Saturday, January 16, 2010

Budget Busters

How many of you out there use a monthly budget? Or maybe I should ask--how many of you begin each month with a budget and then blow it before end of the month?

I'm one of those people who can’t figure out how come I'm down to a few measly dollars in the checkbook and yet there's still a week to go before next payday.

This year one of my resolutions is to monitor our family spending and try harder to stick to a budget. Everything was going just peachy this month until I hit a snag on January 2--son's retainer falls out of mouth at work (that's what he says) and it cracks. $70 for a replacement. My first challenge--an unexpected expense.

I used money from the entertainment and dining fund to pay for the retainer. That crossed off one family meal at Olive Garden. Not a problem. I substituted a take-out pizza from Costco for $10 bucks. Kids were still happy and the budget remained intact.

January 5 I hit pothole and lost a hubcap on van. Dealership wanted to charge $95 for a new hubcap, but hubby found a deal on EBay for $35. Great--I voted for EBay. Okay, so I dock the entertainment fund another $35. Grab another pizza from Costco and when my teenagers grumbled I gave the starving-children-in-Africa lecture and they shut up.

Everything happens in three's, right? January 11 I realize that I've lost my Social Security card--can’t find it in the file I usually keep it in at home and it's not in my purse. A replacement costs $19 if I request one online or free if I drive a billion miles from home and stand in line for three hours at the nearest social security office. I'm sorry, but the kids can eat another Costco pizza--I'm not wasting the gas my time.

See my dilemma? I've got two more weeks to go before the month is over and who knows what budget busters will happen next? Maybe I've got the wrong goal--instead of keeping to a budget, maybe I should build up an emergency fund I can dip into each month.

Anyone else in the same boat as me? Or am I out here sailing the budget-buster sea alone?

A Cowboy Christmas (Dec 09)
Dexter: Honorable Cowboy (July 10)


Lynn said...

Being financial stable this year was one of my resolutions too. I'm lucky enought to have a check coming in each week. So the bills are divided by that. Somehow, I'm behind. Already. I think my budgeting method is robbing Peter to pay Paul. And my emergency fund is made of plastic.

Laney4 said...

Sorry to rain on your parade. We rarely eat out, pizzas included. We keep pita bread, pepperoni, pasta sauce, red and green peppers, etc. on hand and make our own when desperate. Much cheaper and healthier than boxed, plus you can have lots of the ingredients you prefer.
We don't have an entertainment fund. The only times we go out now are for family/friend celebrations with other people, perhaps once a year, or when I win gift cards from a local radio station. We have people over instead, as it saves a ton of money. Every year or so, I cash in a bunch of those free restaurant certificates and have company over to enjoy our non-homemade buffet of great free food. No fuss, no muss.
I confess that my house is never as neat nor as tidy as I would like, but I realized many years ago that it was better to enjoy the moment/seize the day than to worry about something not that important. When I invite people over, it is usually my motivation to tidy up. Sometimes something crops up in the meantime, so not much is done other than doing the dishes, tidying the unread newspapers, changing the bathroom towels, and perhaps vacuuming the main floor, but it just doesn't matter to me.
We all have things that crop up. My car had to go to the wrecker last Oct and I have been carless since. It is a HUGE imposition, but we knew that used cars would be cheaper in Jan/Feb/Mar so have waited. It also gave us time to save money (that would have been spent on gas, insurance, and repairs). We will be lucky to get something as new as a 2003, but we'll be paying cash.
I know it is hard when you are on the go all day, and then you must make supper in a short amount of time. Those are the times when leftovers are great. (Leftovers are important in my household, as my son consumes food almost 24/7.) I often cook roasts before those busy days. Crock pots are handy if you're away all afternoon. Canned soup with leftovers thrown in make great lunches.
I guess it comes down to priorities. We only buy clothes for Christmas and birthday presents, as we don't require new ones constantly. I have a huge pantry and stock up when groceries are on sale, always with the oldest foods rotated. My freezer is full of foods that can be taken out in any quantity, as our kids have their friends over several times a week for meals. I bake when the oven is in use for the main meal. I only do laundry, run the dishwasher, charge the batteries, etc. during non-peak much-cheaper electricity hours. I open or close the blinds/curtains, depending on the weather. All of these little things accumulate to allow us more money on other things in life.

