Monday, June 4, 2012

Budget 101: The Cardinal Rules of Grocery Budgeting

To really get your grocery budget in check, you’ve got to follow a few cardinal rules.

1.  Embrace the generosity of others.

    This is probably the most difficult but the most important rule of all. There is a fine line between enjoying the generosity and taking advantage of it. Every family’s version of this is different. For us it includes participating in WIC. If you are unfamiliar, WIC is a fantastic government-sponsored program for families with young children that provides very basic groceries such as milk, cheese, bread, cereal, beans, and an allotment of fruits and veggies based on financial need. Truth be told this is the biggest source of help when it comes to our overall grocery budget. WIC provides at least another $100 a month to our groceries. It took me a little bit to get over the stereotype I had associated with WIC, but putting my own pride aside, I did what was needed for my family.
    Aside from the generosity of taxpayers, we have also learned to embrace those families who love us enough to share a bit of their blessings with us. If someone invites you over for Sunday lunch, accept graciously and always offer to bring something. If you have a friend who happens to slaughter a cow or have lots of venison left from hunting season and offers you some meat, open up that freezer and allow them to share the wealth. And of course, if your loving parents or in-laws ask how they can help, tell them they can take you to the grocery store.
    Husband and I look forward to the day that we too can pour out our blessings on others, but for now we are the ones receiving the blessings from others. Now on to the other ‘rules.’

2.  Set your budget and stick to it.

    Take a hard look at your finances and see what your average spending for groceries and toiletries have been over the last 6 months. See what you specifically spend on meats, produce, dairy, and dry goods. If possible also look at what meals you prepare on a regular basis. This will help tremendously when you move on to other steps. Now set your budget. Again every family is different, some spend more, some less. We stick to an average of $50 a week. Some weeks are more, some less. Knowing your budget and sticking to it strictly is the key.

3.  Shop with cash.

    This has truly been the money saving tip of the century. Every two weeks I visit the bank and take out the grocery money for those two weeks. When I go to the store I know that that’s all the money I have for two weeks. If the money runs out, I don’t by anything else. When you have that cash in hand it makes you much more aware of how much you spend.

4.  Shop with a plan and a purpose.

    Before I even think about going to the store, I make a plan. I know what stores I will go to, what meals I will make that week, and exactly what I am going to buy. I’ll go into more detail about the planning stages in another post. Basically, in making a plan you can save yourself time and money.

That’s the basics of it all. It sounds so simple and yes, it is once you get the hang of it all. Next post I’ll share how I do my shopping plan. Enjoy your first full week of June!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Budget 101: The Basics

Look at me two posts in 1 week. Woohoo! So if you are part of the privileged class known as our friends and family, you know that we have always been on a tight budget and now with both of us only working part time the budget is even tighter.

In an attempt to get some creative ideas for our budget I started looking around the world wide web for ideas. Lo and behold my idea of a strict budget varies greatly from the general population. I feel like we live on the bare necessities but I guess you can be the judge of that. Without going into too many details, here's the general scheme of our monthly budget.

Essentials (aka bills we can't really change)
$500  Rent
$400  Health Insurance (it super sucks having to pay for your own insurance)
$128  Car Insurance (trying to get creative with our agent to get this lower)
$200  Student Loans (only 6 more years to go!!)
$180  Car Loan (only 20 easy payments left)
$272  Tithe (give to God what is God's, pre-taxes of course)
$200  All Utilities (this is the top budgeted, we have yet to actually spend this much monthly)

Extras (aka stuff we need and yet don't need)
$139 Cell Phones (ugh! why does it cost so much?! trying to figure out a way we can get this lowered)
$24   Internet (yes, we need it. How else would I get to blog?)

Grocery & Gas (the most creative section of budgeting)
$200  Groceries (yeah you read that right, $200 a month = $50 a week)
$100  Gas (this has been the most difficult and the one we fudge on the most) 

That brings us to a grand total of $2343/month. When I add it all up is sounds like so much but I guess in comparison to others it's not so bad. I won't go into the detail of saying how much we actually bring home (I gotta keep something private!), but let's just say there's not much left for fun and games. Oh, by the way, the grocery budget also includes any toiletries we might need to get. That money doesn't just appear out of thin air. With what is left over every month, we set it aside for things like oil changes, insurance co-pays, and a little bit of cushion.

So there you have it, that's the budget. The funny thing is, out of all the money we spend every month there's only a few hundred dollars worth that we actually have real control over. Since that is the case over the next few posts I hope to focus in on one particular area: groceries. It's the one with which most people struggle (notice my amazing grammar there?) and it's the one with which I've had the hardest time finding help via the internet. 

Tune in next week for some general tips on sticking to a small grocery budget.

Have a wonderful weekend!!
Husband, the Bear, and Brother at Run Ruckus (from back in March but I'm still pretty proud)