Thursday, September 1, 2011

This is not a PF blog...

but, boy do I talk money a lot.

We're getting ready to do it.... pay off that last consumer debt bill that is.  Barring anything strange, that will happen at the end of September and I plan on toasting the occasion, if not set off some fireworks.

Reaching this milestone, plus the (hopeful) switch to a day time shift (did I mention this shift has 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. start times.  Oh the things this night-owl will do for her beautiful boys) means that we've reached the point where the house hunting can start in earnest.

However, since the listings at the moment are rather pathetic/we're super particular/we want a decent down payment/moving in Iowa in the winter is tantamount to joining the Donner party for a ski trip in the mountains, it looks like we'll probably be here through the winter.

Taking the moment to look on the sunny-side, this gives us a chance to practice living with a homeowners budget before having the home and since we've used some of our available income to make purchases and updates like the couch, our dishes, having more than one set of bed sheets, expanding the garden, new clothes for the Hubs (who gets new clothes about every two years because he hates shopping) our monthly tally hasn't been as great as it can be.

So for what I'm assuming will be the next 6-7 months I'm going to attempt to restrict our budget to what it'd be if we had a mortgage.  I plan on setting aside what we'd hope that payment to be into our savings each month so that it's untouchable and continue to challenge ourselves to not spend money we don't have.

The Challenges




  • Limit eating out/ "work food" - I'm hoping to give us the flex to eat out as a treat once a month and a little room for those "I just had no time to pack a lunch" kind of days.  However I really want to curb our "I'm tired let's order pizza" and "Oh, look yummy, delicious, greasy cafeteria food" ways.  Realistic Monthly Budget $100 ($10/week/person on work food, $20 eating out)  Ideal Monthly Budget $60

  • The No Clothing Challenge - realistically we're all set for winter, both us and babe, unless shoes wear out or something hasn't survived storage.  If replacements are needed we will try to use our account credit at my favorite consignment shop (easy for me and the babe, more difficult for my man-sized man).  I have a yarn stash ready to be made into hat, gloves, mittens and scarves for Christmas present anyways.  Realistic Monthly Budget $25  Ideal Monthly Budget $0 - Should be noted Ben and I use some of our Christmas money to give gifts of essentials - socks, undies, etc. - it's an easy way to have a few more things to open at Christmas and not fill your house with things that aren't useful.

  • The Entertainment List - Since the holidays are on the horizon we've decided to put the kibosh on things like book and movie purchases until the new year.  We have a small list of series that we're devoted to that will be published by the end of the year and those will become Christmas gift items and until then we've got a collection anyways and we really need to start making the library part of our lives again.  Realistic Monthly Budget $40 (hopefully reserved for family activities or our second date night since parenthood began) Ideal Monthly Budget $30 - these are almost the same because it's enough of a change from what we've spent in the past to make a difference, and we always want to budget a family activity each month.

  • Vacation/Travel - We've had a couple of road trips to visit family in the last two months to which we've treated ourselves to a private (modestly priced) hotel room since true privacy, even with Henry along, is a novel thing right now.  There will probably be one or two more trips for the holidays or family visits before the weather gets bad, so we'll either book a very affordable room well in advance or, most likely, bunk up with the relatives.  Realistic Monthly Budget (for months with travel, room + extra gas) $125 Ideal Monthly Budget $50

  • Groceries - Now I believe that caring your family comes first when doling out the money each month.  The first thing I do at the beginning of each month is stock up on essentials for Henry, so that no mater what he has enough food/diapers to get through till the next big paycheck.  However, I used to be a pro a grocery shopping every 2 weeks on a set budget and eating well on it and working those evening shifts have really cramped my cooking style.  So I'm hoping with the hopeful switch to days that I can get back on this horse.  Please remember, with these numbers we're buying food bi-weekly for 4 adults, and sometimes 6 when great-grandparents visit.  Realistic Monthly Budget $800 ($50/person/week ) or $400 for my half-share of the bills Ideal Monthly $600 ($37.50/person/week) or $300 for my half-share of the bills.  This won't include special allowances I factor into my holiday budgets for extra/special food and meals.


The How's




  • Shared Goals - having everyone on the same page makes reaching budget goals much easier.

  • Wiggle Room - don't set such strict goals as you feel deprived and then binge.  Don't beat yourself up if you don't meet the goals exactly - sometimes that pack of double stuffed oreos really does make the world a better place even if it sets you over your goal.

