Biggest things that helped:
- Dedicated cards. I used to have two that I used whenever the mood would strike me. Now one of those is for auto-bills only, it lives in a drawer and it's no mystery what the spend on it is every month. If I want to see how I'm doing, I have one card to check, and that's the "wallet" card. I also know what the spend SHOULD be, so I check it every week.
- I kept up my spreadsheet. Every month, I read my statement and record the "purchases". That way I know my average spend, whether we're drifting up or down. It's also nice because if you told me I needed 6-9 months of emergency savings, I can tell you exactly what that is.
We used to use a debit card for groceries, with a very calculated weekly deposit into a special account. I dropped that in March and now groceries are on a credit card, because points. It's a Chase rewards. They have a really great app, with a snapshot that tells you your weekly spend as soon as you swipe it, even if the charges are "pending". I have no regrets there.
I like using the usda cost of food reports for grocery budgets. I got that tip from Elizabeth Warren's personal finance book that she wrote before she was really famous. It's a great book. Anyway, according to that site my family of four costs about $250 a week to feed, if we are "moderate". So that is what we try to do. Somewhere there are families spending $150 a week on the "thrifty" plan. I would love to try this but Marc would have a heart attack.
2020 also helped because we couldn't eat out or travel, but we had some pretty major house repairs too.
2018: I won't say what we spent but it was too much
2019: Spent $8700 less than we did in 2018
2020: Spent $3800 less than we did in 2019
I'm determined to keep it going. In January we are not buying alcohol or cookies. Olive asked, "Since when is this a thing?" and I told her since always, it'll be great! I cannot describe the look she gave me back. It was not positive. Josie is like me, she loved getting into the family finances, the charts and numbers and telling us we couldn't eat out. Olive just sighed and said she wished we could live in a mansion. Overrated, I told her! You should see the utilities!