March 2013 Moms

budgeting (vent/suggestions needed)

ok so DH and I have never been particularly great with our finances but we have ZERO debt, we pay our bills on time and we save whatever we can. however, we splurge more than we need to.

since finding out i was pregnant, we have had various conversations about cutting back and making changes (not eating out as much, not buying coffee on the way to work at dunkin, etc.) and it feels like i may be the only one who is really making any effort. both of our companies have coffee at work for free and we have 2 coffee pots in our kitchen. granted, after a long day at work the last thing i want to do is cook so we have been eating out a little more.

does anyone have any tips for cutting back spending? our goal is to buy a house before or right after the baby is born (our lease is up june 1st).  i have even started shopping at the dollar store for basic supplies because some of the prices are really getting ridiculous.

any help is greatly appreciated!! 

Re: budgeting (vent/suggestions needed)

  • Hmm... are you trying to save? Or just watch your spending.

    One idea is to take out what you want as "misc funds" in cash and spend only that. No debit cards, no checks. When you're out of cash, you're out. 

    ETA: Maybe once your husband starts running out of cash because he's getting coffee on the way to work every morning, he'll rethink it. Or, maybe he'll decide to cut elsewhere to keep that morning coffee. That kind of idea.

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  • Could you set up a separate savings account that you both automatically deposit a part of your paycheck into?  DH and I do that for our household bills and I then pay them out of that account but it could work well for a "rainy day" savings fund too.
  • What helps us eat out less is meal planning.  I write out a menu for the week and do all the shopping on Saturday or Sunday.  I also try and do any prep work I can (such as chopping veggies) on the weekend to make weeknights easier.
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  • maybe could give yourselves weekly cash allowances? only withdraw a certain amount of money on friday, and that's how much you have to spend until next friday, don't use cards. it's a more concrete and tangible way to actually see how much you have, and really makes a person consider what they're spending their money on. another way could be to make inexpensive meals instead of eating out.  make french bread pizza, broccholi fettachini alfredo, or chicken with zuchini and rice,  each meal has like 3-4 ingrediants, and take's about 20 mins to make, plus the total cost is like $5-10.  like another bump said, make dinner menus for the week and make a list based on those meals, then do all the shopping in one day, this could decrease inpulse spending at the grocery store. hope this was helpful :)
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  • We printed off our debit/credit card expenses for a month and looked at what we spent. Some things we have to spend money on like groceries and a car payment. When we realized how much we spent on coffee/ meals out, we realized what we could cut.
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  • At the beginning of this year we went cash only and it has made a huge difference.  I went back through our bank statements for a couple of months and categorized everything to figure out how much we were spending on eating out, groceries, gas, etc, and then set a budget based on that (I have tried to just set a number in the past based on what I think we "should" be spending...but that never works.  It was much better to start with what we were actually spending, and just cut the few things that weren't necessary).  Every time we get paid I go to the ATM and withdrawl a specific amount of cash, split between DH and I, and that's what we have until the next paycheck (we get a paycheck every week between the 2 of use).  Bills still come out of the account, but everything else is cash.  It's funny, the first couple months both of us would routinely run out of cash mid-week and scramble to find money for gas, or just not eat out that weekend.  But now that we've gotten used to it a lot of times both of us end up with extra money at the end of the week, even though we are still starting with the same amount. 

    As someone who has always had problems budgeting, this was the best thing I have found so far, and the only thing we've stuck to!

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  • Try to figure out what it will roughly cost for baby each month (diapers, formula, insurance, dr. appts, clothes, toys, etc.and if daycare or you not working is a factor include that too) and start setting that aside NOW. You'll have time to get used to your financial changes and have some money in savings.

    I have heard the suggestion for if you would like to buy a home.  If the mortgage, taxes, upkeep and utilities will be more than your rent an utilities are now, you should start setting that extra amount aside to see if you can really afford the house. If you do that for about a year you will know you can afford a home (and what your lifestyle would be like) and you'll have money to put towards your down payment, closing costs or moving expenses.

    The cash suggestion is a great one! I have seen an envelope system (I'm sure you coudl google it) where money for food, clothing, entertainment, misc is put into envelopes at every pay check. When the cash is gone that's it and you can't spend more. If you have leftover money you can put it in savings, put it towards a specific item or use it for a treat like eating out. 

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  • image RachelMarie83:
    What helps us eat out less is meal planning.  I write out a menu for the week and do all the shopping on Saturday or Sunday.  I also try and do any prep work I can (such as chopping veggies) on the weekend to make weeknights easier.

    This.  You'll find you'll spend so much less money on food in general when you have a weekly meal plan prepared.  DH and I are amazed at what our weekly grocery bills look like these days (usually come in under $50).  

    We've also made an effort to quit shopping at the fancy grocery stores (where DH paid $5 for 5 white potatoes) and shop the flyers at the discount stores instead (where we bought a 10lb bag of potatoes for $2 instead).  We try and limit any processed treats to those that are on sale that week.

