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Posts tagged with: frugal

Ashley L.’s BAD Introduction

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Hi! I’m Ashley L., a 28-year-old, single teacher. I was raised in a southern, middle-class household and in an extended family comprised of almost 5 public school teachers. Growing up I, all I wanted to do was to teach. But I knew that I would not make much money and so I tried to plan for a modest lifestyle.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to become one of the new BAD bloggers and to share that story with you! I’m also pretty nervous because my debt story is from a slightly different point of view. I do not have tons of consumer debt. I was blessed to be able to earn a scholarship that covered the costs of my tuition for undergrad, then earned my M. Ed. from a very inexpensive program, and recently got $5000 forgiven from my student loans. This brings my student loans to a total of $8000. I have about $14000 on a car loan and was able to refinance this note to an interest rate of .99%. I have had some build up on credit cards, but was able to pay them off by cutting my living costs.

Last year, I was living in a small southern city with my boyfriend (who I am so happy to say is the love of my life) and my adorable rescue dog. Then the funding for my position at my school was cut. I was devastated. I felt pretty screwed over and eventually relocated to another city about an hour and a half away from my boyfriend and my “doghter.” This made me get intentional about my financial security and hyper-aggressive about my financial goals. I committed to being a woman and a teacher who is financially astute and successful. I do not want my life to be dictated by money, I want to dictate the flow of money to create my life.

I am currently trying to reach my financial goals of eliminating debt and reaching financial independence by: 1) eliminating my entire housing expense from my budget by house-hacking (frugality!), 2) renting out my primary house as a rental property and doing small side hustles (investments and additional income!), and 3) feeding money into retirement accounts (savings!). I am happy to share my journey with the BAD community and to be able to learn from and enjoy this opportunity.

 


Frugal Traits

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I’ve been a little on the frugal side for as long as I can remember.

When I was a young child, I remember always trying to conserve each precious page in my school notebooks and writing spirals. At the end of the school year if pages were leftover I refused to let them be wasted. Instead, I would use them for writing letters to friends, or writing poetry (one of my hobbies as a child). As an adult I have a little notebook I still use and now I consciously try to use every inch of every page. If a grocery list only covers half a page, I’ll tear off the bottom half and use it for something else (same thing for front/back). It’s always been a trait of mine.

But there are a couple other frugal traits that I didn’t pick up until I started blogging here, just over a month ago.

  1. I now wash and re-use ziplock bags. This doesn’t work as well with the generic bags (they break down faster due to inferior quality). But I had a stash of name-brand ziplocks already on-hand from before starting blogging. I used to use them all the time for all kinds of things and I would toss them when I was done. Now I make a conscious effort to use them sparingly (e.g., for leftover slices of pizza, I fit into a tupperware instead of throwing in a ziplock bag). When I do use them, I try to reuse them multiple times. I still feel weird about reusing bags that had meat in them (e.g., I buy a “family pack” of chicken breasts and appropriate out in sets of two into ziplock bags to freeze individually), but if its anything non-meat I will wash it out and re-use. I’ve found this handy for cheese (I buy blocks of cheese and shred it myself, then store in ziplocks that I wash and reuse), fruits and veggies (if I only use half a lemon, half an avocado, etc.), and more!
  2. In a similar vein, I’ve been saving the liners from cereal boxes. When a cereal is gone, instead of throwing away the plastic bag it was in, I wash it out and save it. I’ve found these to be perfect for storing my homemade bread (which is often too long to fit in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Plus, its thicker than a regular ziplock and seems to hold up well to freezing.
  3. I have also started saving my baby’s bathwater to use for watering plants. I literally keep a big Home Depot bucket in my hall closet. After they have baths I will fill the bucket up and take it outside to water the big plants in our yard. I can usually get 2-2.5 buckets from one bath. I did a quick google search to make sure using leftover bath water wouldn’t hurt our plants (because there’s some soap in it), and it looks like its fine for our plants (but check for yourself, because it can be harmful to some plants). However, I found that this is actually a “thing,” called recylcing grey water (i.e., “waste-water collected separately from sewage that originates from a clothes washer, bathtub, shower, or sink, but not a kitchen skink, dishwasher, or toilet.”) Apparently this practice is illegal in some places. FYI, I looked up the law in Arizona and its not illegal here, although there are some stipulations… see this document:  http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/water/permits/download/graybro.pdf

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The neighbors probably think I’m crazy, but I’m trying to save our family some money. Every penny counts, right? Meanwhile, I’ve been extremely motivated to continue seeing our debt drop (particularly on our Wells Fargo credit card). Exciting progress really helps me increase my efforts!

 

What are some of your more frugal traits? Any other money-saving tips?


