Friday, March 20, 2009

budget tips anyone?

I have a theory, its flyboy's job to make the money and its my job to make sure it goes as far as it can. I am very lucky that I have a husband who doesn't see it as his money but rather OUR money. Never once have I felt like I don't have as much of a say or that I have to ask permission to spend money.

Having flyboy in the military I can't help but feel insulated from all the economic upheaval but at the same time we are snapped to attention. What little debt we do have, we want rid of. And preferably sooner rather then later.

We aren't frivolous spenders, we rarely eat out, our trip to Disney is our first vacation outside of visiting family in three years, but yet the money does seem to find somewhere to go every month.

So we are getting serious. The b word has come back into our vocabulary and I'll be honest I was mildly resistant at first. A budget is so much like a diet and who enjoys being on one of those? But its becoming more of a habit and thankfully I'm not on a diet at the same time so if I wanna eat a bologna and cheese three times a day and some brownies then I can.

I don't think I could pare down in both areas of life right now.

Meal planning or as I like to think of it being meal prepared, helps a lot. I don't so much like meal planning, what if I pick tacos for Thursday and then come that day I don't feel like them? What to do then? So I make sure that in one commissary trip, I have enough things for seven dinners and then figure it out as I go along thru out the week. That has cut down tremendously on the money spent picking up one thing here and one thing there during the week at full price grocery stores. (Sadly we don't live close enough to the commissary to just drop in for things)

On our latest trip to the warehouse store (I wont list the name, every sicko will end up at my site, let's just say it stands for an favorite Clinton oval office activity) flyboy picked up a slab of beef and cut up his own steaks. Just the other night we had a lovely steak dinner with baked potatoes, another veggie and all in all $1.35 for the two of us.

This buget thing is only working cause I love me a deal. And I like to win. And to me getting a great deal or finding some way to cut back is akin to winning.

I've also started operating in cash. It's far to easy to go to Target intending to get diapers and end up with five (or ten) other things. Yet with a certain amount of cash to get thru the week with I focus on what I need, really need. If we need to get bigger things then we just budget it in for the month, we aren't really withholding from ourselves, we are just trying to slow down and really focus on where the money is going and where it needs to be going.

So I'm posting all this for a reason. I'm hoping to score some more budget tips and get ahead a little more off the backs of you fine bloggy peeps. Hey, at least I'm honest here.

So what are they? What are your money saving tips? Do you have a great web site you use for coupons or deals or that's helped you get your money life under control? Any and all tips are welcome and much appreciated.

20 comments:

  1. I was actually going to post about this later this weekend!!!

    We operate on cash, we meal plan, we take savings off of the top so we don't get to the end of the month and think "oh shoot, shoulda saved!", we allocate "splurge money" so we don't ever feel deprived and get tempted to blow the whole budget, we only cut coupons for things we actually use, we shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid processed, pre-packaged, expensive foods...mmm if I think of more I will pass them on :)

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  2. It sounds like you are doing a lot of the stuff Dave Ramsey recommends. Did you read his book? One big thing that has helped us stick to the budget is also having our blow funds. Every month I get my own money to spend as I wish, no questions asked. I don't ever feel the need to "sneak" purchases. We have no debt, own a home, and travel all the time. It makes me proud!

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  3. great post! im in the same boat as u. I LOVE TARGET! ha. i feel the same way ...my hub brings in the money and its my job to mske it go as far as possible. I go to the commisary and shop for 2 weeks and dont plan what im having for dinner till that morning. it works great that way. too many times have i cooked a bog ol dinner to have my love come home with takeout on his way home from work. lol!!!! i have no tips unfortunatley b/c im in the same exact boat. i love me some shopping and need to refocus. ya i could get that now but imagine if i saved what i could get in a year!!!! ugh. i will def. be checking back and stealing some tips( if u dont mind) LOL! i dont know why i didnt think of this post..GREAT ONE!!!

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  4. We just talked about starting a budget because we want to aggressively save and pay off my hub's car.
    I'm with you, I love finding a bargain! But we are going to start a budget because it is SO easy to spend unnecessary money without one!
    Great post!!

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  5. I use our Microsoft works spreadsheet that lets you put in your income and then put in your bills and even your estaments of variable expenses like gas, food, and household items and then at the bottom it leaves you the difference of what you earn and what you have left over. From that amount I put $ into saving first then divide the rest into the two weeks.

