Friday, June 8, 2012

Ways to Afford Being a Stay at Home Mom: Budget

Staying home with Rita (and soon Jonah) is truly the greatest blessing and a dream come true!

Making this happen and living my vocation as a mother every hour around the clock can be exhausting.  It is so fulfilling though.  I wouldn't trade or quit my job for anything in the world. 

Budgeting is so essential in any home.  But when you are living on a single income and long to be debt-free budgeting truly isn't an option!  It is one of the most basic ways to ensure that I am able to stay home with our children and build a warm, welcoming, nourishing and restorative haven for my family.

We have been budgeting (with a tendency to lose momentum after the first two weeks) since August 2010 and are finally really learning what works for us.  We have paid-off debt, taken on debt and now we are resolved to GET RID OF DEBT.  We are totally sick of the idea of "good debt."  I do not want to pay a mortgage forever.  Forget it. I want to own a vehicle when I drive away in it for the first time, not owe on it for four years.  When we need a new appliance, I want to walk-in with cash in hand.  No more "interest-free" borrowing for us.

So after nearly two years of trial and error, what works?

Budgeting in the form of categories with specific, realistic amounts.  Each category is broken down to show how much money from each paycheck goes to each category.  Even though we are paying off debt we are committed to saving a bit each paycheck, to function as a source of money for large unexpected needs.  We also have a bit of personal money for each week - this can function as misc. money, gift money, zoo admission, snack money, etc.  It's our "buffer" money to help us stay on track while still having funds for fun activities or treats.  Let me emphasize, this is a small amount of money, because we have in mind larger goals and dreams than Starbucks coffee every morning.

Cash, cash cash.

You can't fool yourself when you run out of cash. 

We've tried keeping track of debit transactions, we've tried putting it all on a credit card and paying it off at the end of the month (ha!), and we have tried cash.  Cash works for our budget.  I don't impulse buy because I'm scared of running out of money!  Instead when we use a cash budget I am a conscious, intentional, frugal, thoughtful and well-planned shopper. 

We have also gone back to something we tried only once before, but abandoned when I was babysitting a three month old baby.  Meal planning!

I'm a rule follower.  I function best with structure, guidelines and lots of rules.  So this means that our meal plan is very basic.  Five meals, one night of leftovers and a lagniappe night!  Leftover and lagniappe nights will keep our menu from being boring, even though the meals we've chosen are our favorites. 

How does this relate to budget?  I took our meal plan, made a master shopping list for enough supplies for at least four of every meal as well as breakfast and lunch items.  This has allowed me to crunch grocery budget numbers.  We are currently spending $317 of our budgetted $340 (four week month) if we buy only what we need each shopping trip.  I'm pretty confident that with sale shopping, stocking-up and eliminating food waste we will be able to lower our grocery budget to $300 per month come November.  At the same time, we are trying not to compromise buying organic or as near organic as possible for the most important food items for us, which includes milk, yogurt, butter, chicken among a few others.  Really?  I wish I could do this sooner, but with a baby arriving I am trying to stay realistic!

Budgeting as a whole is so very freeing and we are looking forward to fulfilling our renewed commitments to one another to live simple, wise, joyful, conscious and debt-free lives!  Overall the work that it takes to be a stay at home mom gives me great purpose and inspiration!  I love seeing how much healthy food I can get while using a fairly tight grocery budget, saving each month, paying all bills on time and putting extra money towards being debt-free!

Budgeting was the second step to ensure that I would be able to and can continue to stay at home with our children.  It allows us to dictate how our money flows, so that we are not finding ourselves caught in a bind at the end of each month.

So how do you feel about debt?  Do you stay at home?  What sort of budget works for your family?

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  1. $300 a month? Dang, girl. I'm speechless!

  2. Ok, so I thought of a question. How do you juggle online purchases with a cash budget? Say you order x online, which usually falls under the groceries/household budget... do you take that amount of cash from your groceries and deposit it in the bank? Very curious.

  3. We were at $400 a month ($100/week) in January and have slowly cut back each month, allowing us to transition and become better shoppers. We are down to $340 ($85/week) but, yes, aim to be at $300 ($75/week) in November. It's a journey!

    Bingo! That's exactly what we do! Overall I have been able to find what we used to order online in a store around here for a price that is very competitive, if not lower. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it is for our family.

    Our "supplement/medicine" part of our cash budget is one exception. We don't pull this cash out since 90% of what we need we order online. We use our debit card though, so it comes directly out of our checking and I document it in our budget spreadsheet.


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