Making ‘Cents’ of It: My Budgeting Journey

I got married just over a year ago.  Before I got married, I was living at home, going to school and working a little part-time.  I contributed absolutely nothing to the family income stream, nor did I help at all with budgeting.  Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what my family’s monthly budget was for groceries.  My mom did the majority of the grocery shopping, and she preferred to shop alone (I think we drove her crazy when we tagged along).  Really, I don’t think my mom worried too much about how to pay for the groceries.  She price shopped and bought what she needed, but that was about it.  But then, my parents had been married over 20 years and my dad had worked hard to climb the ladder and make a comfortable amount of money.  I didn’t worry about money because I didn’t need to.  I had a personal budget, but it was small and consisted of how many Starbucks drinks I was allowed to get in a month, or saving up to buy some things we’d need for the house after we got married.

Then I got married, and life changed drastically.  I moved 1000 miles away with my sweetheart, going from a Western granola mountain town of 60,000 to a rural, sweet-tea drinking dot on the map of 3000.  Yeah, that was a culture shock.  I thought I was prepared.  I had researched different ways to save money, and had learned all about couponing.  Andy and I had set a tentative budget, knowing that we would see what things would need tweaking. 

Soon we found ourselves married and ready to put our plans into practice.  I bought the Sunday paper, clipped the coupons, and then went for my first ever grocery trip for my own home.  Let me just say, those first few grocery trips were frustrating.  There were three reasons behind my frustration.  First, I had no idea that it would take so much money to start a pantry.  Flour, sugar, ketchup…all these things add up and quickly!  Secondly, I found that living in a small town was way different from living in even a medium-sized town.  There were fewer stores, and the stores had fewer items.  Coupons didn’t go very far when nothing was on-sale, or the store didn’t have the coupon brand in stock.  Finally, living in the South was very different from the hippie town I grew up in.  I had never seen so many weird things at the grocery store.  Fried pigs ears?  Okra?  These were foreign foods to me, and while the stores sold things I didn’t want, they also didn’t sell the things that I wanted.  For instance, one of my go-to meals back at my family’s house was tostadas.  Let me tell you, I have yet to find a tostada shell anywhere in town.  Seriously. 

So, the next year came and went.  We bounced between cash envelope systems to spreadsheets to writing solely checks and back to the envelopes, all in search of the right budgeting strategy.  We weren’t hurting for money…far from it.  It was just that we never were able to save as much as I thought we should.  Overtime, however, I learned ways to save a few cents here and there.  I learned that couponing can really work in a small town, and that saving money doesn’t have to be a full-time job.

And guess what?  I’m still learning.  Boy am I ever!  Sometimes it can still be frustrating.  I read a blog and someone shares how much they spend on groceries every month, and then I get discouraged because there is no way I could feed my husband and I for that little!  If you’ve ever felt like you’re in the same boat, be encouraged!  You don’t have to eat solely macaroni and cheese and beans to be able to save money on groceries!  So stop comparing yourself to others and start trying to do your best to save money, even if it’s a few cents.  After all, as a year has taught me, a few cents add up to a lot of cents. 

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