Happy 2014 – What Are You Budgeting For?


Happy New Year! It's really hard to believe that it's 2014. Last year was a busy year for us as we moved to a new state. We are enjoying Tennessee but I still have lots of unpacking and organizing to do.

One of my goals is to get everything out of my garage and put where it is supposed to go. I really want to have it done by the end of January...so I better get busy!

Today I am also taking the time to revisit our budget and get everything set up for 2014. I have been tracking our spending in various categories for many years now and budget a certain amount for the entire year. Now I know this may not work for everyone but it's worked great for us. Today is the day that I look to see if we were over budget or under budget. Depending on what I see I will either maintain or modify the allotments in each category.

For several years now I have been able to feed my crew for about $40 per week. I actually have $2100 in my grocery budget for the entire year. Last year I added an organic produce delivery service that was on top of that amount. I have not found a similar option since we have moved but have had some success at the Chattanooga Market and even received some great produce from friends and neighbors. I am considering doing some small gardens this year now that I have the space. I just have to determine if I can add the maintenance into my routine each week. I know it's not a ton of effort but I am stretched thin as it is.

With all of that - plus the fact that my boys are getting bigger, I am considering modifying my budget to $50 - $75 per week. Now I know that doesn't sound like a ton of money but, it's a pretty substantial increase.

I am struggling with the decision for many reasons. I have made a list of the pros and cons but am still not completely sure what I will do. Here's how my brain works....

If I allow myself the extra money I will not work as hard to save...BUT...I am so busy I need to cut myself some slack and reduce my stress.

My boys are getting bigger, eating more and have many more requests...BUT...they are still young and need to understand that you don't always get what you want. They get plenty of healthy food while so many other kids do not.

I could go on and on...it seems that I can answer every reason to modify with a reason why I shouldn't. Wish me luck with my decision.

While I am making my decisions I thought I would see what you guys have planned this year. Any of you guys care to share your budget or goals for the new year. Are you budgeting for a large purchase, to pay off debt or just to trying to make ends meet? I think it's nice to hear from other like minded folks. So what's your budget and what are you saving for?


  1. Kim says

    We just started doing a serious budget about 6 months ago. We are over half way to being debt free except our house. :) This year we are budgeting to become debt free, and save for a Disney vacation for the six of us. Good luck with your budget, and thank you for helping me with mine! :) I’m saving tons more than I used to buy shopping at publix using this site to help get our totals down. It’s awesome!

  2. Tiffany R says

    We just finished looking at our yearly budget and actually decreased the grocery budget slightly to $160/week for 4 of us (2 adults, 2 kids (9 & 12)). I coupon, watch sales and make most meals from scratch. We also eat almost exclusively at home (we only eat out for birthdays). Our new plan is to get a Costco membership and then do a quarterly trip there to stock up on certain items. The week I go to Costco, we will eat from the pantry and freezer. This will keep things in a better rotation and make sure everything is getting eaten. I guess we will see how it goes!

  3. Lana says

    We will not change our budget. We are on track to pay off our house this summer and all of our extra money every month goes to the mortgage. When we send in that last payment we will do a budget overhaul. We will keep our $250 a month grocery budget for 2 adults. I should probably separate it out but we enjoy good wine and that comes out of the grocery budget so I don’t think we are doing bad at all. I cook from scratch and we eat a mostly natural whole foods diet. When our 5 were growing up I always knew when the budget needed increasing because I just would not have enough money for everything I needed from the store. My rule of thumb was $100 per month per person but that was before all the great deals and coupons were available.

  4. Jacqui says

    This year I will be saving for Christmas and gift giving for the year. I did this last year and was able to go to Disney and pay cash for Christmas presents. I have a family of 6 and a grandson and saved about 60% in 2013 in grocery. I hope to do the same in 2014.

  5. Jessica says

    Groceries come out of our savings, so every bit that I save means another day that I get to stay home with my two kids. I am trying to make it until the Fall of 2018 when my youngest will go into kindergarten before having to find a full-time job outside of the home. Good luck to everyone and thank you so much to Michelle!

