Resolving to Make and Stick to a Budget

January 6, 2012

So I touched lightly on this subject through the other recent New Years Resolutions posts – but I do specifically have in mind a few key items as far as my budget at home goes.

Money.

Money is never ‘easy’ to come by, well… at least not with anyone *I* know of personally…

We’ve had major issues with our finances – going from having two employed adults and no children in the household – to all of a sudden losing my job (which was a little over half of our income) right after coming back from maternity leave… and then falling into this market of Hygienists in Minnesota where it is nearly impossible to find a job, plus having a second child. It all added up to Major trouble for our finances.November 2010 019

While living in the condo, we were struggling to pay our bills – and had to start looking into things like consumer debt consolidation and trying to short-sell the place so we could avoid other major issues down the line.

Since June, things have started to look up for us (slightly). A big thing that we did was ditch all the credit we could. I know, it sounds impossible – but we had to make that tough decision. We started to get more information on CareOne and realized that it was important to stop getting further into debt each day, and actually work on living within our income means.

How we were able to do that:

Every month – we learn our exact take-home income. Then we figured out our exact amount on the bills… and subtract the difference. That difference, is Exactly the amount that we had available to spend the next month. And not a penny more.

Sounds like a simple concept… but it was not easy.

That meant no random nights where we dine out – no extra trips to Target, no Starbucks, and a VERY limited grocery budget. Every purchase had to be planned and carefully analyzed.

Where did we go wrong?

Over the past few months I have been earning a bit more income with my blog, and have been… well.. less responsible than I would like to be (to put it nicely) with our extra money.

We went back to using the check card, overspending, and splurging on some non-necessities… and then Christmas…?

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The spending NEEDS to get back in line.

My Resolution

So. My resolution? Cash Only.

If the cash isn’t available, you can’t spend it. Right?

Somehow you have to have the cash a month in advance, and that’s where the hard part lies in getting started – but what I’ve done in the past is take the previous months ‘overage’ and use that as the next month’s spending budget.

Let me tell you, our overages are NOT big. Like, they are quite Ridiculously small. But It can work. I promise.

What this means for us:
  • Pumping gas and going inside to pay (annoying, but effective.)
  • Watching our extra driving distances, and saving on gas whenever possible.
  • Having a specific dollar amount budgeted towards groceries, and making that last.
  • Can we say ‘double coupon days?’
  • Working with the groceries that are already stockpiled.
  • Instead of ‘growing’ out of clothes (for me…) lets work on SHRINKING back into the ones that fit last winter… *nudge, nudge to myself*
  • Saying ‘no’ to the splurges, to dinners with friends and families, and making wise decisions on the places we choose to spend our money.
Our 2012 Financial Goal
    One major goal I have by the end of 2012 is to have *even a little bit of* money back into our savings account – so we can be slightly prepared for major expenditures that might arise.

What are your experiences with making and sticking to a budget? How does your family do it?

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Comments

  1. If you want to get serious about eliminating debt and saving money, I would highly recommend doing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I know several couples who have totally transformed their finances because of it! 🙂

    • Thanks for the info! I’ll check them out. We have gone to a few debt seminars and have a pretty good plan, the problem is that right now we don’t have the extra money outside of paying for gas/groceries and other necessities to add extra money towards debt payments. Big. Bummer.

  2. I need to come up with a brand new plan/budget now that we will be moving in the next few months. I need a WHOLE NEW plan!

    Thanks for the great suggestions!

  3. We’ve been doing the cash system for awhile but it’s way too easy for me to cheat with the debit card…I really need to get this under control!
    Trying to revamp our budget this month and really STICK with it this year…

  4. We need to switch to just using cash. We always use debit cards but lately my husband has been splurging on my Christmas gift and other non necessities (yes he is worse than me ). I think if I give him cash that would definitely help his over splurging!

    • Yeah – I don’t know why – but for some reason it really works for me. It’s the mental side of it… with the debit card I often forget to subtract the change and usually round down the numbers…

      Example: I’ve got $20. say something was 15.95 – I think of it as being $15. and I almost never consider tax… I feel like I’ve got $5 left to spend, and I’m always thinking that there is that ‘cushion’ in there in case if I go over by a few dollars.

      BUT. when you have Cash – and you spend 15.95 (and add in the tax)- then you see your change and realize that you’ve only got $2.89 cents left…
      Harsh Reality.

      This especially helps at the grocery store – which is my biggest over-spending area. If I go up to the cashier with $50 in hand, I’m going to be watching those nubmers like a hawk and putting the least important things at the end of the transaction so I can take them away when I get to my limit.

  5. Did you ever use the debt consolidation program?? Just wondering how that really works and if it’s worth it?

  6. Jessica Beard says:

    I like the cash only program too. It really helps when you have a limited budget. I also like the idea of shrinking back into clothes from last year. I need to do the same! After having a baby, that will push me so we can save in that area. I wish my grocery store did double coupon days. I don’t think many grocery stores do that anymore, do they? Good luck with your 2012 goals!

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