The Day We Blew The Budget to Smithereens

untitled So, since planning and implementing our budget late last year, I’ve got to say that Todd and I have done a pretty dang good job of sticking within that budget. We stick to the budget that we have set for ourselves, and we even plan ahead for things coming up down the road (like birthdays, etc). So all in all, we’ve been feeling pretty good about things.

And with those good feelings, came a bit of complacency, methinks.

This past Saturday we did our usual grocery shopping. We split it up over several different locations, in order to ensure that we get the best deals going. We make stops at a local place called Gateway Meat Market (that always has at least one or two crazy insane cheap items — like this past week, broccoli for 17 cents per head!), sometimes Walmart, Costco, depending on what we need, with our last stop always being the actual grocery store itself.

This weekend we made stops at Gateway, Costco, and finally the grocery store. As we were at our last stop, pulling up to the cash register it hit me: we weren’t going to meet our budget this time.

And boy, was I ever right on that. In fact, not only did we end up being over, but we ended up being WAY over. So much over that we spent all of this week’s allotted grocery amount, and almost all of next week’s, too.

So how it in the blue hell did THAT happen?

Looking back there were lots of reasons for it. Many of these things could have been prevented, but again, my complacency led me down the wrong road.

1. This week is an irregular week.

Our youngest daughter turned 10 on Sunday and so this week we’re having a big birthday feast to celebrate. Our family tradition is that the birthday person gets to choose any meal they want. This year, Mo chose home made sushi. This is something we only usually make a couple of times year, just because it’s one of the more expensive meals when you consider all the extra things (like seafood) that need to be purchased. Still…it’s her once a year birthday request, so who am I to say she can’t have it?

2. I didn’t do a pre-shop inventory.
Usually, in order to stay on budget, I create a meal plan, which involves first taking stock of what we already have in the house. Last week was insanely busy at work, and I just didn’t have the time (or the energy) to go through my freezer and cupboards like I normally do. I went by memory, which means that — whoops! — I wasn’t sure what we did and didn’t have in the house already. This resulted in buying a lot of things we didn’t really need this week — rice vinegar, sushi rice, coffee cream…after I started putting things away at home, I realized that we’d bought a number of things that we didn’t really need to buy at all. Let’s just say we’ll be eating a whole lot of apples for the next little while. Sigh.

3. I strayed from my list.

One of the cardinal rules for staying on budget when grocery shopping is to make a list and stick to it. These past few months I’ve been pretty good with doing exactly that. But this week, I’ll admit, I fell into the trap of making a few extra purchases. “Oooooh! Look! Pork is on sale. I should pick up a couple of packages.” (Not on the list). “Wow! This giant package of Naan at Costco is a great deal!” (Also not on the list). “Let’s pick up some extra seafood for that chowder to make it extra delicious.” (Again, not an item that had been planned for). While unpacking all of our groceries I was able to see just how many extras we’d picked up. There were quite a few of them.

4. I shopped while I was hungry.

I know…I know. It’s one of those things that everyone knows, right? Never grocery shop when you’re hungry. Todd and I had been out running around all day, doing a ton of errands and other than some coffee and a gluten free muffin from the Farmer’s Market, I hadn’t eaten anything else all day. Big mistake. Shopping hungry likely had a lot to do with all those extras I slid into the cart (“Yum! Sweet potatoes!” “A little extra bacon won’t hurt…” “Gluten free cookies! Just what I need!”) So yeah. I can confirm that there’s a reason why “they” say don’t go shopping hungry.

So all of these factors worked together against me to result in a whopping grocery bill when all was said and done. Now, in the past, I would have simply shrugged, chalked it up to “life” and shopped again as usual the following week. Likely putting it on the credit card.

Well…not this time.

After a quick conversation, Todd and I decided how to handle this overage. Since we basically spent all of next week’s grocery money, the only thing we can do is not spend any more until next payday (March 13th). Of course, there’s still $13-ish left in our grocery budget (which is good, considering I forgot to pick up dish detergent — whoops!), which we are free to spend, but if there are any food purchases that are required over and above that amount, we are left with two choices:

1. Suck it up and make do; or

2. Find the money somewhere else (and by somewhere else, I mean not credit cards or our savings account).

So that’s the plan. The good news is that our house is basically crammed to almost overflowing with good food, so making it through the next couple of weeks theoretically shouldn’t be that challenging. Of course, I’m saying that two days after buying food.

I could be singing a whole other tune come March 11th or 12th.

Time will tell, I guess.

Until next time,




Letting Go of Financial Embarassment

So Todd and I have been doing this whole budgeting thing for nearly three months now, and it’s been going really well. Our system of using cash for variable expenses has been working. We’re paying off our bills. We’re sticking to the budget. We’re building our savings. We’re more aware of our financial choices and are focused on making smarter ones. By all accounts, all is going pretty darn good.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this whole thing is that there is a certain amount of embarrassment attached to financial matters. Not just mine, but for other people as well. I’ve quickly learned, however, that this embarrassment is simply something that one has to shove to the side if you’re going to be successful at this budgeting/financial responsibility game.

