Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Talking the Talk but not Saving the Money

Sometimes I get up on my high horse, my podium, my kitchen step stool and preach about things like saving money, living frugally, loving God and so on.  However, many times I am saying all the right things, things I want to live by, but secretly am not very good at myself.

[DSC_0012%255B10%255D.jpg]Secret’s out now, but this time I am going to be honest and instead of preaching I’m going to tell you about how I, well we (Mr. Converse Sneakers included), have struggled with money and spending it (and saving it) wisely.

I already wrote about how we don’t have a lot right now with me in grad school and how we need to cut back, which we have done in many ways.  However, we are not spending our money the way we should.  We are not sticking to a budget and we are not keeping track of where our money goes.  Dave Ramsey would not be proud, and nobody wants to see Dave’s imagined frown looking down on them.  Nobody!

See, we decided that it is too hard to budget when we never know exactly how much money we will have coming in each week, since we both are paid by the hour and that fluctuates mostly for Mr. CS.  Looking back (to even just last week when I still thought this way), I think I was crazy!  If anything, because we don’t know how much money we will have each month, we should budget even more!

Instead, we were swiping our debit cards like crazy on the weekends and would say things to each other like, “We have enough for this right?” and, “I think we should have enough to buy groceries still . . .” all while swiping that little plastic card.  Well, sometimes we wouldn’t have enough for the things we actually need.  We would have a lot of money one week and the next we would be thinking about how we were going to pay for those bills that fall at the end of the month.  This is the trap that causes debt to accumulate.  Luckily, we always had enough, but this is no way to live.  This is the whole reason why we started the journey for financial peace, because living this way is the opposite of peaceful.

So, what are we going to do about it?

We have the best of intentions, we really do, but our methods just don’t work.  Budgeting only monthly doesn’t work for us because each week is a different paycheck.  However, we have monthly bills and know about how much we spend on many things throughout one month’s period, so we decided to budget both monthly and weekly, revising our monthly budget as each week goes by since we may fall short in one area and need to tweak another.  We will be having weekly financial meetings to keep each other motivated and to set aside any extra money for our savings or to pay off more debt.

This was a simple change.  We can live with that easily.  However, our other decision was much more drastic, and honestly I’m scared because it will force us to really think about our buying habits.  Yet, this new way of spending will save us a lot of money (ironically) and will help us track spending much more easily.

We have decided to switch to an all cash budget.

No more swipety swipe of that debit card. Sigh.

We had not even considered such a thing, or really even heard about it, until my fellow Minnesotan blogger/wedding photographer Leah posted about her switch to a cash budget here and following up here.  I remember reading about how she struggled with this and had to say no to little things we take for granted like makeup products or nights out with friends because the money was delegated elsewhere.  I thought to myself, “There is no way I could ever do that – how debilitating!”  And now six months later we are doing the same thing.

Here is our reasoning for switching, in list form:

  • Once the money’s gone, it’s gone.  This is what scares me but also make me the most excited about this method.  We will be forced to spend our money only on what we budgeted for.
  • Extra cash goes to savings or debt payoff.  We didn’t track our money before, so we never really had “extra.”  It would just flow from one thing to the next with no purpose.  Now that we are tracking it, any extra cash left over at the end of each month gets added to our savings or paid straight to student loans or credit card debt.  Wahoo!
  • We don’t trust ourselves.  We could not trust ourselves to keep track of money when it was sitting in one big (or little) lump in our checking account.
  • We want to live frugally.  I’m sick of talking about my dream of living frugally, making the most of money, and truly appreciating what we buy but then spending money on things we don’t really need, don’t appreciate, or can’t find a use for.  This will help curb those buys and focus our attention on loving each other, not things.

I would be lying if I said we aren’t scared or don’t have major doubts about this even working.  I figure by putting this all out there for my two readers (Mom and Dad) and anyone else who reads this (if there is anyone else), we are at least accountable in some way.  We want this to work so badly!  However, here are our fears that I will keep you posted on as we travel down this financial peace road:

  • What if we start taking money from one place and putting it toward another? I am one to cheat my own systems, and at the beginning of this journey, I’m not convinced I won’t say, “Well we spent less on groceries this week, so I’m going to buy a pretty this-that-or-the-other-thing.”  To help with this, we will be leaving the money in a safe place at home (since carrying it all around is a bad idea, anyway), and taking only the money we set aside for whatever trip we are making (gas, groceries, eating out, etc.).  That way, I can’t impulse buy as easily because I would have to go home first to get the money.
  • What if we budgeted wrong?  People make it seem so easy, but from month to month, we buy different things.  I don’t feel I have the time or patience to outline every single thing we buy so I can have it for reference later (I have tried – it failed).  So, I am left fearing we will budget wrong and either end up reverting to fear number one (above) or giving up on this whole process.
  • What if a disaster strikes? Obviously, we are doing this so that we can save up money for a disaster that will happen, it always does, but if it were to happen now, we might abandon the whole cash budget because we will be very overwhelmed.
  • What if I end up being miserable because I can’t buy anything? We set personal money aside for each of us because we know how we get about spending.  If we told ourselves we couldn’t spend ANY money on things for fun or little projects, we would fail.  I’m hoping the little we gave ourselves is enough.
  • What if it’s too much work? Obviously it is worth the work, but I can see myself getting annoyed with going to the bank all the time, sorting the money, having the meetings, etc.  Let’s hope it becomes a happy routine!

I think that’s all the fears we have.  It may not seem scary, especially to those who already do this, but for us, it is a foreign concept, but one that we really want to master.  I’m glad I’m not doing this on my own!

I would love if you could share your own budgeting techniques/experiences in the comments section.  Do you budget with straight cash?  How do you set aside money for savings/getting out of debt?


  1. My mother in law always paid cash for her purchases. Her husband controlled the money, and he gave her a household allowance each week. She paid all the household bills. It worked fine for them. I personally do not like cash because it cannot be traced on what you spent it on (My husband is known for this). I do not spend much money that is not planned in advance. I have always budgeted (it is a must to see where your money goes and how much you need monthly). I went to having a % of my paycheck automatically deposited by my employer to my savings account and then did not touch it unless there was an emergency. What ever you find that works for you guys is good. But following your budget is the must part.

  2. We're on a VERY tight budget at the moment - have a loan to pay off too and a new baby that has wreaked havoc on our spending habits! We decided one month to count EVERY penny and see where it goes; we acted normally during the month but kept every receipt and at the end of the month, we worked out a budget that was actually do-able. Now we each have a certain amount to spend for ourselves and a certain amount for groceries/household maintenance/baby stuff. It's worked so far for us and we've been at it for six months now. Sometimes we go over, but that means the next month we have even less. But if we have extra, it means we can save up for something big that we want, or donate the excess to our savings/loan. Good luck! It was definitely a struggle at first, but it's made us appreciate what we spend our money on - going out is a treat now, and so we really make the most of it. And large items that we've worked a few months to save for seem like better purchases - we're not splashing the cash because we WANT IT NOW! But instead, we've earned that big ticket item. That feels really good, and worth cutting back on the little things we can do without. Again, good luck!

  3. This is a wonderful thing for a young couple to do...budget. You will use this skill often as your marriage grows and things in your life change! You can do this, it becomes a fun challenge! Good for you! BTW: You can't buy creativity and you seem to have loads of that!


Thank you for stopping by! I am a little crazy sometimes (it's probably the red hair), but I would really appreciate if you would leave a comment. I love getting to know my readers and reading what everyone is thinking! - Mrs. Ruffled Flats


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