Budget update

The home stretch…

So we’re about to enter the 4th week of my first budget month. There were quite a few slip-ups in the beginning but things got much easier by week 2…

1. Overspent on the fun budget. This was 100% my fault, but as I said, by week 2 it was much easier to stick to the plan. Tracking every single purchase helped immensely. I kept every receipt from my purchases this month for all categories so I could easily see where my money went. 

2. No savings. This was unavoidable. Kiddo and I both needed haircuts which is one of the few things I actually believe in spending money on. Because of Kiddo’s Autism, he is not interested in change and he’s gotten very comfortable with the girl who does our hair. This is not something I want to switch up just to save a few pennies. I also had some unexpected expenses – things I didn’t plan for – so the Savings budget covered it. 

Those were the two major slip-ups, but the good news is going from Starbucks & breakfast out every morning to just Starbucks twice a week and breakfast at home every day was an easier transition than I thought it would be. It’s become second nature now. 

There was another slip-up that actually wasn’t much of an issue in the grand scheme. The first three weeks, I did my normal+ grocery shopping but always had extra food that I put in the freezer. Example: I bought a pork roast that cost $13. This is a luxury item I normally don’t buy. However, I’m at week 4 now and my grocery budget after buying KitKat’s necessities is $34. Normally, this would be a freakout moment if not for all that food sitting in my freezer. I realized when I sat down to make my grocery list that I don’t need to buy meat for the week because there’s a ton in my freezer that I can use in meals. I also have a bag of marinated, uncooked chicken breasts that I can defrost and batch cook for my lunches. I have enough hamburger buns left from week 3 that I can just turn them into sandwiches. As tempting as freshly cooked chicken would be for week 4’s dinners, not completely blowing my budget is more tempting. 

Lessons Learned…

1. Staying on budget is an amazing feeling. I never thought I would say this, but every time I had the opportunity to save money and made that choice, I felt so proud of myself. I woke up this morning dreading having to cook my biscuits and sausage but knowing how very little money is left until the next paycheck forced me to realize that I need to stay in my means. That phrase took on a whole new meaning for me and now I realize how wasteful I was. 

2. Tracking expenses = major wake up call. Want to know where all your money is going? Write it down! Write down every little expense. Nothing makes you take notice than a list of wasteful expenses staring you in the face. Example: Buying a $2 soda in my office building’s market that I never finished. I changed that up and invested in a 6 pack of 16 ounce bottles. Each bottle lasts me 2 to 3 days.

3. Deals can be found anywhere. I was at Target picking up a prescription and noticed some things marked down. I got 3 tubes of toothpaste for Kiddo and 1 for me all for $5. I also got two bottles of pure oils I can use in homemade beauty products for $3 each. When I got my prescription, I was handed a coupon for $5 off any purchase. Talk about racking up! We’re stocked on toothpaste for a while and my DIY list just got longer. I also scored major savings on Amazon for KitKat’s canned food and litter needs by signing up for auto-delivery. I saved 50% over buying these things at the store. This is something I’ll need to figure into my monthly budget going forward. 

4. Waste not, want not. I know some people will hate me for this, but at the end of the week, I used to just throw things out. Sticking to my budget planning forced me to change my attitude about this and put things in the freezer for later. Sure glad I did now that I have a whopping $34 to spend on food for a whole week. I used up all the meat I bought for this week except bacon and sausage. Our tummies are full and my fridge is empty with no waste. Yes, it means I’m eating the same thing for lunch and dinner today but guess what? I’m satisfied, not hungry, and not wasting money. I also have a fall-back plan for next week when my budget is super tight. 

I’m excited to see how I do for Month 2. There will likely be no savings again thanks to Kiddo’s birthday but I think by week 4, I’ll be in a better situation than I am now. 

Budget updates

First attempt at the new budget planning…  

After doing a lot of research, I decided that planning out my finances on a monthly basis was the best way to go. I went with mid-month to mid-month because I would prefer my major expense (rent) to be the last thing out before the new cycle starts.  

I went with the cash envelope system where each envelope has its own dedicated budget and planned out exactly how much goes in from each check. Some groups, like groceries, got their lump sum right up front.  

I also decided the best way to keep track of money is to see exactly where it’s going so I started writing down every expense and keeping all the receipts. A pain, yes, but it keeps me accountable for what I’m spending. In most cases, the expenses came from an envelope with its own budget, but there were some one-offs here and there. I noticed these one-offs were less likely to happen now that I had to write them down somewhere. Accountability was key for me.  

I started carrying my budget notebook around everywhere to keep track of receipts and spending. I also use it to hold coupons and make my grocery lists along with tracking my monthly budget.  

