Friday, October 2, 2009

Trying to Get a Step Ahead

Things have been busy in our house the last few weeks. Although I am supposed to be semi-secluded from germs, I have still found myself running here, there, and everywhere tying up loose ends and appointments. I feel like I have been neglecting so much at home by meeting the demands outside of my front door. While that can't entirely be avoided, I wanted to be a little more intentional with my time this week.

I have been scheming lately about how to better manage my time, energy, and the household finances. (Gotta have a hobby when being confined at home...) Mark and I have found that the solution that causes the least amount of stress in both the marriage and the budget is for me to get a lump sum of cash at the beginning of the month to use for the household expenses (minus gas, medicines and copays, and my hair appointments). We've been doing things this way for over a year now, and it has worked well for us for the most part. I don't have to turn in every receipt to him the moment it comes off a register, and he doesn't have to be the ogre who daily gives what I affectionately called "the grumpy grand total" of the household expenses. There is more flexibility and freedom this way which inevitably leads to more peace.

The one small trouble I have is that I usually end up running just a little bit short of food money by the end of the month. It's never a huge amount, and while a budget is a guideline and not a line in the sand, I know my number-loving husband would love to land under budget once in awhile. Usually I buy groceries for three or four days at a time. I plan four dinners and see what we need for lunches and breakfasts, and shop a few times a week from these lists. Lately though, this system doesn't seem to work as well because towards the end of the month when I run low on dinner groceries, I see the cash left and offer to pay for us to eat out...again...and again...and one more time...and pretty soon we are out of cash and there are a few days left to feed the hungry men in my life. I have tweaked this food buying system a number of ways, but I am still not convinced it is the most financially efficient means of managing the household budget.

So this month, I am taking a different approach to see how it goes. I am trying to buy groceries for two weeks (or more) at a time.

I have toyed with doing things this way for sometime, but never felt like I had the time to really invest up front to make it successful. But I spent time this weekend looking through the various grocery store flyers and websites, printing and clipping coupons both online and from the Sunday paper, planning out 30 meals, and compiling a ginormous grocery list. I have spent the last several days hitting up the grocery stores and prepping dinners to freeze.

I am not sure how this will go, but it already feels a little less haphazard than my usual method of money managing. While I have already spent a decent chunk of cash on groceries for the month, I already feel better prepared as I look ahead. For instance, I am going out of town for five days next week, and I have meals already prepared and in the freezer for when I am gone. I have known for a long time that eating in saves us a ton more money than eating out, but when there isn't food handy, we have always headed for McDonalds or Subway or pizza, and there goes the budget (which again is not a line in the sand, but a guideline in case Mark happens to read this entry!). This morning I put the last of the freezer meals in their protective Ziploc bags, and I feel such a sense of accomplishment. I know I will enjoy my vacation more knowing the guys are taken care of, and I am hopeful that my cash flow will reflect the value of hard work and planning!

So that is this month's plan to get a step ahead. I am hopeful that this will help me manage our household budget and lower the stress level come dinner time on a day when I am feeling less than energetic. I'll let you know how it goes!

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