I hate money. Seriously. Money and I just don't play nicely together. Sometimes it's my master, and rarely am I its. Since our move, I have spent a lot of time examining our relationship. I have decided it's time to start financially adulting.
Hopefully you are not uncomfortable with this level of transparency. Hopefully you may glean wisdom, tools, even encouragement from what I am going to share here. First off, in my 21 years of marriage, we have never had a budget. GASP! I know! We have always just winged it- and done a fairly horrible job of it! We have implemented a few changes, and I feel like we are on our way to financially adulting- but a lot of what we are battling is old habits, so I don't expect this to be easy. And let me say, for the record, that this is not a New Year's resolution. The changes being made are born from years of poor choices and require a life change. Here are 5 ways we are taking action to adult in our finances and 5 ways we are sticking to it!
1) We are limiting eating out. This has always been a major stumbling block to our finances. For a family of 4 (adult eaters) to eat out is >$35! That's when I MAKE everyone order water! (Did you know we add $13 to our order just by flippantly ordering a Coke when we sit down at a restaurant?) In the past, we ate out as much as 5 meals a week! I shudder when I do the math on that one. For the past month, we have reduced that to one meal a week! I'll let you do the math there!
2) We budget monthly. We have only lived here two months so I don't have a great feel for what our monthly bills are yet. We will re-evaluate and pick a system that works for us when we have a better idea of what is going out each month.
3) I menu plan and grocery shop every two weeks. Oh my gracious! I just can't believe how much this saves us! I budget $130 per week and arm myself with a meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have come in $30 UNDER budget for the last month! I DO NOT let my kids buy lunch at school. $3.00 for one slice of Dominoes pizza is ridiculous, unhealthy, and not going to fill my boy up in the slightest! $2.00 for a Gatorade? I better not get started.....
4) Organize financial files. Moving produces an unbelievable amount of paperwork! Warranties, account set-up info, .....so very important to saving money- not to mention time- if you can get your hands on it when the need arises. Part of choosing to adult financially is the care and tracking of ALL of our finances, including the hidden financial aspects of insurance policies, those warranties, and records of deposits for utilities. This is what I'll be tackling in the next few days! Gathering supplies like a file box, hanging files, Manila folders, tabs, etc....
5) We are big BIG fans of using a flexspend (cafeteria) plan. For those unaware, this is where pre-tax dollars are drawn from your pay and deposited into a medical "savings account". These funds are available for everything from ER visits to orthodontia! Funds are generally available the first of the year- for the whole year! I never miss the money because it comes straight out of Andy's paycheck so it never hits our account. If you want to learn more about this, try going here research.
There! Practical, simple ways to get started! Now here's how we're sticking to our guns...
1) Be accountable. Not only are we accountable to each other, but I try to have that "one" friend who gets it- maybe is trying to adult in her own finances as well, or has already had a struggle and come out on the other side. In a world where it is TABOO to talk about your money-find a person who could care less how much your credit debt is and that you feel like won't judge you!
2) Celebrate achievements! Today I'm celebrating that we are breaking the eating out cycle! It is so thrilling to feel victorious in an area that has been such a struggle! Let your accomplishments empower you to take that next step! (Here I come, financial filing and organization!)
3) We dream vacation and virtual window shop! Whenever I feel wanderlust tugging at me, I go onto VRBO and look at rentals in the place I'm dreaming of going to. (Right now it's the Adirondacks or Maine!) This helps me in 2 ways- I see a bit of a new place and it helps me to get an idea of how much I'll need to save to make the trip happen. I also like to shop. (😬Not great for financial adulting!) This is where Pinterest, Amazon, Wayfair, etc come in. I pin things so when I have the available funds, I can go buy the things needed for that DIY project...or I add things to my carts on the other sites and "save it for later" so I can keep an eye on the price and wait for it to go down before I make my purchase.
4) Remind ourselves! Remember how it felt to not go on vacation last summer because you didn't have the money, Marla? OUCH! How were those 5 meals you ate out every week last month that would have covered a cabin for 5 or 6 nights?
5) Are we being good financial role models for our kids? Our answer for the last 15 years would be no! Now our daughter only has 3 more years with us and we have to undo all of the financial irresponsibility we have shown her! Definitely time to make some good habits and choices and bring her into those conversations.
So, I'm sorry it's so lengthy- but there's our game plan moving forward for you. I have been overwhelmed and put off by many "budgeting plans" out there and just needed some very practical places to get started. Are you making the same changes in your life? Please share your road/tips/encouragement/frustrations in the comments!