I am the budget goddess – nearly!

So, continuing my story about making changes in our spending habits, and getting out of the debt stranglehold we currently choke under, I’ve done the weekly accounts and I have to say: I’m thrilled with our efforts so far. In the far and distant past I had been a pretty sensible spender – there was a finite amount of money to spend and I was the only one making any, so I had to be careful. After marrying my husband, all of a sudden our spending habits went through the roof. The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, and vice versa. We are also compulsive spenders, usually on the small stuff, and hubby has no idea of what he has in his bank account.

So, saving all the receipts this week has given me a chance to look over our spending, and, I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the result. Without going into particular detail, I can say that we have spent about $130 on food and groceries and household goods this week. Add that to the $200 we spent on food and groceries last week and we are well under our $500 per fortnight total. We have a fridge full of food and a cupboard groaning with produce, and our only needs are fresh herbs or milk (I am doing great things with mince, but will expand this to include other meat once the mince clears out of the freezer – we bought about 4 kilos last week, enough for at least 8 meals, and our freezer is chockablock!). Our necessary spending: transport, medication etc, came in at $99 for the week, but should last another 2 weeks on average. And, best of all, our discretionary spending has been great. We spent about $86 this week. Now, if you include drinks this arvo and a friend’s BBQ tomorrow (already paid for), we should come well under the $125 per week I had budgeted for discretionary spending. Our biggest cost thus far has been grog. Even though we are not drinking during the week, I have insisted we buy a bottle of white spirits so that we can do the cheaper alternative of mixed drinks in the summer months when we ARE drinking. And beer has become very dear to us, too. In both the drinking, and the spending sense!

It is clear to me that the small things are costing us big. I spent $9.00 on takeaway coffee this week, so I’m figuring out ways to take freshly ground coffee to work, cutting down on the takeaways and enjoying my own stuff. We do have a coffee plunger, but it’s much too big for my little cups of espresso, and we don’t have a one person unit. Maybe today I’ll buy one to take to work. It seems like a false economy, but I suspect if I spend another $9.00 this week that will be $18.00 over a fortnight on takeaway coffee. And a single plunger is about the same cost, so wearing that cost into the following fortnight will see us come out even there, and thereafter I will save. I have stopped buying takeaway lunches – I may slip up from time to time, but it’s better than buying a $10 lunch every day and wondering where the money went at the end of it all.

One of our big pitfalls has been eating out, and going out generally. At present we are not going out much at all, and it’s killing us by degrees on the inside. There is nothing on the TV and often we end up doing work in front of the TV, rocking quietly in the corner from boredom. This will be a challenge for us. We can go and see some wonderful movies at the moment at a very cheap rate, but I’m suggesting we eke the movie watching out over a few weeks, so that there is always something to do each weekend, or, if we really can’t cope anymore, during the week. Another thing I’m trying to do is to have people over more frequently, but on a cheaper budget. Spaghetti or gnocchi with a great ragu rather than expensive roast rib eye, that sort of thing. Home made dessert instead of my favourite cheat: beautiful lemon tart from the local bakery. Home baked bread, beautiful soup. Curry night! I do some great curries, and have learned how to throw together a fabulous feast in about an hour, including roti bread. I don’t cheat on the Dhal or the curried vegies, but I do cheat on Tandoori paste for chicken. Curry is a superb and cheap way to eat, especially cheap cuts of meat, or vegetarian, and it’s hugely communal. Perfect for parties.

I’m really thrilled that, now that I’m seeing our spending become more manageable, we can begin to make forward plans that don’t include paying off megadebt. I’m concerned about our clothes for 2011 as they wear badly in this heat – in Brisbane you have to wash clothes after wearing them only once, including long pants and jeans, so they quickly lose quality. I’m not sure how we will keep up with that this year, but once we have seen our spending for three months we may have a better idea of the costs we are saving and how to give ourselves prizes or gifts from time to time.

So, week two down, week three coming our way. Of course, next weekend will be interesting because we will have the kids with us and they suck money out of us like the little succubi they are. I think we’ll be doing the “earning money to spend it” routine from now on – cleaning rooms, making beds, doing dishes, feeding animals – that sort of thing. Hubby tends to throw money at the kids every time he sees them and I’m not sure he realises how much he spends on them. So earning their pocket money and saving for special items will be the next budget education program for the kids.

Let’s hope the dog doesn’t decide to have another fit, that my business keeps on keeping on, and that this budget haven I have created for us lives to tell another day.



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