  6. TheresaQ says

    Since my husband is still only making about 1/2 of what he did before he was laid off in late 2012, our budget strategy is strictly maintenance – just trying to get all the bills paid at month’s end. In the “we don’t have to worry about money – woohoo days” we were spending upwards of $2,000 per month on groceries/eating out. That # has steadily fallen in the past year to about $600 a month. That’s $100/wk at the grocery store and eating out one night a week. We’ll stay there, I think. We are 2 adults, one 13 year old girl and a 23 year old son who drops by a couple of times a week to pilfer our kitchen. I also garden and that is a great help in summer – tomatoes, onions, peppers, cukes, squash. I want to get into fall gardening also, but haven’t yet. Happy 2014 Michelle!

  7. Hannah F says

    This year my dearest love and I are budgeting for Charity. She’s our first child to come this far. I’ve miscarried four before her. Tomorrow I’m week 23 and so excited. Delivery day is rushing toward us. As we have no insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid, we are paying for it all out of pocket. It has been amazing to see The Lord provide for us- food, gas, bills, and some extras all have been covered. It’s tight, but we are so very eager to hold little bit in our arms sometime near May if all goes well!!

  8. Pamela C says

    For Michelle’s new Readers in TN, I’m on a Xmas Crusade, besides using Publix coupons to donate to shelters..I have been trying to find an adopter for Romeo.
    He is neutered so it is only $20. See the Facebook page for specifics

    ROMEO, a 10 year old Orange/Wht Beauty is in a Maryville, TN Kill Shelter. My Orange cats are the gentlest, I hear the same from other orange cat owners. Romeo’s whiskers are long. He Needs Adopting by Jan 2 http://on.fb.me/K3o6pK http://twitter.com/UnChat/status/417657257883488257/photo/1pic.twitter.com/ZT5rSVsASr

  9. Melissa says

    I have tried, unsuccessfully, for the past 2 years to keep a tight budget attempting to pay off debt faster. I am changing it up, hoping that in the end I will be able to keep the budget for the entire year. I have set the food/personal/household budget at $150 a week. I am also resigned to the fact that I need to save some money every week for emergencies, which was our biggest problem last year. Hopefully a little patience will go a long way.
    Happy New Year everyone!

  10. April M. says

    Hi Michelle-I think increasing your budget to $50 per week is completely reasonable. You do shop and save a lot and the boys are getting older so they will be eating more. It won’t make you lazy about savings and will give you a breather when you need it. Look at the weeks you barely spend. :)

    I am taking your advice and doing an annual budget for everything this year. I am giving myself $200 a month for groceries/personal items/clothing/hobby stuff/haircuts. I think if I separate those categories it will be too confusing. I can always go without new clothes, hobby stuff etc and I can always save more on groceries- thanks to YOU. So some months I may spend money on a haircut and cut back on groceries. Some months I may spend $200 on groceries.

    I am also entering a lot of contests and have won $625 of items i.e. gift cards, a new Garmin I wanted, food coupons, all sorts of things. It helps my budget and it’s fun.

    • Jessica P says

      Let us in on how you are winning all the great stuff! I think the only thing I’ve ever won was a gift card from “I Heart Publix.” Not complaining, I was very excited and appreciative to win. I would enjoy winning other stuff too! :-)

      • April M. says

        I enter a lot of contests that I find on Facebook from checking sponsors’ pages of products I usually buy. It’s amazing how many bigger companies have contests on a continual basis.

    • Jessica B says

      Hey April! Happy New Year…..:) Would love to hear more about how and where you enter the contests. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!
      Thanks in advance!

  11. April M. says

    and, those contests wins are only from August – December 2013. It really does help to win free product q’s.

  12. ME says

    My boys are 15 and 17 and between them and their friends that come over, as well as myself and my husband, there is no way to stay on a budget with groceries. I have tried. They eat everything I bring in the house. I am just thankful I started couponing several years ago to be able to provide more for them rather than the minimal amounts we did have at a large cost before my days of couponing. Michelle, thank you for running such a helpful and honest site.

  13. Elaine says

    Our budget is $500 per month for groceries, household items and personal care and I will keep it the same for 2014 (2 adults and 2 teenage boys). I’m in the process of examining how much we spent eating out in 2013 and putting new guidelines in place for that.

