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5 Questions to Ask Before You Tweak Your Budget

I would love to see a post on adjusting your budget. How do you know when you need to increase your budget or when you need to decrease your spending? I LOVE your posts that give us questions to consider when making decisions. I would love to see questions to help me know if I should increase the budget amount for groceries or auto repairs whatever it is, or when we should cut back our spending. Thank you so much. -Melissa

This is such a great question, Melissa! I don’t think there are any 100% cut and dry answers or one-size-fits-all systems when it comes to when to raise or lower your budget. But I do think there are some general questions to ask before you overhaul your budget.

Here are five questions I recommend asking before you tweak your budget:

Questions to Ask Before You Tweak Your Budget

1) Are we struggling to make ends meet every month?

This is one of the most important questions to ask. If you are barely making ends meet every month (or they are not meeting every month) then it’s time to do a serious look at your budget.

Where is every dollar going every month? (If you don’t know the answer to this question, I highly recommend you check out Total Money Makeover from the library and follow the steps outlined to set up a budget. We’ve found that using software to track all of our expenses and income is so helpful to know exactly where we stand at any given moment of the month.)

If you do know where every dollar is going and you are struggling to make ends meet, it’s time to look carefully at whether there is anything you can cut, cut back on, or shave off. Don’t see anything you can change? What about looking into ways you can increase your income?

If you do know where every dollar is going and you aren’t struggling to make ends meet, then move on to the following questions.

2) Is it a causing stress and contention to stick to our budget in this category?

If you are finding that you are feeling stressed by a budget category every month, it’s time to take a hard look at that category, what you are spending, and why you’re feeling stressed about it.

For those of you who are married or who have other people who are involved in your budgeting, is this contributing to the stress? If so, why? Can you have an honest conversation about it without being frustrated or accusatory?

3) Why did we choose this budget amount in the first place?

Truth be told, I think this is possibly the most important question to ask.

Did you just pick a number out of the sky? Is this number the number you spent 5 years ago when you only had one child and now you have three but you feel like you shouldn’t change your budget because it’s what you’ve always had it set at? Did you choose this number because a friend (or someone online!) spends this on groceries or eating out and you wanted to prove that you could?

Take a hard look at the why behind your budget categories. Is the why in line with your priorities?

4) What does my spouse think?

If you are married, please do not be making budget changes without having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. Budgeting is a team effort! It requires communication and compromise.

The less you can point fingers and instead lock arms and get on the same page, the stronger your budgeting success will be!

5) Could we find an easy way to spend less?

Do you need to be spending as much as you are spending in this category? Is there something simple you could change or tweak that would allow you to spend less? If you are thinking of raising your budget in one area, is there another area where you could lower it? (Check out this post for 30 Super Easy Ways to Save Money.)

As always, I think it’s important to remember that the goal of a budget is to serve you, not the other way around. A budget is a tool to benefit your life, not a slave master to make you miserable! (Psst! For more encouragement, read my post on We Need to Have an Honest Conversation About Budgeting.)

What questions do you ask before you change your budget? I’d love to hear!

photo credit

Life Update: Pregnancy update (week 12), my book stack, & football

Welcome to my weekly life update where I share about my pregnancy & give you a peek into our life this past week. If you want to follow a lot more behind-the-scenes and real-time updates every week, be sure to follow my stories and posts on Instagram.

12 weeks! And our big news is that we found out the gender this week!!!* Knowing has made it so much more real to me, even though this whole pregnancy still feels crazy surreal and like a dream.

HIGHLIGHTS

I think we actually all may have agreed on a name!! It’s very different having older kids who have very strong opinions about these things! Also, the NIPT test came back perfect. And I had a little more energy and a little less nausea this week.

NOTABLE

I’m pretty sure I’m starting to feel those first few flutters. I didn’t for sure feel movement until 15 weeks with Silas, but I’m almost 99% sure that’s what I’m feeling.

Also, my appetite has increased big time — which has been weird and I’m still trying to adjust. I’m usually the type of person who eats when I’m hungry and then eats until I’m satisfied. But right now, I feel hungry almost 90% of the time — even right after eating!!

I’m so grateful to have the desire to eat, though, because it definitely has been super hit or miss for the last 6 weeks and most of the time I was just making myself eat so I wouldn’t feel worse because my stomach was empty. It’s so nice to actually *want* to eat much of the time now!

