Friday, July 22, 2011


First, I wanted to say thank you to everyone for their amazing comments on my last post about my body, weight and self-image. I never talk about my weight, especially the specifics, to anyone – not even the hubs – and I felt very vulnerable putting it all out there for everyone to see and comment on, as this was very out of character for me. But everyone was so nice, and it was interesting to see how many people have had similar experiences as I have. Once again, this community has shown me how accepting and wonderful everyone is!

So now I’m bringing another topic up that I normally don’t talk with others about: personal finance. I’m ashamed to admit that this is not my forte, and both my husband and I are terrible at it – and we’re accountants! We can handle the finances of multi-million dollar companies, but not our own. Those who can’t do teach, right? Now our personal situation isn’t awful – we don’t have huge debt, and we have some savings, but the overriding theme is we spend way too much. We have both worked very hard at school, and then our careers, so we both have good, well-paying jobs, but that means we have more money to spend. I know, I sound ridiculous talking about this. We’ve never really budgeted ourselves. We pay our bills, we put some money in savings, but really only the stuff we’ve pre-designated, and the rest it seems we spend, without any thought. There were months when we would tell ourselves to cut back, especially when we were going through fertility treatments, and especially before our new insurance became effective which covered most of the treatments, but we never budgeted. This year I finally started tracking our spending, and which categories we have spent on, but we never controlled ourselves, and it’s obscene! We’d talk every once in awhile about it, lament about how awful we were, and just go back to it. I’d suggest something, then he would suggest something, but we’d never really budget anything.

But we have some things changing in our lives. There’s a baby coming. And although I plan to go back to work after having little Alex, I know there will be big expenses. And more than anything I want to feel like we’re not spending everything we have, and I want to build up some more savings. I’m feeling nervous about not having a large accessible savings. Yes, we have decent 401(k)’s, and some other investments, and equity in our house, so we’re doing better than most, but I want to have money sitting there – just in case! And I don’t feel like it’s there and ready for an emergency, which makes me feel insecure. We’re about to start spending around $1,000 per month on daycare (wow!), and we’re about to buy a new car (whole other post, but we’re seriously considering a minivan – never thought I would do this, but even with one baby, it makes a lot of sense for a baby and 2 dogs that combined weigh 210 pounds). And I have a not-so-secret dream of going part-time with my job. Hubs has definitely not agreed to that, and it would be hard financially, especially considering I make more than hubs, but it might be possible. Maybe after Baby #2…

So all this led to some serious conversations about spending. I finally proposed an idea, which hubs agreed to, that may change all this. Starting a week ago, we each have a certain amount of cash that has to last us one month. This cash covers all meals, groceries, gas, clothes, everything that we individually spend. I get a little more cash because I buy all the groceries, but if we can stick to these cash amounts, we will save SO MUCH MONEY! We’ll probably spend about a third of what we were spending before, excluding the fixed costs like mortgage and insurance.

I’m really excited about this cash project of ours. So far, it’s going great. I’ve started clipping coupons, and planning meals using items that are in the freezer and pantry, and the like. But I wanted to see if y’all have any good ideas. Where do you find your coupons, for those that use them? I got a Sunday paper last week, and there were no coupons! WTF? Turns out they are in the Wednesday paper in Houston, or maybe Thursday, online discussions disagree… That was $2 wasted. I’ve started to find some websites, but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And what else are your save-money suggestions? So far I think I’m doing a great job with money-spending, or rather saving, but it will be interesting to see how this goes after the initial excitement wears off. It’s only been a week…

Also I’d love to hear how your family budgets, and anything you have found works well. It’s amazing, I’m 36 years old and I’m finally trying to grow up and be more responsible…


  1. I can totally relate! I am ashamed that we are not good with budgeting at all. That's great that you've come up with a plan! It's amazing when you do sit down and realize what you're spending and how much can be cut out. We don't have a very good method at the moment, but we're working at it. :-) Good luck!

  2. We use a program called YNAB. My husband does it, so I don't really know anything about it, but he seems to love it. He's a nerd, though. lol

  3. Sounds awesome. We need to do the same...but i am better with a debit card. Hand me cash i will be handing it out all over town.

  4. Your plan sounds fantastic! I'm the one in the house looking after bills etc, we don't do anything wild and thankfully we have no expensive vices (no smoking or drinking!) but i think things will change a bit once Oliver start the creche, it'll be like having a second mortgage so we'll better get into shape for it!

