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:
- Pay bills.
- Buy food.
- Strive to resist unnecessary purchases.
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.30th
- 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!notes:
- 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?