I have spent the last five years working and reworking our budget. In the beginning we had a car loan as well as tuition for my masters in addition to our regular bills. Then both of those bills went away, but our family grew. Now Jon is getting his masters and our family is growing again.
With these changes I have had to make changes to our budget each year, even though the salary never really changed. Jon's pay increase each year basically covers our increase in medical insurance. My salary has not really changed but my life has. I babysat for the first three years I was home. Now I tutor. I went from working 30+ hours a week during the day to working 10 hours a week in the evening. But I make pretty much the same amount (more money but more expenses- gas and a little childcare).
It takes planning to make our budget work. But one thing I have realized while bargain shopping is that a good deal is only a good deal if you need it. For instance I used to love love love Cosmo magazine. In recent years I have found it doesn't apply to my life, and actually found myself angry at some of their topics ( why young marriages fail and what having a baby can do to your body were both two I did not like). In the beginning the good outweighed the bad, but then it became monthly that I just didn't feel it applied to me any more. So I cancelled my subscription.
Fast forward 2 years and I get a letter in the mail offering me a new subscription for $10 for one year. Not a bad price, less than $1 per month. I thought about it. I wanted to try the magazine again, I mean I LOVED it when I was 23 and 24 and 25. And I probably still like some of it now.
But then I remembered how much I disliked the topics in the magzine. And how seperated my life is from that of their targeted population (other than my age). And I thought about what else I could do with that $10.
$10 may not be a lot, but here is what I came up with:
lunch at McD's with my kids
3 half gallons of ice cream
10 one night movie rentals from redbox
2 new books
a new pair of shoes at payless
a new t-shirt at old navy
110 photos of my kids
yarn for knitting (my new hobby)
almost one movie ticket =)
100 tokens to Chuck E Chees which equals out to about 4 hour long visits
1/4 tank of gas (ouch!)
1/7 of my grocery bill
2 $5 foot longs at subway (dinner for Jon and I with leftovers!!)
10 $1 candy bars....mmm!
I ended up finding a deal for Taste of Home magazine for $3.50 for a year. So I took that $10 and bought 2 years worth of Taste of Home and still have $2.50 left.
What is my point?
Well, if you spend money on something you don't really want because it seems like a good deal, you are wasting money. I was really thinking about giving Cosmo another try (which is why they offered me that great deal I am sure). But when I sat down and thought about the other uses for that $10 I realized that I wanted other things more. And when your budget is tight like ours, if you spend that $10, that is $10 worth of something else that you cannot have!
So a big part of budgeting isn't just figuring out how much you have to spend and where to spend it. It is also being able to pass a too good to pass up deal when it just isn't right for you!