Friday, 11 December 2015

That "B" Word

No, not a blog post about swearing - although, I confess to swearing far too much and quite often in front of the kids.
Anyways, I meant that other B-word.


We've been trying with massive successes in the failure department of trying to save money.
Something always comes up and in retrospect - not many of these things were urgent or necessary.

Not having anything in our savings account actually screwed us over while the Hubster was in the USA attending a conference and he wasn't able to cover his hotel room (which he thought was already paid by the university).  I even made a video about it.

So this was a real eye opener and a quick reminder that we really should start making the savings account grow instead of shrink.

Here's a break down of what we agreed to - of course the numbers are flexible for everyone based on your own income and I'm not going to give you our exact income amounts - it's rather personal and I don't even remember anyway.

We agreed to 150€ a week for groceries.
That means I withdraw 150€ at the beginning of the week and then I leave my bank card at home.

So this is almost the end of week 1 and how do I feel?
Surprisingly I'm not crying or freaking out because I've learned to use this amount for only groceries and so far it's been actually EASY!

So what's the difference between mentally shopping for 150€/ week (which we tried before) and physically shopping with 150€ a week?
  • I am shopping first thing in the morning after I drop A-Man off at day-care and as soon as the shop opens.
    • This means:
      • the shelves are typically well stocked
      • there's not many long lines
      • I am able to snatch up several good deals on meat that might be expiring in a day or two (typically in Finland it's -30%) and can meal plan in my head with it for that night or the next couple of days.  Or freeze it if I have space.
      • I'm kid-free 
  • Why does "kid-free" make a difference?  I am not tempted to spend more and no, I don't give in to my kids' demands every time.  There are times that my kids are generally really well behaved and deserve a little treat.
    • A-Man makes me hate grocery shopping with his whining, crying for toys and so on.
      • Occasionally we have an's usually under 2€ for the two of us but if I go kid-free - I save 2€.
    • V-Man is constantly hungry and he knows the direct route to Subway or Koti Pizza or whatever fast food joint is there.  That costs minimum 10€.
    • M-Girl is seriously the easy kid and doesn't demand anything but apples and maybe bananas - which are things we need weekly if not 2-3x a week anyway.
  • I meal plan in advance because I'm on this "real" budget.
    • Because the Hubster has Crohn's - and we have picky-ass children when it comes to eating - I gave my cookbooks to the Hubster and a pile of post-it sticky note strips and he went through it and left tabs where he found things that I could make that he would be willing to try to eat.
      • Actually that was part of my New Year's resolution - try a new recipe every week.  And yes, I've stuck to it in some shape or form! :)
      • But I found this an easy way to plan meals and if I am stuck - I have my ever-so-faithful Pinterest to refer to.
    • I actually love meal planning but because the V-Man has music therapy twice a week in the evenings - I resort to quick meals that even the Hubster can cook so in case I'm not able to do it - he can.  And seeing as he's not a fan of slow cooked EVERYTHING - having him make fried rice or pasta or Korean spiced beef is just easier.
  • I'm not impulsively buying crap.  
    • By "crap" I mean junk food, toys, extra baking stuff and the list goes on.
    • I'm mentally reminding myself this way that some things that should be treats ARE treats if I only buy them every now and again.
  • I'm saying "no" more.  
    • "No" to my kids for what they want.
    • "No" to outings with friends that may cost me a bit more than I really want to spend.
    • "No" to myself - ensuring I stick to our family's budget, get the most for my buck (euro) and that I really need it.
      • Don't be too hard on yourself but do try saying "no" every now and again!  Makes a difference! :)
I realize you've probably read several of these "OMG I got to be a stay-at-home mom by doing these things!" and while this is now the beginning of week 2 (I'm a slow blogger - sorry) - I have to say I'm doing well and pleased about it!  And it does work if you shop smart.

How can you shop smart?
  • Never go grocery shopping hungry - if you can help it.  I don't know about you - but I instantly become little miss impulsive shopper with a bottomless pit stomach.  Pregnant ladies - I feel your pain of constantly being starving (or on the verge of barfing) and trying to stick to your grocery list.
  • Price compare!  Does your grocery store have a coupon system or points system that make it worth your while to shop at their store versus competitors?
    • In Finland, there's mainly K or S-market chains.  K-Market give you points that they automatically redeem into coupons that give you 5 or 10€ off your next purchase and are valid for up to a year.
      S-Bonus from the S-shop chains are, I feel - more beneficial as they give you up to a full 5% back every month - depending on how much you spend.  It's an initial 100€ sign up (or you can pay it back as you use it) and I feel I definitely get more than 10€/month back - compared to the K-Market chain coupons.
  • Make a list and check it twice!  What's your budget? What are your regular staples that are low the most often?  What are you going to splurge on? What do you need?  What can you go without for the week/month/forever?  What are you meal-planning this week?  Stick to it.
  • Inventory - I try to make a mental note of everything I have in my cupboard pantry and the fridge/freezer.  I have a set amount of staples I have to have on hand at all times (i.e. rice, cereal, pasta and sauce etc.) and I try to load up twice a month on those staples.
  • Use a shopping basket - this limits how much you can buy space wise and reduces buying wholesale on something you might need!
  • Pay in cash.  This sounds cheesy but it works.  Leave the bank cards and credit cards home and pay in cash so you can stick to your budget!
December is a tough month for anyone because yearly bills come in (i.e. insurance) and I owe some taxes this year (because I wasn't deducted enough during my maternity leave), the holiday seasons and the boys birthday party was a couple few weeks ago - the list goes on.

I'll be spending the rest of my December cleaning and piling stuff up to sell soon - not just to make money but just so we have physical space in here!  So that should help - because honestly, if I haven't seen it in 6+ months, haven't used X item(s) at all and don't remember having it - I probably don't need it.

That's the plan anyway.

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