2010 was a banner year in debt busting for us. It was epic.
In February of 2010 we were $81,607 in debt. By November of 2010 the number was down to $24,500. In eight months we paid off $57,107 in debt.
In the last four months we’ve paid off $3,108 and taken it down to $21,392.
It’s been S-L-O-W. Here’s a graph:
We knew it would be. I’m not working. We have a child in daycare twice a week.
The highs of paying off huge chunks of debt are gone. We’re in a bit of a funk. Sure, I’ve stopped buying anything from BabySteals or the crazy expensive stores in my neighborhood. But you can still spend money without coming home with a shopping bag.
We go to the movies once a week when we have a sitter (my mom). Most of the time we use coupons that we purchased using reward points. Sometimes we go to the theatre that we don’t have coupons for. And often we get snacks.
Chris and I work from home but sometimes that means a coffee shop. I stopped ordering the $6 Grande Lattes with extras over a year ago but drip or Americanos still run $2-$3. Most days I bring an apple and almonds to avoid the calories and dollars of the baked goods. But not always.
We’ve loosely set a weekly cash limit for each of us but haven’t held ourselves accountable to it. Chris often eats lunch out to get a break from the home office on long days. At least once a week I find some reason to have lunch out with Henry, often at Whole Foods because I am a sucker for their by the weight salad bar.
Meal planning has been hit and miss for me. When I am on it we do a good job eating at home and don’t waste food. When I am not on it we have Thai takeout and I visit the grocery store for a frozen pizza because I forgot to thaw a roast the night before.
It’s time to get serious.
This blog has connected me with some great people. Some are even local. One such new friend really inspired me when we met up the other week. She and her partner had resisted meal planning and limiting their casual spending for years. It had initially seemed un-fun and restricting. Things changed, they needed to watch their pennies, and now they like having a rotating meal plan. They like knowing what’s for dinner each week and what they need to buy at the grocery store. They’ve found freedom in planning and spending less.
I want that!
We’ll be pushing ourselves to stay on a budget this month. Here are the details:
Groceries: $500. Last month we spent $626.30 on groceries and I was a C+ on meal planning. We have enough Nespresso pods to make it through February and March and I also have groceries stocked for meals until this Friday. Sure, Chris is gone for 9 or 10 days but $500 is still going to be a challenge.
I want to get my fridge to look like Jo’s at the end of the week. This type of grocery planning isn’t for everyone but I think it could be for us. Just have what we use on hand and no more. For many reasons, I haven’t bought into kid’s snack cracker/Cheerios packaged food stuffs. Henry doesn’t snack much, just eats at meal times with some milk/water in between. This isn’t just for his benefit: if there are crackers and such in our home I WILL EAT THEM. That’s right, I have no will power when it comes to Wheat Thins or Teddy Grahams or those super salty Gold Fish crackers.
So in an effort to get our cupboards down to zero I will be using up what’s there. I’ll be meal planning every week. When Chris is away I will eat my favourite frugal meals he isn’t partial too (salads!).
Casual spending: $100. Chris and I will each have $50 for socializing and whatever else we choose to spend $ on. This may seem like a lot but lately neither of us can stick to $20/week in this category. Last month I kept track and between some casual meals out and coffees and such, I spent $137. I’m planning on writing at the library and sneaking in tea or coffee from home.
*Date night: Our sitter (my mom) is away for half of the month and Chris is also on the road a bit. If we do get out we will use movie coupons and these are not included in our total.
Transportation: $100. We’ve barely spent on transport so far this year but we have a possible weekend trip this month.
Miscellany: $200. We have at least one family birthday dinner and a possible weekend away. If we do go out of town I want to use our grocery budget for eating on the road. Including any restaurant meals. Great motivation for ordering water and no appetizer.
I’ll be updating weekly on our progress.
It’s good to say goals out loud. Or blog about them. Accountability is a big part of goal setting.
Now, I need your help. What are your favourite ways to cut spending? I’m specifically in need of help in the areas of grocery/meal planning and casual coffees and meals out. Can you still be social if you decline the lunch meet-up? Do you think it’s rude to bring a snack with you to a coffee shop? Do you get arrested, or just kicked out, if they spot you drinking coffee at the library?