Thursday, December 31, 2009

Budgeting Fun

Irv and I have really struggled financially during our 37 year marriage. With medical bills, raising 3 active kids, being unemployed and underemployed…we dug ourselves deep into debt. We got out a couple of times by refinancing our house but then crawled right back in again. We don’t want to refinance again at this stage of our lives and in this economy, so what option do we have? Only one…it’s time to tighten our belts and bite the bullet.

Let me say that Irv and I don’t live a luxurious life. We have a tiny house, don’t wear fancy clothes, don’t drive fancy cars, but we do live beyond our means at times, and that is a problem.

We have always had the mindset that if we need or want it and don’t have the money for it, we’ll just charge it and pay for it when the bill comes in. Well, we follow through on the first part and charge it, and then we never follow through on the second part of paying it off when the bill comes.

Doing that over the course of many years digs you into a great big debt hole and that is where we always seem to be. It isn’t that we can’t pay our bills, it’s tight, but we can pay them, it’s just that we seem to have more and more bills every year. We really haven’t charged much in this past year except for car repairs, tires and our new dryer, but it will take a long time to pay that off.

I’ve been working for a while on a budget…one where we truly set limits for our spending. We would take cash out for weekly expenses like food and gas on payday and leave the debit cards at home. Then if we need or want something and don’t have the cash for it…we will have to think about whether or not it’s something we have to have right now or not.

Debit cards are a great way to see where your money is going, but it’s also very easy to overspend…oh, it’s just a cup of coffee, or it’s just a pair of shoes, or it’s just some carryout….when you add that all up over the course of a month, you may have spent hundreds of dollars you didn’t really have.

The first thing I would like to do is to set a food/household budget. Irv and I tend to buy whatever we need/want. We have no idea what we’ve spent at the grocery store until we get to the checkout. It could be $120 or it could be $170. Then on top of that…every Friday and Saturday night we get carry out. Nothing expensive, but it’s still $25-$30 a week. Do we really need to spend that much on food and household supplies a week? I don’t think so. It's just the two of us for Pete's sake!

I think we should be able to keep it under $150 total. So, my thought is that we take $150 with us to the store, pay attention to what we are spending….then if there is anything left of the $150…that is what we have for our weekend carry out.

I love my carry out so you can be sure I will be paying close attention to what goes in that cart. I also read once that if people looked in their cabinets and freezer they could probably eat for a week or two without buying anything but perishables. Think you could do that? I think we could. What a great way to save some money. Plan your menu around what you already have on hand!

The other thing we need to look at is our personal spending…all of the little junk we spend our hard earned money on….but my head is spinning and my vision is blurred by little dollar signs right now so I think that is enough for today.

How do you keep your spending under control?


Lanyardlady said...

Budgeting and I are not the best of friends. And the expenses never end, so it's impossible to live without credit cards. I track groceries and buy in bulk/on sale when I can. I'm good at using what's in my pantry. We eat out once a week; other times I keep a pot of soup or a casserole on-hand so we have food. I am targeting one credit card at a time and have made respectable progress. The key is diligence and commitment, and sometimes both of mine waver.

Tins and Treasures said...

I wish I had an answer too. With two kids in college, it is tough to keep our heads above water, isn't it. I'm think I'm going to suggest a 'spending freeze' for 2010! (no...seriously...)

Happy New Year ~Natalie

Cathryn said...

I loved your post. It reminds me that I'm not the only one having the same financial issues. Thank you for that.

As for us, we have to get on a budget and do so now. It's hard to plan for a budget when you work part-time jobs and each one has different pay periods and pay! But we can do this. Thank you for giving me the inspiration!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

My hubby is super strict about budgets. He believes in two systems--the cash/envelope system and the write everything down system. These days we have different budgets--I have a monthly allowance for all household expenses and this forces me to adjust for things. Food is amazing in that convenience food is SO expensive and we throw out or hoard so much! I've become MUCH better at buying what we'll eat and throwing out less. We have gone through stretches where I've bought only milk and bread and made us all eat freezer/pantry food to clean it out. One month I didn't buy a single box of cereal--that's how much we'd accumulated!
Good luck with the budget! I strongly suggest writing down every penny you spend in a notebook--kinda like calorie counting.

