :) and I bank with a Credit Union. When I joined, it was 4%. I’ll still take 2.65% interest, when CDs are touting .9% interest as “competitive”.
@SmartAssetTeam – Oh, most DEF adaptable! Whether you have a lot, or a lot of nothing, you always have to adapt and tweak cuz life is all about movement! It never stops changing, so we gotta go with it :)
@iwantmyhdbflat – Yeah it is! And I’ve heard nothing but awesome things about YNAB too, so glad it’s working for ya! (I’ve never tried it personally, butI want to one day)
@Yazmin – Oh yeah, a lot harder. I actually created whole separate bank accounts under my company name to “pay me” like a regular paycheck as if I were working, haha… so I get the same amt every month whether I hit the goals or not (when I go over my goals, the money sits in there to make up for the months I don’t. So far it’s been working, but if it starts drying up I’ll have to change methods fast. Fingers cross it doesn’t! :))
@Christa – YUP!!! We’re very much like :) Glad your normal budget is working!
@Jen – Wowwwww, impressive! And once the rates get back to normal (unless we’re in the NEW normal?) then those will just climb back up again! Nice find :)
I am totally onboard with the anti budget concept! My approach is pretty simple; I save 30% of my after tax income every paycheck and at least 70% of every bonus or side hustle income. Everything else I spend on living expenses and whatever I else I want in this world that I can pay cash for. That’s the budget, end of story. Some months I will spend 25 or 30% on dining out and 40% and expenses and “other”‘ but who cares, I just saved 30% of my income by paying myself first. Saving 30% is huge and that’s all I need to know about my budget. I am not keeping any track of how the 70% of my paycheck is spent because it simply doesn’t matter.
I kinda do both. I have a savings account where every month, a certain amount is automatically transferred from my salary account. And then from there, I track where my expenses go. So that whatever’s left, of the salary, I know where it’s going and if I have to withdraw from my savings, I know why and which one to adjust in the next month. Although I agree with you when I have to withdraw from my savings account, I usually feel soo bad because I wasn’t able to stay on budget.
@Neo – Nice! Glad it’s working for you so well :) 30% is no joke either (And the 70%!), helluva good rate my man, keep killin’ it!
@JG Larvan – Yeah, that part blows.. if it’s every now and then it’s not *as* bad, but when it’s every month it makes you wanna punch yourself in the face ;) hopefully you don’t have to do much of that! haha…
I’m a huge fan of automated finances, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it, which is exactly what you’re describing here. You do have to monitor your spending for a month or two to see how much you can afford to put away and then still live comfortably while paying down debt and putting away money for your goals. If it’s a matter of trimming your entertainment or restaurant budget so your savings can continue as planned, then you’re doing just fine. If it’s a problem for you to eat and pay rent, then you need to adjust your savings expectations (or your living situation if there’s room to improve there).
YUP! It’s hard to “pay yourself first” when your expenses overshadow your income.