I sat down tonight to review last month’s budget, and I overspent in a few categories. Why? Primarily, I’ve been this month and I never took that time to really look at how much money was “slipping through the cracks” in my system. Here’s my personal list of areas for improvement, and how I plan to avoid busting my budget in the future:
Problem: I spend to much for convenience store items: Bottled water, power bars, sodas, and snacks are way more expensive at the gas station than they are in the grocery store.
Solution: I need to do two things: One, I need to stop eating junk from the convenience stores and I need to put a couple of bottled waters and some fruit in a small cooler and keep it with me in the car for snacking. I’m on the road quite a bit, so a little forward-thinking would help out a lot.
Problem: I spent money to have my car washed at one of those drive-through car washes.
Solution: I need to stop being so lazy and wash my car. (Is it possible to be both too lazy AND too busy, at the same time? If so, that’s my life for the past six months.)
Problem: My electric bill was fifty dollars more than I expected it to be.
Solution: I need to remember to bump the air conditioner up a bit when I leave the house, turn off the lights when I leave the room, and adjust to the fact that it’s summer-time and the house doesn’t have to be sixty degrees all of the time. (Side note: I live in Georgia and the heat has been brutal for the past few weeks.)
Problem: I like to have my shirts and pants dry cleaned. This past month, I had several important meetings, and my dry cleaning bill was much higher than I expected it to be.
Solution: I can schedule “less formal” meetings, I can simply wash, dry, and iron my own clothing, or I can shop around for another dry cleaner. (Does anyone know if dry cleaning an article of clothing makes it last longer? If so, is there some way that I can convince myself that dry cleaning actually SAVES money, in the long run? Please, let it be so!)
Problem: I spent more on gas (surprise, surprise) than I initially intended. My wife has been off for the summer, so we’ve taken a few more trips, gone to a few more places, and driven a few more miles than we normally do in a month’s time.
Solution: Getting back to our “school schedule” will help, but we have begun to think about car pooling. Also, since we own a small car and a minivan, we need to plan to use the car on longer trips, because it gets better gas mileage. (The one major area where my No Credit Needed philosophy hurts “just a bit” is that I do not use cash-back credit cards. Since most major gasoline chains offer rebate cards, I “miss out”. But, our local grocery store also sells gasoline and they offer a loyalty-card discount of $.15 per gallon and that helps out a bit.) Of course, I keep the tires rotated, balanced, and at their correct air pressure.
Problem: I talked on my cell phone more than I should have and I went “over” my minutes.
Solution: I had to make a choice: Use fewer minutes or upgrade my plan. After analyzing my cell phone bills for the past six months, I made the decision that I needed to upgrade my plan. My wife and I share a family plan and she lives on the phone. My wife has been super-cool throughout this whole “personal finance upgrade” process, and using her cell phone is her “thing”. Instead of arguing over 200 extra minutes, I simply upgraded the plan. There are times when frugality must (and should) take a backseat to practicality.
We all have our struggles, areas where we find it hard to save money and be frugal. I never want to come across as the guy who’s “figured it all out”. I’m just like most people. I have my strengths and I have my (many) weaknesses. I have learned to be a better organized, somewhat forward-thinking, person, but I still struggle with controlling my day-to-day expenses. Hopefully, this post will inspire you to examine your budget so that you can determine your own areas for improvement.
9 thoughts on “Budget Busters: Areas For Improvement”
Your wasteline will thank you for quitting the powerbars and soft drinks too. I’ve been on a rampage the last couple of months as regards electricity – lights only on in the room we’e in, switching to CFLs, unplugging everything after use – because my city is offering bonuses to people who cut their use by 10%. I was delighted to see my bill yesterday, it was down by almost 20 per cent and we should get the bonus. Very satisfying. In Ireland, they recommend getting young kids involved in this: giving them 10 cents for every charger they unplug and light they switch off.
er, waistline even
You might want to invest in a programmable thermostat. I have one. I can set each day differently, if I want. Mon-Fri I have it set high from the time we leave until about an hour before we would get home. You can set it for overnight, short intervals, when you are at church, etc. They cost about $50 or so and ours has more than paid for itself. Easy to install yourself, too.
My local dry cleaner gives a 15% discount if you pay $100 upfront and then use your “tab” when you bring clothes in. Might be worth asking about.
As for the car washing, for me it’s a toss up. When you wash the car in your driveway you pay for the water and use way more water than one of the car wash places. Many of the drive through car washes recycle the water so not as much of it gets used. At least that’s how it works near me.
For me it’s easier to go through the car wash. Then again I have a black car and always miss spots not to mention I don’t really have a place to wash my car at my apartment complex. That and I only get around to doing it maybe three times a year….
I don’t know how things are in Georgia, but we are always getting coupons in the mail for local dry cleaners, including my favorite one. So I always have coupons, although they don’t kick in until you have a minimum of $25 to clean.
As for the clothes, I think you’ll definitely save money if you wash and iron your shirts yourself. And wear the suits several times before getting them dry cleaned. (Take them off and hang them up as soon as you get home, airing them out if need be.) You can rationalize the dry cleaning if that’s the recommended cleaning method on the tag because washing the clothes yourself runs the risk of damaging them.
Washing the clothes might damage them, but if you dryclean things that don’t need it I’m pretty sure that they wear out quicker. OTOH that could just be urban legend.
Comments are closed.