Help! I Am a Dunce with Money!

Updated on May 19, 2008
T.M. asks from Elmhurst, IL
33 answers

Ok, we're not super bad shape or anything, but my husband has a new (very demanding) job, and so he has passed over all the financial chores -- paying bills, keeping the check book, etc. Except he pretty much did everything online and in his head (ie never balanced the check book or kept a budget record). I am not a terribly disciplined person, but I am getting very anxious about this responsibility, especially because we are trying to buy a house, and I know the additional housing expenses are going to be a challenge.

What I am asking for is HOW DO YOU DO IT? I need real examples of how you pay for things (cash, credit, debit?), how do you track your spending (or do you?) to see if you're "on budget", how do you make sure you're not spending more than you intend to?

My other question is about grocery shopping. I think I was being prideful when I'd say to myself "these 15c coupons are not worth my time" or "I am just going to one store-- who has time for multiple stores just to save a couple of dollars?" But groceries are *killing* us -- especially because my husband insists we buy as much as we can organic/natural. A gallon of milk and a tube of toothpaste cost me $10 the other day! Again, ladies, how do you approach the purchasing you do for your family?

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So What Happened?

Wow you all have been so helpful!

DH and I talked last night, and I am going to start by just learning the discipline of recording what we spend. I have a little notebook with a fresh page for each "category" for the pay period, and I'll record each purchase when it happens. At the end of the pay period (2 weeks) I'll add up each category, and then compare that total with how much was available to spend (and eventually, how much was budgeted for that category).

Additionally, I am figuring out how to use clearcheckbook.com (kind of like quicken, only free) to import all of our spending from the bank and the credit cards from the last several months so I can do a little "analysis" of where all the money is disappearing to.

I would love to try mvelopes, but we just can't spend any more money right now, especially when I don't have confidence that I'll be disciplined enough to follow through.

Anyhow, this was a great exchange! I will be rereading all of these posts frequently over the coming weeks!

Thank you! T.

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C.D.

answers from Springfield on

If you are committed to cutting down on grocery spending you should visit the afullcup.com forums. These women have tons of advice on cutting bills and how to do couponing. Before I started there I was spending 600 - 800 a month on groceries. Now I'm down to about 300 a month for the exact same groceries!

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R.C.

answers from Chicago on

Hi T.,
Kudos to you for acknowledging you need help. Most people don't do that. I strongly suggest buying "the total money makeover" book by Dave Ramsey, easy to read with so much info. Yes, pay cash when you can, yes budget etc. His book will really help you there.
If you to the Oberweis store it is less expensive than the grocery store & they do have a "moolah" card which will give you a rebate of 5%. Every little bit helps.
I am shopping with a wonderful online/catalog company that has been totally green for 23 years and we can save you a lot of money on things like toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent etc.
Please contact me @###-###-#### or email me [email protected]____.com
I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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R.T.

answers from Chicago on

Some great advice here. I'll see if I can add anything.

1. INCOME vs. FIXED COSTS: You need to go through all of your monthly bills and see how much you two make and how much your FIXED costs are. Lets say you make $4000 each, or $8000 a month. Your mortgage costs $2000, car payments are $600, gym is $100, cable is $75, whatever. Write down all of the costs that DO NOT CHANGE month to month.

2. UTILITIES: Then, either take a representative month, or add up the past YEAR and divide by 12. I save ALL of our bills/statements as well as receipts. Figure out what an average month is for all of those (gas, elec, water, garbage, gasoline). Add that to #1. That may be another $1500-2000.

3. BUDGET: The biggest hurdle, at least for us, is food. We don't spend a lot on entertainment, so we allow ourselves a $62 DirecTV bill. We rarely rent videos. With 4 year old twins at home we don't go out much either. BUT, many people do. So, first, food. SET a budget. There have been months where we've spend $1500 on food. Crazy, huh? Didn't seem like it at the time. One special dinner out, one family dinner out, some fast food, and groceries. It's very easy to spend $250 a week on groceries if you don't pay attention. We reduced ours to $600 a month for all groceries and fast food and are not going out at all right now. I mean, we spent $500 on gasoline last month, so we've tightened our budgets.

