What Are We Doing Wrong with Our $$$$$$

Updated on October 06, 2010
M.S. asks from Chicago, IL
25 answers

im a sahm, my husband is a manager for one of the many firestone companys. for living in an apartment not having any debt(credit card) where does our money go...why do i feel like we live check to check........we want to buy a house next year....but with no savings how are we going to make that dream a reality......i guess i would like to know ways you save or manage your money or what i am personaly doing wrong......please help.....

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Dave Rasay die-hard here. No debt and a paid for house. Not saying that to brag but it IS possible. You just have to think differently.
First step--a budget--and STICK to it!

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answers from Denver on

I found this site to be helpful if you're not into the Dave Ramsey cures all including cancer and has launched a spacecraft to the moon too. Not to knock him :) http://www.dailyworth.com/


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answers from Seattle on

GI JOE has the right of it: Knowing is 1/2 the battle.

Where DOES the money go? Each and every single dollar? Not just big charges (rent, food, bills), but also all of the nickel and dimed to death charges? $10 here, $30 there REALLY adds up. Track your money for a month or two and figure out where it's being spent. My husband, just for example, used to buy lunch at work every day to the tune of an average of $10. So nothing fancy. That's $200-250 a month. Not a small chunk of change. Add in that he also spent about $10 a day on "incidentals" (not including gas) and it got bumped up to over $500 a month. Getting rid of TV, a home phone line, random recurring monthly subscriptions (gym, magazines, online game stuff, etc.) saved us another $500 a month. That's already over $1000 dollars a month. When we cut alcohol out of the budget, that save another several hundred a month. Small charges add up over time.

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answers from San Antonio on

Also another mortgage lender here...(former, now SAHM). I scanned through all the responses, lots of good advice.

Create a budget based on what you owe, trickling down down to what you need and last, what you want. (ie ALWAYS pay your bills first, then yourself and then live off the rest) Your total debt needs to be 36% or less of your take home, not your gross pay (that will help you with even the most conservative lender when the time comes. )

Don't feel compelled to buy just because rates are low right now. Assess your credit situation using www.annualcreditreport.com and don't fall for the credit monitoring or any other gimmick. Consider too that buying a house isn't just the house, it's start up fees for all your services, taxes, new furniture and decor(don't kid yourself into thinking you won't want it, cause you will!), and needs like lawnmowers, etc. You need cash for down payment, closing AND ample savings after that for all your initial expenses, plus an emergency fund.

As for monthly expenses, experiment. In terms of food budget, what works for me is creating a 14 day menu, I create using seasonal and sale items from the weekly grocery ads and Costco coupons. Create a grocery list from the menu and shop the list. Organize your list the way the store is organized to avoid impulse buys and shorten shopping time.

List out your financial goals and post them somewhere you have to see them, so you are constantly reminded. Don't buy extras like clothing, shoes, toys, etc unless they are sale, or you have a coupon. Same with eating out, use the offers and deals. Cut the extras like premium channels, membership fees for things you don't use.

And above all, talk about it with your spouse. Make sure you are on the same page financially and money isn't getting lost somewhere. Talk about your goals and keep the line of communication open.

Best wishes!

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answers from Dallas on

I don't pray at the church of Ramsey. The only person he ever made rich is Dave Ramsey. My bank (Wells Fargo) keeps track of my spending. Everything is broken down into housing, utilities, food, gas, etc. There is a pie chart and everything! I can see my 3 month average on expenditures, etc. The accountability is great. The part that made me cringe is when I would see all the piddly trips - fast food places & convenience stores. Those are the ones that sunk my budget - just a few dollars at a time. Now, I'm back on track. My check is direct deposited. I pay all my regular bills online, through my banks' bill pay mode on payday. I find that if I pay all the set bills 1st, before going to the grocery store, I am a much more budget concious shopper. I have it set up on my account to automatically transfer a set amount to my savings account every payday. So, it's gone before I see it. You can name it "New House fund" or something. Mine is for Christmas and vacation.
Also, try to find some hidden money in your bills. Call your cable, cell phone, and electricity co. Try to negotiate. You may have to make some sacrifices, like no cable and no internet. Or make some other choices, like keep internet and do netflicks instead of cable or go down to the barest cable package. Look at your grocery budget. Implement a routine where 1 night a week you have meatless pasta, sandwhiches one night, breakfast for dinner - pancakes are cheap! I make a game of trying to average $7 or less for dinner for the 4 of us. That keeps us from eating out too - because I am thinking it's gonna be $40 to eat out, that's way over $7. Switch to generic everything and cut down on convenience products. Anything that is single serving is way overpriced. You could also supplement the savings by babysitting. Just vow to put the $ straight into the New Home Account.

