Hi guys! We have another super inspiring guest here today to share her budgeting philosophies with us! If you missed the first post of the series you can find it here. Today we are excited to introduce Meredith! You're going to love her perspective, so without further ado...
When Jessica and Sarah welcomed me as a guest blogger to share my thoughts about budgeting, I was pretty stoked! Since I feel like I dedicate, oh about 99.9% of my life "watching our finances," this was right up my alley. Thanks so much for having me ladies!
We live in the very rich Chester County, PA, which often feels like the epicenter of The Haves (vs. the Have-nots). It's not easy as a single-income family, I won't lie--it's hard to always be the one without the money for fancy new furniture and spending my after-kids-are-in-bed hours clipping coupons. But my husband and I have remained dedicated to not spending more than we have coming in and ideally, saving a little (often very little!) along the way.
Logistically, our method is far from brain-surgery--my husband created an Excel spreadsheet and we enter all of our expenditures in the relevant categories. It works well for us to split the management of this spreadsheet. I am responsible for entering all of the receipts on a daily basis and he savvies up the budget at the end of every month. This way, we both keep a pretty active hand in our budget and know how our money is being spent.
The other practical trick that works really well for us is to not use cash. We almost strictly stick to credit cards and always pay them off at the end of the month. I'm pretty sure this goes against most popular budgeting advice. And yes, it sucks if we chance upon a great yard sale and have no bills in our wallets...but this is also why this works so well. Any purchase we make is recorded and accounted for on our credit card statements. When my son is throwing a temper tantrum after a long morning out and feeling a desperate need for chicken and fries from the Burger King drive-thru, I am less inclined to cave because I have no cash on me and don't feel like having that charge show up at the end of the month. Also, we earn cash back points by using our credit card for every purchase. In the Kohls mentality, it is truly like getting paid to shop.
Emotionally, budgeting can be tough. It is often so hard to distinguish between "wants" and "needs", especially in this day and age, surrounded by all this wealth. There are loads of obvious money-saving tricks that we use frequently to get around not having money for things--buying used, borrowing, bargain-shopping (this is actually a lot of fun for me, esp. with all the great options for scoring deals online through sites such as Groupon, Livingsocial, Ebates, etc.). But the truth is--sometimes we just go without, which is okay too. My kids just don't need more toys, I can keep re-wearing my same old shirts (staying safely several seasons behind the trends ;) ) and it really is possible to live without a DVR/TIVO. While ordering take-out would be so much easier on so many nights, I am capable of prepping something on my own. It may not be fantastically gourmet, but it will suffice and probably be healthier anyway...
We have been most tested recently by not having working cell phones. Yes, you read that right ;) It is 2012, and our cell phones (which are definitely not smart phones) rarely work. When they do, our carrier doesn't get reception in our house anyway. This has really been challenging. Two years ago, we were getting ready to move and I dropped my phone in the baby pool. My husband went to get me a new phone and had to re-up for another two years. We thought nothing of it until we moved into our new home a week later and discovered we had no cell reception (yes, this was something we should have checked during the buying/inspection process--we did not)! Since then, our phones have continued to (literally) fall apart, but we have refused to get new ones or pay the contract cancellation fee because we just don't have the extra money. It's hard too, because not only do we get frustrated, people get upset sometimes when we don't return their calls or they can't reach us. We do have a landline, but not many people use this anymore...
Choosing to "go without" also works with activities. It would be loads of fun (and much easier!) to join a gym and send my kids into the childcare room while I workout. This just isn't in our budget, so I keep queuing up Jillian Michaels and trying really hard to avoid stepping on my son. It's not ideal, but it works--sort of ;). We also believe that kids don't need to be enrolled in every activity, such as day camps, soccer lessons, gymnastics, etc. This works well because even if we did want to fill up their schedules, we couldn't afford to do so anyway. We do a lot of walks to the park, casual playdates with friends, and just spend time playing at home.
Yes, it would be easier to "budget" if we had a ton of money. If I could set my monthly grocery store limit to $1500, I would have no trouble meeting that goal! But this is not the case. My family budgets every month while truly on a budget. We definitely don't have it down and still struggle (often!), but this is generally what works for us. Good luck, and budget on, fellow savers!
About the author: Meredith is a stay-at-home-mom of two. She blogs over at TheMomoftheYear.net and we highly recommend you check it out, because she is super funny and has a great outlook on parenting and just life in general.
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