Tuesday, October 23
A (long-awaited) budget update
Well we are into five months of this project to reduce our discretionary spending by 50%. By most accounts we have been successful. According to my husband, by using cash (instead of our frequent flier credit card) we are spending approximately 50% less than we were over the past year. He is thrilled to be contributing to savings again, rather than dipping into it to cover our excessive monthly credit card bill. There have been a few exceptions to this: there has been some manipulation of numbers, we have pretended that certain expenses never happened, and the debit card has found its way into my wallet several times.
Here are some things we have learned and observed:
#1. Do not carry the debit card!
Here is an example... Recently, I had to buy Advantage (flea medicine) for our cat. This was urgent as I woke up with 6 suspicious bites. I explained to my husband that this could not wait and I grabbed the debit card because I knew I would not have enough cash for a 7-month supply. Sure enough it was over $80 so I was glad I took it along. I "forgot" to remove the debit card from my wallet when I returned home. The next day I spent
$3.75 for parking
$6.95 at The Little Red Bike Cafe
$30 at Chevron
$44.75 at Justa Pasta
$9.50 at Laughing Planet
$43.62 at Trader Joe's
and $16.69 at the dry cleaners.
It was fast... in a matter of hours, I quickly spent over $150! It is really a dangerous temptation. If you really want to stick to a budget do not carry a credit card or debit card. It is too easy to spend and not pay attention to how much you are spending.
2. Travel will blow your budget out of the water!
Our trip to Montana in August, Tyler's trip to the Duck game in Michigan, & my trip to Mexico cannot be paid for with our modest weekly stipend. By spending less overall, we were able to pay for these expenses without taking money OUT of savings -- An improvement of sorts.
3. Avoid BIG shopping trips!
I used to go to New Seasons every weekend... I'd take my time and stroll up and down every aisle. I'd buy whatever tickled my fancy. Lately, I have been making very deliberate shopping trips (e.g. I need milk, so I run to Zupan's and buy milk; I need cereal... I run to Trader Joe's and buy cereal). I end the week with 3-4 trips to the grocery store. I find I need to make a big shopping trip now about every 3-4 weeks. I'm certainly spending less on groceries and it seems that we are eating out slightly less.
4. Delay purchases as long as you can
In the past it was all about immediate gratification... If I saw a cute pair of pajamas (or whatever), I would just buy it. I didn't take the time to think, "Does my child NEED a new pair of pajamas TODAY?". My husband and I have all created on-going lists of items that we want, think we need, or will have to purchase in the near future. This gives us time to plan, save and look for sales or special promotions. We are not sacrificing quality. We are still buying exactly what we want, just not always WHEN WE WANT IT. The lists are getting long!All in all, I can hardly complain. I feel more grateful than ever. I find that I appreciate all that we have and feel pretty happy and lucky.