The Family Budget– Confessions.

Wednesday , 28, November 2012 11 Comments

Black Friday, travel expenses, and Holiday shopping have me thinking about how I wish I would have planned better, financially, for this time of year.  Not to mention that my son, husband and I all have birthdays in November and December.  Oh, and our anniversary is in December too.  That means, presents, flights (we live half way across the country from my part of the family), car registrations, anniversary celebrations (what’s that?), and birthday parties all have to be paid for, and I would rather not run up the credit card bills.

While I do try to be frugal, these expenses still add up.  So, here comes the confessions part…..I didn’t work all of these costs into the budget.  Not this year.  I wish I could say that x amount of dollars from each paycheck goes towards a ‘Christmas Present’ fund or a ’emergency dog expense’ fund.  I could have used that one a couple months ago when my dog needed surgery.  No, my husband’s (and my small) paycheck get deposited directly into our checking account.  At that point, I set some bills to be paid.  Some come out automatically, and we are left with a number sitting in checking….apparently waiting to be spent.  We have a cushion in savings that we rarely touch, and if we do, we replenish it with funds from the next paycheck.  But, this time of year, I feel like we are playing ‘catch-up’ and we are doing much more borrowing from our cushion and less replenishing with our next paycheck.  I would LOVE to get this under control with a great financial game plan for 2013.  In fact, it is going to be my theme/resolution for 2013…get better control of our finances!

We are doing some things right.  We have one modest car payment.  We bought a house in a much lower price bracket than we qualified for, and our mortgage payment is actually lower than the rent we were paying.  We buy many items used.  I use coupons and shop sales for almost all of our groceries. We don’t buy furniture or big screen tv’s on credit.  We pay our bills on time.  But, If there is money in our account, we inevitably find some way to spend it.  A soda at the gas station here, a chai tea latte there, and more recently, a trip to Lowes to get something for the house…it all adds up.

A few months ago, I made the classic list of all of our expenditures, and then lined that up with the money we bring in each month.  I even went as far as taking out cash to pay for groceries, hubby’s lunches, and some spending money for each of us.  It worked great.  I just wasn’t diligent in keeping it going. I have done a bit of research and found this blog with an idea for a financial fast.  We’re going to implement most of her ideas in January.  I like the idea of starting off the year with a clean financial slate.  Start fresh.

I’ll save my personal goals for our family budget for another day (since I haven’t quite completed my list yet!)  Help me out.  What should I implement in 2013 to become more financially responsible and get a really good hold on my family’s finances?


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  • Jess says:

    1. DO plan for Christmas. Decide January first about how much you want to spend on at least Christmas gifts. Divide by 12 and set that amount aside in a Christmas fund each month. Christmas shopping is so much more fun when you just grab the cash as buy–within your means. People always say Christmas sneaks up on them–it shouldn’t since it happens on the same date every year. If ou don’t know how much you want to spend you can always over estimate to be safe.

    2. The hardest thing for me was menu planning. I was spending SO much at the grocery store and really ending up with very little. This last year I have been committed to a set grocery budget and writing out a menu (that includes left over nights). I don’t assign items to certain days..I just number 1-14 and make sure each day has food options by it. As we cook things I cross it off. Most weeks I’m under budget even after some impulse buys and being too lazy to use coupons.

  • pam mcvey says:

    I think you are doing the right thing by starting off the new year with a plan. You may change some of your goals as you go along, but you will never know what will work if you don’t start. My most helpful suggestion is put everything down on paper (or computer). I have written a budget every month for 44 years. If unexpected expenses come up add them in writing. Then next year the same type of expense won’t be a surprise.
    I am proud of you for all you do for your family!

  • Julie says:

    I agree with Jess. This was the first year we’ve had our Christmas fund funded before Black Friday, and oh, what a difference it made! We started saving a certain amount each paycheck in July, and then decided each person’s amount ahead of time too if we hadn’t already decided on a particular gift.

    We are thinking about doing a financial fast in January, too, because we have the same problem you do-there is a certain amount at the end of the bills just BEGGING to be spent! It’s easy to categorize those in the “miscellaneous” category and not be as mindful of your purchases. is another good resource, she’s done a “No Spend Month” each year with varying degrees of success.