    • tammi says

      That’s our budget too :) We have 2 adults and three boys 3, 5, and 7 on that budget. I love publix, but to be able to keep within that budget we’ve had to do a majority of our produce shopping at Aldi though. Then I go to Publix for everything else and stock up on meat during gas card weeks.

      • says

        I love that you mentioned shopping at Aldi for produce! I was evaluating my 2013 spending and have decided to do all my produce-shopping in 2014 at Aldi as well to get the additional savings.

      • says

        Thank you for mentioning Aldi for produce!! My 2013 total ended up being $73 per week for my family of 4 and I’m hoping to get my grocery expense down slightly in 2014 by purchasing my produce from my local Aldi store as well. I’ve heard that they’ve done a lot of positive adjustments in the past few years and hope that my store has good produce to sell as well. I also hear that their milk is cheaper and tastes just as good, so I’ll be able to get more savings by buying milk there!!

        Thank you Michelle for all that you do with this site!! My average 2013 savings was 61% and was significantly better than my 2012 savings through the use of many strategic shopping trips using my $5 Winn-Dixie coupons. =) As mentioned above, my family of 4 was fed for $73 per week this year and I’m hoping to decrease my spending slightly in 2014. I will not negotiate quality, so it may not work out with me and Aldi, but I’m hopeful that I can get good produce and milk there to get some extra savings.

        HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my fellow couponers!!

        • Lynda says

          Rebekah, my best budget produce tip is to price-match Aldi and all the other smaller grocery stores at Walmart. My local Walmarts usually have nice produce – often nicer than at Aldi’s – and I can gather up all the best prices from stores in a wide radius, bring in the ads or printouts and they will match them all.
          One tiny word of caution: ask whether they price-match with Aldi and all local stores before you shop and are at checkout with all your groceries. I know of one Walmart whose manager refused to price-match Aldi, but of course that just led to me walking out saying: well, then, why on earth would I buy this from you? There is an Aldi across the street!

  14. Lorraine says

    If you would like some easy tips for starting a garden I would be happy to help. I work full time at a garden center and a landscape designer on the side among other things. I know no one has much time on there hands, but you can have a small garden and get some good produce out of it.

    • Jessica P says

      I’m butting in, but I would love to hear some of your tips for gardening. What are some easy fruits and vegetables to grow? Should I consider doing a raised bed? If so, what are your recommendations for making/building a raised bed?

      • annette says

        I have not tried this myself…….but have heard of simply laying a bag of potting soil on the ground, making slits in the bag and planting seedlings directly in the bag. I think I would poke some small holes in the underside too for drainage.

    • says

      I agree! I’d love to hear your thoughts about gardening. I tried small-plot, high-yield gardening this year but the only thing that did well was all the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and the snap peas. I’ll definitely plant more of those in the spring. What didn’t do well for me in my clay soil in Birmingham was the cucumbers, beef steak tomatoes, and bell peppers (can’t remember the varieties).

      • Jessica P says

        I tried that “As Seen On TV” tomato plant growing thing where your tomatoes grow upside down. I only got ONE cherry tomato out of it. Not sure if it was something I did or if growing tomatoes upside was a lost cause!

        After that I was really discouraged. But I’m going to try gardening again this year. Going with the old fashion way and hopefully I will have better luck.

    • Lorraine says

      Hey Ladies, I’m in zone 7b- 8a so not sure if we are all in the same area or not but here it goes.
      Tomatoes are really easy, just make sure you stake them.
      Many areas in the south are pretty hard clay. If you can till up the area one good time you shouldn’t have to do it again for a while. I really like Black Cow (cow poop) in the garden. I also try to go as organic as I can when it comes to something we are going to consume.
      I did not do a raised garden because building one could take some time, but people do have great success with that. Use plenty of organic garden soil and compost. Just don’t build with cross ties.
      Strawberries are very easy ground cover. They spread prolifically. Blueberries are great too. Try to get rabbit eye varieties like Climax, Tifblue, and Premier. You at least need to varieties to pollinate. Blackberries and figs are also easy. The best fig I think is Brown Turkey.
      The bag of potting soil idea is good for starting seeds, but you will need to transplant.
      I do know peppers do not like too much water so be careful if you set up a sprinkler system. Last year it rained so much my cucumbers didn’t do so hot. Just make sure you break up that clay soil really well.
      Did I miss anything?

