Stop the bleeding! This is a favorite expression of mine. In years past, when my boys were younger and wilder, I used it often. One kid in particular loved to bang himself up, enough so that our favorite immediate care knew us by name. Today though I’m using it in a different context. I’m using January to jumpstart my efforts to stop the bleeding in my budget.
I’m going to take a wild guess that I’m not the only one who tends to overspend, especially this time of year. Maybe some of you need to stop the bleeding as well with your finances. If this applies to you then read on! I’m going to detail a few steps I’m taking this month to get back on track with my finances.
I took a hard look at my budget and decided to start by reducing a couple of my variable expenses. This is one of the easiest categories for most people to reduce if they have to cut their budgets down a bit. This is usually things like entertainment, food/restaurants, and gas.
I decided to cut my entertainment expense category by 50%. This is my category that covers my weekend entertainment for the most part. Sometimes it’s a movie or an extra/more extravagant meal out or buying something that’s not an essential. I don’t budget a lot of money in this category anyway since money is tight, but I felt comfortable reducing it a bit further this month anyway since I know I’m going to be working extra hours this month, including weekends.
I also decided to cut our grocery budget by 25%. This is also a tight category normally but I think it can be done. Christmas gifts this year included a Keurig, an air fryer, and an Instipot. I’m going to check the library and Pinterest for some recipes for these new toys.
I cleaned and organized our pantry on New Year’s Eve so we can actually see what’s in there too. We have an unopened box of pancake mix and two dinners worth of eggs so breakfast for dinner will be on the menu. We’ll need to be diligent about meal planning around the sales ads for sure. Friends also sent leftovers home with us after the holidays so we’re definitely not going to starve.
No Spend Days
I’m also going to shoot for 8 No-spend days this month. What are No-spend days? Glad you asked, they are days you don’t spend any money. I know, I know, pretty obvious. It’s actually harder than you think to do this. No-spend days force you to be very intentional about your spending habits. I dare you to track your daily spending for a week and I bet the majority of you won’t have one day that you don’t spend some type of money.
Now, obviously I’m not telling you to skip paying your bills so you can say you had a bunch of no-spend days. I get paid every other week so I have my budget set up that way. I pay any bills that are due in that pay cycle as soon as my paycheck hits my bank account. This method ensures that your bills are paid and you learn to live on the remainder. I’m going to try to fill up my car and get the bulk of our groceries on one day as well.
Sounds easy right? Okay Holly, you paid your bills one day, grocery shopped and got gas another day, even throwing in another day to pick up some grocery replenishments, then you should easily have 4 days a week that you don’t have to spend. Guess what happens? You work late and don’t want to start fixing supper at 7pm. A friend calls and asks if you want to go see that movie you’ve been dying to see. Another friend calls and wants to go out to dinner. You’re at the bookstore browsing (yay! Free activity!) but dang if you aren’t craving a Chai Tea Latte from the café while you’re there. Be strong friends!!
This one is easy for me because I’m pretty simple. I don’t have to go out to the bars to have a good time or pay a bunch of money to go to a concert or sporting event. If that’s your thing then good for you though. There’s always ways to reduce costs to experience those things. Here are some things I am going to be doing this month:
Getting back into an exercise routine. So far this winter has been pretty mild so I want to take some walks around our park and neighborhood when I can. The hard part with this is that it gets dark before I leave work sometimes and I am NOT someone who is going to get up early to walk (or get up early to do anything honestly). I’m also going to hit the gym at least 3 times a week. My gym membership is $10 a month, so not free, but I consider it a sunk cost.
Library-We have a really nice library next to me. I love to read and I also love to take my laptop there and get some writing done as well. There are lots of comfortable chairs and tables with outlets to plug in your devices and charge your phones.
Bookstore-I am a huge nerd and go to the bookstore at least twice a week. I love it, it’s my Zen place. I look at the magazines, browse through the books, take my laptop and write for an hour or so, get a coffee (not this month! Unless I use a giftcard!).
Organize my house-I certainly get caught up with the New Year, clean and organize everything craze. The hard part here will be closing my eyes while I’m at Target and not buying all the cute furniture and organizing supplies and totes.
TV-some would argue this isn’t the best use of your time but a lot of the series on both network television and the streaming services like Netflix are releasing their new episodes this month. Not a bad way to chill out, especially if the weather gets bad.
How about you? What’s the first thing you cut when the budget gets tight?