Update on budget revision/musings on food frugality

April 11, 2012 at 8:58 am (Being Frugal, groceries, paying debt) (, )

This is the first month with my revised split payment budget plan in effect, and I have to say, so far I love it! Previously I had to pay rent, bills, save money in my mini-funds (car maintenance, EF contributions, etc), and had precious little left over. I then wasn’t able to pay debt until the end of the month. It was always a big “Hmm, I wonder how much is left over to pay down debt” and, because it was the last thing I did, it felt like the least supported and least likely to happen item in my budget!

I get paid twice, on the 5th and 20th of each month. Because I work for a small company, we don’t have full direct deposit – instead we are allowed to direct deposit $300 automatically each paycheck maximum – I then have to physically deposit the rest of my paycheck at a BECU ATM.  

Well now, I’ve restructed my budget to pay rent early, on the second half of the previous month. This has had the ripple effect of letting me pay things I am most serious about spending money quickly, at once, at the beginning of every month’s budget. Once the first paycheck is deposited, I now top up my mini-funds (pay yourself first, right?) at the beginning of every month’s budget, and I make an immediate payment to my SBA loan (which comes out of the $300 direct deposit). I then allow enough time to deposit my paycheck before making a smaller second debt payment. I repeat this process for the second paycheck of the month, but instead of paying towards savings, I pay rent instead. I’ve actually automated my debt payments, so it’s scheduled regularly in 4 smaller chunks, I don’t have to plan for it, but rather around it! I’ve set up $750 in payments over 4 dates each month. Here’s what I’ve set up to occur each month:

6th: $200 (comes out of my $300 direct deposit)
10th: $150 (sufficient time to allow 1st paycheck to be deposited)
20st: $100 (comes out of my $300 direct deposit)
24th: $300 (sufficient time to allow 2nd paycheck to be deposited)

So far, so great! I love automated payments. Right now I have $249 left in my checking account until I get paid on April 20th. That’s enough for food, restaurant spending, and gas. And that’s it! I am constantly checking my checking balance, and being vigilant and thinking about every penny I’m spending. Having such a small mount available, and being really strict about not letting myself use my credit card is forcing me to really think about my spending. Which brings me to some musings on my biggest spending area: FOOD.

I recently decided to not buy a ton of food at once – I’ve been having issues with not using food and having it spoil and be wasted (very financially unwise). Instead, I’m shopping for a few specific meals at a time. This means that I’ve been spending a little bit quite frequently. I keep updating my budget with $18 here, and $20 there. It adds up fast! I previously had this idea that I needed to limit my food psending to $75/month, give or take. but that was never enough. Now, I am quickly surpassing that! However, I have had a shift in my thinking about spending. I’ve revised my food budget to be $350/month (not including restaurant/eating out). That breaks down to about $11.67/day. I’m trying to keep that perspective in mind. If I spend $20 every time I shop and I shop every 2 out of 3 days, that’s too much. If I spend $20 every other day, then that’s awesome, I’m under budget! It’s a hard shift to make, and I’m still getting used to it. This month will be the month I figure it out and see how I’m doing.

I’ve also been paying very strict attention to my “extra” spending category (anything not regularly accounted for), which includes entertainment, bike/hiking purchases, art, clothes, photography expenses, you name it. With my recent road bike purchase, I have to pay about $175/month for 6 months to pay it off, which leaves me precious little extra in my “extra” budget category (currently it is $200/month). So anything that’s not budgetted for is on the chopping block.

I have had offers to go to a spa ($35), which I sadly turned down – no room in the budget! I got an email invite to go along with friends for an acrobatic/dance performance ($22), decided not to do it (I’m sure dinner would also be involved before or after). Had to buy a $30 Discovery Pass for access to Washington State Parks (annual pass) this past weekend on my first hike, so I am having to be extremely tight fisted about every single future April purchase, even $5!!! I don’t think this is realistic to maintain for the 6 months it will take me to pay off the bike, but I’ll definitely not be spending like I have been the last 3 months, that’s for sure! I will probably decrease my debt payments by $50-$100/month occassionally, but I’m going to try really hard not to let that be the first option, but the last (and to not let it happen every month).

So, basically, frugality is still my BFF (we’ve been tied at the hip for about 3 weeks now – maybe we should celebrate our 6 week, 2 month, and 6 month anniversaries? 🙂 ).  Oh, and in the next few days I’m going to update my budget and post it on the sidebar.

Stay strong everyone!
debtmaven out.


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