  5. We set up auto deposits through work for 401k, dependant savings account and HSA. Then we set up auto deposits on line for our Roth IRAs, college savings, and emergency plan each month. With the auto deposits it's much harder to escape them. We try very hard to keep an 8 month emergency savings account and have needed to dip into it now and then. We keep a monthly log of what we spend on the house bills (with all utilities), the cars, food, personal care, & entertainment. When we started that about 8 years ago we were AMAZED at how much frivoulous spending we were doing in some areas.

    Your cash plan sounds like a great one...can't wait to hear how it goes!!!

  6. We are terrible too! Even with IF treatments we spend. Part is to not let IF consume us. If we had to watch every penny we would not be able to do anything that made us feel 'normal' and get away form IF for a bit. Even if just a dinner once a week. I used to each out lunch with friends a lot but have pulled back to only once a week and that alone adds up! When grocery shopping I try to plan our meals for the week to avoid eating out during the week and buy the fruits, veggies, and meat that are on sale. I try to buy anything that is on sale vs full price! Yes even clothes. Rarely do I splurdge on full price items. Budgeting is hard!
    We are planning on (finally) combining our accounts to help track a bit better. Also Mac's have a program that comes with their version of office the will form a budget for you that is awesome! Now we just have to fillow it :)

  7. I am envious of those who have actual budgets. I think I could do pretty good at cutting back on things and using coupons more but this husband of mine has eliminated the words "save" and "budget" from his vocabulary. We don't buy many *things* but he likes really good food when we eat out. He also does not like to see generic brands in our pantry. He's a bit of a diva. We have talked recently about how to better budget ourselves but it never seems to go into effect for the both of us. :-)

    Best of luck with your cash project and I hope you are able to find a system that works for you. Oh, check out the website of your grocery store and see if they have weekly specials or online coupons available to you. Our store will offer online coupons that aren't offered in the newspaper or weekly flyer.

  8. Hubs and I are big on this and each were before we met. Does it make sense to pay for a financial planner to take care if a large part of this for you and to invest your money? If too frightening a thought, the best advice I can give is to be realistic. Don't go from one extreme to another right away bc it'll be even harder to stick to, kinda like a diet. before I met hubs, I had a huge mat debited from my checking into savings every month. Then I pulled out x dollars in cash each pay period and out them in various envelopes marked eating out money, groceries, gas, drinks/entertainment, cab fares, etc. I had about 7 envelops. If I ran out of money from one envelop before the next pay period, I borrowed against another. Somehow it almost always worked out but only after I was super realistic about how much cash to fill those envelops to begin with. Worked really for me :o)

  9. okay, i'm slowly becoming a coupon whore. I have found that the coupons that are in the papers are online. Go to and and you can print only the coupons you want. Also, when you shop, look at places like Target, because sometimes they will offer discounts and you can use your coupons on top of it. and if you go to certain grocery stores you can add the coupons to your store card and use it at checkout, and some places will give you discounts on gas :) It's all about planning, we sort of plan our menus based on coupons we have. we saved 100 bucks during one trip with coupons alone, that rocked!

  10. I have found that writing out a list of groceries for two weeks is great. I only buy what is on the list and nothing more. It helps sooo much!

  11. I try to make "big" meals and we eat the leftovers for a while. I have found that meatballs (made from turkey) are a wonderful way to expand meals.

    I also find that going to farmer's markets help with my veggie/fruit bill. It's cheaper and the produce is more fresh.

  12. I do for all my online shopping which I do a ton of and if I'm looking for something specific. We have a certain allotted amount that we don't go over and we've just learned to do with out and that's okay.

  13. I agree with Sienna's plan as far as how to budget and I agree you can't do it TOO quickly. But another thing that I do is use a program ( is an example) where you track what you spend on things each month so that you know what you actually need. I enter all of my purchases on my iphone. The first time I tried this I forgot to budget for pet food and meds copays. So you really have to include everything! Just paying attention- just like a diet- really helped curb things a lot. It also helps a lot to have something to save FOR. I found it really hard to do when we were in the midst of IF as I wanted some pleasure.

    Good luck! I try and hunt for deals when I need things outside of groceries and keep a running "wish list."

  14. Sounds like a great plan!

    I've found that when I keep track of every penny I spend I cut back dramatically on what I spend. Things that seem innocuous like a coffee or candy bar suddenly seem bigger when you have to write them down. And, going to a cash budget makes a HUGE difference.

