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We blew all our magic jar money this week, but it was a good thing

I knew when we started the jars last week that I would have to spend some of our booty on my trip to the optometrist.

I hadn’t bargained on the eye checkup and contact fitting to cost nearly 50% of our entire budget for the week (maybe one day Alberta Health Care will cover eyes). We technically completely blew our budget this week because of it. But because I didn’t bring that much cash to the eye doctor, I stuck the bill on my debit card and chalked it up to a learning experience.

Because lucky for me, we’re in the learning stages of budgeting, not the eating vs. paying bills stage that we hope to stay away from forever. However, it was a stark reminder that in another scenario going to the optometrist would be out of the question without a proper savings account in place.

Eye appointment aside (and I’m totally happy with my new optometrist and contacts, by the way), I think we did well with our budget jars this week. Sometimes money evaporated quickly, but other times jars stayed full because we were more thoughtful than usual. Here’s a breakdown of where the money went and what we gleaned from it all.

Where our money went this week

  1. We efficiently dispensed of our “Food” jar by Day 5. The best thing we did was making a grocery list, so I spent $50 at Superstore instead of the usual $[inaudible shame of not planning ahead]. I think we could have kept this budget tighter, though, because we were a little loosey goosey with our grocery planning outside of that Superstore list.
  2. Since I’m the only one driving to work right now, our “Transportation” jar was only dipped into once for a gas station trip. I filled up before gas jumped back up to 93 cents a litre, so we still have a few bills in the jar. This is a good thing, because Jason is in the market for new tires.
  3. Our “Entertainment” jar, which held about the same amount of cash as “Food,” became a bit of a fallback jar if we needed tortilla chips for homemade nachos or a croissant from the bakery nearby because I was grumpy that I had to go to the doctor. It was also where we pulled cash for a drink with friends at the pub. If we had to, we could cut way back on our entertainment budget, and I dunno, go to sleep earlier.
    You call that a cell phone?
  4. Speaking of the doctor, I used moolah from “Everything Else” to pay for antibiotics, another unexpected expense, but at least a more manageable one than the optometrist bill. We still have some left in there, too. I might have to dip into it for an outing this evening.
  5. Finally, our “Clothes/Gifts” jar remained relatively untouched. This makes sense, as such things tend to be larger purchases. Jason bought me some chocolate from here just because, and those might even last into Week 2! I’ll also be drawing from here for his V-Day gift, but he’ll probably end up with a homemade card. Can’t win ’em all.

Did we learn anything about budgeting this week?

Oh did we! A few things Jason & I noticed:

  • Seeing how much money is available for the week made us think twice about every purchase. I think it saved us a few frivolous indulgences. Sometimes thinking twice just reminds you how clever you are, though!
  • You can’t plan for every cost that will arise, whether it’s getting sick or a flat tire. So just plan for all unexpected costs by putting aside emergency fund money so you don’t have to forego essentials (like eggs and Internet, not so much fresh-baked croissants) in a bad situation.
  • Plan expenditures whenever you can. Our grocery list was useful, but if it was tied into a menu plan for the week, it would have been way more efficient. Planning=saving. Plus, planning meals ahead might save us from going out to eat one night, which in turn could save us $50 really easily.
    Homemade pizza date
  • If we’re spending most of our budget on food, we may as well make it entertaining. Homemade pizza night gave us an hour of date time in the kitchen together and delicious pizzas just for the cost of mozzarella and olives (which we paid for with a Christmas gift certificate) as everything else was in our pantry or fridge. We’re probably pizza snobs, so this was important.
  • It is possible to leave the house and not spend money! Shocking though it may seem, you can achieve this with such things as thermoses filled with coffee and a granola bar in your purse.
  • When you do go out to spend, there’s always a $5 lunch option you could choose instead of the $10 one. Most meals out are bigger than what you’d serve yourself at home, right?

What’s up for magic jars week 2?

The worst TV shows are those where characters don’t learn anything and keep making the same dumb mistakes week after week. We’ll endeavour to not be those dummies. I see more planning in our future so we can keep socking away our extra dollars for fun things like RRSPs and bagels in New York City.

Tune in next time for more! Got any tips for us? Please, do tell.

Filed under: Blog

About the Author

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I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites


  1. Angela

    I find that if I end up spending a lot on food at a restaurant, I try to save some for leftovers the next day. Stretching that $10 when I can!
    There’s lots of menu planning templates on the internet that might help you plan your groceries a bit better.
    Good luck in week 2!


  2. Sam

    We don’t have spending jars (well, they’re virtual), but we do have a physical savings jar. On the 1st week of the year you add $1, week 2, add $2, etc. It adds up to $1378 at the end of the year. A nice little vacation jar, especially if you each have one.


  3. Congratulations on a successful first week. I question how two of you eat on a grocery budget of $50 a week. I struggle with that grocery budget too.

    Emergency account is so important, especially if you have cats. ThirdCat has eatten my emergency account a couple times. 😛


  4. Pingback: We spent all our grocery money and now we’re out of coffee | Zoey Writes

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