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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Falling Off The Bandwagon

Over the last couple of weeks I've realized how easy it is to start over-spending and fall off the budget bandwagon.

It started out with just spending a few extra dollars on groceries. I would think to myself, "This is ok, as long as I spend less next week. I'll still come in on budget at the end of the month. No problem!" But when you do this a second time, and then a third time, that's not good! So after over-spending three weeks in a row, I checked our monthly allocated spending plan and realized that if I was careful it would be possible to still come in on budget. But, still, I had boxed myself into a corner.

I know why this happened, too.

When Jake and I first created our budget I was taking advantage of Dave Ramsey's "cash only" system for certain things, like groceries. And I can see now why Dave recommends doing this: when you go into a grocery store with a debit card it's easy to overspend, but when you go in there with a set amount of cash there is no wiggle room whatsoever. It's one very affective way of controlling spending.

After several months of doing this—and doing it well—I decided to try doing it with the debit card. At first I did ok. Occasionally I would spend an extra dollar or two, but that was easily remedied the following week.

Then Christmas came. The month of December is always full of extra expenses—heating oil, tire changes, increased electricity, presents, extra groceries to make sweet treats... you get the idea. I've found that the more times you swipe that little plastic card the easier it is to do it again and again... and again. I even overdrew my checking account for the first time in over two years! Thankfully I have overdraft protection, so the fee was minimal.

At the end of this week we start a new monthly budget, and I plan to go back to using cash. Using cash keeps me more accountable and aware of what I have to spend. Thankfully, even though I feel like I've way overspent this month, we should be ok, but it was a close call. I am going to have to spend a lot less on groceries this coming week, or just eat up those Raman noodles sitting the cupboard, whether my husband likes it or not.

If you find yourself blowing out your budget, don't get discouraged. Try using cash, for a little while at least, until you get back on track.

Keep pinchin' :-)

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