Whelp, we're trying again to make a go with this whole Financial Peace thing. I think we have a better plan in place this time and more cooperation all around, so I'm really hoping it sticks....although the whole process tends to stress me out. One of the hardest things for us is the fact that both of us having fluctuating income. Because of that we've budgeted completely differently this time and I'm hoping that becomes part of the key to our success. We've budgeted bills, groceries, toiletries, gas, etc. off of our lowest average pay and then are trying to do some irregular income planning for our lump sum and needs and elective expenses (medical, school, gifts, car repair/tags, home repair, entertainment/eating out, etc.). In other words anything over and above our low pays will be allocated either by greatest need or percentage in order to fund those lump sum items. Most pay periods we will have more money than we've budgeted for, so hopefully this will all work out well in the long term providing we haven't left out any major expenses. We don't have a solid plan for quick debt payoff yet, but do have a plan to pay off our small card soon and roll that into the only other card that we have. If we weren't planning to do braces for both girls this year we could probably knock out both credit cards this year and then tackle the car payment next year, but for now those things are going to have to wait. We do pay a bit more each month than the minimum and rolling the smaller card payment into the bigger one will give us a start.
What all of that means is that we willing be living off of a tight grocery and gas budget each month. Occasionally when we have extra I'll use it to add some staples to the pantry and freezer to help on those months that we might be stretched thin. We will be attempting to spend $450 every 4 weeks on groceries, toiletries, vitamins/OTC meds, dog food, cleaning supplies, etc. Basically, that will need to cover anything that I purchase at Sams, Aldi and WalMart on a recurring basis. Here's how I plan to do it:
1) Cut back on paper towel use. We have plenty of extra towels and washcloths. I also bought some fabric a long time ago to make cloth napkins with. Maybe I'll make good on that...
2) Cut out as much canned goods as possible. I'll be cooking with dried beans, frozen and fresh vegetables as much as possible. I get most of the dried beans and frozen veggies at WalMart and most of our fresh at Aldi and Sams.
3) Cooking from scratch more often. I'm not much on convenience foods as it is, but I have LOTS of whole wheat and the supplies to go with it, so I need to cook up some breads and muffins to keep us from buying those things. I might try my hand at English Muffins, tortillas and bagels if I'm feeling adventurous anytime soon.
4) I'll be back to making my own detergents and forgoing fabric softener for a vinegar rinse instead. I'm considering making my own dryer balls and using a little essential oil on them to add a fresh scent to our laundry, since that's what I'll miss the most about softener.
5) We're using a good bit of essential oils already and have greatly decreased the amount of OTCs we're using and Dr. visits we're requiring. I'm hoping to learn more ways to use these and begin to make our own facial cleansers, toners and moisturizers as well. I'm fairly certain I can do that with things that I typically have on hand.
6) Cutting back on meat. We'll be having an occasional meal without meat. Probably a couple of times a week we'll skip it by having stir fried veggies over rice, baked potatoes or a veggie plate with cornbread. We all like these meals so it won't be a big deal and will make things a bit cheaper.
7) When we do have meat here's how we'll do it: We have a good bit of venison in the freezers so we won't be buying much, if any, red meat. I can usually get pork loin and boneless skinless chicken breast at Sams for $2ish a lb. We bring those home and slice them and freeze in meal sized portions or grill the chicken to have ready for salads and wraps. I'll also be buying whole chickens to boil (making my own broth) and shred. I can usually get at least 4 meals out of one chicken (things like soups, casseroles, dumplings...etc.)
8) Cooking for the freezer: When we opt for convenience foods or eating out it's usually because I didn't plan well or ran out of time. I'm hoping to get some dried beans cooked and frozen as well as some breads.
9) I'll shop every 2 weeks with a meal plan. I'm planning every meal including snacks. This way there is not much if any waste, we know what we have and we don't end up buying things we don't need. That'll mean that I need to inventory what I have each week before I make the menu plan and then the grocery list.
10) Plan, plan, plan....in case you didn't notice that seems to be the running theme here. I need to plan things well and try to forsee our needs, so I'm not splurging out of convenience. We'll be taking our lunch and eating in the van on co-op/errand days instead of indulging by eating out.
I'm certain that some tweaking will be in order. Good Ol' Dave Ramsey suggested that it may take 90 days before all the kinks are ironed out of our cash flow budget. I'll try to hop back in here from time to time to share what's working and what isn't. Please feel free to share your money saving tips with me.