CRAVINGS

Oh goodness, have the cravings been intense this week. I feel like all I do is talk about and think about food. (This is SO unlike me! My kids keep saying, “Mom, you are so WEIRD when you are pregnant!”)

Speaking of weird, yesterday and today I wanted a taco from Taco Bell. Y’all, I can’t remember the last time I’ve even eaten at Taco Bell!! But, thanks to Jesse, I had a taco for dinner AND breakfast (he was smart and just went and got a whole BAG of six tacos last night!!)

WEGHT GAIN

4.5 pounds (I usually always gain around 30 lbs. and at the rate I’m going, I don’t think I’m going to have any issue doing that again.)

*At this point, we don’t plan to share the gender before the birth. That could always change, but we kept it a family secret last time and it made it so special so we are thinking we’ll likely do that again.

In other news, I bought this sweatshirt this week and can’t wait for it to come in the mail!

And I was thrilled to once again feel well enough to go to the grocery store for a quick shopping trip!

Silas played both baseball and flag football this season. His first playoff game was Friday night and their team won, just barely! So they move on to the next playoff bracket next week.

What I’m…

Reading right now: I Will Always Write Back and Come Matter Here (My book stack in my room is getting way too high — and then I have three shelves in the library full of books waiting to be read ASAP. I guess it’s a good problem!)

Watching right now: Silas, Kaitlynn, and I have been watching The Masked Singer.

Listening to right now: I finally came up first in line for Atomic Habits on the Libby app again, so I’ve been listening to the last hour and half of it (that I didn’t get to finish the last time I had it “checked out” on the Libby app).

Loving right now: The fact that it was cool enough weather this past week to wear my favorite booties (shown above). (These are from Amazon, but they are a Payless brand so they are almost sold out.)

In Case You Missed It:

$47 Kroger Shopping Trip

I had a little more energy and a little less nausea this week (YAY for almost being in the second trimester!!), so I did a bit more of a “real” shopping trip.

Full disclosure: We’re still a few weeks away from getting back to our $70 grocery budget and the family is still eating a lot of cereal, snack foods, super quick meals (like scrambled eggs and frozen waffles), and take out. I’m okay with that because we always loosen up our grocery bill and eating out budget during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a season and one of the reasons we are so careful and intentional with our finances is so that we can change up the budget categories, if need be.

I hope to be back to our $70 grocery budget and menu planning in the next few weeks, just as soon as more energy returns and I feel well enough to be able to do more cooking/planning/grocery shopping.

For now, I’m just celebrating the fact that I made it to the store with a small plan and was able to get some good deals on groceries and managed to survive without getting sick! Here’s what we bought:

$47 Kroger Shopping Trip

  • 5 boxes of Red Baron pizza — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals
  • 4 bags of Kettle Chips — $0.99 each as part of the 3-day deals
  • Simple Truth Greek Yogurt — marked down to $0.49
  • Grapes — $0.99/lb. — $1.90
  • 30 eggs — marked down to $1.49
  • 1 bag of avocados — marked down to $0.99
  • 5 boxes of Mott’s Fruit Snacks (40-count) — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals
  • Yoplait Gogurts — marked down to $0.99
  • Tropicana OJ — $3
  • Flour — $1.59
  • Sugar — $1.59
  • Milk — $2.99
  • 4 cans of pumpkin — $0.89 each
  • Chocolate chips — $1.99 (I was craving Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins… unfortunately, my stomach quickly decided it did not like them at all. But hey, my family was happy to eat the rest!)
  • Total with tax: $47.19

Cash Back I Earned: 1,025 points from Fetch Rewards + $0.10 from iBotta.

Did you find any great deals at the grocery store this week?

