Saturday, December 18, 2010

Budgets ~ a four letter word?

Well, I first wrote about budgeting back in May, so it seems apt to make an end-of-year declaration as to the success (or not!) of our budgeting attempts this year.

The good:
  • We saved a lot of money this year.  We made an audacious goal back in May, and we killed it.  I feel very protective of that egg, so if you need me to float you a loan, I'll make a face.  I'll write the check, but I'll make a face.  Sorry.
  • We worked hard to reduce our monthly obligations.  The first thing I attacked were random subscriptions and anything that was 8-dollaring-us-to-death.  Then we dumped comcast cable.  That's right!  Old-school antenna, Tivo (couldn't live without ya, kisses!), and the same Netflix subscription we've had for years is saving us $150 per month.  We're still paying for high speed internet, but all television/cable/land line expenses were eliminated. 
  • We pay cash for everything.  Erik has been living within his (very generous!!) monthly allowance.  It took a while for him to come to grips with the idea that he might have to spend some of his monthly allowance on things he didn't actually want.  He's become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to his cash, so when he's obligated to pay $50 for a going-away dinner he didn't particularly enjoy, he couldn't quite understand why that would come out of his allowance!  haha!  He's so funny.
  • We bought a cow.  Actually, we bought half a cow.  It's a grass fed, organic, grain-finished cow, to be precise.  I'd been buying grass-fed organic ground beef for around $6.00 a pound at the market.  Our chest freezer, which was empty and unplugged, is now completely filled to brimming with a cow.  It's around 260 pounds of meat!  With the butcher's fee and per-pound-cost of the cow itself, it cost us about $1100 in upfront costs. That works out to about $4 a pound.  Which is pretty decent for the (ahem) 120 pounds of ground beef, but it feels pretty spectacular for grass-fed organic porterhouse and t-bone steaks, and the dozens of roasts, etc.  I'm not even sure where I would get organic tri-tip roast, but I'm sure it would not be cheap should I come across it.  Anyway, having all that quality meat on hand (sue me, we eat meat) makes our weekly grocery bill all about the basics, and that's a huge savings every month.
The bad:
  • We pay a lot for Scotty's preschool and some after school care for Tommy (uh, roughly  half-a-cow every month); Tommy doesn't go all the time, but I pay for it so it's there when I need it.   My housecleaning bill is rather ridiculous, but I'm a 'spread the wealth' kind of gal, so I don't mind paying for the weekly service (when I know I can get by on half that) just because I know it's supporting her family and she needs the work, too.   I think our cash allowances and 'funny money' are just this side of extravagant, but whatever.  I can go all month with the same 15 bucks in my wallet, but once in a while I'll spend like a drunken sailor on shore all evens out, somewhere, I'm sure.  Good for us?  That day care, housecleaning, and cash allowances are all easily reduced and/or eliminated should our income become drastically reduced.  (knock wood, that doesn't seem to be on our horizon, but who even knows these days?)
  • Please do not ask me how much we are paying for two iPhones each month.  When I saw it, back in May, I literally squeaked.  Now I just look away.
  • We went way over our Christmas budget this year.  We had the cash to do it, but it seems like I still can't figure out what exactly we're buying for all that money.   Ho Ho Ho?
The interesting:
  • I'm really grateful that we have money.  I say this with total humility, and I'm hoping it doesn't sound otherwise.  I mean, it's exciting and fun to watch our balance grow, but if push came to shove, and we had to live on our budgeted amounts without ever dipping into extra cash that we have, this would be a very different story.  
  • It's funny, when you don't just go out and buy something, when you actually plan and save up to get it, how often it happens that, by the time you have the cash and are ready to make the purchase, some other more important thing has already come up to claim whatever money you put aside.  It really makes you think about what the word "need" means.
  • With a freezer full of meat, I'm really looking forward to garden harvest next year!  I'm curious about how low our food bills will go when I'm shopping for veggies and meat right here at home...
That's the 2010 status of Operation Quit Wasting Money.  Now that we know what that feels like, we'll start looking at goals for the next couple of years.   Whatever we land on, it's going to be BIG.  I've decided I like to shoot for crazy town when it comes to these kinds of goals; that way, even when we fall short, we end up in awesomeville.


  1. Mia, thanks for posting this! I don't get to read blogs as much as I used to (I wonder why... haha) but I am so glad I read this one! With sweet (but expensive) little Ruffin on top of us trying to buy a house (we're still renting) we are have some really serious budget talks in the Stover household. This is inspiring and has given me some ideas! Thanks!! :D

  2. Congratulations on meeting your goals! My hubby has been trying to get me to agree to a budget for quite a while, with no luck. Our biggest expense is going out to eat, which we do up to 4 or 5 times per week. (Eek! that sounds like A LOT when I actually type it out!)

  3. Aw, that's great, ladies! I worried a little about writing this because MONEY, ugh, so that's nice to hear!

    @Nancy ~ Kids. Yep, I hear you. :) Good thing he's so dang cute!!!

    @Carmen ~ Eating. Yep. Let me tell you this, and do with it what you will: We went from spending over $1500 a month for food to right around $500. Seriously. It's hard on ME, because these savings require that I (and I alone) do all the making....that would be lunches (every day) for the whole family, and dinner every night. I can do this for several months at a time. But then, you know what happens, when you get tired/school stuff/late nights etc., and then we have a string of take out or eat out nights, too. So once in a while we spend a couple hundred extra, but net/net our food costs are WAY down. If you can even cut back to 2 nights out (at first!) you'll trip out on how much you save. Erik often has to eat lunch out (if something goes from my list of to-do's, that's gonna usually be it) but we both get $25 per week in cash. It's for lunch, coffee, etc., and it's outside the "spending money" we get for things we "want" each month. See what I mean? It's hardly "skimping" when he gets something like $400 a month in cash! But still, we call it a budget, because there are plenty of things he wants that cost more than he still has to save up, wait a couple of months, etc., whereas before he'd just go get it.

    Anyway, all that to say, do what you want with your money! haha! But, if you wish you had more money for something else, or if you find yourself using credit cards for things when you'd rather pay cash, food is definitely an area that gives you lots of wiggle room.

  4. Mia, I just got your comment...and I wanted you to know...I think of you everytime I read the Velveteen Rabbit to Nolan. I don't know if I've ever told you how much that all meant to me. Glad all seems well with you and yours. :-)

  5. Mia, you have given me inspiration to be serious about saving. I'm pretty good, but I could improve. The last 3 months I have made a few big purchases using my credit card. However, I paid it off in full each month. But, the savings was hit hard for my comfort. So, I'm not using my cc and I stopped playing Lotto with a group of co-workers, $10.00/wk. I have also set a lofty goal of paying down the principal on the mortgage and "stuff" some underneath the mattress. I wrote my goal on a piece of paper, placed it in an envelope, and taped it inside my desk. I will open it next December. Let's see what happens... Merry Christmas, Moose

  6. @ Moose ~ Merry Christmas!! Oh dear...I'm blushing a little, as I'm sure those Giants tickets weren't cheap. *cough* :) It's funny, but the $10 stuff really adds up, and getting rid of them just changes the way I've thought about everything. (Of course, I now have my fingers crossed that co-workers never win the Lottery. Sorry folks! haha) We should talk...I think our next big goal is going to be mortgage related, too!