Anyone interested in personal finance knows or at least has heard that if you want to manage your money properly, you need a budget. Well, today, I’m going to tell you why you should do the opposite of that and not have a budget. Now, hear me out before you riddle the comment section with insults and criticisms, please. 🙂
The Opposite Budget
You see, I’ve found a way to cut expenses that doesn’t require a budget at all. I call it the “opposite budget”. Why? Because when I look at my expenses, my goal is to figure out not how much I can cut from my budget, but how I can work to spend no money at all that doesn’t absolutely need to be spent or that doesn’t completely line up with both our spending values and our monetary goals.
For instance, instead of working to figure out how I can spend our $60 a month on entertainment wisely, I say “What can I plan and do to entertain our family for free this month?” Or, instead of saying “I have $400 to spend on groceries this month,” I say “What’s the absolute least I can spend on groceries this month?” By doing the opposite, I’ve found that I can spend much less than I normally spend on monthly “necessities”.
I discovered this little trick (although I’m quite sure many have used it successfully before me) this month. With the end of the year looming around the corner, I was looking over our 2013 spending and our 2014 spending goals when I realized that if I am to reach my grocery budget goal for 2014 (which is less than what we spent in 2013) that I have roughly $200 to spend on our family of six for groceries for December – in a holiday month, no less! Eager to reach my goal, I started looking through the pantry and asked myself: What do we absolutely have to have in the house this month in order to feed our family? Normally, when making our monthly grocery list, I write down what we need to serve the meals we like to serve and be done with it. Now, it’s never an extravagant list, and we’re generally between $400 and $500 a month for groceries for the six of us. But being that I want to keep the spend around $200 for December, I had to, instead of being content with and proud of our low monthly budget for groceries, figure out what was the least amount of money we could spend this month.
Creating a “What’s in the Pantry” Meal Plan
I made a list of super cheap meals, of things we were out of that were “non-negotiables” on our grocery list, and went from there. Between sales and paring down our usual list, I just might be able to do it. It looks good on paper, so we’ll see how the month turns out.
This new plan, however, started me thinking: Why am I not doing this with all of our monthly expenses? Why am I not looking at each and every expense as a zero amount and then finding from there how much I absolutely have to spend to get by?
I’m not saying we’ll live like this forever, but the question bears some thought. When my parents were first married, dad was in the Marines, and money was so tight it squeaked. My mom tells of a month that was so bare that their grocery list consisted of one large box of noodles, and one large pack of cheese. They ate mac and cheese for dinner for a month straight. It sucked, and to this day mom keeps her mac and cheese dinners to about once a year. But you know what? That choice allowed them to live within their means and still eat. There were no credit cards back then for the “average” consumer, so my parents had no choice but to get creative, buck up, and deal.
If more people these days chose to live within their means whatever the cost, I’m convinced that the money problems of today would become, largely, money problems long gone.
How much less would you spend if you looked at every potential expense as a “$0” expense and then went up from there only as need be? What’s your favorite way to save money?
I’ve Been Cable Free for 5 Years and Still Watch TV
While in debt, I cut cable and haven’t looked back. It’s easier than you think especially with new services out on the market. One of my favorites is Sling TV, which allows you to watch live TV on the internet. It’s awesome. Check out my Sling TV review.