While it has been taking me much longer than a month to actually go through all of the steps of this challenge, it has given me opportunity to further refine my budget, as Trent suggests. Through more careful monitoring of our usage and avoiding waste I have been able to significantly lower our utility bills. Electric, gas and water have all been consistently below what we budgeted, even during the hot summer months where I expect the electric bill to be higher. I didn’t exactly used Trent’s recommended weight averaging, but I did something similar to decrease how much I set aside each month to pay the utility bills while still funneling a little extra into the savings account to cover sudden increases.  I won’t bore you with the minutia but overall I’ve been pleased by how much we’ve saved just by tracking our spending. I hate seeing our accounts go into the red, ever, much less for something silly like fast food when I’m feeling too lazy to cook. Having to look at the numbers in black and white (or my in my case, black and white and green since I use Excel) really forced you to see reality. There are things I simply can’t afford. I could ignore this and run up credit card debt, or resent it and use it as an excuse to be jealous of anyone who has more than me, or simply accept it as the current state of my life, be grateful for what I have and make plans to improve my situation in the future.  For now I’m focusing on the last option, and trying to keep either of the earlier options at bay.

I will however take a brief moment for a private rant at the frustration with bills you can’t control. I understand why taxes are necessary, but I hate paying them. I REALLY hate paying them. Our county, city, state and federal taxes are all going up next year, in spite of the fact that wages haven’t gone up in two or three years for most people in this area. In the case of our real estate and school taxes this equals a higher monthly mortgage payment, something we really can’t afford. When I look at our budget and I think about having a smaller paycheck it scares me. How will people like us who are already trying to live as frugally as possible survive when the government takes a larger chunk of our money? I can try to spend less at the grocery store and stop buying new clothing for myself and my husband unless absolutely necessary (I draw the line at letting my husband go to work with holes in his pants and the soles coming off his shoes) or buy my fast growing daughter the bare minimum needed. I already depend on hand-me downs as much as possible. I can try to lower our utility usage even further and shop around for a new insurance company if my premiums go to high. But I can’t negotiate with the government or shop around for a better rate.

Sorry for the brief tirade. I’m done now and looking forward to finally completing this 31 Day Challenge. I realize it has taken me way longer than 31 days, but I suppose it didn’t have to be 31 consecutive days.