I recently suggested you spend only cash on things like groceries. Let's just say that I did not model the budget-savvy behavior that I ask from you, my readers. Ultimately, the responsibility for the slip-up rests squarely on my own shoulders.
Here's how it all came about:
As January arrived, I added up the amounts we had spent in each budget category in 2017. I produced three documents: our net worth, our list of goals, and the 2018 budget. (See this post for information on these three documents.) My husband asked me to formulate this year's budget on his straight-time salary alone. I was to include no overtime. We have a home improvement project on our agenda. So, we decided to resort to self-imposed austerity. Theoretically, this no-frills budget will give us enough in our "slush fund" by the end of the year to gut and remodel the downstairs bathroom.
By the first week of January I had the budget all prepared. Then my husband's first paycheck arrived. It quickly became apparent that I had made a miscalculation. I stared at the paycheck and then double-checked my figures. We have lived with a degree of overtime for so many years that I had forgotten what portion of his paycheck constituted straight-time. I had to cut another $600 a month out of the budget!
Holy cow! That was some serious money! I started over, working all the numbers and asking myself it we really needed to eat three meals a day. (Just kidding!) In the midst of rearranging my financial life, we ran out of food. Seriously! I had bulk cooked, leaving me with just 1 onion and 2 bulbs of garlic. My kitchen looked like great masses of people had made a run on it preparing for a major snowstorm!
My Massive Mistake:
It was 7pm. I made an extensive list. Time was short. My husband asked if I was ready to go. "I have the list. But, I haven't looked on EveryDollar yet to verify how much we have left over for the month." "Oh, it will be okay. Let's just get going," he replied. MAJOR mistake. I didn't even take a calculator with us to keep tabs on what we were spending. While in the store, Larry suddenly remembered two or three more items we needed. Not knowing how close we even were to maxing out the grocery allotment, I wearily told him, "Throw them in the cart!"
By the time we hit the check out, I felt it all spiraling out of control. As he rang up each item, I watched in horror as the total kept climbing. Still, the full extent of the damage was not apparent until I entered the receipts into EveryDollar after we arrived home. What??!!! We had a whopping $.90 left for the next two weeks! However, the 5# bag of sweet potatoes contained some spoiled produce, I returned it for a full refund. This added $6.10 to the total amount of available grocery money. Wow! Now I had $7.00 to spend!
I grabbed my 13 year old sous chef, Daniel. "Son, do you see these groceries?" This is what we have available for the next 14 days! Get the cookbooks and let's start planning." We cooked up a storm! We got creative and churned out some fantastic meals, all based on items that we already had in the house.
Today is Sunday, January 28th. We stopped by the store on the way home from church and found half price salad greens. We bought two 1 pound containers of spring greens and one bunch of bananas. The total cost was $6.50. We will end the month with $.50 left over in the food budget.
Lessons I learned from my mistake:
1. Keep a running list of things you need to purchase at the grocery store. I found out that it beats standing in my kitchen desperately trying to remember what we are out of and what needs to be replenished. My mother-in-law kept a pad of paper permanently on a shelf in her kitchen to write down items as they used up the last of the bottle, bag, or can. Definitely a strategy worth employing.
2. Don't leave home without knowing how much you have available to spend. Talk about making a "freshman" level mistake on my budgeting! However, this could have easily been alleviated if I had a cash envelope for grocery spending. Given how tightly I've structured our no-frills budget, I'll probably use a cash-only policy for groceries for the remainder of the year.
3. Necessity is the mother of invention. I can be very creative, cooking with that I have in the house. It actually became sort of a challenge as Daniel and I looked in the pantry and freezers to try to find buried ingredients for recipes. I even created a wonderful new family favorite: Grain Loaf. I have a post underway to share the recipe soon.
4. It wasn't the end of the world. If you make a mistake, don't panic. Work the problem, don't feed the frenzy. All in all it went well. But, believe me, I hope to be a little more organized for the rest of the year so that we don't have to do this again!
Until next time,
Do all to the glory of God,