We've always been good with credit cards, never having a balance that we haven't paid off in full the entire time we use them, but we also tend to eat out a bit more.
I started using a cash envelope system a few months ago and have saved about $200 a month that I can use towards school expenses or paying off debt.
We still use credit cards for gas, home repairs and other things that I don't find it convient for/don't want to keep cash around for and that we don't have any "wiggle room in."
I set up cash systems for the groceries. Combined with sales, coupons, stocking up, and cooking from scratch we are eating healthier and spending half the amount we used to. Once the money is gone, there's no more. We are on a budget of $160/month for two to three people (depends on the week). $40 a week buys meat, fish, beans, whole grains, fresh/frozen fruits and veggies and staples. I've learned with just a few things you can make A LOT of things. The OAMC concept on a smaller scale has helped.
I also have a cash system for entertainment/recreation which includes vacation money. Vacations are pretty cheap--- we go camping/hiking and sometimes backpacking.
I also have a cash system for personal spending money --- this is wonderful. I never feel guilty about spending money on myself anymore. I could never justify buying a CD or a treat like a hot chocolate or soft pretzel or even a new plant for the house. I always felt that money should just go to pay bills. Now that I have cash and it's for me to just do whatever I want -- it's this freedom and relief in the budget that I never had. It's not a lot, but there's this money that's just for ME and I don't need to justify spending it to myself.
So, cash had worked well. It also makes tracking a little easier -- with a few less reciepts to enter into Quicken. I could really enjoy this.
How do you feel about cash spending? Do you only spend cash? Do you just use credit cards? Or do you do a combination like we do?
We've always been good with credit cards, never having a balance that we haven't paid off in full the entire time we use them, but we also tend to eat out a bit more.
Today was another no spend day.
I spent this afternoon writing a study strategy on what to do for the rest of the semester day by day so that I can not worry about it and pace myself. I can't wait until June. It will be a pretty stress free summer.
on autopilot for the next year and some. I set up individual ING accounts with automatic savings.
We've got a working budget saving enough for retirement, a nice emergency fund, extra money for "the unexpected," to pay school entirely and pay off one of two large student loans before I graduate next year.
In a year and a half we will have:
-Put 10k a year into Roth IRAs PLUS contributed the maximum matched amount to the employer sponsered 401k
-Pay off at least $14k in student loans (Will still have one more and the remaining mortgage)
-Pay the remaining tuition in cash.
-Take a decent vacation this summer.
-Fund my travel abroad rotation (already done).
There is no extra give/cut backs in the budget other than the occassional dining out and I am working on eliminating that now. (This expense is about $100/month). Also no way to "increase" income until next year, when I start working. ALL of my income will be going to eliminate our remaining debt at that point.
Tonight as I write this... It's almost depressing that there's nothing left I can think of to tweak. Of course all ideas for new financial challenges will be considered!
So time for a new goal. As I posted last time I am switching my focus to my health/weight. I'm in pretty good shape, but could lose a little weight, increase the intensity of my exercise, and eat a little better.
The $20 challenge and posting has been great for my finances. Goal is to be out of debt in 5 years or less. As a lot of Americans, I can stand to lose some weight. I am fairly active and in generally good health, but tend to eat in response to stress. With school stress is a way of life, but I have about a month left before I have a nice break.
So I am adding to work towards health (and hopefully lose some weight) in the process. I'm hoping to add a habit every two weeks. I might also work in some new financial goals as well.
My first goals which I will be focusing on in the next two weeks are:
(1) Eat 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day. I average 4-5. I could do better. I'm going to cut up and package veggies in the beginning of the week to take to lunch and to snack on throughout the day. I manage to eat 2 servings for breakfast and 2-3 for dinner. Focusing during the day seems to be the best.
(2) Financially I am going to eliminate ALL eating out
for the next two weeks or ordering in. I rarely do this now adays, but could still stand to lower this. I don't actually want to eliminate eating out, but would rather focus on preplanned outings. To do this, I am first going to completely cut it from my budget, then add it back in as a preplanned event.
