Total Disclosure and Total Reform

 

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. It’s been rambling around in my head, but I just haven’t been able to do it. I haven’t done it because I’ve been afraid, but this opportunity to get it out was just too good to be true, so I’m taking the plunge.

I am awful with money. Absolutely awful. I do not live within my means. I do not budget. We always end up spending more than we make in a month and I am the reason why.

Wow. It actually feels pretty good to get that off my chest.

I feel like I’ve been lying to the blogging world. I’ve mentioned here and there that I’m not good with money, but I doubt that any of you took that as how awful I actually am. I’ve been trying to change for ages and I’m getting better, but I still need to entirely reform my way of thinking. I need to get a handle on my money so I can live a happy life without worrying about how much I’ve spent this month. Money is an important part of life, but in the grand scheme of things it’s so miniscule. Do I really want to spend my time worrying about money rather than having fun with my kids and watching them grow?

So I’m starting a policy of full disclosure on my blog. Sorry if this will make some of you who know me in person uncomfortable. Money can be an uncomfortable subject and I know that. I’ve talked to my husband and he thinks this is at least an acceptable idea. I’m hoping the accountability will make me take control of my finances.

So I’m giving you all my numbers for last month. A couple of notes: We made more last month than we normally do because my student loan money came in. This is the last time I will be getting student loan money (grants only from now on) because I have taken all of the substidized (meaning the government pays the interest while I’m in school) money that they will give me and I don’t want to start getting loans that accrue interest. Yes, I will be paying a lot of student loans once I graduate Second note: I stopped keeping track of money about half way through the month. One of my problems is that if I end up over-spending, I just stop trying at all. This is something that definitely needs to stop, but it’s also the reason why some of these numbers are pretty high in comparison to past months.

Going out: $91.98

Surprisingly, this is a good number for us. I know for some of you this may be a shockingly high number and I agree that we still need to cut down, but we’ve had much worse months than this. My husband gets an “allowance” of $30 per month for going out for work. I still pack him lunch (at least snacks) every day, but his department goes out for birthdays and they go to $.50 tacos on Wednesdays and stuff like that, so that’s not where I’m looking to cut. Something I need to do here is not buy stuff out of vending machines at school.

Pets: $73.05

This month the only thing we bought for pets was the materials to make a bunny box for our backyard. We tried to keep it as cheap as possible, but considering that thing will be out there for all sorts of weather, we needed to make sure it keeps her warm and doesn’t fall apart. Most months we actually don’t spend anything in this category, but then every few months we buy food or whatever, so I’m okay with where the average is at this point.

Personal: $124.07

This probably isn’t “personal” in the way most people would think. This is stuff like doctors appointments, our Bradley Method classes, exercise (my husband plays basketball on Tuesdays and when the church they go to isn’t open, they go to a rec center that charges). This one included a visit to Peanut’s allergy doctor (copay of $50) and one of three payments to my Bradley Method teacher ($50). The next couple of months we are paying the Bradley Method teacher again. I don’t anticipate any doctor appointments.

Groceries: $567.76

This is obscenely high in comparison to a regular month. Well, I at least thought that until I looked back at other months. Definitely somewhere I need to cut down, especially since we’re getting some free food from WIC now.

Cars: $207.58

Broke down a bought a parking pass for my school ($68 for one year) after missing the bus a few times. We filled up each car one time. It hurts to fill up my minivan even though it lasts more miles than my car because it’s like $90 at once. Hoping to continue filling up each car once a month.

Gifts: $4.00

Needed a couple of things for the breastfeeding basket I made.

House: $18.31

Bought a couple of whiteboards. One for a to-do list (which we’ve been using happily) and one that’s a calendar (which we use, but needs to be hung still).

Children: $1050.75

No, we don’t normally spend this much on Peanut. $900 of this is her preschool tuition for this semester, which is the reason we took out the rest of my student loan. The student loan covered her preschool plus an extra $600. This category is also unusually high because Peanut started her dance class and I didn’t realize I would have to buy her dance clothes and shoes. We also got her a three pack of Melissa and Doug toys off of Kids Woot that is partially going to go to Christmas, but I don’t know how much of it will so I just put the whole amount in this category.

