In the spirit of full disclosure, budgeting can be tricky. It is often a word that strikes fear into the hearts of grown adults. People ask what will I have to give up? Or, how boring will my life be when I am budgeting? According to dicitionary.com:
- an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.
- a plan of operations based on such an estimate.
- an itemized allotment of funds, time, etc., for a given period.
Fundamentally, budgeting is just a plan for a finite resource. Whether time, money, or something else we have a limited amount of, having a plan for how we spend resources is valuable.
I have been budgeting for my little family of two (plus the cat) with the help of my husband for the last eight years. First it was an excel spreadsheet that I filled out from memory at the end of each month. Not the most accurate method, but when I was in graduate school it was better than nothing. Then we moved to Mint (www.mint.com) and our budget was far more automated, but I still looked at it weekly. Over time, I have checked in with it less. But I have always had a decent idea of where we were in our bills and our accounts. Even with all this practice, sometimes I slip up.
Last month was definitely a month of slips. We haven’t been meal planning like we should, so there were several unplanned grocery trips. Additionally, we took the easy way out numerous times and went out for dinner or ordered in. These are just excuses; the truth is we stopped paying attention to where we were spending our money. We know how to do better, we just didn’t.
So when April, Financial Literacy Month, started we decided that we want to do better. For the month of April, we have decided to do a “non-essential spending freeze”. We know ourselves well enough to know that a “no spend” month or a “full spending freeze” wouldn’t quite work. We need a bit of wiggle room. Part of success in these instances is knowing yourself, so our freeze will be partial. We came up with the following rules:
- We can eat out no more than once a week
- We can’t get coffee out together each week like we have been in the past few months
- My husband’s birthday isn’t affected by the freeze
- We can go to one movie this month (we both are dying to see Avengers Endgame)
- Necessary expenses whether fixed or variable are ok (so we can still get gas, buy groceries, and pay rent)
We aren’t doing this to limit ourselves, we are doing this to get back on track. We have some changes coming to our personal financial situation in the next few months and getting back to our budget will help prepare us. We used to live on a tight budget, no problem, so in a way we are trying to get back to that frame of mind. It will hopefully help us see the value in what we have, while making more intentional decisions about what we buy. And hopefully our savings will experience a nice little infusion.
I am going to track our progress week by week and talk about any stumbling blocks we face along the way. This is something we’ve never done before. I am excited to see how it turns out!
What about you, have you ever done a no spend day, week, or month, or tried to stick to your budget after a few months off track? I’d love to hear your stories as we start this journey!