You'd probably be surprised at how SMALL our monthly budget is. While I won't get into particular numbers here... but I will tell you that our monthly budget is SMALLER than most people's mortgage payment alone. True story.
Here's a few strategies I employ to keep us on track:
1. Envelopes. Yep, we're Ramsey-ites. We have a cash envelope for just about every category: grocery, health, breakfast, lunch, dinner, entertainment, house, car, miscellaneous (i.e. hot lunch, babysitters, any grocery overflow, etc.). I'm missing a few...but you get my drift. Let me tell ya- it physically HURTS to spend cash. Studies have shown that if you're spending with a card (debit or credit), you will typically spend 30% more. Why? Cash is finite. It hurts to see it leave your wallet. Yep, this is most certainly true. (quick, what book?)
2. Plan ahead. It helps to have a menu for every month. If I have a plan when I go into the grocery store, I stick to my grocery list and purchase nothing else. If I don't have a plan, I wander from aisle to aisle all willy-nilly and add things that suit my fancy at the time...and blow my grocery envelope to bits. Making a monthly menu is not as hard to set up as one would think. I start with a theme day: we have Family Pizza/Movie/Game night every Friday. So, every Friday I write "pizza." Some people do "Meatless Mondays" others do "Taco Tuesdays." What ever floats your boat. Since Dave has a lot of meetings on Wednesday nights, I do a crockpot meal on Wednesdays. So, whatever the main meat is that day, I put "crockpot" in front of it. Then, if there's a special day I fill in those next: birthdays, anniversaries, small group meal, holidays,etc. After that, I go through the whole month and alternate: beef, chicken, pork, soup, leftovers. Sometimes I'll sneak a fish, breakfast dinner, or turkey in there as well. Make sure to keep a day open at least once a week for left overs. If there are no leftovers i the fridge that day, I declare it a "grilled cheese" night. There you go... menu planning made easy. And grocery budget kept. :)
3. Hair. I cut it. Not mine...the boys. Our first grooming kit came with a video that taught me step by step how to cut hair. Then, I've looked up a few on youtube.com as well. It's not as hard as one would think. I save us HUNDREDS of dollars every year and the hassle of going to yet another stop on the errand-train. I also found hair stylists who do my hair out of their homes. I can get full highlights for the same price as a salon haircut alone. Yes...the difference is THAT large. And I get to learn to knit while my color processes. Win/ win for me!
4. Get used to the letters "DIY." We do a lot of things for ourselves and skip the more expensive modern-day alternatives. For example, I just started making my own laundry detergent. Guess what?!?!? For PENNIES on the dollar, I can make laundry detergent that cleans BETTER than the one we were using (Gain), has little to no fragrance (a HUGE bonus for my asthmatic child!) and is not caustic on our sensitive skin (big bonus for my sensitive baby!). I make treats for their lunches- which is also a bonus that I know exactly what's going into their bodies. We also fix our washers and dryers when they break,
5. Night's out. These can be total budget busters! While my husband is completely happy (and actually desires to) stay home with us, I need to get together with friends for some recharging once and a while. It's budgeted in our "dinner" envelope, but I make sure to get the most out of that envelope as I can. While one GNO may include a dinner out, others may include hanging out at someone's house chilling with wine, coffee, or board games. Other get togethers include power walking, meeting at the park with kids or craft nights.
6. Birthdays. These tend to be huge budget busters. They don't happen every month, so there's no envelope for them...but they are LARGE expenses- if you let them be. So, let's talk Birthdays a minute. Birthday parties?!? They can run close to $400-$500. Seriously. No joke. So, here's our take on it: big family party for 1 year old. Friend party here (at the Love Shack) at 5. Friend party at a business for 10. Other than that, every year, a small party with grandparents will suffice. There's no reason to host a huge party every year. For friend's birthday parties, I purchase basic toys on clearance after Christmas and summer. I have a large box in a closet that I pull from for parties. For nieces and nephews, we send them cards with money- one dollar for every year they are old.
7. Christmas is budgeted as well- AND if I can craft something during the year- or pick it up and expense it out of the envelopes, more power to me! Name exchanges for the kiddos on Dave's side (where we keep multiplying....) also help keep our costs down. We have a Christmas envelope that I withdrawal in November. It has $400 in it. Once that money is gone, the gifting is done- regardless who is not purchased for. So, I try to make smart purchases.
8. Buy ahead. I have totes and totes of clothing in our
9. Give more. This is an amazing paradox. The more generous I am with our time and money, the more of it I seem to have. Or perhaps, the less it becomes important to me... Either way, I'll take it.
10. The Jones' are dead to me. I have no desire to keep up with them. Probably because those Jones' are most likely in debt up to their eyeballs- working their tails off just to pay the bank for crap they really didn't need in the first place. By not having all the STUFF of this world muddying up our lives, we leave space to give back. Space to be generous with our money and our time. Space to not make stuff our god. I think the word "content" isn't used enough in our society. Our house isn't the biggest - but in all honesty, it's bigger than our needs. Dave and I struggle with that daily. Our van...it's rusty, but it gets us where we need to go (knock on wood!). Why should we concern ourselves with a luxury vacation when others don't even have the luxury of SHOES on their feet or food in their bellies??? We live in a spoiled world where it's ok to get ourselves indebted to the bank in the pursuit of the almighty stuff. The bigger house, the certain type of car, the vacations, the dinners out at the up-and-coming drinking hole....what's it all for? So when you're dead, God can say
"Well done, good and faithful consumer"?
Give back. Reach out. You'll be richer for it. Just sayin.'