Like so many families today, I am on a quest to live as debt free as possible. After getting my husband on board too, I thought it would be a fairly easy process. I figured we would simply cut up credit cards, establish a budget and then stick to it. What could be simpler? Well, steps 1 and 2 were easy. It was step 3 that required the real discipline. Here is the synopsis of my experience, and how I blew my family budget in the first week.
CURRENT SPENDING: $425
DESIRED GOAL: $305
TOTAL SAVINGS: $120
We sat down and mapped out a budget based on our expenses. Since many are fixed, we simply chose three to tackle first and start seeing the savings. We thought that once we had the hang of that, we could move on to reducing our utility costs and other things of that nature.
Our average weekly spending on gas, groceries and extras was $425 and our goal was to get it down to $305, which would mean an annual savings of $6,240.
What happened: I knew that creating a menu for the week would automatically reduce the amount of groceries I purchased. We usually spend about $225 and wanted to bring our bill down to $175. However, I found myself in a jam and wound up shopping at one store (not the least expensive) and got to the checkout only to discover I had lost all my coupons. Ugh!
While I was still under my old amount ($203.16), I still overspent by $28.16. After doing some research on this, I found that I would have only spent $168.56 if I had shopped at two other, lower priced stores and used my coupons. That would have put me under my budget by an additional $6.44!
What happened: My husband drives a good bit to and from work, which drives up our gas costs immensely. Since I work from home though, we tend to balance each other out.
I maximized carpooling opportunities with other parents for getting/taking my kids to their activities. I also tried to make a conscious effort to reduce the number of trips I took for errands.
Turns out, this is one area where I did well. By carpooling and combining my errands into fewer trips, I definitely reduced the amount of gas I used.
We spent $80. All it took was a little planning and we saved $20.
What happened: We are a busy family. With everyone coming and going from church, sporting events, and social activities, this was a big area to tackle and my goal was to cut our costs in half. We’ve been spending a whopping $100 per week. So, I looked at our week ahead and recognized we had only 1 family event (a Family Fun Night at school) and 1 birthday party, so I set limits for each. Surely we could do those two things on $50.
Despite my budget, we invited extra kids to the Family Fun Night, which doubled our cost for food and tickets. My daughter had a late tournament where we ate fast food instead of cooking at home. My husband also squeezed in a mini-fishing expedition with his dad that was not part of the original plan.
We easily could have adjusted our priorities on this week’s extras. Instead, we tried to excuse our spending in this area because we were ”busy” and we didn’t stick to our plan. We spent $120, running over our typical weekly amount!
DESIRED GOAL: $305
ACTUAL SPENT: $396.84
AMOUNT SAVED: $28.16
MISSED SAVINGS: $98.28
Overall, we came out $28.16 less than our normal weekly spending due to our savings at the grocery store. However, if we had simply followed our original game plan for both groceries and extras we would have saved $126.44 for the week – even under our original goal!
Bottom Line- Sticking to a budget isn’t just planning and organizing; it also requires a true buy-in to the overall experience of saving money. It means saying NO and sometimes making tough choices. The reward will be savings you can see.
written by: Jennifer Fitzgerald
About the Author:
Jennifer write for SelectAware.com offering money saving tips for families on the go, including frugal living suggestions and sustainability options for everyday life.