Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Budgeting 101 - Part 4

Establishing a perimeter, continued....

Millions of Americans (and millions more around the world) will tell you that money is not just tight, right now, it's scarce!  With unemployment growing and the dollar shrinking, it's more than difficult to make ends meet, it's difficult to get them to see each other.  That's why creating a household budget is more important than it's ever been.  This is war.

The first thing an invasion (or defense) force needs to do is, establish a perimeter.  A perimeter represents the boundaries of their operation.  Everything behind the line will be defended at all costs.  The forces' very lives and future depend on it.

In our last post, we established God as our North boundary.  The first thing we budget is our tithe to Him.  Now it's time to take a look at the South boundary, which is food.

Many people are nearly as incredulous about prioritizing the South boundry as they are the North.  For some odd reason, we think that food should be the last thing we budget.  To the contrary, food is second only to God in a wise budget.

You have to eat.  Your children, if you have them, have to eat.  That is a fundamental fact of life.  It is non negotiable.  Master Card can wait.  They might scream, but who cares?  If they do, just chew louder.

In order to have the strength to work and earn the money to pay your bills and debts, you need nourishment.  That comes from a little something I like to  It is not noble to put debts ahead of nutrition.  It's foolish.  God wants us to be wise.

Frankly, women find that last paragraph harder to fathom than men.  I have known many women, including my own mother, who would go without food, but never be a day late on a VISA payment.  Rarely, though, do I meet men with such a sense of honor.  With us, it's "Feed me, Seymour, Feed me."  I assure you, if you take care of your basic nutritional needs, you will be in much better shape to master your finances.

When I talk about food being our number 2 priority, I'm not saying it has to be luxurious or expensive.  It has to be filling and nutritious.  Mac and Cheese may replace Wine and Cheese, and Beanie Weenies may replace Steak and Lobster.  You may very well have to give up eating out for a while.  And cooking may become a brand new hobby.  You might try checking out sites like Cheap Cooking for ideas to help you get started (in a fit of gratuitous self advertising, Brittan is currently compiling a "Recession Proof Cookbook" which we hope to have available early in 2010.  Keep your eyes out for that.)

One of the ways we found that helps save a ton of money at the grocery store, is planning our menu out before we go to the store.  By doing so, we know exactly what we need, how much of it and when we will need it.  Then, we make a shopping list to help minimize impulse buying.

Some other things that will help reduce the cost of food:
  • use coupons
  • buy store brands
  • watch for 'day old' items on sale
  • buy in bulk 
  • shop in the 'club stores'
  • use the internet to watch the grocery store sites
  • study the circulars that come in the mail
  • shop in the 'off peak' stores like Aldi and Sav - a - lot
  • grow some of your own fruits and vegetables (more on that in a few weeks)
  • buy fresh vegetables only when they are in season
  • incorporate pasta, rice or potatoes into your dishes (in my day, we called foods with those things 'casseroles')
There are many other things you can do.  Hopefully, this list will get your creative juices flowing.

I also recommend going shopping at pretty much the same time each week, and don't go when you're hungry.  Make grocery shopping a game.  For Brittan and me, it's a fun time together.  It's just the two of us and acres of food stuffs to choose from.  It's great.

Remember, God comes first.  After Him, as the old T.V. commercial says, "You gotta eat!"