So anyway I want to talk a little bit about being frugal. I've talked before about bill paying but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about finances and talk about our newest financial adventure; a spending freeze! Before I get into that though I want to give you a little background.
We've been down to one income now for almost 2 years. Thus far it has been an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey. We had been using a loose budget since we were first married and it was really helpful. Before we had our little guy and I was working full time we were doing just fine. We knew that when we had kids I would stay home so we decided to live on Will's income and use my income to pay off debt. We paid off all of my Bachelors and Masters degree debt and we also paid off about a quarter of our mortgage. So thankfully, by the time Liam was born we were technically debt free, with the exception of our mortgage.
We decided to be a little more strict with our budget once we were down to one income and it seemed to be ok. However we got lazy with our budget and I got lazy with the grocery shopping and we had unexpected expenses. Soon our savings account was dwindling and I couldn't figure out why we weren't ever adding to it! I also stopped relying on God to provide for our needs and started worrying. We certainly had enough money to pay our bills, give to our church, and purchase food and gas, but there never seemed to be anything extra to set aside for the future. I was getting frustrated. At this point I realized that I had indeed stopped relying on God to meet our needs and I was repentant.
I decided last month to take a hard look with fresh, faith-filled eyes at our current finances and our projected finances once our new, more expensive health care kicks in next month. Most people can see an immediate difference in their finances when they cut out their daily trips to Starbucks or weekly eating out but we already had a bare-bones budget. We don't have smart phones or cable, we don't eat out, we don't have A/C in our house and Will carpools so we don't spend an obnoxious amount of money each month in gas for him to get to and from work (it's about 80 miles round trip for him). That being said, once I totaled the cost of our monthly bills, our tithing, and food and gas expenses I realized that we could potentially be putting $500 each month into our savings account if we didn't buy anything but the basics.
I was flabbergasted, to say the least! I mean obviously there are miscellaneous expenses that come along, but our budget was *supposed* to account for those. Frankly I could NOT figure out where in the world the money had gone and I was ashamed, especially because the Bible frequently encourages Christians to be good stewards of the money with which He has blessed them.
So now to the Spending Freeze Part:
The gist of a spending freeze is that you pay your bills and tithe each month and that's it. You should set some ground rules on what you can and cannot spend money and you should try to eat out of your current food stores for as long as possible. If you don't have a stockpile of food you should do as Dave Ramsey says and go on a rice and beans diet.
Dave Ramsey also says that you should have an Emergency Savings Account with 3-6 months worth of living expenses. As I looked at our bank I account I realized that we do not have that. After a few recent extra expenses we didn't even have 1 months worth, which was kind of disheartening. We decided that the amount we wanted to save up for this account was $5,000 and that doing a spending freeze for 6 months would be a great start and should put us really close to our goal.
We technically started our Spending Freeze Adventure September 9th, 2013 and are planning to stop around March 9th, 2014 and I plan to blog weekly about our progress!
Some of the rules we decided on besides tithing and paying our monthly bills include the following:
- We will still get oil changes on our car. Our local oil changing place offers them for cheaper than we can do them on our own, so we'll still get them done there on both our cars
- We will still purchase nighttime diapers for Liam. Though I use cloth diapers on him during the day I still haven't figured out a nighttime cloth diaper solution that doesn't require me to spend a lot of money on wool diaper covers. That will cost us about $14 for 3 months worth of diapers
- We will still buy kitty litter because, yeah, that's gross
- We will spend no more than $10 each week on groceries (mostly on milk, eggs, cheese, lunchmeat, veggies and fruit). We don't have a crazy large stockpile of food but I recently stocked up on some meat, canned veggies and other staples from Sam's Club so we're in a pretty good place.
- We will only buy clothes as needed for Liam. Liam is going to need some winter PJ's soon so I plan to buy those, but he is VERY well set up already with winter clothes thanks to an awesome Moms to Moms sale I went to last fall.
- Will's birthday and Christmas are both coming up. Yes we will be participating in both! We've been saving up for Christmas with each of Will's paychecks and it is a line item on our budget!
- We will not eat out, unless of course you plan to pay ;-)
- And I will not buy any Kindle books (it's amazing how $1.99 here and $2.99 there adds up!)