I’ve blogged about this oh-so-delightful subject before. And yet…here I am again! Budget seems to be a more and more common word among Americans since the collapse of the economy. I have seen many people close to me affected by more financial challenges than ever before. And usually, when you are financially challenged (sounds like a disorder!), you find yourself budgeting. Dirty word.

We first started budgeting back in 2006. Our first 3 years of marriage, we just bought what we wanted, when we needed it. Of course, that was back when we ate frozen pizza and ice cream 3 times a week. True story.

We slowly changed our eating habits and in 2006, after completing our first year of school here, we realized that we desperately needed to change our ways and stop making so many last minute trips to our very expensive neighborhood grocery store!

Well, here we are 8 years later….still budgeting! I’m for seeing this being a lifetime habit of ours. The only problem is that budgeting needs to be changed from year to year with ever-growing prices and budgeting can often evoke feelings of guilt!

Go do a little research on the web and you’ll find some really ambitious people out there in the world of blogging who feed their families of 4 or more on $250 a month. Crazy! Read the finer print and you will come to find that they also grow gardens, have their own chickens who lay eggs and can a bunch of produce for the winter.

So what do you do when you don’t have your own yard for a garden, don’t want to own dirty chickens and live in a higher cost area?

I tend to feel a lot of guilt when I read about these women who achieve the impossible! But then again, if I examine our finances closely, there really isn’t too much to feel guilty about.

If you read over the top ideas for budgeting, we hit them all, pretty much, which leaves me with little help!

Cut down on buying processed foods? Check. And I’m really trying to do it more and more.

Cut down on eating out? Check. We have an eating out budget of $35 a month. That equals one eating out experience a month for our whole family. Or two smaller outings of a treat or something. Compared to most American standards, I don’t think that’s much….

Cut out excess expenses like cable? Check. We’ve never ever had cable until now. (more on that in a sec.) I know, right? How do we survive???? We absolutely loathe reality TV and current TV shows so we do a lot of movie renting from the library! We are very blessed to have really great libraries all around us with great movie collections! We occasionally do a Redbox movie, if there is something good out. And whenever I get offered a free month of Netflix, we take it. Now, about the cable. You can’t miss what you never had! Actually, I call our local internet provider periodically and fight to get lower promotions for our internet. They have new promotions ALL THE TIME! If they say they don’t, they are lying! I actually got our internet bill lowered this week by $7 a month, by adding basic cable. It just happened to be one of their newest promotions. It’s basically all the channels we had with our antennae plus a few extras. The promotion lasts for six months. So guess what I’ll do then? Call:)

Cut down on extra spending like haircuts, manicures, pedicures, lattes? Um. Check. I get my haircut once a year….if that.  And the rest of the time, I trim it myself. Okay, that might be why I look a little on the frumpy side……:) I totally get that people have different hair and need cuts more often! (no judgements here!) I just really hate to spend the money on something like that and plus where we lived the first 5 years here in Chicago, no one cut white hair (true) so I had to wait until trips home to OH to find a good hair stylist. Guess I just got in the habit of not going!! I never get manicures and pedicures and lattes. Maybe I’m boring but when you don’t have the money, you don’t even think about things like this!!

Menu Plan? Check! I started doing this several years ago and have tried to improve on it ever since. It most DEFINITELY cuts down on spending by helping you avoid those pesky “last minute” trips to the store.  And it saves me from standing in the kitchen for endless minutes at dinner time saying to myself, “What should I make tonight??” Now, I have been worse about menu planning lately for a few reasons and I often find myself dreading dinnertime. I think the reason I have been dreading the whole process is a vicious cycle for me. I have been feeling a lot of guilt for not being able to stick completely within our grocery/household budget because things are so much more expensive and our growing children are eating more! So when I feel guilty, I don’t want to buy things and then I don’t buy enough, then we don’t have enough to make full meals, then I dread making meals, etc. See the vicious cycle? Something needs to change!!

Coupons? Now here is something I rarely do! I think most coupons are for junk food or processed food and the stores where I shop don’t accept coupons anyways. Oh well!

Trust me, none of this is to brag about my awesome budgeting skills. The opposite is true!! I am mostly resigned to it but sometimes I do find it frustrating not to just be able to splurge every once in awhile and be free! I struggle with guilt over not being a perfect budget-er and struggle with the whole comparison thing when I hear about these thrifty people eating for like .47 cents a week. I’m not planning on living on a farm anytime soon and raising chickens!

I am going to try really hard though to curb in the budget some more, especially in our grocery/household area. I am going to set a new goal and probably blog about that soon so reader, beware! We are going to have to be more careful than ever now that we have debt payments to add into our life and no dream job looming. Ah, the joys of life! Ever wish money grew on trees?!

This afternoon, the kiddos and I finally got to do something fun! We’ve had a pretty quiet week. First we were hanging around letting Zakkai recover and we haven’t had the car a couple of days either. So this afternoon, after Baby C went home for his nap, we piled in the car and headed to Ikea to browse:) It doesn’t take much to entertain us!

We spent some time sitting on the different couches and dreaming of buying a new one and picking out our future new table and chairs and then we headed to the kid’s section to hang out for a little while.

Funny guy:)

Eliana had fun playing in the play kitchen and rocking on this red moose!

And then she and Samuel climbed through the tunnels…

Eliana spotted some cute little toddler beds across the way and before I knew it, had climbed in one to show me she fit in it! Ha:) Ben called me while we were winding our way to the end and we sat in the outdoor furniture section for a few minutes so I could say hi to him. The boys were taking turns rocking in a hammock and Samuel had just put the extra material material over himself (not sure what he was doing!) when a lady strolled by casually with her cart and stopped to check the hammock out. She reached out to unfold the flap at the same time Samuel was opening it and he scared the heck out of her! She yelped and then laughed so hard she could hardly stand up. It was SO funny! Samuel sat up and had the funniest look on his face! He told me later he was going to tell her he was sorry because he didn’t know she was there and hadn’t meant to scare her but she walked away before he could. It gave us a good laugh!

And of course Miss “I never sleep” fell sound asleep within 10 minutes and snoozed peacefully all the way home! It was a nice way to spend our afternoon!