Angela said...

I am just not a big spender. I think I am too cheap!

Aubrey and I once did an "envelope system" that worked very well. We cashed our checks and put cash into certain envelopes- house payment, insurance, haircuts, clothes...

we even had an envelope for car repairs- even though we didn't need repairs every month- when we did, there was money waiting for us.

Kittie Howard said...

My husband and I are cautious about how/where we spend's more important to us to take a trip or two a year than to parcel the money out on restaurants/movies/etc. We rarely charge anything, substitute visits to museums, walks in parks, etc. for's just the two of us, so I throw in Louisiana-style meals (beans and rice and so on) to stretch the food budget, buy in bulk whenever possible, and avoid convenience foods...we didn't, of course, get "here" overnight...takes time to change one's behavior...we used to eat out more, shop more...never got in debt but felt guilty about throwing money away...anyway, I rarely use mayonnaise and that saves all adds up...Good Luck!

Holly (me.) said...

My husband is content to spend what he has available. I have the pressing need to account for every last penny. Every six months, I try to save every receipt for a couple of weeks. I then categorize the receipts so we can see exactly where we are choosing to spend the dollars allotted to us. I take the simple percentages of income going to giving, saving, and the spending categories to my mister (who prefers the Big Picture rather than my tiny details) so we can be purposeful in spending. I know it is time to repeat the process whenever there is a change in circumstances. It sounds like you are on track to setting limits by knowing where your money is going. We also set price points for all purchases, and an item that cannot be found within the price point will either require saving before purchase, or we'll go without it.

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Ah yes, budgeting - the bane of my existance:):) Wonderful tips Kathy, now if only I can stay on top of it:):)

Happy New Year dear friend, I look forward to visiting often in 2010!

Beth Anderson said...

I'm like Angela - I'm too cheap to spend a lot but then maybe it's a result of years of not having money (and still not having money).
We are like you and Irv, have a very modest income and live in a very modest home, don't wear fancy clothes, or drive fancy cars, or take fancy vacations. Thankfully we've always been able to keep things under control living within our means.
My advice is to stay away from buying things like coffee and take-out, or limit to once a week. Be conscious of what you spend at the grocery - check the stores circulars and shop where the best deals are that week. Be aware of prices, use coupons. Try to use cash whenever possible and if you do charge, put that money aside or make sure you have it in full to pay the bill.
Be strong!

Oklahoma Granny said...

Had to skip your post on resolutions. I just had to. I need to make some but . . .

Anyway, I've always been pretty good with living on a budget but there are times when I feel like we're getting in over our head. It wasn't until recently that we broke down and got a debit card. The reason being that more and more places who accept checks are now running them immediately and then handing the check back to you. Why not just save time with a debit card and maybe save a tree in the process. But we've found they are tricky little cards - you really have to keep tabs on how much you've used them!

I try to use coupons when I can. After all, they're just like $ and a few cents here and there soon add up.

We don't eat out much. My husband just prefers to eat at home and is quick to point out that he likes my food much better than a restaurants. When we do go out he'll make a remark like, "You know, yours is much better that this."

If you aren't familiar with April over at, you might pay her a visit. They've been doing the Dave Ramsey thing and paying down debt. You'll need to look in her archives and read her posts. She is way funny! I think you'd enjoy her writing if you don't already.

Best of luck with your budgeting.

Happy New Year!

Oklahoma Granny said...

Oh, and I truly am a follower of your blog now. :)

Ms Sparrow said...

I go online every day to check the account balance. I'm very thrifty so when I feel like splurging I have to fight off feelings of guilt. However, when it comes to spending money on others, I don't worry about it so much. This is gotten me in trouble a few times!

gayle said...

I know what you mean about being able to eat what is in your pantry plus what is in my freezer!!

Mary said...

LOL--I have done all these things, especially the eat out of the cabinet and freezer part. We are working on a $50 a week food budget for 2, which is very interesting and difficult to do. So far we have not been able to do it consistently and come in closer to $90-95 but that also includes our laundry soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.

Budgets are pretty daunting...we are working on ours, too. good luck!

jen said...

Look up Dave Ramsey...he'll change your life!

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