“Saving Money” Archive
I took a reader’s advice and left the “scary dresser” out in my garage in the hope of refinishing it before bring it into my new place. Great advice!! I was motivated to get it done b/c I was living out of suitcases and bags and so this weekend…I got it done! If I had brought it into the apartment I never would have gotten it back out. And it was great therapy too! To have that quiet time working on it. I bought new hardware and stain and have what looks to be a new dresser! It isn’t perfect but that was a good exercise too! Im pretty proud of my project and the fact that it only took $25 in supplies.
That’s the good news! The not-so-good news is after finishing the dresser yesterday I went to The Container Store (insert scary music here). More on that tomorrow. I can’t keep my eyes open!
Many of you have asked about what practical, day-to-day things I and my children have done to start saving serious money and paying down debt. Sundays are always a day that remind me of what huge changes we have made in our basic, everyday spending.
In June of 2012 I started making serious changes to our diet and eating habits. I wish I knew exactly how much of my debt can be attributed to eating out because my guess is that a good chunk of what I owe came from food! How pathetic is THAT?! But as I talk to friends and family about this, I know I am not alone in that very bad habit of eating meals out. Eating out is not only bad for us from a nutritional standpoint–it is just darn expensive! This last week I did not have a plan for meals after the move and I am sick of dropping $25 to Subway for a meal…not to mention sick of the food!
But how do we avoid it? As a mom who works outside the home while raising two very busy kids, I have to have a plan. And Sunday is my day to execute that plan. I spent five hours cooking today. I made our meals for the evening and lunches/snacks using the same ingredients. I start every week with the goal that we will not find ourselves in a drive thru window eating like seagulls! That’s a running joke with the kids “only seagulls should eat out of windows!” This is a huge challenge given our weekday schedules. This week we even have “to go” items for our evenings that we will eat “on the go” but they are made from all real food ingredients. While eating in the car is not great we DO make it a family meal! I am super proud of that and love to hear my kids tell other kids that we do this! And I cannot tell you how far this is from the old Claire. My sister (a dietician) STILL cannot believe my transformation. I used to make fun of her for her refusal to buy pre-shredded cheese.
So challenge yourself and your family to not eat out for ONE week or maybe even a MONTH! If you are doing two drive thru meals per week and we estimate $25 per visit, you’re saving 50 bucks per week and eventually $200 per month! Make eating out a treat and not the norm! Seeing restaurants as undesirable and making better choices at the grocery store has made an enormous difference in my debt snowball. Our grocery budget is $300 per month! The bulk of that savings has come from a dramatic reduction in packaged foods and instead making things from scratch. Eating at home is always better than eating out and then I took it a step beyond and started making a lot of our food with unprocessed ingredients which keeps us full longer and cost less to make in the long run.
I’ve taken some time and put together a partial 2013 spending plan. I say partial b/c I am currently not sure what my 2013 take home pay is actually going to work out to be because I made a lot of changes to help me with taxes, I now have my health insurance taken out, the reversing of the payroll tax “discount,” etc. I was using the fact that I will not know my exact take home pay beginning in January 2013 as an excuse for not setting up a budget for my “spending money.” I caught myself using that excuse so here I am to just get started.
By way of information for new readers, I’m in a good place with knowing my regular monthly bills and laid out those constants in a post about a month ago but it is those little here and there spending items that kept getting me and that I did not have a plan for. I just had weekly spending money that had to cover things that came up. That isn’t a great way to manage your money I have learned and so I’m trying to lay out something super specific. My readers have challenged me to do so and while I’m thankful, I’m also a little cranky. I don’t like getting this specific which is exactly why I must do it.
I’ve decided to go with the cash in envelopes system to start on these items. The “use my spending money” method is far too lenient. I cannot keep track of what I am spending in that manner. So, from each paycheck I will set aside cash in envelopes for these items:
Kid incidental spending (from this will come field trip fees, school pictures, fundraising contributions, teacher gifts, birthday gifts for parties they attend): $20. Looking back at this year’s spending it appears that January and February will be light on the spending for kid incidentals so I should be able to set aside $80-$100 as a good start on this fund. (After re-reading the list you will see below I can already see that this category is too broad. I’ll re-work it but am leaving it here as the learning tool it might be for a reader).
