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The “Stuff” Budget

Remember when “budget” was such a grown-up word? I’m certainly not Dave Ramsey and the purpose of this blog is not to outline your budget, but, in today’s post, I do want to focus on one section of the beloved budget – stuff. Maybe you refer to this portion of your budget as “grocery” or “living.” Basically, I’m writing about that section of your budget that is needed, but not predetermined like your: mortgage, Internet, cell phone, insurance, etc. When it comes to buying food, drink, and other necessary items for your family, you decide how much is needed.

Ty and I have been in a variety of situations with varying income in the past 9 years. We’ve experienced selecting our own “stuff” budget with the purpose of saving extra.  On the flip side (and most recently), we’ve also had to set up a budget based on expenses and then scrape together the rest to feed and clothe the family. Personal situations define a budget. Budgets are not one-size-fits-all. That being said, I’m not going to share numbers here. You might be curious to know how much our family spends on groceries every week to feed our family of 6 (especially after reading the last post on the Dr. Phil experiment), but I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble through the temptation of comparing. Just like we view simple living differently, our budgets reflect differently.

When we made the decision to live off of one income, we added up all of our known expenses and stared at the monetary leftovers. Bleh – it wasn’t much. We HAD to make it work! So we did. I embarked on a journey of ups and downs. I listened to the wisdom of more experienced frugal moms, explored blog posts on Pinterest, and accumulated enough ideas to begin shopping. Slowly, our tight budget released its clenching grip and we started to breathe again (even though the amount never changed!) We changed. We became smart shoppers.

Smart shopping is an art (in my mind). It takes commitment, self-control, willingness, and, above all, contentment. The “stuff” budget requires shopping and decision-making. I don’t know of any normal, hard-working individual who hands a personal shopper a lump sum of money and says, “Here. Please buy us all we need to live on and don’t ask me my opinion.” This portion of the budget demands that we make choices. Where are we going to shop? How often are we going to buy groceries? Should we include clothing in this portion or have a separate clothing budget? What can we live without and what can’t we live without? These are questions you have to sift through before hitting the grocery aisles.

Because it is impossible to provide food and clothing for our families without shopping in some way, I’m going to offer up a few general ideas to  help you get started on your way to becoming a smart shopper.

1. Set a goal.

Motivation is key when trying to stick to a budget. My motivation is 4 blonde, blue-eyed cuties. It is my goal to continue to stay home with my kids while they are young. Maybe yours is to pay off debt sooner than later. Maybe you are saving for a down payment on a house. Whatever it is, without a goal in mind, it is really hard to put down the whole bean Starbucks coffee and buy whatever is on sale instead.

2. Choose a monthly or weekly “stuff” budget.

Only you can decide what this amount will be, but consider some of the following: don’t drastically change what your spending trends have been all at once (otherwise you’ll want to give up!), withdraw your “stuff” budget in cash to give a clear visual of how much you really have to spend, and show yourself (and your spouse) grace by being willing to be flexible until you have reached a workable budget.

We have a weekly “stuff” budget and shop once a week. We shop as a family which results in a level of accountability and makes for great tantrums…I mean…teachable moments? Weekly shopping requires a smaller list and makes surviving the next 7 days less daunting than surviving a whole month with the contents of our shopping cart.

3. Make lists!!! And more lists!!!

  • Everyday List: This is a vague list of food/household items your family needs and likes on a weekly basis. It helps you focus on things you have to buy. It basically defines the “stuff” budget a little further. Here is an example of an everyday list from our home.
    • Coffee!!!
    • Sandwich Stuff
    • Snacks
    • Meat
    • Toiletries
    • Shoes
    • Clothing
    • Produce
    • Cleaners
    • Pantry Items
    • Dairy
    • Paper & Food storage products
    • (Notice that I don’t include DVD rentals, toys, books, etc. because we have allowances that we use for such purchases. Your family may do it differently.)
  • Best Price List: This is an ongoing list that should accompany you to the store.  This list is a compilation of prices of the items you regularly purchase in order to help you compare prices while you are out shopping. Stay tuned for a complete blog about creating your own glorious Best Price List!
  • “Such A Good Deal” List: Who doesn’t love a good deal? The only problem is, good deals can break the bank when they are not needed or planned for. It can be easy to justify a purchase because it was “such a good deal,” but, even though you are saving  money on a full-price item, you actually just spent a portion of your already tight budget on something you most likely didn’t even need. Take heart, there is still a way to take advantage of good deals. Plan for them. Make a list of things you’d like your family to have in the upcoming months, but that you don’t necessarily need right now. When you see a good deal on one of the items on this list, check if there is room to manage it in the “stuff” budget or savings account, and then go for it! Here is an example of some things on my “Such A Good Deal” List now that Fall/Winter are approaching:
    • K-Cups
    • Slippers
    • Winter tights for the girls
    • Tea
    • Hot Cocoa
    • Apple Slicer ( I just saw that Aldi has these! Ka-ching!)
    • Fun Size CANDY! 🙂
    • Kitchen Aid Mixer (This has been on my list for 4 years –  no joke – and that’s OK! It will stay on there until the right deal and savings match up. Because, you know, a wooden spoon works for now.)
  • The Shopping List: This is the actual grocery/stuff list that specifies what your family needs for the week or month ahead.  Another blog post will highlight the details of a stellar grocery list and how a meal plan is so helpful…more to come. 

4. Now that you have all these lists, pray.

Pray for the self-control needed to stick to the list. Pray for a heart of contentment when faced with a “good deal.” Pray the same for your children and your spouse. You know your weakness- is it a certain treat, beverage, entertainment, clothes, the dollar section at Target (guilty!!!)? Pray for focus to achieve your goal.

And…

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him for a budget. 🙂

One thought on “The “Stuff” Budget

  1. I completely agree with this! It is so important to start with a goal because otherwise you won’t stick to it! The cash is great too because when it’s gone….it’s gone!! My husband and I have been using a cash budget for over 6 years and it’s great!

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