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Ashley’s April Budget

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It’s my first time in a long time to try to put together a budget for the blog. As I’ve mentioned, we’re still struggling in the budget department. And it’s still not at a place where I’d like it to be. But you’ve got to start somewhere, so I’m putting it all out there today.

Here’s how I’ve planned April’s budget:

PlaceAmount
Mortgage950
Electricity160
Water65
Cell Phones (2 lines)105
Cable/Internet137
Childcare600
Restaurants300
Dream Dinners250
Groceries450
Gasoline175
Student Loans550
CC Payments2000
IRS285
Total$6027

Categories of spending:

Fixed Expenses

Our “fixed” expenses (mortgage, electricity, water, phone, cable/internet, childcare, gasoline) will be tough to lower any significant amount. We can try to conserve here and there, but those are pretty good estimates of what we’ll be paying.

Food

Food has been a huge struggle for us ever since I went back to working full-time. We don’t eat a lot of meals out as a family, but I might pick up some takeout once a week, and I’m likely to grab lunch out at least once a week. I know this is something I can improve on, but $300 is a very realistic (actually on the low-end) estimate for our family. Has anyone heard of Dream Dinners? I first looked into it as a way to try to reduce our eating out/restaurant expenses, and I’ve had good success with it. It costs more than if I were to put together all the meals myself homemade. But often times I’ve fallen into the trap of “I don’t know what to eat” and/or I don’t have time to plan out meals, get to the store to buy the right ingredients, etc. Basically, you go to the store and prep a ton of meals (about 40-servings) and take everything home all ready-to-go, complete with recipe cards and cooking instructions, etc. The cost depends on the food you’ve selected, but my cost is typically between $220-$250ish/month. I could get rid of this in the future to try to save money, but I’ve already pre-scheduled and paid for my April session. And, finally, groceries rounds out the last of our food expenses. Combined, we’re budgeting to pay $1,000 on food in the month of April. I know that for many that sounds like a disgusting/insane amount of money. But for our family, it’s become quite the norm to spend in excess of $1,000/month on food. I know this is the #1 area where we need to cut back. HELP! Comment with your tips, tricks, or any resources you have to offer! We are struggling so hard with food!!!

Debts

And finally…..our debts. We are in a payment plan agreement with the IRS to pay $285/month. And we’re in Income-Based-Repayment with Navient, paying $550/month currently (though it’s re-reviewed in August, so that amount may change). Both of the amounts listed for IRS and Navient are minimums. The credit card payments include payments for all of our credit cards (including one that was actually a balance-transfer from a student loan). The credit card payment is what I’d LIKE to pay (not the minimum). The minimum payments would actually be about $1285. But we’ve got so much credit card debt, we’re not even going to be moving the needle unless we’re paying at least $2,000/month. I’d prefer to pay more!!!

Total Budgeted: $6027

Here’s the problem. On typical months, I only get 2 paychecks for $2550/each. That’s $5100 in the month timeframe. But our totally bare bones budget (not including a single penny for clothing, kids’ activities, family fun, etc.) exceeds our monthly income by $927. That’s a problem, folks.

We do have a little bit of a buffer for the month of April thanks to the extra paycheck I received in March. I’m also going to be receiving some extra money in my April paychecks for childcare (one of the benefits at my job is that I can submit my receipts for childcare quarterly and receive reimbursement of 50% of the care, up to $2,000/year maximum). So I’ll still earn enough money in April to cover this anticipated budget. But this is not an ideal situation and it’s really not where I want to be – shuffling funds around, relying on the random “extra” pay from my benefits, etc. We’ve GOT to figure out a way to get our planned budget down below $5100/month. The only “easy” place to trim from is the food category (but like I said, easier said than done). And we have to be realistic that there WILL be extra expenses pop up – a gift for a kids’ birthday party or something fun we want to do that costs money. We could have a no spend month, but an effective budget long-term needs to have at least a little wiggle-room built into it and we currently have NONE.

What are your thoughts?

I’d like to cancel our cable, but we’re currently under contract (not sure exactly when it ends, but I think it’s in Fall time-frame). Childcare will reduce in August, but there’s still several months to go until then! Any tips for reducing our food budget??

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Starting The Month Off Right

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Talk about starting the month off right! March is a 3-paycheck month for me (anyone else?)

In the past, we’ve been able to put the entire extra paycheck toward debt. But right now we’re still in a situation where we’re totally out of money before the month is over, and scrambling to pay bills that are due at the beginning of the next month. We’re still working on budgeting, in general.

It’s very stressful and not very fun. So I decided that with my third paycheck, instead of making extra debt payments, I’d create a bit of a buffer in our budget by pre-paying some of our bills that are due in early April. It may not be the most fun way to spend extra money, but it makes me feel good to be starting off April on the right foot!

I logged into my bank account’s bill pay center and paid for our phone (due 4/1), Citibank credit card (due 4/4), Wells Fargo credit card (due 4/5), and childcare (due 4/10).  I’ve also set a chunk of money aside because I plan to mail a large check to pay the remaining balance of our 2017 property taxes (payment must be post-marked by 5/1, but I’m planning to make the payment on 4/13).

The third paycheck month is coming just at the right time to help create some breathing room in our budget, especially with our property tax payment coming due. Usually, I get a lot of satisfaction out of making those extra debt payments, but I think this time the money is well spent in creating a bit of a buffer for us. It reminds me of when we used YNAB to live on last month’s income. It took awhile to build up the extra, but it helped alleviate so much stress due to budget and/or income fluctuations. I think this will be a goal we’ll have. Trying to get back to living on last month’s income again.

Was March a 3-paycheck month for you? What do you typically do with your third paycheck on 3-paycheck months?

 


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