Friday, January 17, 2014


So honestly, I don't know anything about finances or money management.
But I'm trying really hard to document where everything is going this month so I can figure out where we can save.
I bought a notebook with graphing paper in it and took out all our grocery and "spending" money in cash. I've been saving receipts and writing down how much I spend and on what. Like for real.
Not just "29.97 at Target," but then I separate it out. (10$ cleaning supplies, 10$ grocery, 10$ misc for boys/slurpies, etc.)

I feel really proud, like I'm a real grownup. Which I am, since I'm married with (nearly) 3 kids. But still.
Any tips or advice for us? Those of you with houses, teach me how you did it! It doesn't matter what our income increases to, we always manage to just keep spending that money- even though I feel like we're living just as frugally! (Okay. I am splurging a little on slightly nicer soap and maybe I buy a BIT more fabric.)
But I never grab Real Simple in checkout lines (even though I want to), our towels aren't soft, our music is outdated. Poor Travis is using a 10 year old skateboard desperately in need of new everythings.
No ceramic owls or vintage maps livening up the place. I go to Starbucks once a year for a caramel apple cider in the fall and usually spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and wasteful. So, you know.

I don't know where I'm going with this, except to say: saving money is hard, even when you're pretty cautious about spending!

It's interesting keeping track of where our money goes, because I've only been doing it three weeks- and I'm finding myself stopping before spending money on lots of little things.
I keep thinking, "What am I going to write down? That I spent 15$ in the dollar section of Target on notepads and toddler socks?"

We do spend more on groceries than some, but I always meal-plan and we only get take out or go out to eat once or twice a month and it's important to me that we eat good quality food. Also, fine. We get donuts almost every Saturday. Traditions! They're important!

I also noticed that I do completely spoil my children, which maybe I would have denied. Apparently I've spent almost 35$ on them so far this month.
I bought them a counting app on my phone 1$.
I bought them each a pair of binoculars (to save for a rainy day when we are in need of a sweet new toy) 3$ each.
We went to Target and they each got a slurpie 3$ and a piggy bank 2$.
We went to TJ Maxx and got a cheap awesome book 4$ and a snack 3$. 
And my grandparents sent them money for a Christmas gift and I decided that I wanted the slightly bigger set of Lincoln logs instead of going cheap because of shipping, so tack an extra $13 on to that.
I splurge way more on them than myself!

Also, having only cash helps. Today I looked in my wallet and tried to figure out how much more money we have for groceries and things, and I found myself thinking "Maybe meat-free tonight," which is good. Right?

I rarely think to myself "We need more money," or "We need more things." In fact, most of the time, I want less things!
Just nicer things, which cost more money. Sigh.
And so much of our "spending" isn't really on things at all! It's going to insurance and ultrasounds and rent and gas to drive to visit grandparents. I wish it was going into a house that we owned instead of a house that we'll probably leave in August. Anyway.
I don't know. This is babbling.
Money is the worst, right? But super helpful.
Give me your tips!
Teach me to be money-savvy!

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Unknown said...

Envelope Budgeting:

Virginia said...

Being Cash only is a huge help. But I would take it one step further and actually separate the cash out into categories. After you go through finding out how much you spend monthly, put it into an Excel worksheet. Then when you get your cash "allowance" separate out the cash into envelopes. Put all of your grocery money into one envelope. All the money you are allotting for buying things for your boys in another, things for Travis in another, and things for yourself. Etc... Now at the end of the month if you have left over money in any of these categories you can either roll it into the next month to bump up your budget a bit, or you can set it aside and save it to buy those nicer things you want. I have found that when you separate out your money in this way, you are much less likely to spend it. But here is the thing, I'm a mom and I want to buy my little boy things too, but once your allotted money for the boys is gone for the month, do not spend more money. I know its super hard, but when you do it this way you will realize how much more/less cash you have than dipping into other envelopes. This helps as an incentive to save money for those things you really want. Its not easy, but it does work. I'm really good with budgeting and finances, that's one of the things my MIL says I do best. If you have other questions let me know, I'm happy to help. Email me at
Also I love your blog, I read it all the time. I came across it through Brittany Mangleson, we went to school together.

Katie said...

Virginia suggested exactly what I was going to! It works!

Amanda said...

I have to agree with you and tell you I'm in the same boat. I've been trying to keep track of our money like a mad woman to see where it all goes. It's hard. Money IS hard.

This is all... no advice just know you're not alone!

Alissa Moghtaderi said...

Every other week, when the paychecks come, I immediately put a predetermined amount in each of two savings accounts: 1) down payment savings 2) college savings for Miles and Elliott. If we have a particularly expensive month, sometimes I'll take some out of the down payment savings account to pay for Persian preschool tuition or something, but then it feels like I'm stealing from myself a little bit, so it's an effective tool to keep me from going over budget.

I also put all found money into the down payment account. Bonuses, reimbursements, gifts, anything that isn't part of our normal inflow goes straight into the down payment savings account.

Of course, housing prices keep going up so fast in Manhattan that our savings can't keep up, but we keep trying!

Betsy Hite Reddoch said... tracks all our finances for FREE! And then I don't have to stress about cash (though cash can help you stay on budget obvi). We didn't buy our first house until we were 31 so don't feel like you're behind.

Liz said...

We saved up a down payment for a home relatively quickly by putting the amount we wanted to save each month immediately into our savings account. That way it wasn't accessible anymore. Once you figure out your budget and how much you could save, just put it away immediately and don't transfer from your savings account. A few times it was tough not to get something extra, but I got used to it relatively quickly.

Lana said...

