Thursday, February 28, 2013

$100 a month? Let's do this!

Graham I have been a little frivolous with our spending lately forever. We don't have kids, we make more than enough to live comfortably, and we both have an appreciation for the finer things. All of that equals up to out of control spending. I looked online yesterday, and from December 27, 2011, we've spent $2500 at Target, and $1500 at Lowe's. Holy crap.

While I'm excited and scared to move to Virginia in a little more than three months (eeek!!!), our financial situation is going to drastically change. Once I get a job, hopefully it will change for the better, but the (terrifying) fact is, is that I will be unemployed for a while, and we have got to learn to spend responsibly before we end up in a bad situation. Our first responsible step was using our tax returns to pay off some debt. Our second responsible step is that we decided to give ourselves an allowance. We have friends who do this, and give themselves $20 a week. Instead we decided to do $100 a month.

I don't really like talking about money. It's a personal topic (right up there with religion & politics), but I've learned a lot this month about my spending, how I was spending and why I was spending. Apparently my spending habits mirror my eating habits: I eat AND spend when I'm bored. I eat AND spend because it's there.

First of all, when I say $100 a month, that is just personal spending. That didn't affect our grocery spending, date nights, or what we're spending to get the house ready to sell. We also have to take some things on a case by case basis. For example, our giant cutting board shattered a few weeks ago. I have seven plastic cutting boards, but they don't work as well. 1) The edge of the knife kept hitting the plastic lip, which is annoying. 2) They're small. So whereas for my big cutting board, I can just make piles of vegetables or whatever, when I use the small ones I'm constantly dirtying up a bunch of small bowls. So, we justified buying a new, large & in charge bamboo cutting board. But the cute paint dipped bamboo utensils... those would go against my allowance since I have about 47 silicone spatulas. There was a tool Graham wanted from Lowe's. He didn't need it, but it would make the cabinet building process a LOT quicker. We decided that since we're running out of time, that wouldn't count against us. It's a process.

We also came to an agreement that my grooming needs don't come from my allowance. Graham has been going bald since he was about 16 and shaves his own head. So it's not fair that my $40 haircut and $10 eyebrow waxes come from my allowance. But clothes, eating out during the week, anything else... it gets deducted from the $100. Graham chose to get cash from the ATM, I wanted to have the option to online shop (and you can't deposit cash to our bank), so I chose to keep it in the account and just track my spending.

Honestly, it was a little frustrating at times. I've always just spent however I wanted (which is how my credit card debt got completely out of control....). It was frustrating walking in Target and seeing so many cute things, and having to practice self control. But practicing self control taught me the difference in what I wanted just because it was there, and what I actually really wanted. Early in the month, I was at Target and saw shoes and a clutch that I liked. The shoes were adorable, and the clutch was covered in quatrefoils. But if I bought both pairs of the shoes and the clutch, that would have been nearly my whole allowance. I figured they were brand new items and likely to be there for a while, and I would think about it. If I still wanted them towards the end of the month, I knew where to find them. Making myself stop and think before making a purchase is a new thing for me. And once I stopped and thought about it, I realized I didn't want the clutch. I have an almost brand new $300 Coach wallet. I really don't need another one right now for $14.95 from Target. But I couldn't stop thinking about the shoes and finally went back and bought a pair of them yesterday.

It's also helped a LOT with eating crappy food out. I'm not too bad about that, but Graham eats out during the week ALL the time. Which is insane, since we live 2.7 miles from the Air Force base. This has helped motivate him pack a lunch (in the event he can't go home and take one) in order to keep from wasting money. It's also DRASTICALLY cut down the number of times I stop by a gas station in the morning and get a diet Coke before work...

And finally... Swagbucks. If you're not using Swagbucks, click on this link & get started!
Search & Win

Graham says this is creating, but I supplemented my allowance by using Swagbucks. I know most people don't have as much free time during the work day as I do, but I've made $40 in giftcards to Target & Lowe's since January first. You get points by doing internet searches, taking surveys, watching videos, etc. I keep a tab open all day while I'm at work, and anytime I have to search for something, I use Swagbucks to do it. The surveys take anywhere from 5-20 minutes, so I try to do a survey a day. You also get points for online purchases at most retailers, you get points by printing coupons from their site. You get points for so many things, and they add up quickly.

Anyways... that's how our first month of living on an allowance went. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I still have about $23 left =) Looks like I'm heading back to Target on my lunch break today!


  1. Heather, this is so great! My boyfriend and I recently started "strapping down" our spending as well. We are following the steps laid out by Dave Ramsey in his book "Total Money Makeover." So far it's been awesome! I posted about it recently if you care to take a look ( Best of luck with your budgeting! The first step is the hardest!! :)

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree, the first step is definitely the hardest. A lot of friends of mine have raved about Dave Ramsey and his method. I'm heading over to your post right now =)

  2. Hi new reader here! I'm a total Target addict and impulse buyer and my husband and I have racked up our fair share of debt too, but luckily we've paid off almost everything except our cars and our house and we're planning on getting rid of those payments too. We've read Dave Ramsey's books and love them (me probably more than my husband). I have to agree with Katie that the Total Money Makeover will change your life in the best possible way. I would really recommend checking that out. I bought my book on my Kindle for less than $10 and read it in a day or so. Good luck with your budget. And thanks for recommending Swagbucks. I have a lot of free time at work too so I'll definitely check it out! -Miranda

    1. I did buy Dave Ramsey's book, we just haven't done much with it yet since we were finishing up our house. But now we're back on track, back on our budget (and allowance) and I'm actually excited to start saving for the future!


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