    I like the cash idea in theory, but it can be tough trying to keep it all separate.  DH gave-up trying to manage all his different "categories" in cash when he went on a strict budget and just takes-out a lump sum to cover EVERYTHING.  Luckily it works for him and he's able to stick with it, but the "categories" that we originally laid out all blended together in the end.

    Good luck! 

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  • We have a joint checking, joint savings and then our own checking and our own savings. I rarely eat out during the week. I have gotten in the habit of using trader joes frozen foods with fresh veggies to make lunch and I always eat breakfast at home. DH's current assignment does not afford him the luxury of a fridge during the day, so he eats out during the day. We also limit our take out/restaurant meals to two times a week (or once if it is a splurge).

    Putting money into savings immediately is super helpful. We also do most of our grocery shopping right after payday. Our big issue is that we are remodeling and have no kitchen, so it has been hard to save on food expenses and miscellaneous money since it is going to the remodel monster.

    We used to eat out every night and every lunch-but cutting out those two things have made a HUGE improvement.

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  • Here are some suggestions that have worked for us:

    1. Make a budget so that you know exactly where your money is going each month. 

    2. Examine all of your bills and cut back or readjust where necessary. We switched cable providers for a comparable package at $25 less per month.  Now that that contract is nearing its end, we're looking to cut back on channels and subscribe to Netflix.  Also, look at your cell bill and see what you're using versus what you're paying for.

    3. Look at your grocery bill and look into using a site like www.couponmom.com  It matches up coupons with sale items at your local stores to help you get the lowest prices.  It also displays unadvertised sales at stores across the country.  A lot of food items with coupons are things we don't eat, but I have saved a lot in terms of paper products, home health and beauty, etc.  It's also helpful to study sales and know when something has reached its lowest price- that's the time to stock up.  

    4. I agree on giving you and DH a budget for the week for personal spending then when it's gone, it's gone.  If he wants to spend it on coffee, that's his business.  But if the money's gone by Thursday and he wants lunch out, tough luck.

    5. Also, and this probably should have been first, pay yourself first!  Decide what you need to save and have that automatically sent to an account.  You live on what's leftover after that.   

    6. Stop eating out.  Seriously.  Turn this into a once in a while treat, rather than a  regular occurrence.  I get what you're saying about being tired when you get home, but this is where meal planning comes in. Prep stuff the night before or chop veggies when you get back from the store.  Make big batches of things like sauces, soups and chilis and freeze the extra for a night when you're exhausted. Some people swear by their crockpots, but honestly I have only liked about 3 recipes I've tried.  And if you're seriously exhausted and there's nothing in the fridge or freezer that's easy to make, maybe go for take out instead, as it's typically cheaper (you're not buying drinks, paying tip, etc).   

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  • i forgot to mention in my previous post that i am really glad you brough this up.  hubby and i just had a conversation last night about budgeting, and how it's going to only get tighter once i'm not working.  yes, i'm a little worried, especially since my insurance is poopy and comes with a high deductable (which we will have to pay twice since it starts fresh in the new year), but i just know we can make it work.  i'm also happy to see so many people also suggesting/using the cash allowance option... gives me hope that i can balance the budget and build some savings. thanks ladies! 
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  • If you and DH are visual people you could use something like Quicken to track your spending.  It will build charts that show you how your money is spent.  It can do pie charts and graphs with percentages.  For me, once I understood where my money was going then I could decide where I wanted to cut back.  I think that it also can build your yearly budget and then you can run reports to see how you are doing.  DH would print out weekly reports for me when we were first married and that helped us to get onto the same page with finances.
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  • I definitely think setting up an "allowance" for extras is really helpful- cash is great for this b/c its more tangible that when its gone its gone. 

    I also agree that there are some great resources to help manage and visually see where your money is going- a great free resource is mint.com. You set up categories, link it up with your credit cards/check cards and each purchase you make comes through, gets deducted from the appropriate category (you can go through and relabel some stores if they don't come up how you use them...like if you get gas station coffee or something you can change the tag from gas to misc.) It shows how much you have left in the category for the month, what % you are at (if you are using up 80% of your grocery budget in the first 2 weeks of a month thats a problem for example). It's been very helpful for a lot of couples we know plus you can set up savings categories- vacation savings, baby savings, etc. and move your funds around so you know how much you have for when you need to dip into those savings accounts.

    I also agree about meal planning- eating out is our biggest expense but it definitely helps me to have my meals planned. Even if that means you plan a take out meal 1x/week to use for a night you feel particularly tired it helps to have it in writing what the options are for that week. I plan 4 meals a week, 1 night of leftovers (sometimes 2) and 1 night of take out- we usually do Pizza on Monday's b/c the place near us has a special so its only like $10 for the whole family to eat. I can pick which days to use the leftovers and take out on based on how busy our week is- we have a couples bible study we do every Thurs and that evening is hectic so we almost always have leftovers. 

