A couple of months ago I confessed that I was revamping the way I buy groceries. It has been really hard to do this, because it is so easy to buy cheap stuff, but it's not stuff that I want my kids to be eating. Unfortunately, about the same time we decided we wanted to spend more money on groceries, I lost my job. We've talked and tweaked and discussed and modified and we're working hard to make a budget that works for us. These are the things we've decided from all this gabbing we've done:
- We want to pay more attention to the foods we are buying instead of the money we are spending
- We don't want to spend more than we are making
- We want to get out of debt
- We want to buy local
- We want to be able to have some "fun" money and not feel guilty for splurging every so often
- We want to be happy with what we have and make sure our kids are healthy and happy
- We want to remember that no matter our circumstances, we're relying on God to provide for us
The good news is we made more money than predicted. Stephen had some money that was owed to him from his deployment last year, so that increased his earnings by almost $1,000. Hooray for unexpected income!
I predicted that I would earn $75 from mystery shopping. I was very happy to see my actual income from this was $95.83.
I predicted that I would earn $30 from surveys and rebate checks. I was very happy to see my actual income from this was $40.19.
I predicted that I would earn $10 from miscellaneous income (selling household items, etc.). I was very happy to see my actual income from this was $134.17, although that includes some of my checks from January. If I didn't cash those checks in February my actual miscellaneous income actually would have been only $31.75.
Now, on to the spending portion. Some of the budget was very cut and dry. We tithe based on our monthly income, and we have several "set" bills. Our mortgage, power bill, cable/telephone/internet, security system, gym membership, and World Vision donation are the same every month. Our water bill varies, but is usually not more than $18, so we budgeted that as the highest amount we would pay.
We budgeted $130 for groceries, knowing we would go over that amount, but just using it as a starting point. We budgeted $50 for eating out with friends and family, and $50 for Stephen to eat out for lunch at work. We had to plug in the amounts for one truck payment (my car and his Jeep are paid for, praise God!) and one motorcycle payment. We budgeted $350 for gas, basically just pulling that number out of thin air as an estimate. We also plugged in the numbers for our insurance(s), and tuition for Brianna's preschool. We set aside $20 for clothing, $25 for birthday presents for friends, and $25 for my Secret Sister at church. We also set a goal of what we wanted to pay on the credit card.
Okay, so now to break it down.
First of all, we did go over on our water bill. We had a situation here that our family kept getting sick. Violently ill for 36 hours or so, fine for 3-4 days, and then violently ill again. That means the entire billing cycle for this water bill, we were doing lots of laundry (on hot water!) and I switched our dishwasher settings to "hot" and "sanitize". The kids were in the bath more (I won't go into details why!) and so all of that definitely explains why our water bill was high. It was still just $20 but it is more than we budgeted.
We had budgeted $120 for our cell phone bill, but it was actually just over $100 which is good. Unfortunately, we will more than make up for that in March, as we switched cell phone providers and our first bill was over $300 (bought two phones, paid activation fees for 2 phones, and they are billing us for our February usage and normally charge a month in advance which means we are paying the March bill as well. Yowza!).
Unfortunately we went way over on our eating out budget as well. What's really bad is although we more than doubled what we had budgeted, we still only ate out four times. Once we took out a close friend we hadn't seen in a long time (totally necessary!), once we ate out with family who was visiting (again, necessary!) and twice we made spur-of-the moment stops to Cookout and Chick Fil-A. Yum! Stephen scoffed when I told him his budget for eating out was $50 (he thought he would spend way less) but he spent right at it. I'm proud of him for not going over!
One item on our budget that just makes me sick is gas. We estimated that we spend $350 a month on gas and it was actually $625. We discussed it last night and Stephen thinks I spend over $100 per month just taking Brianna to and from school. We also probably spend over $100 per month just on going back and forth to church, and I probably spend between $75-$100 doing errands for Fed By Faith. That's an awful lot of money. Not sure how to change this right now, but of course that will decrease when Brianna is out of school for the summer, and then we are not putting her back in school next year, so my gas usage should decrease then as well.
We also had some pretty major expenses that won't happen again. We subscribe to Sandhills Farm 2 Table, a local food co-op, and that cost was almost $230. We also buy local meat from a butcher about once a year, and we got that this month, so that was almost $200 as well. We had a $40 registration fee to Kindermusik, bought t-shirts for church for $28, went to a banquet at church ($26), I bought something from Avon that I buy once a year ($28), it was time for our exterminating company to come out ($100), and Stephen registered for a camp with church this summer ($40). Whew! We spent about $800 in "miscellaneous" expenses, most of which were a one-time thing. That does also include things like diapers (we spent about $30 on diapers/pull-ups this month... hopefully Brianna will be out of pull-ups soon, and Hunter rarely wears disposable diapers so we've cut costs that way) and craft supplies, and even things Stephen has to buy for work which he doesn't get reimbursed for.
We went way, way, way over budget for groceries. But we had basically said we were going to spend "whatever" this month to see what our starting point was. We spent about $250 on groceries and I'm not happy with that, but looking back, I don't see a ton of unnecessary stuff being bought. So as long as we're buying "good" food I'm not too worried anymore about how much money we spend.
We were able to take some shortcuts in some areas, though, to save money. We had a birthday present to buy, which I had budgeted $25 for and I was able to get a REALLY cute present for the girl. I bought her some shirts at a local consignment store, The Classy Paci, for just $6. I bought a fun craft for her from another local toy store (The Little Toy Store in Southern Pines) for just $10, and a ring with lip gloss in it from there as well ($2) and her card from the dollar store ($0.50). I budgeted $25 for my Secret Sister at church but I was able to stay under that budget by $9 so that's great!
So we have tweaked our numbers for March, and hopefully we'll do better. We have several goals and now that we are really discussing our finances and watching where our money goes, we are on the right track.
I would love to hear any feedback you have for us - tips, support, what you do, etc. I'll let you know very shortly how March ended up!