Live Like the Queen on a Commoner’s Budget

August 4, 2011

When I was young and single and less responsible, and I wanted something, I subscribed to the ‘act now, think later’ way of life.

Not only did it mean I made some pretty embarrassing phone calls to ex-boyfriends and some slightly skewed social choices, it also meant that when I wanted something, I bought it – even when I didn’t have the money.  And that meant that by the time Simon and I got married, he was not only taking on a wife, but a hefty bit of credit card debt as well.

After a couple of years of marriage, we managed to cut loose the chains of debt, and now I live a different life.  Thanks to my husband, I am now a budgeter and a saver.  My new saving lifestyle even meant I finally got my beloved camera last Spring!

I’ll admit, when Simon first mentioned the word “budget” to me, I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my forehead.  Just the thought of an Excel spreadsheet makes my hands clammy.  But Simon promised to take care of the Excel-ing, so I said okay, we’d try it.

True to his word, he set up a spreadsheet complete with formulas (which I swear is black magic) and broke down our incomings and outgoings into minute little categories.

When he showed it to me, I cried.  And not in a good way.  There was a column for every. single. little. thing.  My ENFP personality – the free-spirited, i-hate-routine, don’t-give-me-structure part of me – couldn’t help but rail against the sheer organized-ness of it. But, after some stern words, some panicked questions, and several deep breaths, I promised again to try it – all the while thinking to myself, “This is not going to work.”

Now, it’s hard to say this, because I don’t like to admit I’m wrong but, well…I was wrong.

Simon’s budget has saved our life.  We should not be able to live on the minute income we’re bringing in right now.  (Well…the one Simon’s bringing in.  I am a lady of leisure.)  But somehow, every month, we do it.

And I’m here to tell you how.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy my tips on How to Manage Your Money. (I swear, I never – not in a million years – imagined I would type those words.)

Make a budget. I know.  It hurts.  Trust me: if anyone knows how much it hurts, it’s me.  But write down every. single. penny. coming in, and every. single. penny. going out.  Itemize everything.  Leave no tube of toothpaste or Pepsi Max (Ahem, Simon) unturned.  And if you need help, email me and I’ll send you a copy of our budget.

Plan your meals.  This is another one of those things that made my organization-phobic brain nearly short-circuit.  “Plan my meals?  Where’s the spontaneity in that?  What if I plan for something and then don’t want it?  Waaah!”  Shut up.  Get your notepad out and figure out how many nights in the next week you’re going to need dinner.  For us, this varies, because Simon works funny shifts.  So the night before I do my grocery shop, I sit down and decide I need, let’s say, five evening meals for the week.  I ask Simes if he has any special requests (fajitas, always fajitas), and then I go from there.  This is so helpful for a few reasons:

a) If I plan my meals and do one big shop, I don’t have to run into the grocery store several times a week to pick up various items, whereby tempting myself to grab another bag of chips/packet of chocolate bars/bottle of Pepsi Max(Simon)/whatever strikes my fancy.  I do my big shop, and that’s it.

b) I don’t have a cabinet full of random ingredients that don’t go together.  I actually pride myself on my ability to create a meal out of pretty much nothing, but before I started planning meals, I’d often find myself with a cupboard stocked with hummus, baked beans, and jelly and, I’m sorry, I’m not a miracle worker.

c) Planning meals in advance means I can plan things with ingredients that overlap.  For instance, I make a pesto pasta dish with bacon, so I get the better value big pack of bacon and also plan to make breakfast for dinner that week to use the rest of the bacon.  Or, I buy a big ol’ bag of spinach and use it to make salads, to stuff stromboli, and to add to risotto.

Give money away.  This may seem like a contradiction.  I know what you’re thinking: “Faith, I want more money; not less.”  It seems ridiculous, but I swear, the more money (or food, or baby clothes, or whatever) we give away, the more money we have.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago.  Yes, we budget, and we meal plan, but we’ll both tell you the secret to our money management is being generous.  It’s tempting not to do this, because as soon as money gets tight, my first thought is, “No, I can’t afford to help someone else out – I can’t even pay my own water bill!”

But I’m telling you, giving money away – to a charity, to a friend in trouble, to a stranger who needs help – is the best investment you can make.  It’s not math; it’s magic.  Want more money?  Give some away.

That’s my advice.  So okay, maybe you won’t live like the Queen.  But at least maybe you could save up for one of those hats she wears.

15 responses to “Live Like the Queen on a Commoner’s Budget”

  1. vickymiller says:

    You are a writing genius my friend. Love it! and all sooo true! x Vicky Miller

  2. Mary says:

    I love this post! I wrote something similar on my blog yesterday about meal planning:

    It has seriously relieved all the dinner-time headaches we had before.

  3. mama says:

    Excellent, Faith! I have a renewed resolve to plan ahead and give away! I love you!

  4. Sabrina says:

    Will you all just move into my house with me and help me? I need you to physically stand in front of my computer to stop me from late-night J. Crew final sale binges. Thanks.

  5. Keri says:

    Yes! I learned this lesson in my first year of marriage as well!

  6. Woah, this is a really inspiring post. I really need to budget, I’m working on it though. Keep writing & I’ll keep reading! Thanks!

  7. Amanda says:

    yay yay!!! i’m so proud of yall. really, that’s awesome! i can back you up on the giving thing. it is absolutely true that the more we give, the more our day to day finances seem to multiply. even with my microscopic grocery budget, if i know God is leading me to buy groceries or a gift card for someone, those are NEVER the months that i run out of grocery money a week before my next withdrawal. never. He always takes care of us and allows us to see how He works through us (and blesses us) when we are obedient.

  8. Michelle says:

    Great post! The lone error? You are NOT a “lady of leisure.” Adlai and Teddy are with me on this one. xo

  9. Great post. Its amazing how much money I have saved this past year planning out meals. But I do miss being able to cook on a whim!

  10. […] around. my good friend faith over at great smitten has been discovering this same thing and wrote a great blog post on budgeting a few months back that y’all will […]

  11. pushpinature says:

    Reblogged this on pushpinature and commented:
    this nearly made me cry by the time i reached the end. budgeting has always scared the living daylights out of me, but this author has a very worthwhile point to make. this is the suck-it-up kind of painful that in five year’s time, i think i’ll really appreciate. it’s time to get serious about Budgeting.

  12. Melissa Miller says:

    First thank you for sharing your experience. I am a mother of 3 and i am 40 yr old. My children are 3,7,and14. I want a house so badly ti be able to give nt children a better pkace to live and to have thier own rooms. I have bad credit from my younger days of living in the here and now. Im trying to improve my credit though i kn this will take some time. If you hav any advice on credit and reports or tips on how to improve ny score i woukd be greatful. I am going to make a budget. I would appreciate a copy of yours to go by as reference. Also do i set a budget for the children. Or allowance. Do you have children. I also truly believe in your statement about giving away money. But recently i had given away to my mother and it was at different intervals. Its been a nightmare and she wont stop asking for more. So what do you recommend in that sort of situation. She is very selfish and doesnt seem to appreciate it. I wish i had given to charity. What advice do you have for savings?
    Melissa miller

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  14. Monique says:

    This was very sweet!! Im defintely taking some advice from this 😀

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