Cozy or Cabin Fever?
We just wrapped up week three of our winter spending challenge. I'm starting to have the same feelings for my challenge that I have for our winter weather. I love the beauty of the snow, and the coziness of cold winter nights at home, but it isn't fun to drive in, and I get tired of bundling everyone up to go outside. Its been cold and snowy long enough now that summer shorts and sandals seem a distant memory. This week was the first week I had to make hard decisions when shopping. I wanted to buy more frozen raspberries, but none of the stores had the ones I wanted. I also wanted to buy stuff for green smoothies, but we have other things I need to use up first. I found good deals on apples and potatoes but there really isn't anything very exciting happening at the grocery store at this point of winter. But, stop, this is me whining about lame first world problems.
Compared to when I was a kid, the fresh produce we have available at the grocery store all year-round is amazing. I was in college before I had things like kiwis, and married with kids before I had even heard of dragon fruits, star fruits, and many other fruits that are not native to the United States. The collection of produce I bought this week was grown in Mexico, Honduras, and Canada and has traveled farther than I have ever traveled. So while I'm complaining about the lack of options in Iowa in January, we actually have it pretty good.
However, when the coziness of winter starts to turn into cabin fever it is time for a treat. Well, sort of a treat. More like a default dinner grabbed from the one place I can spent $10 and feed my whole family. Little Caesars hot and ready $5 pizzas do not meet any of my health goals, but the family enjoyed a break in the routine.
Time out for a Pep Talk!
Ugh! So here we are going into week four and I blew $10 of my $56 weekly budget on cheap pizza. I basically wasted 18% of my weekly allotment on one meal. Now what?
I'll have to do a really good job this week to make up for my fast food cave. The first thing I did was make another menu. I'll add that making a menu is very different from actually making the food on the menu. I looked at last week's menu and found three or four meals that I still need to make with the groceries I bought last week. If I didn't make them last week, what makes me think I'll want to make them this week? I expect you all have these weeks where you'd rather make something else, or eat out because its just easier, but you probably shouldn't.
This is where we both need a pep talk. So here we go. I call this my offense and defense speech.
I like a good football game. I love the crispy fall air, the crowd, the excitement, the marching band. Its fun to cheer for your team. I have noticed however, that the quarterback, running back and wide receiver get the majority of the attention. Great throws, and runs from the offense can make an exciting high scoring game to watch. Having a great income is like a great offense. It feels really good because that's the side that gets cheered the loudest! Yay! a paycheck! Yay! a bonus! Yay! a raise! Touchdown!
Defense is critical!
But there are other really good teams trying to win the financial game as well so we we need a great financial defense! Just like you can lose a high scoring game, you can be broke at any standard of living. If you spend more than you make you'll lose the game every time. It might take until overtime, but you can't win if you spend more than you earn.
Although they don't receive as much acclaim, a great defense is required to win the game. If you are going to play like a team, everyone needs to know the playbook. A written budget is a major part of our defensive playbook. A couple months ago Steven and I took a hard look at the family finances. We were playing okay offensively, but we felt like we really weren't getting anywhere because our defense kept letting the opposing team score big points. A few months ago, we decided to get really intentional about our budget and added some new defensive plays.
Steven went through the last 16 months of expenses and made a spreadsheet so we could see the historical spending in each category and identify the weaknesses in our defense. Then we divided the budget up so that we each took ownership and accountability of half of the discretionary spending. We even opened dedicated checking accounts for those categories to make it easier to focus our efforts and track our results. I became the vice-president of groceries and other consumables and Steven became the vice-president of non-consumable and dates. Yes, we are still on the same team, but we are much more accountable since we each literally have a bank account for our budget categories and we literally report every two weeks to our board of directors (each other). We can no longer get away with a the budget will cover it somehow mentality. Just like playing in a big game, we each own the process and accept the blame or praise that go with our performance. Like the menu, a budget is easy to make and hard to stick to, but we can do it! Go team!
Postscript: These are all the groceries I bought this week not counting the pizza. I took two trips to Sam's Club and one to Fareway. Including the pizza, I spent just under my $56 dollar budget for this week.