My Influence on Our Budget
Crystal Miller

Lately, my husband, Tobin and I have been discussing our budget. He has certain goals for us and in order to meet these we were discussing and reviewing different areas of our budget to see what changes we could make. This is not necessarily my favorite subject, as I could never claim to have an accounting mind. Luckily my husband does and this has been a real blessing to us over the years. But I have understood the importance of stewardship. Tobin works hard for our money and I value those hours he puts in at work and I try to make sure I am not spending money in ways that do not show good stewardship.

Stewardship has had me thinking about some basic principles that I have applied over the years as far as how I spend money on food and household items. Some areas of the budget just do not change such as mortgage payments, car payments and this sort of thing. But the grocery money is often the next biggest expense for a family and it can vary tremendously. I can make the choice to eat steak or beans, to eat fast food, deli food, convenience foods or homemade meals.

I was thinking about the fact that years ago when Tobin finished trade school he was just starting out in the field and was at the bottom of the pay scale. We had school loans to pay and credit to pay off and 2 small children at the time. I thought about going to work and realized that cost of daycare, insurance on a second car, clothes etc. would be to much and that both my husband and I felt that my most important job was being a mom for the children and managing the home. I wanted to see what I could accomplish for our budget being right at home.

I fully took on the challenge of home management and began with the grocery and household expenses. I wanted to make the money spent in this area stretch as far as possible. I started evaluating everything I used. I stopped buying paper towels because I could use dish towels and wash them for less, I stopped buying fabric softener sheets for the dryer because I decided they were not absolutely necessary and found other options for expensive household cleaners. I evaluated every thing that we spent money on.

I began searching for the best deal possible on grocery items. I looked at ways to stretch our food. For example I would stretch one chicken for us over 3 meals. First meal would be chicken dinner with potatoes, 2nd meal would be leftover meat mixed with rice and served with soy sauce and salad. Finally the 3rd meal was soup, using the chicken bones for broth and any bits of meat left with added vegetables (and any chicken and rice left from the night before).

I started calculating all the small expenses. It can often be really easy to see the big expenses and how to trim them, but much harder to see the small ones. Every 10 and 25 cents saved here and there added up over time.

This really did amount to more than I had thought it would. Those funds that were saved in this process helped tremendously (along with savings in other areas) to get loans and debt paid off and we were able to save up and eventually buy our first home. I underestimated how big of an influence I had in this area of home management. This was a positive time in my life because it showed me how much of a part I could play in our finances by being diligent and doing my best to practice good stewardship of our money.

Well as the years have gone by and things in our life are not as tight now I have not felt the need to do these types of things as much. I still watch for sales and evaluate how much I need some products. But because I do not NEED to do this, I have not been so diligent. However this month because of budget talks I have been reviewing these earlier times. I am reflecting on my current grocery and household budget and wanting to see if I am being the best steward possible of our funds. I know I can play a large part in helping my husband to realize some of his goals for our family. My influence in this area can have just as much of an effective role today as it did 15 years ago. Circumstances have changed and with only 5 children at home, but the principles applied will have just as much benefit today as they did years ago.

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