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A month into 2010

How many times are resolutions made and a month later, you have no idea what they were? So I thought I would recap my resolutions, and possibly revamp them just a little bit.

  1. Lose baby weight (I’m sure this is a goal that many people make) by my birthday in Feb. I only have 10 pounds to go.
    *
    I haven’t done so well with this. In fact, I haven’t worked out much this month. Didn’t help that I have gotten sick twice now.*
  2. Pay off Snap On, Les Schwab and Us Bank. Get rid of Snap On and Us Bank. *So far so good. We paid off both Snap On and Les Schwab this month*
  3. Start a medical savings account, and put money into it each month, even if that is only $10. *The plan is to do this when we get our tax return back, so maybe another month or so*
  4. Add $25 to Jesse’s car payment per month. Over a year this will result in an extra payment and 1/2. *We decided not to do this but to add that extra to whatever is the bill of the month*
  5. Save $5 every time we get paid. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but I have a very, very hard time saving money and its a small amount but you have to start somewhere. *Again, rather than just saving $5, we are saving everything extra and what we don’t use for our day to day living*
  6. Use the money from the savings each month and drop it onto a bill. *This we are doing and its why we have managed to pay off two bills already*

My mini goal for February is to work out two days in a row. If I can do two days, then maybe I can do three.

Debbie Downer

I have a dog named Todd. He is 6 years old and a border collie/ black lab mix. And I am having to find him a new home. Every so often he will snap at Jacob and I am worried that one of these days the snap will become a bite. Friday someone is coming to meet him. I hope it works out. I am very sad about this as I have had him since he was a puppy. He is SO smart and a wonderful dog. Just not as great around little people as I was hoping.  Also its not fair that he doesn’t have a nice back yard to run and play in.

Jacob and I are both sick. He has a cough, I have a cough. Its not fun at our house right now.

We’ve done pretty good at sticking to the budget. I know that next month will be better. And eventually it is just going to be second nature.

A Visit From Murphy

Murphy’s Law that is!

Used my phone today and turned around 10 mins later to use it again and it was the black screen of death! No matter what I did, it wouldn’t turn on. It wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t the only phone that I have. I’m kicking myself for selling our other phones when we upgraded.

So the money I had set aside to pay off Les Schwab went instead towards a new phone. And I sorta financed it. Because I have been with the cell phone company since 2006, I had a $100 equipment replacement line. The phone I got was $109.99 with a $50 mail in rebate. Anyhow, this will add $20 a month to our cell phone bill for the next 3 months.

Now I could have gone with the $50 phone. However I would have been coming back in two months or so and spending the money to get the phone I got. Its nothing super fancy.However it has a camera, a micro sd card and a music player, all the same things my other phone had.

Mine is White with Aqua. Its pretty!

But I do feel guilty. But I babysit this weekend. So I will have the money to pay for the Murphy visit and to pay Chapman. Ugh…

I’ve applied for a few jobs, hopefully I will get an interview soon.

Its not that I want to go back to work, I don’t. But I want to be out of debt so we can purchase our first home and start trying for number two. I want this bad enough to sacrifice for a little while, so I won’t have to sacrifice for the rest of my life.

I just copied and pasted this for you to read, and have added my own comments. Enjoy!

1. Convenience Stores

Many people don’t think about the mark-up they pay for convenience store items. Here’s a hint: it’s huge. This is because these stores don’t purchase food in the large quantities that a grocery store does and also because they make you pay more for the convenience they provide. So, unless it’s an emergency situation, avoid shopping at convenience stores. The premium you pay for convenience is not worth the assumed convenience you get. For example, a Coke at a convenience store might cost you a dollar, while you can go to the grocery store and buy a 12 pack for $4. If you tend to pull over for a drink, buy a 12-pack and keep it in your car. If you visit convenience stores often, the annual savings of cutting out these visits can be tremendous.

*I know that I haven’t thought about this one before. I love the size that convenience store items come in, but it makes WAY more sense to buy a bigger bag of potato chips*

2. Cell Phone Plans

Take the time to check your monthly cell phone bill – you may be paying more than you need to. If you are using fewer minutes than your monthly plan allows, switch to a lower-rate plan. If you are using more minutes than your monthly allotment, then upgrade to a higher minute plan. Before making any changes to your plan, sit down with a list of your cell phone company’s offerings and compare and determine which plan provides the most value based on your needs. Most cell phone companies charge 40 to 50 cents per additional minute, so going over your allowed minutes by 100 minutes one month will cost you $40 to $50 in that month alone. With many minute plan upgrades costing $10 to $20 a month, they’ll easily pay for themselves.

You should also scan through your cell phone plan for added features like text messaging and mobile internet. If you aren’t really using these features, get rid of them – they’re costing you money each month!

