5 Ways to Force Your Spouse to Get Frugal*

Communication is important in a marriage.  If you can’t communicate, how are you going to get your way?**  I’ve helpfully compiled the best possible ways to get your spouse on board with your budget plans.

  1. Don’t include her. When I absolutely, positively cannot afford to be working towards a different goal than my wife, I do my best to ignore her.  I don’t tell her how much we’ve paid off, how much we have left, or what we can afford to spend on groceries.   I think she enjoys not having to worry about the petty details like “Are we overdrawn?” or “Will we be eating Alpo next week?”   I’ll do anything to make her life easier.
  2. Nag. Nothing convinces my wife to do things my way like unending scolding.   If I just remind her, day and night, surely she’ll cooperate with my budgeting plans and ideas to save money, right?   Every body loves the attention, and, since we got a text messaging plan, I can shoot her a message every five minutes while she’s at the store.   In all seriousness, this is actually a problem and a source of friction at my house.   Reminding her every time she goes to the store is not an effective strategy.
  3. Whine. If nagging fails, I always try to take the advice of my toddlers and whine until I get my way.   “But Ho-uh-neee-eee!  Why’d you buy tha-at?”   It’s always been a big hit at my house.   My wife appreciates the effort I put into getting the third, screechy syllable into simple words, just to try to convince her to give up or see things my way.
  4. Obsess. This goes hand-in-hand with both #2 and #3.    If I never giver her the chance to forget about our goals, she can never stray from them.   A memo in the morning, hourly text reminders, and a daily summary of our account balances and month-to-date budget compliance just keeps us working together.    Everything we do can be tied back to our frugal choices and debt repayment, whether it’s a game of Sorry or a trip to a wrestling tournament.
  5. Yell. If all else fails, just turn up the volume.   If there’s a problem, I nag at level 10.   Whining loudly enough to wake the neighbors will convince her to comply with my wishes next time.  This has the added benefit of allowing my kids to receive the wisdom of my experience, even if they are in the basement playing games with their friends.

*This obviously isn’t a gender-specific article, but, as a man, I write from a man’s perspective and my pronouns match my perspective.

**Sarcasm.  Really.   Following these rules should result in divorce, NOT happy agreement.  If you are operating under this action plans, get therapy.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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Budget Lesson, Part 1

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Over the next few weeks, I will be going over my budget in detail.

The first section is income, but that’s straightforward.  A line for each income source, bi-weekly, monthly and annual totals.  Simple.

Before we start, a word on the organization.  There are five columns:

  • Category – This is the description of the line item.
  • Cost – How much do you pay for this item?
  • Time – What is the frequency of the payment?  Valid values are ‘m’, ‘q’, ‘y’, ‘w’ for ‘Monthly’, ‘Quarterly’, ‘Yearly’ and ‘Weekly’.
  • Monthly – Cost and Time are combined to calculate the monthly expense, to make it possibly to budget.  If this is $100, I need to set aside a C-Note each and every month to make the payment when it comes due.
  • Yearly – This column is mostly informative.  It’s helpful to see this in comparison to my annual pay.

The first section I am actually going to address is discretionary spending.

  • Groceries/Dining    $475.00 – We don’t budget heavily for groceries, which would be a surprise if you saw me.  At the smallest I have ever been, fit, I was never small.  We shop smart, buy in bulk when it makes sense, and rarely eat out.  We also keep cooked rice and beans in containers in the refrigerator as a cheap and healthy way to stretch almost everything we eat.
  • Discretionary    $250.00 – This gets used for household items, like toilet paper and soap.  It also get used for the odd book or movie, or to cover the gaps between the other categories and reality.
  • Baby stuff    $60.00 – We have two children in diapers.  ‘Nuff said.  This category does get progressively smaller as the baby items are outgrown and the children get potty-trained.
  • Gas/oil    $200.00 – Gas and auto-maintenance.  This is actually higher than monthly costs, allowing us to set some aside for larger maintenance issues.
  • Clothes    $15.00 – All of our dressers are overflowing, so this is strictly replacement cost for the time being.  Our kids wear a lot of hand-me-downs.
  • Blow Money    $50.00 – Occasionally, habitual shoppers need to shop.  If they don’t do it on-budget, they will do it off-budget and kill the whole idea.

