Friday, March 1, 2013

Money Management - The No-Budget Approach

Last Friday I jumped right into talking about ways to save.  While saving money is important, how one goes about having leftover money to save is also important. 

In the past, we tried budgeting.  On paper things looked great, but executing them was another story.  We tried envelope methods, different accounts, cash only, even store gift cards so we wouldn't go over our limit.  Every time we went off the budget I felt so discouraged.  That would lead to an "I don't care anymore" attitude.  Why not buy this, I'm already over my limit.

Moving to the middle of nowhere helps a lot, but what really made the difference was getting rid of the budget.  Instead of setting a limit, I started making decisions about whether or not I really needed to buy something.  Those bananas look great, but the price just isn't right so I'll pass. Those little decisions really do add up. 

When I go grocery shopping I usually don't have a set amount I'm going to spend in mind.  Most times I don't even go with a list.  I know what I have in my pantry, what I need, and what we use a lot of.  While I try to avoid some places like the plague (Walmart) I usually find myself there simply because they have the best prices. 

What do I buy?  Well that depends what's on sale.  Sometimes I load up on bread, rice, dry beans, sunflower oil, blocks of cheese, etc.  Because I have a well stocked pantry, vary rarely do I run out of something, so I can wait until I find a good price.  This is especially true of cheese and other dairy products.  So what if I already have 8 boxes of cream cheese in the fridge.  This price it too good to pass up and I know that we will use it. 

Everything that goes into the cart has to pass a need it/want it test.  I ask myself, do I NEED it or just want it.  Sometimes I'll throw something in and after 20 minutes decided that I really didn't need it after all and I'll but it back.  My average monthly grocery bill is $200.  How do I shop so cheap?

Here are things that we don't buy:
prepackaged/instant food (ex. hamburger helper, frozen pizza, microwave meals)
junk food/ snack food
canned items including cream of..., soups, broths, meats (excluding tuna)
mix items like cake mixes and baking mixes
anything from the frozen section (except for the occasional tub of vanilla ice cream)

That cheap food really adds up.  It's much cheaper to buy bulk and make my own. 

What about other items like eating out or clothing?  Well, since we live in the middle of nowhere eating out is limited to take-out pizza or picking up a rotisserie chicken after the deli has closed and it's marked down.  As for clothing, well, I just don't buy clothing unless I have a need for new clothing.  Nothing new goes into my closet unless something old goes out.  Since I stay at home most days, an old tee shirt and stained jeans are good enough for me.

To sum up my no-budget budget, I don't buy something unless I need it.  I shop when I'm not in a hurry and I only go once a month.  I don't use cash or a debit card.  Writing a check makes me think about how much I'm spending.  If I cringe when I write the check, then I probably bought something I didn't need.

Join me next Friday for Money Management - Get the most out of your money


  1. I'm going back to shopping this way.
    But, I've learned over the years I need a budget (ie: PLAN!)
    I have to have the bills laid out and know where it's going. As to groceries, well, I have in the past and am now,asked those same questions "need it? or want it?" That helps! I laughed because I've always made it a habit of shopping with something in my cart only to put it back right before check out."
    The other thing I've asked myself about PURCHASES,not always groceries, but eating out for sure is this: "if an answer or response is needed RIGHT NOW...then the answer is NO."

    I've forgotten about that...because I really had to implement it when the kids were home and The Honey worked.

    I'll be back to read.

  2. I actually thought about writing a check the other day for groceries and thought, "Do they still accept them?" LOL I guess they do, I have seen a few do it. I tell you, it would make spending money a bit more simple. We use our credit card frequently, but again, usually only use it for those things we need. Lately, I have used it for purchasing bulk items online at Amazon. Our Walmart doesn't carry too great a selection of the foods I like. The other stores mark it up something terrible. I'm trying to make more an more from scratch in order to cut back on the cost of groceries.

  3. Wow, you do good on grocery shopping! I cook from scratch and don't buy prepackaged, junk food, mixes or canned stuff either but spend about $100 a WEEK for the two of us. That includes pet food, laundry and dish soap and toiletries.

  4. I make a plan and a budget every month as to where the money coming in will go, i.e bills, groceries, household items, etc. I do use prepackaged items,such as the ones that was listed in her post and I still manage to feed a family of four adults on $200/month. Household items if needed are kept to a max. of $20/month. I utilize every avenue I can to make $200/month stretch, i.e, using coupons, shopping sales, comparative shopping, dolaar stores, etc. If I didn't have two children to feed, I am sure my husband and I could live off of $100-$150/mo. in food. With our upcoming garden this year I am hoping to reduce the $200/month even further for the four of us.


  5. Oh you are wonderful. You put into words what I can't describe. I'm going to put into practice what you said. I'm going to buy only those things that I really need. That's what has been telling me. Sigh. I really hope I can do it.


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