Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Accounting for Taste

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I've been working on our budget on and off for the last year.  It was in my New Years resolution post, then I talked about it again as I continued to work on it.  And, let me tell you, it's still a work in progress.

I used this estimator for our budget from Dave Ramsey.  He creates categories and tells what percentage of your income should go to each category.  We already had a basic idea of what we spend each month on certain things.  So we adjusted it to fit us.  Our sample budget is here.  It's really simple.  We just have our set category amounts, then we write in every transaction.  Then we have a really really simple thing that subtracts what you spend out of what you start with.  The hard part is remembering to fill it out.  The good thing is that you want to make fewer transactions so you can fill it out less :)

I think I finally have all of our categories worked out.  We were really struggling sometimes at being able to stick to certain categories in our budget.  Our biggest problem, the grocery category and the personal category.  We were always in a conundrum, how could we eat how we want and still be able to do fun things?

What we do

raw milk
We wanted to have good quality foods at home which equals a higher grocery budget.  I want my kids to know where food comes from and we eat paleo.  We started a CSA fruit and veggie share, and got meat, raw milk and eggs from a local farm.  But have you ever bought grassfed beef?  Or pastured eggs?  They are more expensive than your typical grocery store meat and eggs.  Then raw milk... wow, it's a lot.  But I really want our family to know what real food tastes like.   And I feel happy that our kids don't eat junk that could cause them other health problems.  I know that eating no grains and sugar have limited mood swings and tantrums from my two year old. We think that even if we don't have money for other things the best gift we can give our kids is a lifetime of health.  How could we do this without going broke?  What does it mean for the other parts of our budget?

It means not going out to eat.  It means having to plan fun stuff and consulting the budget instead of doing things spur of the moment.  It means not having cable tv for football season (to watch those OSU Beavers!!).  There are lots of things we want, but we decided we need to be healthy first. 

mmm ribeyes from the farm
When we budget we always ask ourselves, is this something we could or want to live without?  Does it mean we would rather skip our nice farm meat for other meat just to get cable tv?  Well, the answer is no.  Asking those questions makes it clear what your goals are... especially what's best for your kids.

Luke checking out our csa veggies
Asking ourselves what we wanted to spend our money on made all of our other budgeting easier.  We understood what we wanted to buy and it made it easy to hold off on non-essentials.  There's a lot that we are sad we can't do now but compared to good food we know it's just not as valuable.  I really recommend deciding on what is important to you as you go about making or tweaking a budget, it helps prioritize.

Here are some other tips for sticking with a budget that have really helped me.

- Don't spend money until you know how much is available in your spending category. example- don't buy a pair of 30 dollar shoes and come home to find out you only had 20 dollars left in your clothing budget.

- Ask yourself what you can live without.  example- we don't have cable because we'd rather use the extra amount on food.

-Save for what you really want. This seems obvious, but how often do you impulse buy and then you realize later you'd rather have saved up for something else?  example- we really want a couch in our play room, but we'd rather try to save for a trip to Hawaii. 

- Plan ahead.  At the beginning of the month we look ahead to see what we will need to have money for.  Birthday presents, trips, extra food for guests at our house.  We noticed we still have money for fun kid stuff and toys when we planned ahead and skipped spending money on things that were on our 'want to buy list'.

- Little things add up.  Sure it only costs 5 dollars to go to coffee.  But then there's the lunch out for another 10 dollars.  Then there were those couple random trips to the grocery store.  Those add up!

- Go easy on yourself.  We are fortunate to have saved up money, so if we go over a little on a category some months while we're getting the hang of things it's ok.  We aren't punishing ourselves but just remembering what we could do next month to avoid it.

The biggest thing is asking yourself, what is most important for my family?  It may not be food, it may be that you want to have the option of going out to eat more often.  It may be that you want to have a small house because you'd rather spend your money on something else.  You can't have it all, so what's important to you?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)
  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life... — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth - Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family's realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the "real cost" of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here's why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she's made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget - and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma's Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen's monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she's lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children's financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family's lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she's willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me ... a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old's learned from having an allowance.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It's Not a Baby Crisis. It's Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • "Making" Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters... But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive...Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living - and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo' Money, Mo' Problems — Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family's finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn't always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family's approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.


Luschka said...

