Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Better Budgeting

After a recent overview of where my money has gone so far this year, I vowed to change the way I spent my money. So much of it has gone to food, sweets and treats. Some of those purchases were well worth the money, others, sadly were impulse buys, mostly at fast food places. A night out at Elote, or Plaza Bonita is so much more satisfying than Taco Bell or Domino's.

The categories I spent my Fun Dollars on were as follows: Food (including sweets, treats, restaurants, soda, fast food), Appearance (clothes, makeup, accessories, personal care items), Entertainment (movies, popcorn, tickets and entry fees), Specialty Beverages (alcohol, tea and coffee), and Miscellaneous items (stuff that didn't fall into any of these categories.) After adding up the categories, I examined their outcomes and what that meant for my spending habits. Let's put it this way, if I added up Appearance, Entertainment, Specialty Beverages, and Miscellaneous, they would equal what I spent on Food. I want to change that.

On Monday of this week, I made a summer action plan for the kids and me this summer. I wrote down everything we are already committed to, like swim lessons, visiting family, birthday parties, and the summer movie series. Then I looked at how much each of these would cost us in Fun Dollars. For example, every week that we go to the Summer Movie Series, Carrick is going to want to get popcorn, and I will probably want a little myself. So I budgeted out $5.00 for him, and $7.00 for me.

I made this bulletin board from a picture frame we had not put up yet after moving.
I covered it in contact paper from the Dollar Tree, and cut out different colored
construction paper to write the words on. I affixed squares of contact paper to the
backs of the words so that I can tape and re-tape them. Every day, I choose two or
three activities from the collection I have written down and put them on the board.
Also, Carrick gets to choose whether his picture goes on the "dishes" side
or the "laundry" side of the board. Then whichever he chooses, I find a way
for him to help out with that activity. Yesterday, he chose "dishes" and I had
him collect the stray dishes from around the house.
Corey and I also had a discussion about Carrick starting to do chores around the house. I incorporated this element into my Summer Action Plan. Since he only gets $5.00 every pay cycle, he won't be able to buy his own popcorn every week at the movies. Having him help out around the house makes it worth it to me to buy his popcorn on the off week, or to give him a few dollars to spend at a garage sale.

As for me, I plan on cutting way back on what I spend on food, at least for the summer. I think by cutting out fast food alone, I will cut that number in half. So far, I haven't spent fast food money since the last pay cycle. I cut out fast food for a while earlier this year, and I can do it again.

One category that I was sad that I hadn't spent any money on was "gifts". I want to buy things for other people more often (not just toys for the kids, or a bottle of wine for Corey.) So, my first purchase this pay cycle was a book on Shutterfly that I had a coupon for. I don't know why, but for some reason, Safeway printed out two Shutterfly coupons that I've been hanging on to (every time someone checks out at Safeway, they pint out coupons). They both expired on Memorial Day, so, I used one of them this weekend. It was for a 20-page hard-cover book...for free! All I paid for was the shipping and tax. It cost nine and change, so it rounds up to $10.00 Fun Dollars. I won't say who it's for, until they receive it, then I can share more about that purchase.

Looking back and observing behavior is one of the best ways to change your habits, whether it's keeping a food journal, a workout log, or a drinking diary. If you really want to change the way you do something, observe it first. Collect data without judgement. Then, after you have a clear outline of what you actually do, you are better equipped to decide just how you want to change it. That's been the premise of this blog from the beginning
. I am excited that I have stuck with recording my spending long enough to have a clear outline of data to work with. Now the real change can start happening.

Happy Spending!

20-page hard-cover book from Shutterfly- $10.00

Balance this pay cycle- $90.00

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