2.07.2013

dollars and sense: month one.


 
One of the goals Gabe and I made for 2013 was taking control of our finances.

This was an easy goal to agree on, because 2012 opened my eyes. Having grown up in the US, I was ill-prepared for the cost of living abroad. Whoa. Items in Kuwait are regularly priced 30-50% more than what I paid for them in the US. We're talking clothes, cosmetics, restaurants....even groceries. For example, for the first few months in Kuwait our groceries totaled $180 a week. FOR TWO PEOPLE.

Fun fact: I once cried in the cheese aisle when I realized the mozzarella ball I was holding cost $12. And the bottle of Simply Lemonade I'd passed up was $18. $30 for mozzarella and our fave lemonade? Gabe couldn't hug me, because you know...no-no on PDA in Kuwait. So I just stood there sobbing about cheese.

White girl crying...aisle 3. Send a mop!

Anyway, by the end of 2012 I was sick to death of falling prey to the price gouging. Every month, we were further and further away from our financial goals. So, we finally sat down to make a budget. Or rather, I made a crazy Excel spreadsheet and Gabe pretended to be impressed. We budgeted for every flexible expense I could imagine: coffee trips, personal care items, gift-giving, groceries, entertainment, transportation, pet items. You name it, there was a column....and I tracked that ish every single day.

One month down, and we've made some pretty big changes.

Here are eight things we learned in the past few weeks:

Nix impulse purchases: We started using this adorable free grocery list printable from Ellinée, which allows you to check off anything you need. Together we create a grocery list prior to heading to the store, and buy ONLY items on the list. Absolutely no impulse buying. And guess what? We've cut our grocery spending in half. Half!

Fun dollars are cheesy but cool: We budgeted separate "fun money" for each of us, aside from entertainment or eating out. This way we don't feel suffocated by our new budget, and can still buy fun things. For example, mine goes toward clothing, accessories and pretty things for our home.  Any unused money gets carried over and therefore accumulates over time. If one of us wants to splurge, it means saving and sacrificing other fun items for a month or two. It really forces us to weigh our wants.

Stay on the same page: Purchases over $75 are always discussed, and there's an open conversation almost daily about where our finances stand.

Plan online purchases: Amazon and online shops get much more business from us. I used to run out of things and simply have to pay Kuwait's prices, because I needed it now. Example, my Maybelline foundation is $22 in Kuwait! Online...$8 with free shipping. Yep, this means taking stock of what we need a few weeks before we actually need it...and that's a little annoying. But it also means saving hundreds of dollars over the course of time.

Say goodbye to Starbucks: A medium Starbucks latte runs $7 here...and thanks to the Starbucks five steps from our apartment we used to indulge every other day. That's $200/month for coffee! Crazy. This month, we nearly cut out all Starbucks spending and opted for instant lattes we love. They're $0.50 a cup. I haven't darkened a Starbucks door in three weeks.

Bid farewell to credit cards: Our credit card wasn't used once in January. Credit cards are the devil. They really are, because you lack the feeling of having spent REAL money. Even if I'm getting a mile for every dollar, I'm just not willing to use them anymore, and don't carry mine regularly.

Build-in rewards for underspending: Any budgeted grocery, transportation, coffee and entertainment money that went unused gets carried over to be used on an agreed-upon purchase. Maybe we'll take a trip with our leftovers at the end of the year? Or buy something nice for our home? Who knows...but it is a great game that causes me to opt for less now.

When in doubt, think about your debt: This sounds yucky, but it's true. Sit down and tally up your debt...all of it. Credit cards, car loans, student loans, mortgage. It might be brutal, but it's your reality. Now sit with that number for a minute and really let it sink in. You owe that money. Scary, huh? Whenever I was faced with the urge to purchase something I didn't need and would put me over budget, I thought about that number. If not buying this trival thing, meant lowering that suddenly very real number? Even a teeny bit? Well, then I choose to live without this silly thing I don't need.

