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Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Monthly check-up

It's April and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up [1]. How did you do in March?

After not making a lot of headway on our savings goals last month [2], we were determined to kick it up a notch in the savings department–especially since the end of March would mean we'd be a fourth of the way through the year.

So my husband and I sat down and had a "money meeting" of sorts and determined what areas we could squeeze a little more from our budget, possible things we could give up, and ideas for cutting corners. Here are a few significant changes we made as a result:

1) We didn't fund our envelopes [3] for a month, outside of groceries. We had leftover money in all of our envelopes from previous months and there was nothing we needed to purchase which couldn't wait another month or couldn't be purchased with what we already had in the envelopes. (If you are unfamiliar with how the envelope system works, check out this post here [4].)

2) We skipped grocery shopping for two weeks and held an Eating From the Pantry Challenge [5] instead. This was a fun challenge to take on and it not only helped clear out some groceries and pantry items we needed to use up, it also allowed us to put some extra money into savings.

3) We had a monthly Restaurant Night instead of a weekly Restaurant Night. We usually budget to go out to eat once a week as a family but we decided to skip three of the four weeks in March in order to have a little more money to put into savings.

I'll admit that this was probably the hardest for me as I enjoy the luxury of having dinner out once per week. However, it is definitely not a necessity–we lived without restaurant food for months when my husband was in law school!–and it's certainly something we can easily live without. So it was good to make the commitment to make dinner every night. I'm definitely thinking this is something we could do more often–especially once this pregnancy is over and I have a little more energy!

These were just a few examples of ways we freed up some extra cash in the month of March. There were a myriad of other little ways, too.

The good news? All of the cutting of corners paid off because at the end of this month we were able to put enough into our house savings to push us past 40% of our goal!

We're beginning to get excited as we're starting to little by little see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to paying 100% down for a house. (If you're new here and are wondering why we've made this goal, you can read more on that here [6].) We've been looking at houses in the area just to get some ideas as to what is out there and we're realizing it's very possible we might be able to get something for less than what we were hoping to pay.

Armed with this knowledge, we've decided that as soon as we hit 70-75% of our goal, we'll be able to start seriously looking at houses. We plan to only look in the price range we currently have saved and then as we are able to save more, we'll continue to bump up our price range until we find a house.

So our current plan is to continue saving in earnest for the next six or seven months and then see where we're at. Depending upon the housing market, it's beginning to look possible we just might make our big goal of paying 100% down for a home in 2009.

It still seems very far off, but we're excited at the traction we're making and invigorated to keep on cutting corners, pinching pennies, and forgoing little non-necessities (and big non-necessities!) in order to make faster headway. It certainly can't hurt anything!

To recap our March progress:

We began the month at 37.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 40.5%!

We're excited to see what April brings!

How did you do in March? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in March and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in April. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!