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Discussion Starter #1
I am trying desparately to cut our budget. Could y'all please take a look and tell me what you think? We have money deposited into our savings to cover the periodic expenses. I am just going to include the money going into checking each pay period.

Total deposited every 2 weeks is $1652

Monthly expenses

mortgage $1200

taxes $350

IRA $100

church $100

electric bill $60

Gas for heat $ depends on the month last month it was $263

Gas for cars around $75 per month, this too can vary some depending on how much we drive, I usually adjust it some each pay period depending

toiletries $50

Food $400

gifts $25-50 depending on how many birthdays are that month

kids stuff $25

medical $50

home phone $42.99

T-mobile $67.21 (we are in a contract until august, then we are hoping to lower our minutes, we needed them all and then some really when we moved as we went for a few months with no phone, now we don't use them as much)

Clothes $25-50 depending

Cable and internet $ 57

And savings which I try to put in $300-400 a month

All the flexible amounts are kind of on account of the varying heat bill. That is all I can think of, I just feel like we can't get ahead. Any ideas of where I can cut? Am I overspending in areas that I don't realize? This is for 6 people BTW. Thanks!

Jennifer
 

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Your budget looks good to me, I don't have a family yet. It's just my fiance and I and our 2 cat babies :). I didn't see any car loans, cc payments, or student loans on your list-those are all financial hurdles that I am working on. I can't see anything to cut, I don't buy clothing for myself, but if I had kids I know they would grow and need things so the $25-$50 seems very reasonable for as many people as you have in your house.

Just curious when you say you feel like you can't get ahead, do you mean with savings or emergencies popping up? I was thinking that if I had your budget (which I wish I did :)) I would save that savings until I had a cushion for emergencies like $2,000 or more for your family size (it should be about 6 months of living expenses in case of a loss of income.) Then after the Emergency Fund is built up I would save the monthly money in such a way that I knew how much I was saving for things ($50/month for car repairs or car related things, $50/month for Christmas gifts, $100/month for house repairs) also anything else you might have to pay for but maybe never thought about putting a little away each month for it. Then you could save the other $200-$300 and it would be just for savings for you to see grow as a nest egg. You could even take your savings bank register and make different sections on their for what you are saving money for, then you wouldn't have to open multiple savings accounts.

I am getting most of these ideas from the Dave Ramsey books I have read: I like the Total Money Make Over, Financial Peace, and More Than Enough. In some of these books they even talk about investing money into mutual funds and compounding your interest. He puts it in pretty basic wording so even a novice like me understands what he means.

I think your budget looks great though, especially for a family of 6 :).
 

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Here are a few things that I noticed that you could cut when I looked at your list.

The home phone--We have Vonage and we're paying $24 per month and that is for unlimited phone calls. If you think you will use less than 500 minutes per month, you could get it down to $14.99. You might want to look into VoIP to get a cheaper rate. We were also offered an additional 20% if we paid for the entire year, so we paid for a full year.

Cell phone-- With VoIP, a long distance phone call is the same as a local phone call, we ended up moving to prepaid cell phone. We make it appoint to make the majority of our phone calls from home. Our cell phone are used very little and $60 will last us for the whole year. Granted, you will end up paying more per minute with a prepaid cell phone, but it might be cheaper for you in the long run than a monthly contract. I suppose all of this will depend on our cell phone usage. We are currently with T-Mobile To Go.

Cable and Internet--Some companies offer a bundles package for phone, cable and internet. I really haven't researched any of this, but that could save some money for you.

Birthday Gifts--My children seem to have a ton of birthdays to go to and I really got tired of going to the store all the time to get a birthday gift. When Bath and Body Works had their semi-annual sale, I went and stocked up on American Girls stuff and got it for 75% off. As it worked out, the cost of the gift end up around $5-7. I'm not telling you to go to Bath and Body Works, but stockpile birthday gifts when you see them on sale. I have a bunch of stamping and scrapbook supplies and we end up making the cards. I happen to think cards are expensive and my children prefer to make them anyways. I also save all the gift bags from my children's birthday and use them.