This is one area where everyone always feels like they could be doing better. That being said, we've been trying really hard since we bought out house. Just like someone else said, we have Mint. But we also have mandatory savings for "retirement" that we never ever touch. We also have a House/Car/Emergency savings that we always put money into, BUT every time we need anything house specific (like any trip to Lowes) or car specific we use that money. It has been a big help. Also, when Matt does extra jobs he doesn't put that into our budget money. It goes into discretionary fund, so he can use that to save for a car, or buy nice things for family or me :). But really budgeting out all of your mandatory expenses and then having only groceries and spending in cash will really help, so good job. And it is the hardest thing in the world to not buy things for our darling littles. Maybe make the last saturday of the month the treat day for the boys to get a book or a snack not from home. By the end of the month you'll know how much you have to spend on that treat, and if it's not very much, the boys will still be happy because it's their treat day and they haven't had little treats all month. But, I know how you feel. I want to swap out most of my house for fewer more expensive things. I try to grit my teeth and use my personal prayer time to look at all of those things mentally and thank Heavenly Father that I have that when so many dont. Sometimes it works, sometimes I still want that cashmere sweater and handmade leather sandals. :)

-Tess- said...

We uae the software (and phone app) called You Need A Budget (YNAB).
Basically every cents of the money we earn has a job. Be it for groceries, gas, home improvement, mortgage/rent, restaurant, kids, saving for rainy day, etc.
We also keep track on what we spent on the same software.
We make a budget for each category then we follow through, and modify as we go.
They also have a seminar (online) to explain how to use this software and it really clear.
We were spending all we earn as well, but now we are building our buffer.
Hope it helps.

Bonnie said...

I'm so bad at budgeting, so I think it's super impressive that you are keeping track of your spending. Recently, my husband and I have been working on saving and planning for retirement more and it feels like a game, to see how much we can NOT spend.

So, this feels like a weird plug, but you asked for tips, so here goes. My husband just started this blog called about being frugal and being LDS and finances in general that you might be interested in. No pressure.

-Tess- said...

We uae the software (and phone app) called You Need A Budget (YNAB).
Basically every cents of the money we earn has a job. Be it for groceries, gas, home improvement, mortgage/rent, restaurant, kids, saving for rainy day, etc.
We also keep track on what we spent on the same software.
We make a budget for each category then we follow through, and modify as we go.
They also have a seminar (online) to explain how to use this software and it really clear.
We were spending all we earn as well, but now we are building our buffer.
Hope it helps.

Unknown said...

im sure you will get lots of advice. If you arent adverse to having your finances online I would highly reccomend Its easy you just hook up your online bank accounts and its so easy to budget and really shows where you spend. Give it a try!

Unknown said...

Budget Budget Budget! :)
My husband and I started budgeting and I feel it gives you more freedom to spend on things you really want! Find numbers that work for your family and decide to stick with them.
Also, my husband and I were given this tip while in pre-marital counseling. First, create a "spending" budget. (For my husband and I this is 25 a week). Split this money in half (between the two of you) and spend it however you'd like. It gives you the freedom to buy what you would like, even when you feel like it's something your spouse would feel silly spending money on. Also, (for example), say there is a pair of boots that you would really love--but don't need. You can save up your weekly allowance and use that to purchase the boots. It's a way to have freedom while budgeting and saving money. :)

Unknown said...

I find that it helps to set the savings goal first. If you know you MUST put X amount away every month in order to make a big goal possible (like buying a home) it makes it easier not to spend money on the little things. Take your monthly musts-rent, utilitys, medical, food..add them up and subtract that expense from your monthly earnings. Take the amount left over and dedicate as much of that surplus to savings every month as possible. You will be surprised how easy it is to give up the little things when the big goal is in sight. Also thrift stores are perfect for buy good knick-knacks and things for the littles. They really wont know if a book is second hand. I had the same problem, no matter how much I made I always seemed to spend it. In the end i didn't really have anything to show for it. Dedicating a good portion to savings up front really helped me not justify frivolous purchases. Good luck! And congrats on the new baby boy.

Casey said...

Maybe leaving in August?!?!?!?!?

LP said...

Dave Ramsey is awesome. He has a 9 week class you can take, or get the book from the Library.

Jo Schaeffer-Crabb said...

1. or cash system
2. Dave Ramsey book - Total Money Makeover
3. Change Anything book - first 3 chapters + financial chapter

People will suggest a lot of things that work for them, but the truth is that you have to find what works for you. It takes a lot of introspection to delve into your spending habits and what would work best for you to curb them.
One of the things I love most about the change anything book is that it helped me to recognize moments when I was consistently making bad choices. Mine were:
eating out too often (home from work and no meal plan), grocery store with boys (little toys to keep them occupied), back to school (clothes and crafts), etc. Its not just knowing how you spend your money, its also about creating processes to help you during those crucial moments of spending choice.
I know you probably aren't a voracious non-fiction reader, but I would highly suggest checking out those 2 books so you can begin to create a process (like or the cash system or coupons...) that will work for you PERSONALLY.

And then let us know how its coming so we can help hold you accountable and cheer you on. Yay Becky!

Unknown said...

I am a fan of Dave Ramsey. I think he has some fantastic ideas. I incorporate his baby steps into a blog I follow. Start on the blog with reading her 7 bank accounts every family should have. It is simple and super effective. Our family has been following her financial plan for months now and it is by far the best we have kept track of finances. Hope that helps and good luck!

Ethan Evans said...

I am with you. My wife and i just had our 5th child. One of my concerns was saving for college. I found this article that talked about a 549 savings plan. hope this gives you as much info as it did for me.