I wrote recently about being on a budget. It is only day two, and while it does feel easier there is a huge part of me that thinks: we can’t do this. I can’t do this. What is keeping to a budget, really? Besides allocating money for bills, groceries, gas and the like it’s really just about one thing: self-control. My husband and I are on an allowance system (I know—it feels like I’m back in the fifth grade!) and while it is bugging me, he is very nonchalant about the whole thing.
“I don’t really get that much, anyway,” he says.
Ha! I thought the same thing of myself until I actually started looking at the numbers. I scrutinized our account very closely and kept track for two months before putting a budget into place. What I found amazed me. I never realized how much money we spent on eating out. That first month, we vowed to cut back, and we did so—but then our grocery bill practically doubled.
Now, if you cut out restaurants and fast food, obviously you should prepare for your grocery bill to increase a bit, but in our case our problem is Walmart itself. Why? Because they don’t just have groceries, they’re a one-shop-stop. All they mean right now is trouble for our budget. My husband actually suggested that it might be a good idea to cut out Walmart trips altogether. He admits that we do pay a bit more for food at chains like Winn-Dixie and Publix, but at the same time they do Buy One Get One specials, and in addition they just mainly carry food products so we don’t run too big a risk of buying the girls another toy (which they really don’t need) or splurging on a DVD (which we really don’t need!).
I’d always felt like I didn’t really spend too much money. I’d buy a soda here, a brownie there. The problem was that my occasional treat of a brownie and latte wasn’t cheap at easily $7 a time, and nor was it all that occasional. The thing that we have to remember in a country of avid consumers is that just because we have a card—often, this means a credit card—and it goes through doesn’t mean we can actually afford what we’re purchasing.
Yes, being on a budget is making me a bit grumpy but I’ll know I’ll be better for it. Right now I am practicing self control. I am also learning how to coupon clip, and trying harder to really think about what I need—not just what I want.