As we are done with expenses for the month (Any "surprises" would come out of our emergency fund.) I found an extra $200 to put towards school loans for the month above the $250 we're already paying.
I also have enough cash to pay for the summer session of school and am working on saving up enough to pay cash for the fall semester.
We've also been saving regularly towarsd our Roth IRA. Not to the maximum, but right now that's not something we can do, as the budget is too tight.
If we can keep up this great pace and put 90% of my take home pay (after school gets out) towards paying off debt, we'll be done in less than 5 years from now. That's a great feeling.
This was unexpected, but we decided to get dinner out yesterday and bring it home. DH had to wait an hour as they kept giving his order away! The manager came out and refunded our money. So a nice dinner (we ate at home) for free and $35 to the $20 challenge.
OAMC or once a month cooking. I don't do it every month. I actually love to cook, but when I have months where I am running from 7a-9p or later, I know I am going to go home and pickup something not healthy and expensive for me. If DH goes shopping to make something, it costs half the week's grocery bill.
If it's in the freezer, honestly a 5 minute microwave or even an hour baking while I take a shower/relax is easier than going out yet again. It's all about making it easy to save money and live a healthier life. At 9p if I have to think -- it's over with the fatty no thought place down the street wins.
Well, it's been a long day but I got the following OAMC done today:
5 days of chili
4 days of taco chicken
2 days of orange chicken
2 days of balsamic chicken
4 days of black bean quesidillas
4 days of whole-wheat lasagna/spinach rolls (vegetarian)
4 days of whole-wheat pizzas
2 days of meatloaf
4 days of vegetarian stir=fry
4 days of red pepper spaghetti sauce
Whole wheat pancakes, french toast for breakfast on the weekends.
Also walked 10 miles this weekend, adding $10 to my savings challenge. I can't wait to put my new totals up for April in a few weeks.
Homemade cornbread, barley pilaf, mexican brown rice, blueberry whole-wheat oatmeal muffins, raspberry sorbet. Also have lots of frozen veggies and will buy fresh veggies/fruit for the coming weeks. Also put together several whole wheat bread mixes so I can use the breadmaker to make fresh bread 1-2x a week as needed.
So far for the month I have spent about $140 for all my grocery shopping, dining out etc. I have $60 more, but I just bought enough stuff to do a OAMC session here. Getting ready to start working on my thesis after classes are done at school in the evening, leaving me no time to cook. So tomorrow I am planning to cook for the month, write up the schedule. Maybe DH can put things in the oven before I get home around 9p.m. to make dinner a bit faster.
So I am adding $40 to my savings challenge and leaving $20 for fresh fruits/veggies over the next two weeks.
Are you ever working on a really hard project, say paying off debt or getting through school, worked really hard for a year and just feel like you have no more motivation? I am there. DH is amazing -- working a lot to help us and finish getting me through school with no debt. I'm doing the shopping, finances, cooking, house cleaning, school (which is 40+hours in class plus another 4-6 at home each night), laundry, volunteering (20 hr/wk) and trying to satisfy family and friends while keeping in shape/losing weight. I'm tired and I've just lost motivation. So this is my rant. I know others do more, and I've done more but it feels like I've been working forever full steam ahead. I can't wait til I graduate a nice 60 hour a week job would be nice.
So to motivate myself, I am going to spend the next hour doing nothing -- absolutely nothing but breathing. Then I am going to get a fresh sheet of paper (or a blank computer screen) and redefine what I need to get done in the next month. Come May I think I'm going to start that process over. Now remember - stop, breath, pause and refocus.
Over the last week, I've walked 20 miles -- adding $20 to my $20 challenge.
Another week to go!
Well, nothing exciting here except today is another no spend day -- making two in a row. I kinda like the idea of keeping spending to one day a week and only paying bills on that day. Right now I pay bills and deal with all the mail as it comes in.
This is spring break -- hoping to get a little ahead on school work today.
Plans for the upcoming week financially -- nothing too exciting I promise.
