A while ago I wrote elsewhere about my efforts to cut back on household expenses, and subsequently choosing drugstore shampoos over the good stuff. In the comments on that article someone told me I was being “penny wise and pound foolish”, which kind of pissed me off because how does that make me pound foolish, exactly? It’s not like I stopped buying salon products, switched to Pantene, then started dunking my head in a vat of truffle oil after my showers.

At any rate, I think I’ve learned that decent shampoo is, in fact, worth the money. Mind you, I don’t think it actually makes much of a difference in my hair. My hair is what it is: a hot mess, for the most part, primarily because I have an annoying high-maintenance haircut which I am doing zero maintenance on. It’s just that using a soap that feels good and smells good is one of those human niceties that somehow seems to make a palpable difference in my day.

Same with skincare crap. Yes, I could use the Cetaphil, or I could pony up for something that doesn’t look like jizz. It’s the little things, you know?

I have followed through on some other budget reductions, though, including finally stopping the cleaning service I have used and loved with all my heart for years. I hated saying goodbye to the ladies who continually managed to make my toaster look like something that should be hanging in the Louvre, but I could no longer justify the cost. Especially since I’m cleaning all the fucking time these days for those ever-entertaining surprise realtor visits.

(I thought I was doing a decent job of keeping the place cleaning-service-clean, too, and then I peeked under the bed today when a rather large mound of Unidentifiable Whitish Fluff emerged. I don’t really want to discuss what I saw, but I will say I spent the next 20 minutes scurrying around like the kids’ Zhu Zhu hamster trying to get under there with the vacuum because my GOD. MY GOD WHO LIVES LIKE THAT. Hoarders, that’s who.)

Oh, and I cancelled our CSA share, finally being honest with myself that I wasn’t really making 100% good use of the entire box of healthful, planet-friendly produce. If only the local farms would offer a box half full of green leafy vegetables, half full of pretzel crisps, but alas.

Then I turned around and bought a CrossFit gym membership, which negates a good chunk of my cutting back. So far I believe it to be worth every penny, but I suppose some might call it pound foolish.

I keep circling our spending like a math-stupid wolf, peering and trying to decide what I can ditch, what I want to keep. I’ve started dividing purchases into my freelance salary, which is a depressing but maybe-useful exercise. Should I buy the giant select-a-size pack of Bounty paper napkins that will take me an article on goddamned Lindsay Lohan to pay for? Or should I maybe . . . use a dishtowel? The entire endeavor reminds me of trying to lose weight, where the process of trying to get to a place where you don’t think as much about your weight, ironically, makes you think about your fucking weight all the time.

I know these are vague sorts of questions and kind of overly personal to boot, but how would you describe your relationship with money? Do you focus on budget issues all the time, or only during certain times of the month, or what? Is one of the larger stressors in your life, or way down the list? Has it changed one way or the other in the last few years?

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Alyce
Alyce
11 years ago

My JB and I worked for the same company. And both lost our jobs (a little over 2 years ago) right as I was starting a grad program. The company would have paid for half of my schooling. Instead I took out HUGE student loans.

He found a new job almost immediately at about 75% of his previous income. I was unemployed for 8 months, until I convinced a friend she needed my help. I make about 50% of what I used to.

It’s dire, is what it is. I got my first haircut in a year and regret the style I chose because it’s going to require more frequent trips to the salon. God that sounds pitiful.

We budget (or I do) religiously because there’s so little to go around. When we were more comfortable financially we rarely thought about it.

Brooke
11 years ago

I don’t have a budget because I’m lazy. My budget strategy is to only buy things we absolutely need (utilities, groceries, tickets to the Beauty and the Beast Singalong). We are living on one income plus savings at the moment and so far I’m doing a great job. Although there is more going out than coming in, it’s not going out as fast as I’d feared. I’m really disciplined, though, so the cutback is easier for me than it might be for others.

Jessie
Jessie
11 years ago

I have always worried about money and I’ve always saved. Thank goodness because…

I was laid off from my job in July of 2009 and I remain unemployed. My salary was not terribly high so with unemployment plus cutting out some frivolous spending, we were pretty much in the same boat as when I was working. I *thought* I knew what it was to have a bare bones budget – ha ha ha silly girl.

My husband was laid off from his 6 figure job in June of this year and HOOBOY did that ever hit us where it hurts. He has had several interviews and no job offers. It is an extremely stressful time (oh, understatement of the year there) but THANK GOD we have unemployment and savings to see us through – for now anyway.

