Getting the budget under control

Well, I am almost to the end of the month, and this time, I have a positive balance.  I had set a modest saving goal for this month, which I can see I’m not going to quite be able to meet.  I’ll know by the end of the week how far off we are, but in any event, we will be ahead at the end of the month instead of in the hole and that feels good.  Especially since we got hit with a large A/C repair bill this month.  I guess we were actually lucky that happened at the beginning of the month, so we never thought we would have spare money this time.  But we budgeted for gifts (June is a big gift-giving month for us) and actually stuck to the budget.  We also stuck to the budget on everything else.  So maybe this is all more doable than we thought.

The first thing that changed was my thinking about the grocery shopping we do.  The most obvious thing we had to change was not making good grocery lists so that we had to make surprise trips to the grocery store every day or every other day.  This month, I think we had one week where we might have made three grocery store trips, but other than that, it’s been 1-2 trips per week, and that is entirely reasonable.  I read here about saving money on groceries without using coupons or shopping at three different grocery stores and it persuaded me to stock up on things I buy anyway when they go on sale.  As long as my favorite grocery store keeps putting things I buy anyway on sale, I think this will do for me.  I had not been doing this because I was always concerned about how much I was spending at the grocery store and felt like stocking up on things would bust my budget, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case.  Another big difference between this month and last month: I will end the month with a good amount of actual food in the house.

I also read something interesting about menu planning.  It’s a system where you designate a theme for your meal for each day of the week that you cook.  So when  you go to make your grocery list, you are coming up with an Italian recipe and a vegetarian recipe and so on.  I hadn’t heard of this idea and never would have thought of it on my own.  I can’t say I’ve technically implemented a meal-planning schedule in my home, but I am thinking about it.  We’ve had a few chips-and-dip nights at our home so far.  Fun and yummy!  It also helped me to think of other ways to cook cheaply, besides rice and beans.

Another thing that helped me a lot this month was using my dry-erase marker board to write our budget down where I could see it.  I wasn’t using the weekly chore chart anyway.  Having it all written down and being able to adjust it easily really helped me keep a handle on where we had already spent our money and how much (how little) remained.  We’ve tried budgeting before on the computer, but the problem with that for us at least, is that you only see it when you are on the computer and when you decide to pull it up.  I’d post regularly if I got time on the computer!

Other than all those things, the biggest helper has been good old-fashioned communication between me and Mike.  It’s an obvious fix, talking about how much you’ve spent when one of you goes to the store alone, but it really is hard to stick to a budget when you don’t do it.

Well, next month is our big vacation (can’t wait) and we will see how much we end up actually spending and exactly how that vacation impacts on our budget for the rest of the month.  It may get tight around here again, since I will have to finally buy more Elecare for Liam, as well as a few other things I’ve avoided buying this month.  But the main point in all of this, is that I’m seeing that we do, in fact, make enough money.  We just don’t make so much that we can get by with not paying attention to where it goes.

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