Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Change of Plans

I kind of suck at structure. Which is funny, because I actually crave it in my life. I love knowing what's expected of me, and then fulfilling those expectations to the best of my ability. When your job description however is Army wife, and Mum to a 9 month old son, knowing exactly how things are going to go doesn't happen. Ever.

I decided that I wanted to be organized this move. This is the first army move that we've had (the other two times we moved ourselves and didn't have assistance from the military) and I'm not 100% sure what to expect. I figure, the more I know, the smoother things will be.

I made a meal plan for the last two weeks in our house here, using as much of the remaining food we have in the house as I can. I really focused on the meats, since it's generally the most expensive thing that we buy, and the thing I want least to waste.

It's kind of expected that at least once a week I'll get a phone call that starts with, "Hun I'm not going to be home until late." It's just part of the lifestyle. In the final two weeks before the move though, my carefully laid plans have now shifted back a day, and rather than coming up with a creative solution for the extra day I'm instead left asking myself why I made a plan in the first place.

The (very drawn out) point is this. Sometimes, things will change, plans won't go our way. It's the case with our food, and it's the case with our finances. Would it have been better for me to make no plan at all, knowing that there's a chance it may be thrown off? Not at all! And for me to let go of my financial goals just because a wrench MAY be thrown into our plans is not the right way either. Yes, things are going to come up. A car will break down, or I'll slip up and make a poor spending decision. It's still worth it to try. I know that the time I invested into my meal plan means that I'm farther ahead than if I had made no plan at all. And I know that when I try to be disciplined with my finances, I'm farther along than if I had thrown up my hands and said "It's too hard, I can't do it." Sticking to a non-perfect plan is better than living by no plan at all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Planned Spontaneity

I told Ted the other day that our family needs a spontaneity jar in our household weekly budget. He said if we had one it would have to be named the "perpetually empty" jar. And in our household, it's true. I love being spontaneous, and making fun plans when I get the chance. Luckily I am married to someone who balances that out a bit, someone who's grounded, and who enjoys having and making a plan.

This past weekend we had a barbecue to say "bye for now" to the friends we are leaving behind when we move. I had been thinking about hosting some people for a while, but wasn't sure what the right time was, or the right kind of event. I visited a friend at work, and brought the idea up with him, and it just took off. I set a date, started inviting people, was happily planning the menu and THEN remembered to tell my husband. It was at that point that my husband brought up one of the more mundane planning details, "Soooo, where is the money for this event actually going to be coming from?" Right. What a buzzkill. Valid, valid buzzkill. He knew I definitely had our budget for the next few weeks very much tied up already. We were hosting some friends for a few days, we had groceries to buy and cars to fill up, and there are so many little things that need to be bought in connection to the move that I had no real flex.

I needed to be reminded that plans require plans. So we sat down and had a spontaneous budget meeting. Not nearly as much fun as a barbecue. I presented my case that hosting people is important, and that taking the time to say goodbye and thanks for the friendship is important. Ted replied that he agreed with that sentiment entirely, but an event like this shouldn't be drawn from our grocery budget, because it's not groceries we're buying, it's event food. Ted helpfully suggested a compromise. What if my future personal spending money (allowance) was garnished, to pay for the spontaneous plans I had made? (In our household we decided to give ourselves personal spending allowances rather than having an entertainment budget for the household. Once our family is a bit bigger and have kids that are a little older we'll probably reconsider the need for an entertainment jar.)
We were both so happy with this compromise. The big deal for me was getting the chance to have our goodbyes here, to spend a little to get a lot back. Having personal spending money once we've moved is not as important to me as it is here. We compromised. We made a plan we could both live with. We didn't have to compromise our weekly cash budget. This whole experience made me look forward to the Monthly Money Meetings we'll be starting in the new house, so we can do productive communicating like this more often. And hopefully we'll still have flexibility for some fun in there too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Grocery List

I've had a couple requests for a template of our shopping list/meal plan. On this list are foods we generally buy, some we get once every few months as a treat (bologna, appetizers) some are staples in our household. (SB chicken breast, bananas, cheese)

I tried very hard to get a copy of the file onto this post and it didn't work for me-so if you have the desire to make your own or edit mine let me know and I will send you the excel file!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Canadian Coupon Websites

Just wanted to let everyone know the websites our family uses for coupons.

These websites do NOT require a printer. Browse your coupons, pick which ones you want, and hit send. They will mail you your coupons within 5-10 business days. These coupons are for products I use regularly like Head and Shoulders, Pampers, So Good, and a ton more. Save a few bucks at the store next shop-give them a try!

Monthly Money Meetings

Sometimes in our family we get into a negative routine where we only discuss money when one of us has an issue with it. Hubby thinks we're not saving enough. I think we're not living enough. Our priorities get out of sync. We'll then sit down and discuss our finances. Usually in this situation one of us is starting in a bit of a funk, and while we don't let the discussion end until we're on a positive note, it's sometimes a painful road to get there.

My friend told me that her and her husband have monthly money meetings, where they sit down and discuss the month they've had and look forward to what's in the future. I immediately asked myself why on earth we didn't think to implement this for ourselves. I was struck with how positive it would be preparing for this discussion, coming together as a team to reconstitute what our family's long and short term goals are. Everyone wants to live debt free, but it's something so much easier said than done. Taking the time to sit down month to month and say "this is what we need to do this month to be on our way financially" will help make it possible.

I presented this idea to Ted, and we both agreed it's something we want to do. Our family having a monthly financial meeting means we will plan better. We'll have a forum in which to defend our positions, convince the other person, and listen to the other side of the coin. In the old method of a heated discussion, I would turn to my spouse and say "We never do anything fun, I want us to travel more." In the new forum, I get to say, "Here is some flex in our budget, or here is what I'm willing to cut for X amount of months in order to pay for a vacation as a family." We'll have a chance to reaffirm what we are working towards, and re-evaluate our priorities moving forwards.

First meeting will be in our new home-I'll be sure to update how it went and what we covered.