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The first week of every month is all about money moving around -- the tide comes in, the tide goes out. We get paid once per month, by check through the mail, sometime in the first week of the month. So a big chunk of cash goes into the bank at that time. As soon as those checks are available, I go through a pay all the bills all at once -- so a big chunk of that big chunk goes away again. In some ways this is the easiest part of the month: there's a nice fat number in our checking account. In some ways this is the hardest: that number has to stay as fat as possible for as long as possible, and there's still a whole month ahead.

So how did I do on my financial goals for the first week?



1. Plan Ahead: Plan all necessary meals out for the week during the previous weekend.

I keep a basic copybook for all my meal and grocery planning. At the beginning of the month I draw in a calendar with all of the days on one full page, and then fill in all the events that I know are happening. After that page each each week gets a spread of two pages, with a week-long meal plan grid on the right and a blank page for notes and lists on the left.

I usually try to plan meals on Saturdays, so I have some time available to really go through everything and then head to the store. This week I revamped my basic pantry list too -- it was missing some common stuff that I just hadn't though through previously.

I planned out meals for every dinner during the week, and left room to note down what we ate for lunch and breakfast as well. Most of what we ate were straight leftovers or revamped leftovers. We cooked a pot of red beans and rice, but added in leftover Indian flavored rice. We also made pizzas at home on Saturday night. We ended up not needing a number of the planned meals because we had so many leftovers.

Leftovers are great, but I need to learn some recipes that make smaller amounts or else get better at cutting them down. Yes, it's awesome to have stuff in the fridge that can just be reheated, but after a while the fridge is stuffed and things are just getting older and older. Pat and I just don't eat that much and most recipes are meant for at least 4 people.

We made two grocery trip during the week. The first was a trip to pick up stuff for meals planned during Week 1. I tried to plan according to what we already had in, so it was a pretty small trip. The second trip was this past Saturday. Ended up being around $240. We went to our local farm for eggs and bought a ton of basic pantry items (refills on cleaning supplies, cat food and litter, basic grocery staples, etc). This stuff will last us a while, so I don't feel that bad about how much it cost us. Almost everything for our meals this week was already in the house, so we didn't need to buy a ton of fresh stuff.

There were a couple of meals that were eaten out, but they were mostly low cost. New Year's Eve was incredibly low cost, since we had a $50 gift certificate for an Indian place. We ended up only paying around $6 for our meal (and that was mostly a tip we put on top of the gift certificate). We ate the leftovers for several days after and worked the rice into red beans and rice (it gave the dish an interesting flavor, but I'm not sure how I feel about it looking back. Indian rice is often cooked with butter and I think the extra fat makes the dish too rich for me. Interesting experiment though.)

I'm trying to keep eating out to a social thing, rather than a lazy thing. If someone wants to visit with me or both of us over dinner at the diner, I think that's perfectly fine once in a while. But I'm trying to minimize the times we go out and grab food because we're just too lazy to cook.

2. Minimize Purchases: Select three days each week to be "Buy Nothing" days.

Rather than assign these at the beginning of the week, I just played it by ear. Ended up with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday as Buy Nothing days. I had thought that Thursday would be one (rather than Friday) but I ended up eating at the Diner with Tessa that night, so I made Friday work instead.

Pat has a lot of trouble understanding the usefulness of Buy Nothing days. We argued a little about it this week and I had to clarify to him that these were rules for me rather than for the whole house. From his perspective, he just wants to cut down on spending in general but "if we need toilet paper, I'm going to buy toilet paper." It's a matter of buying the things we need and ignoring everything else. To me, it's a matter of planning ahead -- I check the toilet paper level (or whatever) on Saturday when I run through my whole pantry list and if we're running low I buy more during the big shopping trip. Planning ahead, anticipating needs, and limiting trips/opportunities for purchases.

It's fine to disagree on. Pat's limiting his purchases as much as possible, but will still spend money when he deems it necessary. I will limit my rule to just things that I personally purchase -- and I won't ask Pat to buy things for me instead.

3. Increase Savings: Make a deposit into savings at the beginning of the month.

I made a $400 deposit into savings this morning. So far, there's been no need to touch anything in savings. I'm still hoping to put an additional sum in savings near the end of the month. Since we only get paid at the beginning of the month, I have to make sure the paychecks last before I can take anything else for savings.

4. Accountability: Post once a week with a recap and evaluation of the previous week.

Here it is! Not all that exciting, but useful nonetheless. Next week's post may be more interesting -- I'll try to talk more about the actual meals I planned.

Overall how did I do? I stayed within all of the rules that I set for myself. There were three days during the week where I spent zero dollars. I planned ahead for meals that used up what we already had and made good lists for grocery shopping. There was a lot of money that went out to pay the bills, but there's nothing I can really do about that. I think this week was a success -- now I just need to keep it going. The next few weeks will be the harder ones.

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January 2013

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