Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Budget Redesign

Blake will be the first person to tell you that I love to plan, organize, re-plan, and re-organize. Usually I stick to the rearrangement of things in our house, but my mind has shifted towards reorganizing our budget. After my post on busting our grocery budget, I got plenty of great ideas from your many comments. We're two weeks into the new month, and I wanted to share some rearrangements and our success rate thus far:

- Switch to mint.com - The switch from a cruddy spreadsheet to the glorious mint.com has been AMAZING! It was so easy to set up our accounts and budgets and then watch the website track our spending. I have to go in a tweak things from time to time, but it keeps an accurate count of every penny spent. And with the mint.com app, Blake and I both have access to our budget which means the burden no longer falls on one person to remember what's-been-spent-where.

- Split Transactions - On mint.com, you can "split" transactions. For example, we went to Wal-Mart and spent $154. Not all of that was on food. We also bought face wash, hair spray, car deoderizer, and some other non-food items. With the "split" feature, I can itemize the $154 so that the money spent on face wash and hair spray goes in our "personal care" budget and the car deoderizer goes in "incidentals". I haven't been diligent with this feature yet, but that's my goal for next month!

- $300 Grocery Budget - This one is going so-so. I upped it to $350 last week just because I was already seeing that $300 was not realistic. Part of the problem of overspending for "groceries" will be eliminated when I start splitting transactions. So far, we've spent $335 on groceries this month, but that includes at least $75 of non-food items and $47 worth of groceries for a special mother's day meal. So, if I eliminate those two costs, we've only spent $213 on food. I think itemizing those things next month will help me really see how we're spending. This month is also hard because there are 5 weeks instead of 4.

- Planning Meals - Planning out meals is something I did religously in the fall/winter, but for some reason the spring has been a little more hectic and my plans haven't gone so well. But, I got back on track! I planned for the first two weeks of May (and stuck to it!), I have a plan for this week, and I'm working on one for the next two weeks. I start with looking at what we have in the pantry/fridge and then I look at what's on sale. I'm also reminding myself that I don't have to cook some fancy shmancy dinner every night. Like, last night, we made turkey melts with chips, a pickle, and salad - simple, but good!

- Cable/Internet - This month, we received a bill for internet that was $16 higher than normal. Apparently Comcast has upped its price, once again, and we're kind-of stuck with it since Charter doesn't serve our area. We have Dish Network for TV, so our TV & internet aren't bundled. We were told to call Comcast and ask to add cable and that alone would bring our bill down - even though we wouldn't be using the cable (we love Dish), we'd still be paying less for internet. Crazy, huh?

So, that's how our budget is going. With the way things look now, if we stay on track, mint.com says we should have $208 leftover. I am not sure how accurate that is, but we'll see when we get to May 31 how we did!

Here's the question(s) I'm posing today - going back to the grocery budget:
- Do you spend more on groceries or dining out or do you spend equally?
- Do you actually eat the things you purchase?
- How do you plan what you are going to buy?
- What things do you like to keep on hand at all times? (i.e. I feel like I HAVE to have sour cream, cream cheese, and cornbread mix ALL the time! If I use any of it for a recipe, I immediately put it on our grocery list even if it's not called for in an upcoming recipe!)


  1. We spend significantly more on groceries than on eating out, but we spend more carelessly on eating out.

    We are getting much better about eating what we buy, or at least using up fresh stuff before it goes bad. This has come as a result of better meal planning and just buying what we need for the short-term (usually a week at a time). I've also been putting meat in the freezer more often.

    I usually plan what I'm buying based on having a general idea of the meals I want to cook during the week plus what is available at the farmers' market.

    The things I like to keep on hand: baking supplies (flour, eggs, baking soda, etc.), onions, lemons and limes, chicken broth and some good cheese. I can build a lot of different recipes around those things.

  2. Oh, and pasta and quinoa are two other items I really like to keep on hand if possible. They are easy go-tos for Noah. Also, for us, it's a good idea to keep one or two quick meals (like pasta pick-ups for him, or a Stouffer's family meal for the three of us) for nights when we are busier or just don't feel like cooking. It keeps us from going out as much.

    1. Oh, yes, I agree about keeping pasta, rice, and even tortillas on hand. I figure if we at least have a can of black beans, some rice, tortillas, cheese, and sauce, then we have a meal on-hand at all times!

      I buy meat in bulk most of the time, so we freeze almost everything. Meal planning helps because I know when I need to take something out to thaw. But sometimes if a meat is on sale, I'll buy it and swap out a recipe so I can use it fresh!

  3. I just signed up for Mint. Katie I am SO PUMPED you shared this site! Since George gets paid weekly, monthly, and randomly(haha) with everything he does it makes budgeting super hard. We always struggle with our mortgage payment. We make enough money to cover the amount, but since our main source of income is paid weekly budgeting for that always feels like a dance. We have asked the mortgage company 10,000 times if we could PLEASE pay them weekly. They aren't fans of that idea. This will help tremendously! THANKS!

    1. I am glad you like the Mint website! You know, back in the day when I worked at Gospel Supply, we got paid weekly. It was AWESOME... except I didn't have any bills to pay!!! I can't imagine having to do weekly budgets, but I think the Mint website will help you!!!