4. COUPONS: They suck. BUT, it can save a little. The BEST way to do it is to buy stuff ON SALE with a COUPON and with a DISCOUNT CARD. Example: Jewel had General Foods items on sale. 10 for $20. With the discount card, 10 for $10. Add some coupons, it was 10 for $8. We bought 20, and got a variety of cereal, snacks, and breakfast bars that will last for months. For $20.

5. COOKING: Plan meals. I love to cook, but really only have about 10 things that I cook often. One is stir fry. I priced it out, and it costs me $9 to make dinner for 4 using 1 large chicken breast, green onions, 1 red onion, 1 large broccoli crown, handful of peapods, some cilantro, garlic, and teriyaki sauce. With rice. Another dinner I make is just thinly sliced chicken breasts dipped in flour with italian spices, and fresh capers sauteed in olive oil. Add rice-a-roni and a veggie (i like asparagus or brussel sprouts with salt and olive oil, but only on sale) and that's pretty cheap. Buy fresh each week, not too much, and make sure it doesn't go bad.

Best of luck, and PM me if you need any help. We use our CC to get miles, and balance our checkbook every month. Quicken is great, but it's a lot to deal with, IMO. In other words, as a fellow dunce, I don't use it. Bring home EVERY receipt and add it up each month. If you take out cash, understand where it all goes.

Peace,
Richard

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S.J.

answers from Champaign on

I have one word for you.... Quicken. This is the best home finance computer program. It will help you list all your accounts, balance a checkbook in a snap and much more. I would be happy to show you how and other organizational tips I use. Feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com.

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A.P.

answers from Chicago on

I am a super couponer. The best thing I can tell you to do is check this out http://www.mysuburbanlife.com/huntley/homepage/x###-###-####

I think this might help you get an idea about how coupons ARE worth cutting!
A.- Huntley

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T.L.

answers from Chicago on

I also use Quicken which has made tracking our financial status quick and easy. All of my bank and credit card transactions are downloaded nightly so I know at a glance what our position is every day. Once everything is setup, it's easy to use.

We use our credit card for almost everything because its a rebate card - we earn $250 in cash rewards every 3-4 months. We pay it off in full every month as not to incur any interest charges. This helps me stay on budget -- once our balance gets to a certain level I know that I only have $500 more to spend for the month. It has also helped me in tracking and reducing our expenses since I can exactly where all of our money is going, thanks to my Quicken reports! I would not recommend this to anyone who has a balance on their credit card as the convenience is not worth the accrued interest. You could achieve the same thing with a standard bank account and Quicken.

I highly recommend Mary Hunt's books on debt free living. Even if you're not in a bad financial position, her down to earth, easy to implement tips on financial management are a great starting point for anyone who wants to organize their financial life.

Regarding grocery bills, believe it or not - my biggest money saver has been meal planning! I plan a week's worth of dinners at a time, taking into consideration the grocery store sales that week and what we already have in our pantry. This has really help me stay on track when going grocery shopping as I tend to get only what I've planned to use rather than every little thing that catches my eye. It has also helped me to be a healthier cook as it seemed that those last minute, rush to prepare convenience meals were the worst ones for us. Now if I know we need a quick dinner on a particular night, I select an appropriate meal.

I do use coupons to a degree but should get a lot better at it. www.couponmom.com is a great service that matches weekly newspaper coupons with sales at the local grocery stores. If you have the time to invest in her system, it could be a huge money saver.

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D.S.

answers from Chicago on

I usually schedule one day a week to pay bills, and I usually do as much as I can online, for two reasons: 1) saves the cost of stamps and gas to go to the post office to buy stamps, and 2) you can schedule your payments online, to come out of your checking account on the day of your choice.

As far as groceries, we also eat and drink as much organic food as possible. What has helped us with this expense is growing many of our own vegetables and fruits. When you get into your new house, or if you have a small patio or garden at your apartment, plant some seeds, and enjoy the cost savings and freshness. You can buy packets of seeds for as little as 99 cents and the yield is well worth the small price. You'll never buy fresh fruits and vegetables for such a low price. Spinach, strawberries and tomatoes are easily grown in barrells or small patio planters, as well as peppers and onions.

You'll be fine. Just relax and develop a routine. Once you're in the habit of it all, it'll be much easier.

