Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Balancing the Budget

     At my moms' group last week, we saw a presentation on budgeting. The two moms who shared their methods and ideas were both stay-at-homes, on tight but successfully-managed budgets. Both of them gave some ideas about little things we can do to save money in our household expenses.
     One suggestion was to share a magazine subscription with a close friend or neighbour. It was also mentioned that for Rogers subscribers, you can get any of their network of magazines (such as Chatelaine, my favourite), for $1.00 per month and it is just billed on your monthly Rogers bill. Not bad!
     Another suggestion was to check out the "free" sections on Craigslist, as well as to peruse Freecycle. I'm going to add Kijiji to the list, because I had a really positive experience a few months back, when I needed an infant car seat. Having discovered the seat we intended to use (Austin's old one) was "expired" (per road safety standards), I started looking on Kijiji for a new or gently used one at a cheaper-than-retail price. I totally lucked out in finding a used one for free. Yes, for free!
     The infant car seat was free because it will expire in April 2010, and Lauren will be long out of it by then. Christy, the mom who was giving it away knew she wouldn't be able to sell it to anyone, but since it still had a little use in it, why not bless someone with it? It was a double win-win because the seat was a 2004, still old enough to be compatible with Austin's stroller. The newer seats no longer click into place on the older strollers, so in addition to saving money on an infant car seat, I didn't have to buy a new stroller. However, with my savings (a couple hundred bucks at least), I know I have the money to replace the stroller if I need to, or if I want to upgrade to a sports/jogger model when Lauren is older.
     I didn't feel comfortable just taking the infant seat so I took a bouquet of flowers to Christy. I am a believer that in any deal, both parties need to get something out of it. The flowers brought a smile to Christy's face and brightened her home. Win-win for everyone!
     The other idea I picked up on from the moms' group budget presenters was to rip baby wipes in half. Initially I thought "gee, I'm not going to scrimp and only use half a wipe on Lauren." Over the past few days, though, I noticed I was going through a lot of wipes because I tend to ball them up and only use a little bit of the surface, due to the ick factor. So, yesterday I ripped one in half, used it to mop Lauren, and then used the other half to finish the clean-up. It actually worked way more efficiently and I didn't use as many wipes as I normally would. Hmmmm....we're onto something here!
     The 2 moms also showed us Excel templates of their household budgets. They were very detailed, down to every possible spending scenario. Excellent for the highly detailed and for those with the time, energy, patience, etc. to manage. Me, not so much. The level of detail, for my family, would cost more in divorce lawyers' fees.
     I can see how it could be critical to track ever possible expense, both anticipated and actual.  However, tracking Cam's business travel expenses for him, to ensure no reimbursement is overlooked, would be a challenge. First off, he would be reluctant to hand over receipts, most likely for fear I'd lose them. Secondly, he manages his expenses just fine already and we don't view them as part of our household budget, but rather, part of his employer's budget. And last but not least, taking on responsibilities as Cam's EA is not in the cards for me at all. Right now I do that for my kids and for our household, and that's more than enough.     
     It's really about striking a balance in managing a budget and what works for each unique family situation.

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