You can catch up on this series by reading Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here and Part 7 here. This is an eight-week series.
Last week, we wrapped up sharing our 2012 budget. In general, we recommend operating on a zeroed-out budget. This means that every cent is accounted for - how much is for groceries, how much is for housing, how much is for savings. Jason and I have found that for us, personally, we work best on an almost zeroed-out budget. We leave about 4 percent or so for unbudgeted incidents, such as the tire incident of 2011. It just depends on what works best for you - it feels better to us to not have to take so much out of savings when these things occur and just pay out of paychecks, but it's all about what feels good to you.
Or as Ms. Suze Orman would say: whatever makes you feel more powerful. We use this motto a lot to determine what big-ticket items we want to purchase first. For instance, two bigger-ticket items we're looking at are a chest freezer and a blender. Today, after touring Becker Farms and getting feedback from the Becker family and other families, we decided a chest freezer would not only make us feel powerful (having several pounds of meat stored ensures no one will ever go hungry!), but it would be more cost effective and a greater convenience in the long run. It's all about prioritizing.
Over the course of this series, I've double dog dared you to, perhaps at times, take on difficult challenges. The meatless day challenge was extremely difficult for Jason and I, and I don't know if we can really ever truly go meatless for a day (but I'm working on it, I promise!). Last week, I challenged each of you to sit down with your family and decide on a budget for 2012. I would love to hear from any of you who completed this daunting task and hear how it went!
This mini-series has been a delight for me, and I hope that this has helped shed some light on how to live, quite literally, within your means but below your needs and to offer hope that this can be done. You can be debt free. You can plan for the unexpected. You can enjoy life to the absolute fullest on your income, or heck, half of an income.
This mini-series will be back at some point in the future - to offer updates on how our 2012 budget is going and to offer up our 2013 budget. So until that time, the only true challenge in life that matters is this: to be happy. I wish you all the happiness in the world.