I admit that when we first started using the cash system I felt a little bit embarrassed when I counted out my money at the cash register, particularly when I was spending a larger amount of money, like at the grocery store. I mean — cash? Seriously? WHO USES CASH ANYMORE??? I’m sure I saw a cashier or two roll her eyes as I dug around in my bag looking for change. Cash is just so…90s, isn’t it? I mean…plastic is totally where it’s at.

Except plastic is the reason why there are a lot of people in financial trouble, and certainly one of the reasons why Todd and I needed to make some major adjustments. So I’ve been working hard to let go of that embarrassment. I mean, shouldn’t it be MORE embarrassing to pay for a pack of gum with a credit card than cold, hard cash?

It all came to a head for me over the Christmas holidays. For New Year’s Eve, Todd and I planned a board game and home made sushi night with our three girls. I’d budgeted for the sushi supplies and we hit up the grocery store. The only thing we couldn’t get at our chosen store was smoked salmon…everyone’s favourite sushi ingredient.

We decided to head to a different store to see if we could get what we needed. I mentally noted that I only had 8-ish dollars left in my grocery budget. Of course, we had other money, it’s not like it was our last $8.00 in the world, but I’m committed to this whole sticking within my budget thing, dang it. Of course, truth be told, I was perfectly willing to go over budget and chip in some of my own personal spending money for this sushi venture; after all, it was a special occasion.

So without paying much attention to the price of the smoked salmon, I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the cash register.

Imagine how tickled I was to discover that the salmon came to exactly $7.99! And then I remembered — sure, I’ve got the exact amount I need, but it’s all in change. Small change at that. I pulled my handful of change out of my bag and started counting, albeit with some discomfort. Todd and I often joke around a lot when we’re waiting in lineups and such, and this was no exception. While I kept counting, he feigned impatience, cracking jokes in an attempt to embarrass me. I noticed that the gentleman waiting in line behind us was showing some signs of true impatience. I cringed inside more than a teensy bit.

As I finished counting the very last of my change, equaling precisely $8.00, I turned to the somewhat grouchy gentleman behind me, giggled, and said “Exact change! It was meant to be.” Todd and I skipped off, laughing together at how this random guy likely thought this crazy chick was spending the very last of all of her money on smoked salmon, of all things.

Financial embarrassment? Ain’t nobody got time for that.






I’d love to hear if anyone else out there have experienced any moments of financial embarrassment, and if so, what you’ve done to move past them.

Until next time,


Worth the Price



I wrote recently about how there are certain things that I refuse to pay full price for. Sure, these are products that I like and use, but really don’t feel like they’re worth paying extra for. My solution for these products are to simply stock up on them when they’re on sale. Lucky for me, most of them are easily stock-uppable.

As I was making the list, however, I realized that while there are things that I won’t pay full price for, there are some things that, to, me, are totally worth a premium price. The list may be short, but for me, they are the things that I gladly pony up the dough for.

1. Maple syrup.

None of that “pancake syrup” stuff in our house…ever. For us, it’s either real maple syrup or nothing…because once you’ve had the real stuff, the others just isn’t acceptable. When I was living on government assistance I couldn’t afford maple syrup at all, so pancakes and waffles just didn’t happen. This actually began my sister’s Christmas gift tradition of giving us a honkin- big-ass bottle of local maple syrup every year. Honestly…

These days we’re able to afford maple syrup a bit more (even though it *is* pretty dang expensive); we eat a lot of homemade pancakes and waffles. Though I try to buy local whenever possible, I have found that the best price for real, honest-to-goodness maple syrup is at Costco. Hopefully my sister will remember her little Christmas tradition again this year. *cough*

2. Premium tissues.

This one is all Todd’s fault. I was always a “anything goes to blow my nose” kind of gal, but then when Todd moved in, he insisted on the “good” tissues. Always. You know what I’m talking about — those sexy 2 ply tissues with lotion. At first I scoffed at his insistence but I slowly had to admit that they really do make a big difference, particularly when you’ve got one of those awful, runny nose colds. I’m at the point now where the “regular” tissues at work make me kind of bitter. Todd brings his own from home.

3. Premium toilet paper.

Another one to blame Todd for. In the past I didn’t much care about this kind of thing, and truly just bought whatever was cheapest. And then Todd introduced me to the world of premium toilet paper and well…I can’t go back. Fortunately it goes on sale quite frequently and is on my list of “things I refuse to pay full price for”. So while I totally think it’s worth the price, I never shell out the full amount for it.

4. “Good” coffee.

Full disclosure: I am a coffee snob. Even though until recently I was dishing out way too much money buying my coffee at a coffee shop most weekday mornings, when I did make it at home, it was always a certain brand, no exceptions (except for the bag of coffee I brought back from Honduras a few years ago, but that totally doesn’t count). Now that I’m making my coffee at home every morning, having “my brand” is more important than ever. When it comes to caffeine, I need “the good stuff”, otherwise, life just ain’t worth living.

