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Monday Q&A | Adult Allowances, Budget Tracking, and Breastfeeding

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I had a question regarding allowances, but this does not pertain to children; This is in regards to us, the parents. Typically when I plan our financial month, I give my husband and myself allowance (this is typically about 100/2 weeks or 200/month each). This is money used for my husband’s lunches or if we want to eat dinner outside of the house. So, my question is: do you allot money for yourself and husband to do things for yourselves? I try not using all of the money I get because I am a stay-at-home mom and we frequently visit free events around our town. I would love to find ways to save this money, but I am not sure how to go about doing it or if it is worth it. Any suggestions? Thank you so much!


If I’m understanding your question right, you’re wanting to save more of your allowance for other purposes.

If you’d like to avoid spending this money on lunches I’d suggest packing leftovers for your husband’s lunch. To make this easy, as I’m putting away the food after dinner, I package up a serving for Mr. FG. Then in the morning, it’s easy just to grab the container and put it into his lunch box.

Also, if packing a lunch in the morning is difficult, try packing it at night. Put all the non-refrigerated items in the bag, and get the refrigerated items all ready to go, but keep them in the fridge overnight. This will make morning packing much faster.

If you’d like to avoid spending the money on eating out, I highly recommend making up a menu plan. Having a plan makes me sooo much less likely to give in to the temptation to get takeout. When you make your plan, take your schedule into consideration. For example, if you have a busy day on Tuesday and know you’re prone to takeout that night, don’t schedule a difficult meal for that night. I’ve written a number of posts about menu planning, and those might be helpful to you.

All that said, I think it is good to give yourself some budget leeway when possible, so don’t feel guilty if you do spend some of the allowance that you’re giving yourself. Being overly strict with yourself can lead to burnout, and you don’t want that to happen.

My spouse and I have a budget for things…as it seems you and Mr. FG do — but how do you track the spending so you don’t go over? Do you save receipts? Use only cash?

Best Regards,

Theoretically, we use Quicken. But of course, that’s only as dependable to the degree that I keep Quicken updated.


I am doing better with that than I used to! We don’t do that much spending, though, so it’s not terribly difficult to keep track of, and it is pretty easy to catch up even when I get a little bit behind.

Cash in envelopes is definitely an option as long as you keep your envelopes organized, but if you don’t want to go the cash route, I definitely recommend using some software to keep track of your spending and budget.

Also, I highly recommend having ING savings accounts for the budget categories that don’t get spent in their entirety every month. For us, these are categories like Christmas, Vacation, Auto Maintenance, New Car Savings, and so on. ING accounts are sort of like a less-accessible version of cash envelopes and I cannot recommend them enough. Love ING! (you can read more about how I use my ING accounts if you’d like.)

On a related note, if you’re not already doing so, I strongly advocate the practice of regularly talking with your spouse about money. I do this by preparing a monthly money report for Mr. FG and doing so has revolutionized the money side of our relationship.

Hi Frugal Girl,
I’m a new mom, blogging about new mommyness, and budgeting, and being a work-at-homer, among other things. I just posted my take on breastfeeding, and one of the reasons I did it (a much less-weighted reason, but still a reason) is the frugality of it. It’s free, there’s no equipment to buy or clean or keep in stock.

Did you breastfeed your kids? Did you think of it as a frugal option?

Yes, indeedy! I breastfed all 4 of my kiddos for at least a year, most longer than that (Joshua got the short end of the stick there because I got pregnant with Lisey when he wasn’t quite 1 yet, so I quit nursing him right at one year).

The frugality of breastfeeding wasn’t the only reason I did it, of course. Once you get past the initial weeks of pain, I think breastfeeding is super-duper easy and convenient, and the health benefits are fabulous both for the mom and the baby.

So yup…I’m a big fan of breastfeeding and I’d totally do that exactly the same if I had it to do all over again. Breastfeeding rocks in a zillion ways and I am so grateful that I was able to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with all of my babies.

Today’s 365 post: The shirt for me

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Monday 10th of January 2011

I agree but, what if one of your kids needed braces? Do you or have any needed them? What is your advice?


Tuesday 11th of January 2011

Sonia is definitely going to need some orthodontics, and we have an ING savings account set up for that purpose.


Monday 10th of January 2011

Speaking of budgeting, a more techy method of doing the envelope system is the computer software program called YouNeedABudget (or YNAB: I've been using YNAB for 3 years now. I love it, and I swear I am in no way affiliated with the company. Whether you've spent money online, in a store, with cash, from a credit card, to a friend, or some other way, it's reflected in your virtual envelopes (the budget). It isn't free, and it costs a little more than the most basic Quicken version, but it has a money-back satisfaction guarantee, and you get free updates (not so with Quicken!). Better than even the functionality, in my opinion, is the philosophy behind it. The maker advocates for couples to have monthly meetings to review their finances. It's a zero-based budget, so every dollar gets a specific job (new van savings, electricity bill, his/hers fun money, emergency fund, etc.). The master plan is to pay down debt, live off of last months income, save for emergencies, plan for the routine as well as the unplanned, and then relax and enjoy spending your money because you know you can.

I feel so strongly about actively managing one's finances that I couldn't help sharing what works for us. Happy Budgeting, whatever way you do it!


Monday 10th of January 2011

I second We are new users to it but I find it fantastic. Especially after 2 yrs of my husband categorizing (by hand) every expense for every day on a calendar/spreadsheet. We have simplified our categories to match what Mint suggests and can make up any budgets we see fit. It pulls from all of our accounts so other than cash spending we don't have to do any work unless we want to go into more detail than the system does automatically. And it's FREE! It great for "visual" learners like me, I can see every day where we are at in our monthly goals and budgets.

I also second breastfeeding as a frugal option although that is honestly so far down on the list of reasons to do it! I nursed and pumped with my first and that worked well. I nursed exclusively with my second (still am) and it's even better for us! No pumping to do and no bottles to wash or wean off of! I do stay home with the kids and did not need to be away for more than an hour or so during the first six months - after that they can make it for longer stretches as needed. Quick anecdote to finish this book (!), a friend's son would not take a bottle of milk or formula for anything, Mama had to go back to work and baby went all day w/o nursing. He nursed at night (all night!) and was never under weight or a concern. He knew what he wanted at that was that!


Monday 10th of January 2011

Back in the 80s when I was a stay-at-home mom and money was so very tight, I once spent $15 on a beautiful, etched and signed vase at a yard sale. Hubby was not happy that I wasted ANY $ on something frivolous; in return, I was NOT happy with him. After that, I demanded we each get a $5 a paycheck "allowance" to spend any way we wanted...without question! Since then, our allowances have gone up to suit our income, but it's still nice to not have to defend all purchases outside the regular budget. Still have that vase!


Monday 10th of January 2011

I get receipts for everything. Even if it didn't list what I bought it listed when and how much, which is usually enough for me to figure it out. If not, it's a mystery purchase and presumed to be a luxury. For the few things I can't get receipts for I write it down. You can use pen and paper, or smart phone, or call yourself, or tweet, or email yourself, or... There are so many ways to write it down now.

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