Brigette’s $88 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

Aldi

1 box Rice Squares – $1.49

2 boxes Crispy Oats – $2.38

1 5-lb bag Flour – $1.05

1 64-oz carton Orange Juice – $1.64

1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97

1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.79

1 64-oz carton Skim Milk – $0.58

2 bags Riced Cauliflower – $3.78

1 3-lb bag Frozen Boneless Chicken Breasts – $5.85

1 3-lb roll Ground Beef – $6.49

1-lb Sausage – $1.89

1 16-oz bag Deli Meat – $2.85

1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89

1 48-oz jar Canola Oil – $1.85

1 can Baking Powder – $0.99

1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.59

2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.99

2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $4.99

1 pkg Sliced Cheese – $1.79

1 can Whipped Topping – $2.85

1 pkg String Cheese – $1.95

1 bag Pretzels – $1.09

1 bag Plain Rice Cakes – $1.45

1 loaf Sandwich Bread – $0.65

1 jar Organic Jam – $1.69

1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $1.99

1 bag Romaine Hearts – $2.09

1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.89

1 bag Mini Cucumbers – $2.09

1 3-lb bag Mandarin Oranges – $2.69

1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.09

1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.39

1 huge bag of Turnip Greens – from a friend’s garden

2 bags Broccoli Crowns – $2.30

1 2-lb bag Peaches – $1.99

1 pkg Zucchini – $1.39

1 container Grape Tomatoes – $1.39

1 large bag Red Grapes ($0.79/lb) – $2.12

1 Cabbage – $1.69

1 bunch Bananas ($0.41/lb) – $1.09

5 single-serving Greek Yogurts – $2.95

Grocery Total for the Week: $88.60

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Cereal, Toast, Oatmeal, Fruit, Yogurt, Smoothies, Fried/Boiled/Scrambled Eggs, Veggie Omelets

Lunches

Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Oranges, Cucumbers x 2

Pretzels/Peanut Butter, Cheese Sticks, Bananas, Mini Sweet Peppers x 2

Leftovers x 3

Dinners

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Roasted Broccoli, Grapes

Chicken and Rice Casserole, Tossed Salad

Hamburger Vegetable Soup with Shredded Cheese, Homemade Dill Bread

Date Night Out (Macaroni and Cheese for the kids)

Cauliflower Rice and Ground Beef Skillet, Tossed Salad, Failproof French Bread

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, Roasted Broccoli, Failproof French Bread

Leftovers

Sign up for my free 5 Days to a Better Morning Challenge!

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Plus, you’ll also get access to an exclusive Facebook Group (this is optional; I know not everyone is on Facebook!) so you can engage with others who are going through this mini course and we can all keep each other accountable to follow through with our daily projects.

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I can’t wait to cheer you on in this process! Here’s to an amazing rest of the year!

30 Super Easy Ways to Save Money

Want some easy ways to save money? Here are 30 easy ways to save money submitted by my Facebook followers. How many of these do you currently do?

30 Super Easy Ways to Save Money

1. Set up auto deposit to a bank that is hard to access.

Susan suggested: “Auto deposit to a bank you don’t have easy access to. I use our local credit union that is only open 9-3. While I’m working.”

Rachel says: “This is how I saved enough money to buy my first home outright. Lived on one check and sent the next 2 to a bank I didn’t have easy access too. (I had an account at a credit union 3 hours away so it was definitely a job to get the money out.)”

Kim says: “I automatically have money transferred into a savings account before I even see it from my check.”

2. Ask some questions before making a purchase.

Kelley says: “I ask myself more than once before making a purchase, ‘Do I really need this and will this make me happier a year from now?’ Pretty much stops me in my tracks most of the time!”

3. Take advantage of free family fun!

Lacy suggested: “We like to do outdoors activities and nature adventures as a family instead of dining out and shopping as ‘something to do’ as our family time.”

4. Cook and eat at home.

Hope says: “Cooking all our meals at home and making my own coffee drinks is enabling me to stay home.”

Moni also said: “Cooking homemade food and eating at home saves us a lot of money. My hubby also saves a ton of money each week bringing lunches and eating breakfast before he goes to work in the morning. Also coffee! Brewing our own saves as much as not getting food out!”

5. Shop at thrift stores.

Rachel says: “Shop at salvage stores and thrift stores.”

6. Record every purchase.

Shannon says: “Recording every purchase (yes, even things like a vending purchase!) in our budget spreadsheets helps us track categorized expenses and make sure we are staying within budget.”

7. Cancel your catalogs and unsubscribe from emails.

Jennifer says: “Limiting my exposure to beautiful things by canceling all the pretty catalogs and email blasts from the same stores is an easy way to save money.”

8. Cut your cable.

Rachel says: “Cut off your cable! Wish I had done it months ago!”

Laura also said: “We just did this, too! It’s saving us $65/month.”

9. Set a goal.

Tammy says: “When I have a goal set (usually travel), I can save money very easily. I have no problem not spending unnecessarily. No goal = I buy things I DO NOT need.”

10. Do it yourself!

Rachael says: “Easy ways we save money: Making my own DIY face/skin/cleaning products, canning, freezing, gardening, making our own wine, cutting my daughter’s hair, and doing handmade/homemade Christmas/birthday gifts!”