Even though this has been a very hard time, it has also been a blessing for me to be reminded of what is TRULY important in life and we already have those things: love, health, shelter, food, water.

MG
MG
11 years ago

We moved to a nicer apartment in a not-trendy part of town. As a result, we spend about half the rent we used to. I paid off my car. We shop at the warehouse club and cook at home a lot.

I clean the house and he is an excellent cook. I buy spices in bulk from ethnic markets, I finally got a library card, I use coupons and flip through grocery circulars to find sales that allow me to stock up. Etc.

After years of financial instability, it finally occurred to me that I just plain don’t have to live like that anymore. I talked to a financial counselor and I remember that meeting every time I’m tempted to get a little too spendy. As someone above said, though, you only get the one life and cutting back too severely can be a little unrealistic. So if joining the gym gives you an outlet, keeps you sane and healthy, provides you with motivation…then it’s worth it.

brenna
brenna
11 years ago

Just like losing weight, we have to constantly monitor until saving money is second nature. It will become regular life soon. Just give it time.

Kathleen
Kathleen
11 years ago

I go in phases. Amusingly, you’re right, I deal with my money mostly like my weight – I’ve never dieted, just step on the scale and if it’s low, I make an effort to eat a bit more, if it’s high I scale back on the junk. Same thing with the money – when there’s a lot in the account, I may end up at the mall. When there’s not, I’m careful not to overbuy the groceries. The savings I find when we’re low on money tend to stay in place when we have free funds, but I can always find something new to spend on..

scantee
scantee
11 years ago

I actually love budgeting and I am the one in my household who handles all of the money. We are doing well and I never feel deprived and yet there isn’t much left for us to cut if we needed to: we only have one car, live in a small house, don’t go on vacation, buy expensive clothes or electronics and on and on. By far our biggest expense is daycare, it totally dwarfs our mortgage. Only time will make that better, once the kids are in school.

Reading between the lines of your quitting your job and joining Crossfit I’m assuming JB is doing better financially? My husband has a very stable decent paying job and it is a relief to have at least one person in the family in that situation.

Lola
11 years ago

Oh honey, hang in there. I think though, that as much as the crossfit is, doesn’t matter. It would be wasteful if you were paying for it and NOT using it — that’s waste.

Have you looked at your homeowner’s insurance? Or your car insurance? Can you negotiate better rates by consolidating with one company or switching companies (without compromising what you get)? If you have enough savings, maybe you can raise deductibles to lower your monthly expense now? Can you call your credit card companies and ask for a lower interest rate (assuming you have credit card debt). I would try to negotiate as much as you can for any of these services, lots of times if you threaten to leave, they’ll all of a sudden make you a deal or at least transfer you to a retention specialist.

Do you clip coupons? Do you make a menu for the week and shop around that menu? Not sure what your meal expense is, but maybe you can make changes there? I made a spreadsheet with basically all the meals I knew how to cook by meat type and then every other week I come up with a 10 day menu. when I go grocery shopping, I limit my purchases to items I need to make my menu.

Is there a consignment shop where maybe you could “sell” the kids outused clothes or at least trade it in for credit for new clothes you need to purchase?

Just ideas….keep kicking ass in the crossfit and keep writing about it. You turned me on to TurboJam and HipHop Abs and now, 50 pounds lighter, I have much love for you! :o)

Em
Em
11 years ago

Ugh. I have so much I could say but just let me say this: Money makes me cry on a very regular basis. Last was last night when I took my 8 year old daughter for swim team try outs (after emailing the coach with a number of questions including “what are the fees and requirements” without an answer) and finding out it cost $350 and having to walk away. I don’t care about shampoo or clothes or luxuries (that’s a lie) but it KILLS me when my kids miss out on opportunities.

Leslie
Leslie
11 years ago

As someone intimated up yonder, one of the most important things to keep in mind as a freelance writer is to hold back a third of your pay for taxes. Otherwise, you’ll be hit with a nasty blow come April.

H
H
11 years ago

I’m a combination of “actually have had lots of bad surprises come up” and “always expect the worse”, so my relationship with money is to splurge rarely and save as often as possible. It certainly isn’t the best plan for everyone but for me, avoiding worrying about money makes me happier than most things I would buy with it could – if that makes sense. I still worry (because we and we still have surprises that stretch us to the limit but it works for us in general.

