Ive had people ask me, not wanting to sound nosey, but also curious.. how am I making my budget work some months on?
I thought Id give some super honest feedback... so those of you who were wanting to ask the questions but didnt want to pry: Here goes!
So we set a weekly budget of $530.
At a breakdown.. that is
$300 food and nappies
and then the rest is for things such as mine and kids clothing, homeschool supplies, Friday fun night, gifts for friends and parents, hair and make up supplies, kids haircuts, small house maintenance items, library (fees for holds, DVD's and fines-of which we always have some!), any subscriptions or downloaded files for personal study.
Ive found this figure pretty realistic to work with and its given me flexibility while also allowing me to plan well for those unavoidable expenses such as the fact that all my kids are nearly due new running shoes.
What didnt work?
Gym membership. At $25 a week it was a pricey sacrifice. I love exercise and the gym had a mountain of equipment, including a pool and spa. However, the class times were always a wrestle with juggling baby Joseph and at the best, I was making it twice a week. Thats $12.50 a time! More to the point, I missed the fresh air and quiet like crazy. The blasting music may do it for most people, but when I had time alone, I just wanted something peaceful. I picked up running again and my Pilates DVD and I am happy.. and am better off financially.
My favourite ever hairdresser left our local Hair Salon last year. So loyalty in this area wasn't hard to break. I now use Grab One and am quite happy to float the salons. You have to be a bit more vocal as to what you want, precisely, as one salon will differ from another in how they describe colour and cut.. but you aren't going to get a disaster when you're simply getting a natural recolour and a trim.. which is what I do.
Loyalty to brands and products is something to question too .I loved Janesce and used it also for years but its expensive. I googled and did some research and decided to try a much cheaper alternative made in France, and found at Strawberry Net called Bioderma. Its half the price and my skin loves it. Im still entirely loyal to Pure Fiji however.
Trying to cut the grocery budget.
I rarely do this, ever. Theres weeks Ive wanted to try and make do with less food, to use the money for something I want (not need), but it messes with our basic supply rotation and causes me a level of stress while I try and plan meals around missing ingredients (which lets face it, when you're a busy mum, thats totally draining right?!)
Things that absolutely work!
When Im off to do the shopping with the kids in tow, I pray. I ask the Lord to help us to be wise, to be creative, to honour dads hard work by being good with our finances. Im not perfect (you ask Sam), but I have a desire to get it right.
Knowing what refreshes you inexpensively.
I think as woman, when were tired, we tend to make expensive mistakes. Not hugely impacting, but budget breaking.
Ive learnt instead to know what things truly refresh me. Im blessed to have a mum who has done some extensive research on the the healing power of beauty, and my own journey has included, noting what is beautiful to my eye. Those are the things that I enjoy. When I reflect on seasons of life where I have felt my best, I see patterns of beauty emerging: self care, rest, creativity and order.
For me those things look like this:
* Flowers. I had Sam plant me roses and flowers that I can cut and pick and enjoy. I will also buy an inexpensive bunch of flowers from Countdown once a fortnight and mix them up with what I have at home and place little arrangements in places that I enjoy: Beside our bed, in the kitchen, by the front door.
* Books. I love recipe books and books that inspire me, on homemaking, cooking and sewing. I use the library extensively. Im a total library nerd in that, if a book I want, is available to loan, I basically float out of the library.
* Walking. When Im shattered, I throw on some make up and something that makes me feel a little bit pretty, and go for a walk. Taking a gentle stroll around the neighbourhood does wonders for me. I try each time to just find one thing thats beautiful - the colour of flowers, the sound of the wind, acorns and leaves fallen to the ground, or a little kids giggle as they play.
* Reading a blog. One of my favourites is Kaunispienielama (A Beautiful Life). Its all in Finnish and even when translated it doesnt make a whole heap of sense, but she captures the beauty of motherhood and life in ways that make you want to slow down, play, and get creative with your kids. Granted there will be times you will wonder if you are devoid of some secret dose of time and mental capacity to come up with ideas.. and you may have the urge to paint your entire house white and dress yourself and your kids in shades of pastel only.. but! If you can keep some reign on reality that these pics are simply SNIPPETS of her world, intended to minister beauty back into your reality: you're winning.
* Order. I need not explain. Having my home looking orderly makes me function a thousand times better and the only way that ever really works is for me to constantly clearing the clutter.
* Writing and Craft. I love to create and I love words.. sometimes the best thing is combining those two are doing something entirely for someone else. Even something small is so life giving!
Writing down everything you spend.
I did this for the first couple of months and it was really good for me. I used an app on my iPhone and overtime I spent a cent, I logged it in under the budget titles. It gave me a much better grasp on those hidden expenses and how things add up: parking, treats etc. It sure made me savvy! I carry around cash with me all the time now in coins, and I set a $1 limit on each kid for treats. After time I found I didnt need to do write it all down, as I had a much better grip on where things were going... that saying, the practise is a good one and I should probably do it again.
Keeping a pinterest page of needs/ wants and not buying at full price.
Case in point: I had my heart set on a beautiful shirt that was $109. I waited a few months and the other day it came on special for $29. I have a personal style page on pinterest but make sure that I only pin things in there where I actually own one or more of the items in the pic. Then I know ways I can realistically work with what I own. I also tend to look for accessories that make an outfit work, rather than new clothes, and when I do buy, I generally order from the UK (Next, M&S etc) as you pay a little more but those items last years down the line.
Pay the Kids.
I don't just buy the kids anything.. they know they can earn things on their wish lists by doing jobs around the home (in addition to their daily chores). It helps me get the house in order and they love earning some money too. Sam has then write down anything they've earned in a little book, and when it accumulates we take them shopping. They know the drill: If they see a toy, they work to earn it.. and Im not having to pay someone outside the home to do what my kids can do.
Putting wings on each others dreams.
I don't have any financial goals such as saving for any large amazing item (sorry), but I do have the goal of creating memories, investing in the lives of others and honouring my hubby. Sam is the visionary financially out of the two of us and quite frankly, I am in awe of him. What a job he does! Knowing that this was never my strong point, I came up with the idea of a budget that related to all things for me. That way, I can keep track of a much smaller picture and leave the bigger picture to him. That saying, he knows my dreams are travel, and I know his is investment. Respecting those things in each other makes the day to day finances run well. Perhaps thats more about communicating with each other, than it is about money per say, but its been our experience the two are very intertwined.
Get great advice.
One of the most enlightening comments someone made to us this year, was to ask us how we were investing in ourselves. It wasn't that we had never thought of it, its just that it always took second priority to everything else financially. Some decisions you will make, won't reflect excellent budgeting and great investing. You may not be mortgage free by 30, but you might be healthier and a better parent because of some choices you made to get the best counselling, go and do a course that totally spins your wheels, or swap the job that you don't like, for a less paying job you love. Get advice and get it from great sources. One of the best moves we made last year was to invite the input from our financial adviser, not just into how we run our money, but what our calling us. We've invited some amazing people around to dinner, and we've asked them questions and had them share their experience and our lives are richer for it.