Clothing budget for me: $25 per paycheck. I received clothing as gifts (or gift cards that I can use toward clothing) so I am good on clothes and shoes for at least 3, probably 6, months.
Beauty Budget: $25 per paycheck. Since beginning the blog I have dramatically reduced my spending at the hair salon. I mean DRAMATICALLY. This fund will be for my now twice a year visits for a good cut and color as well as the cheap in between hair coloring I do at home. I now use grocery store shampoo (but wash my hair much less frequently than I used to) and since that adds up to $15.00 about every six weeks (for the shampoo, conditioner and hair mousse), I incorporate that into my grocery budget. This fund will also cover my twice a year make up purchases as well although I’m pretty low maintenance on the make up front.
Car Maintenance: I’m setting aside $20 per paycheck to save up for somewhat major maintenance should it arise–oh and tires and brakes. The vehicle I am driving has oil changes for life covered as well as the basic maintenance check. This fund will be for the bigger stuff but I a pray that b/c my mileage use is SO low that this fund will not be needed much.
Okay I know this isn’t an all-inclusive list and I have distance to go on thinking about what items I need a separate line in the budget for, so I remembered a long time ago I had saved a list from a website that I now cannot recall the name of (apologies!) and somehow I dug it up. I share it with you below as food for thought for myself AND anyone out there who may need help like I do in capturing where the money goes! I am going to use this list by starting to delete those that don’t apply. I sometimes feel like I am standing in mud and cannot move when I try to think about these budget items.
- Airline fares (and the luggage fees).
- Alcohol (you may include this in dining out, but I would separate this from your grocery budget if you buy for take-home).
- Alimony paid in or out.
- Allowances (his, hers, kids …).
- Baby formula or breastfeeding supplies.
- Bank fees (such as when you order checks, use an out-of-network ATM, have debit card access fees, or pay a check-cashing fee).
- Birthday gifts.
- Bus fares.
- Cable or satellite TV.
- Car insurance.
- Car payment and / or car purchase fund.
- Car registration fees (including the driver license renewal fees).
- Car repair and maintenance.
- Cash assistance.
- Child support paid in or out.
- Christmas gifts.
- Cleaning services.
- Cleaning supplies.
- Coffee shop.
- College fund.
- Computer and office supplies.
- Condo or neighborhood association fees.
- Coupons and rebates.
- Credit card payments.
- Day care and babysitter fees.
- Dental insurance.
- Dinners out.
- Donations to church, non-profit or charity.
- Dry cleaning.
- Electric bill.
- Emergency fund.
- Fast food.
- Fitness center or gym membership.
- Fuel for the car.
- Furniture purchases or repair.
- Garden supplies.
- Greeting cards.
- Grocery assistance (such as you receiving food stamps or buying groceries for a family member.)
- Haircuts, manicures, spa treatments.
- Health insurance.
- Holiday candy and flowers (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween …).
- Home maintenance and repair.
- Income taxes paid or refund received.
- Income tax preparation fees.
- Internet service.
- Landline phone.
- Laundry service (as in coin-operated machines or drop-off laundry service).
- Lawn care.
- Legal expenses.
- Life insurance.
- Medical co-pay and deductible expenses.
- Medical insurance payments.
- Mortgage – primary.
- Mortgage – secondary or home line of credit.
- Movie tickets or DVD purchases.
- Museum, park and zoo passes.
- Natural gas, propane or heating oil bill.
- Newspapers, books and magazine subscriptions.
- Nuisance (aka annoying expenses). Yes, I did see that category on a budget list once!
- Over-the-counter medications.
- Parking passes and parking fees.
- Payroll – regular.
- Payroll – overtime.
- Payroll – bonus or holiday pay.
- Payroll – severance pay.
- Personal care products.
- Pet expenses.
- Photo printing.