      • Jessica P says


        Thanks so much for the info. I am copying down your suggestions so I can remember which varieties to buy. What is the best place to buy seeds from? I was thinking of purchasing my seeds from Home Depot or Lowes. I’ve also noticed some sellers on Etsy offering seeds for purchase but wasn’t sure that was a good idea.

        I just googled to see which zone I am located in. I am in Zone 6B so I will have to check the seed packets before I buy to make sure they will be suitable for my location.

        I don’t own a tiller but do you think it would be worth it to rent one? What do you mean by organic compost?

        I did know not to use railroad ties for raised beds because they have been treated with bad chemicals. :-) Thanks for all your help! It is very much appreciated.

  15. Nicole says

    My goal this year is not so much budgeting as it is maintaining. I have realized over the last few months that I have WAY too much stuff. I get giddy over the deals and don’t realize how much I have of something or how slowly I actually use a product. I have been couponing for several years and thought I was over that hurdle. I am with my groceries, but the drug store game has caught up with me. I have to do something about the excess stuff and the expense. I also just found out I need to save up for new tires for my car so that is an extra incentive.

    Hope everybody got their black eyed peas and greens eaten today!

  16. Dianette says

    My goal is to survive!!! We are a family of five (2 adults and 6 yr old and 2 yr old twins). I started buying with coupons in late October as a recommendation from my sister and I love it! However I have learned that I have to be careful about the sales and overstocking. We are developing a budget this year with the goal to pay off our credit card debt. It has been a trying year being in one income but I know we can make it. :)
    Thank you Michelle for all you do, you have had a great impact in our lives. May God continue to bless you and your family!!! Happy New Year!!!

  17. Yasmine says

    I have been extreme couponing for the past 3 years and it has made a tremendous impact on my life . I just paid my house off this past summer and looking forward to being debt free soon and purchase a condo on the beach for my retirement in 20 years if not sooner. Thanks iheartpublix

  18. Fort Myers says

    Budget items are staying the same for 2014 as they were more than enough for 2013 and I’m not expecting much inflation. Budget line item surpluses for the past few years were accumulated for extra principal payments on the mortgage and if we can continue that in 2014 we will finally pay off the mortgage with little pain or stress. What will be a deal breaker is if we get rampant inflation.

  19. Jessica P says

    Just a thought – you can up your budget or keep it the same for this pay period or month. Then next pay period or month you can reevaluate. Your budget doesn’t have to be written in stone. It can be adjusted. :-)

    I don’t know much about gardening but I really want to try to grow a few of my own vegetables this year. Do you know any good resources, such as a book, that could teach me some basics?

    We are keeping our budget the same as it has been. Our financial goal for the year is to be one step closer to being debt-free by paying off another debt. We are down to only TWO debts (both are my student loans!!).

    My husband and I have started a small business selling his woodworking. We opened our Etsy shop today! We only have one item listed so far but will be adding more soon. Our business can be found at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SouthernWoodGrain

  20. TJ says

    We are a family of six, with: two adults, two teenage boys, and two young boys to feed. Before quitting my job in August (to homeschool my two youngest children)our grocery/ dining out budget was $600-$800 per month. That has decreased to $400 per month. I am thankful for this site, as it has been a helpful tool in our transition. We will stick to $400 a month until our spring sports schedule begins. All of our children play sports in the spring. My two oldest boys play 2 sports each in the spring. We are on the go a lot and even travel out of state several times for tournaments. I will have to reevaluate in a few months!

