Home > Budgeting > Reformed Spenders Adjust to Life on a Budget

Reformed Spenders Adjust to Life on a Budget

file0001216055275It has been about three months since Jake at I Heart Budgets shed blood, sweat, and tears to create a budget for my family. I’ve tried to make and follow a budget before, but always got sidetracked and gave up. We also spent money without much forethought, so budgeting doesn’t really work in that scenario. For almost two years, we were on a no spending moratorium to pay off our credit card debt, not really a budget, but it worked. Now that we don’t have the debt, we want to make sure our old spending habits don’t creep back into our lifestyle. While we aren’t perfect, we are much improved, and I’ll share some observations about our new life on a budget.

All Budgets Must Be Fluid

We’ve had to change a few things based on my work situation. We still plan to pay off student loans this year, but haven’t been able to do that yet, so we’ve added that payment.  Our daughter’s full day kindergarten was subsidized by a grant, so that frees up some money. Plus, there are some expenses we didn’t think of at first, like school supplies my husband has to buy for his classroom. Yes, it is sad that teachers have to buy supplies, but that’s for another post. In years past I’d see that we were over in a category and just give up and go shopping.

It’s really a strange observation that I am very strict in some budget categories and not in others. I refuse to go over on groceries, but I don’t mind if we dip into the miscellaneous fund to go bowling. I think if I was so rigid that it stressed me out to spend money on something that provided value and enjoyment, I could really hate budgeting. If we were barely getting by it might be different, but I think having a little wiggle room makes it easier. Now I know we can adjust, and having a miscellaneous category works great unless you use that as an excuse to overspend.

Personal Money is a Must

I love that my husband and I get an allowance. We can spend it on whatever we want. I don’t have to feel guilty if I want a fountain soda or buy ice cream for our daughter.  I take my allowance  in cash at the first of the month. For some reason, having cash in my wallet makes me less likely to spent it, and I have ended up with some money left at the end of the month every time so far. When I used only my debit card, I don’t think I paid as much attention.

Making Friends with Credit Cards

Now that we don’t carry any balances, we can start using credit cards to our advantage. All of our monhtly household bills, groceries, and gas go on a rewards credit card. They are paid off monthly. If we don’t have money to pay off the balance, it doesn’t go on the card.

I’m very excited because I just found out that my student loan lender will be offering credit card payment options within the next few months. If there is not a fee, you can bet I’ll pay those suckers off with the credit card when we’re ready. That’s a ton of points!. I’m hoping our vacation this year will be completely paid for with credit card rewards. When you don’t have debt, you get choices. Some can actually  put lots of money in your pocket or send you on a great trip.

Reformed Spendaholics

Having monhtly budget meetings has been a great experience. Before, my husband and I kind of kept things to ourselves. We knew we were in debt, but never talked about it. It was the two ton elephant in the room. Now we have plans and goals, and actually communicate about money. We prefer experiences to things, and don’t enjoy shopping like we once thought we did. We went to the mall right after Christmas and, aside from a few returns, we didn’t buy anything. We used to fill up the car every time we went. We weren’t depriving ourselves. We just didn’t want anything. Spending to us is like getting food poisoning from your favorite food. After you’ve been wrecked by illness, that particular food just doesn’t seem very appealing anymore. Could we fall back into old habits? Possibly, but I think we’ll keep each other on track, and I have all of you guys watching my back as well.

If you are in debt or spend too much, sit down and make a budget or ask someone to help you if you can’t. Having a plan and actually following it has been a very positive change in our lives. I hope you can learn something from the reformed spendaholics and get yourself on a budget. All the cool kids are doing it!

How has your life changed from budgeting? Would selling I Luv Budgets t-shirts be a good side hustle?

If you want a different topic, go read my guest post about Rez Dog Ralph at Life by Pets!


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

57 comments

  1. When my wife and I started our budget one of the best things to come out of it was the personal money aspect – we call it spending money.

    We even went so far as to incentivise it. If you increased your income then 10% of the increase would go into the spending money for the week. It was really interesting in the early days as we had very different spending habits.

