My husband and I both get paid once a month - at the beginning of the month. I told him recently - "It's weird to be broke by the 3rd day of the month, but it feels so good knowing all the bills are paid!" We're not really broke by the third day of the month, but I want to explain how I work through my budget.
Every month, on paper (or spreadsheet), I have written list of all of our bills. I don't bother to write down what day they are due, because I pay them all as soon as we get paid. This doesn't allow us to
suddenly [impulsively] find something that we just can't live without. If we need it, we have to budget for it next month. Since we are using extra money to pay down debt, that is where our surplus money goes. Here is what I do about groceries and gas, and things like that which come up periodically throughout the month: Cash Envelopes.
Cash envelopes can be a theory or tangible. I've known people to use many variations of this system. I don't know that we're settled into the best way, but I like to buy a gift card to the grocery store in the amount of my monthly grocery budget. Allow me to list the pros and cons of this method.
- I've already paid for the groceries at the beginning of the month (and I have a good idea of what is needed since I've tracked for months, if not years!)
- Leftover funds can carry-over to the next months budget.
- Some stores do promos like - 4x Gas Reward Points when you purchase gift cards. So my "normal" monthly grocery expense will often lead to exceptional fuel savings!
- You are locked into that one grocer. For example, if I buy a gift card to Safeway, I can't go over to King Soopers if they have a killer sale on a particular staple.
- Multiple shoppers in the home requires the one card to be available for everyone. (This can be the same with cash in an envelope)
I have read a lot about others' opinions of this cash budgeting method for groceries and gas, and mentioning that it does not take into consideration fluctuations in prices. To that I would respond:
I have had a monthly budget of $400 to feed our family of 4 for a LONG time. My kids are 8 and 12 and eat often. They eat pretty healthy, but I cannot afford all organic. I make the best food choices that I can, given the budget. When I noticed a significant increase in prices of many staples (dairy and meat especially), we slowly increased our monthly budget. Over time (a LONG time) we have crept up to a $500 a month budget instead. I have had a $200 a month gas budget for my car since 2009. Prices have gone up and down and up and down. I never put more than $50 in my car each week. Even if that means it doesn't quite get full. I've never run out of gas in a month to the point where I had to call into work one day.
If you need me to get to the point already - it's that I've budget for a pretty great estimate of monthly expenses, and didn't try to cut it too close. I error on the side of budgeting just a hair more than I need.
I would love to hear your successes or struggles with getting paid only once a month.
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