The last time I wrote a blog post about budgeting was in 2012, shortly after Sally turned 1. You can read about it here. Frankly, I am amazed when I go back and read it that I was able to follow that budget. It is VERY minimal. I have to remind myself, though, that things have changed since then. Now Sophie and Sally are 3 and 4, and they are eating way more than they did back then. Also, we have made some changes in the kinds of food we buy. We don't buy everything organic, but there are several things we buy a lot of now (organic) that we didn't used to buy. We also have purchased a van since then (to fit our big family in!), so our budget now includes that car payment. It also seems that there are just more random expenses these days, particularly medical ones.
After the twins were born (and even a few months prior to), I was so overwhelmed by taking care of everyone that I stopped paying attention to our budget very closely. I mean, I didn't spend crazy amounts of money or anything, but there was already enough stress in my life that I felt like I just needed to give myself a break and not worry about it for a little bit. Well, now the twins are 6 months old and I am realizing I really need to get back on track. I did learn from our old budget that, even then, $300 a month on groceries was pretty tight. That was supposed to include other toiletry and paper product items, diapers, etc. (We use cloth mostly, but still buy some disposables). So, my new budget is going to put more money in that category. Also, since I had things trimmed down so much, every time there was some unexpected expense or if we needed to get a babysitter, I would get so stressed out that we weren't "staying in the budget." This time, I am going to create a few more categories so that we can accommodate normal expenses that are just going to happen. Then, if we are under budget at all, I can use that money in other categories that are over the monthly norm.
The grocery category is the one I feel I have the most control over, but it is hard to keep it low! I recently found a blog whose author claims to feed her family of 5 on $300 a month. She even listed her expenses and meals for a month to show how they do it. For one thing, they eat a lot of pancakes. For another, I don't see tons of fruits and vegetables, which are really important to me to eat, even if it costs a little more. She did have some good ideas though. Some of them that I want to implement are:
-not eating boxed cereal for breakfast anymore (instead -- oatmeal, pancakes, homemade muffins)
-making more homemade breads, muffins, tortillas, etc. instead of buying them
-making more vegetarian meals/ using more lentils/beans as a source of protein
-not buying crackers, cookies, processed carbs in general
-buying more produce that is in season/on sale and utilizing our local farmer's market
So, these are my new monthly budget goals
Groceries and toiletries $450
Eating out: $40
Entertainment and babysitting: $50
Gifts and Home Improvement: $75
Hoping this new budget will help us keep spending in line without causing me to fret over every last penny we spend!