Friday, September 30, 2011

Fitness Check: September 29

Today's fitness check is part physical and part fiscal.  For the physical half, I'm afraid J and I had had a busy week and only exercised once.  So, yay for 2.5 miles walked!  The other half of the eat less-move more equation is driven by the fiscal part of this check in. 

J and I usually have fiscal freak-outs this time of year (the impending holidays/only 100 days 'til Christmas nonsense probably plays into that), so this one is right on cue.  Lucky for us, this year's freak-out has actual data to support it!

Last January we signed up for  This is an awesome (free!) tool for budgeting, as it tracks every expense and every account (checking, savings, mortgage, loans, credit cards, etc.) in one place.  The other day, we pulled our monthly average spending by catergory for the year.  Most of our spending is pretty much non-variable (and mostly non-negotiable, like our mortgage, life insurance, and utilities).  Other catergories are mostly non-variable with 'emergency' exceptions (for example, gas doesn't really vary, but new shocks for my car threw a wrench in the 'transportation' average; prescriptions don't vary, but wisdom teeth removal for J and a crown for me totally jacked up our 'health' budget).  Now, we know that our emergency fund is supposed to be used for those expenses, but we aren't very good at actually taking money out of the e-fund except for when we really need to, and it takes way longer to build up than to spend it.  Anyhow, after you account for our spending in those categories, you're left with food and entertainment. 'Entertainment' accounts for our individual hobbies for which spending doesn't vary too much, but we did notice that 'joint entertainment' has had some high peaks this year (Harry Connick, Jr. and the Kentucky Dinner Train to name two), but also that we go out to eat together a lot.  Just going out for dinner is categorized as 'food', but going out with friends or going to the Movie Tavern usually gets dumped into 'joint entertainment'.  Those expenses, together with our outragously huge food spending (for two people), made us realize where we have got to cut back ("eat less-move more"). 

Hence, our new food budget to ensure we eat less.  Y'all.  We've cut out food budget by two-thirds.  We've left one or two outings a month together, plus lunch out for each of us once a week, but otherwise our food spending will happen at the grocery store, and even then it will be limited to $50 a week.  (Yikes.  We're totally not ready for our Extreme Couponing episode.)  We did a practice run the other day, and I found I was able to get quite a bit for $50 (mostly at Aldi and without couponing).  J has been cooking down his own stock for soups and making chili, which lasts for several meals, and is awesome.  We're going to try to do this for a month, then we'll re-evaluate and go from there.  Maybe we can start some healthy new habits with this shopping restriction.  Wish us luck!

How do you budget?  Do you use tools like mint?  Or the old-fashioned envelope system?

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