The Today Show recently aired a segment featuring a young couple with two kids who were challenged to cut their spending budget in half. These types of stories are always intriguing, and not just because it is fun to pick apart another family’s budget (human nature, I suppose). It is inspiring to see what lessons the people actually learned when the process was over. Often times individuals have no idea how much they are spending on a particular category because they’ve never taken the time to add up the daily expenses and convert them to a weekly or monthly outgo. Here’s a look at the couple’s before budget:
The Roberts Average Weekly Spending Budget
- Gas: $25.00
- Starbucks: $20.00
- Eating Out: $165.00
- Grocery Store: $140.00
- Entertainment: $100.00
- Lawn/Home Care: $95.00
- Night Out With Friends: $40.00
- Shopping: $75.00
- Total Miscellaneous Expenses: $660.00 per week
That’s Not a Typo – $660 a Week
The budget probably doesn’t look all that different from other families out there (I even saw a couple familiar frivolous activities I used to engage in, and a couple I still occasionally do). Like most young families, the Roberts like to eat out several times a week. I know from experience this gets expensive when you have four mouths to feed. And from the video it didn’t look like they were dining at a budget eatery for their evening meals or using coupons or deals when possible. Even Chick-Fil-A adds up quickly if you visit a couple times a week! Mrs. Roberts was seen in the video getting a pedicure and manicure, and paying $25 to get her SUV washed and detailed. All signs pointed to the fact these guys were mega consumers.
What Lifestyle Changes Were Implemented?
During their weekly spending diet the Roberts participated in a pot luck dinner, rather than going out to eat. They washed their own car, mowed their own grass, and made lunches at home. All great moves to cut back on spending. They also visited a farmer’s market to help cut down on their grocery bill. Here’s a look at their after budget:
- Potluck Dinner: $30.00
- Lunch Out: $6.00
- Farmer’s Market: $12.00
- Gas for Lawn Mower: $3.95
- Drug Store: $24.64
- Grocery Store: $95.00
- Total Miscellaneous Expenses During the Spending Challenge: $109.38
It’s difficult to determine from an eight minute video whether or not the family’s lives were really changed. I got the impression from the segment that both the husband and wife enjoyed spending money, and spent freely before the Today Show challenge. It would be interesting to follow up with them in six months to see how many of these changes “stuck.” One thing I did see in the video was the family engaging in more quality, family time. They spent a Friday evening at the park feeding the ducks, and a weekend day playing on a Slip-n-Slide in their backyard. It appeared they really were living the good life. I don’t think it occurred to the Roberts prior to this exercise that it was possible to have fun without spending money. Hopefully they now appreciate that less is more, and that they can put the excess money they were spending frivolously to better use.
I’ve included a link to the video segment: Living With Half as Much