Entertainment: $115.80

This category includes our Halloween costumes, which I am almost done making. I am making them myself as I do every year and trying to get them as cheap as possible. I plan on doing a post on that later once I’ve finished buying/making everything. I also forgot to change our Netflix to streaming only, so for a month we’re being charged for both streaming and DVDs on the new plan. Bleh. My husband also had a rare outing to play Magic the Gathering and I paid a $14 library card fee.

Clothes: $9.56

I bought a couple of maternity shirts at a consignment maternity store.

School/office: $2.00

I needed drawing paper for my botany class. Luckily, I found some for cheap at Target rather than buying the real art books at school.

Other: $0.00

Bills: $2288.81 This category warrants breaking down further.

  1. Gas: $46.00 (We’re on a program that charges us the same monthly for easier billing.)
  2. Mortgage: $954.99 (This will go down by $54 from now on, there was some confusion and we got a check for the extra we’ve been charged the last few months.)
  3. Credit card: $67.00 (We no longer use this credit card, but we’re also purposely not paying it down yet as part of our debt snowball.)
  4. Husband’s student loans: $185.08
  5. Car Insurance: $79.67
  6. MacBook: $153.00 (This is the current bill we’re paying down in the debt snowball. We have a few months left.)
  7. My phone: $40.00 (Both of our parents have us on their plans still because they’re awesome, but I agreed to pay my share of the family plan.)
  8. DirecTV: $65.69 (Some may argue that we should give this one up and we considered it over the summer, but my husband loves basketball and this would mean that he wouldn’t be able to get games at home. Instead we threatened to cancel and they took $30 off our bill. We used $18 of that to get HBO over the summer, but I’ve just canceled it, so this will go down a bit.)
  9. Gym membership: $17.09 (I would love to cancel this, but can not find a way out of it.)
  10. Midwife: $450 (We normally pay her $300/month with the intention of paying her off before I am 36 weeks, but I forgot one month so we’re paying 1.5x twice.)
  11. Life insurance: $46.29
  12. City: $94.00 (Every other month. Covers trash, recycling, water, sewer, etc.)
  13. Power: $90.00 (We’re on a program that charges us the same every month for easier billing).
  14. Comcast: $0.00 (They messed up and didn’t auto-bill us in September, so we’re paying double in October. Normally $53.40 after we called and threatened to cancel, so they brought it down by $15. Since my husband needs this for work when he’s on call, we’re reimbursed $45 a month from his work, so it essentially ends up being $8.40 for internet.)

There it is. I know some places that I need to work. I have some places that I’d like to get lower, but I just don’t know how. I happily welcome suggestions. I plan on posting a regular summary of money. Maybe more often than once a month because that was a really long post, but I’m not going to tie myself down to any specific time interval. Hopefully me just putting this out there for the whole world to know will help me stay under control.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.

37 thoughts on “Total Disclosure and Total Reform

  1. Hi Mama! I have two ideas for you. The first is debtor’s anonymous meetings (helps you stay on track, budget and stay accountable to your friends and sponsor) and its free!
    The other idea is that I am a life coach and parent coach and I specialized on teaching people how to budget well for the first time in their life. http://www.mooreamalatt.com/meta/
    The point is: grab a smart ally to hold you to the goals you have already set for yourself and start practicing and honing the new skills a month at a time.

    • I didn’t even know there were debtor’s anonymous meetings! What a great idea! Thanks!

  2. I admire your honesty with your finances. I think I’ve also been a bit of an over-spender over the past few months, so I’m trying to spend nothing on me this month… fun! I’m not sure exactly how much those figures mean as my brain works in £’s, but I hope you manage to cut it down to a level that you’re happy with!

    • My biggest thing I’m worried about is when we spend more than we make. Money isn’t supposed to work that way. If I can get below that, everything else is just icing on the cake.

