2 Days to Christmas

Personal Finance Lessons From Your Toilet Paper Roll

Empty Toilet Paper RollMoney is a little like toilet paper—you don’t think about it much, until you run out.

Have you ever taken the time to think about how much TP you use in a given, uh, sitting? Probably not until the last few squares—when you suddenly realize it’s time to conserve a little. Money is pretty much the same. When you’ve got plenty of it, you don’t give much thought to how it’s spent. When you start running low, it’s time to find creative ways to make it last.

Six months ago, inspired by this guest post, our family switched to an all cash budget. It was all too easy to swipe the debit card and have no real idea where the money was going, even though we attempted to track with various software programs—I don’t know, maybe Quicken 2011 is worth a shot next year. For awhile, we’ve decided to try all cash—thinking if I could visualize exactly how much was left, I might be more aware of how we spent it. On payday, we pulled out our discretionary funds, and used the cash to pay for groceries, dining and little expenses throughout the month.

It worked great—until the last week of the month. Things got a little tight then, and I had an idea to fix it. The following month, I pulled out the same amount of money but only put 1/4 of it into my wallet. The rest was tucked away at home, to be replenished each week. And, we were able to make it stretch every week, through the end of each month. That’s when I decided to see if our funds could be stretched even further.

Can you use less toilet paper every time, instead of just when the roll is nearly empty? A couple months ago, we took out less money and last month, we withdrew even less. Each time, we have been able to work with what we had, leaving more money to reduce debt. If you give yourself $100 to spend on groceries each week, you’re going to spend $100.

When we lowered our grocery allotment, I just had to make some small adjustments to my shopping habits—I bought a jumbo jar of applesauce, instead of 2 pounds of apples. I planned a menu around less expensive cuts of meat. And, when we decided we wanted to go out for dinner, we chose a kids eat free restaurant and limited adult purchases to the coupons we had on hand.

How often do you stop to examine your budget? When was the last time you really thought about where your money is going?

4 Responses to “Personal Finance Lessons From Your Toilet Paper Roll”

  • Barb Friedberg November 09, 2010 @7:20AM Reply

    Wonderful analogy and beautifully written. This one will stick in my mind and go in my round up!

  • Corrin November 10, 2010 @10:03AM Reply

    Given our current situation (unemployed 11 months – yippie!) we work on a monthly budget that’s re-evaluated weekly. The cash system doesn’t work well for us because it tends to burn a hole in our pocket. Having to use our debit card makes us consider what bills are outstanding and if we have enough to cover our purchase. I have it down to a science which bills get paid which weeks, and we have a running list of “wants” (some of which aren’t so want-y) that are listed in order of priority. Any extra money at the end of the pay period helps make our way down that list.

  • Heather Sokol November 10, 2010 @2:25PM Reply

    That sounds like a good system too. I think the key, really, is to constantly re-evaluate and see what you can tweak to either save even more or fit those wants into the budget.

  • Khaleef @ KNS Financial November 10, 2010 @5:38PM Reply

    For us it’s milk – we use it regularly until there is only 1 glass left! That one glass worth can last for a week until we replace the entire jug! I think it is great to limit yourself and see how much you really need to work with. It’s amazing how this happens.

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