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T.K.

answers from Chicago on

You have gotten so many great responses! One more website to check out for coupons is www.thegrocerygame.com. I think it's a great one.

Also, as far as budgeting, we have a spreadsheet that lists what bills are due on which day of the month and then we enter in when we've paid them. We also include budgeted vs. actual expenses on this spreadsheet so we can see where we are at any given time. We pay as much as we can with our credit cards so we get the cash-back bonuses. Discover gives 1% back on every purchase and sometimes has 5% on certain items. The Chase Visa gives 5% back on gas and groceries - that really adds up fast! If we ever want something special, that's where the money comes from.

Good luck!

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C.T.

answers from Champaign on

T.:

First and foremost, you're not a dunce about money. If you were, you wouldn't be asking these questions.

There are a lot of systems you can set up for yourself. Start by listing all the monthly bills you receive and schedule when you will pay them each month. You can use a software program like Quicken or you can just set up a chart of bills. Whatever works best for you.

The thing that's best about a software program is that you can then generate reports showing how much you actually spent on various categories (like groceries / organic groceries, etc.).

If you have credit cards, pick the card with the lowest balance and pay it off first. Then take the amount you paid on that card and apply it to the card with the next lowest balance until it's paid off. Try to avoid credit and use debit cards.

Groceries are expensive - especially with growing children. One of the things I do is to buy as much as I can online through Quixtar. This accomplishes two things: first, by keeping the family out of the store those impulse buys are eliminated. Second, Quixtar is a multi-level-marketing business that gives me money back on my purchases. If you'd like to know more, contact me.

If you don't choose to go this route, then by all means make a grocery list and consider doing your shopping in the evening while the kids are at home with Dad.

Good luck!

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K.

answers from Chicago on

When my husband and I were trying to figure out our budget we had a piece of paper on the fridge with categories for items:
Groceries
Eating Out
Personal Care (haircuts, etc)
Household (Target runs, etc)
Discretionary me
Discretionary husband

ALL receipts would get recorded onto this sheet and we had target amounts for each category. We paid utilities and mortgage online and that was a pretty constant number each month, so when we figured out what our target amounts were for each category we would basically take our income, subtract mortgage, utilities, and savings (we always save FIRST - the day that we got our paycheck) and then use what's left over.

We found that some months we were over and some we were under. For example, my husband likes to play golf, so his discretionary $ mostly got spent in the summer, which is OK as long as he saved up in the winter for it.

As for groceries, we use coupons whenever possible BUT we do NOT purchase anything simply because we have a coupon for it. I find that most coupons are for packaged/processed foods (brand name stuff), and we don't really buy these, so we don't end up using many coupons except for things like lotion and laundry soap. We only buy cereal if it's $2.25/box or less. We do buy organic vegetables and milk. We do not eat very much meat. We spend more on food than some families I know, but we do not eat out much, cook healthy, and have made the decision that healthy and sustainable food is something worth spending money on.

We have also joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) for the summer and will get most of our produce from the CSA and farmer's markets, rather than from the supermarket.

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

i use one bank account for the bills and that our checks are direct deposited into. we get paid twice a month and so thats how i space out our bills. which ones get paid at the first of the month and which get paid at the 15th. once i put in the electronic payments for all the bills that will be paid at the first i add about 30 dollars extra to that for the oops just in case i miscalculate or we have an error. then whatever i have left from our check i put into another account for which i use my debit card for groceries, gas, and spending money. and then i do it all over again for the 15th pay period. after you do it a few times you will kinda have an idea of whether or not your bills are being distributed evenly through each pay period. if not then maybe you can call the billers ie gas company, electric, mortgage etc. and ask that they change the date due to the next pay period. or you can always change your spending habits to match your budget. in other words if most of your bills are paid on the 1st then you can wait to buy the bulk of your groceries on the 15th and so on. you will get the hang of it im sure, and then you will find your own way of doing things.

p.s. i do most of my billing online....it's much easier and you can schedule a payment on the 1st for the 15th. that way you won't forget to pay your bill or have bills laying all over the place. you can schedule them as they come in.