Cherie
 

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Most of your items look very reasonable to me. . .

I'm not sure of food prices where you are, but that is one area that I could cut . When my boys were home, we spent about $60/week for food (for 5 of us, plus guests and helping out our parents)
 

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Your budget is reasonable.. I will say your mortgage/income ratio is a little steep. What's $350 taxes? I don't think your food budget is out of line, always an area to really work on, me included. (I know there are some who spend $50 for 10 people a month, but yours is more realistic) Maybe shop around for a phone/internet package that could be cheaper? Can you dump any of the features and have basic phone (all personal preference of course)

Hopefully your heat budget will go down, but the price of car gas is rising.
 

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50 a month for toilitries is high, I say this becuase if you start doing walgreens and cvs for rebaits and ECB's you could bring it down to almost nothing.

If you are in a pinch I would lower my church offerings to 75.

You defenatly could lower the gifts by buying things on the clearance racks ahead of time and saveing them.

You said 400 for food, try to cut it to 350. When you get the hang of it and dont miss the extra 50 anymore cut it down another 25.

Just those changes should give you and extra 100 a month.

To be honest, the fact that you are able to put 300 or 400 a month into saveings already puts you ahead of most of us. After I do my budget I have 0 left for saveings!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
yes, our mortgage payment is high, but there isn't anything we can do about it. The $350 taxes is our property taxes, which are just getting ready to go up, again.
I do need to call about the home phone bill, but last time I couldn't understand anything the person said and it was really frustrating. I think it is worth another phone call though. Same to the cable/internet provider. It is worth a phonecall, maybe even check into other companies and possibly switch.
I do try to buy gifts when I see them on sale. We have only lived here for 7 months, so they aren't really getting invited to any birthdays. Family birthdays are what I get hit with. We have 3 birthdays in April and ds's is in May.


I feel like we can't get ahead, because often I am not able to put money into savings from our paychecks, because something comes up, like the high heating bills of the winter, or car repair. We do have a savings account that I mentioned in my original post for periodic expenses. This would include christmas money, school expenses, kids activities, car repair, household repair, car insurance and registration, vacation, etc. We have money going into it directly from the paycheck.

The money I put into savings from this amount is for our emergency fund. Every time I get it built up some, we get hit with something and we have to take money out. yes I have a car repair account, but we had over $1000 in car repairs in the fall (I was able to cover them from this acct, but it wiped it out) We built the acct back up some, but dh's clutch went out and it was $1065 to repair, the balance came out of the EF. The roof needed $700 worth of work, it came out of the EF. We had $400 worth of medical bills that had to come out of the Ef.

I guess life keeps happening and we can't get the savings built up any. We don't want to have to take on another car payment, ever. But dh drives an 11 year old car and mine is almost 6 years old. These will need to be replaced and for the life of me we can't save any money towards purchasing a new vehicle. All of the appliances in my kitchen, and even my furnace keep breaking, and will all eventually need to be replaced. And it is looking like sooner rather than later.

My dd was just accepted into a competitive gymnastics program that is going to cost $170 a month! I have to squeeze that into the budget now and I don't see it happening. I am trying to lower our food bill, but it isn't working very well. I feel like my kids won't stop eating! And they are all super skinny.

So not only do we need to save more, period, but I have an added expense to figure in.

Thanks for all the ideas! I really appreciate the input. I am tired of staring at the budget wondering what to do.
 

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All I can say is that I completly and totaly understand what you are saying and how you feel. Sometimes it feels like trying to get blood from a turnip! What type of snacks do you usually buy? I have found a few recipes that are very cheap and make a lot of snacks. This might help with the kids eating you out of house and home. I also understand what you are saying about the morgage and taxes. I am from florida and our taxes are outragous. My morgage payment is half of dh's take home but we have looked and we cant do anybetter. I wish you luck but sometimes you are already doing everything you can and you just have to hang on. I believe that in the end it all works out.
 

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I just thought of a couple more things. I'm not really sure if you can do these, but it may be something to consider.