Marin Thomas said...

Lynn--I had to laugh at your rob Peter to pay Paul comment--my mother used to say the same thing. Her checkbook-keeping system was nuts--she'd use pink and yellow highlighters to keep track of the checks she wrote that weren't covered or that were covered by next month's paycheck etc--all very confusing to me but it must have worked because she was never overdrawn :-)

Laney--great tidbits of advice--thanks for posting them! I love the idea of leftovers but since I stink at cooking I'm lucky if my family finishes one serving of whatever I put on the table. The summer months are better because we grill out more often and the kids like chicken and burgers on the grill.


Pamela Stone said...

Yep, I'm at that stage in life where I'm determined to stay out of debt. Only put as much on plastic as I can pay off at the end of the month. Even when we were starting out, interest on credit cards was one of my pet peaves. We do enjoy eating out, but we try to limit it to once a week and sometimes even that is fast food. Leftovers are great since I now work at home.

However, having moved this year, hubby building a shop, Christmas expenses coming in (remember rule about no interest on credit cards), car insurance due, and all those first of the year expenses has put us in a crunch. To top it off hubby got a ticket, a ticket I've told him over and over he was going to get if he didn't change his route. Never buy a man a 4X4. They will get in trouble, mark my word.

But truthfully, I've never operated with a real budget. Just try to not spend more than we have coming in and at times that meant we couldn't even take the kids to McDonalds.

My biggy is that I refuse to pay that high interest credit card debt if there is any way around it. And January challenges me every single year.

Estella said...

As a retired senior living on Social Security I would be hard pressed to cover an emergency of any sort.

Marin Thomas said...

Hi Pam

Boy did you bring up a sore topic--credit cards and the new interest rates their sticking to their customers. Hubby and I try very hard not to use credit cards and if we do we pay it off ASAP. But there have been times over the years I've been grateful to have the card.

Estella,here's hoping no emergency come your way. I'm trying to teach my 19-year-old to put a little money away every month for an emergency fund for his car and he's slowing learning, but once in a while he steals from the fund to buy something he just can't resist :-)


Minna said...

I do a bit of both: I try to keep to a budget and I save some money for a rainy day. And I make my own pizza. It's cheaper that way. And I swap my stuff. Somehow I always seem to accumulate all this stuff I don't need and I'm too much of a scrooge to just give it away. So, I swap it for something I do need. There are all kinds of swapping sites on the internet. Really small stuff I can even send overseas, but for big stuff I try to find someone close to home.

Marin Thomas said...

Hi Minna

I never thought about swapping--what a clever idea!


Linda Henderson said...

My budget is pretty tight too. I had money saved from my tax refund last year to buy a new computer but one of my family members had an emergency and needed money, so there went my computer. So I'm hoping for this years tax refund to replace this dinosaur I'm using.

Marin Thomas said...

Linda--that was very nice of you to help out family--I hope you get your computer this year. Here's hoping we all get nice tax returns so we can treat ourselves to whatever it is that we've been putting off buying for so long!


Minna said...

Check out the side bar of my blog! There are the the swapping sites I'm using right now:
One hint: it's always a good idea to check out the comments other swappers have left about the person with whom you intend to swap stuff. Oh, and ever heard about the one red paperclip guy? He started out with a paperclip and after some serious swapping, he had a house.

Roxann Delaney said...

Ah, yes, it sounds so familiar. Mine was a new $80 battery when the old one died a tragic death. Now it's another $80 for a doctor office visit to get some paperwork signed.

I always think of Rosanna Rosannadanna at times like this. It's always something.

Kristi said...

Budgeting is like dieting. You have to leave a little room for the unexpected, or that rich chocolate cake that your coworker kindly brought in to share with the office.

You just can't "budget" to where a few reasonable-but-unplanned things break you. And if your finances are that tight that an unexpected $20 one month is a problem, then you need to slice $20 (or more like $50) from the planned expenses (cut down your cell phone minutes, drop a channel from the cable, pack a couple more sack lunches per month).

I usually call this overflow budget "fun money". If I get lucky some months, my "fun money" goes for something fun. But a lot of months, it goes for something necessary but unplanned. But that's still a lot more fun than whipping out the plastic (and then trying to add in additional payments into an already budget)