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answers from Detroit on

You've already gotten a lot of good advice on here...I'll just add what I did when I first got out of college, got my first real job, and my dad was still around to give me advice. My dad recommended that I write down in a journal everything I spent money on. And I mean everything, from monthly rent to groceries to a pack of gum. It really was an eye opener and it made me A) much more aware of where my money was going; and B) eventually less apt to spend money on non-essentials, or at least question how "essential" something really was, knowing that I was going to have to record it. Somehow seeing it written down, every day, in black and white, made me not want to spend as much.

You can also consider computer software like Quicken which tracks your expenses. You did not mention what your husband is doing with the money he earns, but you both need to be on the same page - I've seen too many SAHMs just let the husband handle all the finances and pay the bills and not bother to keep an eye on things or be aware of where the money is going. If something suddenly happened to him, how would you manage?

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answers from Houston on

We have the same problem. I can't even buy any extras otherwise we are totally broke, and we live cheaply, we drive old cars, live in an older home, we don't go out or buy nice things, don't have cable, zero credit card debt. When I make our budget, we shouldn't even be able to make it at all, though we always have until now, when my husband got laid off and now that he has a lower paying job, and a slew of unexpected medical bills, and hefty student loans just hit, so we are really suffering since all of our savings were used up keeping us afloat... and it's truly terrifying.

One thing that is a money pit is food. Fast food, going out to eat, buying snacks, drinks, cokes, starbucks, candy, packaged foods and little extras like toys and such. We watch our portions to make sure we habve leftovers for the next night, and it's actually helped me lose a few pounds. Even cheap, small purchases really add up, I returned a bag to the grocery store of small things I bought to exchange for cash like wall nails/ hooks, bobby pins, keychain, some make-up... and it was like $40 woth of stuff I could live without. Sell things you don't need to help. I've been listing items on craigslist and hope to have a garage sale soon, and trying to make an income on the side to help. I don't know, I mean, I sold a grill for $30 and it helped with groceries!

Look up your spending history, does it go towards clothes, craft supplies, books, movies, toys...? Do you have memberships that add up like monthly magazines, extra cable tv, upgraded cell phones... You will see a trend eventually and then when you nip that in the bud it will help.

Look up Dave Ramsey he has a lot of great advice. Not everyone aggrees with all he says, but he can at least give you some insight. Try and put about 10-20% of every paycheck into your savings... you will learn to live without it and you can build your savings up that way.

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answers from Honolulu on

Another die hard dave fan. I have no idea how things are going for you, because you gave no specifics. I can tell you that my husband makes 3660.60 a month, we have 3 kids and throw 450 a month at my student loan (our last debt will be paid off in 6 months!!!! That is 6 years early!!!!) with only the 1000 dollar emergency fund as savings. We also live in hawaii (military life is fun... lots of fun places to live), the land of 3.50 for a dozen eggs and 6.00 for a gallon of milk, so our food budget is REALLY high at 600 a month for all 5 of us.

On the house issue, you can always ask them to manually underwrite you. they don't need a credit score!

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answers from Allentown on

We have the same problem- on paper it works out, we should even have some left at the end of each month! Try this! Pay cash for everything- seems like you are much more conscience of where the money is going. save all receipts and go over your expenses each week and see where extra was spent that could be saved.
I just started working from home so I can be with our 2 children, but we need to have that additional income. Maybe I can help you! Msg me if you are interested!

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answers from Columbus on

Okay, try this:
Set aside a box on the desk or somewhere easy to get to. Everyone in the house has to get receipts for everything they purchase throughout the month. This includes gas, groceries, movie ticket stubs, bill stubs/statements everything.

At the end of the month, sit down with the box and have some good music playing. Sort the receipts into categories-bills (like water, gas, electric) that you need, car stuff (gas, oil change, insurance), food (go through the grocery receipt w/ a fine tooth comb---really only count food items, not hairspray, tylenol, etc.), medical (insurance, medical bills, prescriptions, etc.), and fun/non-essential items, etc. for categories.

Then, look at what you're bringing in in terms of paychecks.

The next day or in a couple of days, go through that list of categories, and see what items you can do without. Do you really need the superfancy hair spray or the $120 perm? Can you get buy with a generic or different brand of hair spray? Switch to a less expensive salon? If the kids need new clothes, try shopping at Plato's Closet/higher end resale clothing places, or if the budget needs to be even tighter, at Good Will/Salvation Army.

And be really tough on yourselves about that is essential: Potato chips and cookies from the grocery are not essential! A sweater or pair of shoes is not essential unless you don't have a pair of shoes w/o holes or any sweaters at all. LOL.

If there aren't a lot of non-essentials, then look at what you're spending on and think about other options. For example: we buy generic spaghetti sauce. It's the same in taste to Ragu or Prego. Instead of ordering pizza, we make our own-we buy pizza shells and sauce and cheese the grocery, and can get 2 medium pizzas made for about $6 total, sometimes less with in-store specials.

I also highly recommend www.cannywomen.com for their wonderful motto(s) (DO instead of Buy, Shop At Home First, and Procrastinate). And I recommend The Tightwad Gazette for tons of tips on saving $ and living frugally.

