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Topic: Need help with budgeting

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Subject: Need help with budgeting
Date Posted: 8/12/2009 11:51 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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Ok, here's my dilemna! Currently I have a job which means I have steady income. I know nothing is for certain esp in this economy but even eating nothing but beans and rice would not allow me to save enough for losing a job..

that being said I'm having a problem with budgeting, mainly because there's money available. Fixed bills like the electric(not fixed bu tthe amt to pay is determined by the electric company and not me!), phone, internet..those aren't really a problem. It's stuff like groceries and entertainment and household that are honestly throwing me for a loop.

I've tried (since I live alone) to buy, for instance, either corn torillas, hashbrowns, or whatever breakfast starch and using them up but let's face it - boring boring boring because it takes me forever to get through a pack of tortillas...

I think I should be saving more though..moneywise..putting more in savings. Yet since I have the money I keep wanting to spend it :-( I do have a set amount each  month go directly to a credit union and then another small amount go to another savings account. I'm debating increasing the amount for the first savings since it goes directly to the savings and takes at least 3-5 days to withdraw and deposit into checking. then just scrimp during the month and see if Ican do it...but that just doesn't seem like the purpose of a budget...

does anyone else have this problem? I've already given up cable, monthly cell phone switched to tracfone, and lowered interenet down to basic dsl...I figured I didn't need those services and sure enough haven't missed them. I'd like to know how to determine  how much to save is 'enough' if there's such athing and how much is 'needed' for entertainment and eating out..any guidelines? i've ehard save ten, give ten, and spend the rest but not sure how accurate it is!

Date Posted: 8/13/2009 8:20 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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maybe I should start with something more specific like how do you plan meals? I know others plan meals out so stuff is utilized better..maybe this would be the place to start for budgeting for food?

my coworker goes through the internet and prints recipes that sound interesting..I have tons of cookbooks..but gosh I dont' understand how you know what you're gonna be in the mood for a day beyond today..she says she doesn't think like that. anyone else here plan out meals and make their grocery list this way? I usually buy af ew staple items I know I eat a lot but don't really plan actual meals.

Kim (Mistry) -
Date Posted: 8/13/2009 1:36 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2006
Posts: 4,106
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Hi, Susanna!

   I have started planning out my meals in advance.  What I usually do is go through my recipes, or online, see what looks good. Then I buy the basics for each meal, i.e, meat, pasta, veggies, whatever isn't in my pantry.  The first two weeks I spent a bit more at the store to make sure my pantry was stocked.

   Then, I take out the protiens the night before to defrost. But since my DH likes to change his mind, I started taking out TWO proteins, like beef and chicken. This way either one is ready to go and I don't HAVE to stick to my menu plan for that day if I don't want to.  I can switch out meals and still stick to my grocery list and budget.

   Living alone is tough on the menu planning, because some nights, I'd just eat cereal!  lol

  Also, if you are bored with what you have bought, instead of throwing it out, how about changing it up?  Hashbrowns, for instance. You can create a hashbrown casserole, eat what you like and refridgerate the rest for a few days. I use the leftovers with breakfast  by putting some oil in a pan, tossing in the leftovers, mashing them down and cooking them, then flipping.  Nice, yummy, crusty breakfast hashbrowns, that dont' in any way look or taste like they were a few days ago!

  I also do this with the always popular chicken and rice bake from Campbells.  Make that, get sick of it, so I make soup out of it.  I take the leftover chicken and rice, pop that into a soup pan, add 2 cans of chicken broth and 1 can of mixed veggies.  Voila!  Yummy chicken rice and veggie soup!

   This helps by changing up your meal plan, and stretching your food budget by not having to throw out food due to boredom, or them getting nasty in the fridge!

