Tightening the Purse Strings

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Last night my work cancelled me (feel free to boo and hiss at them) AGAIN, and I’m hardly working at all as it is. I just felt very sad when it happened. Feeling like life isn’t going my way as of late. Not sure what I was supposed to be learning from it.
So, I moped under a blanket for a bit and then came out. I’d been considering changing our hotel for Disneyland, to one that provides more of a full dinner at night, to save us the cost of going out to eat. This way, we will hardly spend anything at all besides the hotel, tickets and gas — which is important. Oh, and the box of Mr. Potato Head parts — that’s a must. :) So, I switched us to the Homewood suites instead of Embassy Suites. There will be no omlette made to my liking, but I think I can get over it {sort of}. That saved us 75 bucks right there, plus, whatever food we don’t buy.
Then, I called Comcast — and begged them to lower our bill. And they did, 25 dollars a month. This is truly a miracle. I’ve called every month for months and they always say they don’t have a promotion. I knew this was God’s little way of saying “I love you, and you’ll be fine.” So, between all of those two items I saved possibly more then I would’ve made at work. It’s a good feeling (I was only scheduled for 4 hours anyway).
I did email my manager and ask if there’s anything I can do to get more hours, I doubt she’ll reply since I got my position, knowing full well that I am not guranteed ANYTHING as far as hours go. We have to make that work for our family, otherwise I end-up working Saturdays and Sundays — and that’s not what we want, at all.
Then, I started to realize I can’t put this all on my work. I mean, since we got married we’ve been relying on me to make-up for our lack of judgement. That isn’t to say that we’re spend-thrifts. We make a VERY low income for how much our house payment is. We all know I’m a frugal gal, but our spending has slowly increased and I’ve felt fine about that. Til’ yesterday.
So, I’ve made a new budget, cutting expenses that we can by 20%, if not more. I’m nervous to see if I can do this, but I do take it as a challenge. I’ve been ferociously reading budget blogs lately and I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas. Do you guys have good ideas? I want to make it so we can live on Drew’s salary alone, and mine will only be for savings and emergency (or it will be non-existant, as it as been as of late).
And, I can no longer count a sale at Mervyn’s as an emergency. :)
ETA: How do you guys budget for clothes, and things you need around your home? I’ve never really put that stuff into our budget, but I’m going to start trying — just by putting 50 dollars a month into a fund, and we can withdraw from that when we need items. Conner is probably outfitted til’ he goes on his mission (and hence, so is Spencer) as far as clothes go (I like to buy ahead) but this is something I need to work on.

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  1. says

    The money thing is something that I am struggling with…I don’t have any tips, but just wanted to tell you to keep it up so I can learn as you go.

  2. says

    We have had the same problem with our budget since we moved to Oregon. The cost of living is higher up here (Santa Clara is such a reasonable place to live) and we aren’t really sure how to rework our budget either. I would appreciate it if you passed on any ideas you get to me.

    To answer your question: for clothes we just started budgeting $40 a month (since Jacob is growing so fast and so am I) and we allot $100 a month for household expenses and I usually stick that in with the grocery allotment (we use the envelope system) since I usually buy household stuff while I’m out grocery shopping.

  3. says

    I think the most important part of any budget in KNOWING where your money is being spent. It sounds like you have a good grasp of that. We save EVERY SINGLE receipt. We sit down at the beginning of every month and use a report in Quicken and an online budget sheet (Dave Ramsey…check his website, it’s free) to write down what we spent and project the coming months’ expenses. We get the calendar out and look at what weekends we’re planning to go out, whose birthdays are that month, what trips we have planned, etc. We decide if we can trade babysitting with someone or need to budget for it. We talk about the kids clothes, socks, shoes, boots etc. and determine an amount for that month to spend on the items we see they need. We buffer it only slightly for those mega sales that really DO save you money in the long run by buying ahead of time…but not enough that I can go overboard! We budget groceries and eating out and over time you come to know exactly what you spend on groceries monthly and how much you spend on average eating out. We choose a few nights/month for eating out and budget only that much. I’m sure you do all these things.

    Next we have a “daily spending” account and a “Monthly” account…each at the same bank. After budgeting we transfer ONLY the amount of the items that I will be buying that month (groceries, household items, gifts, clothing, etc.) to the “daily account”. All household bills, mortgages, car payments, utilities etc. are mostly paid automatically out of the “monthly” account. This way I can check my account online and in Quicken and watch that I don’t go over. Even if I do find a killer sale on underwear and go over budget a few dollars, usually I can absorb it in the grocery or household allotment. I enjoy that flexibility to decide what I’m willing to give up for something else. This “transferring system” has worked well for me. It’s less tedious than the envelopes, and quicker at the grocer store to use my debit card. We’ve done cash in envelopes using the same thinking and it drove me berserk trying to reconcile all the envelopes with the change etc.!!!

    Good luck. The Lord does bless us when we give our best effort.

  4. says

    Hey Hilary,

    We usually budget about $200 a month for clothing. I know that probably sounds like a lot, but somehow we usually manage to spend it. : ) Actually, though, we didn’t spend it in January. In the back of my mind I knew a couple of huge consignment sales were coming up in February and March, so I was planning ahead.

    I understand about how you relied on your income for extras and emergencies. That’s sort of what we do, but I decided not to teach this semester, so we’re having to cut back and figure things out a little better, too.

    I’ll be checking back to see if you get it all figured out!

  5. Our Family says

    We’ve been on a budget for about 10years and we LOVE it. It took alot of trial and error, but we finally have a system that works. We use a computer program..Quickbooks to track everything. But I set up a yearly budget before the first of the year and we go from there. We don’t split up our budget into categories, we just have a fixed amount that we spend each month. Sometimes gas is more, sometimes food is more. When it’s gone… A budget is really a plan…not a bad word. Good luck. Can’t wait to hear any new suggestions about budgeting.

  6. Erin Bingham says

    I have been on a budget, off, on again. Recently, we read a book that basically said a budget doesn’t have to be a certain amount of $$$ for each category. Pretty much you only give yourself the amount of money that you can spend, and everything else gets put aside. This way when the money is gone it is gone. I personally track everything on Quicken, so I know how much I spend in every category. That way I can estimate how much I need to put aside each month to cover expenses like clothing, auto repairs, etc. Items that don’t happen every month, but needs a certain amount of $$$ alotted to them annually. Sorry about the job things. That is a bummer.

  7. says

    Everyone’s comments are really good so I won’t bore you with my family’s budgeting details.

    The only advice I have for you is to make your budget something you can live with each and every month. Most of us when we forecast our spending, tend to tighten things up thinking of how much money we could save. This causes problems down the road because we feel restricted and panicked when something comes up. Plus, like one of your friends said, a budget needs to be fluid. You should sit down each month to go over the previous month’s expenditures and forecase the next month. Ed and I do this the last day of every month.

    We also do the same thing that you are trying to do with my job- we make sure none of our necessary monthly expenses are dependent on me working. My job pays for extras. We keep it this way intentionally so that I can quit at any time. This may not be feasible for you completely but a good thing to shoot for eventually.

    Hope that helps- keep up the good work. Living on a budget is a great skill to learn and one I’m always working on.

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