Yep, so here we are…The middle of the first month back on our budgeting kick. It’s been a wild ride so far…actually not really. It’s going really smooth. So different than when we were brand new to budgeting.
Try to notice your small wins: We missed a week of regular grocery shopping so I ended up scrounging in the kitchen for a couple of meals last week. I do feel a slight pang of guilt and much gratitude to know that we have more than enough to eat. But I also plan for such things. Motherhood has taught me that plans can get derailed by the smallest thing, and so I try to keep a few extra freezer meals, or easy meals (read: mac & cheese) on hand. It worked out great, and we ended up 35 dollars ahead on our grocery budget heading into the second half of the month. Woot! Seriously, this is a real psychological help when it comes to keeping up…So soak in all that you are doing well.
Have buffer money: So, somewhere in the beginning of budgeting we learned that you have to leave a little cushion in your budget. We do this in two ways…well really we try to leave a cushion in every way…but these are the two most essential ways. We choose to leave a certain amount in our checking account that isn’t budgeted for any specific purpose. It’s just there in case of math errors, or accidentally not putting enough in a category, etc. The trick is to not leave so much of a buffer that you feel like you don’t have to follow the budget. It really helps to have a little fear that you could really derail your finances if you step out of line. When we first started budgeting we left a 50 dollar cushion…and that has remained pretty standard. However, since I was using the non-budgeting method of checking the checking account balance for MANY months, I didn’t know exactly how much was going to be coming out of the account that I wasn’t planning on. So I budgeted a 200 dollar buffer into our budget. I know that for some it might be tempting to dip into your buffer money, but that money has saved us from overdraft fees many times when things have come out of the account in a different order than I expected, or I have added things incorrectly (no I’m not perfect at simple arithmetic).
Notice where you are struggling: Did you set an unrealistic goal for your grocery budget? Are you about to freak out every time you fill up on gas? It might be stressing you out this week, but try to remember this when you sit down to do next months’ budget. The first month of our very first budget, I literally cooked rice and beans for our family a LOT. By the end, I wanted to cry. Food is one of the major ways that I experience joy…and I was not enjoying the process of soaking beans, cooking them all day, and then eating them…It just made me sad. But I stuck to it that first month because I wasn’t going to dip into the money we were saving so that I could eat a dinner I wanted. And it’s good I did that. I realized that I couldn’t happily have my grocery budget be that tight…so we upped it the next month. If I had caved and ordered take-out, I may have beat myself up and tried to force us to live in rice and bean purgatory for much longer.
Emergency budget meeting: Okay, so if you have tried all of the above and still need something to fix your messed up budget for the month. Then it’s time for an emergency budget meeting. Sit down with your spouse and decide how you can rearrange the spending. Maybe an unexpected medical bill came. Maybe all four of your children outgrew their shoes in the last two weeks and you aren’t going to be able to put off shoe shopping. First of all, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen if you wait for a couple a weeks and a new budget to pay for this. Most medical bills have a bit of leeway…pinched toes not so much. Especially if you are new to budgeting, everything feels like an emergency the first month…and if you are budgeting solo, I highly recommend talking to someone who will hold you accountable before you change your budget. And of course if your in a partnership, you must have a meeting.
So yeah, that’s where we are this month. We’re chugging along. I’m so excited to get to add to savings for the first time in a quite a while (other than the tax return). So where are you in your mid month budget? And what is your next goal? Please leave your answers in the comments below.