We’re 24 days into our first month on the new tight-belt budget, and so far, so good! I check the credit card statement about once a week, and I’m keeping a tally of the things we’re spending in each category. I can already see some flaws in my system, but with only about a week left, our spending has been drastically reduced, so…success!
What has worked:
- Shopping with a list. My grocery spending is way down, as are those mysterious “Target” or “Wal-Mart” expenses.
- Keeping all of my spending money in cash makes it easy to decide if I can or can’t afford a splurge.
- Eating at home IS cheaper. I have made an effort to cook out of things that are already in my pantry, and of eating leftovers until they are GONE, not just until I am tired of them. We’ve both been brown-bagging it since going back to work, and it’s been satisfying to feel so responsible.
TRUE STORY: Last weekend we went to the Dr. Pepper Museum (on free admission day!). We knew that later in the afternoon we wanted to hang out at Common Grounds. SO, we packed a picnic lunch and in between those activities, we ate on the grass overlooking the Brazos River. It cost us nothing, and was so much more pleasant than sitting in Chick-fil-A! Well worth the 20 minutes of pre-planning before leaving the house.
- My “spending” category is too general, or I have not allotted enough money for it. I am WAY over in this category, even though we have been very good, due to stupid stuff like weekly hospital co-pays and the fact that I needed a billion stamps for thank-you cards.
- Purchases like shampoo, toilet paper, and dog food are just going to have to be classified as “groceries” because I usually buy them at HEB. It’s just too much hassle to tally them separately.
- I’m going to have to watch myself on “playing the system”– in the past month I have considered categorizing a nursing bra as “groceries,” and those pesky co-pays as “childcare” just to try to make my numbers add up. But what’s the point of rules if I change them?
Anyway, with TH coming soon and a weird month of extra expenses but also lots of gifts and “free” meals, I don’t know how helpful our “budget” will be until we settle into more of a routine. But, at least we’re thinking hard about spending and seeing a general decline. For now, I think that will have to be good enough.