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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!