Monday, 29 February 2016

Financial Goals for March

I hope I'm not boring people with my focus on our family budget. At the moment, I am preparing us for the possibility of a loss of income--although it's likely that we would find some sort of income given time--it is also likely that we would not be making as much as usual. It is entirely possible that we might have a length of time with no income, then a reduced income, and need to quickly get used to living on less than we have been.

For all my talk of budgeting and knowing where your money goes, I sat and reviewed our numbers last night and was shocked that our "bare bones" budget (the amount of money we need every month to keep food in bellies and lights on overhead--the essentials only) was frankly much higher than I thought it would be. That is, at first glance, I saw no way that we could reduce our monthly expenses. Considering I sat and did the initial budget in January, it's strange that I still didn't know exactly how much money we spend a month. A few things have changed, though, and I hadn't really done the math on how that affected us. As well, I had not factored in vehicle maintenance, house repairs/maintenance, kids activities, Christmas. Once I did, I found my budget to be grossly out of reach, especially if the worst does happen.

After my initial panic I was able to see the budget more clearly and have found a few ways to cut spending. What's more, I have decided that it works better for me to move specific amounts of money into accounts that are designated for 1) savings/Christmas/pending bills and 2) vehicle maintenance, home repair/maintenance, "slush fund", and kids activities. Once that money disappears from our joint account I will simply have to work with what's leftover. For me, the important thing is getting used to living within reach of our "bare bones" budget so that, if worse comes to worse, we can quickly and easily adapt to the new reality.

What I realize I must change:

  • I am doing well with my $600/month budget for food. However, getting this even lower would be necessary if Husband were out of work for a significant length of time. I am going to try to have a surplus of money leftover in March. (Whatever is not spent on groceries will be moved into Savings fund)
  • I intend to have one month's free groceries/year using air miles reward dollars at Safeway and my PC Plus card at Superstore. I need to be very strategic in using coupons and flyers and planning my stockpile of food. This is a change in philosophy from saving up all the points and using them on "special" groceries at Christmas time. At $600/month I'm spending $7200 a year on food. I used to spend more than that plus spend any extra free points on things like cream cheese, havarti, etc for fancy meals. By budgeting smartly I expect to still afford some Christmas treats and also have a month's free food. So hopefully I will spend around $6,600 on food and eat just as well. It's a challenge that I am oddly excited to begin :)
  • Our power bill is only charged every 3 months. I make monthly payments to that account so that we are never caught with an outrageous bill we weren't expecting. But I need to sit and figure out an "average" monthly amount for power so that I know I am budgeting enough. Ditto with natural gas.
  • Buy greater quantities of pet food when it is on sale.

What I am not changing...yet:

  • Husband has a Sirius Satellite Radio. He basically listens to it all day and he is in vehicles/equipment almost non-stop on 11 and 12 hour workdays. It is a last resort to take this away from him, but at $20/month we are realizing that it is a luxury that could be cut if need be--particularly if he was no longer working as much. I have also discovered that I can reduce that cost by about $5/month and I plan to do so soon.
  • I cut my cell phone plan by $21/month awhile back. This could be cut further and probably in the summer when our contract is up I will shop around a hopefully save even more.
  • We were in a situation where we basically had to get a new truck for Husband for work. We knew it was a poor time to do so, but being broke down in the winter or even having an unreliable vehicle at work is stressful. We are now deciding if we will sell the old truck, or my car, or keep both and only insure the old truck when we need it...obviously in a pinch we could sell one. For now we are keeping both car and truck insured for driving but we need to make a decision soon. 
My Goals for March:

  • Write ourselves each a cheque and deposit them into each of our personal accounts (the plan is to do this every month--March will be my first). As I mentioned above, one account will be Savings (Christmas, land taxes, a few bills that are coming at us soon), the other will be vehicle and home maintenance/repair fund, kids activities fund, "slush fund".
    • create a spreadsheet for each of these accounts keeping track of how much money belongs to each designated fund and recording any transactions.
    • Into the kids' activities fund I will transfer their Christmas money from Grandparents in Newfoundland. We usually save the money for something big for them so this year it might be a camping trip. Likewise, birthday money from my mom is always spent on swimming lessons, and their other birthday and Christmas money goes into their own bank accounts. Once the kids activities fund gets to a certain amount I plan to make a lump transfer to each of their RESPs. 
  • Repay money from vacation fund that we have "borrowed". The cash from our bottle/can recycling, along with other bits of cash that we end up with, are stashed in an envelope waiting for a summer trip of some kind. Twice now I've taken money from it when I needed cash so need to put $40 back!
  • Register the kids for swimming lessons at the pool.
  • Continue to bake all of our bread, buns and sweets.
  • Continue to put $5/week into the egg jar.
  • Continue to explore ways to make money myself, without incurring childcare costs.

It is my absolute goal right now to begin saving one year's expenses in case Husband is out of work. I realize now that we should have had that saved all along. We are doing well and with all my extra cuts I hope that in March we can set aside a month's expenses while also doing the transfers I have spoken of. This is the new game plan for 2016--for every dollar earned I need to save 50 cents!  


  1. Oh I certainly hope hubby's job doesn't go away. And if it does that it is only for a short-term. Jill you are such a good planner that whatever happens you'll get through it. But I do really like how thought out everything is. It will lead to success!

    And I realized the other week after we mentioned doing a barebones budget that the last time I did mine was before I bought my apartment :-( Needless to say I have a lot more costs now that I need to factor in. I do have monies saved to get through a period of unemployment but I should revisit it and tweak it. (The time I took off last year didn't really count as barebones since I still traveled etc. but it will help me to figure out the new budget.)

    Question from a non-gardener to a gardener - do you need to do anything in March regarding planting? Given the circumstances, this year it could really really help you with the food budget. I have no idea what one does when for getting the soil ready but wanted to toss this out :-)

    Hope you have a wonderful March!

    1. Thanks Pru! The number I had in my mind for our "bare bones" was before we had to get a new vehicle. And although we wouldn't be trying to save if we were actually in survival mode, I do want to save heavily right now and live near the bare bones level at the same time. It really does pay to revisit budgets and goals even though you might think you've kept track in your/my mind! It looks much different on paper :)

      I do plan on a much bigger garden this year--I wish that we had tilled up a new spot last fall and planted a cover crop. Alas, there will be much to do this spring. In our zone (and without the use of a greenhouse/cold frame/hoop house etc we basically can plant peas and potatoes near the start of May and everything else nearer the end of May. Tomatoes and peppers go out after the last chance of any frost. So, this time of year for planning the garden and in another 6 weeks hopefully do some ground work. It will be here before I know it!

  2. I'm not bored with your budget posts. They make me think.

    I'm hoping for an early spring following this easy winter. My goal this year is to do more wild harvesting of free foods. Kristin gave me a nice book on making preserves with recipes that don't require pectin. That will cut down on some of the expense.

    I pay our savings accounts before I pay bills. Maybe they don't get paid much but they get something. It adds up eventually.

    1. Hi Robin, you are very smart to "pay yourself first". I was "keeping what's left over" but never doing anything with it, and found out the hard way that it just disappears if we don't hide it on ourselves. New year, new strategy! I also want to forage more this year--and my husband wants to start hunting. I also have plans for chickens and a larger garden so am hoping to really reduce our grocery costs. People also don't think of how gardening saves in other ways--no time or energy to go out and spend on other things, for starters! But seriously it's a healthy hobby and allows me to give my kids some chores and responsibilities. I look forward to seeing your preserves on your blog :)