Now that I’m on maternity leave, trying to survive on one income can sometimes become a juggling act.
Ohh, maybe if we cut out meat this week, we can go out to dinner at that new Thai restaurant on Friday? Or if we stop buying fancy coffees (I’m addicted to caramel lattes) for a whole month, we can save $50 to put towards the new laptop I want. On and on. Cut one thing out so we can afford another thing.
And is it all things? Is it all just things and stuff and useless junk anyways? I mean, really, what do babies need? A roof over their heads. Check. A warm bed to sleep in. Check. Food. Check. (Good thing it’s still free for the most part.) Love and kisses and cuddles. Check, check and check.
Luckily we don’t have a TV or else I probably be tempted by all the commercials, info- or otherwise, I’d see about the latest gadget, or cute pair of shoes, or pretty dress. As it is, what we miss most are our bi-annual travel adventures. My husband and I were racking up two, even three, trips a year. Curacao in the November, Dominican Republic in the Spring, and maybe a drive down to sunny California in the Summer. Now, we feel lucky if we get down to the city for a night out to see a concert. Oh my gosh honey! We got outta the house! We’re going to a concert!! We are driving without kids!!! Holy Feck! What do we do with ourselves?!?
And then as typical parents do, we talking about the kids, how tired we are, how my boobs ache, and I don’t know about my husband, but I start to miss them after a few hours away, even if all they are is asleep.
Although the kids are still babies, and even though we have a bit of lee-way with our money now, we need to know where our money goes by the time they get older, and more demanding. With this in mind, I’d like to share some tips I’ve found that works for us:
1. The number one factor to a successful budget is to actually make a budget. Duh. But it was my friend JJ who had to teach me that one. I know it’s not fun or exciting, and it can be pretty dang dismal, but gathering all the past month’s receipts, bills and bank statements together to find out how much you spend is the only way you’re ever going to get ahead. And in order to get ahead, you need to know your finances personally. Like in the same way you know your best friend. Intimate details. The good, the bad and the ugly. If you think of it that way, then it’s not so daunting. You aren’t scared to look through your bills, because you almost know exactly how much your bill will be, and you’ve budgeted for it. And like a best friend, it’s good to be brutally honest with your expenditures. Kinda like telling your best friend she has spinach stuck between her teeth. Only good friends say stuff like that.
2. After paying your bills, number two issue on controlling your finances, is savings. This is the fun part. I like to think that my goal is to save whatever tiny, teeny bit of money that is leftover from paying my bills each month. But if all your money goes to bills, then save before paying your bills. I realize this is counter-intuitive, but as the financial gurus say: Pay Yourself First. It’s great to see the money add up. And it generally doesn’t take long. Start first with a goal of saving a $1,000. That’s a good bubble of emergency cash to have on hand. If you’re able to save say, $100 from each paycheque, that’s $200 every month, within half a year, you have that bubble. It’s like a breath of fresh air. The next step is to save enough money for 6 months worth of living, but at first take one step at a time.
3. While being in debt can feel overwhelming, burying your head in the sand ain’t gonna get you anywhere. If you find it hard to manage your money and never seem to have enough at the end of the month, then it’s time to start going automatic. Set up monthly payment transfers with your online bank account. If you need to pay your mortgage on the first every month, set it up to go in on the 29th of the previous month. If your hydro is due the same date every other month, plan ahead and get it taken out automatically. Same with credit card, cell phone and any other regular bills you have. Generally we have low resistance to things like… Sales. Purses. Shoes. We are only human. Take the self-discipline out of the equation, and your bills will be paid on time.
4. While you’re setting up automating paying your bills, it makes sense to go automatic with the savings as well. While I was working, I arranged to have 15% of my paycheque contributed to my RRSPs. On the surface that seems like a lot of money, but once it’s gone from your final net pay, you don’t even think about it, or miss it. Before I knew it, I had over $8,000 a year in retirement savings. Not going to retire anytime soon on my Mega-Yacht, but hey, any bit helps.
5. FOOD. This one is a little harder for me, because I LOVE food. I want to eat fresh, organic, free-range, hormone-free, non-GMO, happy food grown with love and tenderness. But it’s expensive. I don’t really understand why food grown outside, in the dirt, covered with bug bites and bruises is more expensive than the food that is genetically modified, perfect looking, pumped full of chemicals and grown within high-security fenced cages, but it is. However, with a well-planned food budget, you can still save money. Most importantly I’ve found it helps to: Bring A List. You go into the grocery store all willy-nilly, and you’re coming out with a lot more than you planned for, and nothing that you really need. Equally important: plan your meals in advance for the week, and that way you save by doubling up on foods that creates more than one meal.
These are some ways I’ve used to control my finances on a macro scale. I’m no money guru, that is Fo Sho! Generally what works for me is I like to pay by cash, have no debt at the end of each month, other than a mortgage, and keep a little bit of savings for emergencies. Sure, maybe I don’t go out much, and I drive a 1994 Toyota. So what if my kids and I wear second hand clothes? I just call them Vintage, dahling!