Does anybody else feel the squeeze in your budget at the end of the month? We have 5 more days to go in February and, while I’m very conscious of the fact that I only have __ amount left in my budget, I know we’re going to make it. Budgeting Bada$$ over here.
I’ve had a bit of an arrested development in the “learning to budget” department. Dave has always been in charge of the money in our marriage and he does a really good job. The first couple of years in our marriage, I taught Pre-K and Dave finished his PhD and we lived on little. Dave did the shopping (because I brought home the bacon and was exhausted all the time!) and we just always squeezed by. We both knew we didn’t have much to spend so we just didn’t spend.
Then we moved to Boston, Dave got a real job and I didn’t have to work any more. My full time job was to manage the house and Dave’s tummy. This was such a big (and difficult) transition for me. Not only was I not used to grocery shopping and meal planning, but I also just hadn’t cooked regularly before. We leaned heavily on freezer meals and very easy things in Albany because I frequently had afternoon and evening events at school. I was determined to cook good, wholesome food for my family, but that goal didn’t mesh well at first with living on a budget. I would just buy what I needed to make the meals I wanted to try. I would often have random obscure ingredients in my pantry and fridge and copious amounts of left overs just waiting to go bad. And don’t even ask about other shopping! I had no system. Then I had a baby! Just when I had finally learned my way around the grocery stores and started dipping my toes in list making, little SK entered the scene and life was chaotic again.
Fast forward to this fall and it looked like we were going to buy our house. Suddenly we needed to buckle down and get a better handle on all the monies! On the one hand, I was really stressed out by the thought of tense budgeting discussions. But on the other hand, I wanted a concrete number that I was not allowed to go over. I needed boundaries!
Enter Toshl. We started tracking our expenses on this personal finance app. We both have the apps on our phones and they sync up, so if Dave buys gas on his way to work, it shows up on my phone, and vice/versa. At first I hated it. It reminded me so much of tracking my eating on My Fitness Pal. It’s so hard to face reality in both these circumstances, isn’t it? Recording what you eat and what you spend is not only annoying, it can be downright disheartening.
After tracking our expenses for a few months, we set a monthly spending budget that included groceries and other odds and ends expenses. We started tracking in January and at first it felt really restrictive and stressful, but we made it at the end of the month! Now that we’re on our second month, I’ve discovered something amazing: I feel empowered. I have a complete handle on where the money goes and I no longer feel guilty and/or defensive about where the money is or isn’t going. I have a budget, I take care of our needs and that’s it! I’ve gotten to be really good with meal planning and stretching what we have in our pantry and fridge. And just like with dieting using My Fitness Pal, I tend to avoid places of temptation, because I don’t want to open that app and record the money spent. I just don’t want to deal with it! But now when I do buy something frivolous, I buy it because I know we have the money and I don’t stress about it.
And just like with other areas where you practice discipline, there are times when you’ve been good enough to just let loose. For us, that’s this Saturday, March 1st. Not only is it the beginning of the month, but it’s the first month that we collect rent! And Mama and Papa are going on a date!
I have a lot to learn still and I keep on reminding myself that with the new baby coming and random unforeseen expenses being a reality in everyone’s life, I’m not always going to have a handle on the budget. But right now I’m doing ok. 🙂
[Just a disclaimer, I know I’m super far behind in learning how to budget and there are many of you out there who are much more experienced and mature than I. Also, I know it’s a real blessing and privilege to stay home with my kids and I’m very grateful. I just thought I’d share what’s been working for us lately, in case any of you could benefit from using good ole’ Toshl.]