the Budget, and where my Chocolate falls therein

Now that our 7 year stupid tax has come to an end, we’re putting our collective shoulder to the plow.  Is that the right phrase?  At any rate, we have embarked upon a new budget to help us pay off our remaining debts as quickly as possible.

It’s been many years since we had a formal budget.  Generally, our budget plans have looked like this:

  1. Pay bills.
  2. Buy food.
  3. Strive to resist unnecessary purchases.
  4. Oops.

Now, our plan is a bit more detailed.  We get paid on the 15th and 30th of each month.  I’m leaving out most of the numbers out for the sake of privacy, but our budget looks like this:

  • tithes – automatically deducted off the top.
  • cash – groceries, plus a modest amount of spending money for Perry and me.
  • gas – The plan is to put $60 in the tank every Friday.  This gets us to town once for groceries and once for church, with a bit left over for unplanned trips.  Hubby currently carpools with brother-in-law, so the cost of his lengthy daily commute is relatively small.
  • cell phones – we keep 3 on a family plan: one each for me and hubby, and one for the kids when we leave them alone to babysit.  Our contract is up for renewal, but we’re toying with the idea of continuing on a month-to-month basis for maximum flexibility.
  • Netflix – we have the $8.99/month membership.
  • Samaritan Ministries – our alternative to health insurance.  We also have dental insurance through Vision Forum for $80/month but this comes out before we ever see it, so it’s not included in the budget.
Any funds left over from this paycheck go toward irregular expenses (van repairs, dental bills, etc), emergency fund, & extra payments on debts.
  • tithes – same as above.
  • cash – same as above.
  • gas – same as above.
  • house payment
  • short-sale balance – 18 month unsecured loan.  We hope to pay this off sooner.
  • insurance – home, auto, life
  • electric – with no a/c or dryer, our bill has been very manageable this year!
  • We have a well, so there’s no water bill.
  • Our house is all electric, so we have no propane or gas bill.
  • We burn our trash, so no trash bill.
  • Our internet access generates some income, so we have the cost deducted from Paypal.

Obviously this will be tweaked and changed as the need arises, but it’s a plan.  Already, we’ve gone over budget on gas.  Hubby thinks we need to budget more for gas.  I think we just had a few high-usage weeks in a row.  At any rate, my orderly mind loves having a real plan, and hubby thrives on this as well.  We are opposites in many ways and that’s often a good thing, but this is one area in which we are alike.  That’s a good thing, too.

With a plan, we are forced to stop and ask ourselves before every single expense: “Where does this money come from?  How do I categorize this?”   Sometimes this is tricky:   Does a shiny new kitchen gadget come from my spending money or the grocery budget?  I think it depends on how badly I need it, and whether others in the house will use it too.

Other items are easier:  a fountain drink comes from spending money.  So do books.   My personal chocolate stash will come out of my spending money, though some might contend that it’s a necessity and deserves a category of its own.  Hubby might even feel motivated to use some of his spending money for my chocolate under certain circumstances.  Ahem.

Our grocery budget includes all household incidentals:  paper products, school supplies, pet food, minor auto maintenance, clothes, and charity.   My last grocery trip included lots of edibles plus a bra, a box fan, chicken food, dog food, ant bait, silverware, etc.  My rule of thumb is if I can get it at WalMart, it’s groceries. Yes, I extend this to include chicken feed, which I technically can’t get at WalMart, but you get the idea. Yes, I could also extend this to include chocolate, but I need the discipline imposed by my personal spending limit.

There are a few things about this new plan that just tickle me.

  • Our new birthday/Christmas fund is Swagbucks.  We will either purchase from Amazon with gift certificates earned from Swagbucks, or try to sell the codes for $5 gift certificates at a slight discount.
  • Perry and I each have our own modest monthly allowances.  This means that I can spend without ovarian guilt, something that is often difficult for me.  I can stop for a dollar burger on shopping day if I choose without feeling like I really should have eaten before I left the house.  I can add fries to that order.  Not every time, mind you, but sometimes.
  • Now when I buy chocolate with my “allowance,” it’s really mine.  I can hide and eat it without guilt.  I will share, but it will be because I’m nice.
  • And when Perry and I are out together, he can gallantly pay the bill out of his very own money.  I know, because he’s done it already.  🙂  I could do it for him, too.  That part is only theoretical because…well…I haven’t done it yet…but maybe I’ll bring him a big fountain drink the next time I’m out getting groceries.

Is it just me, or is there something exciting about embarking on a new budget?  I can’t wait to pay bills, balance the checkbook, or pull a bit of cash out of the Food Envelope.

There’s something strangely satisfying about making a plan and seeing it unfold just as you designed it.  There’s even something satisfying about revising a plan when things don’t quite the way you expected.  I can’t quite explain it, but it makes me feel creative and responsible and capable.  What can I say?  Math is fun.

What do you think?  Does that make sense, or should this post go under the Mom Is Neurotic category?


  1. I think it is amazing, I learn so much from you. Please tell us how in the world ya’ll make it without air coditioning in this Texas heat?? I keep our thermostat on or above 8 0 at night and I wake up at times sweating!! I have even been known to cry when I see my neighbors sitting outside in the heat because they cannot afford to run the air conditioner. I don’t know how you do it, did you take a family vote lol??

