Some great discussions about budgeting and its benefits have come out in blogland here and here. It is a topic that I am particularly interested in right now as we begin our next stage of life.
Budgeting is just plain ole' hard work. For some reason it has eluded me thus far. Luckily, both of us (hubby and I) have learned to live very frugally so this is very rarely a problem. But I have a feeling we would be so much more able to live with a sense of freedom from our money if we had a good budget in place. Since we will soon be living with reliance on money from other sources (as people begin to support us as missionaries-in-training) we will need to be fastidious about budgeting, not necessarily to change how we spend, but to know how we spend. In doing so we can give a good account (and know we've been good stewards of our money). I think the most difficult part is tracking those "unexpected" expenses, and those irregular ones. Groceries should not be one of those unexpected or irregular expenses in our household, so it seems to be a good place to work on budgeting.
This month I am working on a bare bones grocery budget, not out of necessity thankfully, but from the knowledge that soon it will be a necessity. All money for the month is coming out of an envelope. The amount I decided to put in the envelope was much less than I would have estimated previously, because of last months additional stockpile savings.
Since February was "eat from the pantry/freezer" month, we were able to spend significantly less on our grocery budget that month. I don't have a clear total, but it looks as if I spent around $110 for the month. I still have a $20 catalina left over (from Safeway's savings ralley) and a quite full pantry, which I was supposed to partially clean out!
Due to the above mentioned full pantry, I am going to try to use the surplus to make it possible to stock up on really good deals by planning meals mostly around what we already have. My goal is to be able to focus my meals around what I have gotten at rock bottom prices, rather than starting from scratch and then overpaying for certain items if they don't happen to go on good sales that week/month. Our situation is a little different than many of you, since we have no Aldi, no Kroger, no CVS, and no doubling of coupons. Although those would be really nice, I have to look on the bright side and work with what we do have. We have a Walgreen's, so I have been learning the free after rebate and other deal system they have there. I also utilize the frequently marked down salad, bread and sometimes even milk at Fred Meyer for staples, and have learned to combine coupons with Albertson's buy X, get $X off your order deals. Safeway, although generally overpriced, occasionally has overlapping deals which sometimes result in free or almost free items such as crackers, lunchmeat, or canned food. We also have a Grocery Outlet, which is a "banana box store" which Meredith references and explains on her blog today.
So even though it could be better, I have plenty to work with to get/keep my grocery bill down. Why does this even matter? Well, in just a few months we will be living on a missionary budget, which means our grocery funds will be coming from friends, family, and church friends, and it may vary greatly each month. I need to make the most out of what we get so we can rejoice in how ever little or much God's provides! So even though right now we could technically spend a lot more, we would rather: 1) gain the practice in spending little while its still a choice, and use the surplus to give to our church or missionary friends while we still can or to bless others with gifts I couldn't afford otherwise. I believe creative frugality (whether the grocery budget or some other area) can be an enjoyable challenge, rather than drudgery!