Budgeting for Real People
by Stacey Carroll, Contributing Writer
If you’re like me, having $10 to go out to eat at the end of the week is a good week. You don’t buy $5 lattes every morning. Your at home coffee is Master Blend in a Folgers container which you then put in your free plastic reusable Dunkin doughnuts mug because you don’t want your coworkers to know you drink generic coffee and had toast and peanut butter for breakfast.
So, how do you get ahead when you can’t make ends meet in the first place?
By plan ahead, I mean budget for everything. This includes food, gas and miscellaneous expenses. I always start my shopping with a dollar amount and a meal plan. My dollar amount is typically $50 a week for everything including toiletries, soap, paper towels, Kleenex and food. On bad weeks that means that most of my shopping trip is paper products and not food. I’m not above wiping my tail with a wash cloth, but I’d rather not.
Off hand, I know that 24 rolls of toilet paper are going to cost me $11, and I use roughly one roll a day. I’m a girl, I can’t help that, so I budget for it. Twenty four rolls is 24 days, and I try to do that the week after rent is due. Rent is always a tight week for me.
I also know that every week I need at least five 2 liters of Coke. That’s between $5 and $6.25. Bread is $1.00. Sometimes I can find it for .75 cents. I also run through a large container of coffee twice a month. I budget for $6.00 twice a month for coffee. Generally, the first week of the month and the third week of the month. I can’t afford bottled water so I buy one 24 ounce plastic bottle and refill it until I lose it. Generally, one bottle costs me $1.50 and I use it for 10 to 14 days.
I run through about three boxes of Kleenex a week. I tend to use for napkins more than anything else. I can buy generic Kleenex for .84 cents a box. I can buy Suave for .87 cents a bottle. A bottle of Shampoo and Conditioner tends to last me between two and three weeks. I also keep my hair short in order to use less of both. Paper towels I can find in three packs for $2.85. I generally need one 3-pack a month.
The things I have listed so far total $32.61 before tax. This means that I have roughly $15 dollars to spend on food. What do I buy? Bananas, soy milk, cereal, eggs, butter, potatoes and ketchup. That’s it. I know that’s what I’ll eat. I know those foods will last me a week until I can spend another $50 dollars on mostly food instead of mostly paper products and coffee.
Notice that I didn’t say I clip coupons. I don’t. I buy generic, and as a general rule, there are no coupons for generic products. When I do have coupons, I always look at the coupon, subtract it from the price of the brand name good and then look at the generic equivalent. It is very rare that a coupon will bring the price down below the cost of the generic. With that being said, I only buy Colgate Total toothpaste, and there are coupons for that. When I find one I grab it and use it, but that’s the exception and not the rule.
I also don’t tend to buy in bulk. Bulk costs more up front and with a $50 a week limit on my grocery and paper products bill, a 48 ounce container of handsoap at $5.00 is typically out of the question. Plus a small .98 cent container will last me at least a week, and I wash my hands about 20 times a day. A dollar bottle of dishsoap also lasts me about a month.
Planning and budgeting is really about knowing what you need and how much of it you need to meet your needs. I have a pretty good handle on the things I use regularly, and I have a good handle on how much I eat every week. It makes a huge difference when I go shopping, and I tend not to overbuy.
Stacey Carroll is the author of the thriller series - Avia. She also authors the paranormal erotica series - The Blooddoll Factory. Stacey grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. she went to college at Indiana State University (ISU) and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in aerospace in the professional pilot program. She has flown Cessna 152s, Cessna 172s, the Pipe Seneca and the King Air. She also graduated with a minor in computer science that specialized in web design.
She has always been interested in reading and writing, and the first book she was ever read was the Grimms Brother's Fairy tales. From the ages of 6 to 11, she read the Nancy Drew series. By the age of 11, she had graduated to Stephen King novels. A few of her favorites include Carrie, Tommyknockers, The Dark Tower Series up to book 3 (That's where it stopped in the late 80s/ early 90s), Pet Semetary, The Shining, Night Shift, The Stand, It, Cujo, Christine, The Eyes of the Dragon and Thinner (Richard Bachman). In her teen years, she moved on to Anne Rice and got through about four of those books before they degraded. If you've ever read Anne Rice, you know book 5 isn't readable. Stacey has read a couple Harry Potter books as she was introduced to them in the early 2000s, and she's never read or watched anything Twilight or 50 Shades. Sorry. I'm a vampire purist, and nothing needs to be said about the latter. You already know.
She is currently an author and freelance writer. She received an honorable mention in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 2008 for a short story entitled The Field. In 2014, she was published in 13 Stories by Us by MacKenzie Publishing.
Other books by Stacey
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