When is it time to cull the budget?
On Thursday, I talked about the fact that there should be distinctions among the various non-necessary expenses. Right now, they're all considered "luxuries" or "wants." But some items are more dear to us than others. (Thanks to Revanche for supplying me with the term "luxureeds" in the comments section of Thursday's post!)
So, when we start the debt reduction process -- or even just begin living more frugally -- we assess our expenses. We trim out the absolute expendable stuff. We try to keep desirable luxuries (ie, eating out or buying clothes) to a minimum. And slowly we begin to make progress.
Still, budgets are made to be tweaked. So at what point do we take it upon ourselves to reassess our priorities? When do we question what we need, what we want and what we can afford? In short, when is it time to cull your budget?
Many of us have basic budget allotments each month. Personally, I do a week-by-week budget because a) Tim gets his unemployment checks weekly, b) we have so many costs it's easier to break them down and c) it keeps us from spending all available funds at the beginning of the month. Whether you go month to month, week to week or even day to day, the real question remains: How often do you review your budget?
We're not just talking about updating for new expenses or triumphantly lowering the amount of old ones after a successful attempt to decrease your bills. This is the sort of thing that should be an ongoing effort or, at the very least, something that you do at the start of each budget cycle.
I guess I'm wondering how folks handle the more thorough budget scrutiny. Do you sit down and really think through your necessities, luxureeds and flat-out luxuries? Do you make an effort to slowly pare down further? In other words, is there a defining moment when you realize your current effort isn't enough?
I know that some PF bloggers have trial periods. Frugal Dad and his wife decided to try living without expanded cable. After one year, they talked and evaluated whether to continued. (In the end, they reinstated the cable, but it was more for the kids than the adults.) Others try to treat it like a game. They are always trying to find a new savings route: a new savings method, a new attempt to lower expenses, a new item they can live without.
So, for you, is budget scrutiny an ongoing thing? Is it a constantly simmering back burner in your head? Or do you and your spouse schedule times to evaluate budgetary issues? Or is it simply spotaneous, as you find inspiration through blogs, friends' anecdotes or bits of news?