  3. I think it’s great that you’re disclosing what you spend. Just seeing it for yourself helps keep you accountable, not to mention showing it to the world! I used to use my credit card a lot, and if I suspected I had spent a lot one month, I just wouldn’t go online to check where I was at, and I would obliviously keep spending. Then, when I would get the bill, I would be shocked, depressed, and angry. And all it took was me checking the bill throughout the month to get a grip on what I was spending. It makes it so much easier to hold yourself back when you spell it all out.

    Congrats to you for taking that big breath and putting it all out there.

    And it’s all relative. You have to find the balance for yourself. It’s always interesting for me to see how other people are spending, because it gives me ideas for where I can save myself. Thanks for this post. It’s very honest and helpful.

    • Thanks! To be honest, I doubted that it would be a useful read for anyone else, but really mostly for me because you’re all seeing it. I’m happy that it can actually help someone!

  4. This is great. I think you’re really brave to post numbers and get some accountability. I think we all have numbers we’re sheepish about (or is that just me??), so this seems like a really good exercise.

    I don’t have ideas of big things to slash — it looks like you’re pretty frugal overall. I wonder if you can concentrate on getting more things for free. Like, too late for this month, but could you have gotten a rabbit hutch and dance clothes off Freecycle or by asking around on FB for anyone getting rid of same?

    Also, I thought I couldn’t cancel my gym, but I did. (This was awhile ago, just in case anyone’s surprised I ever went to a gym, lol.) They also had the option to sell the membership to another person.

    • It’s a really good idea to look for things for free. I tried getting free wood for the bunny box initially, but when that didn’t pan out after a few weeks I gave up and just bought it. I should have looked for cheaper options rather than going from free to new. I tried to find used dance clothes, but there wasn’t anything small enough in the two consignment stores I checked (probably because I checked late, so it was slim pickings). Those, of course, are just two examples. I need to try to get free/used stuff more often. It comes so naturally for me for clothes, but I forget that I can do it for other things.

      Also, I really don’t think I can cancel my gym membership. I have the contract and it specifically says no transferring or canceling. The only viable reason to cancel is if I move (and it has to be at least 30 miles from any of their affiliates), which won’t be happening any time soon. When I signed up the lady told me it was virtually impossible to cancel, so I should know I really wanted to. Guess I didn’t think that one through enough. :-( Any advice on how I can somehow get out of it would be greatly appreciated. I’ve used my membership all of twice since getting pregnant because whenever I go to a class (even yoga) I get too dizzy to continue.

      • Well, I totally understand that. I’ve often found that getting things off freecycle or thrift shops works best if you’re not in a time crunch and not picky about what you can find (as in, shopping ahead rather than shopping for something in particular). But sometimes freecycle can be super fast — it just depends who’s watching your request, of course. It sounds like you know where to look, so I’m sure you’ll have better luck on other purchases in the future.

        Sorry about the gym thing. :-/ We felt railroaded into our membership and paid for way longer than we wanted to. I wonder if you could get a doctor/midwife’s note that your health won’t allow you to continue. ;) Just brainstorming here.

      • I love that idea! I’ll try calling tomorrow and see if they let me out of the contract if I’m “on bed rest” because of my pregnancy. I bet my midwife would write me a note. :-D

  5. I bet you could save a lot on your grocery budget if you buckle down to it. We shop at Aldi, which not only has very low prices, but it doesn’t have such an overwhelming selection of food, so it’s easy not to impulse-buy. Other people I know make lists at home and stick to them religiously — it really helps! Compare prices to see if you’re really buying the cheapest version of what you want.

    • I concur that my grocery budget could be a lot lower. How I end up spending so much is being over-ambitious in what I plan to make and having impulse buys. Since I have a freezer full of meat downstairs, I should be spending way less than the average 3 person house. Thus far this month I’ve spent $40 and trust me, we’re not starving (though we’re working through stuff we already have on purpose rather than buying a bunch of new stuff, so going that low can only last so long).

  6. Thanks for sharing! i love glimpses into other’s finances: it helps me make mine more realistic.

    You really spend only $46 on gas? Holy crap. That is like a miracle. Of course, I live in a very different area than you do, but my gas budget is triple yours and I STILL run out of gas money.