Do you get a tax refund every year? If you do, then you could look at changing your withholding. You might not get a big refund at the end of the year, but you would have more money on a monthly basis.

Do you have flexible spending accounts for medical and childcare? You could save some money by using those.

Are you paying PMI on your mortgage? Depending on the amount of equity you have in your house.

Could you afford to raise the deductibles on your house or cars?

Have you thought about having your house audited by your energy company. Last year, we had Duke Energy come out and do an energy audit on our home. It's a free service that is offered by many companies. It was very helpful for us. We were given ideas for immediate return on our money and some that were longer term.

Cherie
 

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One thing I can suggest, is when one bill goes up, don't spend it save it. So if groceries were $90 this week, then save teh $10. If heat was $25 less, don't spend it save it.


Gifts are always interesting. I've decided to get creative with my kids this year for the presents they give to friends. One girl got jeans and a t-shirt, bought on clearance, but I dressed them up. Spent $5 total. The last birthday, I took a little time and some fabric scraps and made up an embroidered personalized pillow. Cost? Well, it was scraps and I had the embroidery files. Don't sew? How about dressing up jeans with fabric paint? Simple daisy type flowers, or peace simples down the sides of discount jeans are a hit for girls of most ages. If you can sew a single straight line, find some old jeans where the tops are in descent shape, just under the back pockets, sew it shut at the bottom. Use some fabric, if you have to buy it, you'll have enough with 10cm with even pricey fabric it's under $1. fold over stitch turn right side out and you have a strap for a fun funky purse. Sew on a ribbon for a tie to shut the purse, or just tie it on the belt loops, now sew ;)

Boys aren't as easy that way, but it can be done. For my own son, we've done used electronics or games for the system we have. I've made CD's for him from his dad's old cd's, strange how boys just like the same stuff...lol.

This year, ds is getting a job for his birthday... seriously. we'll set him up with the local flyer company, he'll earn nearly $140 a month to walk around delivering flyers. For a 13yo, that is pretty good, and minimal time commitment. Then he'll start to understand the value of his $ why we don't buy him every system, every game, etc. BUT there are conditions of course, I'm thinking min. of 1/2 will have to go in the bank monthly. If not more. And I think he'll set up to sponsor a charity. So it's a gift that'll keep giving, weird of us? LOL> And it'll not cost us much at all.
 

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your budget looks good to me. I agree with the dont spend it save it, when a purchase or bill in under what you have budgeted for. I do that with my grocery,clothing,gift funds. Those are the things that I pay cash for. I stash it away in a old cigar box, then when I have more that 25.00 I deposit it in a regular passbook savings account.
Food is one of the easiest things to cut, as is gifts. I took a que from a cousin of mine. She shops micheals crafts, bath and body works etc, for items that be easily thrown into a gift bag of basket. Marshalls and other discount stores are great, check the cleareance aisles.
also I dont know what type of heat you have, but if it is gas, have you considered balance billing. The company averages out your bill for l year and you pay the same amount for ll months. the 12th month you will either get a bill if usage was over what was estimated, or a credit if usage was less. Most electricity providers also do this. It works for us, because we know how much to budget for heat during the winter and electric over the summer.
Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
OK, to answer some questions here -

we get a huge refund each year, but there is nothing we can do about it. We have our deductions maxed, without raising any red flags with the IRS. We were discussing this today and dh got some extra money for something, but they tax the heck out of it. So whenever he gets a lump sum extra pay, we pay outrageous taxes. We do get it back at the end. We basically end up getting back the amount of the child tax credit every year.

We have no FSA acct, we would have to pay to join one here.

We can't do balanced billing yet, as we haven't been in the house long enough. In the fall when we have been in a year we can do that, actually I hear they do it automatically so that will be good.

Great creative ideas on gifts. I do have a sewing machine, so I will need to get creative.

Great idea on saving what I don't spend. Usually if I spend under budgeted I just save it until the next trip and spend it then. It will just accumulate in my cash envelopes. Great idea to put it into our savings account.

Thanks for all the input!
 
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