 
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All-in-all...Month One was pretty rewarding. Dare I say...it made our marriage stronger? (Barf. I'm cringing, but it's true.) Seeing money saved at the end of January was worth the planning and small amount of belt-tightening it took to get there.  And it wasn't painful. My biggest fear was that budgeting might influence relationships with others, since we were opting to be less free with our dollars. But, then I stumbled on this quote:
 
"People first, then money, then things." --Suze Orman
 
This truly guided our first month of budgeting. I never want to be the friend who refuses to split the check, because my entree was $2 less than my girlfriend. Yiiiikes, that's awkward. I'll still happily split the check or make it my treat. I'll buy reasonable birthday gifts and party decorations with a happy heart, because letting people know they're loved is so much more important than meeting rigid financial goals.

But, I've found that your true friends and loved ones understand if their gift is a little smaller, or if you're not quite as free with your cash as you once were. They get it, and won't let it effect your relationship. And sacrificing a few of your silly "wants" is worth it for your long-term needs.

To anyone thinking about starting a budget...do it. It's surprisingly empowering. And hey, maybe you can buy yourself some pretties with all the cash you save. :)

Did anyone else make financial resolutions this year? How are you fairing?

52 comments:

  1. my mom is a total Suze Orman devotée - and, when I finally jumped on the bandwagon, I totally understood why! good for you guys :)

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  2. the prices are almost the same here in singapore, and it took me a while to adjust to it. i also maintain an excel spreadsheet, and my fiancé used to laugh at me about it, but now that he sees how much i'm saving with having a set budget, he's taking it a bit more seriously!

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    1. The prices are maddening! Sort of glad I'm on the only expat who feels this way. When I visited the US again, the grocery store was my happy place. I couldn't believe the things I always thought were "so expensive" were actually totally reasonable. Perspective. :)

      Haha...I think my husband was the same way! He was like, "Yeah, yeah...spreadsheet, smeadsheet." But when you show men some numbers on paper, they get a lot more serious about it. :)

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  4. I absolutely love this! How open you two are and the steps you took to get there. The excel spreadsheet sounds like a wonderful idea and one I hope to adopt soon! It's so important to be honest with oneself about the debt they have. Thank you for this post! 2013 is definitely a budget/buckle down to pay down debt year :) you rock bethany!

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    1. Honesty is so important in fiances...I agree! You can set a thousand financial goals, but unless you're really honest with yourself about your spending habits and debt load...it would be tough to follow through!

      Here's to a much more savvy 2013! ;)

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    2. absolutely! and it's sooooo freeeeing!!

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  5. Love this post! That's exactly what my husband and I did last year... created a budget, stuck to it (better than I ever imagined), and felt truly empowered. I skipped a lot of Starbucks, stopped buying 'wants' almost completely, and we even limited our dining out to once a month (tough to do in Kuwait). What really helped me the most was convincing myself all the money we saved in Kuwait was an investment towards our future in America. We had a goal, a plan, and implemented it.

    As for groceries... I compare the KD to the USD every single time I walk into the grocery store here. It's shocking what we paid for things in Kuwait. I'm totally convinced it all arrives to Kuwait with a US price and they add a zero before putting it on the shelves. Making everything 3 1/2 times more expensive.

    Happy budgeting! It's a lot of fun and I'm glad you're enjoying it as well.

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    1. YES! When I think about saving as a way to get to the US faster, suddenly I don't need all the things I thought I did. But whoa...once a month dining out? You guys went hardcore! :) When we first moved, we ate out twice a month, but since we're always at a loss for ways to entertain ourselves, it's now become once or twice a week. Sigh.

      I loved hearing about your financial goals while you were in the process of moving...so many people could take a lesson from the way you went about it!

      Oh gosh, yes, the groceries, clothes, etc. I'm so glad other expats feel the same. Sometimes I feel like I'm making it up...but it really IS 3 times the price of US goods. People might move here in an attempt to make more and save more...but it takes a lot more work to save here than I ever thought it would!

      Thanks for the budgeting well-wishes! :)

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  6. Wow, sounds like you don't even need any budget tips! You guys really covered ALL the basics of good budget building.

