I have shared before that our largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Yes, groceries are even higher than our car payment. Included in the grocery budget is all the cleaning products and paper products that we use in the house. On a positive note, I have been able to reduce our grocery budget over the past several years. When I started tracking our grocery budget I was spending around $800 a month. I will say that this included diapers for many years. Last year we spent $620 a month on groceries. This year, the grocery budget has varied significantly from $1100 to $175. I did an average of the 5 month and that put us at $540 a month. My goal for the year is $500 a month. I think this is doable as we continue to eat off the cow purchased last year which should reduce the budget as well.
In the month of June so far, I have spent $90.30! I am super excited about this! I am planning to have the lowest spending month ever for groceries. My goal for the summer is to keep spending below $200 for June and July.
Now on to the fun stuff, how am I planning to keep this goal reachable. First, we continue to earn at least $50 to $100 a month in gift cards from Swagbucks. I am using this earning for Walmart gift cards, to purchase toilet paper, sunscreen and all the other fun stuff that we need to keep the house running. I also received my Costco reward this month. I purchased laundry detergent, dishwashing tabs and such with it. A second way, is by using Norwex products for cleaning. I purchased the window cloth and a dusting system several years ago. Yes, the cost was upfront but after a year of use then I am saving money simply by using them. One of my new favorite ways of saving is looking through clearance section at Food Lion. I have been able to grab breakfast sausage, pastries, candy, juice and much more. This is all food that I know we will eat and usually priced fifty cent or less. I have also been going to Aldi on Wednesday afternoon, this is typically when they reduce bread and pastries. Finally, I am trying specifically to use what is in the garden, freezers and pantry. I even made a list of the items that we have in addition to several ideas of ways to use these items. In addition to the list of items we have, I started a stockpile list, these items I am going to watch for a good sale and build up our supply. I am eager to save as much money as possible this summer while enjoy a more relaxed pace!
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?
The weather has improved slightly here (50s) so Matt and I spent a considerable amount of time outside working on improvements. We have a tower that we have replaced the tarp cover on at least once a year. We had initially thought about covering with tin or wood but after much thought and debate, decided that easiest and most cost effective solution was to remove the top and leave it open. Next, we tackled an upgrade to our composite bins. These were built several years ago with all scrap material. The tops are deteriorating quickly so we used some salvaged tin to cover. This did not cost us anything and hopefully will speed up the process due to extra heat and keep unwanted animals from eating out of it. The final improvement outside was to reinforce the structure of our rain barrels. We added several pieces of scrap wood and the difference is amazing. We will be reconnecting the rain collection system in March to prepare for the summer.
A different way that I am trying to save money is finding ways to reduce our water and energy consumption. I am enjoying my huge bathtub on these cold days! To try and save even a little bit, I have been dipping out a small bucket of water from the tub each night and using it to water the house plants. The only issue is me remember to water the plants.
The final way I am “saving money” requires a little bit of flexibility. Both Matt and I actively complete Swagbucks to earn extra money. In December, we discovered that they were discounting gift cards to Burger King. We decided to purchase these instead of placing the money in our “extra account” This month, they are discounting Domino’s pizza cards. At 20% off this is huge. So far we have “earned” $65 in gift cards with my personal goal to earn $100 by the end of the month. Especially this summer, this will save us time and money!
July- Where did it go….
Debit Reduction: Failure
We broke even for the month. This is an improvement from last month but still not where I want to be.
Blog Post: Fail
I had 12 total blog post for the month. Again an improvement from last month but still not where I want to be.
Days on Treadmill: Zero
Water walking days-7 Getting better……
Groceries- Goal Met! We spent a total of $306.92 for the month of July in groceries! Second month in a row under budget with this and it did include our snack box for the beach trip.
Gas: $450 for the month. This is about $170 over budget which is the cost of annual inspection, tag and taxes on my van.
Earnings: July was an awesome month for earning. Total $285
Swagbucks: $100 for Me, $75 for Matt
MPlaces/Cricket Rewards: $10
June was certainly not the month I expected it to be. We did not increase our income and we ended up with two major house repairs that have definitely knocked up back a bit with our debit reduction. We still are living very comfortable but July-October are going to mean some serious belt tightening.
Debit Reduction: Failure
Due to the things stated above we actually have increased our debit by close to $1000 at this point. Ouch
Blog Post: Fail
I had 9 total blog post for the month. I can honestly say that June was an extremely busy month, including 4 afternoons for swim meets and a week long trip to Michigan. I have some very good intentions and plan so I hope to at least hit 15 this month.