  2. This is so exciting to me! We started something similar in the last 2 weeks, and it’s cool to see that we’re not the only ones. It’s just my hubby and I, so for 2 years we never really nailed down a budget. Now we’re getting closer to thinking about having children, and are consciously trying to live on almost only my hubby’s income, in hopes that I will be able to stay home (or at least go part-time) when a baby arrives.
    Like someone else said, my hubs is hourly and gets paid bi-weekly, so I took our proposed monthly grocery budget, multiplied it by 12 then divided by 26… and he takes that much cash out every time he deposits his check. We also calculated what sounded like a legitimate “allowance” for each of us, after deducting the fixed expenses (mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc.).
    We’re already having trouble with the “in-betweens” though… does that ceiling fan we want to install come out of our “allowance”, or out of the “left-overs”? And then, I cut his hair (for free!), but have to pay every 5 months or so to get mine cut. Not to mention that my job requires more clothing variety and style than his… Basically, I can’t decide if our equal allowance is best, if this is a case of “fair is not always equal,” or if clothing and hair should be part of the “left-overs”! But then I wonder if I’m trying to justify myself into a higher allowance for myself! Any tips from folks with more experience?

    • Justine,
      My husband’s “allowance” is much more than mine because he’s in town all day, every day. I spend most of my time at home, so I have far less opportunity or temptation to spend. We agreed on this, and I think it’s perfectly fair. I can grab a snack from the fridge anytime I want. I don’t want or need more money, and when we’re out together he often treats me. 🙂
      I think it’s important to talk it over and come to an agreement on a system that works for both of you.

  3. Rebecca C from Texas says:

    Having a budget and planning is lots of fun even though I don’t like math. I do like having a plan and keeping everything nice and ordered though. You are making me want to go back to the envelope system. It’s time I got back on track. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Maybe I should send you some chocolate as a thank you. 🙂

  4. You have an awesome plan. I might implement a similar one.

  5. I can’t recommend Dave Ramesy highly enough for learning how to budget & how to get out of debt! His resources CHANGED our lives & we have extended those blessings to several others! We pray that our children will start their married lives on the right foot!

    I have a love/hate relationship w/ our budget. 😉 My husband & I are very organized people, so we love that side of it. But it isn’t always fun to actually pay for the things you want (vs charging them)! LOL But it does feel good to not be in debt, to have emergency & long-term savings, & to be able to give unto others. When I’m pregnant or have a new baby, I struggle w/ the entertainment portion of our budget- seem to eat out more. But GOD IS GOOD & has always provided abundantly for us!

  6. First off, I have to tell you…..I am all for a separate chocolate category! If you are anything like me—it is a need, not a want ; )

    I find it exciting to have my budget written out. We get paid every other week and I look forward to getting up on those days and paying bills on line. Things for us have been on the tight side since April. It just seemed like every time we turned around there was so big expense just waiting for us. I praise God that every month He has met our needs. There has been month that with my own eyes I don’t see how it would happen—but it does. Without the budget written out it would have never happened.

    We are expecting a baby next month (23 days to be exact) and I worried so much that we would never have everything we need. But God is good. The budgeting has helped us pick up a few things here or there and then this month there was a good amount of money available to be spent just on baby stuff—-again, God is good : )

    Keep up the great work.

  7. You’re not crazy. I love it too. There’s a sense of power when YOU tell your money what to do rather than the other way around, if you know what I mean. Get rid of some debt and no one will believe how little it takes to live on!

    Love your blog, by the way. What an encouragement. 🙂

  8. Sounds great! We track ours in Quicken – and believe me, you can get REALLY neurotic (I mean careful :-)) with that program! (You can even chart/graph your chocolate-buying over time ;-)). I think there is a free version and you could even make it into a teaching experience for the girls – it’s definitely something I wish I’d learned earlier in life! 🙂

  9. We live debt free! Budgets are hard to stick with but its worth it.

  10. We still struggle a bit here. We too want to be debt free, but it sure looks a long way off. When we moved here 10 years ago, my husband took a lower paying job they wanted him in, but they did not take away his salary. That put him at the top or over of that pay level. He has only had one small raise in those 10 years. Things have gone up. 🙂 Because of the construction of our home and that our only heat is wood we can only get a variable rate mortgage. That is NOT a good thing. It can really mess with your budget. I tend to get discouraged in this area. We need a truck badly, but have no extra funds for one. There is no extra income to put toward one right now either. So, we have to try and work it out with our son or our neighbor to use their truck when we need one, etc.

    Seeing posts like yours encourage me to keep on in the battle. We have the online store and it has done well, but most of the money goes right back into it since it is a new business. Also, with the economy right now, sales are down.

    Keep up the good work Kim and family!!!

  11. You are not neurotic! Your initial 4-step plan is where we were for years – oops! We always said, “Budget? You have to have enough money TO budget…” God has graciously given my hubby a new job that pays more than the 3 he WAS working, so we are paying off debts. But we still have to watch it.

    We purchased Crown Financial’s Money Map software last year and I think the $60 we spent was “paid for” in the first month of use. It’s basically a computerized envelope system. We LOVE it.

    Of course I put tons of categories in there because we wanted to really track our spending and find out what little things were draining our budget. Now we’re getting ready to simplify our categories because I dread the Walmart receipts…. 🙂

    Maybe I’m the neurotic one for setting up all those categories and subcategories…

  12. Sounds good. We have a rough budget of certain things get paid on the first double paycheck of the month others on the second double. Gas is a weekly expense as is food. Of course since he gets pd every two weeks at the job were he currently gets the most hours those weeks move around from the 1st and 3rd Fridays to the 2nd and 4th and therefor there is a slight difference in the budget when the paychecks shift. Of course I enjoy trying to make things work when the unexpected happens or the paycheck isn’t what I though it might be (he is hourly so never the exact amount just an estimate on my part). I also like this kind of math, as well as filing tax returns, balancing checkbooks, etc.

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