5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

No Spending Month – 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

I have a 30 day dare with myself and my family not to have any extra expenses. This is our “no spending month” and I’d love for you to join me on this challenge. Read about my “why” and how I plan on implementing these no spending rules, without undue stress or resistance from my kids!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

The Start of my No Spending Month

It was January 2nd and I needed to make a Target run for more whole wheat flour and canned tomatoes. I had no reason to walk through the Dollar Spot area but I did, you know, just to see what was there (I know you feel me on that, right?)

Into my cart went stickers ($1 – for the students I teach at the rec center), Valentines ($3 – for my preschooler) and a Day planner ($3 – for my husband, who’d mentioned wanting one). Then I remembered that the dish soap had run out so I grabbed a refill bottle ($3.99).

Almost eleven dollars spent. Sure, that’s not much but  in hindsight, it wasn’t anything I needed to buy. I already have stickers I could use for my students, I didn’t need to buy more but they were cute and “cheap”. Valentines Day is still a bit of time away and I actually could probably print them myself at home. The dish soap wasn’t really needed. I have multi-purpose soap concentrate that we bought in bulk that can be used as dish soap. And my husband said he didn’t really need the paper day planner after all, he’s going to use a free app on his phone.

If I took a more serious look at my budget I just know that there are more ways I could be cutting back; I know there are extra expenses I’m making that don’t really need to be made! I’ve decided to make January my “No Spending Month” and intend to go at least 30 days without extra expenses.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

What are “Extra Expenses”?

Extra expenses mean different things to different people. Perhaps for you it’s skipping the coffee shop and making your morning brew at home. Maybe it’s brown bagging lunch to work or not buying any clothes for the month. Or eschewing entertainment costs for at-home family fun.

For us, eliminating extra expenses means-

  • Not eating out
  • No frivolous food purchases, including chips/crackers, dessert items and alcohol
  • Nothing that we don’t imperatively need or require to run our family or home.

What are your “No Extra Expenses” rules? Write them down to make them real and do your best to stick to it for at least 30 days.

Discuss it as a Family

Everyone will need to be on board to accomplish getting through 30 days without extra expenses. Talk about your plan with the kids so they’ll know what to expect. If they’re used to spending money out on the weekends or dinner in a restaurant a few times a week, they’ll need to see and hear why you’re making changes in the usual routine.

However saving money doesn’t have to be a downer and here’s a story to reiterate that. Once in a while I take my preschooler out to lunch, just the two of us as a special treat. Those “special treats” are usually only twice a month but with the average cost around $15 a visit, that’s $30 I could be saving! Today when I picked him up, he asked if we could go to lunch in a restaurant and I had to tell him no, that we aren’t doing extra spending this month.

However I want to make saving money a positive thing for thing, so I told him we could still do something special. When we got home, we made pizza together for lunch. It cost me about $1.50 in groceries (that I already had at home) and it was still a special treat for just the two of us!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Why are Your Doing it?

In essence, why are you making this change to eliminate extra expenses? Your reason might be different from your spouses, and even your children.

  • Do you feel like you’re overspending?
  • Do you have too much unnecessary stuff in the house?
  • Are you an impulse buyer and need to rein it in?
  • Do you want to save up extra money for something specific?

Consider the Cut-Back First

If your family is accustomed to movies, date nights, dinners and shopping every weekend and you’re planning a nix to all of it, a drastic change in the usual plans may be a shock to them! Perhaps consider a cut back for 30 days first before completely cutting things out. If you’re used to eating lunch out every day, cut back and only indulge in one or two lunches out and pack your lunch for the other days. If you always purchase concessions at the movies, still go see a film but have a snack at home first. When you’re ready to cut back further, skip movies in the theater and watch them only when they come out on DVD.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Fun Stuff Already in the Plans

What is you already have something planned during the 30 days? Use good judgement and don’t outright cancel your fun plans. If you’re going to a birthday party it would be okay to purchase a gift rather than showing up empty handed.

What About Entertainment?

We’ve slowly eliminated most costly entertainment over the years so it won’t be much of an affect for my kids during the 30 days of no extra expenses. We eat at home before we go somewhere or pack a lunch and snacks to take with us so we aren’t tempted to eat out when hunger strikes. We choose free things around town to do, usually something that gets us up and moving. We’ll take the soccer or basketball to the park or we’ll set out on foot to explore a trail. We can usually find a family movie on Netflix or we pull out one of our tried-and-true DVDs to watch in the evening.

What Will We Do With the Extra Money?

As usual, I’m “Saving Up for Disney”! Hoping to be able to take my kids to a conference at Walt Disney World this year and airfare is over-the-top expensive for all of us. $11 here and there really can add up! My goal is to save $200 a month for the next 4 months to get the airfare costs covered.

What will YOU do with the extra money you’ll save from this challenge? Share with me in the comments!

 

Budgeting Steps to Savings – Coming up with your “True” Budget

We all have those numbers in our head. They aren’t exact because, well things fluctuate month to month. You know approximately what you earn each month. An idea of what you spend each month. A soft number of whatever is left over after everything’s been paid. Or maybe there isn’t anything left at the end of the month…how did THAT happen?! How can you figure out your budget and save money each month if you don’t know exact numbers?

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

It’s Time To Figure Out Your “True Budget”

You can’t track in your head if you want an accurate budget, you’ll need to write it all out. Being able to save money each month means you have a much firmer grip on your actual numbers.

  • You’ll know what your monthly income will be.
  • You’ll know how much money you are going to spend that month.
  • You’ll know exactly what you will be putting into savings.
  • And only then will you have an idea how much you can sock away.