    So, I was horrible at spending money until we switched to a cash-envelope system. For the life of me, I could not keep track of what I was spending with credit or even debit, but once we switched to cash-only, I’ve gotten SO much better. I talk a little bit about it in this post: http://bannanablog.blogspot.com/2011/09/do-you-realize-what-this-means-it-means.html

    • My husband’s car is only $46. My van is like $80. We’re lucky enough that my husband works about 2 miles from where we live, so he used to fill up about once every 2 months, but now that I’m stealing his car for my longer errands (gas mileage is like twice as good as the van), it’s a bit more often. I don’t know if that will continue once the baby is born (the whole reason for buying the van because my tiny car was NOT going to work with two kids), but for now it helps with gas. I also limit my driving too. If I have to go into the city I try to take the train and most days I bus up to school (saves about a gallon of gas a day based on my calculations).

  7. First of all, you are officially the bravest person I have ever met for putting this out there! Secondly, I FEEL YOU. I totally sympathize. Despite growing up in a family that taught me how to budget and make good financial decisions, I, too found myself and my hubby living way outside our means a couple years after we were married.

    Credit cards are seriously evil. . . and cable and satellite providers are not much better. My Mother-In-Law worked for a very short time for a call center at a cable company that will remain anonymous – and her whole job was to take calls of people calling in to cancel their service and not only convince them to stay, but to get them onto a higher plan, or into a contracted agreement. She was to be let go after three failed attempts to get people to up their service. Guess how long she lasted at that job! Ya. . . so that’s why I say cable and satellite providers are awful.

    OK. So now that I’m down off THAT soapbox. . . I do have some suggestions for ya. One suggestion that I read once was to take your income, multiply it by 85% and then use that number as your available money for budgeting. Basically, don’t strive to live just within your means. . . but strive to live within 85% of your means, and then use the extra 15% to put toward savings, investments, or to pay down a debt. It’s not something that you’ll be able to successfully do right away. . . but it has definitely helped me take the bull by the horns and wrangle our budget back into a realistic and functional, healthy budget for our family. This suggestion is about changing the way you think about budgeting. The 85% rule (or you could even just start at 95%!) really helps me.

    I should disclose that when I first started with the 85% rule, that “extra” 15% was my fall-back when I failed to successfully budget within my 85% of our paycheck. But this was good because instead of having nothing to fall back on, I had 15% of whatever we made (which was about $200-300). . . and then as I got better at it, I’d have a little extra left from the month before, and so on, until I’d use the surplus for a payment or emergency. Now the “extra” money goes toward our investments.

    My second suggestion is about the WIC foods that you’re getting. We also receive food from WIC, and it’s a fantastic helping hand if you use all the foods they give you. The extra plus is that cooking with the foods WIC gives you, you’re sure to cook healthful, whole food meals, because it’s all veggies and beans and whole grains, and staples like eggs and milk (and salmon and tuna if you’re breastfeeding). I have all sorts of recipes/meal planning that I could share about using what WIC gives you. That’s actually a really good idea for a post! I’ll have to let you know when I write it up.

    You’re doing a great thing by getting to the bottom of your finances and setting it all straight. It feels so good once you start to have a little control over your money instead of your money (and debts) controlling you!

    • We stopped using our credit card a few months ago luckily. It was working really well for years when we were living in our means and just paid it off every month, but it was becoming something that just built little by little every month. It still has a balance because it’s not what we’re paying off in the debt snowball (and it hurts to see that interest applied every month!), but we’re almost to the point of paying that one off.

      I really like the idea of canceling the cable. We were literally in the process of doing it, but since my husband talked them down, we decided to stay. We’re still paying a ridiculous amount every month though for something that we could get for free online. I think it’s definitely something that needs to be reexamined. We also talked about getting him NBA league pass when we were discussing it so he would get most games (just not blackout ones).

      I do really like the idea of budgeting 85% of what we have every month. It’s a great goal, but not really workable for us right now. That 15% ends up being almost exactly what we have left over after paying bills. Bills definitely need to go down somehow. In the future though, especially after we have the extra $300 a month when we pay off the midwife and stuff like that, I think I’ll aim for that number.

