Part of our family’s budgeting and financial wellness is to keep track of our discretionary spending and make sure that we’re on track. Last month, we spent considerably more than we’d planned (as a result of a totally-worth-it trip) and this month’s spending will be a little lean for us–lean as in we agreed to reduce our monthly spending by $200 and overspent last month so that we only have 50% of this month’s budget left.
I’m sure you’ve been there. You’ve overspent and aren’t sure how you’re going to make ends meet this time. Guess what, I’m not worried about our month–what a challenge!–I’ve got some great ideas to help you get through this time in your life and make it a little easier than you’d think.
Use what you already own. We need a new vacuum badly. The current one is made for a dorm room and we’ve been using it in our house for 5 years. Not convenient at all, but still functional. And we’re going to continue using it until it doesn’t work anymore–we only replace items that don’t run anymore. Think about what you already own that you can repurpose to eliminate or postpone spending. Mug as a toothbrush cup, pen holder or flower vase? Works fine. Plastic tub for medicine, nail polish or freezer food organizer? Do it. If it works for you, then it works–get creative with repurposing items to use what you already own and save money.
Fix your broken, usable items. Matt has shoes that are breaking, two of my work pants have lost their leg seam, our freezer tub just broke. It’s easy to say, “Just buy new things!” but that mindset gets expensive quickly. By investing a little time and effort into our current items, we’ll save money because our things are still good, they just need a little repair. Think about the items you aren’t using because they’re broken. Can you fix them? Or should you get rid of them? Either way, you need to do something. Figure out what it is and make it happen. And consider keeping a bin of fix-it items in your house to make needed repairs easier.
Rearrange instead of purchase. When we moved into our new house, we weren’t able to nail anything up on the walls. This made it difficult to place some of my large (and heavy) artwork around our house as I’d done in our past homes. But we decided to get creative. By grouping items together to create focal points, we were able to create a new “art house” look in our house and not purchase any new items. Turn it into a fun project by pretending like you’re on a “home makeover” show. Rearrange your items to keep things interesting–be creative with what you can use.
Curtail Shopping and Reduce Your Addiction. I might have a clothes & shoes shopping problem, but I’ve been working on it ever since I had to reorganize my closet after the weight of my clothes broke the closet rack. In fact, I put myself on a shopping hiatus from January 1 to March 15. At first it was difficult, but once I began to look at what I really needed, it was much easier to think about what I really needed–and it wasn’t to shop more, I found out I was bored. I needed to reactivate my other interests. Think about what else you like to do: read, hike, run, blog, nap, watch TV. There are so many other options besides spending money. Make a goal this month to try any of these other activities so you don’t spend money on things you don’t really need!
Eliminate Excess. I can’t stress this enough: Use free and reduced resources available to you. I’ve been using our library for books, CDs and movies. And with the online option, I can just pick up my reserved items when they’re ready. This month, I’m going to try to make my own laundry detergent and have spent considerable time on “my new free hobby” my Pinterest account researching new healthy, fun & delicious recipes with ingredients we already own.
Price Match! Our reduced spending this month is less than our ‘average’ monthly grocery spending total. Am I worried? No way! The average monthly grocery spending total I refer to was before I started price matching. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be able to reduce my grocery bill this month by 80%. I’m going to continue to use my price matching preparation and shopping strategies, but this month we’ll also make it a point to use what we already own (as you can see, we have enough–thank you price matching). You can do this. Start your Price Matching Strategy today.
Budget discretionary spending. This lean month doesn’t scare me because I know we just need to budget our discretionary spending more closely this month. What I usually do is divide the total monthly spending week-by-week because this makes it seem much more doable. And toward the end of the month, I’ve divided our discretionary spending day-by-day. We also pack more lunches, do more at-home dates (I love bed movies), stick to free or pre-paid family activities (using gift cards and going to our local theme park or Zoo with our family passes) and I stick to my list when I’m grocery shopping.
You’ll have months of feast where everything seems great. Use these months to prep for your months of famine. As you continue to prepare for the unexpected or the inevitable you’re much more likely to come out the other side more successful and less stressed.