Alright, so I already covered how we went about cutting down our bills so that we could pay down our debt here. Although it did add us a little bit more wiggle room in our budget, it didn’t provide a whole lot.
This one is simple….CASH…atleast for the most part.
When we laid out all of our expeses on the piece of paper, I went back and looked at 2 things (in this area). The first one was how much money were we spending on groceries. The collective term groceries is used to describe basically anything for the house. Food, toiletries, dog food, cleaners, etc. Then, I looked at what we were putting on the credit card. When our journey began, we relied heavily on the credit card for day to day expenses, mostly gas.
At the time, we were driving like crazy people. Our hometown is approximately 2 hours from our current home. My husbands family, my mother, and some of our friends still reside there. We were driving “home” just about every weekend. This was in addition to all the “running” that we did during the week. Side trip here, side trip there. Now granted, my father passed away in 2003, and my mother was left widowed. All of my mom and dad’s family are in another state and we took it upon ourselves to do everything we could for my mom, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. But, when I journey began in 2007, we were still driving “home” and doing this and that, and it was adding up FAST!
We cut a lot of our driving down. For two reasons.
We realized what we were doing…and we cut our budget to only allow $150/2 weeks of gas. Still yet, that number is higher than I would like for it to be, but we live in a rural area. (With the gas prices the way they have been, we had to raise that number to $200/2 weeks) Just to give you an idea, we live dead center of 2 hole in the wall towns. One contains no stoplights. The other one, while it has 2 stoplights, still just has a Wal-Mart..and a tiny one at that. No, not a Super Wal-Mart, we’re talking the original Wal-Mart! Didn’t know they still existed, did ya?!
Then, I attacked the grocery spending. I took a rough tally of what we were spending on groceries. It was a rough tally because we never catogorized our spending before this point. When I came to the consesus that, over the past 3 months (June, July, August 07), it was $600-$650 I was floored. We are only a family of 5!
The first thing we did..menu planning. I used to do a menu plan back when I was working, but somehow fell out of it, and could never get myself back into it. I find it very important to atleast plan your dinners. Otherwise you will buy random ingredients, and you will have the 4pm scramble. You’ve been there, haven’t you? 4pm hits, and you have no earthly idea what you are going to have for dinner. When you finally figure it out, you realize that you don’t have one essential ingredient and your husband will be home in no time, and the kids are starving! It stinks…and it is incredibly stressful! Avoid it. A couple ways this is beneficial…you know exactly what you need for groceries. This helps with avoiding extra trips to town (saving gas money and on impulse buys) and it also helps with not having a crazy overstock mess of ingredients in your cabinet. Unless you are like me and you get a thrill out of seeing crazily overstocked cabinets! This way, everyone, including you, knows what is for dinner. Avoiding the 4pm scramble and the stress.
Then, in true Dave Ramsey and FPU fashion, we went on the envelope system. It was very scary at first, but we got used to it. We’ve tweaked it a bit since the beginning, but it is now our norm.
We set up only 3 envelope categories, one for groceries, gas, and “blow”. The “blow” is basically mine and my husbands allowance. We each get one. This in and of itself saved us who knows how much money. Our amounts are very minimal at this point, because we are on a gazelle intense mission to get this debt out of the way. Currently we each get $25 for a 2 week period. If we choose to go out to eat, buy a soda from the gas station, or buy ourselves something from the store…it comes from our individual “blow” categories. This really makes us think about what we are spending our money on, both of us have re-evaluated our once thought to be necesseties.
Our grocery envelope contained $200 for a 2 week period. I’ll tell you what, when you are used to going to the grocery store with a check book or credit card, and you switch to cash…it will completely change how you shop! I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat of a decent shopper. I’ve always compared prices and such, but cash makes you look at an item completely differently. It hurts to hand over a $100 bill at check out and see it gone. That is not the case when you sign your name to that check, or sign your debit card receipt. You can read more about my grocery list/shopping process here.
To make our $200/2 weeks stretch I started going to Aldi a lot more (amazing the savings here in dairy products alone), and we started our very first garden. While I know that it isn’t possible for everyone to have a garden, I do recommend that you try either a small container garden on your patio, or buying from your local farmers market. We had fresh produce flowing from our garden, and now we have a lot of it nicely canned up in my pantry. The Lord really blessed us this year, and I am ever so grateful for that.
Our grocery budget has since been changed to $150 for a 2 week period for a few reasons. I started making simplier meals, yet incredibly delicious and nutritious, I use coupons extensively, and I make almost everything from scratch. This may sound like a daunting task, but I notice no major difference from before other than that our food tastes a lot better than before. Seriously. And..I know exactly what is in my food, because I made it, or I grew it!
So, in examing our expenses and switching to cash we were able to save an additional $200-$250 on groceries and an unimaginable amount on frivolousness and gas. Now keep in mind that although we “saved” that money, that doesn’t exactly mean we had that to put at debt. We were relying heavily on the credit card for our gas and some groceries. Basically, we cut all the credit card spending out, with about $200 to throw at the debt, in addition to what we gained from cutting back on our bills.
This is when we started the debt snowball, which I will address in Part 3.