      I’d love to see a post about what to do with WIC foods. I am stockpiling beans in my cupboard because I can’t find enough recipes with them!

      • Beans are my staple. I have hundreds of recipes with beans. Minestrone, homemade baked beans, three bean bisque, black bean soup, black and white salad, chili…and then a hundred more Mexican recipes. I love Mexican and you can’t have Mexican without beans!!

        What kind of beans are you stockpiling? I’ll try and get you some delicious recipes!

      • I’ve been getting a variety of what’s on the WIC list. Black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, great northern. I can’t think of any other types. One of my biggest problems is that my husband like beans, but only in small amounts at a time. So when I make 5 bean soup, he doesn’t eat much of it. Most things though he can add some hotdogs and be happy enough. :-P

  8. Well, I’ll be one of the one that says you can easily put $120 toward other bills just by canceling Comcast/DirectTV. We cut out cable years ago, and I couldn’t be happier. Does Tom wish he could watch every game? Yes – but he watches the ones that are on the free channels (the major networks), and there’s always the option of hanging out at a friend’s house (bonus! cheap entertainment!). The other obvious area I see is groceries – I’d suggest meal planning and never shopping while hungry. It really can help your budget go down! Good luck!! This is the first step :)

    • I think we really need to reexamine canceling the DirecTV. We even looked into getting him the NBA League Pass online so he wouldn’t have to miss as many games when we were talking about cancelling, so that’s a good compromise. We can’t cancel Comcast (internet) because my husband needs it for work. We get reimbursed for almost all of that one though anyway.

      I’m also definitely working on grocery bills. I can’t believe I spent that much last month! For a family of three that buys virtually no meat (we buy a half pig/cow or lots of chicken from local farmers and keep them in the deep freezer), it shouldn’t be that high of a bill. This month I’ve spent less than $40 and we’re almost halfway through the month, but that’s partially because we’re working through stuff we already have.

  9. Such honestly – you are awesome!

    You hit the nail on the head when you said that your biggest worry is that some months you spend more than you bring in. I would recommend switching to a mostly cash envelope system (I see that you linked to Dave Ramsey and that is what he recommends). My family has done alot better at not overspending since we switched to cash. Especially with groceries – when the envelope is empty I get creative with cooking :)

    Best wishes!!!

    • I have Dave Ramsey’s audiobook on my computer and I’m going to start listening to it tomorrow. Thus far I’ve only read the stuff he has online, but I’m loving the debt snowball. It feels so good to pay off a debt way before you were planning to!

      I think I will switch to cash-only. Everyone keeps recommending it. I figured switching from my credit card to my debit would fix the problem, but since there’s an overdraft on the debit, it doesn’t. I also love the idea of paying in cash because it shows my daughter that you have to give something to get something, rather than just swiping a card.

    • We actually get all our shows for Peanut off Netflix and we get movies from the library and upload them to my computer. We stopped downloading things a while ago because we had a scare with getting sued. I think we’re out of it, but it still freaked me out.

  10. First: you are brave and awesome to go public with your spending. I did it and it really did help me work on my spending habits. Hope the same happens for you =)

    Second: there doesn’t seem to be a lot of overspend or wastefulness. I know you said your groceries are high but, IMHO, that’s not too bad a number. From what I have seen/read, people that get down to $50/week for a family of four a) eat a lot of grains, b) are coupon kings and c) don’t eat the kind of food my family eats. So while I applaud them and I think there is lots to learn from them, we are on a different path.

    Third: try what Lauren said about getting a doc or MW note about pregnancy to cancel your gym membership. I used that (at the suggestion of someone at the gym no less!) and I was 4 months post-partum. I hate those awkward conversations too but be persistent. It will feel great to have it cancelled.

    Don’t beat yourself up about the tracking and spending too much. It took us well over a year to finally get on a good tracking and spending system. I also finally realized that budgeting X amount per category didn’t work for us. So now we ‘pay ourselves’ and put a set amount into savings each month and then we make ourselves live off the rest. There is room in our living amount for two date nights a month and a casual meal out as a family on the weekend (think fish and chips) but if we have a big unexpected expense we just make it work until the next pay check. Sometimes that means doing only free stuff on the weekend.

