Joe and I are both gainfully employed. We are lucky to have stable jobs (and very lucky that my job allows me to take a full year of maternity leave) and we are lucky that when I go back to work next year we will be able to afford childcare without too much pain.
In anticipation of paying for childcare (which will more than likely eat up about one of my paycheques per month), we have prepared a budget and will remove about that amount every month to put in our savings or help pay down our debt. It won’t be easy. I have spent most of my adult life trying to stick to a budget and it’s never seemed to matter what my take-home was, I was always living paycheque to paycheque.
The fact is, I started behind the 8-ball. I didn’t build up any savings while I was living at home, and as soon as they would give me a credit card I took it and ran with it. I went to college and took out a student loan, and started a career in journalism with very, very low pay. I took on more debt to move across the country where the paper folded two months after I arrived. I was unemployed for about six months and I took another job, another move, and five very unhappy months later I decided to take on more debt, go to university and get my degree.
I was very lucky, my father paid for my tuition while I was in college, so my student loan was only for living expenses and when I went back for my degree, as the child of (former) faculty, I was granted almost free tuition. I got a job on campus and I should have used that money to pay down some of my debt, but I was stupid and I didn’t.
If I met a genie, my first wish would be to get back all the money I’ve spent of things I no longer own. I dream of the day that the money we budget for debt repayments can be freed up for other expenses.
And so we’re at that point where we have to make a budget and we have to learn to stick to it because in a few months we’re going to have no choice.
Eating out is probably our biggest expense, so step 1 was cooking at home more and we’re doing that. We’ve been making meal plans and getting groceries and I’ve been cooking more. I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to put something in the slow cooker during the baby’s morning nap is easier for me than trying to get things going around 4:30 or 5. We’ve actually tried several new recipes lately and I’ve been trying to get more vegetables in our meals. We’ve faltered a few times, but in general I feel more confident that it is possible for us. It helps that there aren’t a lot of restaurants that deliver to our neighbourhood.
Step 2 has been paying attention to where our money is going. I started a Google document for us to each write in what we were spending where, and now we need to start categorizing these things and forcing ourselves to stay within our budget.
The biggest part of this is groceries. We budget $100 a week for groceries (not counting formula and diapers) and we need to come up with a good way to stay within that budget. I’m trying to watch the flyers we get each week and choose meals that incorporate some of the things that are on sale. We also usually make meals that have leftovers so Joe can take those for lunch the next day, which also helps. The fact is that we never sit down with our grocery receipts, keep track of what money is going to what and plan our menus around that.
What I really need is some tips from the people who do it, and do it better and have been doing it longer.
Over to you…