    My husband hates debt. We were in about $5000 last year (not including our car) and we managed to pay it all off by last month. We took the extra money from promotions and our raise in January to put it all towards the debt. Any TDY $ and we put that in there too. WE know we can live off the basic check so extra $ went to what we over spent from before. By paying the minimum on all the cards but one, we took any extra money and put all we could on one card at a time until they were all gone.
    Good luck!

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  6. I've tried a budget. I've tried meal planning. I've failed. I have no staying power with budgeting, or dieting, for that matter.

    I've been inspired to lose weight and have had friends who are encouraging me (and you, too - thanks for that, btw). Now, I'll join you on your budget journey. I've sort of started it and have begun by cleaning out our freezer and pantry. By that I don't mean throwing away stuff, i mean it's eating what's in there. It's way too simple for me to stop and pick up a thawed something or another vs. having thought in advance of thawing something. I'm getting creative with my throwings together of dinner and it may seem somewhat eclectic with the food pairings, but we eat what we have. With the exception of the grazing we did last night at a restaurant.

    The "What's Cooking" tab at the top of my blog has 60 days of dinners. Some of the sides are repeated, but the main dishes aren't. It worked when I used it and it kept us out of a rut. I used fill ins of the easy stuff (hot dogs, spaghetti, etc.) when pushed for time, but all in all was good.

    I don't have many tips or tricks. I use coupons, I watch for specials and am excited my parents are getting ready to plant their garden so it will help offset some of my summer food bill with fresh veggies. Farmer's markets are prime places for saving moolah on the veggies.

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  7. we do a monthly budget and the target hiatus has been very eye opening. i know i will be back in april, but i have become a nut these last few weeks checking and comparing prices. i even took a trip to aldi this week! do you have one? i am not sure just yet, but i think it might be an option.

    we also do weekly meal planning and we are getting better. but i know my next step is to shop the ads, buy what's on sale and meal plan from that. instead of writing down what we want and then just going out to buy it. i hear u save lots of money this way, but also know it's time consuming.

    i guess i just found my new hobby :)

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  8. I do the same type of meal planning you do, just having 6 or so meals in mind for the week (one night of leftovers) which helps me stop buying things that rot in my fridge.

    My dh gives new meaning to the word frugal, so we owe our financial stability to his guidance, but honestly, we're both of Dutch descent, which is to nicely say "cheap". We eat out not even once a week, and very seldom buy anything food wise we could make at home (for example, we don't stop at Starbucks every morning for coffee).

    But you asked for tips...hmmm. We don't have cable, just regular network TV. Most other shows you can find online to download and watch without commercials (we do of course have high speed internet, because my life would end without it).

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  9. hey...I had a membership to that same warehouse store, lol! LOVED it!

    I don't budget, per se...but I do watch what I spend. We have a strict rule - all credit cards MUST be paid off monthly. So, that means no charging crazy amounts, or else the bank account goes down fast. We DO however, charge my hubby's school fees (because we are paying them out of our savings...we charge them for the credit card points!)...but every seven weeks, we have a huge bill. Only a few more classes to go, thank God!

    And if you do have debt, pay it down/off and don't go back to it. Living on cash and paying off debt monthly is the way to go. We only have 2 debts right now...a brand new house payment, and a brand new car payment (my hubby's car was almost 9 years old!). But we also pay over the amount due toward principal, so the debt goes down much faster.

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  10. babycheapskate.blogspot.com is a great website for getting good deals on baby items. Every Sunday she updates where the best diaper and formula sales are, and as other deals come along (for shoes, clothes, car seats, etc) she posts them too.

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  11. I am totally 100% guilty of going to Target for mascasra and walk out with 15 other items I never knew I didn't need.

    As for a budget...ugh...I have no idea. What really helps us is we divide our money between 2 checking accounts and 1 savings account. Stonewall's paycheck goes into the "bill account" and my paycheck goes into the "spending account" and then we put 13.5% of our paychecks into savings (because I once read you should divide your age in half and that's the amount you should put in savings). Then we use our bill account for bills only and we can spend our money in the other account on gas, food, and entertainment. I'm also a compulsive bill payer and always pay more than is necessary, so we're about 2 months ahead on several bills...if we're ever short some month for whatever reason (hit a loose manhole and insurance won't cover the car repairs) we can "skip" paying a bill for a month and be okay.

