I told you a day or two ago that one main focus of change for this year is in the area of finances, specifically-SAVING some.
Today I am going to write about my gameplan, the HOW's of making this happen. Or, at least, what I know of so far. :-)
I am the spender of the family. I am the bill payer, budget maker, gift shopper, household manager, pantry filler and money stresser.
These things were written in my job description when Matt was working so hard when we were first married, and making so measley a paycheck that I thought he would have a stroke if he had to pay bills. He might have to-doing so back then very nearly killed ME! Our situation is not the same as it was back then (Praise the LORD!) but I still like to handle it so that Matt isn't burdened, because in truth-it is still VERY stressful at times, making ends meet.
We are not of the mindset that finances are man's work or that I am 'wearing the pants' of the family or any such thing. :-) Some men head up the finance department and that is great. Othertimes, it works better for the woman to do it, as with us. There is not one un-submissive or un-feminine thing about heading up finances. It is NOT a result of feminism. It is a result of a woman, loving her husband enough to lift the heavy burden of money off his shoulders. And that's that.
Of course, Matt is not in the dark about our finances. I talk to him about it all the time. He is the overseer, I am the doer. He knows, better than anyone, my weaknesses and shortcomings in this area and he acts graciously. He sees our successes and progress being made, and he thanks me for my hard work. All in all, it works out smashingly well. I say this now, here, as a qualifier-since this budget and money talk is on MY blog and not his. :-)
I have been thinking about it for weeks and have already begun implementing these strategies with great success-so I am very optimistic about the progress that 2008 will hold.
The way I see it, saving money involved addressing three different areas of money.
2) Money Set Apart
3) Credit /Debt
First: Reduced Spending
* Walmart is no longer my grocery of choice. One huge eye-opener was saving receipts for several weeks. I realized I was spending (gosh I am embarrassed to say this!) over $100.00 EACH WEEK at Walmart. I was a HUGE Walmart fan. What could be better than everything all in one place? A lot, frankly. Having everything all in one place is more dangerous than good. I was going to get groceries and was leaving with things we didn't need! Also-the vast SELECTION of food at Walmart makes things complicated. You can potentially say 'no' to buying a bag of chips if you have enough willpower. It is MUCH more difficult to pass by and ENTIRE AISLE of every possible chip imaginable. Not only must you say no MANY more times but you also have access to about four of your FAVORITE varieties. I have begun buying groceries at discount stores like Save A lot (we don't have Aldi's down here...) and my grocery bill is a FRACTION of what it was. About a quarter of it, to be precise! I will make it to Walmart once a month (or every two months) but I can proudly say, I am a Save-A-Lot Mama now and I won't be turning back!
* I was introduced to the JOYS of couponing at CVS. I have four packs of diapers and four of wipes stacked nicely in the changing table; I have bought six packs of batteries, detergent, shampoo, razors, soda fridgepacks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, coffee, cough drops, and medicine and since opening up my CVS card, I have not spend more than $15.00. Yes-you read that right. Thrifty Florida Mama and Money Saving Moms are my inspiration and have created in me a MONSTER. They walk you RIGHT through your purchases, link you to VALUABLE printable coupons and give you all sorts of tips. I love them. LOVE them. Couponing is a pain-it is hard work and requires time and organization...but there is NOTHING like having a cartful of items and only paying $2.-3. for it all. There is no greater satisfaction for my hardwork! I have only been couponing for three weeks, but it has saved me SO much money-in diapers alone! More money is staying in my wallet, where it needs to be in order to save.
* I will also add here that Matt's Christmas bonus was giftcards to a gas station. This has nothing to do with me, nothing that required work for me, but it will be saving us from spending out-of-pocket money on gas for awhile!
* Eating out is SUCH a nice reprieve from cooking (and more so- cleaning up afterwards!) and I was enjoying that luxury more than 'every now and again' for a while there. A big goal is to stop eating out, or ordering out pizza ( my weakness.) Just a few weeks ago, I created the ULTIMATE garlic pizza. I have been craving it ever since and have made it several times. Whenever my resolve weakens, perhaps that wonderfully tasty pizza will be the catalyst to bring me back! To spend SO MUCH MONEY on food-something that you can't even keep (apart from your body, that is) seems so foolish when you look at all the tangible things you could have spent that money on.
Second: Money Set Apart
* I created another savings account. We now have three accounts. Two savings and One checking. Both previous accounts (one savings and checking) have money being taken out each month. Insurance, rent, car, utilities, telephone, etc. I wanted an account that wouldn't have money taken from it. I started it with $200.00 spare dollars and from now on, I will add what I can to it each paycheck. There are only two rules for me: 1. Add SOMETHING to it with each paycheck, even if it is just a $20.00 and 2. ABSOLUTELY NO withdrawing-which is easy because there is no card! :-)
* I am using cash. I haven't quite resorted to the envelope system yet, but I think it may be something I initiate this year. Right now, I just withdraw the amount of cash I have budgeted and stick with it. If I go into Save-A-Lot with $35.00 to spend and nothing else, I use my calculator and don't have a choice but to stay within those limits. It has worked wonderfully well with groceries, so I may adopt this for other areas of spending as well.
* The object of the game is to only buy things you can afford. I don't own a credit card-so I am not tempted like some are. My husband has a credit card but He is the wisest and frugal spender I have ever met. If you can't afford it but REALLY REALLY want it-save up for it! Anticipate it going on sale in the future, and start saving NOW so that when it DOES go on sale, you don't rationalize "Well, it's on sale so I NEED to buy it now even though I don't have any money for it!" Start saving now and when it becomes a deal you would be stupid to miss out on-you can ACT!
*With my debit card, admittedly, I have had many struggles with overdraft fees. I have been charged SO MUCH with overdraft fees this year. Much of it comes from having landlords who stockpile rent and utility checks and then withdraw them all at the same time...but hey. It has been happening and it has been costing us money. One overdraft fee (of $37.00) is added to EACH transaction made if there isn't money in the account. So you could potentially spend $40.00 on a cup of coffee. (Not that I EVER charge coffee. I don't even LIKE coffee. I am sure you get my point, though.) And if you unknowingly make several transactions-you could be $100.00 short by the end of the day! To combat this, I am again, withdrawing cash from our paychecks to use instead of the card and also, I am going to try not using the debit card for any purchases under $40.00.
* For those of us with credit debt-first priority is getting that ugly monster out of your life. I don't know how to do that other than sock money away and avoid adding to the debt problem, so I am not one to ask. Only-get it done! Several people have suggested books, seminars and websites, recently. If you know of any-leave a comment for others to learn about. The interest rates are RIDICULOUS-so ridiculous that much of your payment just goes to INTEREST alone! Free yourself from that, however small or large, and you'll walk so much lighter and with a greater spring in your step. Even if it means living REALLY tight for awhile. Once it is down-pay off that credit card EVERY month. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH A CREDIT CARD. I repeat: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH USING CREDIT CARDS. There IS something wrong with using them unwisely, or using them knowing that you can't be paying them off.
SO. Those are the strategies I have implemented to succeed in my financial goals for 2008.
I would like to share with you our budget categories. Though I won't share the amount set aside for each, perhaps seeing some of the categories might help you plan a budget. Of course, the numbers and percentages will vary from salary to family size.
Clothing/Sales, etc. (Christmas gifts, craft supplies, clothing needs)
Children's Life Insurance
Life Insurance (this is a January goal for Matt and I-we still don't have any)
Netflix (we don't have television capabilities)
Per paycheck we add to:
Both savings accounts
Pay off creditcard
Retirement (this is also a goal for the coming months-we don't have anything set up for retirement yet either.)