Monday, January 30, 2012

New Year, New Things

I have been delaying a "New Year" post for quite some time, because really, we're still trying to figure things out. We do have some financial goals, however, and since some of you can relate to that, I figured I would share (especially since I just e-mailed my husband with this week's plans and I am about to head out to the gym and grocery store).

When we first got married, we constructed a very strict budget via a Google Spreadsheet which accounted for each area of our finances, especially debt. I'm happy to report that we have been diligently paying off debt (no credit card or car loan debt for either of us now!), but in the other areas we eventually started slacking. My income is not fixed because I am paid per the hour so sometimes budgeting for us is a little weird. We find extra money here and there, and after about six months of being married, we stopped being so strict and started tapping into that money.

Right before our first anniversary this last year, my brother moved in with us. This of course would change our budget (especially for food) but we didn't make any changes to the spreadsheet because we weren't sure what to expect. I think we were also lazy and didn't want to have to think about it. We had all that extra money laying around, remember?

Our credit card bills kept getting higher and higher, but since we were able to pay them off each month, I didn't really investigate. There were so many variable things going on... school tuition for me, travel expenses, a new house -- all of this would be repaid from our savings account, so it didn't really "matter."

Well finally in December, I went ahead and took a look at the past four months to see what we were spending money on to make our credit card bill increase so much. It was immediately apparent that our food budget took a great hit. We were actually spending two to three times the amount of what our budget allowed! At first I thought it was from the holidays (and sure, that accounts for some of it), but in reality, we spent more in one month than we did in September which was when we spent a week traveling and practically eating out for every meal. Aye carumba.

I think the last few months of the year were extremely stressful for me, so it was much easier to suggest going out for dinner than cooking something. And when we would cook something, we wouldn't plan ahead so there would be a lot of wasted ingredients in our fridge that ended up being thrown out. Remember, we don't really cook meat, so if we didn't use all of those vegetables or fruits, into the garbage they went [we are looking at buying compost bins].

As you might imagine, I kind of freaked out when I realized how much we had been spending on food. A lot of our friends are able to stick to a really strict budget and they blog about it often. I felt really defeated and down about the whole situation, but after talking about it with J., we realized we just needed to get back on task about our budget and not spend money so frivolously.

When we got home from our short stay in Florida, I immediately started making our weekly meal plan. We are now in week five and things have been going great. I am excited for this month to end so I can tally up how much we actually spent. Since I have been doing a good job planning, I thought I could also post our meal plan for the week on this blog as a way to maybe keep me accountable. We'll see how long it lasts!

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