 One thing I did a while back was make a list ( I LOVE lists! lol)  I made a list of everything I like to make and eat, like spaghetti and meatballs, calzones, casseroles, tacos, etc.  I also made alist of side dishes. Totally mix and match at my fingertips, I don't get bored eating the same things and makes planning my meals easy because once I've decided on what to make, I can just take my list of meals to the pantry and see what I have and what I need. 

  It's saved me a lot of money.  It took some time at the beginning but now it's just a few mins a week!

  Hope I didn't ramble on too much, and that some of it may be of help to you!



Date Posted: 8/13/2009 6:50 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks Kim! I've found recipes that sound good and some I think would freeze ok..I hate waste but dont wanna eat cereal every night! of course some things I could probably eat every night but gotta watch the eating for weight watchers! even scaling down I seem to have a lot of leftovers..right now I have spaghetti meat sauce that I'm not wild about but don't wanna throw it away either...I think I'm just tired of it so guess I'll end up sticking it in the freezer to use later..or maybe convert it to a soup of some sort.

guess I'll just have to go through the freezer and pantry and make lists then look through my recipes and find some that fit best and give it a try and see how it goes. I've never planned weekly meals before -ever!

Date Posted: 8/13/2009 10:14 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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i know how you feel . it had to figure each night what to have and when i going in to supermaket i go crazy . i been try to set bugdet for everything but it so hard something allway come up . next week i am going to start plan ahead a little and figure where theat strech i wory about budget . i am too try to diet i just gotten over stomach bug so really havent eaten too much . i like to go store and i allow myself dunkin donut coffee on weekend becuase it something dad and i do . so i was think of getting gift card and put set amount on it every month . i also am going to try to do 50 buck week on groceries and bring lunch to wok that hard one because i dont do anything in morning because i barely get bus in morning so i shower and do everyting at night . i use to cook a bunch stuff on sunday been going to parent house on weekend . i just been lazy lately dont know why with budget . i need to at work bring coffee i allow myself a cup of day and bought all this amazing flavor cream and im so lazy . i watch think of this today . i also need to save and going to start .

Date Posted: 8/14/2009 6:22 PM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2006
Posts: 4,505
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I think your freezer needs to be your friend!  I would make a big dish or pot of something, eat it for a night, then freeze the leftovers in individual containers with the WW points stuck on them with tape!  Then make something different and freeze again.  Get 4 or 5 different meals in the freezer and then you have your choice of what to eat from the freezer.  And if you want something different, make it, and freeze again.  LOL!  You may run out of freezer room if you have too many items, but if you keep everything in square containers it should fit pretty well. 

I'm also doing weight watchers, and I just bought a big package of turkey burgers from Aldi.  I figure I can pull one out for myself when my husband is working late, and feed the kids a pizza or something that I won't generally eat due to the higher points. 

Good luck!



Date Posted: 8/14/2009 10:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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that is good idea edie . im having stomach issue and i need to eat bland foood so i am going to start make thing and freeze them i also need to lose weight so i will put point .

Date Posted: 8/15/2009 8:04 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
Posts: 5,586
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Hi Susanna.  There's only one way to save money, and that is to be consistant about it.  Every paycheck means $___ goes into savings.  No exceptions.

You said : Fixed bills like the electric(not fixed bu tthe amt to pay is determined by the electric company and not me!), phone, internet..those aren't really a problem....I think I should be saving more though..moneywise..putting more in savings.

Your savings account (which is, in reality, your investment into your own comfortable future and retirement) must be treated as seriously as your other bills.  Electric, car insurance, phone, etc.  You would never not pay those bills.  So, you mustn't not pay your savings accounts either.  I mean, what could be more important than your own future comfortable retirement??  So, every paycheck means $___ gets deposited.  In fact, pay into these accounts before your pay your other bills, in order to get into the habit.  Your budgeting skills will quickly become sharper.  My father always said "pay yourself first" and he was absolutely right. 