    I also have to say- get rid of cable! We got rid of cable 2 years ago and I've been shocked at how little I miss it and I am a COMPLETE tv junkie! We have netflix and tivo (there are other dvr options, thats what we picked since it streams netflix too). Between being able to record prime time tv and netflix we never run out of things to watch and we are saving roughly $60/month! Trust me, those stupid TLC shows or Bravo marathons are NOT worth $60/month. We also switch our internet provider based on who can give us the lowest rate for the year-we usually can get a discount by telling them what the competitor is offering and they say "well we can only guarantee this price for a year" then we switch as needed if they can't keep it up. We currently pay $30/month for internet which is the best we've found in our area. HTH! 

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  • image skyllingstadl:

    I also agree that there are some great resources to help manage and visually see where your money is going- a great free resource is mint.com. You set up categories, link it up with your credit cards/check cards and each purchase you make comes through, gets deducted from the appropriate category (you can go through and relabel some stores if they don't come up how you use them...like if you get gas station coffee or something you can change the tag from gas to misc.) 

    Excuse me, but why aren't you over on the SAHM board giving me this advice?!  That site sounds amazing.  As in, exactly what I was looking for.  Are there any drawbacks to using this service?  (Okay, haha, I already see one.. my bank isn't supported yet).

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  • DH and I have always been exceptional at savings (ok ok, mostly me) and I'm going to agree with PP's on several points.

    1. I love Mint.com, it lets you link multiple accounts, so I can track my mortgage, my husband's credit card spending, and how often we take money out of the atm. It's also got a budget feature AND a feature that lets you set up goals and will tell you how much you need to contribute each month in order to reach your goal (so helpful when planning our wedding, buying the house, and now creating an emergency fund).

    2. PP's mentioned doing a weekly allowance. Do that.

    3. Look at things around the house that you might not need. DH and I got rid of cable over 3 years ago and don't miss it one bit. We watch everything online via Hulu, Netflix, and if you've got a friend with HBO- HBOGO. Just hook an old CPU up to the TV and you're golden. This goes for your landline too. If you've each got cells, why are you bothering to pay the $20 or so for a home phone?

    4. Plan large meals on the weekends. Make enough so that you'll have leftovers for lunch several times a week. Even during the week for quick meals like pasta, or frozen pizza. Leftovers are a great moneysaver if you have a tendency to buy lunch at work.

    5. Again, like PP said: Cut down on going out to eat, or ordering in. Turn it into something special that you and DH do. We recently moved to a new area so our weekly "date night" often involves going somewhere to eat, to explore the town. But sometimes it's a home cooked meal and a puzzle (yeah, we're nerds). It'll make the alone time you spend with DH all that more special when LO comes.

    6. If you're thinking of buying a house, do lots and lots of research. Figure out what you think the monthly mortgage, electric, gas, property & school taxes, home insurance, along with your regular food, car gas, expenditures are. Then add another 1k. Use this number as your guideline. If you end up with money leftover, hooray! Save it, and keep saving it. You'll never know when your hot water heater will go. (also just a tip, don't take the previous owner's tax rate as law. We bought our house from a little old lady who was getting multiple tax breaks. DH thought our annual taxes would be around 3k, because he didn't think. I assumed the worst and saved for such. Our annual taxes are around 10k.) Research research research. Save save save. You'll need it. Put the 20% down if you can, Mortgage insurance is such a ripoff.

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  • Congrats on the zero debt btw. DH and I paid off all our student and car loans before we got married. It was such a great feeling to start our life together debt free. Then we bought a house and will be in debt for the next 30 years, LOL. But we're paying extra towards the principle each month, so we're already slowly weaning that down. That might change once the kid comes, but it's good to know that there is extra $ floating around if we need it.
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  • One thing that used to help me to stay on track at work was to literally leave my cash and credit cards at home. I kept an emergency $20 hidden behind my work ID, but that forced me to stay on track with free office coffee and a brown bag lunch. I used to do it to avoid eating unhealthy snacks all day, but it totally helped me to save money too.

    I agree with the meal planning suggestions, but I would add to that it's important to plan fun stuff to look forward to if you're trying to cut back on going out. Do homemade takeout on Friday, and plan something fun that you wouldn't usually do otherwise. Dust off a boardgame you haven't played in awhile or make some margaritas (alcohol free for you) and eat outside. We also have no laptops nights sometimes, because we discovered that what we missed about going out was that it forced us to actually pay attention to each other. It sounds so lame, but you might be surprised that a stay-at-home date night can actually be fun.

    Also, do you have a crockpot? I can't tell you how much money my crockpot has saved me.....especially once I figured out that I can just put frozen meat directly in there before heading out for the day. That way you don't have to worry about making dinner when you get home at night, because it will already be ready and waiting for you. Here are some ideas to get you started: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2012/02/slow-cooker-tv-dinners.html. I absolutely love this website, and totally plan to stock the freezer with a bunch of these things before baby comes!

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  • One other suggestion for you regarding your home purchase.....if you'd feel comfortable with the idea, you might want to consider buying a house with an attached rental apartment. That's what we did, and the extra income from the rental is totally paying the property taxes. It's also allowing us to pay off the house in 15 years, and making it possible for me to take a lower paying work from home job. As an added bonus, our tenant is a sweet older Grandma, and we really love that someone is always home even when are out of town.
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