Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days...Day 1...Budgets

The theme behind my 31 Days of... posts will be "31 Days of Homemaking". It will be 31 posts about anything related to homemaking, you know, making a home. Whether it has to do with parenting, housework, organization, crafts, whatever. As long as it falls under the definition of making a home, it counts.

Day 1 - 

Today is Monday, October 1st, 2012. First of all, today is Jeriah's fifth birthday. Happy Birthday, Jeriah! Secondly, today's topic will be "Budgets," as it is an area of our lives that I have been working hard on.

I am going to share more on this subject than I have ever planned to share online about such a private matter, but here goes.

Our monthly income is $2641.00.

This is how we break our income down:

-765.00 food

- 500.00 savings
- 240.00 fuel
- 335.00 lot rent
- 200.00 electric
- 200.00 cable/internet/home phone
- 125.00 phone
- 125.00 student loans
-   60.00 household supplies 
-   30.00 gym membership
-    10.00 netflix account

Now, you may notice that I have taken this line by line through our budget. But there are a few notes I want to add in about.

Our food budget is high. We have six people in our family and the budgeted amount is based off of "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2012" guidelines using the thrifty plan. While those guidelines put us at an average of 915.30 for our family of six, our budget is $150.00 less than that. I still think that $765.00 seems like quite a bit as well, but we just carry over the food budget from month to month for when the price of food increases (last year from flooding, this year from drought, so on and so forth). We also have additional people that eat with us as well. In a typical week, we have at least 11 meals shared with at least one more person, but most often, it is more meals and more people.

Next up, is our savings plan of $500.00 per month. This is a recent addition to our budget. I think this is a nice even amount to deduct each month. We have it divided up though. Part of it (40%) is long-term savings, part of it (20%) is short-term savings (for big ticket items), part of it (20%) is savings for gifts and such, and another part of it (20%) is for unexpected expenses or infrequent expenses (insurance premiums, home repairs, car repairs and maintenance, etc.)

We both have vehicles (paid off) and our only monthly fee for those are for our fuel. I based our fuel cost on roughly $4.00/gallon. Lately, it has been closer to $3.75/gallon so we are keeping the excess reserved for those times when the price may increase to more than $4.00/gallon. We roll the excess allotment over from month to month, when there is one and we use the excess when we take road trips to visit family or friends here and there throughout the year. If we accumulate a fair amount of money in this area, we will use it toward a down payment on a newer vehicle when we need one.

Our home is paid for free and clear. The only housing payment we have is for the land our home sits on, which runs us a mere $335.00 per month, which I think is pretty reasonable.

I over-budget for our electric bill as well. We roll this amount over from month to month as well. When we have enough excess in this area, we will use it for things like new windows, new appliances, new HVAC unit, etc. to help with our energy efficiency. I'd love to use it for solar panels, but not sure if that is realistic.)

Our cable bill is also over-budgeted. We do have basic cable, digital cable, DVR service, internet service with a faster download speed and home phone. And even with all of that, our budgeted amount is still almost double what our actual bill is. I really have no plans for the excess amount in this area, unlike the other areas, but it's nice to know that it is there. I suppose that amount would eventually be used toward the purchase of new electronics (TV, computer, audio, etc.)

Our cell phones (two of them - both smartphones) run $125.00 a month, with no contract and unlimited everything. We love our plan!

Student loans. What can I say? Blech.

Household supplies is a small portion of my monthly budget because we really don't spend all that much on this department. I buy in bulk as needed and usually, I don't have to replace big bulk items all at once. Some of our household supplies come out of our grocery budget (things like baking soda and vinegar) and I can get many personal care items for free or next to nothing by watching the sales and the coupons and pairing them up together.

Our gym membership is SO worth it to me. Between the activities for the kids, the fitness and activities for us, the free childcare, etc, it has well proven it's value far beyond the cost.

We have a netflix account. This has been a lifesaver! We stream mostly through our Wii or our computers. I love being able to go in and watch complete seasons of TV shows. Tonight, we used it for a show that we don't have recorded on DVR to settle down a toddler that was going to be staying the night here for the first time. It worked very nicely!

And that leaves us with just a small amount unaccounted for. Hubby and I use that amount for our rare date night dinners out or things like that.

I think the key to budgeting is to get an idea of what and where you spend your money each month, by tracking it for a few months and then make your decisions based off of that. You can see where you need to trim your budget and where you should just cut things out of it.

I also make a small, varying amount of money each month, but since it varies, I don't factor this in to our budget and just stick it into savings or use it for extra things that the kids need or that we want but don't want to take it out of our regular budget, etc.

The hardest part of a budget isn't really so much of coming up with it or setting it, it's sticking to the budget that is really hard. I don't have any real tips for that. I still feel like I get to shop quite often, but I tend to really watch for sales, buy used from other people (which saves money and reduces waste) and once you get started trying to save as much as possible, it becomes almost like a challenge, trying to save more and more each month. I love it!

If you have any questions about my budget or about making or setting your own budget, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to help you out as well.

This post is part of a series hosted by The Nesting Place. You should go and see what others are posting about this month as well!