5. Brand-specific toothpaste.

I’m not normally a brand-loyal kind of gal. So even though I like things like premium toilet paper, I will bounce around from one brand to another, whichever I can get the best deal on. Not so when it comes to toothpaste. Again — totally my husband’s fault. He introduced me to a certain brand of toothpaste and though I’ve made several attempts to go back to “the cheap stuff”, it’s just not the same. Our whole family loves this certain brand and well, I’ll buy it whether its on sale or not. Fortunately for us, toothpaste is a relatively cheap item in the personal care world, so it’s not like we’re spending *that* much extra money on it.


I would love to hear if there’s anything that you happily pay extra for. Are there any must-have items in your household that you buy whether they’re on sale or not?


Until next time,




It’s All About The Benjamins

$100 Canadian Bill - BordenIt’s actually about the Bordens if you’re living in Canada, but I digress…

There are a ton of people out there who will tell you how to save money. That’s not what this blog is intended to do. Don’t get me wrong, if you get some inspiration and some ideas from us, that’s great! But we’re really here to document our financial journey and keep ourselves accountable by sharing our stories.

One of the things that we’re doing is paying for things with cash. We’re using the “jar system” to keep ourselves in check. Why? Because it forces us to see what we’ve spent and increases our likelihood to show more restraint when it comes to spending.

Plastic might be sexier, but cash is more of a practical throwback. Cards encourage you to spend more than you intend to by giving you easy access to more capital (i.e. your bank account). Generally speaking, only carrying the cash you are prepared to pay for a given product will prevent you from buying more than you wanted to. If you don’t have the money on you, you won’t spend it.

We’re doing that with items like groceries and personal spending money. So far, it’s been working out great. We rarely use our cards but when we do, we make sure we immediately do a “swap” and put some cash back into the account we used.

I’m using the debit card for gas in the car, primarily because with the weekly changing price of fuel you never know how much it will take to fill up your car. We have a certain amount allocated in our budget, so if we see ourselves spending more then we’ll have to increase the budget. Something like gas in the car isn’t a frivolous expense…it’s a necessity. Sure, we could take the bus around the city but that’s not where we spend the most money on fuel. I travel over six hours every two weeks to see my son and come back home, so we’re looking at just over a full tank of gas required for that one weekend trip alone. It just doesn’t make sense to use cash for that.

But with most everything else, we’re using only cash. It’s been doing wonders for me. I’m a guy who would spend money here and there for things like coffee or pop or a chocolate bar or lottery tickets whenever I felt like it. No individual expense seemed like much at the time, but you add them up on a weekly basis and they take a chunk out of your savings. Lately, I’ve been leaving my money home. If I don’t have it, I can’t spend it. If I can’t waste it on these little expenditures, then I’m saving money and probably losing a pound or two over the long haul.

So what about you? Do you use your debit or credit cards too much? Do you still pay for items in cash? Sound off and let us know!

  • Todd

Magic Money Jars

Magic Money Jars

Awhile back I started reading “Debt-Free Forever” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I was already familiar with her, having caught her TV show “Til Debt Do Us Part” a few times if I happened to be at home during the day. If you’re not sure who she is or what she’s about, basically she’s a financial adviser, and her TV show is all about helping couples clean up their finances and get on track with paying off their debt. She has several books out there on the same basic topic.

One of the things that she suggests is paying for things in cash whenever possible, which Todd and I have jumped on board with. . She uses something she calls “Magic Money Jars” to keep track of the budgeted amounts for certain categories. You take the cash you have allotted for these variable expenses and put them into jars (or envelopes or boxes, or whatever your preferred thing is). The idea is that when the money for that budgeted thing is gone, it’s gone. Sure, it’s possible to track this by constantly checking your bank account, but I don’t know about you, but previously when I would attempt to do this, I often had little problem going over budget here and there, thinking that it was only a small amount, and didn’t really matter in the long run. But guess what? Going, say, $10.00 over budget on something like groceries every week adds up to over $500 in the course of a year. Those small overages can add up quickly and wreak havoc on a budget. By taking the cold, hard cash and placing it into a separate container and committing yourself to ONLY spending what is in that jar during your budget period is a great way of keeping your spending on track for those variable expenses that you have a certain amount of control over.

Vaz-Oxlade has specific categories that she recommends using the Magic Money Jars for. Todd and I decided to come up with our own categories, and to break things down a little bit more than she does, just because of how complex our finances are. The idea is still the same, though: when it comes to variable expenses (like groceries, personal spending money, entertainment, etc), we put separate amounts for each category into a jar of its own. When the money is gone, the spending is done. So far this has proven to be a very effective method for us. I’ve never been one to use cash that much in the past, but for me, it’s been very useful in tracking my spending. There’s nothing like cold hard cash (and watching that amount dwindle) to keep you on track with your spending.

We’re only one month into our new budget (and using these “Magic” jars) and so far we have managed to stay on budget with our variable expenses. Sure, we’ve had to “steal” from one jar to add to another (like the day we took money from our date fund to take our girls out for milkshakes), but we always manage to keep our spending within our limits. And for a couple of people who are trying to get their consumer debt under control and save up for a pricey family vacation, we feel that this method is working pretty well.

Until next time,