So it turns out I am REALLY bad at budgeting. Actually, what I’m really bad at is FOLLOWING a budget.
Actually, I already knew this. I’ve never been able to stick to a budget. It’s never really been a problem in that I’ve always had enough (or almost enough) to cover my expenses but now things are dire and I really need to figure out how to stay within a strict budget or we are headed toward financial ruin.
I should have learned all this before. We’ve never had much money and sadly I’ve always spent most of what I’ve made. It’s because I’ve never followed a budget that we don’t have much money now to fall back on. I’m learning the hard way what happens when one is not financially responsibility. If it weren’t for Mi.Vida’s inherent frugalness we’d be totally effed right now.
The thing is, I’m not angry or upset about the money situation. I just REALLY need to figure out how to keep myself within our new budget and honestly I don’t really know how to do that. You might think, just DON’T SPEND MONEY. And of course it seems so simple on the surface, but I am failing miserably at it. I’m definitely making better decisions and not buying nearly as much as I would have, but I’m still buying things that in reality we don’t really need and I’m buying them because it FEELS like we need them.
Take my making space project. I’ve been meaning to buy drawers for under our bed for ages and I finally did, spending $120 at IKEA to buy four big drawers for under our queen. Now it’s easy to argue that those drawers were a legitimate purchase, seeing as I always intended to buy them (they weren’t an impulse purchase) and they will greatly help us organize/maintain organization in our house but the reality is we don’t really have that money right now (okay, we absolutely do not have that money right now) and really we probably should have filled a bunch of trash bags with clothes, shoved them under the bed and called it a day.
So this is where I have a hard time, not buying the things that feel like important purchases, the things I wouldn’t think twice about before. Sure it’s been hard not to buy a few things for the baby but I KNOW that I don’t really need them–they would just be nice to have–so I can say no to them, even though it’s hard. It’s the other things that I feel like we need that are harder to say “no” to. That is what I don’t know how not to get.
Groceries and food are another thing we really have to change our habits on. Right now we buy pretty much whatever we want at the grocery store. I don’t really buy snacky foods or desserts but Mi.Vida sometimes does and there are other things we buy that we don’t really need, like parmesan cheese or certain kinds of cereals. I have an idea of what we should be spending on our groceries and I know how much less that is than what we generally spend but I’m not quite sure how I make that change. Do I just abstain from anything “frivolous” the next time and see if I hit my goal or do I painstakingly add up the amounts of everything as I’m putting them in my cart to make sure I’ll stay under my allowance. I know once I have an idea of what I can get I won’t need to do add everything up before check-out, but is tallying it all up the first few times the only answer?
I honestly don’t know. If anyone has any tips on how to start living within a much stricter budget I’d really appreciate hearing them. My plan right now is to take out $200 in cash every two weeks to live on that. Everything I spend money on (minus gas and groceries) will be paid for in cash. If I do need to use my card (like on Amazon) I will pay myself with the cash, putting it away for the next week. I can’t really afford to spend $100 a week on “everything else” but I hope to start with that and then next month cut it down to $75 a week and then finally to $50 a week. I worry if I start with $50 I will be doomed to fail and I will abandon the whole thing so I’m giving myself a little leeway in the first month.
So yeah, I’m really struggling with this new budget. I know this has always been one of my biggest weaknesses and I REALLY want to finally learn how to do this. The reality is, I absolutely need to. The last time we were this short on funds we had A LOT of savings to fall back on (and we blew through a significant amount of it). Now we don’t have those rainy day funds, in fact by the end of my maternity leave we’re going to have VERY LITTLE saved at all. If either of us lose our jobs we’ll almost immediately be in danger of losing our house. So yeah, things are not looking good and we need to step up and do a LOT of work to make our new lives financially feasible. I just really, really REALLY hope we can manage it.
Basically, I refuse to be the weak link and the cause of our financial demise. I will learn how to do this. And if anyone has any tips on how to save money on the essentials, PLEASE SHARE THEM! I’m really clueless on all of this and I could use all the help I can get.
Have you ever had to drastically change the way you spent money? What do you do to stay inside your budget?