And yes, I did say "these accounts".  Because you should have more than one savings account.  Your Future Comfortable Retirement Account must NOT be considered your "emergency fund"--because there will always be emergencies to gobble up whatever spare money you may have.  So you should have two accounts:  Emergency and Comfortable Future Retirement.  The quicker you get into the habit of paying even a small amount into both of these, the faster they will grow, and the more empowered you will be.  Hope I'm not sounding too stern, but this is a passionate issue for me. 

Best of luck to you! 

Date Posted: 8/15/2009 11:36 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks everyone

no stephanie you're not too stern...someone passionate in this area is what I need ot motivate myself!

I do have the 401k at work w hich I've taken loans from but currently have none  borrowed. I put 13% there(was doing the basic 6% for the match then went to 10% then added 3% and debating upping it ot 15% to see if I can 'feel the pain'

I have savings with the original company's credit union(it's small and have to fax or go by in person then wait for the check then mail to my checking account so it's accessible but not overly convenient and at the end of June was paying close to 3%) I have a set amount come out of my 2 monthly checks that go straight to this account.

I also opened an account with INGdirect and have a set amount going here once a month though the rate is down to around 1% now I think. 'this is where I started off putting my overtime but haven't really done since May or so. I did take money from this account in February to pay for windows which is something I wanted to do for  home improvement.

checking/savings at another credit union that's about 30-45 min away but so far hasn't been a problem since I mail a couple of deposits there each year and otherwise don't go in person. I have my car loan through this credit union as well and autodraft. I use this savings for the convenienc adn aside from the windows where I dipped into ING I've only used savings from this account. It was i ntended for stuff like vet visits or if the electric bill this summer went unexpectedly high.

I think mine is a discipline problem along with not knowing how to do certain t hings like budget for food and entertainment. as a kid we weren't into instant gratification..we got stuff at Christmas and a little at birthday unless it was school clothers/supplies..otherwise our allowance had to cover it. I really think this put me in the all or nothing mentality and wanting 'christmas' year round to cheer myself up! every hobby I get to obsessed with obtaining stuff in to the point obtaining outweights time spend enjoying what I've obtained! I'm working on this though.

but in May I decided to treat myself during hte mother's day sales(only reason I went shopping!) and it WAS needed because honestly I live in jeans and t-shirts and really did think it ws time to buy some casual wear a step up from t-shirts! I also went to a local symphony...hard to explain but the beginning o the year it was like 'all or nothing' and dont' spend yet I was denying myself stuff. it's just hard for me to not over-buy at the grocery store and not get carried away...the simple clothing wasn't so bad til I added jewelry and went overboard..seems like I binged and it's hard to get back on track.

I just dont seem to know how much is 'ok' to spend on fun stuff each month..my co worker/friend said s he's allowing $50..and I think that's every 2 weeks so $100 per month but not sure. might just be $50 per month.

also at the beginning of the year I was doing cash/debit only and keeping track of it all. Then got Discover card and it pays 1% or more cashback or using the card. This is where I'm slacking big-time..sorta slipped into the 'not real money' deal and then taking from the later chekcing acount that was for vets/electric type stuff. paying it back then taking it out again type deal. this is where I'm having trrouble and I think it's more from the discretionary stuff than the 'main bills'.

I know this is something I have to get a grip on myself and make myself do but I'm having trouble with it and thought some ideas might help or just some motivating 'stories' of how others handle stuff like groceries and entertainment.

Date Posted: 8/15/2009 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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Edie, I do precook and freeze some stuff though need to be a bit more organzied about it! irght now I have several containers of veggie soup in the freezer and some precooked chicken breast...guess I should thaw some out for lunch!

I really try not ot overstock my freezer since last year hurricane Ike wiped me out when the electricity was off for the weekend :-( of course that was one time though a few yeas ago it was iffy when a storm came through.

Carol, I htink we're twins separated at  birth! we seem to have the same problems! :-)

Date Posted: 8/19/2009 7:55 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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susanna i alway though that.