    My wife spent all her spending money as soon as she received it, while after about a year and a half my spending money was at close to $1,000 as I naturally just don’t spend money. It seems I enjoy things in this world that are free :)

    I’m glad it is going well for you Kim :)
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..How Much Does it Cost to Have a Baby?My Profile

    • I find I don’t want to spend my money and have to tell myself it’s OK. That is so different from how I used to be, or maybe I was always this way but got off track.

  2. It looks like having a budget has really benefited your family. I guess we don’t “technically” have a budget, but we have been tracking our expenses and adjusting our behavior accordingly.

    I wish my student loan lender allowed credit card payments! Seriously would get so many rewards…I wish my mortgage allowed it as well!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..7 Perks of Being a Full-Time Employee with BenefitsMy Profile

    • I’m not sure what the catch is yet. I’m sure they will have some sort of fee, but if the points are more than the fee, I’l probably still do it.

  3. That is AWESOME your student loan company will start accepting CC payments. That would be sawweeeet. Free money here I come!

    I’m totally with you on the individual blow/fun/spending money as well. It really helps being on a budget with a spouse and I’m not sure ours would work if we didn’t have money allocated for each of us.

    I like the idea of the side hustle too…although I’d be surprised if there wasn’t already something like that.
    Jason @ WSL recently posted..Easy Spinach Tortellini Soup RecipeMy Profile

  4. I am with Jason, that is freaking AWESOME your student loans will start accepting credit cards! Even better you get to rack up all those points. Now, if I could only get Wells Fargo to do the same with our mortgage payment. ;)

    The fun money is a must. I remember when I started budgeting and the person told me to include it I thought they were nuts. But, life & budgeting gets awfully boring and dull without it.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..5 Easy Ways to Save Money Lost Due to the Payroll Tax IncreaseMy Profile

    • I am excited to see how the credit card program works. I hope people don’t get in trouble with that option. I just want the points.

  5. Kim, that’s great that you’re doing so well! We started our budgeting Jan 1st and the first month has been great for us on so many levels. We have a new sense of peace now over having control and transparency in our finances. Funny though, I am more flexible on groceries, and not so much in other areas. The great thing about budgets is that they’re customizable! :-).
    Laurie @ The Frugal Farmer recently posted..Fire!My Profile

  6. Budgeting has really helped us with our finances as well! BTW, a cash allowance sounds like a great idea. I never thought of that. I think that would be easier than tracking it with a debit card.
    Mackenzie recently posted..Healthy Stuff…My Profile

    • I really don’t spend as much with the cash as I did with the debit. I don’t really like to carry cash and am not a cash envelope person, but for personal money, it works great.

  7. That is really cool about the student loans! does it differ your payment by a month as well? It sounds like a terribly dangerous idea though, if you charge your card and can’t pay you end up paying 20% on a 4% student loan.
    Pauline recently posted..A Beginner’s Guide to a Minimalist HomeMy Profile

    • They haven’t set it up yet, so I’m not sure if there is a fee for this service. Their website says the credit card option will be available this quarter. It is very dangerous if you aren’t responsible with credit cards. I would probably wait until I’m ready for the final pay off and do it all with one big lump sum on the card and then pay it off right away.

  8. It’s funny because the grocery budget is the one area I would dip into other accounts. But that’s a blog I plan on writing today. lol! I could not live without a budget, and like you, I had started and stopped so many times in my life. What make this time stick? Well I think because I was so dangerously low on my emergency savings because I had dipped into it so many times because I didn’t have a budget. Even if I go over sometimes, it’s a reminder to be conscious of my spending all the time. And as a freelancer with variable income, this becomes priceless!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Financial Pros and Cons of Getting OlderMy Profile

    • I will be watching very closely as my work situation has changed. I certainly don’t want to be relying on savings to make up the difference every month.

  9. I think easing into a budget is key to success. First, don’t even change any habits, just start tracking. Once you get some time under your belt you can then identify where you’re spending money which can then lead to some eye opening moments. Then, make changes. I think many people try to rush in and make a bunch of changes before they even really understand where their money is going, and that tends to lead to backsliding.
    Money Beagle recently posted..10 Small Things To Do Around Your House TodayMy Profile

    • I think maybe it worked this time because we had changed before we really started to implement the budget. It does no good if you still are in spending mode.