    Keep trying with the tracking. If you spreadsheet or app doesn’t work for you try another one. My husband found one we can both use and we love it. Not fancy but we always know how much cash we have left for the month and what we have spent.

    Good luck!!

    • It was actually your blog that made me decide to go public with my spending! It’s honestly already helped. I’ve actually caught myself thinking “do I really want to tell the whole internet that I needed a $5 bagel?” :-P

      I’ve been down to $20 a week for the last couple of weeks (not including WIC, so probably around $50 total), but I think it’s partially because I’m trying to work through what we already have. I also have to consider that I have a freezer full of meat downstairs, so with not buying meat at the store that significantly lowers the amount I need to spend.

      I’m definitely trying the doctors note excuse. What did your doctor say was the reason you couldn’t workout anymore?

      I’ve been tracking spending for over a year now and just using a spreadsheet. It at least shows me how much I’m spending and initially helped a ton just because I realized that I was spending so much, but now it’s just a habit of me tracking and then getting frustrated and not knowing what to do about it. Hopefully this is the next step I need.

  11. You are a brave woman to post these numbers! Good for you for being so committed to trying to save more money. My only advice is to try meal planning and to become a regular user of Freecycle and the free stuff list on Craigslist. Good luck! You’re doing a great job!

    • I’ve just signed up for freecycle again. There’s a local site that’s more used than Craigslist around here that I keep track of the free section, but I still try to limit what I bring into my house. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean I need it! :-P

  12. I wish you the best of luck with your quest to cut costs. I, too, am absolutely terrible with money. So much so that I am happier without it. I have stopped shopping completely, other than for the necessities like groceries, and it actually liberating. Amazing what you can do without! :)

    • I used to go shopping ALL THE TIME and I agree it’s liberating to stop. My problem is often the defining line between a want and a need.

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  14. If I were in your shoes I would switch to cash. One reason is that it forces you to create a budget. You pretty much know how much money is coming in I presume, so it’s a matter of divvying up how you will spend it. Some of your expenses are fixed and you simply can’t do anything about them (eg the city) but most you have a choice about. Some are large expenses for a long term benefit (daycare), and it would be better if you budgeted for this over the year. If it’s predictable, start putting money aside now to help with managing the next payment. Some expenses are expenses that are going to go away, eg debt for computer, midwife. If you are spending more than you earn, you can’t afford to have some of the entertainment, personal etc spending. But that isn’t necessarily a long term thing. The trick is that when your expenses spike in one area, you have to be able to cut off / delay the non essentials in another area.

    Think of it being for a season. Also, one thing that really helped me was avoiding stores. I actually had grocery staples delivered on fixed schedule. More expensive? Yes and no. I was able to save money by eliminating my temptation to buy things that were out of my budget.

    You already know what you should do about the cable for the moment :)

    • Thanks for the advice! I’m already in the process of switching to the cash envelope system.

      The childcare I purposely paid all at once because I received my last student loan in order to do it. We’re not continuing with it beyond this semester.

      I agree that we need to cut some things for the time being. We’re still figuring out exactly what we’re going to cut. We’re in the process of figuring out what is a necessity (which I think includes our sanity, so some personal stuff must be kept) and trying to cut out the rest.

  15. I was struggling with staying in the budget too until I switched to cash only. I have a few envelopes for Clothing, Groceries (the hardest area for me), Misc, Household, Gas, and Entertainment. I think that’s it…

    We have a set amount of cash in each envelope and it has helped tremendously. I still end up using the debit card on occasion, like if it’s one of those months that we truly need extra, like when my son suddenly outgrew his clothing and winter set in and we had to size up. But with groceries, we now stay in much better minus the odd month that it’s 40 extra. But I purposely withdraw the minimum so I don’t panic if I do need the card.

    However, the past couple months were tough. My husband had a lot of work expenses and then this month he needed new tires on the car and his laptop he needs for work died. But those are odd months.

    I also closely monitor on quicken and through our bank account.

    • I’ve recently switched to cash only and it’s kind of liberating. Just knowing that I can not possibly spend more than I have is great.

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