Ris
Ris
11 years ago

You would be surprised what you can go without if you have to. I have a friend who is an adjunct professor and only made about $18,000 last year. Her husband is in grad school so they lived off her stipend. It was rough, really rough, but they managed. They NEVER went out to eat, but she saved a ton by buying in bulk at costco, making their own bread and pizza dough/sauce, pasta, etc. They only did free things (easier in a big city, but still an option). For entertainment they cut out cable but kept the cheapest Netflix and made sure to watch it the day they got it and then return it so they got their money’s worth. They sold one car and lived with only one, thus saving a huge chunk of money. It’s not a great permanent solution but they lived with what they had. She used up every shampoo (even the travel hotel ones), he mended socks, they stretched meals by adding rice or beans. She said it became kind of a game and it was actually kind of fun to see how well they could do.

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Really interesting comments, you guys.

Scantee: No, JB’s business is definitely struggling right now. I did quit my office job, but I’m making the same as I did before, when you subtract the daycare costs which we no longer pay for.

Ris: I am amazed by those kinds of stories. Did they have a mortgage? I could (and do try to) cut all kinds of small things but at the end of the day we HAVE to have X/month or, you know, the bank will take our house away.

parodie
parodie
11 years ago

My financial situation recently changed drastically, and I realized that I needed to have a much clearer picture of where my money was going (beyond “yeah, I’m pretty sure I have enough to cover this purchase”). Mint.com didn’t work for my banks and the idea of handing over my passwords didn’t work for me, so I started using You Need A Budget (because I did). The system is fantastic, and it’s really working for me. I have the iphone app, which means I can track my spending on the go (that was important for me), but mostly budgeting has made me realize what I can afford based on where money needs to eventually go. I now feel like I have less money because it’s all already accounted for, so there’s much less room for fun impulse purchases, but there’s something amazing about opening up a credit card bill and knowing that all the money to cover it is in the bank.

Hm, I hope I don’t sound cult-ish, but YNAB has really helped me do something I knew I needed in a way that is pleasant and easy to use. Highly recommended.

Very Bloggy Beth
11 years ago

We have been really budget conscious lately, in the wake of having read this great book: http://amzn.to/a8EA8W

My husband is a lot better at actually sticking to the budget than I am though. I tend to go overboard on the grocery budget. A lot. But, I love to cook and if a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient, I’m like WTF we only live once.

The things we have cut back on are really just the luxuries. We go out to eat much less often, we buy less clothing, sometimes we opt for the Two Buck Chuck, we got a Costco membership, stuff like that. But I find myself doing crazy old lady from the Depression stuff too, and I’m not sure any of that helps. For instance, if I reuse a baggie, what have I saved myself, half a cent? (Of course there’s the environmental factor there too…)

Amelia
Amelia
11 years ago

We have found that cutting things out doesn’t work, but I do buy generic all the time. Also, and this is the SAHM trick (though I actually work parttime, I do have time to lug the toddler around each week), we visit several different grocery stores for different things. I hit Grocery Outlet first (have you SEEN their prices? Lots of great organics, frozen, yogurt, gooey cheeses), then Wal-Mart for dry goods and $10 shoes for the little guy who beats the shit out of them in a month’s time (if he doesn’t first outgrow them), then the local grocer for quality produce. I also pay attention to the coupons that come in the paper. Every once in awhile I find something great, and if it saves a buck, fantastic! Finally, we don’t have cable or satellite AT ALL. And we have never missed it.

Jessi
11 years ago

It’s in phases for us. When we made a lot of money, we blew it and would later wonder what happened. We had a savings account but not much in it and really we did put any thought into the idea of saving. (Which was surprising considering how much we made. Guess we partied too much in Las Vegas.)

But now that my husband is freelancing we have to be mindful of his fluctuating income. He pays himself every two weeks and the rest is used for business expenses as well as quarterly taxes.

We’ve really changed our spending habits too. We are really frugal in some areas but it allows us to splurge in other areas. It’s a nice balance and we don’t really stress unless he’s low on work.

MRW
MRW
11 years ago

when I was a kid my parents had very little money. It’s like that experience seeped into my bones or something because I have always been a saver and concerned about money more than almost anything else, to the point that for a stretch of time in my 20s I was (describing myself charitably) extremely thrifty. My husband was more of a spendthrift. Over the years, we have met in the middle and it’s a very good thing because he’s been laid off twice in two years and both times he’d changed enough to cut back as much as I did and I’d changed enough not to completely come mentally unglued over the prospect of not having enough money. Strangely, him being laid off meant we’ve had to seriously evaluate our spending once every couple of years and that’s not such a bad thing and some of the good habits have stuck even though he’s fully employed again.