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T.G.

answers from Chicago on

You have gotten really awesome advice. This was a great question. I just wanted to add make sure you and your hubby have a "finance meeting" at least once a month to go over your budget & bills - with no distractions. It is important that both of you know what is going on with the money and are staying on track. I have always been the family CFO, my hubby has no desire to know what is going on, but I make him. I have tried Quicken a couple times, my credit cards & bank will automatically download all the info, but I prefer paper and pencil.

As for groceries, which the costs are out of this world, meal planning is a much better money saver than coupon cutting, IMO. I actually find using Peapod is cheaper for me than going to the grocery store. You get only what you need and it saves your list for you. I find most coupons are for food items I don't buy. I will use them for cereal, but that is about it. And Peapod takes all manufacturers coupons.

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J.

answers from Chicago on

Hello,
I am no super wiz when it comes to money, but I think my husband and I have a decent system. I use Quicken on my computer at home because it's super easy and is like a checkbook. I just enter all of our receipts into it every week, and label the categories (clothing, food, etc.) and then I check it against our statements every month. It makes it easy to balance (because it does all the math for you), and it's easy to track certain expenses so you can start to put together a budget.
My husband and I each have one credit card that we use for online purchases or larger purchases, but try to keep it at a level where we can pay them off each month (we're planning on buying a house next year, too, so we're trying to be super careful about credit). Then we use our debit cards for everything else... all of our daily expenses. My hubby works better with cash, so he'll usually take out a certain amount each week and live off of that each week (meals at work, transportation). We also set up a weekly transfer so that a certain amount of money is directly transferred to our savings account each week; this forces us to be tighter with our budget, but the savings are worth it.
For groceries, we walk to get most of ours (because we're in the city), and we shop in smaller spurts every week instead of large runs. This way we get more fresh stuff that's better for us, but it doesn't go bad at home, sitting around for a week or two. It does stink to go to different stores, but it's often the best way to go so you can get the widest selection of things at a range of prices. I don't do much with coupons either (it's hard to find them for more natural products), but I will check the Sunday sale fliers to see if there's anything I can stock up on that's on sale (mostly meat and cereal). In the summer we go to farmer's markets and local produce shops where everything is a bit cheaper as well.
I don't know if this is helpful at all, but it's not too hard to get into the routine of a budget once you get started, and I find that now I don't even have to write it down because I just know where we're at each month. I find that staying on top of it weekly and knowing when what bills are coming at what time each month makes me feel like I have a sense of control, and we also avoid overdraft/late fees. It may take a few months, but you'll figure it out!
Take care,
Jen

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A.S.

answers from Chicago on

Being married to an accountant, I've learned, BOY I'VE LEARNED!! Avoid using the credit card, shop for sales only. if you can. Go to dollar stores and discount outlets to make that dollar stretch. Yes, it's hard but when yo usee how much you can get for the little amount of money you spend, you'll be amazed!

Your not alone, I'm sure that a lot of mom's out there go through something like this at one point or two. I know I have!

A.

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N.O.

answers from Chicago on

Ok...the word "dunce" has me laughing...I don't know why but I think it's been forever since I heard it and it cracks me up.

There are a lot of ways to build a budget - mine is a very simple no-brainer way to start....

Get an American Express Card and make all of your purchases on it...IF (and it's an important "if") you can be diciplined enough to pay it off every month. Not everyone accepts it, but you can definitely put all your groceries, gas, Target, Walmart etc purchases on it and see first hand what you are spending per month. Get a joint account and have your husband do the same. Once you get a couple months under your belt, you'll be able to see what you guys are spending and where. You can pay bills with the account (not sure if there's a charge for that) and they have e-statements that break down your purchases by category. You get points for spending on the card an can use them to purchase gifts, trips, etc. We just used all of our points for a trip to Mexico last January.

I'm sure there will be many great suggestions on how to do this but that's my advice. I look forard to seeing what everyone else has to say. Great question for someone who's a dunce!

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S.W.

answers from Chicago on

my husband and I never buy anything we can not pay off in 30 days. I handle our banking he does the other investments. I love quicken and check out my bank site at least twice a week if not more. sometimes we splurge- like on steak once a week but its cheaper then going out to dinner. I do on occasion cut coupons. any money saved is great and you can ask your children to helo cut them. I can not imagine paying 10 for toothpaste- perhaps he should try baking soda- I would list what is spent a week and how much some things cost and go from there.