11. Only buy groceries on sale with coupons.

Valeria says: “Only buy groceries when on sale, using coupons and app rebates. Plus, purchase enough to get you to the next sale of that item.”

12. Order groceries online.

Edith says: “I save money by ordering groceries online. It keeps me out of the store and eliminates impulse shopping. I make my list at home, do the order, and pick it up outside the store.”

13. Stock up when an item is on sale.

Keiva says: “I use coupons with sales to buy more than we need at the time so it’s available to us when it’s not on sale. Also, stock up on sale items. This week, our grocery has Mott’s Apple juice 64oz. for $1. I’ll buy 40. With 6 kids, it goes quickly! They also have Peter Pan PB for $1, so I’ll buy about 20. I’ll be set for the next 6 months!”

14. Get rid of expensive habits.

Tiffany says: “Get rid of habits that cost money. I gave up coffee and tea a long time ago. Started saving me $15 to $25 a week. I stopped buying books unless they are $1 or less and just reserve books at a library.”

15. Cut your hair at home.

Barbie says: “Doing my husband’s and sons’ haircuts myself. My husband and older son only take about 10 minutes a piece. My younger son takes twice as long because he fidgets. I still figure I save on time by not going to a barber shop, and I save $60-ish every round of haircuts. My boys think going to a barber shop is quite the treat!”

16. Don’t buy it if you don’t need it!

Tosha says: “Remembering that just because it’s posted on MSM or another blog doesn’t mean I need to buy it! If I don’t need it and I buy it because it’s on sale, I’ve spent money I didn’t need to spend.”

17. Stay out of Target.

Sandra says: “Staying out of Target and buying necessities on Amazon is an easy way to save money.”

18. Don’t shop without a list.

Oghma: “I don’t go inside a store until I have a list. Also, don’t shop just one item and then feel like you need to buy other things so the trip is ‘worth it’.”

19. Use a wood burning fireplace.

Holly says: “We bought a wood burning fireplace insert to save money. We’ve gotten firewood free but when we’ve bought it, the wood was still 1/3 the price of natural gas. Also, when we had a natural gas outage, we had no power but we still had heat.”

20. Use Rakuten to earn cash back.

Michele says: “We save money by using eBates when online shopping (now known as Rakuten). In the years I’ve been using it, I’ve gotten almost $1,000 back. They send you a check every three months. I never order anything without checking to see if the website is on eBates first.”

21. Get a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year.

Melisa says: “We have a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage. Yes, monthly payment is higher, but not double. Plus, it’s going to save us $112,000 in interest on a $290,000 home.”

22. Use your local library.

Patricia says: “We utilize every aspect of our local library. DVDs, audiobooks, reading programs with prizes, free events for kids, game night, kid computer games, online library for ebooks, etc.”

23. Pack food before you leave.

Bethany says: “We save money by packing lunch/dinner if we go out, bringing coffee along for the ride, and eating before we leave!”

24. Don’t buy beverages!

Robin says: “We don’t drink pop and we don’t buy beverages when we are out and about. Bottled water is also a no-no. I can fill a bottle at home real cheap.”

25. Watch the prices as they are scanned.

Beverly says: “I watch the prices as items are scanned in at the register. I save often by catching an accidental higher price being scanned in. Also, 2 main stores I shop at offer a price scan policy. If it scans in wrong, you get one free if it’s under $10. Or, you get $10 off if it’s over $10.”

26. Don’t buy things the same day.

Betsy says: “I take pictures of things I like at stores like Target and don’t buy them the same day. Sometimes I do this and then find something similar at the thrift stores.”

27. Plan your menu based upon what you already have.

Elizabeth says: “When I’m meal planning, I shop my pantry and freezer first and try to utilize what I have and not let things go to waste.”

28. Don’t shop just to kill time.

Andrea says: “Don’t go shopping just to fill time. If I go wandering because I’m bored, I will find things to buy. I’m trying to simplify and save money for adventures instead of ‘stuff’ for my little one and me.”

29. Ditch your clothes dryer.

Tricia says: “I save money by hanging all my clothes to dry instead of using a dryer.”

30. Don’t buy it just because you want it.

Jennifer says: “I’m learning to be an adult and understand that I don’t HAVE TO buy everything I want.”

What are some of your favorite super easy ways to save money?

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