Our Family Budget

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

July 13, 2010


Categories: Family, Food

Credit cards

Image via Wikipedia

Budgets. Budgets. Budgets. I never knew how to live on a budget growing up. My parents, like many, did the household finances, and for the most part kept it to themselves because it’s personal. I know my mother spent $150 a week on food at the local grocery store for our family of 6 and 7 every other weekend and every other holiday. We had limited resources for new clothes before school, and the jeans I picked out couldn’t be more than $20 a pair, and I was limited to 2 pair. In elementary and middle school, I qualified for the helpful but embarrassing “free or reduced lunch” and couldn’t take a fashionable paper sack with a homemade PBJ tucked inside.

Fast food in Nepal & the Disposable Income Calculator.

Image via Wikipedia

When I got a job in high school, I blew it on instant gratification clothing I deemed trendy, smelly lotions, and fast food because I had no concept of the value of money. This went into my young adult years, where I maxed out credit cards issued to me as an 18 year old, with $300 credit limits. I easily picked up school loans because I couldn’t imagine how I would pay for college otherwise. So that now my debt is my family’s burden.

When Peter and I got married, his Aunt Isabel gave us some nice kitchen items and some books on finance. The one I enjoyed most (and am currently lending to a friend) is Larry Burkett‘s Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples.

I started writing this post 18 months ago. We tracked our expenses, figured out what went where, and loosely discussed what we could spend. We were in basic agreement, and this was January 25, 2009.

I am so excited about our expenses.  Who would have thought?  We spent $316.22 on food last month, including Thanksgiving dinner.  That is about $100 per person for the month, or about $3.50 per person per day!  Who would have thought we could eat on less than $4 per day each!  Unfortunately, it’s not all organic, but it’s mostly local.

But something happened shortly after that. I stopped consistently tracking our expenses and comparing them to our loose budget. Peter got into the apprenticeship, and a raise, and while we “talked” about money spending we didn’t ask ourselves if it was a want, need, or desire. We simply spent the money because it was there and it was loosely defined as a need.

We are going to Crown Financial Ministries for guidance. It’s free. It’s Christian-based. It’s the group Larry Burkett started. I’m skeptical, to be sure, because part of the problem is I don’t want to be told what to do. But, we need to get on the same page somehow. And this is one step.

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