We started a monthly budget a few weeks ago. We've always paid attention to where we spend our money (you kind of have to when you essentially live paycheck-to-paycheck), but it was interesting to see how much is spent in each category relative to the next category. For the most part, what we spend money on reflects our values.
Our largest monthly expense is, by far, our rent. Our smallest monthly expense is transportation. This fits with our values, in that we're keeping gas emissions low by living practically in the city, but, as many of you know, I would prefer leaving the Boston area (so expensive!) for a more rural setting in a walkable community (Asheville, North Carolina comes to mind). In the meantime, while Hubby finishes up school, I have to stick it out. I'm not sure if it's worth moving again when our lease is up in October. If we move farther out, our rent will go down but our transportation costs will rise. Furthermore, in this area, you have to pay a non-refundable upfront fee (usually one month's rent) just to get in the apartment--in addition to the security deposit and first and last month's rent. So losing out on the $800-$1200 upfront fee is a huge factor in whether or not it's worth it to move yet again.
Coming in second in monthly expenses is our food bill. This isn't as shocking to us as it would be to most Americans (who generally pay only 13.3% of their budgets on food, nearly half of which is from restaurants). I knew we spent quite a bit on food because we buy organic and local whenever possible, but this is an area we definitely need to trim now that Fetus is in our lives. We have been cooking from scratch for several years, but we need to cook more from scratch. Hubby has started making bread and pizza dough from scratch, and although you have to wait longer to consume it, it's much better tasting and cheaper to boot. The problem with cooking everything from scratch is, of course, time. We definitely don't eat out much though. I think we've been to a restaurant maybe 8 times in the last year ... and almost every time it's been with friends or visitors.
I read this blog that inspired me to try to find ways I can save more food items when we're cooking. I still want to start composting our food scraps, but this is a good start towards reducing food waste as well.
This Forbes article describes how Americans make and spend money, differentiating between how the "top-earners" and "lowest one-fifth" spend. It follows that we're in the lowest one-fifth, spending the most on housing and food. I thought it was interesting, though, that the "top-earners" spend the second most on transportation. Maybe it's all those fancy jets polluting our airways ... Still, I assumed it would be entertainment, not transportation.
We applied for another student loan under Hubby's summer classes so we can afford this maternity leave. Hubby is still looking for a second part-time job, and I asked my work for freelance projects while I'm at home with the newborn. You gotta love America's "family values."
I entered round three of negotiations with the head honcho this week concerning post-maternity leave plans. You might remember that they offered me a managing editor promotion as a consultant (no benefits) or a full-time communications position with two days flextime (with benefits). Today, I asked for the communications position with two days from home, two days at the office, the fifth day optional but a comp day if used--with the same salary I have now.
My logic behind the salary proposal is based on their alternative: hiring a completely new communications person full-time. They can't very well say that this person has the same skills, company knowledge, training, company software programs, etc. that I do after 10 months, and I figure those skills and that knowledge are worth at least 1/5th of my current pay. I expected the negotiations to center around this figure of 1/5th, but the head honcho threw me for a loop (an illogical one at that). She basically told me they can't do that, because if I was paid my full salary working 4/5ths time, then everyone should be able to work 4/5ths time for their salary. Perhaps she misunderstood my point of their alternative (hiring, training, etc. a new employee). She actually said "increasing pay based on the skills you have from working here doesn't fly with me." I figured she just didn't want to give me the money, in which case I might just look for a new job. But then she says since it's a new position with new responsibilities, they can take a look at increasing the salary and then adjusting that figure down to 4/5ths. And then she says no fifth optional day, but "maybe we could give you some freelance work to do for that day from home." Ummm ... wouldn't that be working the three days from home, two at the office that I originally asked for? OK Sherlock.
So it's back to the waiting game while she discusses this with the other directors. I'm more than 36 weeks along, how long are we planning to wait here? The strange thing is, the company already announced to all my co-workers that I would be working in the full-time communications position, which is certainly news to me. I haven't agreed to anything yet, and seeing how unpaid my maternity leave is, I don't owe them. I don't have to come back to this company (although I really don't want to look for a job with a newborn on my hip and a breast pump in my hand, but they don't need to know that).