[ ] Find a 10% or better off coupon at Lowe's/Home Depot for the new toilet seat we need
[ ] Research cell phone costs. Now that DSL is gone, I am thinking about dropping the landline and sticking with a cell phone for DH -- most of our calls are too each other anyway. There are a couple plans where you can get free calls from/to the top 5 people that call you. Honestly -- that and DH account for 90% of our calls. Most everything else is e-mail anyway. Would cut about $25 a month from our phone bill. ($10 more than my current cell phone plan and $25 less than the basic "unlimited" local call package) All long distance is done on the cell phone now.
[ ] Time to play the see how low you can go this monthly with expenditures --- groceries, pet food, toiletries, entertainment, cleaning supplies, medical (including contact lens care) spending is to be capped at $255 a month. I'm almost sweating over this one, but think I can do it. I'm planning on doing this by taking $120 cash out every two weeks and the blockbuster charge will continue on our credit cards.
We managed to save enough to pay for summer tuition in cash this coming year!
DH decided I should take the tax refund (yes, I know this is a free loan to the government..) and use it to pay for an international rotation next year for school. Something I've always wanted to do, but isn't real high up on DH's list for joining me. So it looks like next year I'll be going abroad for a month! It's one of my dreams and right now I am still in shock that I'll be able to do it.
As much as I hate to admit it -- I need the internet.
(1)I research purchases here saving money
(2) I need it to download articles for school/assignments
(3) I need it to read free books from the library
(4) I need it to keep in touch with some family and friends
(5) I need it for the support of great forums like this one
(6) I need it to keep up to date on the blockbuster movies-- a service we subscribed to that has eliminated our going out to movies and buying movies.
So why did we just cancel it? Well I don't have cable, I don't subscribe to a lot--I had a $15 a month DSL package (the "slowest" connection..I was happy with it) that because I was busy and hadn't checked the bill went up to $18 a month without my knowledge for 2 months. We called today...yeah they will refund us the rest of the money for the month, but did we know it was going up to $22 in June and we could get a special 1 year promotion for $19.99 a month. No thanks. It's gone soon (like sometime today), but
(1) School has free internet.. only good for a few more months -- then classes will be offsite.. but I'll take it.
(2) June, I'll be temporarily "working" -- i.e. unpaid on my Master's project. So I will get free internet there
(2) July... Well honestly I don't know yet, but I'll find an alternative. Unfortunately the library as much as I love it is not a real alternative as the drive would become cost-prohibitive. (We go there once a week when we go shopping, but I refuse to do errands more often).
My goals for March:
(1) Total grocery/toiletries/pet food spending under $200.
(2) Walking 3 miles - 6 days a week. Will add $18 to savings/week
(3) At least 50% No Spend Days
(4) Implement a new way to save money every week.
Two days in and:
(1) Groceries Spent $14.27; $185.73 left to spend
(2) One no spend day (yesterday) and one spend day (today)
(3) Strategy for saving money: I'm starting with an easy one: Paying all bills online through the biller's website rather than by mail. I have done this sporadically in the past and for some I do every month, but recently I have been finding I am paying the small bills - the phone, the cell phone (a requirement for my school), the water bill, the gas bill, and another miscellanous bill here and there. On average about 6 a month - with the new rates in effect, I could easily save $2.40 a month not doing this.
Well the last two weeks have been tough with school and I haven't even hit our major midterm tests (3 more weeks). I've fallen behind in trying to make contributions to our Roth accounts. I've fallen behind in the housework. Even worse I am struggling with getting all this information organized and somehow crammed into my brain. They say there's still room.. but somehow I am doubting it. I've never been good at memorizing things -- concepts great. Memorization. Ugh.
However, I also haven't had time to buy anything! Our spending is about the same as it was two weeks ago. Going to do a couple store runs this week, but it's almost getting harder to find stuff we need and spend the grocery money. As I've been shopping sales with coupons, we've been stocking up. If I bring home any more pasta, DH would kill me. Still some things that I would love to have a bigger stock of. I'm aiming for a 3-12 month stock of items depending on what they are. Meats are closer to 3 and toiletries are 1 year.