    Feel free to browse my old Fiscal Fridays posts (http://verbalmelange.blogspot.com/search/label/Fiscal%20Fridays) and budget-specific posts (http://verbalmelange.blogspot.com/search/label/budget) over on my blog...though after reading what you've accomplished so far, I doubt you'll learn anything new from me :) haha

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    1. Ooo! I'm always open to more tips! Can't wait to check out what you have to say about this topic, Emma! :) Thanks!

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  7. We've had a budget since we got married 6 months ago, but last month was the first time that we actually stayed within it, which felt SO good.

    I think having separate fun money (what we call our blow funds) is key. That way, he doesn't get pissed when I buy a new shirt and I don't get pissed when he spends his money on weird guitar playing cds.

    Budgets are awesome and it feels so good to actually be in control of your money. And yup, it brings us closer too :) (barf).

    Oh and also, Ben's the spreadsheet guy in our family and praise the Lord for that, otherwise we'd be eating Ramen but living in the prettiest apartment, wearing the prettiest clothes you ever did see.

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    1. Hahaha...I read your comment aloud to my husband because when I ran my own little financial world...it was totally a pretty apartment + pretty things...and a box of spaghetti for the week. ;) Ah, how times have changed.

      Love that you call your fun money "blow money". That's really what it is! It has a lot to do with not feeling guilty when I buy something frivolous and silly. Even if he's never mad about it, I always feel guilty.

      Congrats on sticking to your budget this month! HOORAY! Now go blow some budgeted-cash on something pretty. ;)

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  8. Check out mint.com
    I started using it as part of my new budget plan last year and it is amazing. You can trend your spending habits, set goals, check all of your accounts anytime, anywhere and it is free.

    Good luck!!! Budgeting is hard when you like pretty things. I totally struggle with gift buying, party throwing etc b/c I feel like that are a peice of me but as a single mom it isn't that practical for me to keep up the hobby/habit.

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    1. Thanks, Naphtali! I will absolutely check out Mint! Someone else just recommened it as well...how have I never heard of it? It sounds perfect!

      You're so right...my budgeting crises always arise when I feel like I NEED to have something pretty. Usually it's for party decor or a gift, or feeling like I need to look a certain way for someone else's event. It's that whole creative/visual expression thing. And not to get on a tangent...but do you think this is because we're active readers of the creative blogging world, where we're constantly consuming "see what I bought/what you need" type of posts?

      I don't know. Maybe I'm reaching. And now I'm sure my next post will be a post about something I bought, and then I'll feel guilty. Haha.

      Anyway, I so agree....it's a difficult hobby to balance when you're trying to keep your budget marginal!

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  9. We are trying really really hard to budget as well. After a year of marriage, I was so tired of living in a pay check to pay check mentality. Luckily we have almost 0 debt, but I come from a family history of financial horrors, and I never want that to be me! We started an excel spreadsheet to track all of our spending. I like your idea of having SEPARATE fun money...takes away some guilt I think. I'll have to try that next month!

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    1. Hooray for no debt! Go, you guys!

      It's crazy how many people live paycheck to paycheck. I read a statistic on it...and of course my memory is failing now...but I remember beeing blown away by the percentage. And yes! Seeing the finacial horrors that others go through is enough to make me put down the plastic.

      I would SO recommend separate fun money! We tell each other what was purchased so it can be tracked, but it's a no-judgement zone. :) Before, I always felt guilty when I bought something for myself. I don't shop for myself often, but even when my husband was saying "Yes, buy new pants!", I'd always put them back. Now I've got my monthly purchases planned...because it's MY little pot of cash! Half of my fun money is getting saved every month for a purse I've wanted FOREVER. Before we started budgeting, I'd never have been able to buy it guilt-free. But this way I feel like it's something I've thought about + worked toward.

      It's strange, but since we started budgeting I actually feel like we have MORE money. Maybe sewing up all those little $5, $10, $20 tears in our pocket has really started to add up? :)

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    2. Thanks for the Hipmunk suggestion! It will be a really great resource to book our hotels. :)

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  10. I can't imagine $30 for two items! At the least, you'll appreciate everything more and be in really good shape for when you guys return to the U.S. By the way, I love Suze Orman! Growing up, my mom was always budgeting and listening to financial advisors, clipping articles for us to read about being smart with money. Suze Orman is one of her favorites, and (as nerdy as it sounds) her show is actually entertaining! Believe me, you find yourself saying, "There's no way you can afford it that. Denied!" along with her. :)

    I think sometimes we all have to really get serious about finances and remind ourselves of the black & white of it all, no matter how difficult.