  • Keep out of the stores - easiest way to not spend money is to not go to places where your money is easily spent.

  • Plan and prepare - the meal and food related goals will be better attained once I stretch my pantry stocking/staple recipe muscles again.

  • Use what you have -  We have a well stocked pantry and chest freezer - we could probably eat well for a month with only trips to get milk, butter and fresh veggies.  We definitely have more than enough clothes seeing as how I just had to purchase more hangers for the first time in 3 years.  Honestly, as long as we can keep the gimmie-gimmies away we'll be fine.

  • Down the Road Goals - knowing that becoming accustomed to a tighter budget will make our early home-owning days easier, I'm convinced.  Even in the shorter term it means we can focus our available time, money and energy on creating a great holiday/baptism/first birthday season.


Mini-Challenges




  • Expand repertoire of homemade "convenience" food - looking for the perfect granola and granola bar recipe to start with

  • Learn more about couponing for items like shampoo/toothpaste/toilet paper and other household goods

  • Go into crafting overdrive for the Holidays - I've got the materials, now I just have to deliver.

  • Save up the balance at the consignment store to use for Holiday gifts or hitting up my favorite January clearance sales to stock up on kiddos clothes for next year


Is this all going to be a challenge?  Absolutely.  Hopefully, my lack of access to the late night cafeteria and their little boats of fried balls of cheese will help greatly.  Yes, my name is Molly and I like fried cheese... I think it's an Iowa thing.

Will I feel kick-a$$ for reaching some great financial goals?  Heck yeah.  Maybe I can learn to make my own balls of fried cheese.

Wish me luck!

8 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great plan! I love your "actual" & "ideal" budget! I need to trim our budget to allow for more savings, but boy is it hard! :/ Good luck with your goals!

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  2. good luck!

    you mentioned granola bars - here is a recipe that we LOVE. SO good. And so easy:

    http://www.food.com/recipe/cranberry-apricot-granola-bars-delicious-363951

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  3. I will send you a granola recipe. We are picky about our granola and like it more on the clumpy side.

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  4. I've enjoyed reading this post and seeing such a young couple having dream and doing whatever (within the law) necessary to see it come to pass is awesome. So many young folks DON'T GET IT!

    so I love the idea of your "if we had a mortgage" list;
    Couple of things I would either add and a question:
    1. Great ideas on the No clothing challenge~ Don't forget to MEND. That's important. And saves lots of money. You'll have to set aside time for it. Make a special basket and have supplies ready on those cold nights when your hands are free. Cheap and easy fixes that could make clothes last. People hardly do this now days-- but it is very efficient and effective.
    2. Socks and undies at Christmas GREAT IDEA. I've done this one myself. Makes for useful presents like you say-- and limits unnecessary gifts. One thing I added to the list was new PJs or a new Robe and slippers (even crocheted slippers) for everyone. That was the Christmas Eve present we all got to open-- and! it helps make Christmas morning pictures "G" rated and attractive.
    3. Entertainment: another great Christmas item/gift. Don't forget gift cards most movie theaters have these. Also, you don't have to forgo movies all year long either. There is always the library! They have music and movies you can check out. We barter for movies too. We know people that use Netflix: when they are through with their movies they will let us watch them-- and we trade out a task or let them swim in our pool or invite them to dinner or something. When we are through watching their movie. We drop it in the mail for them. Just don't forget to do that--

    Lastly: I kind of thought your food budget was high. I don't live in Iowa and don't know the cost difference in food between Iowa and Texas. We raised 4 kiddos and ourselves (6 total) with a food budget of 250.00 every two weeks-- average. Even when my boys were growing into young men--that was only a few short years ago. (I also haven't read your blog very long; so why are there 4 adults in your home? Parents live with you?) I was looking for a link somewhere. Sorry, not trying to be nosy. .... Oh strike all that, I just read the post where you made this statement:
    ...we are going to buy the house we’re sharing with my folks when they retire.

    So, do/will your parents help with the food budget? Or any part of this budget? I am just wondering now. Because they'd have these expenses if they lived on their own. My father recently lived with us, and has SS and we expected him to help with the groceries 1/3 of the utilities and pay for his room. It worked for us, as we are on a limited income.

    Sorry, this is so much. I really do love reading your blog,and this post especially. you shared lots of great tips and ideas. I'm going to read all the others on budget and finances too.

