After I shared our No Spend January some of you said you’d like to read more family budget type of posts. I write about our debt free journey for my quarterly Art of Simple posts, so I didn’t really think about exploring that topic here at SK.
However, the more I thought about it, the more a family budget series appealed to me, so I decided to test the waters with monthly updates as we do our budget.
Just promise me you’ll take anything I say here with a grain of salt, remembering that Christopher and I are digging our way out of some stupid large debt after years of really dumb financial decisions and that what I say and do applies to my personal life in a household of seven with the income and debt that we have (how’s that for a disclaimer?)
You know, your mileage may vary and all of that fine print.
As I said, January was a No Spend month for us, meaning we only spent money on essentials (bills, mortgage, food, etc.) and let me tell you, even after all of these years of living fairly frugally, that was a challenge.
Not so much a challenge about having enough resources to make it through the month. We ate well, kept warm, and had fun as a family.
No, it was a challenge because Christopher and I kept wanting to spend money on things that weren’t true needs. Even after all we’ve been through, temptation is still there.
When we ran out of printer ink toward the end of the month, my first instinct was to immediately replace it. Same with the can opener that won’t open cans without a battle. Or how I really wanted to paint the bedrooms before we switched them around last weekend.
I had to step back and remind myself to evaluate whether these types of things were true needs or if they were things I could make do, or do without.
It was a good financial reset to begin 2015 with and I’m glad that we did it. (And I can live with a purple bedroom for awhile).
Current Affairs – How do things look right now? February is going to be a rather tight budget month for us. My irregular web content writing income and the temporary lull in available overtime hours for my husband mean that we have a little less to go around than we have had the past six months or so.
Every penny is accounted for and there’s no wiggle room, but each of us is getting our fun money and a Valentine’s day dinner, so it isn’t a budget that will leave us gasping for air (been there, done that, proud of ourselves).
Forecasting and Goals – I’m planning ahead for birthdays. We also have a pretty large bill that needs to be paid this month (hello winter heating costs).
Other goals and events this month:
- file our 2014 income taxes
- go through the house and make a list of needed repairs (“need” being the key word) in 2015
Staying Motivated – One of the first things I am going to do now that No Spend month is over is to take my monthly allowance and purchase Cherie Lowe’s Slaying the Debt Dragon.
I’ve also been listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast and the Simpler Happier Life podcast, both of which give slightly different financial advice, but which are great for inspiration and motivation to both pay off our last remaining debt and to live a frugal and simple lifestyle.
Pete the Planner is launching a new podcast, called Ask Pete the Planner, so I’ll be checking that out for some motivation and advice, too.
Kids and Money – the kids did No Spend month right along with us. We explained our reasons why and they really didn’t seem to have any issues getting on board with the concept. A few times they requested getting ice cream or another treat, but after a reminder that we were focusing on essentials, that was the end of it.
Each child gets a small allowance and, while we are encouraging them to give/save/spend it and hope we are providing a good example, my husband and I are mostly stepping back and letting them do what they want to with their money. We want them to learn lessons about money and feel like giving them some freedom with their own funds will teach this.
Allowance is new territory for us. I’d love to hear what you do in your family, if you’d like to leave me a comment.
Frugal Deeds (done dirt cheap) – you’re always invited to check out the FD(ddc) Pinterest board where I pin frugal living tips and inspiration.
Here are some of our family’s recent frugal deeds:
- Christopher and I went on a date to Indy Baconfest at the end of January (the tickets were purchased in December, at a pre-sale price, so no No Spend month budgets were harmed, ha ha!) and we only used our allotted food and drink vouchers and didn’t spend any more than that.
- Our babysitter was a family member who won’t take money from us, so free baby sitting for date night was a win!
- I worked out a craft swap with my sister – she’s going to sew something for one of my kids and in exchange I’m going to knit something for her.
- I knit a baby gift out of scrap yarn from a free pattern and wrapped it in leftover holiday tissue paper and a ribbon.
- After discovering the seven of us were going through milk at rate that justified our own dairy cow, I started labeling the gallons with a Sharpie, assigning one gallon of milk per day. So far, this was worked out brilliantly!
- We turned the thermostat down two more degrees (after a shocking December heating bill). No one has said a word. I don’t think they even noticed.
- I’ve gone back to doing more freezer cooking than ever, and I can see that bit by bit it is making a difference in our monthly grocery budget.
- I still haven’t replaced that darned can opener, I’m going to use it until it finally falls apart.
- When Christopher needed new dress shirts for work he shopped sales with a Kohls gift card I was given for Christmas and was able to buy 4 new shirts for only $3 out of pocket.
- We put the word out that we were in need of a dresser and a co-worker had one she was giving away, so we met that need without spending a dime. (Though I do think Christopher is going to take her out to lunch sometime as a thank you).
So, without going into specific dollar amounts, although I might in the future (I’ve already been pretty open about our finances and I’m not sure how much more personal I want to go in this area), that’s what the family budget looks like for February.
What about you? Any financial victories? Frugal deeds done dirt cheap? Things challenging you? Keeping you motivated? I’d love to hear!