As I mentioned in Part I of what to do when you run out of money (stop doing things), Ty gets paid once a month. This means there is no mid-month reprieve after we’ve paid our bills and replenished our pantry at the beginning of the month. We are pretty good at budgeting for events and gifts we’ve planned on each month, but the last week of the month usually requires some creativity to keep us within our budget.
There are many budgeting articles, blogs and books available for anyone looking to make a budget. We use Mint to keep track of exactly where our money goes. Dave Ramsey has recently recommended the Every Dollar Budget app and Ty is trying it out. I personally like Mint because you can connect it to your bank account, retirement plan, debtor, etc. No money is lost in the ether and you can make plans for retirement, a home purchase and even see a super fun graph showing your debt decrease and your assets increase.
But this isn’t a post on how to plan your overall budget. I have a few tips on how to stay within your budget in those last few days before payday. Those are the days that it’s easy to borrow from savings or whip out the credit card just to fill up the car. I’m aware some of these tips may sound like we’re broke, but that is definitely not the case. Rather, these are some tricks I use to avoid borrowing from our other buckets of money and staying within the budget in those few days before Ty gets paid.
Talk about it: I know I’m not the first to say communication is part of the foundation to a happy marriage. We talk about our overall plan and goals pretty often, but we also have daily pow-wows on our personal activities and financial needs about a week and a half prior to payday. We talk about when we’ll each need to get gas, if there are any times either of us will be eating out with friends or family, if there are birthday gifts that still need to be bought, etc. He absolutely has to drive to work, so if both of us are low on gas I will know not to fill up or to only put in $5 or so.
Count your stuff: This probably sounds silly, but there are a few things I use every day like coffee and diapers. I am fortunate to have two sons who will use a consistent number of diapers each day. So instead of looking at my nearly empty bag of diapers, I count them before rushing out to the store. I go through the car, diaper bags and swim bags to collect every last diaper. I count out the eggs we’ll need to make breakfast for the rest of the week. I count out how many slices of bread we’ll need to make breakfast and lunch for me and the kids. This could sound obvious or desperate depending on your situation, it’s just one thing I do to make sure I don’t spend money unnecessarily.
Cook what you’ve got: I try to prepare our dinners to include a protein, vegetable and starch each night. But I get pretty flexible on this at the end of the month. Some nights we have pancakes (your kids will love it), omelets another night, sandwiches or even a quesadilla with just cheese, tomatoes and beans. There’s always a leftover night, we cook up pasta, make a cheese pizza (crust from Aldi is $2.99 for two!) and accept any invitation for dinner.
Make some money: Sometimes I go through the house and pick out clothes or items I can sell either online or to Once Upon a Child, a children’s consignment shop, to make some extra cash. I never sell anything I really want, but rather look at it as a time to clear out clutter I haven’t used or don’t need. I am part of several garage sale groups on Facebook and there’s always Craigslist. You never know what people buy and $5 or $10 here and there can give just the cushion you need at the end of the month!
Stay home: This is a good tip for saving money in general as long as you stay off Amazon. There’s always somewhere I could be driving to even if it’s just the park for an afternoon of free entertainment for the kids. Driving around feels free…but it’s not. The gas light comes on, a quick swipe of the debit card and before you know it, you’re out $20 bucks (assuming you don’t fill up all the way). If I absolutely have to escape these four walls, I load the kids into the stroller and take a walk. I’m lucky that there’s a park a mile and a half away which gives me some good exercise and saves me a few bucks on gas.
We are always looking for tricks to make the dollars go further, so please share your budgeting ideas!