I have often said in the past that saving money and living on less is a lifestyle choice. I will also be the first to admit, it is not a fun or easy choice. I wanted to highlight some of the better choices that I made this week.
Gardening– The weather earlier this week was beautiful, highs in the 70’s for several days in a row. We took one afternoon and spent about 2 hours trimming the rose bushes and removing weeds from the garden and flower beds. I am really excited to have extra time this summer to spend working and caring for the garden. After some thought, Matt and I have agreed to use our Swagbucks for both plants and supplies that we need to eliminate the initial cost. I estimate that prior to planting, first of May, we should have around $150 in gift cards to use for this project. I am hopeful that this will cover not only the cost of the plants but also some fertilizer and additional dirt. I did purchase 2 packs of seeds at Walmart this weekend. We found for fifty cent each. I used Shopkicks ($2 card earned in the store) to cover this purchase. No upfront expenses make any and all food we manage to raise FREE!
Groceries– This is probably my greatest struggle. This week we have focused on eating up and not letting any of the leftovers from junk food Sunday go to waste. One evening this week was a left-over meal. Additional, we have been using these items for lunches. I enjoyed one day of a huge salad that included broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and tomatoes from the veggie tray. We added taco dip to our dinner of chicken enchiladas and spinach dip (creamed spinach) to our Salisbury steak meal. I made egg salad with the remaining devil eggs which both Zach and Kendall took for lunch.
I also have found some new crock pot recipes that I want to try over the next couple of week to add to our list of quick and good meals. This particular website even provides a grocery list but I want to try each recipe using what we already have before spending additional money. If these turn out to be repeats, they will be a summer project to stock the freezer while I am out of work during the summer.
I purchased a grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid on sale for 60% off today. Our family does not particular enjoy roast, we purchased a whole cow last year with probably 20 different roast. My plan is to use the new attachment to turn the roast into hamburger which we used on a regular basis.
CVS- I have slowly been stock up on a variety of items from the weekly sales. I have managed to make a weekly trip the last several weeks. My saving percentages have been around 75% for each week. I have needed to restock on toothpaste, shampoo and body wash up front before moving on to laundry detergent and paper products. I am limiting myself to spending $10 or less per week at CVS.
When I posted goals in January, I was going to work very very hard at achieving them. I was honest and thought that they were attainable. But what I failed to take into account is that January is the LONGEST month of the year. seriously 5 full weeks.
The good news
I have been able to keep a record of our spending in gas. It is averaging around $93 a week. This will give me a realistic amount to work in the budget.
I found out that my insurance paid more than expected on Zach’s brace. This was a huge expected win. I actually only owe 2 or months instead of 3. In addition each month is approximately $10 than I anticipated
I have been able to keep up with my devotions at three times a week!
NOW the fail
Both Matt and I have apple phones that are 2.5 years old. They were both paid for in August. Over the past several weeks, things have gone from annoying like no siri, a delay when receiving message to problematic. When I receive a text is take a minute including a white screen before I can read it. In addition my gps was acting strange and finally my phone lost a work message. We did some research and decided to take advantage of Verizon’s BOGO apple phone sale. We ended up spending about 3 hours at the Verizon store. We both got new phones and I got an apple watch. As much as I use my phone and we both need it for work, it is an expense that is justified in the end.
I also had intended to spend $60 or less on groceries this month. So far I have spent $75 however I am planning a trip to Costco on Saturday. A full week early but a trip that is need to restock several major items include garbage bags, toilet paper and paper towel. I have managed to only buy items we are out of this month so at least that is a start.
Things have returned to normal around here. At least as normal as they will ever get!
I am very happy to report that we have been sticking to our grocery budget so far and I can even see a difference in our pantry. I also noticed this week, we are starting to run out of the preferred snacks and lunch for the kids. I have started a list on the refrigerator in order to determine if we need a Costco trip for February and unfortunately the answer half way through January is yes! My goal is to keep the list going for another two weeks and try to stretch things as far as I can. So far, I have spent a total of $48.57 cent on groceries with a goal of $60 or less for the month.
One of my favorite website to read these days is http://theprudenthomemaker.com/ each week she list all the ways she has saved money and then encourages others to provide their list as well. Most weeks we do the same things so I will definitely not make a list each week but maybe once a month or so would be fun. Here are the ways we have been saving money lately.