Caitlin
11 years ago

I am super fascinated by these comments. I just spent my lunch hour reading them. It seems like the internet is in some ways the great equalizer — when I read blogs, I don’t give much thought to the person’s finances (unless they discuss it, or their situation is otherwise obvious from their writing and pictures), but it’s something everyone deals with.

My husband and I are in our late 20s with no kids. Right now we are more comfortable than either of us has ever been in our lives (neither of us really came from money, or had much handed to us). We are not rich or anything, but we can eat out, take vacations, buy new clothes, save some. We bought a (small) house (that we can afford on one income if need be) and have 2 cars (one is old and paid off, but still). I know I said we’re not rich, but really, in many ways, all this makes us rich.
When I wasin college and then on my own in my early 20s (despite the college degree and decent job) I really really struggled and had to watch every cent. I couldn’t really afford much in the way of new clothes or vacations or going out to eat very often. Now I’m not in that situation (making more, dual income, etc), and sometimes I think I don’t appreciate things as much. As others have said, it amazes me what I blow through now, vs. what I lived off of before. Overall though, I am grateful for having had to count every penny because it taught me a lot. I know what I can live of off – and who knows. Part of it is always luck, isn’t it? Life is great right now but may not always be. So it’s a good lesson to have under the ole belt.
While sometimes I feel kind of guilty for my current lifestyle (why? we both work hard, and we make good choices), I also appreciate it, and feel very very lucky. And I know that nothing is forever.

Lori
Lori
11 years ago

I can cut back when I think I’m getting something out of it – a trip I couldn’t otherwise afford. My husband’s idea of cutting back sounds punitive to me – cancelling sports illustrated and always remembering to take the &*^*&^ cup to Starbucks to get your .10 off. (Starbucks is a weekend social thing for us.)

That I realise is the difference – does the cutting back come across as punitive or a “worth-it” trade-off?

lindsay
11 years ago

My biggest money stressor is that it’s two ppl making the decisions and one pot of money, and money is different things for different ppl. For me it’s a security blanket and is to be squirreled away until death, for my husband it’s to buy stuff and experiences. Equally valid views, and everyday we try to meet in the middle. Overall we have a good relationship with money – spend less than we earn, and don’t worship at the altar of money.

Christina
11 years ago

We live by the motto ‘live like we have less money than we do.’

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book and Smart Couples Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner book by David Bach a few years back. We still live by many of the things both writers talk about in those books. It is simple practical advice.

Also, if you have never read it, try The Millionaire Next Door. You would me amazed at what people do to live with less is more in order to be worth more. It is really not about being rich at all, it is about worth.

We splurge but we are careful when we splurge. We have to save up for it before we do it. We never carry balances on credit cards and we pay our bills before we pay ourselves and we always overpay on our mortgage. Sometimes I am dying for new clothing or those nice shampoos I used in my 20s but I want other things more. Like money for the kid’s education (or whatever they decide to eventually use it for) and our retirement down the road, etc.

It feels frustrating and hard at first to save money or be careful with money but like working out it because easier over time and you think about it less and less. GL!!

Quiana
11 years ago

1. You have ruined Cetaphil for me. Boo.

2. I have an anxiety disorder and one of my methods for controlling my anxiety is to control everything I can. So, don’t do as I do, do as I say:

You need to think of things in terms of how much you care. If you really really care about your shower experience, and don’t care about paper towels, then buy the nice shampoo instead of paper towels. Accept that some things are worth it, if not intrinsically, then at least to you. Five years from now you won’t remember whether or not you had paper towels, but you will remember if you were miserable.

Obviously there is some point at which you can’t have everything fancy and stay within budget, but it is up to you two where corners should be cut.

Missy
Missy
11 years ago

My husband lost his job and decided to go into business for himself. His business still isn’t making money (although I think it’s poised to do that withinthe next six months). I work part-time so I can spend more time with the kids and helping with his business. I still try to buy organic whole foods, we stil have a cleaning person (although I’m afraid she’ll have to go soon), I still get expensive haircuts and hair products (I’ve tried cheaper haircuts, but yeah, then I feel totally craptastic). But we’ve gotten rid of cable, we buy everything we can 2nd hand, we’ve, um, stopped the monthly deposits in the college fund, we avoid coffee shops and restaurants, and my husband has finally stopped drinking pop. It’s always a juggling act. I could choose to work full-time instead of part-time, but I know I would be miserable if my youngest was in daycare 40 hours/week. This is a very timely post for me and I hope you keep writing more on this topic.

