I will admit right from the beginning that I have stalled all week writing this blog. I am very excited about what we have accomplished and learned and how much more we will in the upcoming months and years; however, I am having difficulty putting it all into words. I will do my best. In the end, my goal is to share and inspire you all into taking control of something that you may feel you don't have control over.
I have talked for years about creating a system and helping others learn how they can shop healthy on a budget and still feel good. The truth is I wasn't so sure I was actually doing it myself and how can I teach others to take control when I felt out of control.
We have been tracking our budget and goals on Mint for years. (Well, full disclosure, as promised... my husband has been tracking our finances, setting our budget and I do my best to stay aware and on track.) Finances are far from my strong suit.
At a senior year retreat in high school, we had a priest doing a little fun palm reading on us. He would look at our life line and money line and give us some insight. He didn't say much about my life line which has always left me wondering (possibly slightly nervous as to why), but he quickly commented on my money line.
"You'll be fortunate to always have money; however, the quicker you get money, the quicker you spend money."
Yep, he had me pegged. When I met my husband and we got to that serious point where you start to plan for the future and he found out I still had my student loans AND credit card debt, he was quite baffled.
"How can you be living at home with little expenses and have credit card debt and still have your student loans!?"
Well, thats when people learned I was serious about this dude. We made a plan or he made a plan for me (us) and we fixed the problem. And my parents looked on shaking their heads saying haven't we been saying the same things. Yes. That is why I was living at home to pay off the loans and start saving up, but for some reason it didn't click. All I had to show for it was a fabulous J Crew wardrobe.
What clicked and why did it click? My mindset changed. My mindset changed because we had a vision and goals. I loved this guy and wanted to marry him. I wanted him to know I was serious about that. I wanted to contribute to the household and our plans of getting married and purchasing a home. If I contribute, it would make us more stable. It would help us reach our goals sooner. We could have more. We would be a team.
As the years continued, we have always been joked at as more minimalist people and we actually take great pride in that label. We feel we have way more than what we need and we challenge ourselves to create memories with experiences, not materials. Now I am also no extremists so minimalist I would define in modern American terms. You won't see me pitching a tent and only living off the land. I admire those that can and do, but there is still a bit of princess in me. I blame that on being the only girl sandwiched between two brothers.
As my education in holistic nutrition increased, our food budget naturally went up as well. But at the same time, you will not open my cabinets and see them over flowing. Many would open them up and wonder what the heck there is to eat. Where I think, if we had to, we could eat for another couple of weeks without going to the store. Through my schooling at IIN and continuing education, I began to read labels which narrowed down what kind of bread we buy, what cereal we buy, cleaner "kid snacks" and certain products need to be organic. It has been a bit of trial and error and in the process our grocery budget got a little sloppy. There is a good $1-$3 difference sometimes when it comes to getting a pre-packaged product with better quality ingredients. The budget was also capable of getting sloppy though - the money is there to spend, right?
"How can you put a budget on food? You need to eat!"
I have heard the above statement many times from people. In my head, I would quietly say, but you can put a budget on it. We are for sure not starving here. At the same time, I would stay quiet though because I frequently went over our budget and always had an excuse for it. In reality, I wasn't quite sure if and how to do it.
Until, we re-established a vision. We created goals. We changed our mindset.
As a family, we challenged ourselves, "Where do we want to be in 10 years? What do we envision ourselves doing?"
Most important question, "What do we need to do now to get there?"
Notice there is no, "Can we do this?" It was more, "How will we do this?"
We went back and tracked our spending over the past couple of years and looked at areas that have gotten way out of control for no clear explanation. The food budget was one of them. I can use the excuse of growing boys, but I am not sure they grew $700 more a month in food.
So our journey has begun. With just thinking about our food choices and grocery shopping and dining options, we have managed to spend $650 less last month than our monthly average for the last year. I even joked with the boys and asked them if they have been hungry or not fed enough this month and they looked at me like I was crazy, laughed and said no. To me, that is a success.
As my husband said, "Think about how much harder it is to go out and make that extra $700 rather than do what we did?"
So how do we get started? How do I share my journey with you so you can learn, we can learn from each other and maybe get inspired? Inspired for what!? Inspired to live the life we want. To make it happen.
I know thus far, I have really just shared my story and journey to the beginning. No worries, there is lots more to come!
Right now, I challenge you to start gathering the information and getting your mind straight.
Pre-Planning: Getting Started Tips
Up Next: Creating the Mindset: what worked for me AND The Numbers: what we spent last year compared to this year and some fun meal breakdowns - that $700 savings is no joke and is real!