My man is an AMAZING husband; the problem is me. I know this. Every pay period, I’m uncharacteristically frustrated and frantic when bills seem to get out of control. It doesn’t make sense; with our downsized lifestyle, and a respectable income, we shouldn’t be coming up short. This is a problem many families face; the case of the “small holes sinking the ship,” to paraphrase Mr. Hunned-dolla-bill Ben Franklin.
When I am stressed about money, I’m not a nice person. I am short with my husband, impatient with my toddler, and generally a bundle of nerves. I can’t relax. I busy myself with extra projects to cover the gaps. Toward the end of that second week before payday, I’m basically tearing my hair out. This has to stop.
I go through our checking account online and notate any recurring monthly expenditure I see; all the necessities like utilities, mortgage, babysitting cash, eating out, business expenses, gas and grocery bills. I add this up.
I circle what should be our remaining balance. It’s an amount big enough for my husband to question my math.
“No way,” he says with eyes wide. “There’s no way we would have that much left over!”
“Yes,” I say. “But small purchase after small purchase is eating up this amount so fast, that we’re left to cover a gap till payday.”
That amount could be a vacation, an extra mortgage payment, even a new car payment (although we firmly believe a paid off car is the best cat). Both of our eyes are open.
So my husband grabs a stack of envelopes. He labels them with all the areas where we tend to overspend: Dining out, entertainment, even groceries. We allocate cash into each one, with the idea of: when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s a budget system.
Here’s a few tips if you want to do this method:
1. The bills that come out every month are not budgeted into cash. Those are listed out but come out of checking
2. Break your cash budgets into weeks. So if our budget is $240 for the paycheck, I take $120 with me to the store. (BTW, after trial and error, that’s a realistic amount each week for groceries for a family of three).
3. Budget in “fun.” We give ourselves a realistic dining out and entertainment budget. It keeps us conscious of what we spend while still allowing some “splurging.” We also give each other an allowance of $50 or so a paycheck to cover any small purchases we would like that don’t fall under a budget category. I’m saving this week’s to go toward a yoga trapeze, and he’s using his to eat out when he forgets to bring his lunch.
4. Rethink the grocery budget. We like to eat out, so we shaved a little off the grocery budget to give us Dining Out money. We also order Blue Apron meals to supplement our grocery-made meals; it’s a delivery service of recipes and ingredients that gives us 3 meals a week. My husband have a blast prepping them and learning how to cook; and we don’t have any waste because they pre-measure and send the ingredients. Yes, it’s $60/week, but we just shave that off the grocery budget. So now, each paycheck is $240 groceries, $120 dining out, and $120 Blue Apron. It seems like a lot, but it’s keeping us from those “here and there” purchases that end up costing way more than our budgeted food amount. Plus, were eating healthy, going Out to restaurants, and don’t have waste with the groceries we do buy.
The other day, we got cash out of Entertainment to go to a movie. I was packing my purse with snacks and he stopped me, pulled a $10 out of his allowance and said, “I’ll buy the popcorn.”
Now, instead of turning into Stressy McGee a week after payday, I joke with my husband that we need to eat McDonald’s because the Dining Out is getting low. And we have! (We only eat the cage-free egg sandwiches there, so we got their breakfast during a date.) our outlook on money has totally changed, from “spend it if we’ve got it,” to “better save up for that nice dinner” or “let’s make that last awhile longer.” I have to think that over the long term, because of how lame I get when I’m stressed about money, that this budget could have been the difference between divorce, and a happy, playful marriage.
**would you like help with a budget to fit your needs and lifestyle goals? Get 10% off a success coaching session at www.simplegreenme.com.