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  12. I am planning a wedding and paying double payments on student loans, not the person you want to ask. But as ailly as it may sound, in the past I have been a coupon shopper and it really did help me a lot.

    LOL @ the Clinton comment BTW.

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  13. All bills get paid the day I get paid. The rest is cash for groceries and gas, which I have to make last two weeks. I buy meat when it's on sale and put in the freezer. I don't really meal plan, but there's only the two of us, but I make sure I have meat thawed. I also make double batches of soups, chili, and casseroles and then freeze the extra.

    Seems to work pretty well :)

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  14. It sounds like you have good bones of budgeting. I like the website 5 Dollar Dinners for meal ideas that are super cheap. I also signed up for my local freecycle.com. That way if there is something minor I can post a wanted for it or keep my eye out for things I need on there (its free, and people give away diapers ALL the time. At least in Killeen.)

    I cut dryer sheets in half because half works just as well as a whole one. I think you mentioned buying bulk meat and seperating it for portions.

    Oh. If you have credit cards leave them at home. If you don't have the money to buy something, that way you can't get it. And leaving money to do things you want is very important because otherwise you can go on a buying binge... which is how I ended up with most of my clothes.

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  15. The main way I don't spend much money is by NOT looking for bargains. I find that when I do, I buy things I don't intend to just because they seem like a good deal. Really, though, no deal is a good deal if you never wanted it in the first place. We also have tried to keep life simple. That's a big reason we only have one car and none of that HD/DVR stuff that is tempting, but unnecessary (can't skimp on internet, though!). I also have learned how to do a lot of things from scratch, and discovered that baking soda and vinegar can clean just about anything around our house.

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  16. About an hour after I read this post I opened my Real Simple magazine and they had a whole article on saving money and budgeting.

    http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/saving/day-frugal-life-00000000010505/

    This months whole issue is based on budgeting. They have another article on ways to get the most out of groceries bought in bulk. And every month they always have a section on how to use everyday things in a nonconvential way...put your little camera in a plastic soap holder so it doesn't get knocked around in your purse, stuff like that.

    I've found that Real Simple is one of the few magazines to put their current issue articles on their website as well.

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  17. We pretty much do what you guysa re doing, BUT we have two other things that may help. #1 - as cheap as the commissary can be, it can soemtimes be even cheaper to shop at regular stores during the weeks when they double and triple coupons. Seriously - you save TONS-o-money!! LIke possibly up to $80 or over in ONE trip.

    AND

    The other thing we do, that helps, TONS is to have a SET amount of money every month (or paycheck, is how we do it) that ou put into savings. So you're always giving yourself a much needed cushion to prevent going BACK into debt. AND then... with all the other budgetting you're doing. ANy money that you have "free" over that amoutn set to be saved will go directly to your debt.

    As far as what debt to pay off first, it's not about the interest as much as it is about what you owe the least on. The best way to do it, due to compound interest, etc, is to pay the minimum due on every bill except your lowest. Then add whatever you can, like an extra $100 a month to pay towards it. THen, when you pay it off, you put that FULL amount you were paying on that bill towards the next lowest total owed, so you're paying the minimum payment PLUS all that you were paying for the first bill and you pay your debt off exponentially.

    It works amazingly. :-) If you give me an e-mail, I can even send you a spreadsheet that calculates it all for you, and tells you how long it will be before you pay it all off completely. It's awesome to see!!

    Good luck!

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  18. Does you store have a bulk food aisle? I save a ton on spices . . . just buy a small amount . . . today bought 6 cents of ground ginger.

    Also, some stores (Wal-Mart) do price matches for exact products if you are willing to do that.

    Generic products are sometimes just as good and so much cheaper.

    I love Target too and on the end of most aisles is the clearance stuff . . . add a coupon if you have it and save big $!

    Thanks for this . . . your readers have great tips!

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  19. I enjoyed this post. To mention something that hasn't been said yet, we make sure that our bills are spread out evenly over paychecks. This keeps us from being cash poor at certain parts of the month. We also split our mortgage payment and save half with one check and add the remaining half when it's due.

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  20. Here is another crazy one . . . buy coupons on ebay . . . technically you are paying for the coupon clippers time but have saved a ton by doing this . . . go try and search for a product you spend money on . . . I paid $1.00 for $15 in coupons for a product I use all the time!

    A blog I followed just gave a great savings on diapers . . . check her out . . . Keeping the Faith

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