This month I learned something that just might be a game changer for realizing our financial goals. We need to treat them like one big game. That helps to bring out our competitive side.
If it’s a game, we will find every which way, without cheating, to win.
We Gerkens, don’t like to lose!
Remember we’re a gamer family, so friendly competition is our thing.
Mid-January I entered receipts from our Sunday basket and was surprised to see the amount of money we had left in our food category (eating out and groceries). It’s no secret that I have a serious love/hate relationship with menu planning. I hate to do it, but I love how much money, time, and headache it saves us at dinner time.
I knew we could come in under or at budget for the food category if we seriously buckled down.
This meant sitting down to figure out what we were going to eat for dinner for the remaining 12 days in January. After deciding on a menu plan, I made my grocery list and figured out what stores would have the best prices.
Then, we had a minor hiccup when Brian stocked up on the soda he drinks because it was at the “buy” price – the optimal price we want to pay for something. We could have allocated that purchase to next month’s budget since he was stocking up on something. However, that would just push our problem forward. I was bound and determined to win this game for the month without cheating.
Ok, so the game got a little bit tougher, sort of like getting sent down the slide in Chutes and Ladders. A bit more challenging, but not out of the game yet.
We would have to be more creative to make it through the month with our initial budget allocations. I was bound and determined not to go over budget on food, because that would mean less extra money towards our debt snowball.
I looked over our grocery list and how much everything would cost and I had an idea. First of all, I had two electric toothbrushes from Wal-Mart that I needed to return. Apparently, my children don’t like those kind and I had stocked up before finding this out. I also had some money sitting in our Wal-Mart savings catcher that hadn’t been used yet. Plus we had a $10 rebate check. Those three things amounted to $27 extra that I could use for groceries.
While I would usually hit up Aldi first, I figured this “found” money at Wal-Mart meant I needed to go there first.
I was able to get all of the groceries we needed and stayed within budget.
The next step was to avoid any bonus trips to the store before the end of the month.
With the outcome of the game at stake, we thought long and hard before we made a trip to the store. The fact is the more trips to the store the more you spend. Inevitably, you come across something that is on sale or sounds tasty and you pick it up.
We did need to buy a few other things throughout the end of the month, but we did so within budget. We even ate out once in those 12 days – a planned outing for my father-in-laws birthday.
Having a budget doesn’t mean NOT doing fun things.
It just means you need to allocate the money for fun after you’ve made sure you have enough for bills and essentials. This month we budgeted for and had a very nice family day. The day included eating lunch out at Portillos followed by an afternoon at an indoor playground and bounce house. We also made a quick trip to Goodwill that resulted in two new stuffed toys in our home (they may have even been the highlight of the day at $5 total). The night ended with ice cream at home after a homecooked meal. The girls thought the day was magical, as did the parents, and it only cost us $57.
All this work paid off because we put extra money toward our debt snowball.
Income report from January
Money from Varage Sale $ 8
Total extra income $ 8
Amount extra put towards student loan $462
Current outstanding student loan debt $28,560
Check out past debt snowball monthly updates