Mandi’s Debt Introduction

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Note: This is the introduction written by Mandi about her debt to be the next BAD blogger. Take the time to comment or ask questions about her debt journey. This is part of the process to find a new BAD blogger which you can find out more about here

My name is Mandi, and I am debt! It is a secret from everyone, because I appear to be very in control most of the time. I grew up with very financially responsible parents, and I did not have debt of my own until I got married. My husband had about $20,000 in debt when we married, and we paid this all off in a few years. We then saved $20,000 before having children so that I could stay home. I stayed home until my son was 3, and then I went back to work.

Unfortunately, while I wasn’t working, we didn’t cut back too much and burned through all the savings and racked up incredible debt. Our current debt includes credit cards with balances of $3,000, $11,000, and $6,000. We also have a home equity loan of $31,000 and a loan from my parents for $3500. We have recently been able to pay off balances on other cards, so this is not our starting point. Our take-home pay is $6100 per month.

We also bought an older home while I wasn’t working. Our mortgage is inexpensive, but since it is older, we had many unexpected repairs (new HVAC and new ductwork, anyone?), and there are, of course, cosmetic changes that I would really like to make. Making our home inviting is very important to me, and I struggle with paying off debt versus making lasting changes in our home. This and travelling are our two top issues with saving versus spending. I don’t mean extravagant trips, either. Even a weekend at a nearby beach is no drop in the bucket for a family of 4.

In addition to paying off all that debt, I also want to replace the savings we’ve spent and increase our savings in other areas like 401(k)s, etc. I struggle with how to prioritize each item. I would really benefit from the advice that readers here provide, and I need people to call me on my “justified” expenses like new paint, light fixture, furnishings, etc.

I think it would be beneficial to post how much money has been spent each week (and if it was me or my husband). When I even THINK of doing that, I cringe at the items I would put down and not look at twice because I would have to justify the expense to everyone. This includes items at the grocery store. In some areas I feel we are very frugal, but objectively, I know that we probably aren’t. I only feel that way because I am comparing myself to others in my social circle.

I showed my husband the blog, and he is interested, especially in me contributing, but I don’t know how that translates to his involvement. He is very supportive, and he mostly listens when I express concerns about debt, but he does not want to get granular. In fact, he does not even know how to check any of our balances, including our checking account! He does not spend a lot of money on “things,” though, so it might not be as challenging as I think it could be.

I would love the opportunity to share more, answer questions, and start contributing to the site, so thank you for reading!


How to be a Frugal Mom and Still Buy Pampers

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By Sleeping Mama

This is a guest post: “Sleeping Mama” is a 30-something mom to a two-year-old little boy. Her blog, Sleeping Should Be Easy, chronicles the day-to-day life of her toddler, from proud moments to challenging days and everything in between.

I buy Pampers instead of generic, shop at a farmers market, and buy new toys for my toddler. Despite all that, I still claim to be a frugal mom.

How? By choosing to spend on what’s important to my family while aggressively cutting back on what’s not.

Take diapers, for instance. We tried several brands and even considered cloth diapers, but Pampers won my baby’s heart (and bottom). If I ran my budget strictly by the numbers, I would have insisted on buying the least expensive brand, regardless of its performance and ease. Instead, I’m willing to spend more on what works for us and find ways to lower costs as much as possible (I buy Pampers in bulk online using my credit card rewards mall, which gives me an extra 15 points per dollar for that particular online store).

Buying organic food is another example. We shop at the farmers market so for several reasons—to support local communities and eat tastier food among them—but we limit how much we spend per week (that $30 fish would just eat up our budget!) and use most of our purchases to cook at home.

Frugality is a lifestyle, and like any long-term lifestyle, needs to be sustainable. Yes, we could deprive ourselves and live bare bones, but that mindset will hardly go far and is likely difficult to maintain. Instead, we’ll gladly pay the cost of something we enjoy (assuming that it doesn’t eat up most of our income) and skimp on everything else.

So while diapers and food remain a high cost for our family, we’ve tightened our budget on a few other categories:

We frequent the library

Every week I borrow at least six library books for my toddler to read. I can run a search through my library’s website, place holds on the books I’m interested in and pick them up at my convenience—all for free! If my toddler isn’t interested in particular books, I don’t have to worry about buyer’s remorse since we don’t own them. We still buy him books, but at least he’s “test-driven” them before we even spent a dime. The library also hosts free children’s events such as story time or musical performances that we’ve attended.

We cook at home

We hardly eat at restaurants and rely on home-cooked meals. Since we don’t mind spending time in the kitchen, we’re able to save quite a bit, especially since we use leftovers for lunch at work the next day.

We hang out at the park and find free entertainment

My toddler loves going to the park, whether it’s to run on the grass, climb around on the playground, look for pine cones, scoop some sand, or even simply sit and pick flowers from the ground. We’ve gone to practically every park there is in our city. We also find free entertainment or venues: parades, festivals, free museum days. Even shopping centers offer free playgrounds or fountains (if you can avoid walking into the stores!).

