DH and I are going to have to get on a serious budget! I have gone down to part time and we've been spending like I'm still at full time. Thankfully we had a little nest egg that we saved up but we're going through it like wild fire. NOT GOOD! I need to come up with a managable way to track expenses and get on a budget so we're not depleting our little savings.
I am sure other mamas have faced this and I thought rather than reinvent the wheel I'd ask how you did it. It has to be something that can be managed in relatively little time since I'm already drowning in mama duties, housework, regular work, and life and I can't add anything too cumbersome to my existence.
Any advice or pointers on how you track it all would be super.
First and foremost, Mama to Owen (7/21/04), Annaliese (7/29/09), and somebody new (due Feb 2012), and wife to Andrew (9/12/98). Also passionate about and loving the work I do in Organizational Development.
Midwifery student , Mama to my 4 amazing kids.
I checked out a ton of budgeting/money-saving books from the library, and started implementing what would work for us.
To have your ingoing/outgoing money on paper (or onscreen) in front of you, Quicken is a decent program. Most credit card companies have an option where you can just download your statement into Quicken (as well as some banks, etc). We use our credit card for most of our purchases (we pay it off every month and get points to boot) and dh has a grand time downloading it all into a spreadsheet with everything else.
I just posted on another thread some of our own money-saving tips... let me go dig it up.
eta: Quicken also has a great home inventory module - great way to keep track of everything you've got, and your insurance agent will adore you if something happens.
(If you're curious, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, and yes, it's a busy house)
Start watching your local sale flyers for groceries. If you eat meat, stock up on meats when they're $.18-$.98/pound depending on the meat. I've gotten fryer chickens for $.19/lb and a few turkeys for $.18/lb. Cut off the fat if you want (I hate getting a mouthful of fat), and cut up some for specific recipes (chicken strips, stir-fry, salmon fillets, etc.). Takes a little extra up front time, but then you can just thaw the meat overnight and dump into whatever you're cooking. I also stock up on cheese when it's on sale - we prefer the Tillamook brand - and freeze it.
Don't eat out. Make as much food at home as you can. Our monthly 'eating out' consists of stopping at the Costco food stand for hot dogs or pizza after shopping (usually just for milk, a random canned good, or inexpensive clothes - I found fleecy Carter's zipper sleepers for $6.99 a while ago, and recently a wooden activity cart for $20). Total cost: $4.13. If you must eat out, find a coupon for the place you're going to. Sign up for a free something for your birthdays, anniversaries, whatever. We get a free Brownie Skillet Sundae at Tony Roma's with our little certificate or a free entree at Marie Callendar's.
Build up a stash of meals in your freezer. Like soups, chili, lasagna, meatloaf, stews, whatever. That helps ward off quick trips to the drive-through when you just have to throw something in the oven or pot. Make your own pizza as well. Make the dough, shape, freeze. You can put as many or as little toppings as you want on it and not be charged a ton extra. I also shred a ton of cheese at once and freeze some.
Plan your meals a week or two or four at a time, go shopping accordingly. Take your list, only buy what's on it. If this isn't your strong suit, check out the book "Saving Dinner" by Leanne Ely. It has weekly meals, recipes and grocery lists for 8 weeks for each season. I plan meals for 3+ weeks in advance, write it on our calendar, and have everything ready to go for at least a week or two (even if I switch around the meals). I go shopping on Wednesday or Thursday - we get our local sale flyers on Wednesday and the stores sometimes have "Thursday specials."
In the same train of thought, keep a perpetual list somewhere. We use a dry-erase board in the kitchen/dining room. When you see a great price for something on it or absolutely need it, add it to the weekly/semi-weekly list.
Keep your pantry (and possibly freezer) stocked. I can link a photo later if you'd like to see my insaneness.
If you eat meat, institute soup and bread nights or vegetarian days. Meat's expensive, and not eating meat one day won't hurt you.
Don't buy boxed cereal. Making pancakes/waffles/muffins from scratch is typically cheaper and healthier. I've been known to make extras and freeze them. Pop a few muffins or pancakes in the microwave to defrost, then toss in toaster to warm/brown them. But sometimes I just have to have my cereal, so I buy it when it goes on sale every few months.
Buy clothes at a consignment store. Sell back clothes your child(ren) have outgrown to get more store credit.
Before buying brand new toys for your child, check with your local consignment shops or relatives. We got a huge set of duplo blocks for $6, lincoln logs and legos from MIL, misc. stuff from a cousin, old toys of mine from my mom, and lots of other stuff from random places. When your child's done with the toy, sell it.
Join www.freecycle.org. That site should point you to different yahoo groups for whatever area you sign up for. I've gotten baby clothes, toys, canning jars and shoes for dh. In my area we've had offers for cars, boats, grills, washers, dryers, freezers, all sorts of random things.
Take your garbage to the dump if that's a possibility. Luckily we aren't mandated to have garbage service. We take our garbage to the dump at will and for free every few weeks. If that's an option for you, go for it. Garbage service alone here is $33/month that we'd rather use for something else.
Don't buy books unless you have to have them. Go to your library. Usually you can request they buy a book you'd really like to get.
Line dry your laundry if you can. Saves energy (our energy bill went down $10 in July from line drying) and there's no need for fabric softener to combat static. Wash laundry on hot or warm only if you really need it. Everything in our house is washed on cold except for diapers and sometimes dish towels.
Combine all your errands into one or two days. Plan your route so you use the least gas or can take the bus.
Cook/bake/run the dishwasher in the early morning/late at night during the summer to avoid heating the house up faster. Do all that during the day in the winter to help heat up the house.
If your house/apartment loses a ton of heat during the winter, put on storm windows. If that's not an option, get 8mil plastic and put it on the outside of your windows. Last year dh put it on with duct tape, and it worked okay. Next year he's getting frames to put the plastic or glass on I think.
Check the insulation in your attic/roof. If you need more, check with your local utility company, they may reimburse part of your cost or they may even pay for it.
Your outlets let more air in than you think. Get those little foam insulating pads that reduce the draft into your house through the outlet covers.
Change all bulbs to florescent - Costco or Ikea are a good place to get them cheaply.
We use wood heat. Costs us about $20/month in the winter to heat, versus $90/month ($60 natural gas and $30 electric) on top of our regular household power needs. We live in Idaho, and are also able to use the entire cost of our new wood stove as a tax credit (or deduction? I forget). So in a roundabout way it's free.
Also, it takes a few months (like 6?) to adjust to a budget. You may end up spending more in some areas and less in others. Adjust as you go and don't give up. It's always a work in progress.
(If you're curious, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, and yes, it's a busy house)