Monday, January 31, 2011

Staying Accountable To My Budget

I recently created a detailed budget for myself. I have $100 to spend on miscellaneous items, and I've allotted myself a total budget for groceries and gas of $325 every month. The problem with budgeting isn't so much creating a budget - it's sticking to it.

At the end of every month I've been tallying that months spending. This month I spent $106.66 in the miscellaneous category. This included my antique store purchases, a Groupon certificate for half off at happy hour, lunch with the hubby's grandmother, the Living Social certificate which I applied to buying sprout seeds (can't wait to start this project - hopefully a money saver!) and a late fee and interest. No, I'm not perfect, and I'm super annoyed with myself for this one. I thought I had all of my ducks in order before leaving for the holidays, but I forgot to schedule the payment on one of my credit cards. Usually I can get the late fee reversed (while still eating the interest) but apparently I had done that last March, and USBank is only being lenient once a year.

I decided to include the late fee and interest in my miscellaneous category to really make it hurt. It's frustrating to know that the only reason I went over my miscellaneous budget this month is because of that stupid mistake. I assume that my miscellaneous spending is going to be somewhat flexible every month. By this I mean that sometimes I'll go over and sometimes I'll be under because I don't buy cat food or litter every month, or get my oil changed every month. But it's really easy to go a little over $100 a month, and a lot harder to stay under. I'm glad I almost made it, but I'm going to try really hard to be under in February because of the late payment mistake.

I came in just under budget on gas and groceries - $321.49. This is partly because I decided not to hold myself accountable for the $11.79 my husband charged to my card when I sent him out for eggs. He decided to also get 5 concentrated juices. I would never have bought these for him. Juice is expensive, and I try not to buy too many in a month, and typically keep them in the deep freeze in the garage so that my husband doesn't go through them so fast. This time he's already gone through all 5 cans of Welch's, and he just bought them on the 20th!

After reading that Kristen over at The Frugal Girl feeds her family of 6 on $100 a week (and she does it in part by avoiding expensive juice!) I'm feeling a little disappointed in myself for barely managing to feed the two of us on $285 a month (that's $325 minus the $40 I realistically feed the Prius every month). Truthfully I aim at $200 a month, added in $50 when I started making the hubby's lunches, and allot $75 for gas (which is more like what I fed the Lexus). I combine gas and groceries in my budget to give myself a little extra cushion on groceries, since I definitely don't spend $75 on gas anymore. So basically, I'm pathetic. I mean who am I fooling? Myself?

So I'm going to try to be more accountable for my grocery shopping expenses. I'm going to seriously aim at spending less than what I've currently alloted - a lofty goal, since last year I had a difficult time coming in at the already generous budget I've given myself. So I've decided to track even more data! (There's nothing I love more than a detailed Excel spreadsheet :) The last few times I've been to the grocery store, I've kept my receipts and started tracking exactly what I purchase. I've already recognized that I can probably stop paying $2.50 for two frozen pie crusts. It can't be that hard to make crust, right? And I'm pretty sure I can do it for less than $1.25 each. Hopefully I'll be able to plug more of these holes as I take a closer look at my grocery purchases!

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