Get Hands On With Your Money

There are hundreds of free online budget templates you could use to plug in numbers and the software would automatically compute everything for you. It may even give you a fancy-looking graph or a pie chart. However I think computing your own numbers and physically doing this “hands on” with a pencil and paper simplifies things and makes your money real.

These aren’t just numbers; these are your hard-earned dollars and only you are responsible for the spending of each one of those dollars. They don’t fly out of your bank account on their own, you know (though it does feel like that sometimes!).

Sit down with a pad of paper (or the handy worksheet I’ve created for finding your true budget), a calculator, all of your monthly bills, a few colored highlighters (or crayons), bank and credit cards statements and a pencil. If you have your bank and credit card statements online, print them out a few months back.


1. EXPENSES

Pull out your monthly bank and credit card statements. If you tend to pay cash for expenses, keep your receipts to tally.

  • Highlight everything that is a rotating monthly bill. These are almost always going to be the exact same amount month to month. The payment is due the same time each month. {ie: Rent/mortgage. Auto loan. Car insurance. Trash bill. Cable. Phones.}
  • In a second color, highlight your fluctuating monthly expenses. The amounts may not always be the same month to month. {Water. Electricity. Gas for your cars or transportation costs. Groceries. Household stuff, like toilet paper or soap. Medical Bills. Outstanding credit card balances}
  • In a third color, highlight your automatic withdrawls. These are monthly expenses you’ve already set up where you never see the money leave your account. Perhaps they are the same amount every month, perhaps they vary. {Gym membership. Tuitions.  Netflix. Donations. Medical/Dental/Life Insurance. Student or Bank loans etc.}
  • Underline expenses that were out of the norm, like maybe you had to get new tires or had a plumbing leak that required repair. These expenses come up occasionally, just hopefully not every month!
  • Finally you are going to circle the last group, the “extra” stuff. We’re talking toiletries (like a new tube of lipstick). Back to school clothes. Things you grabbed in the Target Dollar Bin because, well “They were a dollar!”. The birthday gifts you bought for the three parties your kid was invited to this weekend. The beautiful new blouse that was on sale and you really don’t know where you’re going to wear it but it was on sale and you had to have it. Some of these extras might be necessary (like the back to school clothes for the kids). And there might be other “extras” that you could have lived without (like eating out or buying non-necessities). Circle all of these extra expenses.

For the purposes of getting really hands-on, simply writing down your expenses every day can be a real eye-opener. Just like those who are trying to lose weight will write down every bite or nibble, so should you log your every penny to get a good look at your daily expenses. It’s easy to forget the little things, like money handed over for a school field trip, lunch out with friends or money for the collection basket at church. Keep track of all of it in a small notebook.

2. INCOME

Pull out your monthly bank statement. Highlight everything on your account that is a deposit. Note on your budget where the money came from. If you have a job where the monthly paycheck fluctuates because of tips or overtime it will be more challenging for you to figure out a true budget. More challenging, but not impossible.

I work one day a week at a recreation center teaching children gymnastics and my paycheck varies depending upon how many students I have registered. I also sell boutique items in my Etsy shop. Some months I have 10 orders, other months, none! If this is the case for you too, give yourself a range between your lowest and highest paycheck so you have a best/worst case scenario of what you are working with.

3. CHART IT OUT

  • Fill in the worksheet with your expenses and incomes.
  • Total the columns and simply subtract your expenses from your income. What do you have left? That’s your month end difference.

4. DIVIDING UP THE MONTH END DIFFERENCE: BUDGET AND SAVE MONEY

You’ve heard it before, “Pay Yourself First”

Yes, even when you are trying to pay off credit cards or putting money into a vacation fund, you should still always be “paying yourself first” by putting money into a savings or retirement account. Things happen and everyone should have a cushion to fall back on. Consider setting it up with the bank to have a set amount diverted immediately into a saving account when your paycheck is deposited. I highly recommend plugging 50% of your month end difference into your savings account.

What if you have outstanding credit card balances that are currently incurring interest?

  • Start by calling your credit card companies to find out if they will lower the interest rate in any way while you work on paying off the balance. You never know unless you ask. Some credit card companies will offer you a deal (ie: lessen the amount owed) if you pay the entire balance off at once. If you have the extra money to do that, by all means you should. Just don’t clean out your savings account to do so.
  • Divide your difference in half. Put half into savings and the other half towards the credit card with the lowest amount owed. So if you have three charge cards, one for $125, one at $375 and one at $1650, you should be paying the minimum balance on the second two cards and half of your difference on the card for $125 until it’s paid off.
  • Once that card is paid off, keep it open (closing it can negatively affect your credit score). However you should only use it sparingly and always pay it off in full each month to avoid interest charges. When that card is paid off, the money you were using for that card should be added to the next lowest balance card. Continue in this way until all charge cards are paid off in full. I speak of past experience, this method does work and can truly get you out of debt.

Finally…Vacation Fund $$

  • Now it’s time to see how much you have left to set aside each month to add to your vacation fund! I suggest getting an actual account at the bank to put your money in that you will transfer to after all other expenses have been taken care of.

What’s Your True Budget?

Now, pull out the budget estimate you created in Step 1 and compare it to your true budget. Are there some major discrepancies between the two? Where did the majority of your expenses occur? Did you spend more on “extras” than you thought? I know when we first did our budget, we were shocked to see how much we were spending on groceries. However when we really figured things out, we realized that we were not overspending so much as under-estimating the costs. Since we eat at home or pack lunches 95% of the time, we just hadn’t estimated enough in our grocery column.

I suggest doing your true budget in this way for at least three consecutive months to get a feel of your spending patterns. Once you can see your patterns, you will start to see ways to shave off little bits of spending here and there.

Want to save money but have not idea where to start? Here's how to come up with your true budget to save money.