|Our budget has me thinking like a minimalist!|
It's time to get real with you!
After Larry got ill, he gave up his extensive overtime hours. That money accounted for a full twenty-five percent of our income!
Larry announced that he would no longer work any overtime (a decision with which I whole-heartedly agreed). I looked him in the eye, smiled, and replied, "Don't worry honey. There are lots of areas that I can cut in the budget." I wasn't really lying. I knew that I can be very creative when it comes to money. It's just that at that very moment I had absolutely no idea which areas I could cut or how much.
I crossed my fingers behind my back and hoped that I would really be able to follow through on that promise. He had worked overtime for so many years that I had long ago incorporated that money into our monthly expenses. Removing it would be painful!
Back to the Basics
I quickly realized that panicking would do very little to help our situation. That's sort of like getting depressed about the lack of food in the house. So you go out, get a gallon of ice cream, and eat the entire thing. Now you are sick to your stomach, you've gained five pounds, and you STILL have no food in your fridge. It is self defeating.
It's time to "circle the wagons". During Westward Expansion each night the wagons formed a circle for defensive purposes to ward off attackers. I needed to devise a plan of defense, envisioning each element of our budget as a separate "wagon". When combined, they would provide us with both safety and defense.
I went back to the basics. I warped back into "newlywed mode". When we were first married, we survived on practically nothing. How? We didn't spend money. We worked, ate at home, took walks, read books, visited friends and family, and enjoyed time with with each other.
And you know what? We loved it! We didn't feel deprived. We didn't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We embraced simplicity. Additionally, we (literally) gave thanks to God each and every time He brought unexpected blessings our way.
Here are four steps to follow if you need to cut your budget in a hurry!
Step 1: Ask Yourself, "Is this temporary?"
Take a deep breath and consider whether this downturn in fortunes is temporary or permanent. Are there circumstances which would change the situation for the better? If it is temporary, how long is it likely to last?
In our case Larry's diagnosis of heart failure forced him to downsize his work schedule. Heart failure is exhausting - in a very literal sense. When he returns from work it is as though someone unplugged his batteries. He lays down for a deep, long nap every day. He has to. This really does not lend itself well to overtime hours.
We began the budget hacking by asking ourselves how long the lack of overtime was likely to last. The answer is: at least a year. Probably more. We have made the decision that even when he regains his strength that never again will he work extensive overtime hours. It simply isn't worth the loss of our family time to gain extra coin in our pockets.
Step 2: Concentrate on Your "four walls".
Next, look at your budget and place a mark next to those items which are your "four walls". This includes: Housing, food, and transportation. Look for ALL the items which encompass these categories.
Gas and Electric
Home Owner's Association Fees
Personal care items
Cleaning and hygiene products
Car Payment (See this post for my advice on paying cash for automobiles.)
See? It's a lot more than just paying your rent or mortgage. These areas must remain funded.
Step 3: Isolate and Cut
Consider each category of your budget as a separate entity - or "wagon" if you think back to our "circle the wagons" analogy. Ask yourself if there is any way which that category can be trimmed. You may be able to lower some only a few dollars a month. But, when you see the cumulative effect of your efforts, you will be amazed that you were able to shave that much off of your budget.
There are lots of ways that even the "four walls" categories can be trimmed down to size.
I give you great tips for cutting expenses in this post. And also in this post.
Step 4: Challenge Yourself! Be specific! Put it in writing!
I believe that people commit to things which are written down and posted in a prominent place in their home. For me, that is using a magnet to attach them to my refrigerator.
Be sure you have the agreement and help of either your spouse or an accountability partner. You'll be more likely to succeed if you know that someone else may ask you unexpectedly, "So, how are we doing on those budgeting goals?"
To show you an example of how to do this, I am sharing my June budget challenges!
My June Budget Challenges!
Here are four budget-related items that I will be posting about in the next few weeks.
2. Organize my pantry! Disorder costs money! You'll get a look at what an absolute WRECK my pantry is! I show you how my son and I put it back in order. I promise lots of photos!
3. Being hyper-vigilant at tracking my expenses every week. This way I will immediately be aware when adjustments need to be made. I'll report any successes or challenges.
4. I have issued myself a "food budget challenge". My family is less-than-enthused about this one. I've decided to spend no more than $320 on food for the month of June. That's $80 each week! Our oldest son is also home from college and our son John's girlfriend is coming from Mississippi to visit. So our family of five will become a family of seven for most of June. I'll lay out the details in the next few days and update you regularly on how it is going. For the record, my husband thinks I can't do it - just all the more reason to try to prove that I can!
Don't miss my next post!
Not only will I give you the low down on my June challenges, I'll also be telling you how you can enter to win a copy of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.
Until next time,
Do all to the glory of God,