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answers from Boise on

Buy Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I know that you don't have debt, which is great, but what about car loans, etc? Even if you have NO debt, it can teach you to tell your money what to do, and get you in a good position. Once I started it, it was amazing how much money I "found" to pay off debt. I don't know where it was going before we started it, but now it is doing what I want it to do....except for that speeding ticket yesterday. :)

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Norfolk on

It's a question of money in vs money out.
If saving for a house is your main goal, then when the pay check comes in, you put a portion of it in savings for your house first, then manage to live off what ever is left. Shop for clothes at consignment places as much as possible. Kids out grow clothes so fast you can usually find some real bargains that have hardly been worn at all. Look for kids clothes swaps on Craigs List. Plan a weekly meal menu then buy what you need for it and don't give in to spontaneous purchases (I don't even walk down the snack aisle anymore). Using coupons can help, too.

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answers from Chicago on

I hate to say it, but my first thought was that if you have no debt and you live in an apartment an don't know where your money is going, then my first thought is to talk to your husband to find out where he might be putting the leftover money. It could be anything from him eating out extra, hanging with the guys to unscrupulous things. That said, starting to put a spreadsheet together and accounting for everything might give you the answer that you are looking for. If not, see above. Good luck. It might just be time for you to go back to work, at least part-time to start that saving process to make your dreams happen.

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answers from New York on

I haven't read any of the responses. If you can't remember, or don't know where the money goes, start by making a list of everything you spend money on. I mean every single cent, the pack of gum you bought at the convenience store, the change you dropped into the salvation army bucket, every single penny. You should do this for a month, or at least 2 weeks.

Sit down with hubby and make a budget.

My guess as to where the money is going is on small useless things you want, but don't need. You're out running errands and stop at the drive thru for a snack or cup of coffee. You're shopping for diapers and see a cute little toy for the baby. You don't feel like cooking so you pick up take out.

Become aware of your spending. Ask yourself everytime you make a purchase of put something into your cart, do I NEED this or do I WANT this. Only purchase what you need.

If you truly want to start saving then do it. Hubby has direct deposit available, have him put a portion of his payroll check directly into a savings account. If you don't see it, you don't spend it.

Read some of the great post on here on different ways some of us mamas are saving and cutting back. There are some really great tips.

Good luck.

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answers from Lincoln on

First thing you need to do is write out a budget. You can get a free template online for Excel. Its takes some time, but it will help you figure out where the money is going. You budget what you think you'll spend, then enter the actual amount you did spend. The first month will probably information gathering and you will probably go over budget in many areas.
The second month you should stick to your budget. If you want to buy something look at your budget and see if you have the money left there. If its not in the budget, don't buy it. You'll find yourself with a good amount of savings in no time.

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answers from Chicago on

check out mint.com. It's really helped me to see where all of our money is going!



answers from Chicago on

We do a Financial Needs Analysis (FNA), with our Financial Advisor that helped us figure out where money is going and if it is going in the wrong place. If you need help I can refer you to him. This is a complimentary service that helps out middle income group.

Enjoy your day!



answers from Atlanta on

my hubby an i invest, 50. a month into our our accounts, and at our 12 year mark, we will have each 100,000 each!



answers from Chicago on

besides all the great advice I have to say using only CASH is key.....also have a set amount taken out of the paycheck & put in a separate account & never touch it......

I do subscribe to the Dave Ramsey approach, even if you don't have debt there is something in there for everyone & he gives great ideas on ways to save money.



answers from Dallas on

How about googling Dave Ramsey.


answers from Seattle on

Best thing to do is keep a journal for a month and write down EVERYTHING you spend $ on. That should give you a good idea of where your money is going. Then you can see where you need to cut back...and then you take that $ and put it into your savings account and DON'T TOUCH IT!



answers from Boca Raton on

I checked out Dave Ramsey's book from the library so you DON'T have to buy it. Lots of great tips in there, not to mention motivational stories.

You may also want to scour your library for other financial and/or household management tips too. Once I checked out a book on how to make common items at home (i.e., dishwasher detergent) and actually got some great ideas out of it!

Good luck to you guys.



answers from Phoenix on

I really need to follow my own advice in this area. =) Make a budget and put money into savings part of this budget. Stick to the budget. Make sure you're completely debt free. A house payment is the only debt you should have. If you have a car loan etc., then work hard to pay that off. Read, "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. He has great ideas that are easy and makes sense. Check your library to see if they have it. Good luck to you!!!



answers from Austin on

Definitely check out Dave Ramsey's books. My husband and I took the class in the Spring and taking it again since we didn't follow it like we were suppose to. If you can take the class all the better. We will be able to pay off all of our debt by the end of December and will be ready to start investing a large amount where ever we want. It teaches you to know where every penny goes. When we wrote out our monthly budget we ended up having several hundred extra every month that we were blowing. Now that we are following it we are able to save money for larger items we want. I highly recommend his class. He also has a talk show on 98.9 and also online. DaveRamsey.com A lot of good information.

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