Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Budget Aggressively

Hey! I’m not sure if you all knew, but it’s cold here in the Midwest! This morning’s windchill was -25, and that was an improvement from yesterday.  Thankfully, I have a husband that doesn't mind bossing me around sometimes.  He refused to let me leave the house yesterday. (I use “let me” loosely.  I’m not one to be told what to do.)  I was all too happy to comply this time.  I got to spend the day snuggling with my baby girl!  
I want to talk about budget struggles.  This month is a doozie.  Yesterday (January 6th) was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year.  The reason?  Most people went back to work, school, or life as usual.  I totally understand.  It’s especially hard to go back to work when your spouse/significant other/anyone that lives with you is called off work (only time I want to be a teacher is when they’re off school… Probably a great reason I didn't become one!).  I hate calling in to work.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a workaholic; I just really dislike confrontation.  It’s the “cop following you” effect.  I know I’m not doing anything wrong, but I feel super guilty like I’m going to get caught.  I don’t lie, but it still feels wrong.  Maybe my self-inflicted guilt is returning!  I was terrible about the guilt all through my school career, until college.  In college I found that very few professors were disappointed when I didn't show up to class.  If you don’t care, then I don’t care!
I hope Tutu has some of this guilt.  I really hope she doesn't have it as bad as I did. I would make myself sick (literally) over making everything perfect.  To some level, though, this guilt can be a good thing.  If all of your motivation comes from your parents telling you what to do, what is going to happen when you move out of their house?  Every kid needs some self motivation.  So, how do you instill this virtue?  I don’t want to coddle Tutu, but I don’t want her to think I’m constantly disappointed either.  Disappointment from the parentals is a huge motivator.  Who thought it was worse for your mom to say, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” UGH!  
Well, now I’m disappointed in myself.  I have let a total lack of self-discipline take over my finances.  Do Zach and I really NEED to get that Qdoba after church?  Do I NEED a Diet Coke (referred to as DC, lovingly, from here on out) every morning?  While these seem like really small costs, they add up fast.  I mean, we could be taking trips to Mexico…ahh Mexico.  Every year we set a pretty tight Christmas budget.  We spend $50 on each parental unit and $30 on each niece/nephew.  Sometimes we get a little something for the grandparents, but it’s usually just a food gift.  This year we stayed on budget for those people, but we sure didn't with ourselves.   Zach and I usually get each other a little something to open on Christmas morning.  Last year I got a giant bag of Skittles (my fave) and Pocahontas (another fave) on Blu Ray.   I got Zach a nice thermal (his fave) from the Gap.  This year, we blew last year out of the water.  Z took me to Running Central (a Peoria running specialty store) to be fitted for running shoes.  (This means I actually have to start running and stick with it!) We walked out $200 poorer.  I got Z a Keurig machine (he’s wanted one for awhile).  I did get the Keurig for an AMAZING deal ($32!), but the spending didn't stop there.  Oh, right!  We have a baby now, and it’s her first Christmas!  We need to make it a good one!  Luckily that thought was gone pretty quick.  I did order her a hat from Etsy and Z ordered her a custom bib that said “Tutu’s 1st Christmas”.  It was super cute.  But then we decided to just get things that she actually needs, since she doesn't know what’s going on anyway.  So, Tutu got the awesome gift of fleece sleepers.  (Side-note:  Super disappointed with Target’s selection.  She is the proud owner of a boys’ reindeer sleeper and a Santa sleeper; both which we have no problem putting her in well past the Christmas season.)
Fast forward two weeks.  It’s January, and we have no money!  And here is another reason January 6th is the most depressing day of the year: holiday debt is realized.  Once the sea of wrapping paper is no longer clouding your vision, you’re left with a hole in your best budget intentions.  Well, this January, we’re getting back on track with a vengeance!  We’re finally really mad.  We’re sick of all of our money going straight out the door every month.
Early in our marriage, Zach and I enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  He preaches living debt free.  We were totally on board.  Step 1 is saving $1000 (or $500 if you make less than $20,000/year) as a starter Emergency Fund.  His logic is that if something comes up while you’re trying to aggressively pay off debt (and it will), and you have no money in an E Fund, you’ll go back/further into debt.  This made sense.  We did it pretty quickly.  Step 2 is the debt snowball; this is a little more complicated.  You list your debts from smallest to largest, and pay the minimum payment on all but the smallest.  Then you put every extra penny you have toward that smallest debt.  The logic behind smallest to largest is the need for small victories along the way.  If you diet for months and months and see no results, you’re going to quit.  It’s the same with paying down debt.  So, once that first one is paid off, you take the money you were paying on the smallest plus the minimum on the second smallest and aggressively pay that one down, and so on a so forth until you pay everything off someday!  (If you’re even slightly interested, visit Dave’s website and read the success stories.  They’re amazing.)    
Well, this couple had $1000 in the bank, and we were good with that, apparently!  We never got to the aggressively paying down debt part.  It seemed like a huge victory to just get all the bills paid every month.  Well, this time we’re doing it for real.  We have a daughter now, and she deserves more than coming out of college with a massive amount of debt.  We won’t let it happen.  
Challenge for the rest of the month: Only eating out once.  Just to give you an idea, we usually eat at restaurants at least 3 times a week.  At least.  Who am I kidding?  I ate lunch out almost every day.  Breakfast too (guess that’s why I gained 70 lbs. while I was pregnant…).  I went back through our bank statements, and from January to November last year, we spent $3609.98 at restaurants!  That’s insane!!!  I realize we have to eat something, so let’s say we spend $100 every two weeks in groceries, that’s $1509.98 in savings!  And really, we were spending about $100 every two weeks during that entire time.  A lot just went bad, and we threw it away.  That’s over $6000 in food for one year.  I’m all for date nights here and there, but every night?  Not really necessary.  Here’s the plan:
  • Plan meals for the week
  • Grocery shop (with cash) according to the plan.  No more than what is on the list.
  • Stick to meal plan.
  • No dinner out at the last minute because we don’t feel like cooking! (I realize this really goes with the bullet above, but I desperately need the reiteration.)
Wish us luck!  And don’t ask us to go out to eat unless you want to pay!




  1. Tara, I so relate to all of what you and Zac are doing and going through. I am a new mom too and have the school debt. Ian and I constantly have more month than money. I love Dave Ramsey's plan and am constantly trying to save and pay off our debts. Good luck and thanks for putting yourselves out there. It makes me feel like we are not the only couple going through these issues.

  2. Tara, I think you are one of so many! Have you done Financial Peace University? It really kicked us into gear. We did it again (once you pay for the class once, you can take it as many times as you like), but Tutu was born after the 2nd class meeting. I also listen to his radio show (you can listen to the whole show with very few commercials on the I Heart Radio app or subscribe to his Podcast. Also, I think you can watch the show either on his website or through an app!) I need daily reminders to be good, not weekly :).
    Soon I plan on sharing our budget spreadsheet, so stay tuned!


    P.S. Congrats on baby! He's super cute!