- Property taxes.
- Property insurance.
- Retirement fund.
- Satellite radio.
- School lunches.
- Sewer bill or septic tank maintenance.
- Sports, club and activity fees and equipment.
- Sports event tickets.
- Student loan payments.
- Taxi fares.
- Theater or concert tickets.
- Trash and recycling bill.
- Tuition and class fees.
- Turnpike and bridge tolls.
- Uniforms for work, school, scouts, or sports teams.
- Union dues.
- Unemployment benefits.
- Vision insurance.
- Water bill.
- Wireless phone (including texting and data plans).
- Wedding plans.
- Work lunches.
- Yearbook photos.
So far, so good. Believe it or not in years past I have not gone crazy with gifts for the kids. I say “believe it or not” because by the looks of my debt, you’d certainly think I had. Like I said at the beginning of my blog writing, I am known as being pretty frugal. As I’ve worked through this process it has become clear to me that the debt I have is the result of poor relationship decisions as well as not planning for the day-to-day stuff. I’m happy to report I am much improved in both of those areas in just the last nine months and am learning new skills in BOTH areas (relationships and planning) every single day.
Back to the holiday budget. I’ve set aside $400 to spend on gifts for both kids @ $200 per child. I really think I can come in under that and look forward to the challenge. My kids aren’t asking for anything and I try not to ask them for a “wish list.” We really have always focused on the religious aspect of the season and serving others by always volunteering in some capacity during the holidays. Then, on Christmas morning, the gifts (that I decide upon based on the kids’ random comments throughout the year) are a true total bonus and definitely not the focal point. I don’t know why asking the kids to make a Christmas gift wish list has always bugged me, but it has. I find that they appreciate the gifts more and now as they are older, they really like that there is obvious thought put into the gifts.
What is your approach to holiday spending?
As I sit down to type this at 10 pm CST, I have a refrigerator and freezer full of this week’s meals. I did this today after I spent the majority of my weekend scrapbooking with an old friend. Wow did I need that! My beloved hobby of preserving my kiddos’ photos had also fallen by the wayside as I worked to be married to Steve. There was very little money spent (I needed adhesive) as it has been so long since I’ve worked on the albums that it was as though “everything old is new again!” I challenged myself to use the bulk of what I have before buying any new, fun stuff. That’s hard b/c all the fun stuff IS tempting! Another interesting thing to note is that I have very few pictures from 2010 through 2012. That bums me out b/c it is yet another reminder of all that this relationship was sucking out of me! Thankfully I still hit the major milestons in the kids’ years and caught a few “random’ events too which is all they really need. The time with girlfriends energized me to come home and prepare lots of food!I also made a quick stop to use coupons to get toothpaste and body wash for basically 50% off.
I really have to swing back to strict this month on food and I am confident that when I do that, the budget benefits. If I have food that doesn’t require much thinking during the week, I will have more money in my pocket at the end of the week! That is an awesome feeling. It reminds me that like all things, we are all better off with a little planning. Not over the top, control freak, gotta know all that is coming but instead a general roadmap.
I look forward to the day that my budget planning feels as solid as my meal planning. I’ll get there. For now I will look forward to my grilled chicken salad I have on the menu for lunch tomorrow.
Way back in March of this year when I started blogging I went through a whole host of reductions on basic living expenses. I fired cable and bought a digital antenna. I’ve gone now 8 months without cable and could not be happier! Before buying anything else for television watching purposes I challenged us to use an old PlayStation to watch Netflix and HuluPlus. I’m pretty good about setting these challenges to make sure I stick with something before I spend extra dollars on extras. (Tangent: The same rule applies for workout clothes. Nothing new until I am consistently exercising for at least six months. You should have see some of the items I went to yoga in at the very beginning. Hello 1990′s! I liked to consider myself retro. :-/)
The PlayStation worked fine for the initial experience although it was cumbersome to use. I found that to be an added benefit as it prevented the kids and I from just mindlessly turning the television on instead of doing something more productive. I still have not purchased my own Roku but I am borrowing the Roku of a friend who isn’t using it very often. I love it! So, I decided to post about it since it has been awhile and maybe there are new readers who could benefit from my television cutback decisions.