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S.B.

answers from Chicago on

We use quicken too. It's great once you get in the habit of entering all the info.

Prioritize your organic spending. ie buy the fruits and vege's before you spend money on the toothpaste.

Read 'the omnivoires dilemma' and it may change your feelings about eating locally produced (but not organic) food vs food that is organic but flown in from New Zealand. We hit all the local farmer's markets (kenosha wi has 2 every saturday) and also buy our meat directly from the farmers and store it in our freezer.

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J.M.

answers from Chicago on

As far as the budget goes, I would suggest reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It's a great book that will help you figure out what to do and even has a budget worksheet in it to help you get started. It has been a huge help at our house and hope it can help you too! We track all of our spending and while it may seem tedious at first, it really does help you to decide where your money goes.

Another idea that has helped is we keep a folder of bills to be paid and make sure that we check it often! I think if you keep it organized it will be much easier for you. You'll get the hang of it and your husband will be so appreciative of you taking over this chore!

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L.S.

answers from Chicago on

Hey T. M.
Well I'm no whiz at math, but I am a single mother and I do pretty well with the budget for myself and 2 kids. I will say that it is important to keep track of expenses on paper because it is hard trying to keep it in your head. Always write down the deductions when you pay with a check. When your husband gets paid take the amount of the check and make a list of things you need to pay(e.g. bills, groceries,household items) and add them up and deduct them from the paycheck and not what's in the bank. This helps to keep extra money in the bank by saving the left over from the previous check. Always look for bargains at the grocery store. There is no way you should pay ten dollars for a gallon of milk and a tube of toothpaste! Look for a name brand in toothpaste but look at what it does, they are all pretty much the same, tartar control, cavity fighter, so look for sales or cheaper brands. Milk is the same way, I don't see one brand being any different when it comes to milk. If you try to stay mindful of how much you spend on purchases you will see the amount you spend will lower and your budget will be more balanced.

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C.G.

answers from Chicago on

We use our credit card for just about every purchase and bill that we can. This allows us to very easily track our purchases. We also earn rewards (in our case airline miles which allow us to fly for free a couple of times a year). Obviously the key to this is paying the card off every month and never carrying a balance.

My husband hates to finance things so we don't buy a car, major home product, etc without the cash to pay for it. Saves money by cutting down on interest and service fees and prevents us from spending beyond our means. We do have a mortgage but because of our low amount of debt and good credit card history we have a lower interest rate than most people which saves us a lot of money in interest.

We do our savings/investments electronically. That way you never even notice the money is gone, vs. writing a check each month. We contribute to our retirement savings, savings accounts, college savings for our kids, etc and it either comes directly out of our checks or straight from the bank before we have the chance to spend it.

Good luck.

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J.M.

answers from Chicago on

My husband and I are completely debt free (except our mortgage)because of Dave Ramsy and the Total Money Make Over! We even have college and retirement accounts that we contribute to monthly because we stick to the budget. The book is amazing! We were not heavily in debt but we had just built a house and spent more than we should have. We don't make tons of money but a decent amount and this book helped us see what was important and where to put our money. It has budget sheets in it that we use and it is really easy. The book changed our lives...and I know it sounds corny but it was so worth th $20 for the book. I totally recommend reading it and seriously using the strategies inside.

Good Luck!
J.

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J.W.