As I was clearing out closets, I was making room for my stockpile of stuff we use. We have a grand total of 3 small closets in the house, tiny rooms and just about no wall space. I love my house! No seriously I do for now, just hoping in a few years to have one that's a little more "remote," with more land and more natural light with an open floor plan.
To add to my savings:
$5 from a survey
Got my federal refund and paid off my second smallest student loan! Another small, but important milestone. Guess I get to update my totals. February is looking like a great debt month -- maybe I should enjoy tax time more often.
Updates on $20 savings challenge:
$2 for Walking and Eating Healthy today
$100 from the tax refund
Also got ahead on some school work this weekend.
Time to set some new financial goals!
1. Keep grocery spending below $200 a month, including dog food, cleaning supplies and toiletries.
2. Get my entire debt down to
Well, the $20 Challenge has really worked well to motivate me towards saving a lot more money. I planned on using rebates that I got from Riteaid, Walgreens and so forth towards the grocery bill. However, since my grocery bill is below $250.. and probably down to $225 this month even buying the extra things that are either free or money making after rebate, I'm putting any money into my $20 savings challenge.
So from January Riteaid is $17.97
Savings from State Tax Refund $24.53
(This is 10%, the extra is going towards either tuition payments, to prevent new debt or paying off existing student loans. I can't wait until the federal refund check. Yes, I know we shouldn't be getting "this much back," but as I already have more deductions that just the two of us... school expenses, contributions to IRAs, and mortgage interest are huge helps and nowadays the majority of our expenses)
So far in February I got one of my student loans paid off! I'm pretty amazed, that we are down to one income, maxing out the 401k, paying for most of the future tuition/books/etc out of that income and paying off student loans and the house. (There's no credit card and no car loans or other debt). On top of that, my emergency fund/saving challenge money is actually starting to build up. In a couple more months, I might be able to start contributing to our Roth IRA again.
Well, Definately have the grocery/dining out bill below $200 monthly now with no problems and stocking up. Rebates/coupons have been great. I don't want to go any lower, although we probably could. I feel if I can save more money, I will probably use it to buy fish or fresh (vs frozen) veggies more often.
For the good news, since I haven't been eating out and have been exercising (sporadically), I've lost 10 pounds in the last 2 months. Most of this I think comes from just not eating out. This was an unexpected *bonus* as I'm not dieting or trying to lose weight. So cheaper and losing weight. I think I can deal with this.
January totals including Savings Challenge and Debt is updated.
I've never tried rebates before, but I couldn't pass up trying Walgreens this month.
I got two boxes of o.b. tampons for $10
Excedrin for $3
And Bought $10 (5boxes of cereal) -$3 in coupons.
For $20 total. Walgreens will give me a $18 rebate +10% =$19.80 as a gift card.
So for $.20 +.37 for the stamp.. I'm pretty happy. My plan is to use the giftcard to pay for future rebates. Since most of these are shampoo, toothbrushes and all.. anything I can't use will be donated to a local shelter that needs them desperately and I'll continue to get the 10% bonus each month. Where else can you "make" 10% a month on your money? I realize of course that I can only "spend" it at Walgreens, but they have some of the cheapest prices for things we buy regularly so I shop there anyway.
Really struggling with the walking thing as I've had some pretty bad back pain the last two weeks. Starting to clear up so hopefully will be walking more... 10 miles added over two weeks.. Sad, but still worth $10 in the savings challenge.
Signed up for an ING account. I can't tell you what seeing that $25 did for me! So another $25
For the first time EVER, I have made it so far through the month without eating out.. no fast food.. no soda... no anything. Two more weeks is $40 towards the savings challenge. Ten more days.. then I have a special dinner out planned for DH and me.
