I haven’t mentioned this before, because it seemed totally ‘no big deal’ when I started it, but I have been working on trying to be tighter with my budget. I’ve always prided myself on being able to do a good job of rubbing my two pennies together, so I didn’t really think this was going to be a ‘challenge,’ but it has been more difficult than I imagined.
When Mat first started up his business we relied almost exclusively on my income to pay all the bills. As his business built up, many of the bills I used to pay have started to come out of his business income. So I am no longer responsible for paying for telephone, electricity, water or vehicle registration bills anymore. In fact, 90% of the time, Mat buys horse feed and pays the farrier too!
And yet, I was still spending almost my whole paycheck every single fortnight, with only about $50-100 a week put into savings. It seemed to me that I was not living within my means, and that if we ever hit a tight spot, we wouldn’t be able to manage on a single income. I also felt that it was important to have a 3 month buffer of savings (a common recommendation amongst financial planners in case of loss of employment/injury, etc), as well as the money we always keep in reserve just in case we might have to make a mad dash to Canada. We had the mad dash money, but we certainly didn’t have a three-month income reserve!
So, I decided that I was going to live more frugally.
I decided that we should be able to live off of $500 a week to cover mortgage, fuel for my car, car insurance, and food. All the rest should go to savings.
Of that $500, each week $350 goes automatically to our mortgage. Bye money, it was nice knowing you …
Of the $150 left, $25/week generally goes into fuel or car insurance, leaving $125 per week to spend on food and entertainment.
I thought this would be a reasonable amount of money to buy food and a few extras with every week, but it has been really hard!
I don’t know if it’s because everything costs more (inflation is a bitch), or if I’m not considering the price of the products carefully enough? But on more than one occasion, as I have been doing this over the last few pays, I have had to dip into savings to cover costs.
Now, I’m certainly spending less than I have been, and our savings buffer has been growing, so it is working! And there are other advantages, too.
This little personal budgeting challenge has made me start meal planning again so I am more thoughtful about what I am purchasing and using up more kitchen staples, and we’re using up leftovers better. I’m eating-in more, packing a lunch and all that, and I think we’re probably eating better meals as a result too – fewer shortcuts and lazy trips to the deli for snacks. And although we never wasted a lot of food to start with, even the compost heap is seeing less kitchen waste.
With the garden growing again, and us only eating meat about twice a week now, I can imagine that we will be spending even less at the grocery store, but sometimes I still suffer sticker shock at the checkout and would love to bring that down to next to nothing! One day we would like to get some chickens for fresh eggs, and what about this amazing idea to grow your own fish!? (video)
I know money is a kind of personal realm, but we all need it to survive and have to choose our spending priorities and probably most of us are trying to live within our means.
How little could you and your family manage on? What tips and techniques do you have for finding a bargain or sticking to a budget?