Anne
Anne
11 years ago

Before I had kids, I would obsess about how difficult it was going to be to pay for daycare, and try to do “mock” budgets to come up with the money. And, it has been a bit of a struggle, especially after Kid #2 came along. But, what I found out is that after kids your whole focus changes. And I don’t mean that in a gooey way, but it is true: all of a sudden I don’t care nearly as much about having new clothes, or eating out at fancy restaurants. (I do still like those things, of course, but they’re not as important now). If it’s a choice between going without any new clothes for me for a year and my kids being able to go to, say, swimming lessons, swimming wins hands-down.

So, now we still do go out to eat every weekend, but it’s usually at someplace like Noodles & Co, where our combined bill for all four of us is $20. And I shop at Ross for $12 sweaters and jeans. And resale shops for kids. And Target, before it became a complete asshole.

One thing I do miss is being able to take vacations (soooooo much more expensive for four than two to fly anywhere) but I figure that will come eventually.

(As a caveat–we are solidly middle-class and do not have to struggle to pay the mortgage or put food on the table. I realize that for some people, the “cutting back” I’m describing is more like luxuries for them).

Jenny
11 years ago

We’re a one income family now that I’m in school full time and we’ve definitely had some financial issues in the past couple of years or so. We just had to learn how to spend money (or to not spend it) and now I no longer think about it. I use philosophy skin care products and urban decay makeup but use pantene shampoo. We eat a lot of rice and beans (to quote dave ramsey) and don’t eat out much and limit our target buying extravaganzas to only once in a great while. It’s all good. I don’t feel like I’m missing out anymore, although I did when we first started cutting back.

Leigh
11 years ago

I had a similar shampoo revelation. I went on a hippie cleaning binge and whittled it all down to a gallon of vinegar and a bottle of Castille soap. Turns out, sometimes you want the chemical clean, and I’ve discovered I don’t want to replace synthetic conditioner and clorox wipes.

Budgeting used to stress me out. Mostly I make arbitrary rules now. You can go out to dinner IF, you can enroll in CrossFit only AFTER, you can buy that thing WHEN…it all turns it into a game. Because even if my budget is stretched taut, it’s a huge psychological help to feel like you’re winning at it in some small measure. Even if it’s silly, even if it means the reward is an M&M for every dollar you come in under budget, victory is still victory.

Melissa
Melissa
11 years ago

Wow. I think i love you. And I love all the comment authors. I stress about money most of the time and we make enough and spend too much. We invest, we have 401ks etc, we’re planning for retirement, but day to day we worry, because we send all the money to bills and investments and then buying a damn dresser for the toddler is like climbing Everest. I think what you’re doing is great and fine – sacrifice what you can to save money, keep the things that make you happy. We worry about money most of the time, but worst around the week we send the house payment, which is a ridiculous amount for where we live, but means we own this house is less than 8 years, before my girls hit highschool or college, which makes our potential for those years so great, i’m super excited about it. I’m rambling. Sorry :)

Michelle
Michelle
11 years ago

I also don’t buy organic anything. I don’t know how bad that really is, but right now I can’t justify paying more than double for something if there is a cheaper alternative. I feel like getting enough milk, meat and produce is more important.

Lori O
11 years ago

As usual, I can relate to EVERY thing in your post. I’m actually SO excited this weekend b/c after cutting back and buying generic drugstore shampoos for a few months now, I’m going to “splurge” and buy a salon brand. Whatever smells the best and is available at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. See, look at me, still cutting back by buying it at an overstock store! Haha.

I go through phases with our finances – I watch it like a hawk and obsess for a few weeks and stress myself and my husband out about it, but as soon as I feel we’re ahead a tiny bit, I relax and conveniently ignore it for awhile, usually until we’re overdrawn again. I need to get this process way more balanced I think!

Jessica
11 years ago

I stress about money constantly. I have since my boyfriend quit his job two months before our baby was due. Since then, he has been mostly unemployed and rather apathetic about it. He went back to school this year and the GI Bills has been a life-saver but it’s still not enough to live on. I finally got a job, and it’s an absolute blessing because I get to work from home. I only work part time, but it’s enough to cover my portion of the bills. I am very adamant that I will not be late for bills. We have high credit card debt but I’ve stopped using all my cards and pay as much as I can each month. It’s hard for me, because I have always had a savings, even if it was only enough for a month or two. Now I have only enough in the bank to make it each month. I have learned to live without and it’s amazing how little we actually need! But I miss the security of knowing that each month we will have enough money to pay bills and buy gas. It’s made even harder by the fact that my partner does not care enough to take care of his family. I thought I knew him better than that. I am terribly jealous of families where the husband actually goes to work everyday, every week.

