First Few Days of Giving Up Financial Control, Grocery List, and Menu

So yeah it's been a few days since I handed over all my debit cards and the check book. Poor Christopher. He didn't know where to start. He went online to find budget software and tried Mint, but ran into the same problem I did.  Mint has no clue what our bank is. So no good there.  Besides I don't like entering all that information on another company's servers. He found another simple budget thing, but it was only for one month at a time, not weekly or bi-weekly.  He asked how much our checks were in take-home pay, so I told him. I figured it was fair enough he didn't get paper checks so maybe it's not weird he didn't know how much he got paid...  but then... he was wringing his hands and looking stressed, so I asked what was wrong.  He said there was no way we could budget anything or pay the bills we have with our income... then I noticed he'd only entered the amount of one check for each of us for the whole month.  He honest to God had no clue we made double that.  We each get at least 2 checks a month. Sometimes 3 if it's a 5-week month. But yeah, that's how totally detached he's been from our finances and reality.

I wanted to help him by finding budget software that worked better for him and us and also fit our paycheck-to-paycheck life right now. Thankfully I found just the thing.  I have NO idea why I never looked for anything like this before to help out MYSELF.  Maybe it took giving it up to Christopher to see where we really needed the most help. So anyway I found a Google Docs spreadsheet template that was perfect.  You could do the budget weekly or Bi-weekly for 4 or 5 weeks.  You just punched in the amounts and could change the names of expenses and bills as needed.  It did all the math for you.  Well, I did find a few errors in the coding for it, but I fixed it, and now it's perfect.  So, that night I worked on November's budget then went ahead and did December and part of January to make sure it was going to work out. It really made it easy to see where I needed to cut one week and add to another to even out the expenses in each week. In the past we'd have too many bills in one week and have a ton of overdraft fees to cover by the last week of the month.  Now I can see at once glance where I'm over budget and then go thru what can or can't be postponed to the next week etc. So, the next day I showed it to him and he loved it.  He took to it right away and even made his own changes like adding date ranges to the names of the weeks at the top.

Already we've been really USING the budget. I had to use an estimate of what my check will be based on past checks of the same hours, then put down the honest overdraft amount we'd probably have as a starting balance (over 300 in the negative blech!), then entered the bills and expenses that were either autodrafts we could not change or bills we had to pay to keep things like Internet on so I can work.  It actually came down to where the budget for groceries is only $63.59 to feed a family of 5 for a week including other stuff like laundry and dishwasher detergents and toiler paper. Then he came home from work the next day and said he was going to have to get his prescriptions and put gas in the Explorer.  We hadn't budgeted gas til the 5th when he gets paid again since we recently put gas in it.  But it seems it's on empty. So, we had to tweak and think til we decided to renew one of my cash advances late (on the 7th instead of the 1st, which they're usually OK with if you call and let them know.) and I asked him which Rx he'd need and he said he wasn't sure... so rather than waiting on him to get around to looking, I checked all his bottles and found which ones needed filling (two blood pressure meds and a cholesterol med), thankfully all 3 are generics. Later on I found receipts for them and they only cost about $21 to get all 3 refilled for one month yay! Still, where was I going to find the money. Well, I realized we weren't budgeting for the use of the overdraft at all, just to a zero balance. I don't want to go into overdraft but I know that sometimes we don't have a choice. So I asked him his thoughts and he said as long as we were in control of it and knew it was going to happen and actually budget the fees, it would be ok but just until we can get out of the hole we're in.

Then today the rental company we got the fridge from came to the door.  Seems they wanted $30 more than I had budgeted - I had been hoping to coast on this one - I may never learn.  So I looked at things and it turns out there will still only be one thing go into overdraft even if I paid the $51 they wanted instead of the $20, so I did it. It won't hit our bank account til my paycheck is deposited, so it's all good.

With my old way of budgeting I honestly would have given up on trying to figure it all out with scribbles and marking things out and trying to flip back and forth. This new way makes it so easy to really see the whole picture of the whole month as well as sectioned off in weeks.

So, anyway, back to that teeny tiny budget for groceries. I knew we would have to have a menu all set and then make a list of stuff needed from that.

