2019- A Look Ahead

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.

Personally-
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.

2018 Review

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!

 

Food!

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!

CVS Saving

This year has been a struggle on many fronts. I am also going to admit that I have fallen off the wagon and stop doing several things that help keep us on track. One of those is shopping at CVS regularly. I could not honestly tell you the last time I went to CVS or the last time I planned a CVS trip.  So now that I have admitted that, I am going to work on getting “back in the swing of things”   Luckily our stash has been a very positive thing and I have used a lot of items instead of buying. Matt did let me know that he was down to his last stick of deodorant and I actually opened our last bottle of shampoo this week. Although this does not put me in panic mode, I knew I need to start CVSing again.

I did not take any coupons with me to the store, only used the coupons that printed from the “red box”.  I was aware that shampoo was on sale but not deodorant. My first stop is always the “red box”  Let me tell you this trip was gold.  Lily was shopping for some make up so as I was wondering around I discovered the awesome deodorant deal.  I completed 3 transactions to make the most of my money. Lily did the first transaction and used a $6 coupon that had printed. She earned 5 ECB and I was able to use those.

My transaction #1 2 bottles of ELVIVE shampoo on sale 2 for $8, used 2 off 2 that printed and Lily’s 5 ECB Total $1.56 for 91% savings. Earned 4 ECB back

My transaction #2 2 sticks of Speed Stick Men’s deodorant and antiperspirant on sale for 2 for $5. Used $1 off any deodorant that printed and 4 ECB from first transaction. Paid twenty-eight cent for 100% savings.  Earned 2 ECB back

My transaction #3 4 full size piece of candy, used Buy 3 get one free and $0.75 off coupon that printed, 2 ECB from previous transaction paid $1.31

Total paid for 2 bottles of shampoo, 2 sticks of deodorant and 4 pieces of candy $3.41

Yeap this is a win!

Monday Menu Plan

This is most likely my last menu post for 2018. I will be home on school break from December 23rd until January 2nd. I am hoping for a lot of less stressful/ busy days. I also want to continue the word of the week LEFTOVERS!  I will adjust each day to maximize the food we have and also not overwhelm with the same food items each day.

Did I mention left-overs? We will have BBQ on Christmas Eve at my mother’s and a huge meal on December 30th.

Left-overs- During the snow last week, my compromise was that I would cook only two meals a day. This seemed to work well but also has left my refrigerator full. I ended up only cooking one meal a day on Saturday and Sunday but still we have left-overs.

The plan for this week is really simple and easy.

Breakfast- Saturday- Grits and Bacon Sunday-Sausage cresant casserole left-overs or bagels. Monday- Sausage and egg on bread (some had croissants, some biscuits) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday- Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, poptarts, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles.
Lunch-Saturday-Left-overs  Sunday-Left-overs. Lunches are packed for the week and included salad, soup and chicken nuggets.
Dinner – Saturday-Leftovers, Sunday- Chinese  , Monday-Sloppy Joes and French Fries Tuesday-  soft tacos and or nachos. Wednesday- Chicken Fried Rice, Thursday- Salisbury Steak, rice and vegetable.  Friday- Famous Left-overs.

Stock Up Prices and Saving at Harris Teeter

Unfortunately, we do not have a Harris Teeter in Lexington. I LOVE the deal they offer but usually miss several due to the travel that is involved in getting to the store. So one of the adventures we had this week during our snow break was a trip to Harris Teeter. I was excited to see that several items they offered on sale this week were at or below my stock up price.

#1- Flour- Stock up price is $1 or less per 4 lb. bag. Gold Medal flour was on sale for $1.47 a bag with Ibotta coupon of 50 cent per bag. The Ibotta limit was two so that is what I purchased. This is also my stock up price for sugar. Sugar was also on sale but did not have a rebate.

#2 Yogurt- Stock up price is 25 cent per container. Yoplait yogurt was on sale for $0.37 a container with a coupon for fifty cent off 5 containers which doubled to $1 off 5 containers.  Finally price seventeen cent per container. We purchased 10 containers at this price since we only had enough coupons for 10.

#3 Canned Vegetables- Stock up price is thirty seven cents per can.  We can purchase at Aldi for forty cent a can on a regular bases. The limit was 18 cans so I purchased 18 cans and my mother purchased an additional 18 cans.  Soups are usually way more expensive.

#4 Canned milk- Stock up price seventy seven cent a can. I usually do not buy this but I have found several  recipes that we want to find that use this so I went ahead and purchased the limit of four.

#5 Frozen vegetables- Stock up prices is less than $1 a bag. Green giant were on sale for seventy-seven cent a box. I am estimating that it will take 2 boxes for us to use as a meal. I purchased my limit of 10 and 8 on Mom’s card because she wanted the other two.

#6 12 packs of Soda- Stock up prices is $2.50 a case for name brand meaning coke or Pepsi.

#7 2 liter soda bottles- Stock up price for name brand $1 or less a bottle and for store brands seventy-five cent a bottle.

#8 Cereal- Stock up price $1 or less a box.

#9 Soup- Stock up prices is seventy cent a can for Campbells Tomato soup and fifty cent or less a can for other varieties of tomato, chicken noodle or cream of soups. Stock up price for Progresso or Chunky soups are $1 a can. These cans will make a hearty meal with little trouble so the expense is worth it.