answers from Chicago on

Hi T.,

I got in almost over my head a few years ago, but have finally found a system that works for me. I use an online money management program called Mvelopes (www.mvelopes.com). You can connect it to all of your checking, savings, credit card accounts, etc. and all of your transactions show up in a single register when they clear their account. Then you assign them to the correct envelope in the list of envelopes you've set up for your particular set of expenses in the Mvelopes program. You assign the budget amount you want to stick to to each envelope. I have envelopes set up for my fixed expenses, such as rent, cable and internet, etc. For my monthly expenses that can vary (electric, gas), I assigned an amount that should always cover it. For discretionary things like clothing, I assigned an amount I want to stick to, in my case, $40/month. I also have an envelope for Savings. When my monthly expenses clear my checking account, I "sweep" (transfer) the amount in that particular envelope to the Savings envelope. This doesn't transfer it to my actual savings account at the bank, it just keeps track of how much I can safely transfer to my actual savings account and still have enough left in my checking account to cover my expenses. When you make the actual transfer, it shows up as two transactions in the register - one for my checking account & one for my savings account and then I reconcile them in the program. You can also let the extra in your envelopes accumulate from month to month. I do that for my clothing envelope. If I find a sweater I want, but don't have enough in my clothing envelope to cover it, I wait until the next month when I've accumulated enough to spend it w/o going outside what I've budgeted for clothes. You could set up an "allowance" envelope for you and your husband and sub-envelopes inside of them to track individual items. If you allocate, say $200/month to each envelope, you'll be able to keep your "personal" expenses separate. (You'll no longer need to justify purchases like fishing reels and jewelry if them come out of your own envelope.)

You can enter cash transactions, too - but I use a debit card or check for everything I possibly can, because cash seems to slip through my hands and I have no idea where it goes. Initially I set up a group of envelopes I thought would cover my expenses and assigned a general amount to them. I didn't worry so much about trying to stick to that amount right away. I just assigned my expenses to the different envelopes to get an idea of where I was spending in the first place. Then I fine-tuned the amounts for each envelope and added a few I hadn't anticipated. As far as your grocery problem goes, you could set up sub-envelopes in your Groceries envelope for regular and organic/natural and spend as you have been doing for a few months...then for a few months buy all regular...the program has trend reporting that will let you-- and your DH--see at a glance what a difference it makes.)

The program is entirely Internet-based, so there's no software to install like Quicken or MS Money. You can check it from anywhere you can get on the web. It's $15 a month and definitely well worth it.

Best of luck to you,

J.

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E.R.

answers from Chicago on

T. M.
Welcome to the world of Independent Married Woman. I applaud your husband for his ability to provide for his family, which allows you to stay home. A stay-at-home mom is a 24/7 - full time job and is very rewarding.

A. Budgeting and balancing your check book - there are on line financial programs, *quickbook, quicken*, just to name a few, the programs will debit, add and reconcile your account at the end of the month via your bank statement. It appears your husband has already set up a financial program, continue to debit any expenses purchased; with checks, debit cards (ATM) purchases, Credit card purchases and deposits made to your checking account. Financial programs will provide a quick glance chart of your spending and how much is spent on each area of budget (grocery, utilities, etc.).

B. Grocery shopping -Instore coupons, online coupons and clipping coupons are valuable regardless of the value. Sometimes the coupons will equal out, even if the value deducts taxes only, every penny helps. Although you/husband prefer organic/natural products, once again COUPONS may be available for your organic/natural products instore, etc. Gas is very costly, try as much as possible to run errands in the same area on a given day, while taking kids to school, etc.
I am a budget shopper, be it grocery, clothing, shoes, whatever. Look for items that have been marked down or discontinued, outlet bakeries, etc.
Aldi products are just as good as WHOLE FOODS, JEWELS, DOMINICKS. Do not purchase items that are not necessary and inventory what you have in the refrig and cabinets so you do not double purchase items. Plan your meals and freeze left overs for quick meals.
Pick up the Sunday/Thursday newspaper and have fun.

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E.W.

answers from Chicago on

Thanks to my husband who likes to keep track of every penny if possible, we use Microsoft Money to keep track of all of our bills and spending. I'm also responsible for most of the bill paying and such, and it takes some getting used to--and making sure you check when things are due! For us, our free Bill Pay on our online access to our checking account is a life-saver. We also try to take advantage of automatic bill payment if offered, as long as we can somewhat choose the date of withdrawal.

I have a family of four, and granted, while both kids are under age 3, I'm able to pretty much keep grocery cost at $200 or less a month. Check out couponsurfer.com--I get some awesome coupons for more than $1.00 off an item, sometimes. And yes, we don't buy things just because they're on sale. I also shop around for deals. I use Aldi, although sometimes Meijer has great deals. SuperTarget also has some items that are the lowest price around, like canned pasta sauce. I plan all of our meals for the month using the Meijer ad to dictate what I purchase (like ground beef or chicken on sale). The other advantage to meal planning is I rarely have to think about what I'm making every day--it's already on my list and I go to the freezer or pantry and dig out what I need. Anal? Definitely, but worth the saved time and thought? Absolutely! I also try to find meals that don't always use meat as the protein--it ends up to usually be cheaper and just as filling and delicious; I'll do a meat meal one day and a non-meat meal the next.

