Feb 5, 2010

A Worthy Investment of Your Time

When I became a SAHM (stay at home mom), I knew that my husband and I were going to have to tighten our belts, financially speaking.  I have always leaned toward frugality, but I fell headlong into the lifestyle once I quit working.  And I love it.  But quite honestly, I'm finding that the more I delve into this world, the less I know about it.  Today I had a "Eureka!" moment. 

One of the fundamentals of frugality is to have a budget and to stick to it.  We have one.  It's a beautiful Excel document, with functions that lead us to a final monthly conclusion.  The only problem is that I formulated our budget without first studying our actual spending habits and usage.  The budget has all of our fixed expenses in place, and a few variables, such as gas and grocery, but it stops there.  I never created an area in our budget for things like clothing, house and car repairs/maintenance, gifts, or office supplies.  I merely left whatever was left of our earnings dictate how much we had to spend on these items.  We have never run out of money, but it seems that there was never enough to really jump into a consistent savings plan.

My husband and I have a credit card account.  We use that one account for pretty much all of our purchases.  It simplifies our lives, and we earn airline mileage for our purchases.  Plus, it's what we've always done.   So... today I got out my trusty pen and paper, the last three months of credit card statements, and began to record every charge on our credit card under various categories.  The main areas were grocery, gas, eating out, gifts, business, ministry, medical, and the dreaded MISCELLANEOUS.   I added up each month's total for each category, divided by three to establish an average, and then compared these numbers with the variable colums of our budget. 

Interestingly enough, I discovered that I had over-calculated our actual monthly spending on gasoline.  That was a nice $40 cushion!  I was dead-on with grocery purchases, but that is the one variable area that I strictly monitor.  However, I was pretty surprised to discover how many gift purchases we make, besides Christmas gifts.  I established a new category in my budget for gifts.  I also made a laundry column, as we spend about $35 monthly to feed the quarter-eating washing machines.  Another newbie on the budget block was an eating out column.  Ben and I eat out about once a week, mainly on Saturday afternoon after visiting our Sunday School children.  I enjoy the break from cooking, and our weekly date is a nice change from the routine.  We generally eat at a subway stand or something similar, but even that little amount adds up! 

I put anything that didn't fit into those first seven categories into the last one, MISCELLANEOUS. I was frankly amazed at the dollar total of the MISC. columns for the past three months.  Now some of these purchases were justified and necessary.  However, I would say that probably half of them were impulsive purchases that were really not needed.  I now know where our savings has gone.  It has gone to places like Wal-Mart, Target, Jo-Ann's, Petco, and various resale shops, to name a few.

I am feeling rather empowered, because I now know where our hard-earned money has gone, and I can go with confidence to my husband with information to help us establish a better spending and savings plan.  I share this information to encourage you to figure out where your money goes and take control.  We are just stewards of our resources, and we ought to be good ones!

2 lovely comments:

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annabelle82 said... Best Blogger Tips

Yeah my miscellaneous purchases go to Jo Anns, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, WALMART, etc!Good thing we don't have a Target within 60 miles of us! They suck me in and spit me out! I can't help that I like crafts :)