Four Week Experiment: Budgeting with the exactness of February

If you want to read the back story, the tale that got us to this point, read the last Thoughtfully Sought blog post.

Exactly four weeks

After looking over the amount of money that went flying out of our wallets from September 2014 through January 2015, I was sick.  Really, that’s what we do with our hard-earned money?  We have one income, people, so the last thing we need to do is any spending on what we don’t NEED.

Of course, needs are relative.  But I digress.

I got out my handy-dandy my pocket calendar to mark the dates I went shopping in December and January.  I definitely did better but not good enough.  I flipped to February and felt like I’d gotten a golden egg.  There were EXACTLY four weeks in February 2015, the 1st being a Sunday and the 28th being a Saturday.  It was an OCD SAHM’s dream-come-true.

I wrote in the tiny boxes which days I would shop, which days we would have dinner guests or weekend guests, which days would need to see the coffee pot cleaned or the water softener refilled, and which days got which recipes for dinner and then leftovers.  When I was done, I was beaming.  I may not take meds for it but that doesn’t mean I don’t fully recognize my obsessive-compulsive moments.

I knew, just KNEW, we could stick to our budget.  However, I love contingency plans.  I plan everything to give myself the comfort of (imagined) control, and I plan back-up plans for back-up plans.  February saw the first attempt of the Murphy family using the envelope system.

Abbreviated

You can learn all about the envelope system by Dave Ramsey here and here and here and here and here.

In no way, shape, or form am I benefiting from sharing these articles or Dave Ramsey’s efforts with you.  I am receiving no compensation from any of these sites.  (I know, too bad, right?)

The BHE and I decided we would start with just two envelopes:  groceries and house.  All of our bills are automated and only “fluctuate” by going down, as we are not adding to our credit card debt and our mortgage and car payments are set.  (Note:  we round these up.  The car payment due on the 28th of every month is $181.75 so I have $185 automatically withdrawn every month.  Capiche?)

Because of the hassle that is unemployment benefits with a return-to-work date, the BHE took cash from the ATM each week.  It was divided between our two accounts, since some bills come from his and some come from mine, and then we put $400 in one envelope and $100 in another.  Thus began the experiment.

What happened

The short version:  while we were WAAAAY more aware of what we’d spent working with just cash, we still went over budget.  By $30.53.  And I can show you the three empty wine bottles and consumed 12-pack that the $30-and-change bought us.

Let me be real, folks:  we didn’t NEED the alcohol but we were hosting our two very good friends and their kids for a long weekend.  Since they traveled hours to see us and were bringing lots of groceries to feed all of us, the least we could do is buy some booze.  Booze we blew through in the first night.  So had to go buy more… but I digress.

We didn’t spend the whole $100 that was set aside for the house.  In fact, we barely spend $20.  The goal this winter layoff was to work on house projects for which we already had the supplies.  There were rooms that needed finishing touches and we had the paint or trim or what-have-you just sitting in the basement.  So that was a WIN for us.

Where we lost

I went through each receipt to see what we really spent our money on.  I feel like there should be a self-help class for people with our sweets addiction.  I kid you not. We spend almost $20 on candy alone.  Haribo gummy candies and some chocolates.  Candy, people.  Processed corn syrup and good dyes and fake “natural flavors”… all ingredients that don’t fit our diet guidelines of whole, unprocessed, healthy, organic foods.

Ok, I take that back.  There’s a candy line Yummy Earth that the BHE found at Walgreens.  So SOME of the candy we bought fit our self-prescribed guidelines.  Whatever.

The alcohol was the other thing.  Including the booze bought for our weekend with friends plus the fact that we like a beer now and then (and I’ll never say no to a glass of white wine), we spent almost $60 on alcohol.  One hand is patting me on the back and reminding me that we used to spend that kind of money for one weekend in just the two of us; the other hand is giving me the finger for being so dumb.  Whatever.  I’m an adult.  If I am going to break my budget on alcohol, so be it.

We also spent $41 and change at restaurants during February.  Yes, this came out of the grocery budget.  It’s food, right?  One trip to McDonald’s for sundaes because all three of us had sore throats; one trip to Subway because we were both craving sandwiches and we were driving by one; and one trip to Max and Erma’s with family we almost never eat out with after a day-long birthday party.  I’d say “not bad” on that account.

Here we are in March

It is March 2nd.  I spent the Angel Baby’s nap calculating what we spent and where during February.  Then I pulled up every weekly ad to every store where I shop and wrote down what was on sale that we would normally buy.  While on the Payless (Kroger) site, I logged into my account to load digital coupons to my Kroger Plus card.  I would’ve done the same at the CVS site but I didn’t seen anything in the ad that would get me to go there this week.  Then I went to Coupons.com and “clipped” coupons for things we would normally buy.

That’s the trick:  what you’d normally buy.  Clipping coupons for shit you don’t need so that you buy it, even for less than its regular price, is exactly what manufacturers want you to do.  It also screws your budget.

I compared this list to my already-written list of food, drinks, and supplies.  Next to each item, I wrote an abbreviation for the store at which I’d purchase them.  Then I looked at the forecast and chose the day I’d go do this major shopping trip.  If you are following this, I may suggest you check the weather first.  See, if the weather was going to be total shit until, say, Thursday, well, so many sale ads end or begin on Thursdays.

Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how tomorrow’s shopping turns out.

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3 thoughts on “Four Week Experiment: Budgeting with the exactness of February

  1. travelerwife Post author

    The shopping trip didn’t happen today. Because Indiana winters are what they are, everything outside was covered in a slick coat of ice today. I had to send the BHE to one of the five stores on the list. In the hour he’s been there, he has called me twice for clairification. That’s actually a relatively low ratio for him. *sigh*

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  2. Joya

    One thing I love about Kroger is that they actually send a packet of coupons every so often to us for things that we actually have bought on a regular basis. That’s pretty much the only time I use coupons, excluding the ones that print out at the register. I didn’t realize you had a candy habit..I’ll have to remember that.
    I like to spend money, but I also really like budgeting and knowing where everything is going. It’s always interesting hearing about how others are doing it.

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  3. Pingback: Embarking on a New Path | Thoughtfully Sought

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