    However, I do see the fun in budgeting as well! It's almost like a game sometimes. I use it in two areas of my life for sure. When I sew, I like to see how much I can save on a dress from scratch. The dress I made for Christmas was less than $5!

    For the second, I recently booked a trip to Europe (for a month!) with my friend and my boyfriend. It will be the last time I can travel in a few years, so I had to do it up big. Anyways, I was researching and researching and finding a better flight deal here and finding another one there. We patched together a really reasonable deal and it will somehow cost about 40% less than if we bought the first thing we saw. Believe me, I was up nights trying to figure out the best route for the money. But it was DEFINITELY well spent, and saving that money means either more for fun treats along the way or just more in the bank.

    P.S. - Here is the Christmas dress I am so proud of!
    http://vintagezest.blogspot.com/2013/01/sewing-rewind-holiday-edition.html

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    1. Diane, I recently did the same thing with a trip to Europe! I found using the website HipMunk was a huge life saver!

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    2. You made that dress for FIVE DOLLARS? Hello, Project Runway! It's gorgeous...I love the creamy color with the gold polka dots. So festive! Once I move back to the US, I really want to dust off my sewing machine and learn how to make a few things of my own. Might need a consult with you. ;)

      Lucky you to have a mom who set you up for financial success! Any child who grows up with Suze Orman clippings strewn about the house just cannot go wrong. :) I need to buy Suze's book! I started reading Dave Ramsey at the beginning of January, and he had some excellent advice. But, I found some of it to be a bit extreme or unrealistic for us. So, I wound up searching the web for various articles with Suze's advice, because she seems much more in tune with the lifestyle we're willing to live.

      So excited that you get to head to Europe! Travel is one of those areas that's SO tricky...the slightest thing can double the cost of your flights! I remember on my last trip to the US, I searched United for my entire flight itinerary and the price was insane! But, when I broke it up into three separate ticket bookings, it was also 40% less! What's up with that? Glad you outsmarted the system. :) Now you can buy something pretty in Europe, or save that cash for a rainy day! YAY! :)

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    3. Believe me, I am no sewing expert! I just started 10 months ago, and I still feel lucky to wear something I've made and not have it completely disintegrate in public. That's actually why I started my blog, to follow other sewers and ask questions about better garment construction. Thanks for the compliment, and I'd be happy to consult as a fellow beginning sewer!

      And that's EXACTLY what I did with my flights to save some cash. We broke up the tickets into a bunch of one-ways, and made sure the starting and ending points were the most cost-effective cities to and from the U.S. We also noticed big fare changes from day to day and week to week, so we figured out how many days for each city and tinkered with the flights to get them to work out. Lots of planning, but it means a lot in the long run for sure! As for the savings, I think a couple of Paris boutiques and Belgian chocolates may have my name on it...

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  11. Great post. It's nice to see real people who like to spend money make it work without too much pain! Love the tip about grocery shopping and also looking at the bigger picture regarding a bigger purchase (trip?) and debt. Super helpful! Thanks Bethany! :)

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    1. Yes! So often budgeting looks kind of painful to me. God bless the people who coupon clip like no one's business, shop only at Goodwill or live in a 300 square foot apartment. I've been there! But now I think, "We want to live flexibly and comfortably now, but don't want to pay for it later. Is that too much to ask?" :)

      We are TOTALLY real people with normal spending habits! We like to travel. When we do buy things, our tastes usually fall in the nice, mid-level stores like Gap, Pottery Barn and the like. These are things that will likely not change as we age! So, these little switches were hardly painful...and I honestly feel like we have more money now than I did several months ago. And, when I think that I GET to spend fun money every month...it's exciting. :)

      And yes! Thinking about the bigger picture helps so much. :)

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  12. Great tips! We need to start budgeting! With a baby on the way we have figure how we are going to afford all the little things it needs or I WANT to buy!

