Bad Spending Month // Recovery Plan

>> Monday, April 3, 2017

March, you guys. Oh, March. Where to begin? Stephen and I are in the process of switching to a more local bank. We have most of our money (which isn't much!) in Bank of America, but there are no local branches. It's made the cash system costly. The month we did take out cash, we discovered that we were being double-charged. We had taken out our cash in two installments . . . and it ended up (FOOLISHLY) costing us like $30.

So, we joined a local bank which now makes ATM transactions free. In the process of switching, though, we haven't transferred around enough, so we decided to just do our debit card last month. I still shopped for our food at the beginning of the month in a large shop and stuck within budget. After that, though, it was a landslide of spending . . . and I'm really not proud of it. This is our current plan to get debt-free, and I hate already deviating from it.

Without having the physical money, we find ourselves venturing out to the store and buying all sorts of things we "need". We find ourselves without a plan -- and that's dangerous. I haven't looked at the ugly numbers yet, but I plan to do that later today. Part of me is actually just nervous/scared to look at how much we over-spent on our budget. Does anyone else ever feel that way when you're looking at a bad over-budget month?

Here's our plan for recovery:

Chatting about the Why

Stephen and I know very well why our spending got out of control. He started coaching track and is now gone long hours and Saturdays. This means we are trying to do anything and everything to make ourselves feel better. And that usually means eating takeout or getting extra food all the time. Because home-cooked meals are sometimes hard to make when life is crazy AND eating delicious sandwiches with fresh ingredients from Wegmans several nights a week just sounds . . . amazing.

Ugh. The schedule isn't changing until a couple weeks into June. If we keep spending at this pace, our bank account will look frightening by summer. This is one of the main reasons why everything went to crap this month. So, we need to recognize it and move on.

Going Back to Cash

We need to take out cash for this month. Period. I'm going to figure out the total number I want to take out today and then divvy it up into my cash envelope system wallet. Then I'm going to write out our spending plan for the month.. There isn't much more to say about this one. If you're prone to mindless and excessive spending when you use cards . . . cash can help so much.

Simplifying Our Meals

We have $500 a month set aside for our food. We have a pretty well-stocked pantry right now, so I may forgo the big monthly shopping trip and try to just use up what's in the pantry for as long as possible. I'll need to buy some fresh produce and other items that expire more quickly. But otherwise, I am going to try to plan our meals around what's already at home. This may mean eating pasta more frequently this month.

My goal is to spend just $300 of that $500. SAVINGS: $200, maybe more.

Planning a Personal Spending Freeze

I budget $200 a month to an allowance fund for the family. This money is essentially fun money, money for stuff each of us might need or want, and etc. This month of April we are going to try to spend as little of this money as possible. Along with that, we have a $135 monthly weekend fund to do stuff out. Instead of breaking into that, we're going to try to just doing free stuff on our weekends and skip eating out, etc. I'm hoping the nicer weather may help with this. Having a blizzard and all that jazz definitely contributed to us spending more money.

SAVINGS: Potentially $335, but we'll see what ends up happening. It definitely won't be all of this.

Changing Vacation Expectations

OK. Yeah. So, this is where it gets tricky. We are also heading up to Burlington to visit my brother mid-month. What I think may happen is that we use some of these weekend/personal funds to pay for what we are doing up there versus spending any extra on top of the budget. Does that make sense? We've had this trip planned for a while . . . and we originally intended to stay three nights. I think we're going to cut the trip back to just two nights and try to save that way as well.

On the trip, we get free breakfast at the hotel, so that's a savings. I'm going to look up as many free things to do as possible. And we will try to eat modestly out and not spend a ridiculous amount of money on all the meals. Gas is the other expense. I'll try to write more about our travel budget soon.

SAVINGS: $100 -- at least that's what we'll call it for now. It's complex because we didn't totally have budget for travel right now BUT we also want to see my brother and his girlfriend.

Postponing Paying Our Debt

This might not be a popular bullet point, but I think right now we need to preserve the money that's in our bank account. And that means skipping a month of paying an extra $1,000 to our debt. This isn't really a savings, but it will help us in the short-term preserve our emergency fund.

I am actually experimenting with taking on a bit less work this month because things have been crazy with Stephen's new schedule. Basically, we're needing to go back to our original pay-off plan to tweak it a bit. It may make better sense for our to try and allocate $500 a month toward debt versus a full $1,000. I am having trouble sustaining writing so much when Stephen has 11-hour weekdays and was gone from 8:00-5:30 on Saturday.

Final Thoughts

This isn't the most organized or most inspirational budget post I've ever seen. I more just wanted to get it out there. We had a bad month. We recognize that we cannot go back to our old habits. Back-sliding it just not fun at all, especially when it comes to finances. We are admitting we messed up. We are doing a few things to help recoup some of the extra we spent. And all we can do now is more forward and have a good month.

What do you do to recover from a bad spending month? Any suggestions for us? I'm off to see exactly what the damage is!

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