KKF
KKF
11 years ago

It’s always been a big stressor for me. Married 2 years and still hawkishly clutching my own personal account. For some reason I have a very victorian, deep seated shame about the idea that the man I’m to spend the rest of my life with might accidentally glance at my “ledger” and learn *gasp* that I eat fast food for lunch sometimes… foolish, but there it is. Neither of us overspends much, but we don’t have kids and our ultimate demise shall be our own with nobody to take down with us. So I guess the stress could be multitudinously worse. Be that as it may, I still can’t bring myself to set up a joint account. Even if I only ever pay just the mortgage and the odd fast food drive thru clerk. MUST HIDE SHAME!!!! :) You sound like you have a perfectly healthy stride in the money-world. Good on ya!

Deanna
Deanna
11 years ago

I was a huge couponer. Then we changed the way we eat -trying not to eat so much processed foods. Now I am huge into pricematching. Here walmart will pricematch all ads except ones that are “with a card” (those silly store cards) so I gather all my ads – usually about 4 or 5- and circle what I want and then go to walmart.

I like to go on wednesdays because it is the last day for ads from the previous week and the first day of the new ads.

I get almost all of our produce this way and some meats. This week I got red bell peppers 2/$1 and green 3/$1. I got green beans and the asparagus was a buck and change per pound, celery 88c.

I did end up going to another store for their buy one get one mushrooms and 1$ bagged spinach. And (because I always look) found some good stuff on clearance (vitamins for 2$, poptarts 1$, dented cans for 50c).

I have heard of salvage grocery stores but there are none nearby. Sure wish there were!

Rak
Rak
11 years ago

You’re never gonna see this in the pyroclastic flow of comments that erupt from your posts. I did feel it was somehow important to let you know that the HowLifeWorks advertisment next to your Stir column was Why Most Shampoos are a Waste of Money. I must say that it was a very ghetto ad. I didn’t bite. But the irony.

Carrie
11 years ago

I was raised by a depression-era-anxious parent (who, ironically, did not grew up during the depression..?), so it’s been the bane of my life to figure out a true balance between “keeping to a budget” and “just plain crazy” like my mother. I try to buy the bargains without going to extremes with my own happiness or my family’s.

Anyway, getting my HUSBAND to stop his impulse buying has been the biggest issue. And after YEARS, he’s finally gotten it. To the point where now we realize that we could probably get by with my only working part-time, and not lose much in our lifestyle. We don’t have a LOT, but we’re not completely doing without a few simple fun things, either.

And…I LIKE the smell of V05 and Suave–and the way they work with my hair. But, I refuse to buy the cheap toilet paper. There, I learned–cheap is just plain CHEAP!

Dawna
11 years ago

Earlier this year we got Dave Ramsey-fied and installed ynab (budgeting software… it’s awesome). Just having a goal to focus on and some easy software to use really helped take the stress level down. And we find that by keeping track of our spending and using cash for groceries, clothes, and entertainment, it almost seems like we got a raise.

I spend about 30 minutes weekly entering purchases, paying bills, and then we review the budget together and make sure we both agree on it.

I definitely feel like we have better control of our money now than we did before, and the whole process is less stressful. Before we started doing this, I remember thinking, “we bring home $xxxx per month and where is it going?”

Since we are paying off the last of our debts, we don’t spend a lot of money on wants. I buy healthy, fresh food and we spend more on groceries than many families, but we feel like that investment is worth it. We buy some organics, like dairy and eggs, because those were most important to me. We shop discount stores for most clothes and housewares, wear out the things we have, and stock up on paper goods and cleaning supplies when they are cheap.

Our financial situation and financial stress has definitely improved since we started budgeting.

Kristina
Kristina
11 years ago

I love Aussie shampoo and I but it at Wal-Mart. I’ve tried Aveda, Biolage, etc. and I really do prefer Aussie Moist or Aussie Smooth.

Clean-n-Clear Sensitive is a great cleanser and is so cheap. I order my lotions and potions from Paula’s Choice on-line. They have all the great ingredients without the exorbitant prices.

We haven’t had cable in almost 4 years and don’t miss it (well, my husband does miss sports but he has been a really good sport and watches games that are streamed on-line). We love Netflix. (Although, we could bundle phone and internet and pay only a tiny incremental amount for cable so it’s really the principle of not watching so much TV that motivates us).

I think the first thing most financial planners would say is to pay down credit cards.

I started using microfiber cleaning cloths and have cut way down my paper towel consumption.

I still make so total bone-head splurges at the grocery store…..