  15. I am fascinated here. We hardly have any money at all, so we don't have to worry about it-- there's nothing to budget! But it is interesting to hear the other perspective. I am sure spending can get out of control, when you start feeling like you have that extra money. A good warning, in case we ever start getting better income :).

    Basically, we spend whatever we want on food and drink, and take one nice trip per year. But we don't have cell phone plans, no TV service, we don't buy clothes very often at all, and we buy only used cars, and at very infrequent intervals.

  16. My husband and I use Quicken software to keep track of our expenses. Once a week or so he downloads our credit cards, bank account, etc. into the program, then we can see through Quicken reports exactly what we are spending our $ on. It actually really helps because when you are really aware of where all your $ is can better curb some of your spending habits (like if you see you are spending hundreds of dollars on coffee or something like that each month!)

  17. Three years ago, I was laid off-for nearly a year. I had a great severance package and consulted, so the impact was minimal.

    Two years ago Rob was laid off-for a year. It was a very hard time for us; he had some consulting work but we struggled, and had to take a loan against our 401K. He still has credit card debt as well associated with that.

    Then he found a job, and eight months later, was laid off again. Fortunately he found another, much lower paying position quickly-if he didn't , we would have been in big BIG trouble because our "emergency fund" had been depleted-and then some.

    Fortunately my (stressful and annoying) job pays enough for us to start saving again, although we are still sinking a lot of money into IVF treatments (nearly 10K this year despite "Insurance coverage", mostly medication and 50$ co-pay every time I walk into a Dr. office). We are committed right now to paying off the credit debt steadily (goal is by end of year) from Rob's layoff. We shop a lot at costco, and have only taken two mini vacations this year that I used hotel and airline points for. We dont spend a lot of money on the house, and do have rooms without furniture, I'm sad to say. I do take full advantage of the tax write off for medical treatments and easily hit the 7.5% of income requirement last year, which helped with my tax return significantly. We auto pay nearly everything, and cook at home as much as possible.

    That being said, I think times are still tough, but manageable.

  18. The cash plan is great! It really helped us - until we quit doing it a few months ago. Will be starting again soon, though!

    From before we were married we always planned that I would stay home with any kids we managed to have, so we lived on one income even when we had two. We have zero debt, which feels GREAT especially in this economy. It's the reason we were able to cough up $18K for IVF last year WHILE MY HUBBY WAS UNEMPLOYED and still remain debt-free.

    Sadly, though, no matter how careful and responsible we are I'm afraid we'll all get screwed over in the end because of our government's constant overspending.

  19. I subscribe to the website You should check it out. I think you can do a two week trial for free. Basically you select the grocery/drug stores in your area and every week they put out a list of everything that is on sale that week and tell you where to find the coupon (I save all the weekly inserts and just pull out the coupons when I'm making my list) and whether the price is good enough to stock up on it or if you should just buy it if you need it. It also lists items that end up being free after coupon.

    I save about 50% each week. I'm in a state that doesn't do double coupons though, otherwise the savings would be better. I spend about an hour a week putting my lists together and clipping the coupons so it really doesn't take much time.

    Good luck!

  20. this is a great topic..I will be reading to learn..I have no advice though..great idea for me too though:)

  21. Try to cut out dining out -- we were told by our financial advisor that that's the biggest money waster.

  22. I used to run on the cash plan when i first started budgeting too :) I had little ziplock bags with categories on the side and that was the amount I had to spend for that category (eg Clothes / Groceries / Petrol etc)

    I have become somewhat of a budgeting queen in the last ten years or so - it's quite addictive saving money once you get into the habit :)

    I wish I could give you advice on coupons but we dont have that fantastic coupon system out here :( Good Luck!

    If you need any more help, or some really easy excel spreadsheets for tracking spending, shoot me an email and I can send you mine!

  23. Regrettably, I cannot help you with the whole budget thing. We don't really have a set budget, although I'm sure this will change soon. Good luck with coupon clipping and I expect that we will all soon see you on TLC's "Extreme Couponing". Haha!

  24. I'm pretty bad at husband is much better and he kind of keeps me in line. It's a tough one, but I think making the decision to be careful with your $$$ is a very good idea. Your priorities have shifted and you're going to want that money for other things - padding being one of them.

    No suggestions for you, though I'm interested to hear what others say.

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