So, here's the menu for the week:

Saturday 10/29 - Games Day with friends at friends' house. Letting the girls stay home cause they hate going and being bored because they're too cool to play nerd games.  So, 3 frozen dinners for the girls, and we'll make a gallon of tea to take to the gathering and hope that the others bring tons of food like they normally do.  We hosted the last two times and fed everyone huge amounts, so it's their turn ;).

Sunday 10/30 - Shepherd's Pie and pickled beets

Monday 10/31 - Halloween, so 3 frozen pizzas to stick in the oven quickly for people to eat while getting ready before going out trick-or-treating with their dad.  I have to work so I'll stay home and pass out candy.

Tuesday 11/1 Twice baked potatoes with broccoli & cheese and salad.

Wednesday 11/2 Spaghetti, garlic bread, and green beans (we already have cans of green beans)

Thursday 11/3 Potato soup, greens (we already have a can), cheddar-herb drop biscuits.

Friday 11/4 Baked Ziti (or Penne) and green beans (maybe more drop biscuits or garlic bread)

So that led to the following grocery list which is based on prices at Save-A-Lot, Dollar General Market, and SavMor, here in my town:

Price                 Item
4.50      3 frozen dinners
3.00  lettuce - 2 heads
1.00   2 cucumbers
1.25   2 cans mixed veggies
4.00     4 rolls turkey sausage (or just ground turkey if we find it on sale for $1)
7.00    3 frozen pizzas
2.00    cream cheese
8.00    big bag of shredded cheese blend
1.00    2 cans beets
1.00   box ziti or penne
1.00    jar of chunky mushroom spaghetti sauce
1.00   jar of any spaghetti sauce
3.00   bag of russet potatoes (hoping to find a good sale)
2.50   2 bags of cut or chopped broccoli
1.00   Spaghetti noodles
0.50   Garlic powder
2.00   dishwasher detergent
3.00   toilet paper (1000 or 1250 sheet rolls only - nothing else lasts in this house)
5.00   laundry detergent  (Arm & Hammer is usually fairly good priced)
2.00    2 loaves of bread for lunches
1.00    chips for lunches
1.00   cookies for lunches
2.00   Capri Sun pouches for lunches (we freeze them so they act as ice packs)

Total is $57.75  and we have 9.75% sales tax here (no income tax).
So the grand total will be $63.38

Unless somewhere more money shows up, like if my check is more or...something happens, we'll have nothing really extra.  Thankfully we have a whole unopened pack of 1 lb of turkey lunch meat so the girls should be ok on lunches. In fact if I find that I have a couple extra dollars to spend I'll get a third loaf of bread an a pack of bologna, since Christopher will have to take his lunches to work as well and he can eat the turkey sandwiches. We may not always have leftovers from dinner for him to take with him.

We have plenty of teabags and another bag of sugar in the pantry so we can make iced tea to drink no problem. No need to spend money on sodas.

I've not sat down and done the menu and list for week two yet. I currently have $90 budget for groceries for the 5th - 14th. Not too bad.

I know I said I was giving the whole money thing over to him, but we decided we need to work as a team and play to our strengths.  I can budget and move money around like a pro... I just can't STICK to it once I have the cash.  He gets a headache trying to budget, but can tell me NO and only allow me a certain amount of cash for groceries and force me to stick to it.

Food in general has got to be the biggest money pit for our family. We all hate the feeling of being poor and hungry because we have been many many times in our lives, so it leads to a vicious cycle. We have to be very strict with spending money on food right now so that in the future when things are stabilized, we can finally get that pantry, fridge and deep freezer stocked well once again.

I wanted to thank y'all for the great support and for not giving up on me. Things are getting better as you can probably tell, but there have still been two really big things that have happened to our family recently that has put a lot of stress and worry on us.  In fact one affects me more emotionally and one affects Christopher more.  So we're trying to support one another but still it's hard. Neither one is anything we can go back in time and fix at this point, so have to just deal with it and put it behind us and learn from it all.

I hope you all are having a great weekend and have a fantastic Halloween!!