Reviving the Budget

I really wanted to finish the deck this past weekend, but I came up just a few bucks shy in the budget. I didn’t keep a detailed tally for this project, but I’m pretty sure I stand at $75 now.  And well worth every penny, I might add!  I just need a few slats for the trash-concealing wall, and a pressure-treated board for the step, and I’m done.  $15, maybe?  Still, I have just enough money for gas to get me to payday, so I had to put the final work on the back burner. Until then, it’s totally functional and not bad looking if I do say so myself. But can I just say how badly I want to get those cinder blocks out of my life?!

But back to my budget.

I worked very hard to stick to my budget during the early months of the year, but it didn’t take long for me to start slacking.  Not that I went on a big spending spree or anything.  I just stopped paying attention like a should. OK, and maybe I took a bit out of savings here and there.  And maybe I charged some things when I should have paid cash. It takes so little to lose control, doesn’t it?

So here we sit on the cusp of autumn.  The heat comes back on in a couple of months, and my health savings account(aka premium-paying account) is about to hit zero.  I’m hardly headed for the poor house, but these little heart palpitations I’m having remind me that it’s time to get serious again.

I’ve trimmed my discretionary spending about as far as it can go, though there are still a few more cuts I can make.  My smartphone contract expires December 1, so I’m going back to Tracfone (where one year’s worth of service costs less that 2 months with Verizon), and I’ll give up the DVD delivery portion of Netflix.  I can even raise my tax withholding a notch or two.  Still, we’re only talking $100 thereabouts. Nothing to sneeze at when it’s time to pay the bills, but hardly high finance.

Of course, I could get a part-time job. But let’s not be too hasty!

What I need to work on now is sticking with my original budget.  And I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that my most out-of-control budget category is food.  I don’t plan, I’m impulsive, and I waste food.  Sadly, I have to admit that I am typically American in this regard. But this is about to change.

My mom turned me on to a fantastic blog this weekend called http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/.  True to its name, the blogger is a poor girl who likes to eat well.  Her site is filled with simple recipes using high quality food.  Best of all, she posts the cost per serving – most often falling between $1.50 and $2.50. Seriously.  I’m completely and utterly inspired!  I haven’t had time to assess her process yet, but I’m pretty sure that the secret of her success is planning and not over buying.   Under The $25 Shopping Cart tab, you can see how she allocates her money.  I saw one line item for .76 pounds of beef.  When is the last time you actually bought the exact amount of meat you needed? (OK, well never for me, but I’m sure I would if I ate meat). And when’s the last time you bought an excessive amount of produce only to have most of it go bad? (I’m pretty sure this happened just last week).

This could not have been a more timely discovery for me to make. So, thank you Mom….and thank you, Poor Girl, for your inspiration.  I am going to do my best to follow her lead by cutting my spending and raising the quality of my food purchases. I’ll be sure to post my successes (and failures) as I tighten the belt just one more notch.

7 thoughts on “Reviving the Budget

  1. Carolyn,
    Recently I had a very similar revelation. I haven’t overspent on one thing this summer, but purchased lots of little things. Just last week I told my co- worker that I couldn’t afford to purchase something from her clothing party ( think Tupperware party for clothes). No, I’m not broke. However, its time to apply the brakes.

    I’m going to check out the site. Thanks!
    Anita

    1. It’s funny. There was a time when I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t afford to do something. Now I wear it almost as a badge of honor. “No, I can’t afford that. I live within a budget and I am so strong, responsible and so disciplined that I’m not going to waiver. Hear me roar!” 🙂 I’m going to keep my eyes open for other similar sites, and I’ll be sure to share. Lots of people talk about living in a budget, but I’m talking about living large on minimum wage. I’m still convinced that it’s possible!

  2. I’ve been using YNAB for a couple of years now. It has changed my life and how I think about money. It put our whole family on the right financial road.

    1. I have never of heard of YNAB, so I just downloaded the free trial. I am very proud to say that I created something nearly identical for myself in Excel years ago. My personal system – when I’m on track – is to pay my bills the day I get my paycheck, save $200 for myself for food, gas and sundries (for 2 week period), and the rest goes to savings. If I want or need something, I have to assess whether or not it’s worth depleting my savings. This system works for me when I stick to it. But I’ll admit it’s a lot easier to follow when you don’t have kids! That’s got to be a non-stop moving target, especially when they’re into all kinds of activities. Congratulations for finding – and sticking to – a system that works for you!!!

  3. In addition to Poor Girl, you could also reread “On Walden Pond” by Thoreau for further inspiration. ( A little joke.) Anyway, good for you with regard to all this. You are obviously NOT a typical norteamericana. And nicely written up, too.

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