One of my major financial goals this year has been to pad our savings account. The older I get, the more financially conservative I get, and the larger my safety net the better. Getting out of debt (FINALLY!) last year was an amazing feeling, but having a nice sized savings has allowed Garrett and I to have flexibility with our choice of jobs and lifestyle, and feeling that freedom has given me huge incentive to save.
As I was telling you the other day though, I am failing miserably at this goal, and I am very ready to turn that around. It would be one thing if the option to save was not available to us -- if the money wasn't there then this would be an altogether different conversation. But the fact of the matter is we could be saving more and we just aren't and I need to light a fire under my ass, so consider this post some lighter fluid. I'm hoping you will strike the match -- Ideas? Motivation? Smackdown? I'm all ears.
So Where Is the Money Going?
Being the anal retentive nerd that I am, I love budget type software. Mint.com is what I currently use and it is nice to be able to see a quick snapshot of where our money is going throughout the month. It's not the perfect solution, but it is working right now. Its only flaw is that I haven't figured out how to split transactions into multiple categories. For example if I go to Costco I buy groceries and household items but it can only be tagged as one or the other (I think. If I'm wrong, enlighten me, please!)
Anyway, in the interest of actually full disclosure in the name of reaching my savings goal (and because I know everyone loves a voyeuristic peek into other people's lives -- especially when it comes to money) here is an overview where ours has been going by category during the first half of the year:
Expense Key (What do they all mean?)
Food and Dining - includes grocery budget, household purchases made at Costco, our monthly meat share, dining out
Home - includes rent and home improvement costs. Like the jerk-wad plumber last month.
Bills & Utilities - includes electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash, cable, cell phones
Shopping - includes clothing, gifts, things bought on Amazon
Auto & Transport - includes auto insurance, maintenance and gas (neither of us have car payments)
Health & Fitness - includes both of our CrossFit memberships plus medical relating things
Education - includes my Student Loan Payment (sad trombone)
Personal Care - includes toiletries, haircuts, makeup etc.
Financial - Credit Monitoring
Entertainment - includes dining out with friends (separate from when the two of us dine out), date nights, parties thrown, theater tickets, etc.
Business Services - fees related to this here website
Acknowledging Where We Are: The Smackdown
- I love that our money does reflect our values. We are fans of voting with our dollars (even though I think that phrase is super douchey) and I'm proud that a large overall portion of our budget that goes to local, humanely raised, seasonal food meat and produce. I'm also happy that the bulk of our food spending is done for meals at home.
- Transportation includes what we spend for gas every month and despite prices being RI-DONK-ULOUS right now, we routinely come in under budget in this area. Plus neither of us have car payments. Homebodies for the win, in this particular instance apparently.
- Lately my monthly "shopping" has mostly included clothing purchases. My weight loss has been steady and despite my ability to look chic in a pair of 2 sizes too big yoga pants, my work (and workout) wardrobe has needed to be maintained as my size changes. I'm mostly ok with this. Plus we are avid readers and library goers, so the amount of money I have saved on books in the last year has definitely affected our budget.
- We don't do a lot of superfluous spending. Those categories up there are pretty much all we spend money on. We just aren't really into expensive gadgets, extreme vacations, or lavish gifts. The money we spend is less about escape and more about investing in creature comforts that make our everyday life awesome.
- None of that money is going towards debt (aside from that stupid student loan - which is tax deductible!) HOLLA!
- Most of the time our grocery budget is more than we pay in rent to live in a 3 bedroom house in California (YIKES!) I just don't spend mindfully at the grocery store and generally buy what I want, when I want. Although this has many positive affects on our life (cooking is an enjoyed hobby, we eat out less) it is definitely an area where we could be more conscious.
- We have had some extra spending on things for the the house lately with getting ready for Garrett's 30th birthday party (furniture) and our plumbing woes. This has totally blown our budget and frankly, we don't even think about home maintenance often when we think about budgeting which creates a bit of a blind spot when something goes wrong.
- The amount that I am paying on my student loan is equivalent to a car payment. And in respect to the overall amount owed that is so small that if I keep up at this pace I will be paying it back until I'm 90 and my State School education will have cost me Paris Hilton's inheritance. I'd like to redistribute some funds in that direction in an effort to reduce the overall amount.
- The truth is, I just feel better saving than spending. And this breakout isn't letting me save routinely. Saving is more of a here and there when I think about it activity, and I'm a big believer at paying myself first!
Here are a few of my initial observations about where we can quickly make some changes.
- Reduce the grocery leakage. Right now, to me, this is the hole in the boat. I know I didn't put in the actual amounts for each item, but I will be honest with you here - there are only 2 of us, and I embarrassed to say that some of those months had spending of more than $1000 . Granted this is 3 meals a day (we rarely eat out) and we do consume more meat and fresh vegetables doing Paleo than the average person who pads their meals with pasta/rice/grains; HOWEVER, I think we can be smarter.
- Reduce mindless spending. Yes of course I want an entire new wardrobe of fun clothes for summer and would like to continue spending $3-500 per month on clothes. But I don't think that's necessary for a bit. All of my clothes fit at the moment and I have a while before I will be swimming in them. I'm considering during the month of July doing a little 30 for 30 Remix with my wardrobe. Anyone up for it?
- Get back to meal planning weekly and plan around the sales. I love a good menu plan and I'm generally pretty good about making one each week. But I could be much better about using my grocery circulars in the planning process and not doing so much of buying what I want when I want. I don't have much luck with coupons since we don't buy anything that doesn't grow or graze, but I could definitely be better at using coupons for staples like Olive Oil and Toiletries.
- Figure out where the best deals REALLY are. I generally buy as much as I can at Costco, but I know they do not always have the best price. Buying in bulk always feels cheaper, but mostly I do it for the convenience because while I love cooking and a full fridge, I don't love grocery shopping. I think I'm going to start a list like Beth mentions in this post. Revolutionary idea and simple as can be. Plus -- I LOVE LISTS!
So there are my thoughts, of course I would love your input!
So tell me:
*What tip has helped you to save money in the past? Depositing your paycheck into your savings account? Setting up monthly budget parameters? School me!
*What do you do to manage your grocery budget without being an Extreme Couponer? I'm all ears on this one, obviously.
*What are your favorite money saving/financial inspiration websites? I love reading about money because I'm a dork like that.
*What do you see that I don't? A fresh set of eyes is always nice! Am I throwing money away somewhere?