I am not big on budgeting. I make, or made, a decent wage so I assumed that as long as I wasn’t extravagant, I should be able to cover expenses. We don’t have fancy cars, we don’t go to fancy restaurants, we don’t travel much. We have a middle class standard of living.
Unfortunately, over the past 7 years or so, our buying power has decreased so much that even our modest lifestyle is now above our means. And with the oldest starting college this year, I have started budgeting. I’m in my first full month so it’s all new. It’s going to be frustrating, I see that already. There were so many things I already neglected to include in my budget: car license plate renewals, haircuts, pet food. I figure that the first couple of months will be just getting to know where our money goes. I never thought about buying whatever fundraising thing someones brings around, or going out to eat at a middle-of-the-road restaurant once every week or two. I never minded treating a friend to lunch or spending $7 on a fancy greeting card. If I wanted the latest book by whoever, I just bought it. Now I have to consider all of that.
Already, this exercise has made me realize that there are things for which I am really loathe to pay. I don’t begrudge having to pay for the license plate renewals, haircuts, or pet food. But I hate having to pay for Subway. My in-laws used to own one so we could just pop in, when we weren’t working there, and grab a sandwich on occasion – or for every meal if one was as big of a mooch as one of my brother-in-laws. So, Subway does not figure into any budget.
I also detest paying for bandaids. My kids use them almost like stickers. It’s irritating to go buy the jumbo box of bandaids and, when I honestly need one, find it completely empty and the box still in the medicine cabinet.
I hate paying for cable, but our phone and internet are wrapped into that price. I think I need to evaluate that more closely. And I hate my huge cell phone bill. We have 5 phones with unlimited data and shared minutes on a family plan. The kids might be down graded to dumb phones like mere mortals. Maybe my husband too because he can get his data through his work phone. Who really needs 2 smart phones?
We’re not renewing any of our magazine subscriptions. If I can’t read it for free through my library’s Zinio subscriptions or online, then I’m not going to read it. And, as my local newspaper is cutting back to only 3 days of home delivery, I’ll cancel that except on Sundays.
I hate paying for car repairs. I miss when cars were simple enough that most repairs could be done in the driveway. We still do our own oil changes. Most other things are too complicated anymore. Home appliance repairs is another category of things for which I hate paying. But more than disliking paying for repairs, I hate that even expensive appliances are made to be disposable. How wasteful. So, we’re going to continue to do as many repairs as we can on our own. The internet is such an awesome resource for this. It allows me to be much more ambitious in the repairs we attempt. So, we’re going to repair things that we may have simply replaced preciously.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are expensive. We have a garden every year, but I want to expand our garden this year. I’m not into canning, but I will try it this year. And I did blanche and freeze excess before anyway. I really got into pickling last summer and that will continue.
I’ve been reading blogs that help me with my resolve to be more attentive to my spending. Wise Bread’s Frugal Living is a good start. I’ve also been reading tips from anti-consumerism groups. I try to read one thing (article, tip, blog post) every day for encouragement. This is going to be an interesting journey. I expect to learn a lot about myself. And I hope my kids learn some lessons also.