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    1. Oh my gosh, yes! :) You can do it. My best friend had a baby last spring, and she is the absolute budgeting master. They really took a good, honest look at what things their baby needed vs what they wanted...and all in an effort to make sure she could stay home with the baby long term. I admire their choices so much.

      She would say this: Craigslist is your friend. Well, for certain safe baby furniture that can be cleaned or refurbished with by you + your DIY-savvy husband! :)

      Budgeting must change drastically when a baby comes along. Do blog about it if you have any ground-breaking baby-budgeting realizations! We're not quite to baby territory...but some day. And I'll take all the advice I can now! :)

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    2. We have already been scouring Craigslist/Kijiji and actually purchased an old vintage wood high chair we hold to refinish. Hope the next score may be a crib! We are going to try to do it on a budget! I should get back to blogging - school has been busy but maybe when I'm off with baby I can find time to share some tips! Budgeting for a surprise baby while completing your masters degree....could get interesting stay tuned!! lol

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  13. Last fall the husb and I both got new jobs- a pay increase for me and a decrease but with insurance for him. I was terrified I would go crazy with my new cash flow and he was terrified he wouldn't be contributing enough. So I made a similar Excel sheet. He is happy knowing where each dime is being spent and I'm happy knowing how much is going into savings. And being able to figure it out together? You're right- it does make the marriage stronger.

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    1. Isn't it funny that when you get a cash flow you feel a bit out of control? It would be so easy to just....drive over to Pottery Barn and buy a new everything... ;)

      Being able to balance each other and figure it out together makes such a difference! Before this, Gabe handled all the finances and I felt really in the dark. I hated it, but he thought it would stress me out to know all the details. No way. I'd rather know it all! We're so much stronger when we both are working towards a shared goal, while holding all the same information.

      PS: If you ever want to de-spreadsheet...multiple people have recommended Mint.com to me today. It looks amazing. Check it out if you haven't already! I might be switching. :)

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  14. We're trying to get a budget going as well... it's so frustrating. But good. Our biggest problem has been the cost of eating the way we want to eat here (back in the States). Buying organic, sustainable, local, and ethical food is so much more affordable and accessible in England. We've really had to decide what foods are most important to us organic and what we're willing to let slide for budgetary concerns.
    But otherwise, it's just a matter of an international move. We set aside savings and haven't quite burned through all of that, but we did end up with about $2k in unexpected bits and pieces related to moving... which sucks. All the fun and decor spending has had to wait.
    We do use our credit card, though. We use it for almost everything, but only within our budget, and we pay it off every month. We've got a pretty good cash back card, and we save up our cash back and only use it for big purchases. I think credit cards can be scary, or can be a major asset if used properly.
    I'm glad your budget is going well- and you're right, keeping the big debt (for us it's student loans and a post-move car payment) in mind does help when there's a cute whatever-it-is for "only" $20... but somedays- ugh!

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    1. Hooray for making the credit card work for you! I'm so glad you mentioned this! I agree. When you're really, really intentional...a credit card can work in your favor. Our credit card became a habit when we traveled...because carrying a week's worth of cash always felt risky...but we weren't good at eliminating the balance at the end of the month. When we move back to the US, perhaps we'll use it for gas + groceries...and pay it off at the end of every month!

      I can completely understand the frustration that comes with trying to buy organic, local, etc in the US! Shortly before we moved, Gabe and I tried to do the same. It does come with a higher price tag! We hoped to do the same here, but it's financially out of the question. (Like, broccoli is $24/kilo out of the question.) :)

      Moves take such a toll on your finances. We had the same problem. I think I spent my first few months in a total depression because my apartment was so fugly, and we spent all our extra cash on needed items like towels or Tupperware. Ick. It will happen in time, but I can completely relate to the suckiness of waiting FOREVER to finally personalize your space. Hang in there! :)

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  15. Bethany, were you reading my mind today?? Over the past couple of weeks I have been seriously thinking about our need for a budget and for really being careful with our money and then this post popped up. I need to follow your advice and I think I will because it is so reasonable. You haven't given up fun altogether, you have made a place for fun while also making sure to save. That is really important to me. Thank you for this post!!