I can't speak for the organic stuff; I agree it might be a better or at least more noble thing, but I can't afford it! I don't tend to buy much overly-processed stuff, so I figure the "regular" stuff is going to be okay for us.

Anyway, now that I've rambled, I wish you all the luck in getting the most for your money!

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M.J.

answers from Chicago on

I don't know about you, but using coupons does pay off, if you are using them for things that your family uses! You could shop at more than one store. You should not drive a long way out of your way to do it though! check grocery ads etc. purchase a freezer so that you can stock up on some meat etc. If your husband wants you to handle things, then handle them the way you want to! Insist that if you are in charge of grocery shopping, you will do it, but on your terms!! sometimes I don't think men get it! my husband is astounded at the cost of food and is impressed with the shopping skills I have! I would really suggest that you try going to ALDI. You will be pleasantly surprised by the merchandise and quality of the food. We have shopped there for years.
we do use our credit card for a lot of things, but pay the entire balance each month. We have never made any payments with interest. We don't eat out a lot. Fast food is very expensive. I am sure that I will see a huge jump in my food bill, now that my college son just got home!

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R.H.

answers from Chicago on

Hi T.,
In response to the grocery shopping...I am a stay at home mom of 8 beautiful children. My oldest will be 25 this year(she is married with a baby of her own) and my youngest is 5! I have been grocery shopping for a very long time.
For me, I MUST have a shopping list. I have made my own list with the catagories of the foods I purchase-as well as the meals I will cook for the week. This helps me stay on point and get all the things I need so I don't have to make those annoying trips to the grocery store over and over again during the week. I will be glad to send you my "Grocery List Template" if you are interested. With 5 children still home, and my husband and I, I usually spend about $140.00 per week. I know that if I did not have a plan that I would spend alot more.
Also, I save big $$$ on cleaning products that are safe for my family, green and smart for your wallet. If you'd like to check them out go to www.shaklee.net/hendersons4health/getclean

R. H.

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N.J.

answers from Chicago on

Thank you saying that being a stay-at-home M. requires a lot of smarts!! I'm a SAHM too.

Well, I'm better at grocery shopping then financial planning so I'll give you my tips. First off, I only buy what I can afford. So, all these fancy snacks and other foods that tries to suck in the kids are out of the question. I like to buy fruit, puddings, granola bars,etc. Sweet snacks that are healthier I guess and cheaper. Snacks are a big part of many people's grocery budget. If you can eliminate some of them and make smarter choices then you may see your bill go down. Coupons.....they are worth using but only if they are for things you already buy or are willing to try. I buy my kids Mott's 100% juice. Everytime I do they print me out a coupon for $1 off of two next time. Well, I have saved a few of them already. Now, they are on sale this week 2/$5. But with my coupons I'm going to be getting 2/$4 and they are named brand 64oz. drinks. That's another thing....if you are against buying "off" brand stuff, now may be a good time to try them. I do admit most of the stuff I buy isn't off brand but I still shop smart even when buying name brand. But things like canned soups that I'm only going to use in a recipe, I'll use off brand to save $.
Also, make a menu. I do this weekly but some people do theirs bi-weekly or even monthly. This way, you know what you are going to cook and buy accordingly. I actually take this menu with me when I grocery shop. Then, if the meat for my pot roast isn't on sale that week then I scratch that off and put another meal in it's place if another meat is on sale. Oh yes, I only buy meats on sale(well I try to buy EVERYTHING on sale-really!!) and stock up (but not too much) when they are. I think my grocery bill for 2 adults and 2 little ones is about $70 per week or so. If you need any more tips please contact me. I have a book for stay-at-home moms which tells a ton of ways to save $ but I'm going to have to find it. If you want to know about it let me know :)
Jenny

K.L.

answers from Chicago on

One of the most money saving tips I learned was to plan meals for the week in advance, check the house to see what supplies you need, make a list, and go to the store and buy only what you need every week (no pressure to stock up on sales, etc).

