With a lot of outliers.
Which is fancy statistics-speak for randomly scattered big line items.
Which is another way of saying, I do things like buy meat by the whole animal and maple syrup six gallons at a time, plus instead of buying a nice little supermarket-box of Cream of Wheat, I order up a 25-pound sack of farina (which is what Cream of Wheat is, in case you didn’t know that) (which very few of us do, before some smart aleck comes along to go, “Hey, did you know Cream of Wheat is actually just farina?” in oh, EVERYBODY knows that! tones so that you’re all, gee, what’s wrong with me, that I didn’t know that, I must be a real dufus or something! when actually, I suspect there’s only about nine people in whole world who know and/or retain this information).
Which tends to make my monthly grocery bill look like this:
…and so on…
Same thing with the clothing purchases, which tend to be made in two or three B-I-G shopping experiences rather than a bunch of little nibbles throughout the year…and just about everything else, really.
What I then end up doing is really kind of laughable. Obviously, I know I need to look at a good, long period – twelve month at least.
And equal in obvious-factor, I need to abide by those numbers, and not start playing, “Oh, ya, but…there was That One Thing in there, sooooo, I can totally shave, eh, a good $300 off that monthly figure…” game.
PLUS, once I’ve managed to overcome my denial and smoothed those numbers down into a workable budget – I need to stick to it. In both directions.
We have a tendency to spend what we have. It’s just human nature – and if you have given yourself $X to spend on something, and you don’t spend it, well! It becomes mad money, right?!
But I can’t really do that. If I’ve got a grocery budget of $650, and I only spend $200 in a given months, I can’t just go ahead and spend the other $450 on something else – I need to just hold onto it, in the ‘grocery’ envelope, and wait.
The Big Spend is coming – inevitably, it is coming.
So one of my big challenges is to really pay attention to how my spending is lining up with the overall budget, and to try to stay with it – even if my “problem” is what appears to be excess cash piling up. (And if I don’t actually end up needing it, well, so much the better! But if I do…I don’t want to be sobbing into my decaf about how I shoulda knoooooown this was coming. It’s embarrassing. And then I get pissed about it. And everything just kind of goes downhill from there.)
Overall, though, I think I’ve got a workable go-forward budget in place; the core expenses are all covered by the husband’s paycheck, which leaves mine responsible for childcare and pushing forward on the bigger goals – paying off those remaining bills, bumping up our savings, and trying to position ourselves better for the future. It’s cool to see things line up like that again; we’re still pretty close to the margin, but if I can stay the course and keep working those expenses down, pay things off and keep reducing obligations, we can come out of this (ahem) experience with nothing more than a few new scars on our psyches.
Which we can pretend we got in a knife fight. Oh, THAT debt-related paranoia? Ya, got it in a knife fight in the outback, mate…THERE I WAS, surrounded by ninja crocodiles…!