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  • Writer's pictureRyan Jones

Pain at the superstore

When we started living on a budget, it was hard. We always tried to live within our means, but that just meant there was money in the checking account we could spend. One of the first things that happens when you live on a budget is that you get things too tight because you are trying to spread your money too thin across all your categories. Permit me to share a personal story with Terri’s approval.

With the age of super stores where you go to one store to buy food, clothes, home supplies, kid's toys, and electronics, budgeting becomes more challenging. Terri faced this pain head-on. For one, we implemented a concept known as the cash envelope system in some of our budget categories. The way this works is that you turn your budget amount into cash and put it in an envelope. You spend what’s in the envelope, and when the money is gone, it's gone. This system really works, and we still use it today.

So, Terri was shopping at one of these superstores for our groceries, and because it was needed, she would buy other home supplies too. Remember, we are new to budgeting at this point. Well, it turns out we were using our food budget (cash) for other categories in our budget, and I got this call one day from Terri near the end of the month. She was in the checkout line, and the total was greater than what she had in the envelope, so she called to ask if she could use the debit card. We had a great discussion, and we both knew the answer was no. Terri took the brunt of our decision. She had to tell the checkout person she needed to put some things back to fit into the budget. This was a very traumatic experience, and one Terri still shares today, but the lesson has lasted us. Today, years later, we still use the envelope system for many of our categories: food, dining out, Ryan’s lunch money, our free spending money, hair and nails, and a few others.

The takeaway here is that when getting into a budget life, feeling money again using cash and a cash envelope system works, it really works. Second, as you create budget categories, think about how you shop. We changed how some of our budget categories work based on where we shop. For example, we often buy home supplies at the same place we buy our groceries, so we factor that into our budget planning versus having to completely itemize our receipts. Another thing that was weird at first was that we got comfortable doing multiple transactions at superstores. We would send our groceries through first, then we would send any other categories in a separate transaction, such as if there were some clothes purchased while at the super store, since our clothing money is a separate category than food.

Budget life does have growing pains, but it is so worth it as you reach your financial goals together. My advice: be weird, live on a budget, and use cash envelopes.

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