  10. Yay I’m glad Jake was able to help you! It’s amazing how great this community is — isn’t it?
    Kathleen, Frugal Portland recently posted..If not online dating, then where do you meet people?My Profile

  11. That is great that it works for you! I would disagree that it should be fluid though. Maybe you should build in some fun money. The purpose of a budget is to help you reach your financial goals. If your budget is fluid, your goals may become fluid too.
    krantcents recently posted..Budgets and Diets Are a Waste of Time!My Profile

    • I think I probably did not do a good job of expressing what I meant. I think you need to have a very strict amount for certain things, but always keep the option for adjustment open. Not that you can spend whatever you want and then just change the budget to match.

  12. Great post. I think it is awesome that you keep each other in check. Without that, it is very hard to quell spending and stick to a budget.
    Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted..Got Kids? You Can Still Enjoy Super Bowl XLVIIMy Profile

  13. “You don’t have to feel guilty” That is exactly how we felt and continue to feel especially with the allowance I get. When we shop for new items for the home we don’t feel guilty, when I buy a coffee or case of beer I don’t feel guilty… why?, the money is there, it’s budgeted and it feels good! Glad you are doing well mate. Keep up the great work especially with that grocery budget!! Mr.CBB
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..CHECK OUT CHECKOUT51: Technology and Coupons in Check!My Profile

    • I’m turning into the grocery guru. I tell everyone about what’s on sale and when to buy a certain thing. Not sure if that is good or annoying!

  14. The most important thing to remember about anything involving money is that adaptability is the key to success. Being able to shift funds and re-prioritize are essential. The personal money portion of the show is truly important, and knowing how and when to take a step back will definitely make things easier (kind of like vacations from work)
    Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity recently posted..Credit Card Surcharges Likely Won’t Affect YouMy Profile

  15. I don’t know about selling the T-Shirts but I defiantly agree on the idea os defining what you spend especially when it comes to personal money. My wife and I have a set amount of money we pull out each week to use for personal spending and if we run out that’s it.
    Chris @ Stumble Forward recently posted..What Should I Do With My Tax Refund Money – 4 Real Options You HaveMy Profile

  16. Budgeting is a process. My first budgets were terrible and it took me several iterations to make them better. The fluidity part is also true. Whenever I moved, the budget basically got thrown out the window because of all the associated moving costs, and I had to start over again. And sometimes things come up that you can’t help and exceed your expectations, like car repairs.
    My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..8 Things To Do Before You Start Investing (or most of personal finance summed up in one post)My Profile

  17. Great job on the credit card churning! Ohhh…..I hope you can put your student loan payments on them. That would be awesome. I recently learned I could pay my car insurance on mine =)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..My Dog Pablo: The Freeloading GeniusMy Profile

  18. Great piece. Budgets are so personal and knowing yourself is clearly the first step. I’ve been on a budget for so long, I don’t remember how my life was before it!
    AverageJoe recently posted..How to Cut Your 2012 Tax Bill TodayMy Profile

  19. Isn’t it interesting how we care so much about being strict in one area but not in another? The thing I find interesting is how different those things are between my spouse and me. For example, we are both pretty loose with the purse strings on groceries, but for me there’s gifts (duh!) and travel, while for my spouse there’s gifts (but only for me) and alcohol. (Ahem, not that I don’t mind the alcohol, we just tend to spend it on different things/in different amounts.)
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Cheque Mate! Wedding Check Writing TipsMy Profile

  20. I’m so glad you guys give yourself some wiggle room in your budget. I agree when budgets are too rigid – that’s when people quit. I don’t know it’s human nature to rebel or that’s when we start to feel deprived. And it is so true and interesting that things you used to love (shopping) don’t excite you the same way. I love that you each get a personal allowance. :D
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..The Myth of NoMy Profile

  21. Great job on working on your budget! I created our first one a year ago and it has helped us quite a bit. It is good to be in control instead of just spending and spending.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..It’s Raining Money $1,000 Cash Giveaway Event!My Profile

  22. I’m glad that you manage to live-on with that loan, i’m sure you finish it in no time! :)
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