First Quarter Revisions

As March closes out, I can proudly hold my head up and know that for three solid months, I’ve been an A+ budget crafter AND tracker. I know where money went, and have a plan for where it’s  going for the remainder of the calendar year.

With three months under my belt, I have learned and re-learned a few things. These learnings will be reflected in amendments to the budget plan for the remainder of the year.

Lesson 1:

I don’t need $550 for the monthly grocery budget, we’ll try $510. I’ve been underspent by $40-$60 for both February and March. Watch the flyers for sales, stock up when appropriate, and create meal plans around the bargains of the week.

Lesson 2:

Variable expenses (grocery, transportation, gifts, dining out, entertainment) can be moved around from one category to another. When stuff happens, and there’s a need in one of the other categories, it’s okay to move money around, as long as you don’t overspend what you’ve allocated for variable expenses.

Lesson 3:

A budget without an amount, any amount for long-term and emergency savings isn’t balanced. If you’ve read my posts over the last couple of months, you’ll know I really struggled with this. I will contribute $100 to my emergency savings (TFSA) every month and boost that amount to $150 in six months (starting in September). I will also contribute $100 toward my retirement savings every month starting in June. Neither of these amounts is enough, but it is something. Every savings account starts with something. Once the debt is retired, both these amounts will be boosted.

Lesson 4:

Don’t focus so much on winning the battles that you lose the big picture. Sure, I had a few missteps and frankly, some dope-head moves. I started the year with $13,579.29 owing in my line of credit, today I owe $9,282.33. I have also made it possible to start each month with a balance in my bank account that I think is the right amount to keep me out of overdraft. These are true victories that I was unable to declare previously.

Lesson 5:

This is the toughest one for me. I set a goal that my line of credit would be retired by the end of 2010. Now that I finally understand that leaving myself without any savings will only set me up for future failure, as well as recognizing that my budget is simply too tight, I have to accept that my debt may not be retired until 2011. It’s difficult for me to calculate when it may be retired in 2011, but it won’t be past the first six months.

Finally, I’ve learned that I can do this. I can say no. For the last three days, our grocery envelope has been empty. Does that mean we have no food? No way. It means that the kids and I are forced to look in the freezer, be creative with the good supply of food we have in the house. Last night we had a beautiful Shepherd’s pie. Some ground turkey in the freezer, some carrots and celery in the fridge, and a bag of potatoes in the cupboard. Lovely meal. In fact, there’s enough leftovers for today too.

While I won’t be ready to weigh in with March’s report card yet, I predict it will be a failing grade.  I’ll give myself top marks on being a good student of the process, and for learning valuable lessons along the way.

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