Monday, August 27, 2018

Budget Lockdown

I've lost count of how many times I have written this same post. In short, the story goes: Matt and I used to be the kind of people who paid our credit card bill in full every month. Then we had a rough year where several expenses piled up (voluntary and involuntary). Now we have a sizable chunk of credit card debt that we still haven't paid off, despite the fact that we have a budget plan that enables us to pay it off. We simply don't stick to our budget each month, mainly because we love eating out and buying things from Amazon and Target. 

This past week, I had another wave of motivation wash over me. We absolutely need to get out of debt. Sure we could transfer the balance to a 0% credit card for the first 20 months. Or we could do a home equity loan for a lower interest rate. But really we just need to tighten our belts and get the heck out of debt. 

I tried to get Matt to come up with a game plan with me about how to stick to our budget. He wasn't in the mood and wanted to postpone the conversation. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle because I felt so urgent about making a plan. He stormed off and I sat down to make the plan myself. 

Basically, it comes down to a couple areas: we need to absolutely stick to our individual allowances ($115/month). Matt spends his on junk food from the gas station. He then goes over by eating lunch out. We also hemorrhage money by eating out as a family. We budget to eat out on Friday and Saturday night (Matt and I both really hate cooking). However, we've been adding things to our meals (like drinks, appetizers, ice-cream after dinner) that have been causing us to go over our budget. 

Finally, we need to stop buying things just because we want it (like this book I recently ordered off of Amazon). 

When Matt finally cooled off, we decided that we would give him $115 in cash at the start of the month to help him stick to his budget. We also committed to talking to each other before we buy anything. Finally, I looked through our credit card bill to analyze which restaurants help us eat within budget. We also got the boys involved; they know that we have a certain budget for each meal out. If we come in under the amount, then the "extra" goes into a little fund that we can use for extra treats, like trips to the ice-cream store. 

I'm crossing my fingers that it works this time! 

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Kelsey said...

You can do it!! We have had a spendy year as well and are working to get back to our budget. One thing that might help you guys that we have done is to cancel Amazon Prime – Eeek I know! But it helps with impulse purchasing plus you can still get free shipping when you have over a certain cart amount (although it's the 5 - 8 days shipping although ours seems to always arrive in 5 days). For the impulse snacking, maybe buying an economy size box of candy bars or whatever it is Matt likes to have and stashing those in his work desk or something? Chris has a coffee habit so we try to stock his office with good cold brew coffee and the protein bars he likes. Good luck!

Clare M. Alexander said...

We had to tighten our budget at the beginning of the year, and we were also spending way too much money eating out (I get burned out on cooking by the end of the week, too), so I came up with a rule that we can only eat out if we're going with someone else. As an introvert, I've found this to be particularly effective--sometimes my reluctance to make plans forces me to stay in and save money, and sometimes my desire not to cook anymore forces me to reach out and make plans with people. Not sure it would work for extroverts, though!

As for buying stuff, I've found that a self-imposed waiting period usually works. If I'm still thinking about something days or weeks later, then I let myself buy it. I will echo the comment above about Amazon Prime, too--I've never really had it (minus the occasional free trial), and usually when I'm forced to either pay shipping or add something random to my cart to get free shipping, I decide I can just live without it.

No tips for kicking the Target habit, though. Is that even possible?!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Kelsey! When are you all going to publish your next podcast episode? I need a steady dose of you and Chris to stay motivated!

Clare, I love your ideas! Matt and I are both introverted, so that idea might work for us!

Unknown said...

You can do it! To lessen the eating out you just have to have easy things on the menu - eggs/bacon/toast and fruit, figure out new crockpot recipes. It's much easier knowing that dinner is easy to prepare and will take less time to make then it will getting everyone out the door to a restaurant. OR trade your weekend takeouts and just go through the week vs Friday/Saturday.

Sara E. Cotner said...

We already eat easy stuff all week! Matt and I really hate cooking. Eating out is such a treat! I think we'll be okay as long as we stick to dinner places that are an average of $10/person or less!

Unknown said...

But you should also use a 0% offer if it will save you money. If the transfer fee is less than you'll be paying in monthly interest that will help the debt get paid off faster. There's not a reason to not do it.

Unknown said...

To curb Amazon purchases, think of what a horrible company it is. Do you really want to support someone who makes people walk 5 minutes to get to a bathroom and counts that against their lunch break and makes billions of dollars while not paying employees living wages?

Shawn said...

Yep, no judgment because I buy from Amazon too because it is just so convenient! But, if you are trying to stop or cut back, this article will help you.
And the only real thing that ensures I stick to a strict budget is the cash envelope system, as annoying as it is. I'm right there with you in terms of needing to get back on track. Good luck!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks, Shawn! Yes, Matt is totally going on a cash-in-an-envelope diet. I'm good at using Mint for myself, but he's struggling!

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