But this year we hit a triple-whammy budget-wise: I left my job in anticipation of a relocation for Terry's job, which never happened; we got pregnant; and, because of said pregnancy, we are now moving to a slightly more expensive apartment. While these changes were all--thankfully--made by choice, we still feel the need to create a more mindful budget so that we can continue to live comfortably and so that we can provide a financially stable future for our little one.
The thing is, though, once we started looking for ways to cut back on our expenses, we realized we don't have as many easy cutbacks as we thought. The good news: We're already doing a lot to save and spend in a responsible way! The not-so-great news: Nothing we do will make drastic changes to our budget. So we looked at several articles for budgeting suggestions and found that we already follow a lot of the ideas. For example:
- We already don't belong to a gym and spend virtually nothing on fitness.
- We rarely eat out and cook almost everything from scratch.
- While we do own two cars (and therefore pay insurance, registration, etc. for two cars), we carpool to work almost every day we can.
- We don't drink coffee and almost never go to coffee shops like Starbucks (it's funny how often this one is suggested as "an easy way to save $4 a day!").
Recent changes we've made to avoid needless spending (we had to be creative! A lot of these suggestions weren't on any of the lists we read, but we have found them to make a slight difference):
- Alcohol. Terry loves craft beers, so this one is a major sacrifice for him, but he is such a champ that he doesn't seem to care much at all. We have a nice stock of liquor in the cabinet, and he'll fix himself a drink maybe once a week. We also canceled our wine club shipments, since Terry wouldn't open a bottle of wine just for himself while I'm pregnant. And of course, I don't drink at all right now so that saves some money too!
- Beauty. I got a manicure and pedicure in Vegas with my friend Amanda (actually very reasonably priced!), but otherwise I've skipped nail care, waxing, and hair coloring. Hair coloring isn't super safe during pregnancy anyway, and I've heard that breathing in the fumes at a nail salon isn't awesome, either, so I guess it's all for the best. This one isn't too much of a sacrifice for me, because I really don't look forward to these types of appointments (unless my sister-in-law Ashley is cutting my hair, which is just the greatest experience and you should all be jealous).
- Clothes shopping. For a few months, I was on a shopping spree! Once my belly started to show, I had a blast buying new clothes. I think it was the most interested I've ever been in fashion. But since then, I've cut myself off and will make do with my awesome new wardrobe for the rest of the pregnancy. Luckily, a lot of those clothes also came from shopping with my mom (thanks, Mom!) and gift cards.
- Diving. Terry loves diving, but it's a very expensive hobby. I'm hoping he'll be able to go at least one more time before the baby comes, but it does add up quickly: taking the ferry to Catalina, renting a tank, paying for a hotel room, and buying or maintaining equipment. Terry has again been more than willing to sacrifice, even though I hope he can find some opportunities to dive again soon.
- Eating out. We really didn't eat out that much before, but now we're even more motivated to plan ahead, grocery shop, and make food at home. On the occasions we do eat out, we choose sensible restaurants that don't break the bank so we can enjoy instead of pinching pennies.
- Eating in. Even eating in can get expensive, but there are ways to eat healthy and on a budget. I spent some time looking through Lisa's posts about 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget, where she fed her family of four on a tight budget for 100 days. She has some helpful ideas, like skipping meat (use cheaper sources of healthy proteins) and dessert (ha!).
- Entertainment. I mentioned this one, but we recently cut our cable. We just weren't using it, and it felt like a huge waste of money. Several people I know (or "know" in the case of fellow bloggers) said they've cut cable and experienced virtually no withdrawals, and I'd have to say the same! We did, however, subscribe to Hulu, and I've been watching some of my favorite shows there. We also have (for several years) only gone to movies using our free passes, which we earn from donating blood to our local blood bank.
What we refuse to sacrifice (and are willing to work hard to keep in our budget):
- A safe, comfortable home for ourselves and our baby. We must have looked at 25 apartments over the course of a month to find our new place, but it was worth the effort. We will have space to spread out, a safe location, and even a fireplace and mantle for our baby's first Christmas!
- Gifts and celebrations for our friends and family. We have lots of exciting events for our friends and family this year--weddings, baby showers, birthdays--and we want to make sure we are able to participate and give as generously as possible. These special trips and gifts don't factor into our budgeting. And while it's certainly not necessary or expected that we spend a certain amount on our loved ones, I like to try to find the perfect gift without the self-inflicted pressure of spending a certain amount.
- Our health--specifically our food quality. It took us several years to get where we are now in terms of healthy living, and I'm adamant that I don't want to take any steps backward to save a few bucks. We will continue to buy organic as much as possible and purchase brands that make good choices (non-GMO, for example).
- Similarly, supporting brands we trust and respect, like The Honest Company, for all other needs.
So today I went grocery shopping, and I experimented a little with budgeting. I think I normally do a decent job of keeping our purchases reasonable (buying only what we will use, avoiding impulse buys, etc.), but there's always room for improvement. For example, instead of only stopping at Trader Joe's, I also needed to go to Costco for some paper products, so I started there to see what I could cross off my list for food, too. I was able to buy a lot of produce and meat there instead of buying them for a higher price at Trader Joe's, and a lot of it will likely last us into next week.
Anyway, we're interested to see what these (admittedly minor) adjustments make in our budget, especially while I'm still in limbo between jobs. But even when I am working again, these habits will be great for saving, so it's good to get started now!
Any tips I'm missing? How do you establish and maintain your household budget? Any tips on the best ways to save on baby-related budget items?