I’m All Smart Like This

I go through seasons when I’m more disciplined in certain areas than others. Sometimes I go through seasons when I’m disciplined in everything all at once (this is rare), and other times I go through seasons when I’m disciplined in nothing at all (this is sadly more common than I care to admit).

The past two months I haven’t exactly kept careful accounting of our finances. When life gets nuts, record keeping is the first thing to go, closely followed by all resolve not to eat my weight in chocolate-covered pretzels. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t know.

Anyway, last week I balanced the checkbook. This was a bigger task than it sounds because I never got around to balancing it in April and here we are in the second half of May already. We had a larger-than-normal amount of unplanned for/unbudgeted expenses come up that were necessary (earnest money, anyone?). So when I’ve not been keeping careful records and I know of several extra expenses that have come up, it makes me tense because I’m not really sure where the bank is going to land when it’s all said and done.

Amazingly (or providentially, depending upon your worldview – I’ll take both, thank you), we also had a goofy amount of extra income (economic stimulus plan, anyone?). When I got the numbers up to date, we were exactly where we should be to enter into the second half of May after a full paycheck for Craig. I know – it was totally the Lord.

So, up to date and fully aware that it was a miracle that I didn’t bounce anything this month, I resolved to do a better job sticking to the grocery budget. This is where I get all smart like this and where you say, “It took her 11 years to figure this out? And why am I reading this goofy blog again?”

I’ve always been a stockpile shopper; that is, I find the good deals and buy a lot of them. And in doing so, I almost always go over our budget because the good deals I find aren’t always what we need right now, so what we need right now also gets purchased along with the stockpile of good deals.

This month I came up with a new plan: I took the allotted grocery money and divided it up into four weeks. I then found the one store with the best deals, located the appropriate coupons, and went to the store knowing I had only one-fourth of the month’s budget to spend. My goal was this: buy enough milk, cereal, fruit, lunch, and dinner items to last us seven days, then get as many good deals as possible with the leftovers of that fourth of the budget.

You want to know why this was so amazing? Because in the past when I stockpiled at the beginning of the month, I usually bought enough milk, cereal, lunch, and fruit to last only one week anyway, with the rest of the month’s budget getting swallowed up on other stuff. Now I know I can go to the store again on Thursday and replenish those things without overspending the budget. Also, I made it pretty clear to everyone that the milk I bought had to last one whole week and if we ran out of anything we needed before the next Thursday, we would just need to do without it until then.

Everyone got this. They understood the need to ration things, and knowing the stretch point was only seven days instead of thirty made it easy to do so. By George, I think I’ve finally got it.
Is it any coincidence that the clearing of my perspective and rationale is happening during our last week of school? I don’t think so.

I don’t think so.

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