Super wonderful big huge thanks to Flash. Reading Flash's blog has just filled me with wonderful ideas for cutting down on my grocery expenses. I am proud to say thanks to all the wonderful tips I have spent $130 this month on our grocery bill. I have one more planned trip in which I will spend about $50. This is the first month in forever my grocery bill is under $200 and that is without eating out. I've even managed to stock some extra food doing this. It looks like I will probably be adding $40 from this to my $20 challenge... as I will be under budget by that much for January (I was trying for $225)
I came out of Giant Food yesterday with:
16 boxes of whole wheat pasta
7 Betty Crocker Potatoes
10 pounds of doggie food
10 pounds of kittie food
Slimfast (great for lunch to dinner holdover since it's usually 7 hours between the two.
For $20.00. The great part is I don't believe I've had a shopping trip over $40 this month.
-J (Excited, energetic and working to be debt free with lots of extra money for fun stuff).
I've got to say our grocery bill has really gone down a lot, and this month it should be even lower. I'm finding decreases in regular supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo. I attribute this to actually starting to keep a price book and using coupons. So far only whole wheat grains (flour, cousous) and fresh produce have been pretty hard to save any money on. The produce should hopefully decrease in the upcoming months when I start planting seeds for some fruits and veggies.
Speaking of that -- wish I could give away some pears for free in the fall. I can never collect them all (from our one tree) -- any one have any recipies besides pear butter? I wish yearly it was an apple tree, but since I didn't plant it...
We have a lot of stores around us (Rite-aid, Walgreens, Weis, CVS) that do rebates. I'm going to start taking advantage of rebates that I find this month to get items for free. If it results in any savings -- I'll have some money to add to my $20 challenge.
So far this week I've put a little over 4 miles on the treadmill. So very little, but considering I've been having lower back pain all week, I've been proud I've walked a little bit just about every day. Getting a little better today, so I can hope I'll be better by Monday. This resulted in $4.16 for the $20 challenge this week.
I've managed to not eat out at all this week. Thanks to all the great dinner suggestions posted on the board and taking time to freeze stuff at the end of last month, I've been able to always have something available. So $10 more towards the challenge.
Adding a third strategy this week, which is to transfer all the interest I get from my checking account into savings. It's really small amounts, but hey anything helps. So add another $2.15.
(a) I made two batches of rolls (24 total) for DH for sandwiches for lunch. Much cheaper than buying them, and able to make them with whole wheat flour and no "salt" or preservatives.
(b) Cooked 2 lbs of lean ground beef (93% fat free) we got on sale for tacos on nights things are just too crazy to cook.
(c) Made 6 pizza crusts and froze also for dinners. Just mix a homemade spice mix with no-sodium tomato sauce, add some veggies and grated cheese for a quick dinner.
(d) Made a new batch of granola for breakfast.
(e) Froze some individual servings of homemade minestrone soup for lunches.
Total time: 1 1/2 hours.
Since I really organized the kitchen in December things have really been a lot easier. Gladware containers have been great -- easy to freeze things and easy to store rice, beans, cereal, dried fruit, and other "necessities" that usually end up all over the place and are hard to find.
I've also made a "pantry" list and started a price book. Both are helping me to knock down making a "grocery list" to about 15 minutes when the circulars come out at the end of the week. DH has even been helpful for putting things we need on the list.
It hasn't even snowed yet and I can't wait until summer. I don't have much of a garden, but did plant some blueberry bushes last year. Unfortunately the blueberries never made it in the house for cooking. Hopefully this coming year some will make it to the freezer or at least to the dinner table.
One goal for 2007 is to try a new method to "save" every week. After reading some great ideas - I'm going to be borrowing some to implement in my $20 challenge.
One thing that's been really hard is getting the motivation to exercise consistantly with school. So starting this week, for each mile, I'll be adding $1 towards my $20 challenge.
For each week we don't eat out at all -- another $20 towards the challenge and $10 towards a special night out... The idea is to have $40 at the end of the month for a night out to a nice restuarant.
Happy New Year's Everyone.
After reading all the success in the $20 Savings Challenge -- I'm going to give it a shot this year. If we're half as successful as many of you -- I'll be estatic!