*For two lines on a family plan with unlimited texting and like 700 minutes to share, we pay $88 a month. Not too bad in my opinion*

3. Soft Drinks

This one is a sneaky money waster. Not only does ordering beverages along with a restaurant meal boost your total expenses, but soft drinks also have one of the highest markups of any restaurant item, and thus provide lower value for your money. Consider a typical family of four that eats out twice a week at fast casual restaurants (typical for a middle class family even today). Assuming an average price of $1.50 for a fountain soft drink, that totals $12 a week, $48 a month, $624 a year. Just cutting out this one item from your meal could mean significant savings that could go into something much more productive, such as a retirement savings plan. If you invest $624 at the market average of 9% a year every year, you would have almost $32,000 at the end of 20 years. So dine out, but opt for water!

*Water is good for you no matter what, and it instills better habits in your children. This way soda becomes a treat*

4. Unnecessary Bank Fees

Many people unknowingly pay a lot to their banks in the form of fees. If you don’t know what fees your accounts are subject to, spend a few minutes finding out. Some banks charge ATM fees for using another bank’s ATM, for example. These can be as high as $5! This amounts to a 25% one-time fee for a $20 withdrawal. The key with this type of fee is simply knowing about it. You would be better off using a credit card to make the purchase.

Go back and examine the rules governing your checking and savings accounts. Many people have accounts with a fixed number of withdrawals and deposits per month. You would be better off with an account maintenance fee of $10 a month than getting hit with two or three different fees a month.

Also consider consolidating bank accounts, as often one account with a larger minimum can eliminate numerous fees that might otherwise exist.

*Don’t have anything to say to this one*

5. Magazines

If you’re the type of person who likes to occasionally pick up your favorite magazine from the local grocery store or newsstand, consider getting an annual subscription. Even if you don’t want the magazine every month, a couple of issues at the newsstand are enough to cover the entire annual subscription. For example, a 26-issue subscription to Forbes Magazine will cost you less than $25, while one issue at the newsstand costs $5.

*In order for us to be on our Financial Journey we have stopped buying magazines*

6. Annual Credit Card Fees

Unless you have a poor credit history, there is no reason to pay annual credit card fees. A host of Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards have no annual fee, yet many people pay up to $100 a year for the privilege of holding a credit card. Unless you’re an ultra-wealthy, exclusive holders of an elite-level credit card with exclusive perks, most people should not be paying annual credit card fees.

And speaking of credit cards, make sure you make a payment on time every month, even if it’s the minimum. Many credit cards charge $39 monthly late fee charges, charges which accrue interest along with your existing balance.

*I have a hard enough time paying late and over limit fees, why would I want to be charged to use their card?*

I hope that everyone enjoyed reading this. Being frugal and on a budget does require some planning. But I have faith that it can be done!

Gone!!!! & Winco

Thursday was payday. Yay! It also marked the beginning of the Dave Ramsey plan and using the envelopes.  $80 went into groceries, $50 in to each of the gas envelopes, $10 in toiletries, $10 in pet supplies, $20 in Jacob stuff (diapers, clothes, etc), $10 in Laundry supplies. This also left about $70 in the bank account to act as a buffer.

After making the monthly payment on both Snap On and Les Schwab, I got their pay off balances. Today (Friday) I paid off Snap On ($65.80), and Monday (or Tuesday with Mon being a holiday) I will pay off Les Schwab ($44.35). This just from saving my babysitting money! All together that frees up $65 a month! I am beyond pleased with myself. And it feels SO good to start of the plan by paying two bills off!

On to Winco. As I stated above, we put $80 in to the grocery envelope. We went last night and spent $58.83. Here is what we got:

  1. Kashi Autumn Harvest cereal (I had a coupon for $2 off)
  2. 2 boxes of graham crackers
  3. 3 boxes of cereal bars
  4. 2 boxes of Fiber One pop tarts
  5. Baking cups
  6. 2 boxes of brownie mix
  7. A box of plastic baggies (gallon size)
  8. 2 bags of Quaker mini rice cakes
  9. 2 bags of Kraft shredded cheese
  10. 9 individual packages of lunch meat (these get frozen)
  11. 5 individual string cheeses
  12. 2 packages of fettuccine noodles
  13. Kraft singles
  14. 2 Resers burritos
  15. 2 cans of sliced olives
  16. Sour cream
  17. Hot sauce
  18. 3 packages of snack pack puddings
  19. Mayo
  20. 4 cans of peas
  21. 6 cans of tuna
  22. 2 cans of butter beans
  23. 2 cans of kidney beans
  24. 2 cans of white beans
  25. 2 containers of dill relish
  26. Baking power
  27. Loaf of bread
  28. Tub of butter

Over all, 62 items for an average of $0.94 per item.

Then Jesse had to stop there tonight because I had a few coupons that I had wanted to use and left at home. Here is what he got:

  1. a gallon of 2% milk
  2. 3 boxes of pasta roni
  3. 3 boxes of twin pack hamburger helper (so 6 boxes)
  4. 4 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese
  5. A package of Activia yogurt
  6. A package of Yoplus yogurt
  7. A 5lb bag of potatoes

14 items for an average of $0.74 each. He saved $4.53.

What a great shopping trip!

How I grocery shop

I’ve been asked, How do you only spend $150 a month on groceries?? Well I am going to shine some light on that.

