I have always been one to save money rather than spend it. I used to really get into using coupons and planning my shopping trips. No extreme couponer by any means, but saving a bunch of money really brought me a sense of accomplishment. After we had Sophie, I was still pretty good about it, but when Sally came, things just got, well, busy. If I even found the time to plan a few meals and make a grocery list, I felt pretty on top of things. However, I have been wanting for a while now to really get back to watching our spending a little more. We have never tried a cash envelope system, but I thought it would be a good idea. I kept telling myself, "Okay, next month, I will get that organized." Then next month would come around, and I wouldn't get to it. I think my procrastination was related in part to fear. Fear that it wouldn't work well. Fear that we couldn't keep up with it. But more than being afraid, I am MOTIVATED to help our family save money and pay off the rest of our debt from school. These first couple of months using the system will just be to kind of work out the kinks and make sure we've allotted an appropriate amount of money to each category. If you are unfamiliar with the system, here is how it works. You create an envelope for various spending categories. When you run out of money for one category, you can "borrow" from another if it is absolutely necessary. For us, most of our bills are automatically debited from our bank account, so the categories I created are ones that tend to fluctuate more: groceries (this category includes cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc.), eating out, toiletries and medical, random (this category is for expenses like oil changes for the cars and other things that come up each month that we don't necessarily think about ahead of time). Rather than envelopes, I am using a small plastic index filing container that we used to use for recipes.
As I was planning our budget, I wondered how similar or different our numbers were to other peoples. I don't mind sharing my numbers with you. Some of the numbers might surprise you, but we are committed to buying only things we really need (and every now and then some wants too). And, like I said, these first few months are to just test the numbers out, so we'll see how it goes. Here they are:
Out to eat: $25
Medical and Toiletries: $45
So, WHAT can 2 people do even just once a month on $10 for entertainment, you ask? Well, we have a movie store down the road that has $1 rentals. Our family went to the zoo one day for a little over $5. We will probably have to get creative and think of ways to find fun things to do without spending money. We can use several gift cards or coupons we have. Also, if we don't eat out much (which we hardly do anyway, this part of the budget is really for Ryan if he doesn't have a lunch packed for school and has to spend money to buy a lunch somewhere), then we can use that money for entertainment. As far as babysitting goes, we tend to have a lot of "date nights" at home after the babies are in bed. (We play games, cook, watch movies, or have friends over. ) We also have some wonderful friends and a great set of grandparents who offer to babysit for free from time to time. We are SO grateful for that! If we did have to get a sitter for some reason, it would come out of the random category. The only category I am a little uncertain about is the grocery one. We'll see. I am trying to plan meals around low cost recipes, but we also like to buy organic milk and produce, so that kind of increases the expenses somewhat. I also find that, for the kinds of foods I buy, there really aren't very many coupons. $300 is our goal anyway, so we will strive toward it! Wish us luck!