A Likely Boring Post In Which I Review All Aspects of My Monthly Budget

12 02 2009

In light of our current financial situation, it is once again time to review our expenditures to determine what could be reduced or eliminated. 

My husband knew that things were not going well for his former employer, so we started doing a monthly budget in January.  Before the first day of each month, we write out our income and expenditures spending every penny on paper on purpose (using the monthly cash flow form included in  Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover).  This simple task has been very eye opening.  We should have a LOT more money in savings.

Where did it all go?  We don’t have any elaborate collections – no snow globes in a curio cabinet, no dream-catchers adorning every window.  Its not a nasty drug or alcohol habit – Mr. Beam and I are not on a first name basis; our spoons remain unburnt.

There are three full pages of categories on the monthly cash flow plan.  My favorite part of the form is that I get to put a big fat zero in most of the categories.

Before the permanent layoff, we planned to use the following categories in February:  first mortgage, electricity, water, cell phone, home phone/Internet, cable, groceries, restaurants, pet food, car payment, gasoline, car insurance, clothing, life insurance, hair care/nails, office supplies, subscriptions, blow money and entertainment.

Our house payment is what it is.  We have a good rate on a fifteen year mortgage.  Our bank will lower the monthly payment if you are $5000 or more ahead on your payments but that is not the case with us.

We are on the level payment plan with Ameren CILCO.  This makes budgeting for electricity very easy as the expected payment is the same every month.  I’m not sure what steps we could take to lower our electric bill.  IN warmer weather we rarely use the air conditioner.  We love to have the windows open and use our whole house fan if it gets too hot out.  We need to make a more concerted effort to turn out lights when we leave the room and to unplug things that we are not using.  We haven’t shut down our desktop computer since November.  I’m sure that the 22+ hours a day that it is not in use has made our carbon footprint look as if it were left by Sasquatch!

Unless we start taking military showers (turn the water off while soaping and shampooing) I can see no way to reduce our water consumption.  That is one desperate measure that I will not be considering at this time.  I really enjoy my morning shower.  It helps to wake me up.

Our cellular package is the lowest priced option.  We don’t text message and we don’t carry the insurance despite my recent washing machine snafu.

Our home phone is at the bare bones minimum.  We simply have a line.  We don’t have any extras – no caller i.d., no call waiting, no voice mail, no line backer.  We have the least expensive DSL package.  Our long distance is through ECG, which charges 2.5 cents per minute – no monthly fee, no hidden charges.  We’ve used this service for a long time.  At the time we chose their service, it was the lowest available price.   I highly recommend ECG.

Due to my deep seeded hatred of television, we subscribe to the lowest available cable package.  It is $15.79 a month.  If it were up to me we would have no televisions in our house, but that is not an option for Craig.

I budget about $100 a week for grocery items.  Unless there is something on sale that I want to stock up on, I rarely spend that much.  I clip coupons and participate in coupon trading via afullcup.  Ninety percent of my purchases are items that are on sale that I can apply a coupon to.

We have really cut back on our restaurant visits.  I eat out at my weekly Rotary Club meeting and Jennifer, MarySue and I do lunch after our weekly spinning class.  I am trying to get used to ordering water.  I have a couple of mystery shops lines up at decent eateries later in the month.

We can’t cut back in the pet supplies area.  Our cats require only food, water, litter and love.  They eat Science Diet Light which is a higher priced food.  Everything else has made them vomit, which we’d rather not be cleaning up all of the time. 

Our car payment is $244.00 a month.  We are $7,000.00 ahead, since I’ve been working very hard to pay it off.  I contacted the bank to see if the payment could be reduced.  They offered me a new payment of $171.00.  The woman I talked to told me that even though I owe them a payment each month, I can stop paying.  She said that although it would show that I had missed a payment, it would also show that I was $7,000.00 ahead.  She didn’t think there would be a problem, but cautioned me that I shouldn’t mention her name if there was.  I don’t think I will try this.  I don’t want to negatively effect my credit.  It is not a problem for us to make the payment, though it would be nice to squirrel away as much money as possible during the interim.  Perhaps when Craig gets a job we will have saved enough money to pay off the car.  I truly hope to only pay cash for cars in the future.

Since I drive 49 miles each way to work our fuel consumption is higher than the average family’s.  I am grateful to have an economy car and that gas prices are below $2.00 a gallon.  We try to combine trips and carpool when possible (Thanks, Jennifer…  It’s my turn this week!).

We paid our car insurance through August earlier this month.  We have a high deductible and each time I pay the insurance I review the policy to ensure that our coverage is where we want it to be.  Two very inexpensive extras that I don’t scrimp on are towing and rental car coverage.  Each are literally less than $1.00 a month and have come in very handy in the past.

We don’t need any new clothes right now, so I reduced that category to $0 for February.  If I don’t lose a little weight, I may have to buy a few new items in the summer.

We both have a small term life insurance policy, enough to pay off the house if one of us died.  Twenty dollars a month is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Until Craig gets a job, I have given up getting my nails done. Twenty-two dollars twice a month adds up over the course of a year (precisely $572 is the cost of this vanity).  Its back to polishing them myself.  Craig gets discount haircuts and I only get my hair cut every twelve weeks since I am in a growth phase.  I know a lot of people cut their own hair, but that is not an option for us.  I will start plucking my own eyebrows instead of paying to get them waxed.

We purchase minimal office supplies – just stamps and the occasional ink cartridge.  I’m still working on my sheet of Edgar Allen Poe stamps. 

The only subscription that I pay for each month is for The Peoria Journal Star.  We get it on Sundays only.  This is where I get the ads from which I make my grocery lists, so in order to save money on groceries it seems necessary to get the Sunday newspaper.  We receive some magazines, but I’m not wild to renew any of them.

We have been trying to partake in free entertainment, like board games and exercise.  My dad gave us some tickets to a Bradley game at the end of the month.  We are going to plan a party. 

We both have a small amount of blow money – this is what I use to finance my lunches with the Rotary Club and my weekly lunch-date with Jennifer and MarySue.  Also if there is some small thing that I’m just dying to have, I can get it.  The other day it was a bag of Laffy Taffy.  There has to be some room for fun otherwise it would be very hard to keep a budget.

Going over all of this has really helped me to better understand our budget.  I think we already live pretty frugally.  We could get rid of our cable, Internet and cell phones but our cost for each item is minimal and they do add to the quality of our lives.  If we were desperate, I wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate them, but it would be going overboard at this time.

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3 responses

12 02 2009
idonotknowme

“blow money” as a line item sounds like a budget for a cocaine habit!

From what I can tell by your blog, your approach to personal finances is very rational and responsible. It is tough to live that way when you see so many people enjoying lifestyles that are beyond their means without it ever seeming to catch up with them. I hope this recession will finally provide some comeuppance to them and reward those of us who have lived within our means. But I am not holding my breath for that outcome.

13 02 2009
Sarah

Wow I spend $100 on food and we’re a family of five! Can I come to dinner at your house??? 🙂

12 03 2009
Kristina

Now that we’re living on one income, we’ve cut way back too, mainly on restaurants. We still eat fairly well, but we make 3 meals a day on a regular basis. Maybe we go out to dinner once a month, breakfast/coffee once a month, and lunch/brunch the same. It’s been pretty amazing to see where we can cut back and how we can live well on a tight budget.

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