- Stopped at CVS this morning for free toothpaste. The CVS app has a $1 off any toothpaste coupon. I bought Crest, which was on sale for $3.00 used the coupon and $2ECB. Paid tax of fourteen cent and earn 2 ECB back.
- Used water from the kids water bottles to water all the plants
- Purchased 2 dinner plates at the local Chinese restaurant and brought them home to eat. Total of $23 to feed all 5 of us plus a left-over meal for someone for lunch.
- Used Nail polish already purchased to paint my nails on Sunday night instead of getting a manicure once a month or more.
- Menu planning and prepping the crock pot at night. We have eaten out only twice since Christmas. Once we used a gift card and the Chinese from above.
- Made pizza dough in the bread maker instead of ordering pizza for lunch on Saturday.
- Used gift cards earned from Swagbucks to purchase a Roku Stick and picture frame that I wanted.
- Stocking up on items on sale such as shampoo and toothpaste instead of buying when we are in need.
- Repurposing left-overs like tonight used rice from Saturday evening and from Chinese instead of making a new batch. This way, we have less food waste. Saturday night, I made a batch of rice and then gave everyone a choice of pulled pork, pepper steak or beef and broccoli that were left-overs.
- Adding layers of clothing, instead of turning up the heat in the house. The temperature is currently set at 69 but we all have been cold. I ended up adding a sweatshirt and socks to stay warm.
Are any of these new or different to you?
We have talked about 2018, now on to what I hope to accomplish in 2019.
I like the idea of choosing a word for the year. I am not sure how to keep this in focus but I am going to work on that. May learn a new verse each month or find something each month to share? Mainly, I just want to remind myself that I always have a choice as to what I focus on. My word for 2019 is “JOY”. I am going to choice joy no matter what is happening and I want to find joy in the little things of life.
Financially- The overall goal is to reduce our debt. I would like to reduce our personal debit to less than $20,000 or by $6,000. This is a very lofty goal but any reduction is a significant improvement so I want a goal that seems almost impossible. One of the biggest changes I want to make this year is the way I spend money. We are now paying our bills essentially a month ahead of time. This means that I actually paid all bills due in January on December 31st. By continuing in this manner, I will be able to move unspent money into another place and keep much better records. I also plan to use cash method for keeping up with most of the items except for gas. Finally, I want to use our second checking account as a slush fund/sinking fund account. Any extra money such as mileage checks or money earned from apps will go into that account. I can use it for extra such as meals out or other wants as they arise. For example, I eat out with my co-workers on Fridays, this will be where the money comes from. Today, I ordered a late Christmas gift for Matt’s father and the money came out of the account. This will allow me to not overspend in addition to keeping track of what extra we do have to spend. I am not planning to set a gas budget for the year as there is little to no way to control this when we go over. We simply can’t stop driving. I am going to track our spending for gas to achieve a better understanding of what we are spending. Grocery budget is $400 a month. This will be a reduction from last year even without including our cow purchase but again we have to have a goal.
Blogging- I am going to set the goal at 15 a month. I enjoy writing and I want to spend time doing it more often this year.
Weight- I need to lose at least 30lbs. I like to keep track of days exercised as it again gives me something to improve.
Bible Study- This is a area that I definitely need to make changes in. I am going to be realistic and set a goal of 3 times a week. If and when I have meet this goal for a month I can always increase.
Now let’s talk about specific goals for January- I have already paid our bills including some extra Christmas cost. I don’t have a saving goal this month because I honestly don’t have a way. Baby steps!
No spending outside of the Slush fund.
Groceries at $60 or less
Keep up with gas spending for the entire month.
Walk at least 10 times this month, before I can start this I need to get my snow village put away so I can set up the treadmill.
It was the worst of times and the best of times. 2018 was definitely a hard year for us on all aspects, personally, emotionally and financially. Yet, I am totally at peace and looking forward to 2019.
2018 was a year of change, Matt began a full time position and I switch from working at the hospital for 12 years to working in Davie County schools. These were both huge positive changes but they required a lot of faith!
I have been planning a recap of the year just to have it in one place for several days and finally sat down tonight to pull number. First I must admit that I have no idea what our grocery or gas spending was during the month of December. I just did not keep up. For the sake of having a number, I am going to say we spent $300 in groceries.