We get all the local channels in HD and then we stream Netflix and HuluPlus via the Roku. I can’t find a flaw with this arrangement especially given our very busy schedules. My friend says he doesn’t need his Roku back anytime soon (he primarily uses the xbox to access) and he has generously offered it to the kids and I for the short term. I’m not in a hurry to buy one so even if he needs to take it back, I won’t be purchasing my own very soon. We did fine with the PlayStation! But for now I’m welcoming the opportunity to enjoy this great item!
If you are still paying for cable, do some research. You may find much cheaper alternatives!
P.S. Although you are likely sick of hearing about the latest in “As Steve and Claire Divorce…” I’ll share that I got another one line snail mail letter today. He instructed me to provide any suggestions for the divorce decree to him directly no later than November 30. Gladly! In fact, I’ll beat that deadline!
I am going to start this Monday with a little pat on my own back. With all of this divorce stuff since September 1, I am proud to report that the kids and I have stayed the real food course. While we have certainly had slips, we are definitely not anywhere near where we were pre-real-food plan. I’m even prouder of the fact that I continue to be able to feed us real food AND shave money off of our grocery budget. Of course with only three of us and no big eaters in the group (DS will be 13 in December and we’ve already seen some major growth spurt food consumption but for now he’s eating normally), the food budget was bound to decrease. But, by keeping it real and making so many things from scratch, the food goes a long way. As of right now, I’m spending $75 on groceries each week. $300 per month!!! And on REALLY good stuff! That’s just awesome!!!!
I read an article recently that might help me shave even more off the bottom line. The article was about how much food we waste in this country. Apparently there’s a documentary out there called “Dive!” that follows a group of friends as they “dumpster dive” for food discarded by grocery stores. I haven’t seen the documentary but the statistics shared in the article are pretty alarming with some 40% of American food going uneaten each year! The estimated cost of that food is $165 billion! We’ve all bought too much and don’t have time to eat what we buy so we end of trashing it so I like the tips shared to help prevent waste. I follow 3 of the 5 suggestions. I do not shop hungry, I do not buy something just because it is there and I make a meal plan. The two suggestions I’m going to try to incorporate now are to “divide and conquer.” That means to divide up packages of food into smaller servings so that you can freeze smaller portions and use when you need. I used to be good about this but have fallen out of habit. Then the idea of buying bulk with a friend. Now that we are family of three, we don’t have a Costco membership. I didn’t see the value in buying so much stuff when we won’t use it all in a reasonable amount of time. Although things like household products can be saved forever, I’m not really in a position right now to spend a lot up front even if it is a better “per item” cost. But if I find someone to split everything with then we might be in a much better position. The article also suggests splitting the cost of the membership. I like that idea!
I’m STILL couponing but just for toothpaste, shampoo, cleaning products and the like. That’s a huge area for savings though and I’m seeing the added benefit of taking the time to do that.
The best part of all of this is when DS said to me last week “Thanks for still feeding us real food Mom. I thought that when Steve left it would be too hard for you to do by yourself.” That makes all of those Sundays in the kitchen worth it!
Have a Magnificent Monday!
My DebtLarge Graph
- Current: $31,490
- Paid: $66,611
- Original: $98,101
- Emergency Fund: $1000
- IRS Savings: $
- Broken Down:
CC #1: $0 ($64) CC #2: $0 ($240) CC #3: $0 ($650) CC #4: $0 ($785) CC #5: $0 ($1,500) CC #6: $0 ($1,886) CC #7: $0 ($1,984) CC #8: $0 ($2,135) CC #9: $0 ($7,145)
- CC #10: $12,570 ($14,561)
CC #11: $0 ($24,388) Credit Line #1: $0 ($182) Credit Line #2: $0 ($182) Auto #1: $0 ($16,579) Auto #2: $0 ($25,819)
- Cons. Loan: $18,920 ($20,000)
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