If you missed my first post about budget living please go here.
Frugal. Cheap. Penny-wise. Prudent. Practical. Thrifty. Tight. These are just some of the names one might call you if you watch your money and/or live on a budget. Some are names to be proud of, some maybe not-so-much. The word I love when it comes to money is not on this list is SMART. Telling one’s money where to go puts you in the driver’s seat and ahead of the ball game. Being smart with your money all comes down to a budget.
Just the thought of that word budget can send shivers down one’s spine, or get the audible groans from some in the crowd. While for others it is a word bringing gleeful delight. No matter which side of the budget fence you are on you need to be on a budget for the long term. Hubby and I use Dave Ramsey’s budget method. We got on a budget due to some unfortunate events (not related to the book). I wish I could say we have stuck to our budget like a straight-A student. We haven’t. It’s more like we’ve been on the dean’s list, should’ve been in detention and everywhere in between. However, we have stuck with it, reworked it here and there and are still making it work. Here’s how we did it for over 20 years on virtually one income, while raising two kids and adopting 4 along the way.
Let’s start with things everyone needs: food, clothes and shelter. I am going to have to make this a two parter…talking about food alone takes up my word count!!
*Grocery Shopping-One of the first things we budgeted was our grocery bill. Now our grocery bill included toiletries, diapers (some people will put diapers in their clothing expense category), cleaning supplies, etc.. Lumping it all together worked MUCH easier for me, instead of having to finger through three to four different envelopes and keeping the items grouped together on the conveyer belt when shopping all at one store. I got a certain amount when Hubby got paid and had to stick to that amount for two weeks at a time. I became a meal-planner. It is second nature for me now. I would sit at our kitchen table with my cookbooks, varying them each time, even trading with a friend to mix it up, and pick out different meals (mainly dinners). Today, with the internet, looking up cheap meals is just a click away. We ate a lot of casseroles, spaghetti, beans and rice, and just food that would stretch and would make a lot of leftovers. During our lean years we didn’t eat out much at all. I made and baked almost everything we ate. We grew some vegetables and would’ve done more if we lived in a more garden friendly environment. Where we live couponing doesn’t really help much, but I do use coupons only when they save me money.* (more on this later) We even shopped at one of those food stores that sell slightly damaged (dented) food products for a fraction of the price. This has been great for snacks and boxed items. I watched the store sales and since we live in a smaller town I could go from store to store getting the good deals.* Living on a shoe string budget or just a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat like a pauper. We have eaten good tasting healthy meals for all of these years and there hasn’t been too much complaining.
Another help in the food department when you have a family is setting limits. It’s good for adults too. We haven’t ever let our kids just eat whatever, whenever, how much ever they want. We set limits and have snack times. We serve smaller portions at dinner. This way there is less waste for those times when their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. (Can we just say with some kids this happens more than not.) Besides, they can always get more.
One more note about grocery shopping and buying food. Buying healthier food can be more expensive and put a big dent on the food budget, but it can be done. When a person eats healthier, fresher foods they fill up faster and the pangs of hunger don’t come as quickly as when they eat the cheaper, less healthy food choices. It can take more time to prepare, cook or bake, but it is worth it of you manage it with your schedule.
*About using coupons and driving around from store to store, it may not be worth it. This is where you need to put your detective skills to work. Get that old calculator out and see if using that coupon on the particular name brand item is actually worth the little bit you’d save versus buying the generic version. In most cases the generic is just as good and will save you money. (Every little bit helps.) Learn what you can and can’t buy generic. When it cost more in gas to go form store to store for that “great” deal then it’s not so great. I know of a lady who will drive out of state (about 1 1/2 hour drive) just to get “cheaper” diapers. That is NOT smart shopping. Not only will she spend more on gas than she will save on the diapers, she will probably spend money on something to eat. If she’s like me she’ll pick up other items that weren’t on her list as well. However, if, like us, SAMs is that far away and Hubby works half way there already then it is worth the trip to save us some money on big bulk items we go through all of the time.