    I think in 2013 you should focus on paying off any debts, if you have them, and stashing away an emergency fund. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, perhaps you could see which step fits your life right now and work your way from there. In the meantime, go ahead and figure your Christmas budget for next year out, too, and start saving. The longer you save, the less you have to stash away each payday.

    The only other advice I’ll put here (because this is a passion of mine, and I could talk your ear off!!) is that it’s nice to have finance meetings with your husband. My husband and I started having them this past year, and while it can be frustrating, it’s also nice to know we have common goals and we can motivate each other to make them happen for our family!

    One last thing is that I LOVE Goal setting! And, that’s my dorky confession of the day 🙂

  • Jess says:

    Because I’m a nerd…

    I know you said you spend a lot of money on “random things” and some of that is entirely normal. If your budget allows..then set aside a certain amount (within reason is the key) that is your “spend” money. The money you can spend on that sudden soda urge etc. The rule though has to be that you only have a set amount there and when it’s gone–it’s gone until next time. The other thing I did for a while was instead of spending $5 a day (i figure thats one trip to star bucks, a couple things at a gas station, mc donalds vs whats in my fridge) I put it in a jar. I only did Monday-Friday. Let me tell you $5 a day adds up quick. I ended up buying us all new living room furniture in cash after only a few months..and it builds up to over $1,000 a year. Which would have normally been spent on junk food my body doesn’t need anyways.

    • Rachel says:

      That is funny. You and Julie are not Nerds or Dorky! You are smart and savvy! Anyway, I like the idea of physically putting the money you would have spend on the coffee, etc in a jar or somewhere for safe keeping. I have tried to ‘mentally’ put that money somewhere but it always gets forgotten about and spent on something else. I have also heard an idea where you put ever $1 bill that you get, like from change when you pay for something with cash, and save it. You can also do it with $5 bills, but I would probably start with ones. Anyway, It is just like a built in savings plan. And no kidding, does my body need the chai tea latte, or coke? NOPE!!

  • Rachel says:

    My husband and I have been saving fives for almost two years. We have saved almost $5000. Added bonus, we still get excited about all the fives we bring home. You all rock, by the way!

  • Natalie says:

    So I don’t keep a very detailed budget, which I blame on my previous job which entailed keeping very detailed high dollar budgets. I guess occupational hazard of not wanting to do your job in your home life.

    Anyways I do however keep track of my monthly bills really well. I use an app on my smartphone called Bill Tracker. I can set bills to alert me before they are due and how much. You can set monthly bills or show a running balance. At any given moment I can look at the app and see what bills are to be paid with the current paycheck and what’s left before we get paid again. This helps me to more or less mentally budget our extra expenses like gas and groceries. Ben likes me using this app because he constantly asks what’s left to pay before the next paycheck in case he wants to spend money 😉

    We also set up a checking and savings account at a bank we don’t normal use. We have a set amount of money deposited from his paycheck every pay period. This is one of our emergency don’t touch accounts. Because the bulk of our money isn’t there we don’t think about but it’s there if we need it.

    Another great use if technology is mobile bank apps that let you see a log of your account balance. You can monitor your daily debit card spending. Looking at this can help you realize you stop for coffee too much ;). When we need to tighten up we go get cash once a week and refrain from using the debit card on those small purchases.

    The last bit of personal advice to share which is not one I like but has been helpful before. We had a couple of bills with outrageous interest rates. You pay double the minimum payment and still most of it pays the interest. Anyways, we took a few bills that added up to a couple thousand dollars and took out a signature loan with a much lower interest rate and paid off the other bills. I don’t like doing this at all but in a really tight situation it can help. You still owe the same amount of money but have a lower interest rate and can pay it off quicker.

    Hope my disorganized methods are at least a tiny bit helpful. These few things have helped use to track our money and have more and mire left in the bank after each paycheck. They have at least worked for us. Tonight I got to pay off a huge bill without messing with my savings or risking any of my other financial obligations. To each his/her own 😉

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