Consignment shops are great for buying and selling.

Lesley
Lesley
11 years ago

Wouldn’t a CrossFit gym membership be pound smart? After all, it keeps the pounds OFF.

Lesley
Lesley
11 years ago

Btw, a trick with shampoo and conditioner is to use a much smaller amount. Most shampoos are pretty concentrated so you can get a lot out of a dime-sized portion.

I’ve been using Oribe which is expensive, but highly concentrated. It lasts a long time.

Karl
Karl
11 years ago

I make a decent salary. Relative to inflation and expenses, I always have. That said, my wife recently compared me to Mr Micawber (David Copperfield), and I think she is right. We’ve skirted the line pretty close when we had kids, and it wasn’t until after They were Out Of The House that we could indulge a bit.

I dunno. Money sucks. Talking about money sucks. The closest I can some is: if you’re WAY short, it is a major bummer. If you are sort of short, you should be able to deal with it, and if you’re younger, it might even turn out to be a plus, as it brings you together and gives you something to look back on later in life. If you have more than you need, you don’t. And if you have WAY more than you need, your name is probably Hilton or Lohan or some shite and you are a drug addict…

Mama Bub
11 years ago

Before we were married, we sat down to make a budget. Then we bought a house and figured out that we were completely wrong about everything, but revamped our budget and have stuck with it for five years. We’ve made changes and adjustments as we went from two incomes to one, but we live and die by that Excel spreadsheet.

It helps that my husband is the responsible one, because I would find a way to justify a little bit more for eating out or shopping pretty much every month if it were left up to me.

Liz
Liz
11 years ago

I’ve been thinking about money a lot more lately since I’m pregnant and also the only one with an income at the moment.

My husband started his own business about a year and a half ago and it has been…struggling, let’s say. I think he made $450 profit last year. I have a good job that pays pretty well though so we’ve been doing OK although saving less than I’d hoped. But now we’ll have daycare and infant expenses on top of my mostly unpaid maternity leave. By my calculations the childcare expenses will exactly match the amount I had been managing to save every month, so I really hope his business picks up a little.

We don’t have a budget per se, but we each have things we keep an eye on. We don’t carry credit card debt and our rent is exactly half my take-home pay, so I keep a rough mental tally of my spending and if it starts to get out of hand I cut back. My husband never buys anything for himself other than MMORPG subscriptions, groceries, and the occasional beer, so he’s not hard to account for.

I’ve noticed that I tend to spend more, and more frivolously, when I’m stressed at work. This week was easily a 70 hour work week and I did some purse and jewelry shopping that I didn’t really need to do. Curse you, Internet retail.

I was laughing at your shampoo comment, though, since I JUST went through trying to find a new drugstore shampoo to replace the salon product that costs me $200/year–and after trying a bunch of things couldn’t find anything I liked and went back to the salon stuff.

I do think the most important thing, after avoiding consumer debt, is to prioritize your discretionary spending so that you’re focusing your spending on things that will actually improve your quality of life. Sounds like the Crossfit will do that, and the CSA didn’t. I also think it’s OK for those priorities to shift now and then as your life changes.

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

We went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at the beginning of the year. It was held in a church and that made us uncomfortable, so after a few group sessions we bolted and finished the program by listening to the DVDs of the lessons.

It has changed our lives. We now know where every dollar is going, and we never “run low” at the end of the month and panic about how we’re going to pay the bills.

We’ve also paid off both cars and a mess of credit cards. The only debt left is a student loan and mortgage.

We still have lots of luxuries, but they’re planned for and purchased mindfully.

The only things we do differently in our everyday lives is faithfully update a budget that we keep in Google Docs, and we have a few envelopes of cash we use for things like groceries, eating out, babysitting, etc. It’s built-in budgeting, because once the envelope runs low for the month, we know the fun is almost over.

A Little Angry
11 years ago

I honestly just spent nearly an hour lying bed this morning thinking about money. It’s been a rough year here, combined with some poor choices over the past few years, and money has become nothing but a time-sucking, soul-stealing worry.

I try to remember what it was like when we lived in a no-bedroom, no-shower apartment. We took public transportation because we had no car and paid our bills with money orders purchased Friday mornings on the way to the bus stop. We also had no credit card debt and our rent was $385 a month. I may have stumbled onto something here…

Really happy for your new work situation! And if CrossFit keeps you happy and healthy, then it is a bill worth paying.

