I've got a bona fide case of tennis elbow. The good news: it is not impacting my tennis game AT ALL! This may be because I don't play tennis. Well, I pick up the racquet a few times a year and talk about playing more...but I digress. This isn't really about tennis at all, It's about keeping a budget.
Yes, there are many benefits to cutting back on work hours but 'more money' is not one of them. In September we faced the reality of my reduced salary. At first I think we don't really need a budget. We're not extravagant spenders and we rarely go out to eat. How hard can it be? For a month I track our income and expenses to get a baseline of our spending unchecked. Guess what I discover? We need a budget.
Now I could argue that September has some unique expenses--school supplies, gym uniforms, new shoes, school fundraisers...but every month it's always something, isn't it? I take a look at our receipts to see where we can make some adjustments and tweak our spending habits. In an effort to reduce our grocery bills, I find myself at the bulk store.
The bulk store definitely has the potential to save money but it takes some effort. First, I'm learning to plan ahead and cut coupons, which can be time consuming but rewarding. Next, I realize that I have to buy only what I know we will use. The bulk dry pasta for $1.00 per lb. is a good deal but the bulk boxes of Chocolate Cheerios that Katherine really, really wanted are getting stale in the pantry. I'm also comparing the cost of staples. A gallon of milk at the bulk store is $3.23--that's a whopping 96 cents less than what the grocery store charges.
As I budget I also learn to be careful. Who knew saving money could be dangerous? The tennis elbow was a rookie mistake--trying to pick up a 12 pack of canned soup with one hand while carrying a jumbo-sized laundry detergent in the other. Then there was the coffee bag incident.
I usually buy a small bag of good, quality coffee. This time, I buy a giant bag of inexpensive bulk coffee. I pour some of the new coffee into the old empty bag and store the rest in the freezer. Now we can pretend that we are drinking good, quality coffee. When my mom visits, she doesn't know my new system. She uses up the coffee and unknowingly throws away a perfectly good empty coffee bag!
The danger comes when I tell her what happened. After she returns home, she mails me a new empty gourmet coffee bag. Apparently, however, the post office intervenes. When my mail arrives, the envelope has been sliced open and the contents inspected. I remember reading that coffee grounds are sometimes used to disguise the scent of illegal substances from drug sniffing dogs. I wonder what the postal inspector thought when he opened a bag that smelled like coffee and found...a coffee bag. Luckily we avoided the SWAT team descending on our house for the drug raid.
Despite the dangers of being on a budget, I will persevere. I'm heading back to the bulk store this afternoon. Right after I finish icing my elbow.