Month one of budgeting is complete using Dave Ramsey's
budget method where we spent all our anticipated income on paper before the month began.
We were actually pretty close our first month out and had a $97 surplus, not including the $3K we socked away into our emergency fund. We also paid off all our credit cards from Christmas purchases and took them out of our wallet. We are debit/cash only and loving it! Watch the documentary "Maxed Out" and you won't want to support creditors any more.
We didn't estimate correctly in our food categories. We needed to flip flop the categories as we spent more in groceries than I initally budgeted. However, we equally spent less in eating out. This is a good thing overall as the main food cost was within limits. I think we can refine this further if I can use all our groceries before things go bad. Meal planning and preparation will be a work in progress.
We also sold a number of items on Craigslist, returned unused items to stores, cashed in rebates, and received a large weatherization incentive from the Energy Trust of Oregon related to insulating our home during phase I of our remodel. We made an extra $1600 in unanticipated income in January after all is said and done.
If we are on track, even without selling anymore stuff, we will be able to save at least twice as much next month thanks to no credit card bills. I'm happy to be able to tell our money how to work for us now! If we continue to sell junk (I haven't sold anything I really cared to keep yet) and get some more freelance work, we will be able to pay my car off soon and have a sizable emergency fund to cover at least 6 months of expenses.
I will likely sell my Mazda 5 after we pay off the note, but I'm thinking of keeping it while we are still remodeling because it is large enough for hauling drywall, etc. It was purchased new so we already have to absorb most of that original depreciation (hello stupid tax DOH us!), so keeping it for a few extra months won't see much as far as dropping in value. Once remodeling phase II is done (hopefully by the fall), I should be able to sell it and maybe buy a used small hybrid of some sort with cash! Yay!