A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: frugal

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 3

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 3

Whew. I am a little bit late posting our summary of week three in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge but that is because last week was a whirlwind of expensive things breaking, children being sick and massive amounts of the general craziness that comes from […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from the UFM challenge. I skimmed the emails, but I did not have time to go through and read all of the articles. My goal this week is to catch back up on the reading and sit down with my husband and talk some more about the challenge and complete our tasks.

 

Our “small” Costco trip this week.

 

We did a decent job at keeping our spending down this week. We ran out of coffee though so I had to make a quick trip to Costco (our favorite place to shop) to pick some up. In an effort to prevent a second trip over the weekend I spent some time looking over our supplies and made a bare bones list.  Although it may look like we bought a ton, we were basically out of everything. I bought three bunches of bananas so I can replenish our dried banana chip supply (recipe here), raisins (sometimes the only fruit my picky eater will eat), greens, gluten-free bread, fresh fruit, peanuts (a great protein snack), applesauce pouches for lunches and of course diapers. I also bought some vitamin D since we are almost out and they were on sale.  I was hoping to buy some pears to make pear sauce out of in a couple of weeks but they were out. The only “extra” I bought was the broccoli and that was only because my son insisted on buying it and who can say no to a kid that wants broccoli?

 

Banana’s Foster for the grown ups!

 

We did end up having to stop at the store over the weekend to pick up some vegan cheese for the kids and their milk was on sale so we grabbed a bottle of that as well.  Our splurge purchase of the week was a pack of popsicles ($4.00) that we ended up getting for the kids. They have been basically sick for three weeks straight and we have been making popsicles out of the juice we have on hand that they never drink but our kids rebelled and we gave in and bought them “real” popsicles.  Sometimes you just have to give in to your kids when they are sick so they will get enough fluids.  We ended up spending about $145 on groceries for the week but that included high ticket items such as diapers, vitamins and coffee so we did pretty good. We are still under our grocery budget for the month and we should be able to avoid buying groceries for at least another week (although as I was typing this my husband informed me we are almost out of toilet paper).

 

Yummy Pear Sauce!

 

I will say that you should make your own applesauce and put it in reusable pouches if you can. It is super easy and homemade applesauce tastes so much better (here is my pear sauce recipe). I usually have a supply of both apple and pear sauce in my freezer as well as some in jars in the pantry but this year was not a good year for apples and my usual source of free apples had none to spare. We were super busy this fall with back to school shenanigans and applesauce making did not happen. Needless to say I am not happy about our applesauce pouch habit but sometimes when life gets hectic you have to find small ways to make it easier and buying applesauce pouches so that my kids will have something in their lunches that they will actually eat is one of the ways I am doing that right now.

 

Burritos made from homemade black beans, rice, sheep’s milk cheese and corn tortillas with salad.

 

We did however this week do an excellent job of eating things out of the pantry and the freezer.  We pulled these corn tortillas out of the freezer to make both quesadillas and burritos this week and they were delicious! My husband also made homemade chicken stock and made a baked potato soup out of it that was delicious.  We used up some sweet potatoes and the last of the Brussels sprouts, found some real (as in cow milk, not non-dairy) ice cream in the freezer to make Banana’s Foster after the kids went to bed.  My husband also made bagels from scratch instead of going to the store to buy them and the kids loved eating them toasted with their non-dairy cream cheese. I think next week will be a challenge for us not to run to the store.  I did not buy meat at Costco when I went because we had a bunch of turkey that needed to be eaten so next week’s meals will probably lean towards the vegetarian side. We do have a freezer meal stashed away that could last a couple of meals if we stretch it with rice or something similar.  It will be interesting to see what meals we come up with in the next week.

 

George trying to eat my snack.

 

We did have a couple of major expenses come up this week. The first being the leak I discovered in my car. I parked it outside in the rain for the first time in a while and when I got back in water was dripping from the lights over my head. We are still under warranty and I am hoping the repair will be covered but I anticipate being without a car for a while since they will have to dry it out.  I can’t get the car in for a couple of weeks though and still get a loaner car so I am parking it indoors as much as possible. The other major expense that came up is our hot water heater needs to be replaced. We knew when we moved in two years ago that it only had 2-3 years of life left before we would need to replace it.  It is on our short list of repairs that we will be doing this year and I was planning on having it done sometime in March but when I went to do laundry yesterday we discovered it was leaking all over the laundry room floor. Needless to say we will be taking care of that ASAP. We have the repairman scheduled for this week and luckily since we were planning on replacing it soon we have the money set aside for it.

 

So far I have really enjoyed the UFM Challenge.  It has made us rethink our purchases and we have definitely paused before buying something and thought about whether or not we really need it.  One of the things that has stood out to me is how expensive it is to feed our kids. I am looking forward to when our garden is in full production and we will have nearly free fresh produce every day!

 

How are you being frugal this week?