Initially, we used a “virtual envelope” system.  We had a spreadsheet and every time something was spent in this category, we entered the amount and stopped when the category was spent.   Didn’t work.  We are going on a pure, cash-only system as of the first of the year.  No money, no spendy.

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Christmas for the Destitute

First, my disclaimer:  I’m not destitute.

However, I’m trying to spend Christmas acting like I am a pauper.

Why, with small children and beautiful-and-more-than-deserving wife, would I want to deprive my family of a bountiful holiday?

Before we get into the reasons for being a horrible grinch bent on depriving my children of their god-given right to rampant consumerism, let’s look at the Philosophy of Destitution.

The primary reason to pull back and tone it down is basic frugality.  Excessive anything is not frugal. I am training my children–and for that matter, my wife and my self–in the finer arts of personal responsibility and frugality.   Accumulating debt for a fleeting holiday is insane.  If we can’t afford to buy it, we certainly can’t afford to give it.   Anything else would be setting a bad example and children learn best by example.

Another piece of the Philosophy of Destitution(when I read this word, I hear a deep, booming voice in my head, like a 30s radio superhero voiceover)  is “green”.    I consider myself a conservationalist rather than an environmentalist, so don’t read too much into that color.  I try to be responsible, instead of destructive and I try to avoid being wasteful.  Toys that won’t be played with are wasteful. A garbage can full of packaging for those same toys costs money.  It is much cheaper to avoid the landfill here.

Back to “Why”. Why would I be willing to deprive my family?

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5 Ways to Make Shopping Quickly a Breeze

Shopping is a major time sink. Between the travel, the traffic, and the checkout lines, the actual shopping almost seems

English: An Entennmann's cake donut, bought fr...

English: An Entennmann’s cake donut, bought from a grocery store four-variety pack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

pleasant. Almost. Here’s my super-secret ninja plan to reduce the unpleasant time wasted while giving away my money in exchange for the privilege of not scooping manure straight from the source onto my crops to get both my burgers and my salads.

First, The List. I’m not going to tell you to use a list. You know that already. My secret? Organize your list by department. Divide the list into sections.  Make sure it has a produce section, a meat section, a baking section, and any other section you will be visiting. Don’t leave the department until that section of the list is complete. That will eliminate chasing back and forth for things you forgot, which is a huge timesaver.

Shop where you know. When you are in a hurry or stressed by crabby kids, don’t go check out a new store. You won’t enjoy it with the kids in tow, AND you’ll be tempted to buy more, since you will encounter more as you explore the store trying to find what you need.  Go somewhere you know.  That will eliminate any hunter/gatherer-style shopping.  If you know where you need to go, you’ll get through the shopping trip much faster.

Skip the bad aisles.  I resist temptation best by avoiding it. In the store, I avoid it by skipping entire aisles of stuff. If there’s nothing I need in an aisle, don’t go there. Why tempt myself with that many more choices? I’m sure I can find something I’d like to bring home in almost any section of almost any store.  So I avoid the unnecessary sections.

Shop at the right time.  Don’t go on Saturday afternoon when every other 9-to-5er is free to run errands.  If you absolutely must shop on the weekend, either go late–I prefer 3am–or go right at lunchtime when everyone  is stopping to feed the hungry children. Me? I’ll either feed them first or fill them up on samples at the grocery store.

Use less, eat less.  You’ll need to buy less that way. If you eat smaller portions, or learn how to cook with a versatile mix of staples, you’ll need to buy less, either through lower consumption or lower variety. I’m not saying eat boring, just get creative with the basics.  I know a couple of different ways to cooks rice and beans, without getting bored.  When you add the perfect-food-makers, like bacon, it’s easy to keep meals interesting.

How do you reduce wasted time shopping?

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