There are just so many ways I agree with this post. It's all about what's important to you - and finding that balance adds so much to your base happiness, which means you're not spending money on trying to 'buy' temporary happiness or contentment either. Wonderful. Our problem always seems to be unexpected expenses - last week we pad off one debt, and this week we've both had to get new laptops!! My husband was desperately due one and mine just refused to switch on, and since we both make our livings online they're essentials for us. And there's that debt again. Arrgh! Your post is inspirational though - I guess if we keep it up, at some point we'll have savings too, so the unexpected things won't be as crippling. I love the idea of categories. That's great. Thank you!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

I love your point about wanting to make it fewer transactions so you can fill it out less. :) The pain of filling it out keeps thwarting my budgeting ambitions.

That picture of your csa veggies is way impressive, by the way!

These are great ideas. I especially appreciated your point about checking in with yourself about what your long-term priorities are. It makes it easier to say no to something now if we want something else that's more important later. (Can I come with you to Hawaii?)

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Kieran and I were just talking about saving vs. spending - he was struggling with the concept of keeping money back for something nicer. Somehow I'll have to figure out how to make that concept concrete for him!

melissa said...

Your CSA veggies are drool-worthy! Outside of obvious, big things like rent, food is definitely where we spend the most money, so I can really relate to your prioritizing.

I really appreciate the budgeting tips, though, because I'm not so great about following ours to a T. I could probably save a lot of money by taking your advice, and I hope I can put some of it into practice right away!

Cassie said...

The csa only looks so great because we have two shares. We found a deal on groupon :)

Luschka- I hate the unexpected too. It's hard to know what is coming. We're working on that too.

Lauren- yes please do come with us to Hawaii. Lol. It's a fantasy. We really want to go, whether we'll be able to save for it is a whole different story :)

Dionna- I keep thinking about telling my son about saving but he thinks more like 'buy trains'

Melissa- after readin your post your and my budgeting are pretty similar!

Lisa C said...

I love how your pile of veggies is bigger than Luke! lol

For us, good food and health care are at the top of the list (too bad I hadn't been eating so good all my life, maybe we wouldn't have all these healthcare expenses). It's so easy for people to put health at the bottom of the list. It's so easy to go cheap on food. These things should be a priority, although like you said, everyone has their own priorities. Love the title of your post, btw!

Saving is huge, and it should absolutely be part of a budget. Not just saving for something fun, but also having a nice fat safety-net in case someone looses a job, or to cover something like Luschka mentioned, or like for us this year, it was an unexpected hospital bill. Then, of course, saving for important things like home repairs/improvements and education.

Btw, we have the Dave Ramsey book. It was a wedding gift. I really want to write out a budget now. I think it would ease the stress of "is there enough money for this?"

Cassie said...

Lisa- thanks for the compliment on the title, Ben thought of it and he was excited someone mentioned it :)
The medical bills suck. I hate when that happens. I wish I would have known about all the traditional cooking before! And also, I wish insurance covered home births, that was our big medical expense.

Kelly said...

Have to say first - I LOVE those pictures! They are an inspiration for good budgeting in themselves!!

Honestly though...I think I'm going to have to print this post and stick it on my fridge. These are ideas/principles I want to stick to so badly, then find myself breaking the moment I see something I want in the store or feel too tired too cook good food.

I really appreciate your values and reasons for making the choices you do...I hope we'll be able to follow in your footsteps!

Cassie said...

Thanks for such a nice comment. But I just want you to know we are just a work in progress. We aren't perfect all the time. We almost always go over one category or another. We just hope that we don't go over all of them. :)
About going out to eat- my husband and did a 30 day paleo challenge where we jet ate paleo for one month. And it basically meant we couldn't find food for us anywhere unless we were picky about it. So we tried to not go out for a month either. It totally broke the habit of being too lazy to make something. Because let me tell you, I feel like that every night haha, but I just got in the habit of always having to make something so it isn't as big of deal now. Don't be too hard on yourself :)

Amy @ Anktangle said...

These are some really great tips! I know we spend more money on food than I'd like, and I'm working on strategies to cut down on that part of our budget while not sacrificing quality of food.

We use (free) Mint.com for budgeting. You can put in your bank and credit card (and investment) information and it automatically categorizes your spending for you. Sometimes the software gets it wrong, but I think it's less work to correct a few categories than to fill in each transaction manually. Maybe you could check out that option!

Thanks again for writing this!

Cassie said...

Yeah I've used that Mint app on my iphone. I plan on using it again when we are better budgeters.
I do like entering them in by hand for now while we are trying to be consistent on our budget. I feel like it holds me more accountable.

Amanda said...

I love your CSA picture! Makes me really wish I had found a CSA to join this year...

I really love the idea of budgeting and have tried it in certain respects over and over, but having a husband who doesn't really stick to a budget makes things difficult :) It's great to see how well it is working for you and surely it's a big transition from anything you were doing before. Sounds to me like you're making it work really well!