Thursday, May 31, 2007

love me, love my budget.

a few months ago, i was having a meeting with a man who teaches money management classes. he was telling me all about how people just don't keep track of their money, how it creates stress in marriage, how people could save if they just paid attention, etc. this was work-related, but hit pretty close to home. very close to home. i'd been in denial that our financial issues (none major, but normal. and normal in america isn't healthy) were our own fault - we were both used to managing our own money; how do you keep track when one person does mostly freelance work; we HAVE to fly home to portland every 3 months for our own mental well-being; i NEED new clothes, and this is just how much people spend, right? so you charge things as needed and dip into the savings, and spend money when you have it, then pull back when the account gets low, right? not anymore. that meeting inspired The Budget. and, friends, The Budget is one of the smartest things we've ever done. just staying in the kitchen here for blogging purposes: when i first started tracking how much we spent, in january, i think, i spent more than $400 a month on groceries, and together more than $200 eating out. now we spend $70 a week on groceries, and $100 a month on eating out. and we still eat mostly organic, as locally as possible, and almost exclusively from the farmer's market and co-op. good, huh? to be honest, $70 a week is fairly low to keep up the pantry. once every few months, i'll blow some more cash when deals are good. this month, for instance, was the "truckload sale" at the co-op, and i put a little more in the budget to take advantage and stock up. every few months, i'll go to indianapolis for work and use that opportunity to stop in at trader joe's. budget food shopping tips: 1. use cash. when the cash is gone for the week, you're done shopping. 2. get needs first. my first stop with the grocery money is the farmer's market. then, i wait for the 5% discount day at the co-op to do the majority of the shopping. (granted, there's usually a trip in the middle as well. my planning skills aren't THAT great.) at the grocery, put your grains, proteins, etc. in the cart before moving to the chocolate chips, cheese, and various delicious non-neccessities. no one needs capers. buy capers last. 3. look at sales ahead of time online if possible. 4. make your own (bread, yogurt, frozen burritos, ice cream, granola, trail mix, muffins) if you have the time and inclination. 5. love the food you're with. tonight, we had a kind-of chili with no onions, and no cornbread to go with it because the oven's out. so i fried an egg for each of us, put it on top of the tomato-bean-kale stew, and served it with a toasted english muffin. not exactly cookbook material, but it was completely tasty, satisfying, organic, and with a salad, nutrionally sound. so it's doable, i swear. we eat three squares on this amount, with $20/each a week spending money to augment. for me, this means afternoon cookies more often than it should. for my dearest huband, it means frequent afternoon coffees. morning coffee is covered. alcohol is in a separate line item that includes going out for drinks. so that's The Budget. it's a real spreadsheet and everything. and i love it.

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