Minimalist Budgeting

When I was staying home, we had a very slim budget.  Now that I am working and bringing all that dough from my gig as a teacher at a charter school *sarcasm sarcasm* we have a little more flexibility.  Not a lot because roughly 45% of my take home pay goes to daycare each month.  We also have a bit of credit card debt because I expected to reimbursed by our health insurance for the costs of our homebirth and after going rounds and rounds with them, the claim was denied.

There are many awesome budgeting tools available online.  None of them work that great for me!  I have several apps that I have tried but they all require me to input every transaction by hand because my bank is a small credit union that does not participate in the cooler budgeting programs.  Credit Unions are awesome because they charge less fees than bigger banks!  So the lack of budgeting software choices is something I can live with.  It IS possible for me to download every transaction in an excel file and then edit it into categories to make a cool graph.  But I have found a simpler method.

Simplicity is Key

I take a piece of lined paper, divide it into 10 boxes, and write a budget category in each box.  Then I go through our banking transactions and write the amount of each transaction in the appropriate box.  When I am done I add up all the boxes.

There are many popular was of keep track of spending money  Envelopes are popular with a lot of people.  That doesn’t work for us because most of my husband’s spending happens over seas.  If he gets cash out, changes it to foreign currency, he loses a lot in the transaction. When he uses our debit card there are no fees.  This saves us about $50/month!  As a result we have not been keeping track of what we are spending!  YIKES!  That’s no way to budget.

Add to that my shopping problems. I think it is genetic, nature/nurture I am not sure but my mother taught me that I deserve new things.  New things make me a better person.  Clearly, I am trying to undo years of mental conditioning by NOT being my things but when life gets crazy and I lose my focus, I rush back to over purchasing to perk my mood.

The result…

I found from summarizing our budget this way for the past 5 months that we spend $1000/month on our cars including payments, maintenance, and gas.  And that I have about $100/month budgeted for eating out when we are home.  We actually spend an average of $600/month eating out!  WHOA!  Another surprise was the $500 average on “entertainment.”  This includes our $171 new cell phone bill but also books and movies we buy.  That is shocking because we don’t go out without the kids very often.  I don’t feel like we are getting much for our eating out or entertainment bucks.

It’s black!

The great news is that we are in the black!  Hooray!  And we on average make about $700 more than we spend.  Currently that extra cash is paying off our debt.  At this rate we should be credit card free in a few months!  Maybe faster if we stop eating out and buying so much junk!

Other surprises

I always feel like we spend so much on daycare and groceries because when I pay those bills every week, they seem like big bills.  It turns out daycare is about $1000/month and groceries is a little less at $950.  The grocery bill will have to go up a bit if we are not eating out when we are at home.

Enacting real change

My daughter and I have extensively talked about the new one-in-one-out policy that we will have for toys and clothing from now on.  I have deleted my beloved shopping apps and and avidly focusing on ways to have less in the house.  And starting today, motivated by her recent puking episode after eating out, we are going to try to make it one whole week without eating out.  Not even morning coffee!  I might have to run to the store more frequently but it’s summer, I can handle that.  We would love to go somewhere fun for our 10th wedding anniversary in October.  Maybe I can start saving for a trip.  Abby would love to go to Disney world.  It might be fun.

If you think it is odd that I am discussing the budget with my daughter and not my husband, you might be correct.  The reasons for this are:

  1. He isn’t home
  2. He doesn’t spend much money.  It is mostly Abby and myself
  3. He doesn’t have great listening ears!  Since he doesn’t spend like I do, I believe ‘drunken pirate’ is an accurate description, it isn’t his habits that need to change.  He would be right for just smiling and nodding while I explained the new budget to him!

When he gets home today he will be a zombie.  When he is better rested tomorrow morning I will share the highlights of my discoveries with him.  He will be thrilled!  The highlights are:

  1. we are in the black!
  2. we should stop eating out when we can eat at home.
  3. I will stop buying junk like a drunken pirate.



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