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    1. Haha! Clearly I was. ;) I cannot recommend budgeting enough! I think the biggest key is exactly what you said...not eliminating fun altogether. Just reign it in a little bit!

      A bunch of people have recommended Mint.com to me in the last few days. Check it out! It's pretty. Uh, I mean...effective for your budgeting needs. But it's also pretty. Hehe. :)

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  16. Thank you so much for opening up about this and posting about it on your blog. I think a lot of people struggle with money (me especially), and it's good to know that there are people out there who have taken control of their spending. So it is possible! Because sometimes, I get so discouraged. I guess it just takes a lot of discipline, and realizing that money and things aren't everything :) xoxo

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Joelle! Money is such a common struggle...but I was afraid someone would tell me that it's "socially inappropriate" to talk about it. Why not chat about it, right? We discuss everything else! :)

      I get discouraged, too. I love pretty things! And in a world where every 10 seconds we're told "You NEED this", I'm not surprised we all get discouraged and struggle. But you're so right. With a little discipline, I've started to realize that things + money aren't everything! :)

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  17. this was a wonderful post. i loved your point about debt and not buying the small trivial thing. i am currently attending medical school and am paying rather high tuition as i am an out of state resident. i found myself doing a lot of online shopping my first semester because those "things" seemed to cheer me up and make my day when the package arrived at my doorstep. i realized that i was spending a lot more money than i should be or even needed to. i am now much more in control of my spending- trying to be under-budget with my loan money. i subscribed to birchbox as a splurge and "happiness"(plus there are not many places to get nice beauty products that i am in). i re-evaluate every time i am tempted to make an on-line purchase and have consistently said no to myself! thank you for sharing. it is nice to know that other people have this struggle but succeed in making changes!

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    1. Oh, girl. I can SO relate to shopping to cheer yourself up! I can't count how many depressed hours I've spent in Kuwait...just perusing shops, trying to find something to give me that instant boost of cheer. But all those little $5-$10 purchases add up! And frankly, I couldn't tell you what I bought. It certainly didn't make me happy for more than a day.

      I love the idea of subscribing to Birchbox or the like. It's definitely something to look forward to every month and is so inexpensive. Such a great idea, Abby! :)

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  18. I've been reading your blog for a few months but this post struck a cord for me so I had to comment! Thank you for posting - I have big financial goals in 2013 as well. I am still recovering from my Christmas spending "hangover" and it feels worse than an actual alcohol-induced hangover! We're trying to buy a house in CA and the consumer debt I have just feels really icky and pointless - I wish I didn't have it and I'm on my second month of no/low "Extra" spending so I can pay it all off faster.

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    1. Haha! Christmas spending hangovers EXIST! I had one this year. And it totally wasn't cured by a greasy McDonalds breakfast and a lot of water. (Um, not that I've ever had a real hangover. Cough, totally lying, cough.) ;)

      We just sold our house in CA...and the thought of someday attempting to buy again on the CA market gives me a nauseous tummy. I know where you're coming from! Eliminating consumer debt (and our student loans) frees up cash which means the ability to take on a higher mortgage payment someday. That translates to paying a mortgage off early or investing in a bigger place. YES PLEASE!

      Best of luck on month two of no/low spending! :) You'll get there!

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  19. Yes to all of this!!! I am soooo much better with my money. I now paint my nails instead of getting manicures ($20 a week saved!). Shhh...I buy all my pretty tops and sweaters at the Salvation Army...ohhhh we have a good one here. I am very careful about grocery shopping and have cut my bill in half by meal planning. Seriously! Yes...I hate credit cards. I do need one for my business though...but I am very good at keeping in check. Nothing feels better than being in control of your spending!

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    1. Look at you and your budget-friendly tips! :) I can't wait til I'm back home, and have the option to preuse the Salvation Army/Goodwill for clothes and home decor. It's a lifesaver!