We did purchase a whole cow in 2018 and should have enough meat to use this entire year. The average amount for grocery spending was $617 a month or $7400 for the year. I am shocked at how low this number really. That is around $125 a month of each of us including all household items for cleaning and laundry.
Auto expenses are another huge expenses for us. Looking back we spent an average of $250 a month prior to August on gas. With our job changes in August, I honestly can’t give an average. I am going to work diligently in January to find out this number! Extra expenses including purchasing of the red car, a new windshield for the silver van and new tires for the silver van.
Our financial gain for the year was reducing our debit by half. The majority of this reduction came from my retirement but I am convinced that slow and steady will win the race and we will be able to stay on this same course. One really bright spot was the fact that we earned an average of $110 a month via Swagbucks and other free apps.
I did not meet my blogging goal, one single time in 2018 and gained weight so both of these goals will be placed back on the list of 2019.
As you can see 2018 was rough and I am positive 2019 will be much better if the only thing that changes is my attitude. My goal is to get up plans for 2019 in the next couple of days!
If you have been at our house or read a couple of blog posts you realize that food is our biggest expense except for the mortgage. It also requires the most time and effort. I honestly don’t mind cooking if and when I have the time. But here is the real confusion, I enjoy and prefer to eat out. Life and our budget tell me that this is not a reality so back to cooking I go. The balance of having enough easy simple meals for school days and cooking ahead is hard to achieve.
During the recent snow, I cooked only two meals a day and we enjoyed left-overs the third meal and even had some for the next week. Last week, we enjoyed quick simple meals Monday- Thursday. I decided on Friday two separate very different things, first- I wanted Seafood, specifically flounder and shrimp for dinner and second- I need to stretch and make a plan for food so we did not waste any food over the Christmas break. The good news is that so far it has been working! I thought I would share a recap and part of the current plan.
Friday night- Flounder and shrimp. The local seafood place has a special for 24 pieces of flounder, 6 baked potatoes and cole slaw for $22.95, I also added 2 plates of popcorn shrimp to bring my total to $45.00. This was ALOT of food especially for the cost and actually around the same as we spend for Chinese. I knew I wanted to save the baked potatoes for a second meal, so I split one for the kids that wanted it. On Saturday, I used the baked potatoes for twice baked potatoes, which became our Sunday lunch. We also had left-overs on Saturday at dinner as well. I know we have at least a fourth meal from this so I am very pleased to stretch $45 into four meals at around $10 each!
Saturday- For breakfast- I used some cinnamon raisin bread that Amanda had brought over to make French toast this was a HUGE hit with only 1 piece left. Lunch was a special treat of McDonalds. I used the app and we brought it home for drinks. Total spent was $15. Dinner was left-overs see above.
Sunday- I really try to make this as much of a day of rest as possible. This week to avoid going out after church, I placed the twice baked potatoes in the oven and they cooked while we were at church. I actually planned ahead for dinner as well. Saturday night we cooked up 2 pounds of ground beef and chopped up the ingredients for Pasta Faggioli soup. Everything was placed in the crock pot in the fridge so we move it out and turned on before heading to church for our special breakfast. The soup ended up much better than anticipated, we made up 4 lunch containers and froze for January in addition to a small container of left-overs for this week.
Monday- I had left-over gravy in the fridge and decided to make breakfast bowls. We used a pound of sausage, 12 eggs, green peppers that were frozen from the garden and onions. I fried 6 hash browns to complete breakfast. The remaining egg mixture will be rolled into burritos and frozen for a quick breakfast during school. We should have an addition 6 breakfast burritos. Lunch is left-overs, I plan on a flounder-cheese sandwich. Dinner is BBQ at my mothers!
I have been debating even writing this post for several days. November was a month that was busy, frightening and unforgettable but I also want to stay true to myself and have documented some of the reasons that things happen. First we decided to take a trip to Michigan to visit over Thanksgiving. I am a planner and two weeks is never enough time to plan a 7 day trip. But this Amanda was sick and the two weeks turned into 3 days. I spent 5 solid days at the hospital with her and ended up eating several meals just to make the days go faster. I don’t regret spending the time at the hospital and would do it again if needed but it made the month really short. I don’t even think I have actual numbers this month but best guess has to work for now.
