Kathryn March 10th, 2011
So I have been trying to think of things I can blog about that can actually be useful to people… where they can get good ideas and use them to make their own lives that little bit happier, smoother, and stress free. I’ve had a couple of ideas and I’ll probably be posting blogs regularly on varying subjects… but for today (and possibly the rest of the week…. or month….) it’s about money.
The reality is that we all need money. What varies between each person and family is how much money they have – and what they spend it on. Two seemingly identical families can be earning the same income and yet be living totally different life styles. One can be happy, living within their means and saving money – the other, could be constantly stressed and in a large amount of debt. I think the difference is priorities….
So how can we be the first family, happily living within our means, and not the second, in a large amount of debt constantly stressing where the money to pay the bills will come from…. the answer is twofold. 1. Create a budget 2. Stick to it.
Most people can create a budget – look at how much you earn and then allocate where you will spend it – Easy as pie!
For me the problem lies not in creating the budget, but in sticking to it. So I’m hoping to share with you (and you share with me) some ideas on what you actually do to STICK to your budget. One area I would consistently blow the budget on is the groceries, until I changed my ways, and now most weeks I spend less than I have budgeted. My solution to this is simple, and it lies in a menu plan… here are the steps!
An example of my menu plan! You could always do it on a calendar template too!
1. A menu plan – I believe this is essential in keeping a hold on your grocery bill, I make the menu plan, get out my recipe books and make a very detailed shopping list. It also helps you look at expensive meals vs cheap meals – Try and balance these out a bit.
My shopping list will tell me exactly how much of everything I need eg. 1kg mince, 3 onions, 200g ham etc. I usually then go to the cupboard and put a mark next to the items I already have – they become the ‘optional’ items on your list (there is a reason for not crossing them off completely)
When making your shopping list remember to take into account the ‘extra’ things. One example could be if you know you will be going to dinner at a friends place and you’re bringing the dessert…. or you may have a mothers group you attend, where you take a morning tea.
If you’re in a position to do this – Plan for left overs! With only 2 adults and 1 toddler to feed I find myself preparing some meals in quantities larger than we need. Any meal that I cook that could do us for 2 meals, takes up a second night in my menu plan. If you don’t like eating the same thing 2 nights in a row, that’s no worries! Just put it in the freezer! It seems cheaper if you’re ‘cooking’ 2 or 3 less meals a week. For me it also means that on the nights that are busy and you need to be able to dish dinner up quick – you know it’s already done, and it’s not a major stress.
or this supermarket?
2.Search the catalogues – I go online and look at the Coles AND Woolworths catalogues (and sometimes foodland)- I find the things that I have on my shopping list that are on special and make a note of all of them. I’m lucky enough to have both a Coles & Woolies at my shopping centre so I don’t have to go to 2 different chopping centres to do my shopping.
Time to shop!
3. Do the Shop! – I go to Woolies (cos that’s where I prefer) and shop! When shopping I try to look at ALL the choices available and often will try and purchase the cheapest product (I love looking at unit prices!) There are a couple of things that I choose not to buy in home brand but most of the time the Coles or Woolies branded items are just a good as the ‘brand name’ items. As I go through the supermarket I’ll often use my phone to calculate as I go – that way there’s no surprise when i get to the register! If I’m over budget it gives me the chance to put back the ‘luxury’ items that I picked up along the way (I know it would be better not to pick them up at all – but that’s another story) When judging whether you’re over budget don’t forget to take into account that you still have to go to Coles and get the specials there, you may have to get meat from the butcher, or fruit and veg from a F&V shop.
The dangerous machine!
4. The Register – Another BIG key in keeping under budget! When I get to the register I use EFTPOS and ask for change from the FULL AMOUNT of the grocery budget (ie. If you budget $300 a fortnight for shopping and your total for the Woolies shop is $130 then you should walk out with $170 in your purse/wallet).
I then move on to the rest of my shopping, such as the specials from Coles, the butcher, fruit & veg or the bakery and pay for it all with the cash. Once that is all done I know that whatever cash I have left in my purse has to last me the rest of the fortnight.
In your hand!
5. Cash – I shop for my F&V weekly – so by the time I have done all my other shopping I know that whatever is left in my purse has to get me my F&V for the next week, as well as additional milk, bread etc. I find that with having the cash there, every time I spend it I evaluate how much I still have there and what I’m going to need it for, which helps… I can’t help but see how much I left in my purse.
The rest is up to you!
6. The end of the week/fortnight/month. – Here’s the choice – when you have leftover grocery money at the end of the fortnight WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT!? -
a. Go back and build up your food storage! Purchase items that are going to keep for a long time and that you use regularly- pasta, rice, flour, shampoo , conditioner etc. or items that are on special. Even better – buy in bulk if it’s going to work out cheaper…. Food storage is wonderful and something I need to work on! It’s so nice to have it there to fall back on for those weeks where you don’t get to shop on your usual ‘shopping day’ or you need to cut back somewhere because a large bill has come in.
b. Spend it on something nice cos you feel good you’ve got money left over – I wouldn’t do this every week, but every now and again it’s nice to give you and/or your family a treat – Buy a DVD, go out for icecream, have a movie night with popcorn and chocolate! The options are endless
c. Save it – Even if it’s $5, empty your purse before you go to do your next shop! Put in the coin tin or in the bank! You will then have the extra cash to go towards bills, saving for a house, clothes the kids need, parking change etc.
The choice is yours, and depending on how much you have left you could save some AND spend some
In the end it comes to exercising self-control! To begin with it is really hard but if you are strong enough and can stick to it for just a few weeks, somewhere it switches and you see opportunities for saving everywhere. I now find that I enjoy looking for ways to spend money and feel a great sense of accomplishment when at the end of the fortnight I still have money in my purse that I can go back to the shops with! It’s also nice to know that if we have a short week and I need a few extra dollars, it will be there!
So… what do you do to help yourself stick to your budget?