 

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 1

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 1

A few weeks ago I found the Uber Frugal Month Challenge over at the Frugalwoods and I was immediately hooked. What a great way to start out 2018! I signed my husband and I up and we have spent the last week reading through the daily […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and […]

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

Usually this time of year I start looking over our finances for the year, project our income a year ahead and start setting some goals for the year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I am not great at following through with them but I am good at setting some goals for our finances for the next year and achieving a reasonable number of them. This year however everything is up in the air. I am attempting to go back to work in the next couple of months and I am not sure of what my final salary will be. Since I am a pretty precise planner and a little suspicious of counting on future income that may not exist I am hesitant to put numbers down for some of the goals I have in mind. My job search has been pretty wide and I have time so I am making sure that I find something I will love and is a good fit.

 

That being said, everyone should review their “numbers” at the end of the year and formulate a rough outline of where you want your finances to head in the next year.  

 

I can’t emphasis this enough. One of the best things I did for our finances was to start looking ahead towards the end of the year (and beyond) and plan out roughly where our money would go for the year.  Originally most of our goals were about paying down our debt but now that most of that has been paid off and we have moved into a bigger house needing constant work I focus on planning out our house/garden projects, how much we will put into savings and how we are going to pay off our remaining debt.

 

Last year when I sat down and looked things over our goals consisted of paying off our car (check), paying off our credit cards (check, sort of), and putting a bunch of money into savings (not so great). We also planned on several smaller house projects and the gigantic one of putting up a fence so that dogs and kids could roam free.

 

Our gigantic fence project was completely derailed by the cutting down of more trees that were extra expensive and by the water pipe that burst in our front yard in the early fall. We did however redo our pantry, replace our entire chimney cap, update the main bathroom, paint some walls/windowsills that badly needed it, replace light fixtures for ones that use less energy, buy a fridge for the garage, purchase garden supplies to grow our own food and paint our son’s closet. Whew. It looks like a lot when I write that all out! Most of our projects were very small and done on the cheap over a weekend or two. We had two of the 5 trees taken down that needed to be removed for safety. We chose the two worst ones and I am really glad we took care of it. One of them was very close to falling and would have hit our house directly in the center causing a large amount of damage.  The three remaining trees are so close together that they have to be taken out all at once since their branches are intertwined.

 

Dangerous tree chopped!

 

Our expenses for next year will change dramatically when I get a job and with school costs for all three kids (independent of the job). I am still not quite sure what the final numbers will be. Needless to say, I am a little more hesitant to set firm goals this year with so many changes looming.

I am a firm believer in setting some goals you know you can achieve by following your plan, some goals that are just enough out of reach that you have to consciously work at them and some goals that are a challenge and require regular sacrifice and ingenuity to achieve.

 

For next year our tentative goals are:

 

1. Pay off the remaining balance on our student loan.

This goal is one of our easy ones, as long as we stick to the plan! I set up our payments at the beginning of 2017 so that our student loan will be paid off by December of 2018 so as long as we continue our automatic payments we should achieve this one! My stretch goal is to pay off our student loan by the end of April with our tax return but it isn’t set in stone yet.

2. Pay off our credit cards.

We met our goal of paying off our credit cards and keeping them paid every month for most of 2017 but we ended up choosing to put the water pipe on our credit card since it came up unexpectedly and we had already used our yearly home improvement funds for other projects.  Yes, we could have used our emergency fund for it but with so many uncertainties coming up at the start of the year we decided to take on the debt. We should meet this goal for sure by mid-year or sooner if we apply ourselves and put all of my excess salary towards it.

3. Bulk up our emergency fund.

Sadly our emergency fund is a little lighter than we would like at the end 2017.  We had a lot of large expenses and focused on paying down debt versus saving so we did not put as much in there as I would have liked. Our goal is to save up at least one more month’s worth of money in our general emergency fund next year. Ideally we would save up two months worth but with everything else that would be our stretch goal for sure!

4. Invest as much as possible!

Yes, this is a very vague goal! There are so many what ifs that I have no idea how much we will be able to put into our newly opened Vanguard account. I have it set up to put a small amount in there every month but I am hoping for more!

5. Continue to work on the house.

Yay, another vague goal! We do have plans to cut down the remaining three trees that need cutting in the back and building some sort of woodshed for all of the wood we will be cutting. We also need to replace our hot water heater, fix the master bathroom faucet (already have most of the parts), and add/replace fans to the bathrooms and laundry room. Everything else will have to depend on if we have enough in the budget for it and time to get it done.  We need to finish painting window trim (should already have the paint), do touch up paint on a couple of random areas, paint our daughter’s closet, and continue to replace outlets as we have time.  All of those projects are small and can be done as needed. There is also the possibility of repainting the living room but that will be very time consuming and expensive and it might take us at least one more year to get around to it. The trees, fans and hot water heater are our priority for next year for sure!

 

Puppy chewed deck boards that need replacing at some point.

 

I have way more ideas and what if goals in my head but for now these five goals will have to do! I am excited for next year. We met a lot of our goals last year and have been working hard at reducing our spending, being mindful of what we buy and trying reduce our food waste. I will be growing another garden in 2018 and my mother-in-law gave me a bunch of seeds for Christmas so I won’t have to buy many this year.

