At the beginning of June, I recognized that we had let all the habits that helped us successfully manage our finances fall by the wayside. My wife and I had a long financial discussion and vowed to get back on track. We even reviewed the actions we needed to put in motion.
Then along game a series of life events:
- Grandma’s Marathon Weekend
- Wedding Anniversary
- 4th Of July
- Vonnie’s Birthday
- Family Vacation to Wisconsin Dells
It would have been fantastic to get our processes rolling in the right direction again before these events since they all required spending a significant amount of money. Unfortunately, the best of intentions don’t always equal action, and we rolled through another month of financial free-for-all.
I spent hours this past Thursday night and Friday afternoon figuring out exactly where we were at financially, and how to move forward. I created a detailed financial spreadsheet, then sat down at the table with Vonnie and went over all of it. Again. We created a completely revised monthly budget, a weekly spending plan, and even a planned monthly deposit into savings. When our conversation was over, I did something I hadn’t done in months.
For the first time in months I went to the ATM and withdrew our weekly spending money in cash.
That night, I put gasoline in both vehicles using the $75 weekly gasoline budget. I filled the van completely and paid the $49 bill with cash. I put the remaining $26 of the budget into the car. It only filled the tank to the 3/4th line, but I knew that it would be enough because we don’t drive the car as often.
The purchases were planned, purposeful, and paid for in cash. It felt good. I felt in control.
With the cars gassed up for the week, I walked up our stairs with $29 in my hand. First I knocked on my son’s door and handed him $16. Next I went to my daughter’s room, and set $13 on her desk. Allowance had been paid on Friday, as it was supposed to.
Saturday morning, Vonnie and I created a meal plan for the week. I entered the grocery store with the list in my hand, and the calculator ap on my phone open. Our weekly grocery and household needs budget is $150. When I rolled up next to the self-checkout terminal the total on my calculator said $146.10. After tax was added, the total on the terminal said $148.88.
My calculator had kept me under budget. I was in control of my spending.
All that was left was our discretionary spending money:
- $38 for a fishing license to go fishing with some friends
- $27 to buy pizza for my son and his friends for his gaming party
Total discretionary spending: $65
Our spending was well below our budgeted amount.
Sunday night, I counted out on the kitchen counter the money left over. Paying for everything in cash accomplished exactly what it was supposed to:
- It kept us on budget
- It made us evaluate closely every potential purchase
It seems like it’s been forever since our purchases were purposeful. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve felt in control of our finances. It’s definitely been a loooong time since we’ve had money left over at the end of a weekend.
We’re back in control. We’re back on track, and it feels GREAT.