Saturday, February 6, 2010

February is Budgetary Diet Month

I started writing this weeks ago, early in the month.

We are used to operating our living expenses with a certain amount of cushion, but since the little girl arrived, our budget has been thrown all out of whack. In addition, December and January are always hard months financially. Not only do we have to get through the shopping and gift-giving season intact, but January slams us hard with insurance premiums, car registrations, and large heating bills. And then there is everyday life to fund. It's not unusual to have an overdraft or two! ack!, although it always comes as a surprise - noooo! Our credit union is very supportive and forgiving, but still, it's not a happy place to be to have saved funds being transferred around. It doesn't help our savings, either. We like our savings and want to keep our balances happy.

This year, we will get purchases back under control. So this month, February, we are restraining ourselves from unnecessary and extraneous purchases. We are going on a budget diet!

I got this idea from Magpie Girl's year-long clothing diet and American Family's budget diet last year.

We are of course continuing to pay for the kitchen project that needs to be kept moving along, but that's an investment that is all coming out of savings anyway. We also have some baby-related expenses that we purchase to keep ahead of her, for instance, we will likely need another baby gate sometime soon. But enough with all the add-ons!

Of course, food is always a necessary purchase, but we are buying only modest staples that will be kind to the budget. No wild purchases of extra special foods. No stocking up on non-immediate needs.

My real weakness is clothing (to some degree), fancy food, chocolate, and items for the baby. Well, I have lots of so-called gazingus pins, those things that we always feel compelled to buy, even if we already a drawer full at home, or have thrown out or piled up more than we will ever need.

But I resolve to stay strong!

Some of the purchases off the list:

One of those lovely, chic scarves I've been coveting for the past six months.
More socks or pajamas for the baby.
Dance shoes I've needed new ones for the last two years! boo-hoo! My feet are not happy.
Any clothing for the two of us, including new pants for myself, new shoes, or new shirts that actually fit. Or clothing for dancing which actually fits. I've been eyeing several things, but I am restraining myself.
Music CDs. Although I know of several friends who have had new releases coming out, we are just going to have to wait.
Having our trees in the front yard pruned. I'm hoping to make this a March project.
Color ink for the printer.
Any new books, such as making baby food or whatnot.
A dish drainer. Our old one is finally falling apart, but it's still functional enough for a bit longer.
New fabric for curtains. Also, new curtain rods.
Any new tea mugs. I resist mightily.
Any new toys or books for the kiddo.
A Sesame Street DVD.
Ice cream. No over-priced small servings, just bowls from the cartons we already have in the freezer.
No more fresh/flash-frozen salmon. I can get it on sale at the co-op sometimes, but even on sale, a few fillets can kick up the grocery bill considerably. I have other fish in the freezer to work with.
Renewing our newspaper subscription. Waiting until next month because I can.
A new changing table/storage unit for the baby's room. We do need this, but we are hanging on for a while longer.
A new bookcase for the living room. We've been talking about this a lot, but it's not an immediate need.
New spices. Lots of my old ones are kinda dingy, but at best, I'll replace them a few at a time.
New spice containers.
Extra juice. Extra calories and extra dollars on the weekly food bill. One kind of container of one kind of juice is enough, really.
Any new pens, new markers, new colorful index cards. I've already got enough to work with. Really.
Bulk packages of any office or household supplies.
Fancy cheeses. Again, something that is best not indulged in every month. Sigh.
Fresh-baked cookies or danishes or croissants from the co-op. Ditto. Drool and sigh.
Large checks for charities. I am sometimes willfully generous, but a number of those at once can be bad news.
A major tune up for the truck. Although it does need it.
A duo-headset for watching movies at night. This was actually to be a Valentine's Day present from my husband, but I convinced him to hold off a few more weeks.
New household tools!!! Ahem. Do we need a handheld jigsaw? Oh, right - I guess so.

And there's even more that I can't even remember right now.

Needless to say, I have not had any sushi in weeks. Nay, months! Although if I did manage to schedule a lunch with any of my friends, I would not turn it down. But basically, I will try to stay away from Target, Costco, and IKEA. And sushi. I will make my list and stick to it.

Some things that stay on the list:

Chocolate Well, we can't give it up entirely, but we can cut back. When we eat up our portion, sorry, it is GONE.
Greens. Mmm, greens. Just not the fancy things out of season.
Extra food purchases for a local school's food bank. I can certainly afford to contribute some cans of tuna and jars of peanut butter.

How has this been working?

Not badly. When we remember something we need to get, we jot it down on the little white board on the fridge. Then before we go out shopping, we compile a list of *everything* we'll need to remember, arranged by store. That helps a lot by keeping me focused on what I am looking for and avoiding purchases that are not on the list.

Then I only go to stores and sections in which I need something! When I get entranced by something unnecessary Oo, shiny cute blouses! Books! Cheeeese! , I remind myself that I'm not buying extraneous items this month. More than once, I have put back a number of things after I found myself absent-mindedly picking them up and walking away with them in the cart. When I DO see something that we might actually want/need, I write it down or make a mental note. Maybe later, it will still feel important, but for now, Nonono!

I also look over our receipts every so often. While I'm separating the totals for different categories for the budget book, I'm also seeing what items have inflated our spending. It's true that certain unavoidable expenses for the little girl are pretty steep, but did I need to get that expensive cleaner or that many bars of chocolate in one week? Often not. Looking over the receipts has also shown me that the cost of our basic groceries are not too, too bad. Fruit, vegetables, and other basics (in season) are often not that expensive. It's when we add the extra snack foods or the extra-special something-or-other, or The Best Organic Produce, or items that we don't actually need right now, that the totals get inflated.

Purchases that have slipped through:

An almond croissant (new recipe and on sale), and a small book for the little girl. I also bought a couple of boxes of girl scout cookies from the daughter of a friend. I also bought a modest wedge of fresh asagio cheese, but it was on sale, really! I guess I can hold off on chocolate, but cheese and books are still a weakness. Also: library late fines. Ahhhhhhh!

Despite my slip-ups, I have resisted so. many. other. things - both large and small - that the month has felt like a success overall. A couple more days of restraint, and we'll reassess our balance. I have to think that this habit of financial restraint might be worth keeping.

1 comment:

Flying Saucer Jones said...

Groceries take a bigger chunk out of my wallet than they did last year. Same for electricity, water, gas, you name it. I'll have to joing you in the budgeting stakes. (Mmm, steak. Sorry. Hungry.)