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?
Viewing the 'Strategies in the Name of Saving' Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
One of my major goals for November is to cut down on our grocery bill. I am defining this as all food from the grocery store, any eating out, and stops at quick markets. Last month our total was $453.50! I think this will be the easiest "quick money" to put towards the student loans and building back up our emergency fund. So, I am going to start keeping track of how much we spend on food, and food-related expenses. So far this month we are up to $32.75.
I cooked a turkey yesterday (that we got at .49/lb). It was nice to come home from school today and not have to worry about dinner. It's been a pretty long day, and I am usually pretty tired by now with several hours of studying and housework to do before bed. Most of the time when I feel like this it's been easier to have DH pick something up rather then cooking. (Spaghetti, tacos, and salads get a little old after a while of trying to fix something "quick" when I'm tired). I have even managed to get in a bit of walking for a change -- helps with the energy.