  21. Meg says

    My family consists of my husband, dog, and I. Although that does not seem like a lot, I assure you, my family can eat.. My husband lost his job a few months back and we have been trying to stay on track. I still hold my job as a waitress, but sometimes it gets very overwhelming. Especially now with this new law. –> Restaurants are not permitted to put a gratuity on any table. (Let me explain why this is important to a server such as I… Where I am from, we do what is called “tip-out” ((NOT tip Share)). This means that we give back to the restaurant 3.5% of our total Sales for the shift. Also, another 2% of our credit card Tips. Let me remind you:: Some people do not understand what all us waiters and waitresses go through on a daily basis.. So some people do not tip at all. I make $2.13/hr, my checks literally balance out to $0.00. Every now and then I may receive a check for a few cents or a dollar or two. There are many people that do not tip at all. When I say at all…. I mean At All. Example: Say a party of 20 people come in. Their check runs up to about $800.00 total (which is about the average where I work. If that table leaves me a $30.00 tip and pays with a credit card, and that is the only table I have all night.. Then I tip out from the sales alone about $28. Average in the tip out from the credit card tip, and all in all I tip out a total of about $28.60. That means all I made that night would be $1.40. Its a struggle, but I am doing to best I can. I hope you all have a Happy New Year, and please…… please….. tip your server. (20% is our goal when it comes to taking home a little bit of money at the end of the shift) Thank you all so much for reading, and sorry about the post being so long!

    • says

      Meg, thanks for sharing this info! Those of us who are not in food service but take advantage of it need to hear what tipping (or not tipping) means for the servers. You really do have a hard often-under-appreciated job!

    • Cindy E says

      I am so happy you posted this info Meg. My daughter (in college) works part-time as a waitress and worked as a hostess when she was in high school. It is so important for people to realize that servers at restaurants depend on tips for their wages. PLEASE EVERYONE, when you go out to eat, TIP your server (as long as they serve you well)!!

  22. says

    I have lots going on this year. I am moving to a cheaper apt and hoping this will allow me to pay off my CC. Then I want to be able to save enough for an Ironman as a reward :-) If I do that, it will be at the end of a disciplined process — saving money first, but then focusing on training, rest, eating right, and balancing friends and family as well. Yikes…looking at it like that makes it seem like even more than I thought it was!

  23. Julie says

    Can you please share how you feed your crew for just 40 a week. Its me and my husband and my two year old and I always spend too much a week. I would love to learn ways to cut back on grocery expenses. Please tell. Thanks!!!!

  24. Cindy E says

    This year my family is focusing on paying off our credit cards. I am also going to only purchase products that my family uses instead of buying “the best deals”. I am going to put aside “extra money” left from grocery shopping each week and save for Christmas presents. Thank you Michelle for this great website!

  25. Tanisha says

    This year we are going to focus on paying off debt. It’s just my BF and myself, and we spend approximately $250/month on groceries, personal care, and household items. I think that is pretty good because I am brand specific on a lot of things. We prefer certain body washes, soaps, toilet tissue, paper towels, laundry detergent, etc. so I don’t mind spending a little extra for the things we want. We also just bought a second car, and our plan is to pay extra on the principal to pay off quicker. We do have a small savings in case of any emergencies, and we do eat out every Friday after a long work week, but we do cook at home from scratch most of the time.

    Some of you may have seen/heard about this before, but I just found out about it earlier this week. I don’t have a link or anything but you can save over $1300 this year by saving every week of the year.

    The 1st Friday of 2014, save $1
    The 2nd Friday of 2014, save $2
    The 3rd Friday of 2014, save $3, and so on. By the end of the 52nd week you will have saved over $1300.

    I am going to do this x2 – one for me, and one for my BF.

    Happy New Year to all. And thanks to Michelle for doing all of the work for us to save for our families.

    • Heather says

      My husband and I started this last month. We are trying to save for an anniversary trip this year. Figured it is not so hard and we both keep each other in check to make sure that we put our money in the jar. Good luck!

      • Tanisha says

        That’s a great idea Heather! We haven’t had a vacay in over a year, and we should add a yearly trip to our agenda since couponing saves us so much money, and we are trying to add to the savings/emergency fund too. Good Luck to you too, and happy travels!

  26. Tasha says

    Three years ago, my family of three averaged between $125-$150 a week at the grocery store. After establishing a very well-rounded stockpile of household items and health/beauty supplies which should cover us for a year at a time, we now average between $30-$40. I have been able to build a nice emergency fund and this year plan on socking money away for retirement. 2014 is suppose to be a rosy year for investing, and my hope is to bring my retirement closer to realization rather than later. Thanks Michelle for giving me the tools to make it happen. I will always be grateful and so will my two good friends…one who was struggling and the other who loves save!

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