BOOZE: I think this category is entirely self explanatory, but that won't stop me from talking about it some more. My favorite thing to drink after a long day of wiping ass and taking names is Wyder's Pear Cider. I love it. Aside from JenB, it's probably my favorite thing about Canada. It's not too sweet like a wine cooler and not too sour like a beer. It's also $8 a six pack. Dave's favorite beer is Widmer Hefeweizen, which we buy at Costco for around $30 a case. Still not cheap. If we each drink ONE BEVERAGE per night, we're at $60 per month and that doesn't count my weekend cocktails or Dave's love of Cabernet Sauvignon (Three buck Chuck from TJ's!) and expensive Scotch (The Glenlivet). And honestly WHO DRINKS ONLY ONE BEER? REDUX: Dave and I like to party. It's $100 per month you can rip from our cold, dead hands. AMEN.
CLOTHES: This one's pretty obvious, but I lump all of our clothes/shoes/underpants into a single category. Aside from Dave's clothes (suits, shirts, etc, which we normally get at the Men's Wearhouse), I'm EXTREMELY cheap about clothing. For the kids, I try to stick to a strict $7 limit per item (but often find things for half that amount) and for myself the limit is more like $25. I don't buy anything designer EVER. I'm an Old Navy, Kohl's, JC Penny's, Macy's SALE RACK kind of girl. I wash my clothes A LOT, so it doesn't make sense to me to spend a lot of money for things that rarely last longer than a year. Anyway, sometimes $200 is more than enough and sometimes we need to spend way more than that to meet our needs.
DINING OUT: I separate dining out from entertainment mainly because it's always a trouble-spot for us. Have I mentioned that Dave and I like to eat? And drink? Because we do. The $150 I have budgeted here is meant to be enough for Dave and I to have at least ONE nice dinner out per month, plus eat out some lunches and take the kids out for pizza once or twice. It involves an incredible amount of restraint for us to stay under that amount!
ENTERTAINMENT: This category is mostly dedicated to the second amendment. Dave likes to go to the gun range on the weekends and unfortunately the price of ammo has gone up something like 50% over the past year. It can be an expensive hobby, especially after you add in range fees, etc, but Dude, the man works six days a week, let's not begrudge him his firearms! I also include movie rentals, actual movies (you know all THREE MOVIES we go to every year) and any other fun things we do that cost money (like local events, air shows, etc) as entertainment. $100 is usually enough for Dave to go shooting at least twice and for us to rent some extra movies.
FOOD: This is the infamous $700 grocery budget. I shop mostly at Costco, Winco, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer. I'm Cheap with a capital "C" and I do just about everything I can to save us a penny. We just eat A LOT of food and we usually have friends over to eat (or cook for friends) at least a few times a month. This is obviously our biggest discretionary expense.
GAS/AUTO: We have two Nissan Xterras. I realize this is ridiculous, but it's the second time Dave and I have had the same cars at the same time. We used to both drive VW Jettas. Great minds think alike you know, except for the whole gas guzzling thing. We only get about 16 miles to the gallon. We do our best to save gas where we can, but gas is 'spensive! $350 is about our average monthly spending, not including oil changes. If I could exchange my Xterra for a minivan, I'd do it in a heartbeat!
HOUSEHOLD: This $300 is the catch-all category for pretty much anything you'd buy at Target or Wal-Mart that ain't food. Toilet paper, paper towels (my roll-a-day addiction), cleaning supplies, toothpaste, BEAUTY items (I buy my makeup at Target and my hair goop at Ulta with 20% off coupons), shampoo, Astroglide, you name it, it goes into this category. It also includes just about anything I buy to make the house look pretty, like pillows or art or awesome velvet ottomans from the church rummage sale like I got last month for $8. I'm also attempting to start a plate collection so I can beautify the giant empty wall in our entry way, so this category also includes antiques.
KIDS: This is the place where I put toy purchases or general stuff that is for the kids only. $50 seems like a lot to me now that we aren't buying diapers anymore! Last month it included a new booster car seat for Alex and a bunch of princess crap from the dollar store for Genoa. That was money well-spent because now she's staying in her bed all night! It doesn't include the kids' activities, though, I'll get to that in a minute.
OTHER: Anything that doesn't fit in the above categories. There's always something! $50 is an arbitrary number I pulled out of the sky.
These categories are noticeably devoid of things like BILLS. Because honestly? Those are personal and Dave and I need to have SOME level of privacy. I mentioned that I consider preschool MANDATORY and that's mainly because I've agreed to send my child to school this year and I intend to pay that school for his spot. It's only $145 per month, but it's a fixed cost and thus, not something I would ever label as "discretionary." Alex also does karate and soccer and swimming and sports camps, etc, but those are mainly one-time expenses, so they are not included in our monthly discretionary spending.
Speaking of savings, we DO save. We DO invest for both our retirement and so that we can someday help our children go to college. We do not live paycheck to paycheck and we keep our savings account well padded for emergencies. We don't have any credit card debt. (Although we do have student loans, a mortgage and a single car payment). Our credit scores are over 800. We give to charity. And we do all this on a single income. Some day soon, I'll go back to work and do my best to save 100% of what I earn for the next 40 years. My point is, we have a PLAN. A HEALTHY plan. We can afford to spend $2000 a month on our discretionary spending without it being a problem for us.
Our lifestyle is OUR lifestyle and we enjoy it. We give up a lot to be able to relax about our monthly spending. We don't vacation. Dave doesn't golf. The only club membership we pay for is the one at Blockbuster Video. Our kids will go to public school. Financial planning is about trade offs and this blog is not so much a "budgeting" blog as it is an illustration of one family's spending.
Do you have different categories than I do? If so, I'd love to hear what they are!