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Cash Envelope Systems

June 4th, 2007 at 05:16 pm

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. Smile

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?

No Spend Day

April 27th, 2007 at 10:59 am

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.

Savings goals are...

April 24th, 2007 at 07:58 pm

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.

Adding Health to My Goals; New two week goals

April 23rd, 2007 at 04:23 pm

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.

Extra Money Towards Debt

April 22nd, 2007 at 08:15 pm

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.

Another $35 Added to My $20 Fund

April 21st, 2007 at 09:08 am

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.

Another no spend day and why I OAMC

April 16th, 2007 at 06:12 pm

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.

OAMC Cooking DONE! and $10 more to savings challenge

April 15th, 2007 at 05:43 pm

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.

Grocery Shopping Done for the Month

April 14th, 2007 at 01:52 pm

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.

Getting Motivation

April 13th, 2007 at 03:54 pm

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. Wink

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.

Added to $20 Challenge

April 12th, 2007 at 08:53 am

Over the last week, I've walked 20 miles -- adding $20 to my $20 challenge.

Another week to go!

No Spend Day and a few New Financial Strategies being Put to the Test in April

April 10th, 2007 at 08:38 am

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.

Summer Tuition and Expensive Trip Saved For

April 9th, 2007 at 01:47 pm

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.

Saved $20 per month on a necessity and getting creative

April 9th, 2007 at 09:40 am

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).