September, my birthday month, is always a time of analysis and reflection. It is the time I celebrate my own personal new year. One year older and, I hope, wiser. It is the time when I resolve to be a bit better, kinder, stronger, or smarter than the year prior.
This year my goal is to focus on ways to simplify my life.
This is not as easy as it may sound. Not for me. I am someone who has big ambitions. I want perfect health, a fulfilling career, and exciting personal projects to keep me busy. That is no small order. In fact, as I write down my heart’s desires, I realize how demanding I can be of myself.
I’m not going to apologize. Those desires arise from a strong self-belief. As such, I cannot be too disappointed in my inability to chill the fuck out. But that doesn’t mean that I have to stop finding all the ways to achieve my dreams. In contemplating my goals for the year, I have come to a realization. Simple is not always better.
I was studying my family’s finances and realized that simple comes with a premium cost. How, you ask. Restaurants and dining out. You see, one way my family “simplifies” our home life is by eating out. It saves us preparation, clean up, and grocery shopping time.
The downside? We spent significantly on restaurants.
In addition to simplifying this year, another goal I have is to increase our family’s savings and investments. I want to take more steps to ensure that my husband and I will have comfortable retirements. And, I want to take a few special vacations with our son before he graduates high school (and it will happen in the blink of an eye.)
Of course, to save more money, I have to make more money. At least that’s what people, myself included, say. Not so.
After reviewing my family’s spending habits, I realized that we could save money if we eat out less. In other words, we don’t have to make more money, we need to redirect the money we already have.
I don’t think it will be simple like snapping your fingers. First, I know that to be successful I have to have agreement and buy in from my family. Then, I need a solid plan. I need to always have food options in the house. Finally, I need to have some money budgeted so that we can dine out occasionally.
So here’s the plan.
Family Buy In
I will disclose to my husband and son the amount we spend on dining out every month. I will explain and discuss how much we could save by eating at home more. I will share with them the goals I have for how to redirect those monies. Together, we will set a monthly budget for dining out. Next, we will work on standard menu ideas and discuss the foods they want to be picked up from the grocery store.
I am going to encourage my husband to help me get our son involved in this process.He is about to turn sixteen. He needs to understand how his purchasing choices will impact his disposable income. As a sophomore, we only have three more years to help him build adult skills. Grocery shopping, menu planning, and money management are all skills he will need as an adult.
Create a Plan
Once my husband, son, and I decide on dinner ideas and standing grocery list items we will create a plan for success. We will designate a grocery shopping night. Previously, I have used and liked Dillon’s online shopping and grocery pickup services. I will use those to simplify the food acquisition process.
I do enjoy cooking and I do it well. I know that I can create great meals for my family. Cleaning, well, that’s a different story. I will politely say that it is not my favorite. Luckily, my family has a standing policy that requires the people who did not cook to do the cleaning. Still, I will make sure that our dinner plans include quick cleanup menus to reduce the annoyance of this step.
One area that I see posing problems is in lunch ideas for my husband and I. Throughout the week, we go out to eat lunch. But, that is where the bulk of the spending occurs. To really see my plans for redirecting our finances to be successful, we must substantially decrease our lunches at restaurants. Figuring out lunch food options will be a key to our success. Finally, it is not a bad idea to have a few frozen meal options. We have plenty of surprise nights where we stay too late at the office. The best things to do for those days is to pop a frozen pizza in the oven and enjoy a sitcom.
Dining out budget
Last, but equally important, I need to figure out how to stay true to our “dining out budget.” It is entirely too easy to put a meal on a credit card and forget that you spent money.
I am thinking about using Dave Ramsey’s envelope method. If you are not familiar with this, I will explain. Simply put, your budgeted amount is converted to cash and placed in an envelope. Money is then taken from the envelope during for the planned activity. When the envelope is empty, you are no longer permitted to participate in that activity. You cannot use credit cards, you cannot go to the bank and get more money. It gives you a powerful visual indicator of that… an empty envelope. I like the idea of using this method because I want my son to understand and learn this lessons. Resources are finite. And, we must make good choices with the resources we have.
I will keep you posted about how this worked. Now, it’s your turn. Do you prefer to pay a premium for simple? Why or why not?