We don’t drive fancy cars

When the time came to replace my dying Corolla, we were tempted to take the money we’ve saved and use it as a down payment for a fancier (or even larger) car. But we had enough money saved that would have allowed us to buy another basic Corolla with cash, which is what we did. For us, we just wanted a car that functions and provides basic comfort.

We look for promo codes and printable coupons

Although we buy our toddler new clothes, we opt for lower-cost brands and look for promo codes or printable coupons. Any time I shop online and there’s a field to enter a promo code, I’ll quickly google the store’s name and the words “promo code” to see if anything comes up. Or if I’m planning to go to the actual store, I’ll google the store’s name and “printable coupons.” Usually there’s a code for free shipping or a coupon for a percentage off your purchase.

We don’t buy our toddler too many toys and gifts

This past Christmas, we bought our toddler one gift—and it cost $16. For his birthday, we didn’t buy him any gifts and instead threw a little party with his immediate family. Children don’t really need too many toys and gadgets. I even think boredom is good for them since it forces them to crank up their imagination. And when we do buy him a toy, we’re almost always sure he’ll love it (because we know what he’s interested in) and they’re usually good-quality, long-lasting toys.

What’s important to you?

Our expenditures may be similar to some families while completely opposite for others; neither is necessarily more frugal than the other. So long as you’re clear about your priorities and your budget has room, you can continue spending on what matters to you and cut back on those that don’t.


Passing Down Traits…

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After picking up my son, I arrived home tired from work last night. I schlepped off my formal work clothes and donned an oversized t-shirt, sweat pants, and fluffy pink slippers. Just thinking about making dinner was making me drag.

Baby boy started fussing a little, hungry for his dinner. I looked at him, smiled, and started asking him if he was hungry.

Asking him while singing in an opera voice.

I didn’t even realize I was doing it until about the fourth time singing, ‘AaaaaaAAAaaAAaaare you HuuuuUUUUuuuungry BoyyyyYYYYyyyYYY?’

I don’t sing opera. Um. Hubby would like to say I can’t sing at all. And before baby Cash was born, you wouldn’t catch me singing…ever. But here I was, standing in my living room, singing in an opera voice to my son.

And then I choked.

I have turned into my mother.

My whole life, my mother sang in an opera voice to children. I don’t think she’s capable of speaking to them, only singing. And I realized, I’ve picked up a lot of traits from my mother. That got me thinking, what traits will I pass to my children? I want them to be good, kind hearted, giving, etc. But what will they find themselves doing that says ‘I’ve turned into my mother!’? What stands out about me?

Will it be my goodness? My kindness? My giving?

Ha.

I have a feeling Cash will be standing in the snack aisle screaming ‘I WILL NOT buy you!!’ to the Lays potato chips when he’s thirty.

I’ve got to start being the person I want my son to become.

I may never shake the singing thing… but maybe that’s not a bad thing. It reminds me that tiny little eyes are watching.


When Frugality Bites…

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I’ve been known to be cheap, err, frugal. We don’t have a lot of cash and I’d prefer not to go into debt so I’ve been caught acting ridiculous a time or two to save money.

I knew it would catch up with me.

I made a fresh batch of cookies the other night and grabbed my husband’s Charger football oven glove from the drawer to pull the cookie sheet out. As soon as my gloved hand touched the hot metal, I screamed and dropped the cookies on the floor. Upon further examination, I found a rather large hole in the thumb finger of the glove. My hand suffered a nasty burn.

I angrily threw the oven mitt in the trash and used another one from the drawer for the remaining cookies.

Last night, hubby made a yummy dinner and I heard him shuffling through the oven mitt drawer while the baby and I were playing on the living room floor.

‘Hey hon? Where is my Charger mitt?’ he asked.

‘It had a hole in the thumb and I burned myself so I threw it in the trash.’ I called from the living room.

Silence.

I picked up the baby and walked into the kitchen. He was staring at the drawer, deflated.

He looked up at me, ‘I know it had a hole in it. I just didn’t use the thumb part. Things have been kinda tight lately and I didn’t want to spend the money to replace it. And aren’t you always saying we need to make things last longer?’

Sigh. He caught me on that. He should be allowed to have at least one crazy frugal holdout. Plus, I should have known not to throw out a man’s football anything.

Looks like the first thing I’m buying in debt free March is a Chargers oven mitt. Sorry honey.


Best Gift Ever!

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Every year, my sister gives me the BEST Christmas gift and I always forget to copy it the next year.

Sigh.

Next year. I’ll remember next year.

What is the gift? Food! She carefully measures out ingredients to make dinner, packages it beautifully, and prints the directions on stickers placed on the jars. It’s great for broke *cough* frugal folks like myself AND great for busy families who struggle to make a home cooked meal each night AND great for the people who seem to have everything.

This year? Soup, cornbread, pancakes, and hot cocoa!


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