 

What are your goals for next year?

 

 

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]

Using AARP’s New Tool to Plan Your Retirement

I was given the opportunity this week to check out a new retirement planning tool by AceYourRetirement.org and although I was not paid for this article it does contain promotional material. I would never post about something I have not tried myself and I always […]

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part One: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part One: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer

To say we’ve had a lot of change over the past two years is an understatement. We bought a house, added a child, added a new driver, got a puppy, discovered our older dachshund has some chronic health issues (lots of vet bills), have one child starting college this fall and two starting different preschools and to top it off my husband just started a new job with a completely different type of pay schedule.  Needless to say our budget has undergone so many changes over the past couple of years I am having a hard time reaching a new normal.  As soon as I get everything calculated and rearranged something new pops up and I have to do it all over again and it is getting a more than a little frustrating. I am determined this time, with the new pay schedule to figure things out once and for all (or at least until another major change ha ha!).  My goal is to find a system that works for us and has lots of flexibility for those months when everything seems to happen at once.

 

I started doing my research on a new way of budgeting a few months ago. I looked at several websites, talked with my posse of like minded budget gurus, read some of my favorite budget books and a few new ones, and browsed Pinterest boards to see what was trending because just like diet fads, budgeting methods seem to follow trends too. What spoke to me the most was adopting a more frugal lifestyle and building up our “buffer” for those months that seem to have every expense on earth scheduled.  I have used Quicken to track my expenses for over a decade and it has been the best resource I have tried. This year the “Savings Goals” tool has become my absolute favorite. It has really helped me stash away money for big expenses in my regular checking account without having to stash it in several different accounts for each category as many budgeting gurus suggest.  Keeping track of multiple accounts can get challenging and simplifying budgeting makes it way easier to stay on track!

 

 

The way the savings goals work is you “move” the money into a separate account so it is not available in your checking/savings account.  It is a great way to keep track of how much money you have available in your account for any given expense.  In the past I would try to accomplish this in a spreadsheet but that got complicated with trying to remember which amounts I had moved around. For example lets say you have some money set aside for home improvements. Let’s say you have $2000.00 total and you have some minor home improvements you want to complete that will cost about $1000.00 but will take you a few months to complete.  You would transfer the $2000.00 into the Home Improvement savings goal in Quicken so it would not show up in your checking account register but if you look at your balance at your bank online it will still be there. Let’s say the first weekend you tackle the pantry needing to be fixed (here’s our pantry story) but you only have time to buy paint and that costs $60. The next weekend you go out and buy shelves, bins and the accompanying hardware and that costs another $150. So your total for the pantry project is $210. You could either “move” the money from your Home Improvement savings goal to your checking account after each transaction or after the next time you balance your checkbook. There is no need to worry about being short in your checking account or remembering to transfer money from savings to cover it because the money is already there. Once you move the money your balance in your Home Improvement account would be $2000.00 – 210.00 for a total of $1790.00.

 

Let me tell you, it is amazing! I am a total budget to the penny kind of girl and I don’t like leaving unnecessary money in the checking account in case I forget which money that particular amount is to be used for (believe me with the craziness going on in our house it is bound to happen every once in a while) but now I have it separated out without having to transfer anything in my actual bank account. I don’t really have to think about it beyond I have about X amount saved for projects around the house. I have set up several different categories this way including a buffer, money for our twice yearly car insurance payments, home improvements and for vet bills. And the major bonus is that if something unexpected comes up like an emergency vet visit when you have exhausted your “vet bills” account you can avoid the worry of paying for the visit and shuffle money between the categories to cover it.

 

The best way to use this tool is to automatically transfer money into your categories at regular intervals.  I put money in the buffer every pay check and the rest of the categories monthly after our second pay check of the month. This will make saving the money for your categories a habit and after a couple of months you won’t even notice that you are “missing” the money from your checking account.  It is really important that if you use this method to focus on the balance in your checking account register in Quicken and not what your bank says you have otherwise you will be tempted to over spend.

 

The absolutely most important part of this method is that it eliminates the need for you to put anything on a credit card that you don’t immediately pay off. 

 

Let me repeat that. If you have enough money in your checking account to cover both expected and unexpected expenses you will never need to put money on your credit cards that you are not able to pay off immediately. The best uses of credit cards are to rack up points/miles for a discount on services you already use, for an extended warranty, fraud protection (although some debit cards offer something like this) and to build up your cashback bonuses. Any interest you pay on credit cards will immediately void the value of any rewards you receive from the credit cards.  1% cashback is way less than paying 10% in interest and the credit card companies come out on top any time you are paying interest.

 

I have been really happy with our new budget so far! Automatically transferring the money has really saved a lot of the guesswork out of the budget and now it takes me about half the time to balance everything every couple of weeks or so.  Stay tuned for my next installment where I cover some of the methods we have used to be more frugal around the house!

 

Happy budgeting everyone!