Occasionally I go through this phase of WE MUST BUDGET! I then set a budget, we stick to it for a while but then stray off because life is good and I know we aren’t breaking the bank. It’s not like we are missing payments, heck I just paid off my student loans, the beau just got rid of his cc debt annnnnnnd we bought a house. Not too shabby. I still have cc debt from that time I was making minimum wage during graduate school and decided living on the edge was the only way to live (totally was at the time) and the beau still has student loans and now we’d like to do some house upgrades, sooooo I’m back into the WE MUST BUDGET phase. Ha! Here’s my process :
Step one: create a budget. So many resources out there online and the nerd in me loves excel spreadsheets. A little modification now that we are married – what’s yours is mine now happening – and we’re all set. I think the word budget scares a lot of people into thinking that they have to be extremely frugal and sit home and do nothing. No. You figure out how much you make, subtract out savings and non-negotiable payments and split up the rest for food, beer and baseball games. Baseball games include both beer and food FYI.
Step two: figure out what you are currently spending on all the categories in your budget. This my friends is the best part (also the scariest). I did this for the month of March and we spent, no judging here, over $500 on alcohol that month. This included our weekly Friday beer and pretzels, a Green Day show (2 beers were $25!), and random ass trips to the liquor store. Insert jaw drop! Groceries came in just over $530 for the month and dining out, which there’s bound to be a drink mixed in there somewhere, $390. That’s $1422 in food aka fuel for a MONTH! I’m sharing these numbers for accountability; I’m determined to get those numbers down and have more spending cash (and savings too!). We had other categories that were out of whack but I’m in a wedding this summer and the beau bought a car, so I see those evening out.
Step three: figure out a game plan. I instantly turned to meal planning. If we have a plan, we tend to stick to it. Our refrigerator isn’t magnetic = we had to ditch the dry erase board, so I’m back to good old pen and paper with washi tape. Did you know that each month the USDA releases a chart with the average cost of food plans? You can check out February’s here. I’m using this as an inspiration: I’d love to spend $760 or less – that’s more than half than our current spending and a ton of money that could be invested.
Even though I’m starting this mid-April, I’m determined to drastically reduce our mindless spending. First up: the alcohol. Instead of drinking at the bar every Friday, we are going to fill up our growler. Instead of making random trips to the liquor store, we are going to take advantage of a wine club and have a certain amount shipped to us each month. It’s discounted and if we drink it, we drink it. If we don’t, it’ll help fill out our wine rack in the basement. It’s not a fixed expense, so we can stop it at any point. I’m aiming to cut our previous spending in half and spend no more than $250 on alcohol from here on out.
Food. We sure do love to eat and when we don’t feel like cooking (or don’t know what to cook), we tend to order Chinese takeout. And I can state with confidence that my hips don’t need anymore dumplings! I came up with a meal plan for the remainder of the month, starting today. Only Fridays are “locked in” with meals, as I plan to use the crockpot. I chose to do this for the simple fact that on Fridays I don’t feel like cooking – as my mother would say on Friday nights when asked what was for dinner, SKIP. A great way to enjoy a cheap, healthy meal with little to no work. And for clarification, I’ve only planned out our dinners. Both of us are really good about packing a lunch / the beau eats at home and both of us eat prior to leaving the house in the morning.
We have all but two ingredients (crispy onions + pizza dough) on hand to make the following meals:
To prep to keep on hand / freeze for quick meals: southwest quinoa burgers (makes ten)
Anytime meals in no particular order:
– taco salad with soy chorizo
– one pan Spanish rice
– portobello tacos!
– one pan Indian dish
– Shepard’s pie
– pizza or calzones
– frozen burritos
– breakfast for dinner! (pancakes, soy sausage, hash browns)
– the beau’s empty-the-fridge peanut wok meal
Note: there are only 13 meals planned with 17 days remaining this month. I tried to be realistic with how much we’ll want to eat out – like our friend is celebrating one year as a #girlboss so we may go out while downtown. Maybe we’ll skip a drink to save cash, maybe we won’t. We also grabbed some pasta and frozen meals at Trader Joe’s to help us avoid Lee Lin. As we cook our way throughout the month, I’ll try to share more recipes, like the one pot Spanish rice, and post photographs a la IG. Oh! And in case you were wondering, since I’m being open and accountable, our total spending last night on groceries was: $180.16 which did include a six-pack. I’m sure we’ll be back at the market for more fresh veggies and last minute items, but so far, we’re well below our numbers last month. Phew!
Back with an update on numbers in May!