Days on Treadmill: Zero
Water walking days-7 In addition to a full day of walking on Mackinaw Island.
I am actually documenting improvement in this year!
Groceries- Goal Met! We spent a total of $405 for the month of June in groceries! This is a huge win as the past several months have been over budget!
Gas: $355 for the month. This is about $50 over budget but does include our entire trip which was 5 tanks of gas!
Earnings: June was a positive month in this area as well. I am expecting some changes starting in July but our earning is consistently increasing. Total $220
Swagbucks: $100 for Me, $75 for Matt
MPlaces/Cricket Rewards: $15
This month has been hard. I miss my dad more than I ever thought possible and have found myself crying just because. I can honestly say, I have spent most of the month in a fog just existing. I am starting to regain my balance so I wanted to at least have a written record for this month. I did achieve the goal of filing our taxes in February and have actually already received our Federal Refund.
Debit Reduction: $850 . The only downside to this number is that I paid over $2100 toward debit but I did not acquire this in a day so as long as it is being reduced that is progress.
Blog Post: 10
Days on Treadmill: 2 This was actually spent out side walking but at least I can say I was consistent.
Groceries- $454- Below my goal of $500 so a HUGE success for us. I am actually expecting this to be lower for March and April.
Gas: $187 spent. Again under budget
Earnings: Matt and I combined for a total of $160 this month from our apps and Swagbucks. Considering my brain function for February, I am pleased with this number. .
In February, we were able to hold the course in the wind and rain. I am very proud of our progress this month.
I am optimistic that March will continue us on a positive financial note. I am so grateful to know I am shield by prayer for the other needs.
We have all heard that in order to get the best deal, you have to combine sales and coupons. I want to first say that this is not always the case but after that I am going to talk about an awesome deal that I got at Walmart.
First is that sales and coupons usually do save you money. However, you must be careful that you know your prices and that you check things out. We ran out of toilet paper last week since I could not find a decent deal on one of the couple of brands that we choose to use. I found a couple of $1.00 off coupons and headed to Walmart. The store of course was out of the product that I could use the coupon on. I decided to do some checking. I was able to find Scott’s Extra soft for thirty-three cents a roll. This is a great deal and the same price I normally pay with coupons and sale. Lesson learned check your prices!
Now to explain how I got paid to shop at Walmart. I cashed in my Mplaces for a $25 Walmart gift card. Since we are out of toilet paper, I decided to use it so as not to spend money from the budget. Our Walmart is in a shopping center, within 5 minutes of entering the area, Matt and I both completed our 25 daily check ins for Mplaces including a 100 point check in at Cricket. Next I have started using a new app called “Shop Kicks” I am sure this will be a slow money marker as I avoid shopping but I am going to scan items and complete only when I am shopping for other things so hopefully an extra $5 a month. I earned $2.50 with this trip so a really good start. With my $25 gift card I purchased 5 2 liter soda for the kids, 1 2 liter for me, 3 12 packs of Dr Pepper/ Diet Dr Pepper and 30 rolls of toilet paper. I ended up paying $2.71 after the gift card. Next I came home and submitted an offer on Swagbucks which gave me a $5 Walmart gift card back and 200 or $2 in swagbucks. So this trip was a $7 money making trip for me and we now have toilet paper for at least a month. The Swagbucks deal is purchase $10 in Diet Dr Pepper or Dr Pepper products in one trip and earn $5 E-gift card and 200 swagbucks. I am hopefully to make it back to Walmart and do this deal at least one additional if not two more time before the end of February. Are you going to join me?
This is a picture of all the apps I use that work with MPLACES. Cricket is the best because you can play games in addition to check ins and others. All of the others are ones that you read and click through. 10 is the most points you can earn on each so I keep click to I get a 10 point achievement. Make sure you tweet from each as well.
This is the first of what I think will be 3 custom cabinet that I have envisioned for our dining room. This is a very functional cabinet so I am so excited about it. I will admit that I had originally planned one day to complete this task which including the electric wiring from the breaker box of 4 new outlets. This project ended up taking us 2 full days to complete. The most exciting part of this is the cost. We spent ZERO out of pocket for this. Here are the details on how we accomplished this. First we salvaged the hinges and handles from the cabinets that were removed several weeks ago. Next we used gift cards to Lowes that we earned via swagbucks. I am so excited to share this first step in the dining room.
step one, including wiring of the new outlets
Complete frame for the cabinet
Adding the shelves, check out the mess on the floor I want to hide.
final project….. It looks so simple and clean!