This month, my husband and I started working the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace program. We opted to purchase the books on Amazon.com for about $25 because we found the $200 fee for the classes to be a bit too ironic, and besides that, the classes at our church are held on a day that we cannot commit to for more than one week at a time. We have two good friends who use Ramsey’s methods, one is debt free and owns two homes, one is still working on eliminating their debt. In their unique circumstances, they support us with their example, encouragement, and wisdom.
We started off better than many. In fact, the first thing I felt after opening the workbook was a bit of relief. After using a spreadsheet to figure out where all our money went and filling out a survey in the workbook, we realized that we were starting off already not as desperate as we feared.
Now, I have to confess: We did not work the program perfectly and I have to be ok with that. Years ago, we implemented a discipline system in our family based on a book. The author insisted that if we did not take each step as outlined directly in his book, the system would fall apart and fail. So we started out perfectly. We made rules and consequences. We bought the materials to support the rewards system – large and small tokens, clipboards – we printed up address labels with consequences and put them on index cards, etc etc. Over time, we found out that some aspects of the program just did not work in our household. We could not maintain them. We adjusted and adjusted, we put the responsibility on the kids, we gave them tools, we gave ourselves tools… The program worked when we adjusted it and managed it within our abilities. In fact, it works great for our family. The program gave us stability and consistency that we did not have before, and it truly addressed every issue we needed it to address. We had to make it work and we did.
Maybe that makes me a little arrogant, but I like to think it makes me practical and realistic. One step at a time I am committed to making the budget and cash system work for us because I see the benefits. I may never own two houses or get rich but I hope we can manage our money and have savings to live off what we have and not credit. Those are my goals for now.
After reviewing our spreadsheet, we eliminated most of our debt thanks to an end of the year bonus, and put the rest in savings. I suggested an amount of money we should set aside each month, in cash, to cover our basic expenses: FOOD. I admit, I made this a pretty broad category. I included cleaning supplies, personal hygiene and essentially, anything our family uses that is disposable. Next month I’ll consider clothing. This month, we bought no clothes. I needed to see what I could do with the food budget first. Dave Ramsey uses the term “Baby Steps” and while I don’t know if he would consider this choice an appropriate baby step or not, I call it “One Step at a Time.”
I looked what we spent on food and dining out, on average, over the previous three months and decided to start off with 40% of that number in cash.
Less than half of what we spent, on average.
I put 80% of that money in a grocery fund and 20% in a restaurant fund. I decided not to even think about what we would spend over the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland. The reality is that I knew about how much we would spend that weekend – I knew what the hotel would cost, about how much our meals would cost, and about how much I would spend at the Expo. I also knew that if we only spent that 40% on food and disposables the rest of the month, we would have more than enough left over in our budget to cover that weekend’s expenses. I saw it on the spreadsheet. It would cost substantially less than the remaining 60% so I decided that, for this month, I would let it go. One Step at a Time.
As we near the end of the month, I’m very pleased with the results. We do have some of the money left over. We actually used some of the food cash at Disneyland, even! Admittedly, we had quite a reserve in our pantry and freezer, but, frankly, I impressed myself with how well I ignored my old habits and found ways to use up what we already had on hand for meals.
The boys have been pretty good sports about it, too. They always make their own lunches for school so we already had that piece in place. A few times the youngest has wanted me to take him out to fast food and I told him no, we had food at home to eat. Fortunately, my children are awesome eaters and will always taste anything I make. They will even ask to try the Sriracha sauce or red pepper flakes on something if they see their dad and I adding it to ours.
So here is my list for today. This is a list of things I did not buy this month that I probably would have bought if I had not committed to budgeting:
1. A Wok. This will be one of the first purchases I make when I have established a household items budget. I actually have a gift card from Christmas to Sur La Table, but I’m not sure I’m wild about their wok options. I need to shop around and choose wisely. But I want a wok.
2. A Fruit Basket Stand. I see in my head what I want. I want a wire stand about 3 – 4′ tall, with 3 basket/shelves to store a variety of fruits. I want to be able to separate the fruit, see what we have, have it out and visible so we can grab it when we’re hungry, and keep it fresh longer.
3. Yoga Pants and/or Walking/Running Capris. I could use another pair of walking pants and maybe one pair of yoga pants. Maybe.
4. Jogging Bras. Sort of. I actually did purchase two Champion bras because they were on sale with free shipping. And I really DO need more jogging bras. I would have waited except that they were on sale with free shipping. I looked at other jogging bras by Moving Comfort. They were not on sale. Actually, that’s not true. Some of them were on sale but my size was not available. If the sale items were available in my size, I would’ve grabbed one or two. I admit it. But the price was REALLY good and I had a 20% off coupon AND, we had the budget in that 60% to cover it so it would not have gone into debt. Baby Steps. I would like my gold stars for not using the 20% coupon off the full price Moving Comfort bra, please, and taking advantage of the Champion sale with free shipping because that was 50% off plus free shipping.
5. A Bathroom Rug. I need desperately to trash this nasty thing in front of my shower, but we have old beach towels I can fold and put in its place. I don’t need a pretty rug to do the job, an old towel will be fine.
And one thing I did buy:
1. Four Bottles of Wine. I know, I know. We don’t need more wine. Anyone who has seen my wine rack knows this. But. I had some time to kill so I went to Hi Times and they had Schug Pinot Noir - and it cost less than the wine club price at that link, by the way, for the exact same vintage and release. When we went to Sonoma for my 40th birthday, we stopped at Schug on the way back to the airport on the advice of some friends local to the area. I’m particular about Pinot Noir, it’s not my favorite grape but it’s a nice drinking red. The other Pinot Noir I like is way out of my price point. When I realized Hi Times had it, I couldn’t help myself. And they had a rose similar to Lasseter for about $10 and another bottle of Sauv Blanc and we hardly have any white in our rack so I had to pick up the Sauv Blanc. Still, within the 60%.
One Step at a Time.