Shawna
Shawna
11 years ago

I’m pathological about not giving any money to the soul-sucking banks, so I never drop below the minimum you have to have in order to not pay the bank any fees. If I get even close to it I get nervous, like, within a thousand dollars close and I’m freaking out.

Also, despite all outward appearances, I’m a squirrel. I have to save for a rainy day. As a result, I’ve got several accounts that I use auto-deductions to stash money in.

Aaand, I’m kind of cheap. I will do all kinds of small economizing, use coupons, walk an extra couple of blocks to take advantage of free parking, always get tap water in restaurants, etc. This way I get to splurge on the stuff I really want: vacations south in the winter, camera stuff, etc.

H
H
11 years ago

I love the comments (and ideas) and wanted to come back to add a few things. While most of the time the money we have at the ready for “surprises” is usually used because the surprises are not welcome ones (husband loses job, car dies, etc.), some are good surprises (like the destination wedding we’re able to attend – a wedding we would never miss).

Also, obviously everyone’s personal preferences and priorities drive what they do. The last thing I would do is cut out cable service but we don’t give a rip about shampoos or conditioners and will buy whatever is least expensive and still does the job.

thejunebug
thejunebug
11 years ago

J and I have a significant amount of debt that we are paying down. It’ll take another two years, but after that we’ll be debt-free except for student loans.

So far we have:
1) canceled cable television, and instead signed up for netflix (savings: $90/m)
2) canceled internet, and instead use open wireless (savings: $30/m)
3) moved from renting a 3-bedroom house with a yard that we had to maintain, leaky windows, and a bad water connection to renting a 2-bedroom townhouse with a yard that we don’t have to maintain, brick walls, tight windows and good pipes. (savings: ~$550/m)
4) started shopping at ‘discount’ grocery stores (Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Super WalMart) for the majority of our weekly grocery budget, in addition to keeping to a tight grocery budget (savings: ~$120/m)

All told, we’ve shaved about $1,000 off our spending every month. We have to pinch a little, but it’s worth it.

thejunebug
thejunebug
11 years ago

Oh, and cable/internet? I don’t miss it at all. Most of what’s on TV right now is crap, and since we’re saving so much each month we can purchase series on DVD that we don’t get on Netflix.

Internet we miss a bit more, but there are plenty of open networks near work/home. And it’s good to unplug from the screen every once in awhile.

Lisa S.
11 years ago

1. How would you describe your relationship with money?

Cordial but professional, like when you’re dealing with your boss’s boss. I let my values inform my saving and spending, but I don’t think the sum in my accounts is an accurate character indicator, you know?

2. Do you focus on budget issues all the time, or only during certain times of the month, or what?

We do a weekly check-in just to make sure we’re apprised of the bank balances and which bills just got paid. We also run any plans to make big purchases (i.e. over $30) by one another then, to see if now’s a good time to do it.

I’d say we do a “Let’s reiterate our long-term goals and nail down a to-do list/timeline” talk maybe twice a year. I wish we’d do it more often.

Neither of us focuses on “budget” issues too much daily.

3. Is one of the larger stressors in your life, or way down the list?

Way down the list, mostly because we’re currently in a place where we are spending much less than what we make. During, say, massive remodels, it’s a larger stressor. I expect once our daughter’s here, adjusting to her expenses will ratchet up the stress level until we’re resigned to the outlays.

4. Has it changed one way or the other in the last few years?

It’s about to change, since we’re becoming parents next month. We’ve sat down and figured out what priorities are going on the back burner once daycare takes one of my paychecks every month, but I suspect living the reality will be a lot different than merely talking about it.

Bianca
Bianca
11 years ago

I’m a fairly stingy person because when I first moved away from home I had a couple of extremely tight years and it was a very scary time for me. I refuse to ever get back there again.

My husband and I are newlyweds of 4 months, but we lived together for 2 years before that. I’m thriftier than he is, but we don’t exactly look at our money as a common fund anyway. A certain amount of each of our paychecks goes towards the household expenses, and the rest of each is spent by us in whatever way we see fit. One exception is major purchases. We don’t make major purchases with our own money without consulting the other. We always have money for the things that make our time at home feel like time at home.

I define luxuries completely differently than the above commenters. I’ve never purchased expensive shampoos. I think they’re extravagant. I use Cetaphil, or rather the generic equivalent. Generic groceries. Don’t get salon services. Mow my own lawn. Clean my own house. Don’t have cable or satellite TV at all. But the money I don’t spend on the above allows me to spend on tech (I’m a geek), whether it be a new phone, new laptop, or a video game to play with my husband.

We don’t ever feel pinched because we always live below our means. It’s really liberating.