My current budget plan is this: 1) be realistic 2) pay the four walls "food, clothing, shelter and transportation" FIRST (taken from Dave Ramsey, the creator of Financial Peace and whose 8 week course we took 5 years ago) 3) I add in the elements of the "Serenity Prayer": accept the things that I can not change, change the things that I can and have wisdom to know the difference.
I like the idea of involving your children in the decision making of which item to choose. It teaches me (and all of us, I think) a really important lesson that we all will have to learn at some point: life is about choices. Most of us can't have everything we want at the same time although the possibility exists that eventually we can have all that we want.
For example, both my DH and I have decided (a couple of years now) that we won't spend the money on going to a movie (with the popcorn etc) because that costs nearly $36 total. Tickets for the afternoon matinee movies are $8 each. Instead, we would rather go out to eat (although at a carefully selected restaurant where we feel we get good nutritious food at a good value). Also, I haven't had my hair cut professionally in three years. I would prefer to "spend" that money somewhere else. I also color my own hair. I told a professional hairdresser my "situation" and she gave me some tips that they use and I have followed it ever since. Most people think this is my natural hair color but trust me at my age it isn't.
Also, I don't mind going without having a professional hair cut. I just make sure my style is really simple to maintain but I do miss having someone else color it. I have arthritis in both my shoulders and it hurts to do the upper back sometimes. Still, I am saving myself between $40-70 every 6 weeks when I do it myself. Again, money that can be spent somewhere else.
So, my budget is about deciding what we can cut out that we won't miss. I bring this up about two or three times a year because things do change. We have gone through periods without having (paid) t.v. (the only way we can get reception). Right now, we do have paid t.v. reception but then we also remind ourselves that going to the movies (as much as the line up looks really good this season right now) is out of the question. It is about choice.
I don't go shopping at all simply because I know that if I even have 5 cents in my pocket I will find something (whether I need it or not) to spend it on. This is the same method I use with food: out of sight and out of mind. Still, this year, I told my DH that I really missed just seeing all of the holiday decorations in the malls. So, sometimes, I realize that I have to re-evaluate what I am also cutting out when I cut out money-related experiences.
I do like to check sites out on the internet though and, yes, it does become hard to resist some things. Are there any equivalent free apps that you can download. I would check out sites like Sparkpeople et al that are free sites. I do know that many of them are now starting to have apps that are free. I just am not sure how good they are.
Are you giving yourself anything for Christmas? I hope you do even if it is something small.
Today, my DH got a $20 tip so I told him to spend it at the grocery store. He had change left over when he was finished. We always buy the basic four food groups first before anything else. I rarely buy junk food simply because of the lack of nutrition for the cost. So, actually, being so strapped for cash has been an unseen blessing in terms of eating healthy. I can't afford to eat "poorly" (nutrition-wise)Then, we have a "discount overstock clearance" kind of store near us that we have actually found a lot of "hidden gems" in terms of everything from paint to cans of soup. I realize some people would not shop there but the merchandise is safe, not expired and no dents and we can usually get many things, like whole wheat bread (day old of course) for half price. Every little bit helps.
Have a great day, Pam