Once I started keeping track of everything, it actually became kinda fun to see how well I could do with sticking to my budget. I thought it would be harder, honestly, but it wasn’t. I thought I get tired of doing this, but I didn’t. The more I did it, the easier it became because it was a habit to write down everything.  

I’m excited to see where this leads me. 

The mountain is mine

Oh boy. Debt debt debt… I know I’m not alone. Many people have their own mountains to defeat. Mine happens to be debt… in an amount that shall not be named. Let’s just say it’s enormous. Yes, I’m including my school loans in this because it’s the only way it works. Credit cards and grad school loans. Nuff said.

When I stopped working, I hung on as long as I could but I eventually could not pay on my credit cards anymore. It’s been a year and a half – my credit is once again in the toilet but it is what it is. I can only take steps now to undo the damage that is already done.

Step 1: Budget!
I’ve spent the last couple weeks working on a budget. I’ve done some reading about the experiences of others; I’ve looked for tips; I’ve found budgeting templates… I’ve done my homework. I came up with a workable budget that will work if I can only stick to it! My downfall? Starbucks! (coffee fraps are my weakness) Unfortunately, it is almost completely out of my budget. One of the tips I read said to account for everything, including fun money. My fun money will cover my occasional SB indulgence. It won’t be the same, but I can certainly do without the sugar, so bonus there. If you completely restrict yourself, you will totally fail. Budgets are very much like diets. Keep some indulgences in there and you have a better chance of succeeding.

Step 2: Cut the dead weight
TOO MUCH STUFF. I am drowning in stuff. Mostly kiddo’s stuff but it’s still too much. Downsizing eliminates the dead weight and makes it obvious what you can do without. Going through my, for lack of a better word, transformation (definitely need a better word lol), I found out I was using stuff to fill space so I didn’t have to focus on fixing what was emotionally wrong with me. Once I came to terms with what I was avoiding, I realized I didn’t want all this stuff around anymore. I wanted simplicity and a decluttered home. Now… easier said than done with a kiddo in the mix. He is NOT a fan of decluttering (but has gotten better lol) and wants to keep holding on to things. I’ve slowly started taking things out that he hasn’t played with in a long time and so far, he has not noticed. Fingers crossed this continues.

Step 3: Do I really need that?
As many others have said…. when I am very conscientious of my budget and what I’m buying, I tend to not really buy as much. Every purchase becomes a question of how much I need it and can I live without it. I think this will be more of a challenge for kiddo but in the long run, I know it will help teach him life-long money skills. Anything you can do without is not something you should spend money on. Keep focusing on the long-term goal: defeating the mountain!

Step 4: Convenience vs Saving Money
I think a huge trend right now is DIY everything. Beauty products, cleaning products…. you name it, someone’s tried to make it from scratch instead of paying for convenience. In the long run, you need to decide what convenience means to you and what products you absolutely don’t care to make yourself. I am focusing on cleaning products and some beauty stuff as my DIY’ers. Sorry, not sorry – toothpaste and deodorant will never be homemade in my house unless I am living in a tent and have no other option.

Step 5: Is there a cheaper option for this?
One of the first things I had to give up when I stopped working was my expensive mineral makeup. I simply could not afford it. It was more important to pay the electric bill than buy some fancy bronzer. I went out and found cheaper options (MUCH CHEAPER) that still accomplished the same thing without the heavy price tag. We all have these vices – things we’ve been treating ourselves to without realizing it that we can replace with less expensive options. it sucks in the beginning but the end result is worth it.

Step 6: Shop Around
I am now in the habit every week of going to multiple grocery stores to get the best deals. I still work part time at the grocery store so I get a discount on store brand items (yay!). It’s a pain in the ass but necessary to go to multiple places. Why pay more when you can go around the corner and save a buck? Those bucks add up! Use coupons; pay attention to things that are discontinued (big savings to be found when you combine coupons with discontinued markdowns – can you say 5 cans of  biscuits for $.50?!); and plan your trips ahead of time. Spend that hour or so planning your grocery trips. It’s completely worth it. I also recommend using Ibotta & Checkout51. Get money back on your purchases! It might take a while to build up your account but think of it as a savings account. It’s slowly building and before you know it, you have a good amount in there that you can spend! Finally – only buy what you really need. Some people go for the freezer meal stuff – I simply don’t have the room for that. I am also totally comfortable eating the same thing every night. I do not require a lot of food variety – it’s just food. Thankfully, kiddo is very much the same. We are creatures of habit so meal planning isn’t really a requirement.

Step 7: Pinterest is your friend!
Pin pin pin!!! I found sooo many useful tips and tricks on Pinterest. DIY recipes; cheap ideas for holidays; amazing recipes.. go look for it and pin it! I have tried several things so far that I’m hoping I can incorporate into my money-saving strategies permanently.

I am starting things rolling this week so we’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep posting updates on my progress. Stay tuned!