How I stretch our monthly budget. Part 2.

On Monday, I talked a little about how we started our budgeting process and showed how to do a basic budget. Today, I wanted to talk about what we did next. When we looked at our finances, like a lot of other people, we found that things were exactly how they should be. Specifically, our income was greatly exceeded by our expenses. We had two choices. We could either (1) increase our income or (2) decrease our expenses. We both felt very strongly that God had shown us that I was supposed to be staying at home full-time with our kids and allowing my husband to lead us by being the sole income for our family. So, option (1) wasn’t really an option. We moved on to option (2).

Reducing Expenses
We began looking at each category of our expenses and evaluating them in light of  2 criteria.
1. Is it how God wants us to spend our money?
2. Is this a necessity?
Is it how God wants us to spend our money?
Usually, we found that, if an expense didn’t meet the first criteria, it didn’t meet the second criteria. Funny how that works. An example of this for our family was meals eaten outside of the home. When we looked back at how we ran up credit card debt, the absolute main culprit (by a WIDE margin) was eating out. There were periods in our married life when, and I’m ashamed to say this, we would easily run up $300 in credit card debt simply because we were undisciplined. We didn’t plan our time well, didn’t plan our resources well, and couldn’t say “no” to our desires for unhealthy food. By not planning out meals in advance, we weren’t being good stewards of the time or money that God had given us but we were also not caring for our bodies as God would have us to do. We also realized that, more often than not, when our family ate outside of our home, it was a chaotic mess. The kids scream, we are frustrated, and it definitely is not an environment to further our family’s relationships. Since eating outside the home didn’t meet the first criteria, it had to go. It was a hard decision because we loved the convenience (and who doesn’t love a Homewrecker from Moe’s????????????) but we knew that it would help reduce our expenses and keep us from running up credit card debt again.
Is it a necessity?
If an expense passed the first criteria, it was then evaluated in light of whether we actually needed the expense. One example of this for our family was a landline telephone. There’s nothing inherently unpleasing to God about a landline telephone. So, it passed the first criteria. However, my husband and I both have high minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile, and unlimited texting on our cell phones. Since the majority of our calls are long distance to Florida, to each other, or regarding his job, our cell phones were a necessity. However, the expense of a landline telephone was not a necessity and, therefore, we could reduce our budget by around $40 per month.
Each category on our budget when through this evaluation. If it didn’t meet one (or both!) of the criteria, we cut the expense out of our budget. Next, I’ll write about what we did when an expense met our criteria.
BTW. Please note: I’m not a debt counselor or any type of professional who is qualified to give out actual financial advice. I’m simply telling you some of the ways that I am helping stretch our monthly budget. If you want to read actual advice from a qualified debt guru, I recommend Dave Ramsey.

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