Well, I did it. At the risk of putting myself out there and making myself all terribly vulnerable and all, I managed to budget my money in short notice without sacrificing my sanity and the children's well-being.
A few months ago, I discovered rather unexpectedly that my monthly source of income was to be cut by a large amount for a single mother of three children. I was initially upset, even enraged at one point, but I was determined to practice what I preach, re-evaluate my budget, and stay afloat. It wasn't easy at first. It never is when you're used to one spending pattern and then have to immediately adjust to a more frugal one.
As I evaluated and reviewed my budget, the first thing I did was mentally list my top three expenses. I discovered that my rent was too high, I had started dining out too frequently, and was spending too much on unused groceries that wound up in the garbage because they had spoiled.
First line of action was to purchase a home that would reduce my monthly payments. Working with my realtor, I managed to find a house I fell in love with that was affordable and roomier than the rental (you can too. Ask me, and I'll show you). Next, I made smart decisions about dining out and then found ways to cut my grocery costs without sacrificing quality and quantity. These last two sacrifices were very helpful in re-evaluating the types of food that were entering my home and the family's stomach. They also helped me cut needless waste as well. Finally, I vowed to stop minimizing the effect of losing a dollar here and there. I wouldn't purchase an item that was more expensive, or shrug off an overcharge simply because it was an incremental amount. Anyone who has tried budgeting knows that every little bit adds up.
Other shortcuts I've been taking have been small. If I can borrow or rent something rather than pay full price for it, I did just that. I also sold some furniture during my move, held a garage sale, and now I've started a pile of clothes that will be sold to thrift shops. Then there were the coupons I used, the gift cards I spent wisely, and finally taking a step back before purchasing anything and asking myself whether I needed or wanted it.
Most of the decisions I made were simple, but very helpful now that I'm writing about it. And through all this adjusting, plotting, and budgeting, I still managed to keep my weekly dinner dates with my 10 year old and enroll him in two different summer camps. Sure, I'm still waiting to replace my old furniture and summer shopping is on the list, but this experience has taught me that I will make it through these purchases as well.