    ~ make it a good one, Pat

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  5. Tons to reply too! I love all your suggestions - I, in fact, have a stack of pants that need hems and 2 winter coats that need lining repairs on the To-Do list (I used to sew for a living, so now I just need to find the time). Though I didn't mention it we do the pj's and entertainment gift cards for the holidays too (we also love our Netflix/Roku box hook up for cheap movies!). The entertainment budget is "ideally" at 0 right now, because the holidays are approaching and we'd like to save the money we normally allow (we're huge bibliophiles) to go towards things to open on Christmas, once the holidays and our February/March birthday run is over the Realistic and Ideal Entertainment budget will be higher - particular in the summer so we can budget activities to do with Henry.

    The food Budget is high (and yep, you're right we'd split it in half with my folks), almost ridiculously. high - honestly my true Ideal Budget would be closer to $500 for all of us. Food prices out here are okay right now, but I want to be prepared in case the weather continues to screw around with fall/winter prices. I like to frequent a favorite farmers stand for local, fresh, home grown produce once or twice a month and a nice box of fresh veggies can easily run around $40-$50 (this won't be a factor in the budget post October after they close, and we currently allow for a little more because we stock up our make shift closet root cellar, and are canning and freezing a lot of fresh veggies, so the budget will naturally go down once the frost comes in and we start diving into the home food stores) and in general I believe in spending a little more on quality food when I can. We do currently live with my folks ( we share utilities and house-upkeep as well, but no rent so we're saving up that down-payment even faster!) and often host my grandparents down for a few days every month and have frequent visits from other relatives (first grandbaby /nephew gets lots of attention) and I always try to make sure I can offer them a good light meal. Within the four adults my dad is a farmer and I have a job that keeps me burning calories quickly, a good full meal often needs to be large to satisfy all of us. HOWEVER, I will say due to our crazy schedules and summer heat waves we've been a little more dependent on prepackaged meals and frozen pizzas than I'd like, so hopefully we'll be getting the budget down even further if we can nip that in the bud with me at home at night able to have more control on the meal preparations again.

    I'm also going to continue to work on my gardening skills every year and I hope to be able to supplement even more of our grocery bills with food from our backyard each year!

    Thank you for the encouragement - it's often hard to reassure ourselves that we're really doing the right thing, when we could just be dumb and get into debt and have everything we're told we should have. But, I keep reminding myself that the benefits benefits of calm, happy, stress-free parents to young children is more important than a big fancy house and lots of stress and tension.

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  6. Good for you, Molly, for being brave enough to put it all out there! I imagine that helps you both for thinking it all through and for personal accountability.

    Definitely get back to the library! I was surprised at how much money I saved when I went back to getting my books there instead of buying them all the time. Now I'm only buying ones that I really want - for example, I just ordered a book that I had read once through from the library and really wanted as a reference in our house.

    And I'm with you on having to just stay out of the stores. When I don't go in, I don't even think about needing things. Stores like TJ Maxx and Home Goods are really my weakness - I see how much I'm "saving" on an item and forget about the fact that I'm actually spending!

    Some of Pat's ideas are good, too. I definitely put socks into stockings at Christmas - helps them appear very fully without filling them up with junk! I love the Christmas Eve pajamas, too.

    As for the food budget, I've also come to a point where I'm willing to spend a bit more to make sure we're eating healthy (lots of fresh produce, etc.). That said, I've actually been afraid to sit down and calculate how much our monthly grocery bill is coming out to - I imagine it's fairly high! But bravo for your canning and home-growing and farmers market-supporting. I can see you doing so well with all that. I'm going to have to invite myself up to meet you some time so you can teach me to can - I really want to learn! For now I content myself with freezing instead, since it's super easy.

    Oh yeah, and I also have a granola bar recipe I'd be happy to share with you, but to be honest I'm only so-so on it. You'll have to post yours when it's perfected!

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  7. Definitely invite yourself up next summer when it's peak seasons and I'll teach you all I know! (It's not much, but it's something!) If you're freezing fresh veggies make sure you're "blanching" them for the right time for optimal nutrient saving!

    I'm glad to "see" you back around, hope you're able to find more blogging time!

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  8. [...] to my goals earlier this month to stay out of the stores my credit at the great C.S. is currently standing at around $130, with [...]

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