#10 Ketchup or Mustard- Stock up price is fifty cent a container. I usually purchase 10-12 of these at a time at this price.

 

This trip to Harris Teeter ended up with 50% saving which I am very happy with. I also found it very interesting that I have saved $1070.78 this year!

Monday Menu Planning 12/10/2018

From the weather forecast of last week, I knew that I need to plan on all of us being home this week, which means extra sweets and treats needed. Amanda is also staying with us during the snow. I made a trip to Walmart on Thursday night and purchased all the things I thought we would need. So far after 3 full days at home we are still doing really well. My best guess is that the kids will be out of school all week. I will have a workday on Friday or maybe both Thursday and Friday.  My goal is to make a  batch and have some left-overs to use again.  Soup is always a big hit on these cold snowy days.

Breakfast- Saturday- Pancakes and Sausage balls   Sunday-Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuits, Monday- Gravy and biscuits,  Tuesday- Sausage crescent rolls and left-over pancakes, Wednesday- Waffles, Thursday- Muffins  and Friday- Choice of any available left-overs oatmeal, grits cereal, toast or eggos waffles.
Lunch-Saturday-Sausage dip, taco dip, Crock Pot wieness, with fruit and vegetable trays.   Sunday-Chicken and Rice .  Monday and Tuesday- Sandwich or choice of Left-overs. Wednesday- Mac and cheese or pasta, Thursday Sandwich or left-overs, Friday- Soup of choice 
Dinner – Saturday-Leftovers, kids had pizza at church. Sunday- Left-overs from Olive Garden,  Monday-Stuffed Green Pepper Soup Tuesday- Country Style steak, fried squash and green beans Wednesday-Instapot Potato Soup  , Thursday- Beef and Broccli in the crockpot Friday-Pizza.

Traveling on a Budget

Our family tends to travel a lot. Some of this travel is by choice and some is by necessity. Most of our travels are planned well in advance which allows us plenty of time to save. However this was not the case for our Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. We decided that this was an important trip on November 3rd, two week before we needed to travel. Here are the ways we used to save money on this short notice trip.

1. I spent around 4 hours or more trying to find a hotel on priceline and the other “cheap hotel sites”. I had two huge things working against me, first we were two weeks away from the trip and the second was this is a holiday weekend. I finally decided to call the hotel we usually stay at. I was able to get a room for all five of us and the dog and breakfast for less than $100 a night which is our good price. After having success calling the first hotel, I called the second with the same results. The average price per night was $100! Tip#1- Call the hotel direct and ask for pricing.

2. Gift Cards- We continue to attempt to use Swagbucks on a regular basis. Each month the first gift card is discounted to 2200 or $22 for a $25 card. Starbucks is always a favorite so we try and keep around $50 loaded to it at all times. I also took advantage of some promotions, and this helped our budget a great deal. We had around $150 in gift cards for this trip and even managed to combine with sales to stretch it a bit further. My suggestion is to purchase gift cards ahead of time an keep a stash for trips and other surprises.

3. Pack a Cooler- The average price of a soda is between $1.50 and $2.00. Just by packing drinks and water, we saved at least $100. I also packed sandwich items and frozen burritos in our cooler. We were able to eat breakfast in the hotels and then ate one meal from the cooler or even left-overs so we ended up eating an average of one meal a day out while traveling. Even if we would have eaten fast food for each meal we saved at least $40 a day by bring a cooler.

4. Pack snacks- We like to eat while driving and crunchy snacks help keep you awake. I have a snack bag that stays in each vehicle but for a trip we ended up making individual size bags of chips and popcorn. This worked well and was much easier than trying to carry large bags and eat from them.

5. Check gas prices and make a plan. We discovered that it was cheaper to buy gas ahead of time then waiting to fill when we had to.

November in Review

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 .
Personal-
Blogging-5 for the month. I had many things to think about an little time to blog this month. 
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.

What happened?

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and changes that I could had no way to prepare and plan for.

First, Matt’s stepmother, fell and broke her hip.  After some discussion and thought, we decided that we needed to travel to Michigan over Thanksgiving. In fact, we are currently in a hotel in Claire Michigan. My goal is to get a post over the next day or so that gives some ideas on ways to save on last minute traveling.

Next, Amanda, my oldest daughter, has spent 5 days in Cardiac ICU and 5 days in an regular hospital room. She developed a complication from pregnancy that caused her heart to fail, which in turned caused several blood clots in both lungs and one in her heart. The first days of this episode, were the most scary thing I have ever experienced.  I stayed with her for almost a solid week. We are all thankful and blessed that she is home, and expected to make  a full recovery.  The recovery will be slow but still is expected to be full. It was a tough decision for us to leave her and come to Michigan but it was the right one for us. Amanda was very supportive of this.

Luckily, I have purchased most of our Christmas gift, and did not plan to spend much time shopping over Thanksgiving.  We had a menu plan in place and Matt was able to stick to it and keep things functioning at home, while I focused on Amanda.  This trip although short planned and much debated, has given me some time to sit, relax and catch up on some sleep, which I would not have completed at home.

This is the short explanation of the last couple of weeks.  I am praising God for walking beside me and carrying me!