First off, what do I consider groceries? Groceries for me are anything that I can eat. This is mainly because we live in Idaho but shop in Washington and I am not paying 3% more in sales tax than I have to. But we shop in Washington for groceries because there is NO tax on groceries there.

Secondly, we only go once a month. I make out enough meal plans to give me extra and we go once a month. The $150 does include the once in awhile trip to the store to get milk or cheese.

Let me throw this in there too. Some months its $150, and some months its $100. This is because we only buy meat every month and a half to two months. We eat chicken, pork and ground beef. Although this month we are getting beef roast and rib steak thanks to my wonderful friend Melissa.

So here is what a shopping trip looks like for us:

I take my list, it has the things I am out of and NEED and the things I need for meal plans, and for Jesse’s lunches. I also sit down and match up coupons to my list. I set those aside and still bring my HUGE binder. Before we even walk into the store, we have set the budget at $100. Thats what I want to walk out having spent. This is really a two person job, or a job to do without kids. Unless of course they are old enough to really help. And as much as my 13 month old would love to help, he just isn’t big enough yet. Every time something goes into the cart, it gets a tally mark on my list. For example, if the item I put in there was $0.98, I would put one tally mark on there. If the item was $1.47, I would probably do two. This works really well for Jesse and I. It makes us stick to our list AND our budget. I’ve been shopping this way for almost two years now.

The other thing to do is compare unit price. Just because something is cheaper in overall price, this does not mean that you are getting the best deal possible and your money’s worth. Unless you are on a VERY tight budget, I would recommend getting the item with the lower unit price.

I also buy a lot of store brands. Unless the name brand is cheaper or there is a significant taste difference (a lot of the time there isn’t).

I would also like to point out that we are getting WIC. This just covers Jacob’s milk (I still buy milk for Jesse and I), cereal for him, 1 pound of cheese (cheese sticks, otherwise known as string cheese), 1 pound of beans, two things of juice, 1 loaf of bread (whole wheat), and $6 worth of fresh fruits or veggies. 90% of that is only used by Jacob. And I still have to buy him milk when he runs out.

We do manage to get fresh fruits and veggies. We are blessed to have a local store that has a great selection and great prices.

Last but not least, I coupon! When using coupons, its only worth it to me if I can get the same item for less than the store brand. If not, then I don’t use my coupon. Twice now, since I started doing this, I have had to have overrides at the check stand for saving so much money! Over $20. This reminds me about the tally mark. If I am using a coupon for an item that I am putting in my cart, I write (or tally) the price it would be BEFORE the coupon. That way when I get to the check stand and I tell Jesse that we are at $105 in tally marks and we walk out paying $85, I can feel REALLY good about it!

What can you do to bring your grocery bill down???

Inspiration

I lay in bed at night and think about all the cool posts I want to write.  Then I get up in the morning to write them and it just never happens. I can never remember what I thought would be so cool to write about. Something that other people would like to read. Then I realize that I don’t keep this for other people. This blog is for me. Now if someone decides that I’ve inspired them, then great.

I’m coming to learn that I love saving money. Almost as much as I love spending it. The trick for me is figuring out what I need and what I have a huge stock pile of.

This is the stock pile of just Jesse and I’s stuff.

  1. 5 Herbal Essence shampoo or conditioner (about 2 to 3 years worth)
  2. 3 Crest mouth wash (6 months worth)
  3. 3 Dial foaming hand soap + 2 softsoap hand soap (about 1 to 2 years worth)
  4. 5 Gillet fusion shaving creams (a good 2 to 3 years worth)
  5. 6 Suave deodorants + 2 trial sizes (about 3 to 5 years worth)
  6. 3 Gillet fusion razors + 2 packages of blades (6 months to a years worth)
  7. 3 tubes of toothpaste (about 1 year to 1.5 years worth)
  8. 1 Venus razor

I also have TONS of baby stuff. Shampoo, bubble bath, lotion, body wash. Basically, I need to stop buying this stuff! Even if its on sale or clearance, unless of course I can get it for free or almost free. This list does not include feminine items or body lotions. The only thing we don’t have a huge back stock of  is body wash.

Right now I have $10 a month budgeted for toiletries. I think this is a good start considering the stock pile that I have going.

We are trying to get away from using so many paper towels. And once we run out of sponges we are going to dish cloths. Its got to be cheaper than buying sponges, and more sanitary.

We have a wonderful friend that gave us some meat. So now I have a beef roast, more hamburger and rib steaks. Mmm! This will cut our grocery bill by a little bit this month.

A few days ago I spent $3 on a scratch ticket. I felt bad afterwords because it was not in my budget. I won $3 on it. So I traded it in for another one. Won $3. Traded that one in. Won $6. So now I have gotten my $3 back and I can still play another one. So I did. Won $8. Kept $5 and got another card. Won $40. Now I’m not a gambler or very lucky. At this point though, Jesse has said that I can keep playing until I don’t win anything. I imagine this will be soon. But its been fun while it has lasted.