I used to cringe when I heard the dreaded words "budget meeting."
My husband would have the spreadsheets, monthly projections - blah, blah blah! He would literally wait until we were on the way to dinner, like after he had let me pick the restaurant, to bring up the budget talk. My appetite was gone quicker than that $200 at Ulta the day before. Oops!
I didn't understand the importance of actually sticking to a budget. It was more of a recommendation in my mind. Like driving five (or ten) over the speed limit, I thought if I just stayed somewhat close, sometimes, that I was doing my best. Wrong! Who would've ever known that following a strict budget actually frees up more money in the long run? Oh, so that's what he kept trying to tell me! Now, I get it.
Budget Meeting - What I have learned:
There are only two real ways to reduce debt and increase the amount you can pay each month towards debt. You can either reduce expenses or increase income. Reducing your expenses is by far the easiest, so I wanted give a quick overview of how we were able to slash our budget quickly and free up almost $1,000 each month. (My brain: "That's so many Ulta runs!" I'm a work in progress, y'all.)
I've read a lot of articles that tell you how to do it, but not very many give real world examples with associated cost savings. Remember, visual learner over here, and I NEED to see examples!
These are based on our expenses, so yours may look totally different. Our overall goal is to slash our budget by $1,000 per month, and we will continue to reduce expenses as much we can. The major takeaway is that you need to reduce whatever you can IMMEDIATELY. Once your initial budget is done, you can go back and further refine each category later.
Car Insurance - No longer working in sales, my husband isn't logging 50,000 miles per year on the road. I called USAA and was able to lower our monthly premium without adjusting our deductible.
Monthly Savings: $48.50
Hair cut/beard trims - My husband has an amazing beard, regularly competing in beard competitions. Award winning beards ain't cheap! He chose to sacrifice his monthly trim and fade to cut expenses. Instead, he's decided to use this opportunity to do something he's been wanting to do for a while - grow his hair out. Hey, man bun!
Monthly Savings: $52.00
Cell Phone bill - We payed off the remaining balance on an iPhone and also plan to reduce this further through my husband's new employer discount. At the time of this budget slash, the potential discount is not included.
Monthly Savings: $44.50
Gym Membership - This was an easy one for me since I rarely went. My husband, on the other hand, was there almost every day. You can't have a famous beard and not be working on your fitness! We kept his briefly, then the ongoing pandemic made the cancellation an easy choice as all gyms temporarily shut down. He has since traded the gym for daily walks and at-home exercise routines with the kids.
Monthly Savings: $44.00
Vitamins/Pre-workout - I had been splurging on a fancy custom vitamin service, which came in the cutest personalized packets, and it was my jam. It wasn't until I realized how much I was overpaying for my trendy subscription that I snapped back to reality and ordered my vitamins off Amazon like a sensible person. Those little boxes and daily motivational quotes on the trendy packs were the cutest - so fancy-pants! My husband also stopped buying his monthly pre-workout since he was no longer going to the gym. These two things alone were big-time savings!
Monthly Savings: $58.50 ($38.50 vitamins + $20.00 pre-workout)
Cable/Internet Bill - We eliminated premium channels, opting for basic cable instead. Taking it another step, we also downgraded our internet to a lower speed/data package. We plan to reduce this even further with a digital antenna and hope to completely cut off cable in the near future. (R.I.P. Voice-Activated Remote and DVR. I wonder if they miss me, too!)
Monthly Savings: $88
Yard Service - Our neighborhood has a relatively strict homeowner's association, particularly when it comes to yard maintenance. Honestly, we were slightly lazy when it came to keeping up the yard, so we hired a yard guy. Okay, so when I say slightly, I mean sometimes you might think our house is vacant by looking at the front yard, but we'll go with slightly lazy. Seeing how much we were clipping away each month for yard services was a real bummer. It was an easy choice to cancel and just took a little more effort on our end. My calves and my tan line have appreciated this change. Prime example of a silver lining!
Monthly Saving: $100
Groceries- This category is one we continue to refine. We have an overall goal to get the monthly grocery budget down to $800 each month for our family of four. Looking at our spending before we started this journey, we knew we could easily reduce it by $200. Easy peasy! Goodbye to the old days of ripping through Wal-Mart with no list and buying the entire Aisle 9 on a hungry, unplanned whim. I was a snack section animal!
Monthly Saving: $200
Credit Monitoring Service - Simple and easy cut. My husband already has one through USAA, so I was able to discontinue my service. All of our finances are tied together anyway, so any changes reflected through his service should apply to mine. $20 gone just like that!
Monthly Savings: $19.95
Eating Out/Coffee - This huge adjustment has made the biggest impact. As of writing this blog, we have eaten out two times in the last five months. I have lived, thrived really, on fast food for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, I wonder if my friends at the Taco Bell by my house miss me. Do they think something happened to me? I should probably go visit them, right? Anyway, an average take-out meal for our family of four would run at least $30. We easily went twice every week, if not more.
Eliminating coffee, on the other hand, definitely hurt my soul. We would regularly grab coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which ran us about $12.50 per trip. I don't think he really knew how often I enjoyed my beloved iced coffee until he looked at my bank statements. There are just some things that should be kept private, you know? Privileged information kind of stuff. I can't even tell you how much I live for our monthly coffee runs now!
Monthly Savings: $300
Total Monthly Reduction: $955.45
While no one change alone seems like a big deal, all combined they made a drastic reduction in our overall monthly expenses. More importantly, we were able to make these changes in the first month and see an immediate impact. As I mentioned in my picking a debt payoff strategy blog, motivation is huge for me. I have to be able to see that missing my Ulta trips and DVR shows is not for nothing. I need to know that my friends at Taco Bell and Starbucks missing my face is for the greater good. Find whatever motivation you need to get you pushing that lawn mower, friends!
(P.S. My yard is tiny. I'm being dramatic, but still!)
Raise your hand if you're excited about the next budget meeting!