Also, Quicken is a good software program if you are interested in a one time charge to buy it and then in learning how to use it. I'm not a computer genius and I was able to use it.

Meijer has a private label brand that comes in organic. It's been a wonderful blessing to our family. Trader Joe's also has some good prices on things. You can make Trader Joe's a once a month shopping endeavor so that you don't have to go to multiple stores every week. That's what we do.

Another great idea: There are farms in the area that you can sign up to receive fresh produce and meat from. Here is a link to find some in your area--very economical!
http://www.localharvest.org/
God Bless you!

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R.S.

answers from Chicago on

T.,
I'm a full-time working mom and just started back to school and I'm mostly in charge of the bills & finances in our family. It is very hard!!! I am currently working on trying to get our family on a budget, since we just added another car payment in the mix...really not sure if we can afford it (yikes!). I would love to read the responses you may get from other 'pros' out there ... because I believe we all could use some help! My girlfriend had suggested I try using Quickbooks before, and I know I have a copy around here somewhere! LOL!!! Paying bills on-line through your bank (they should offer this free to you as a customer) is AWESOME! I don't balance my check book either. I do 98% of my banking on-line. It's great! But I do have to watch it almost daily. Good Luck, and know that you are probably not the only one struggling with this. ; )
Take care,
R.

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J.S.

answers from Chicago on

Taking on the financial tasks is a challenge that you can accomplish if you take time to make a system. Whether that system involves "envelopes" for specific budget categories or a computer program that helps you keep track, you will make your life much easier by working at this "job." One trick that may help is keeping track of those charge card purchases so as not to have a surprise when the bill comes. To do this you can log in a payment into your computer checking account for that payment. Schedule the date for approximately when the payment will be due. Then each time you make a purchase, add that amount to the total so that you can see ahead of time how it is going to affect your budget and help you keep control of the card.

My children are grown now, but when I was a SAHM for many years, I considered it part of my "job" to use the financial resources we had wisely. So coupons were a part of my financial work each week. There is certainly no shame in being fiscally responsible. And it saves a lot of headaches in the long run. Putting some time in to develop a system will make you a "dunce" no longer!

J.

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A.B.

answers from Dallas on

I didn't read all your responses, so I'm sorry if I repeat something. I use a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel and just listed all the monthly bills. I have a folder in my bookmarks to all of our bank websites and we pay all of our bills online. As far as groceries go, my husband had his work split his check, so the grocery money goes into a separate checking account. I spent a couple months keeping receipts and also made a spread sheet of the stuff I buy and what it usually costs me so I have a reference to know if something is a good deal. I also made a minimum inventory level for each item so I know when I have to buy how much to last me a certain amount of time. I try to keep three months of most stuff in the house, when my son was born I only shopped for bread, milk, and fruit for a month. I also plan out menus by the week or two weeks and buy only what I'm missing and only whats on my list. It's hard, especially when I pass that day-old bakery stuff.
Good luck!

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L.M.

answers from Chicago on

I can give you this advice, save the gas money and buy your supplements, some food/snack items, and organic health and beauty aids online. I use Vitacost.net I save a TON of money over buying them retail at the store and they only charge 4.99 (or maybe it's 5.99) for the shipping as a flat rate no matter what you buy!

unless all those stores you need to go to are in a row, I would plan your shopping trips so that you are burning up the least gas you can.

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B.F.

answers from Chicago on

I combine my shopping with Cost-CO (their milk is hormone free as well as their ice cream, yet not 100% organic... and it is CHEAPER!) along with Berkots or Brookhaven (on Rt. 45 in Frankfort). Fresh veggies & meats are cheap... with gas being high, I tend to get everything in one trip for the week. I use my Discover cc for EVERYTHING (as you get 30 days to pay plus cash back). I always pay the bill 100% every month... so finance fees are never charged. I have a lot of the house bills charged to the discover card automatically. This saves on postage & then i earn cash on the purchase too! I pay the other bills all on-line and keep track of it in Quicken on my computer. I do have a "budget" that I try to see if I've met or exceeded each month. Hope this helps!

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