Financial- I did fairly well for our trip expenses and I still plan to write a blog post about that. I did end up spending money on more new clothes and shoes. The good news is that we paid all our bills and we have no real needs.
Grocery budget $500- I did end up staying under this amount I am positive. However I am going to guess that I spent around $200 this month on groceries. I am going to plan a HUGE grocery trip at the end of December but the goal is to stay well under $100 prior to that.
Gas- Our trip to Michigan cost us 7 tanks of gas for around $250. I have absolutely no idea what else was spent in gas for the month except $15 on parking for the hospital.
Kid/Summer expenses: Kendall gymnastics $60 was the only required spending for the month but I am thinking I also paid $20 on a fieldtrip.
Earned $100- I have gift cards left for Christmas and we used $70 for trip expenses .
Blogging-5 for the month. I had many things to think about an little time to blog this month.
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.
It is one thing to anticipate spending after planning and knowing exactly where you wanted to spend money but quite another for bunch of small “fixes” becoming a very expensive month. In October, we ended up with some MAJOR automotive cost. First we need the oil changed on both vans. Next the silver van needed four new tires and finally the silver van needed a new battery. UGH, we made the choice to leave our emergency fund intact at around $600 and place the new tires on a credit card. Frustrating but not a total budget disaster. The good news is that I anticipate paying off this prior to the beginning of the year!
Financial- Yikes, did you read above. In addition, I have purchased new clothes and shoes for most of us. I am hopefully that we can stop spending and enjoys frugal months prior to Christmas without really noticing a change.
Grocery budget $500- Total spent $700. Yes, that puts us over for the second month in a row. I have pulled out $100 in cash to use for groceries this month. We are stocked up and I really want to eat what we have. The good news is because of losing power in October, we moved everything from the house freezers to the ones in the building. I was able to really organize and we have a great system for pulling up and knowing what food we are going to use. I have already pulled the food we need for the month of November minus Thanksgiving so we are only buying needs and good sales.
Gas- We are currently around $200 over for the month. This does include gas for the generator we ran but about 24 hours as well. I have not figured out exactly how much we are spending but get a better idea in November.
Kid/Summer expenses: We ended up spending another $100 for Lily for theater this month. We spent around $25 on baseball games including some food. Kendall choose to begin gymnastics this month which cost $100 for the first month.
Earned $175- This is a huge improvement from the last year. We have used most of this to purchase Christmas gifts. I also paid for clothing with this money this month.
Blogging-12 for the month. I will admit that this has been a struggle but my goal is to make this goal at least for November and December as we have no travelling planned.
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.
I don’t think there should be any doubt that eating a meal at home is way less expensive than eating out. For example, tonight I made oyster stew for four of us for dinner. Total cost $4 including ketchup and crackers so approximately $1 each.
But have you thought about homemade being healthy as well? Matt worked in the restaurant industry for several years and he shared with me one time how a new “organic” restaurant was making there own vegetable stock from the throw away parts of salad ingredients. Now if you know my family, we are not exactly the vegetarian type but it got me thinking and I did some research. I learned that basically chicken broth and beef broth are both water with flavor/fat. So I decided to make my own and save the $6.95 it cost at Walmart. The homemade version contains way less salt and no preservatives!
Last night we enjoyed T-bone steaks from our freezer for dinner. After we finished eating, I simply tossed the remaining bones and fat in several crockpots. I fill with water and turn on low for 12 to 15 hours. No cost really. This morning I turned the pots off and tonight I packaged up the beef broth in Ziploc bags which I was paid to take out of Walmart. Any time a recipe calls for beef broth or a beef bullion cube I use our beef broth. It has no extra preservatives, no extra salt and usually increased the taste of most foods.
I did clean out one of the small crockpots and started a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce. I used up all the tomatoes that we picked last week ahead of the freezing temperatures, green peppers also from the garden. I have dried oregano, frozen basil and parsley leaves that also ended up in the pot. I have this cooking all night and will use the immersion blender in the morning to make the sauce smooth. Again really no cost for us and it contains no preservatives or ingredients I can’t pronounce.
After a really expensive spending week, I am so glad to save some money and keep us on a good financial track.