December has been an interesting month. DH has really been trying to help by working extra whenever he could. It really paid off. In the past two months we've:
(1) Paid for my winter and spring sessions of school without using any more student loans
(2) Reduced our grocery bill down to $275.20 last month. Still have a little ways to go. I think we can get it down to $200.
(3) Made progress on our debt (We have a mortgage and my student loans -- no credit cards or car loans):
Mortgage down from 96,111 (Nov 1st) to 95,083
Student loans down from 36,850 (Nov 1st) to 35,961.
(4) Started rebuilding our emergency fund up to $450.
(5) Limited "errands" and nonessential gas/automobile trips to once every two weeks or hiking on weekends (a necessary sanity).
For January, I am going to try to:
(1) add $100 to our emergency fund.
(2) Reduce our grocery bill some more
(3) Budget some money for "fun" expenses. The last two months we haven't spent anything. It helped a little to bring down what we owe, but we each need some money for "spending."
(4) Say no to anything people want us to "do." There's always a charity "event" at school or people wanting to "get together." I don't enjoy these and it's really just not worth my time or money.
(5) Try to find some additional ways to cut expenses. This is really getting hard to do. I feel like we are almost down to the barest essentials. I can't turn down the thermostat any lower. I'm going to try to see if there's any more ways we can "insulate" the house. There's really no way to cut: auto expenses, pet expenses.
What a great feeling. I spent the last two days going through the kitchen. I have to say most of the problem was just pulling everything out, putting into gladware containers (dried fruit, cereal, etc). Easy to see where everything is now and it fits in 1/2 the space. Thankfully our county has recycling for the plastic and cardboard containers. I've also cut and packaged what feels like a million meals that I can pull out of our freezer (or DH) and make when I get home from school. Looks like our grocery budget will be decreasing even more in the coming months.
We've also been working on house projects -- painting the front door, fixing cracks in the plater, putting up pictures and paintings.
Now onto the last project for the weekend -- finishing DH's music room.
Now that school is "done" for winter break. (Not really, as I have a paper and stuff to write over break, but 2h is better than 12 a day!) I am getting ready to work on going through the house. I am hoping to get rid of anything not used in a year, but more importantly to try to find storage space as I have all of three-half size closets in the entire house -- one in each bedroom and precious little in the way of wall space. Ideas are greatfully appreciated. Especially for extra kitchen "pantry" storage.
However, interdispered with this, I'll be able to get some major projects done I've been hoping to do for a while.
(a) Painting the front door
(b) Reorganizing the kitchen
(c) Lining some drapes for our windows (hopefully will help a bit with the winter)
(d) Fill up the freezer with easy meals, so when I start back to school it will be easier to make things and not feel like "takeout"
(e) Get in the habit of exercising in the morning. I've done this for two days so far...
I've cut down on automobile expenses -- mainly gas, as I don't have any car loans. This last tank of gas has lasted three weeks, and I still have almost a half of a tank left. I think I can probably make it last a month with no problem. I realized a lot of "running" was just for repair stuff. Like when the dryer stopped running, DH will go to the store for a $5 part to fix it, then we'll head out on our regular "errand night." Now, I just keep a list of errands that need to be run, keep it by the refrigerator and every time we "need something," we just run through the whole list.
I've been contributing the maximum to may 401k/403b since I started working (matched by our employers). This has really added up. I'm going to try to start adding to our Roth IRAs.
We've cut down on our electricity/as by 25% from the first year we moved in. The biggest savings in the gas has been by insulating (a very old leaky house) and installing a timer for the furnace. We've also always used fluorescent bulbs - brighter and not needing to be replaced as often. I swear every incandescent bulb in this house stoppped working within a few months of having moved in. We replaced with fluorescent and haven't touched them since (4 years ago). At this point, I can't think of any ways save any more on utilities without spending a lot of money.
When I started our garden, we mainly got cuttings from people and I picked up a few plants that I liked. Out of the ones that survived, I've divided them over the years and now have a garden full of color I love.
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