Talking about money makes me squinchy. When I was single, balancing my checkbook stressed me out as much as an algebra test used to in high school. Once Marcus came along and introduced me to online banking, things got easier. Where our money's concerned, two heads really are better than one.
Which leads us to our current state of financial craziness--we are about to buy a car. A truck, to be more accurate. Marcus's beloved El Diablo tuckered out on I-65 in May, so we've been a one-car family for almost 2 months. Honestly, if it had to happen, it was the best timing ever. It's summer, I'm not working, Marcus has very few things that actually require him to go into his office at the University these days (he's not teaching in the summer session, much to his chagrin), and we pretty much do everything together, so having one car is fine right now. However, Marcus is in a show in Birmingham later this summer and will need to be gone several evenings a week for rehearsal. Dean and I don't want to be home-bound, plus we'll need 2 cars once school starts back in the fall. Marcus has been searching for weeks and has finally found a good truck to buy. (knock wood) This means we'll soon have a car payment, something we've never had as a married couple. My car was paid for when we got married, then we bought his dad's old car with cash when my car was totalled. El Diablo was a 1988 model (translation: Not Expensive) and we bought her with cash, too.
Now here comes the fun part--I'm not working (that I know of) in the fall either. This isn't a surprise--we knew I wouldn't have a show at the Shakespeare Festival and we knew in March that I wouldn't be teaching at Montevallo in the fall. We socked money away from my last job to pay for Dean's school in the fall and we paid off our one credit card. These two things mean we'll have the cash to pay our truck payments. YAY. The fact that I'm not working, however, means we will have to watch our trips to the Bass Pro Shop, MARCUS and breakfasts at Chick-Fil-A, JEN and get potty trained already, DEAN monthly spending a bit closer. Here are some things we've discussed:
*Grocery budgets. We usually shop on Sunday or Monday for the week. I try to do menu plans for dinner and breakfast and lunch are usually inexpensive. We are going to get a bit stricter about our food budgets, though. We'll figure out exactly how much we want and need to spend on food, keeping in mind that we are foodies and enjoy eating good things like fresh produce. I feel lucky that Dean's such a good eater and I'm not willing to compromise on food. We like to cook, it's something we do together and the fact that I need to watch my salt and cholesterol means we should try to prepare our own meals from scratch so that we know exactly what is in them. I'd rather forego a new t-shirt or skip the dollar spot at Target for a couple of weeks than stop buying good food. Things we WILL sacrifice include coffee cakes from the Publix bakery, random donut purchases and candy, none of which we need anyway and half of which usually get tossed. I'll continue clipping coupons and shopping store specials and I'll also buy things in bulk whenever I can, though our incredibly crappy cabinets make it hard to stock up on too much at one time.
*Entertainment. We cancelled our Netflix months ago because we just weren't using it. Our cable package includes HBO and Cinemax, as well as cheap movies on demand, which I think we've used one time. We are usually so behind on our tv shows that we don't really have time to watch movies. If we're out of shows on the DVR, we turn on VH1 Classic. Marcus actually tapes the one-hit wonders show. He got mad at me last week because I deleted the one featuing "In A Big Country." But I digress.
*Date night. In a nutshell, Marcus and I very, VERY rarely get a date night. Instead, we do lunch dates. When Dean's at school, we meet for lunch once a week at our favorite Montevallo restaurant. This saves us about $80 in the long run if you consider what we would pay for a sitter, gas, dinner and a movie. When we do have sitters, we usually do it when one of our students has BEGGED for time with Dean and we usually pay them with free use of our washer/dryer for the night and a crockpot full of food. It's a pretty sweet deal.
*Extras. We never use the internet on our phones (I know, we're SOOO 20th century), so we're ditching it. That will save us nearly $50 a month. No, we don't have iPhones or Blackberries. We both pretty much live tethered to our laptops, though, if that helps your opinion of us. We also mow our own lawn, do a lot of our own home repairs (not always well, but we try) and try to stretch our dollars as far as possible on things like cleaning supplies, paper products and other miscellaneous household goods. I buy things like toilet paper and paper towels on sale and with coupons, so it's rare that I pay over $5 for big packs of either. We currently have a 12 pack of TP in our linen closet that I got for $3.25. I really like figuring out how to save money and always feel like I've accomplished something when I can combine store sales and coupons. It's like I'm pulling a fast one on CVS. (Am dork.)
If Dean would come on with the potty training, we'd save a good amount each month on diapers, both regular and the overnight variety. He's not feeling it. In fact, he hates his little frog potty so much that we're ditching it and going with a seat that fits onto the big toilet. This is NOT a good example of economicalizing, but you do what you gotta, right? (I'm pretty sure I just invented the word "economicalizing." I can tell you're impressed.)
With menu planning, coupon clipping and careful attention to our random spending (like on York peppermint patties!), we should be fine even with the added car note. However, if anyone would like to hire me to write things for them or better yet, to sit on my couch reading blogs and drinking Coke Zero, I'm all over it.