      Yes to meal planning! We used to just buy whatever with no meal plan in sight...just make it up as we went along. Mostly because I was a new wife and just didn't know how to do these things. But planning our meals has saved a ton of cash. I'm still working on not over-cooking. (There's two of us, but somehow I always wind up making enough for six. Yikes.) ;)

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  20. Wow! Thanks for all of this. I usually don't read articles/blogs on budgeting because I've got the impression that I have it pretty under control. Thinking about merging my money/spending habits/life with someone else though is making me think a lot about how to do finances as a couple -- both exciting and freakin' scary. Your input is so good. What do you guys do for saving? Do you have a certain amount that you put away each month or how does that work? (If you don't mind me asking.)

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    1. Budgeting as a couple is totally a different ball game! Gabe and I have wildly different spending habits. We're both savers and spenders, but in completely different ways...I'll sacrifice comfort/functionality in an effort to save money, while Gabe won't. (I'll buy a used/slightly flawed discounted product, book a smaller hotel room, put up with a bunch of flight layovers...while Gabe usually won't.) Gabe will sacrifice having things that express his personality, while I won't. (I swear he could live in a totally empty room for months to save money. Living in a bare apartment after moving here almost killed me.)

      This honestly leads to most of our disagreements. But since we got on the same page with our finances, we rarely get heated about money because we finally understand each other's approach!

      As for savings: First we figured out our budget, so we knew how much extra cash we had at the end of the month. Then, for the first month we took that surplus cash and allocated it as an emergency fund. Nothing huge...but just enough that if crap hit the fan...family emergency and we needed to buy a ticket home...or Gabe got sick and couldn't work for a few weeks...we wouldn't feel helpless. We'll likely never touch this money, but it makes be feel better just knowing it's there! :)

      So, here's our new plan: 70% of the monthly surplus cash goes toward paying off our debt. The remaining 30% goes into a separate account for savings. We know that if it's IN our checking account...we're likely to spend it! Our biggest goal right now is to shed debt as quickly as possible so we can stop paying interest on it...and hopefully within a year we'll be mostly debt free. Then all our surplus each month will go directly into a savings account.

      Hope this helps! :)

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  21. I have similar hopes for this year, but things have been going a bit stale (cos lets face it it's not fun to think about!) thanks for this article - it's nice to know that we're not alone sorting out money and it's really interesting to see how someone else does it! keep up the good work!

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  23. Oops! Too many typos above so let me try this again:

    Another great post. I've tried to budget while in Kuwait and never made it even one week. You are a true inspiration. Giving up your morning coffee outside when there is a Starbucks on every street corner in Kuwait is something to brag about for sure. :)

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  24. One of the best posts I've read on budgeting. I love how you shared where you're coming from and what you are doing, without being sounding preachy. And your strategies are so do-able!! I love it and I can't wait to hear updates. I think budgeting is sexy and an awesome and important part of marriage. #nerdalert

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  25. Sounds like online shopping is definitely a smart move!! I'm off to check out that grocery website

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  26. Such WONDERFUL advice & hints. I definitely want/need to start incorporating many, if not all, of these!!!

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  27. Awe, thanks for this! I've been thinking about starting a budget, but it seems so daunting... I am now encouraged!

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  28. I don't know why, but your posts stopped showing up in my newsfeed! I had to go hunting in list of blogs I follow today to read up on what you've been blogging lately! But now that I'm catching up; I made a financial resolution this year, too!! No more drinking after work unless it's Happy Hour. Plus, at the end of the day I put all my $1 and $2 coins in a glass in my room. I'm not to touch it until I've got $500 (I'm slowly saving up for a trip back home, and this will become my spending money eventually). It's amazing how quickly it adds up!

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  29. Wow $12 for a bottle of lemonade. I forget how expensive some things are in other countries. When I was in St. Kitts I was craving a bag of Lays potato chip and when I saw the $8 price tag my craving went away immediately hehe. Btw, I am starting up a little beauty blog I'd love it if you can check it out :) http://pixieluv.blogspot.com/

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Every time you comment, a unicorn gets his wings. Also, my phone beeps and your words bring me joy. :)

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