Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt. 2

To quickly recap from part one; when starting a budget you need your essentials budgeted first.

*Food- we should be spending 9-14% depending on what source you read.

*Shelter-Depending on your income and outflow you may have to reassess where you live and/or your living arrangement.  Financial advisors will that no more than 25-28% (the opinion varies from site to site) of your income should go toward housing.  I am no financial advisor, but you may have to downsize or move if you are over your budget here.

*Clothing-While we need clothes…thank God for clothes…this one can be easy or hard to figure our just how much you need, especially if you have growing children.  However, after looking it up, conscience says about 4% of your income should be spent on clothing.

Let’s go back to food…my favorite: set a budget for your food allowance and plan accordingly.  I am a meal planner, have been for over 20 years now.  At first, t can be hard, but it quickly becomes second nature.  You can gather up old cookbooks, Grandma’s recipe box or look online at the endless recipe sites and start planning.  When meal planning, make sure when picking out recipes that they include regular products you either have already or will use again.  Sauces and spices for example can add up really quick especially if you will rarely use them.  Ask a friend if he/she has that sauce or spice and see if you can use it just for that recipe.  If so, make sure to give them some of the yummy dish you make.  That way they will more than likely let you use there pantry items in the future.

My grocery lists would/do include items we need all of time like toiletries, milk, bread, eggs, did I mention milk.  We have usually ate pretty much the same things for breakfast so that was easy.  For lunch Hubby took leftovers to works.  The kids either brought lunch or ate at school, it varied.  I also ate leftovers or made something at home.

Again, our grocery list didn’t vary much other than for dinner items. For that is where the planning helps a ton.  Here’s what I looked for: I had a few easy, quick meals for those busier than normal nights, meals that would stretch and I would try to vary the meats.  I tried to keep the favorites in there (I give my recipes a star rating to quickly identify the favorites) and add new recipes to try out.  Like I said living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring.

Now for the clothing.  Luckily, I don’t get bothered if I don’t wear name brand clothes.  My family has been pretty good about it too.  When the kids got jobs they tended to buy more name brands, but they too quickly learned how to find a good deal.  So, I am going to be completely honest…I love to shop at thrift stores.  I shop at stores ending in Mart as well, and some name brand stores (clearance racks and sales $$$) as well.  But there’s not much like thrifting and walking out with three grocery bags full of shirts that only costs $35.  Yes, that just happened last week!  It’s like treasure hunting.  Hubby mainly buys brand new clothes.  In his line of work he needs very sturdy, heavy duty clothes that are VERY hard to come by used.  However, the kids and I have gotten a good amount at the thrift stores.  Now I don’t buy undergarments or swim wear used.  EVER.  No matter how tight our budget is.  I also shop online for clothes.  Where we live we have a For Sale-(our city’s name) on Facebook.  It’s like an online yard sale.  I have gotten our toddler grocery bags full of clothes for under $40.  These types of sites/pages are great for reselling your kiddos used clothing too. There’s also this site I LOVE, LOVE: Thredup.  I have to not go there too often or I WILL go over my clothing budget.  They have name brands, if that matters to you, quality clothing for women and children.  With a family of seven, this is a game changer.  Their return policy is terrific too.  Okay, enough of the infomercial here.  I have also shopped yard sales, but not too often.  I prefer the organization of stores.  Hand-me-downs have been a blessing to us.

To briefly sum it up, there are many ways to save money and stick to your budget.  It takes a bit of time and effort, but it will be worth it and it will pay off.

 

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Living on a Prayer…and Budget pt.1

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.

 

​Having a Plan

When Hubby and I got married, way back in the day, we knew that at some point I would stay home and keep the house while he brought home the bacon.  After 20 plus years of marriage and just about that many years of living this way, we still get mixed reactions.  However, we are okay with it and have made it thus far, virtually on one income.

How did we do it?  Glad you asked.  Let me give you a bit of background first. I had been working for about the first three years of our marriage when it came time for me to quit.  (That is a whole other post for another day.)  At this point of our lives, we had recently moved to a new state far away from all friends and family, everything we knew.  We literally packed up our two trucks and headed East.  (Just about everywhere’s East coming from California.)  We had savings that covered the moving expenses, and our butts, while we both found a job.  We were living in a sort-of-furnished mobile home, really enjoying life.  Then I quit my kitchen job one of the local senior citizen homes, to take care of our home and possibly start a family.  Hubby was working full time, making a bit over minimum wage.

Honestly, we didn’t have a financial plan or even a budget for that matter.  I sure wish we did, though.  It would’ve helped us be a lot wiser with our money and maybe save us from debt.  We were two young lovers, just enjoying the simple things in life, like staring into each other’s eyes.  This was way before Pinterest, heck, Pinterest-worthy we didn’t even have the internet then.  So, we really didn’t feel the prePinterest-worthy home, hair, car, wall decor, meals or anything.  We simply lived simple.

In the early years we didn’t use credit cards and paid for most items in cash.  I was pretty crafty so I made a lot of our decor and gifts for friends and family.  I cooked and baked, getting better by the year.  (At least I hope so.)  Therefore, we didn’t eat out much.  We did these and many other basic frugal lifestyle habits, just trucking along.

Year five we gave birth to our first daughter.  At the same time Hubby had started a cabinet making business.  (Again, another story for another post.)  Long story short we didn’t have much business or accounting experience, one thing lead to another and we were in debt.  With a business to keep afloat, a baby to care for and rent to be paid, there was no escaping that we needed a plan.  As anyone who has been where we were you can imagine the nice, sweet, rosy (insert sarcasm) conversations Hubby and I had.  We had to get on a budget and do it fast.

The first things to get on a budget was tithe for church (which we were already paying), our groceries, rent and utilities.  This started us on a lifetime of budget living.  I wish I could say it was all easy and a bed of roses from then on.  Let’s just say that one of us is a saver, likes to live on a budget and overspending sends this one of us into cold sweats.  While the other…well, we are opposites.  Need I say more.  Budget living is not easy for everyone.  Some relish “living in a box” and “staying in the lines”.

Nonetheless, having an agreed upon plan/budget did help us navigate our way back when we got off course.  Our budget was a reference point and sometimes a referee when called upon.  Over the years there has been tweaking done to the budget as more bills got added on (piled up) and jobs and pay changed.

Whether you are single, married or rooming with someone a plan/budget is key to your financial success.  Without one you are inviting disaster to happen.  Anyone can do it, no matter how hard it is for you.  There are many budget planning resources out there.  Our favorite is Dave Ramsey.  Just make sure the financial help you get is free.  You are trying to get a handle of your money and spending.  Even if the cost is very low, it still cost you your hard earned dollars.  I just did a Bing search for free budget planning and eight topics came up under the search bar.  If you’re not on a budget, start now.  You can do this.  You are worth it.