Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Grocery Totals

Total Spent On Food:  $359.13
Manufacturer's Coupons Used:  $67.65

Overall not a fabulous month, but I did come in under our budget of $400 for food/household (didn't have much left for household items, but that's where my stock pile came in handy!)  I spent $85 for freezer cooking with friends, which provided about 14 meals for us.  That's $6.07 per meal with some providing leftovers.  Normally I can feed us for around $5 or less per dinner, but I still think it's more than worth the time together with friends and having a half of months worth of dinners already made.

Here's where I'm struggling as well: camping!  I just feel a bit restricted with what we can bring.  I think I need to get more creative ☺.

I also got a bit lazy with my couponing.  For me it's hard in the summer since my husband and I both have it off!  We kind of just do what we please in regards to a schedule.  In no way am I complaining, but it would probably help if I had more of an organized and timely personality.  So sad to see summer end, but looking forward to the routine that comes with the start of school.

image credit: photoxpress

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Envelope Categories

To keep within budget, we use a cash-only system.  Basically, we draw up our budget each month, stuff money in several envelopes assigned with a category,  and we're on our way.  I should clarify that we do use our debit card for gas and online purchases only, mainly because I don't want to get my little ones out of the car just so I can use cash to pay for gas.  Obviously we can't use cash for online purchases, and that can get a little tricky.

If I find a fabulous deal online for say, clothes, I go ahead and use my debit and then take the cash out of my clothing envelope and deposit it in the bank.  Maybe more trips to the bank, but ATM's work well for me since I can go there any time.

Using the envelope system, alone, has saved us the most money in our budget.  I would say it's the number one thing you can do to save.  We know exactly where our money is going instead of wondering where it went.  Another very real fact is that people tend to spend less if they have to physically hand over those dollar bills. It's much easier to swipe a debit/credit card, but the act of not handing over your hard earned money tends to make it disappear faster.

Here's the categories we use:
  • car repairs
  • medical/dental
  • oil changes
  • housing (repairs/maintenance)
  • sitter
  • Rx
  • hair cuts
  • car license
  • office/school supplies
  • clothing
  • restaurant
  • gifts
  • blow (husband and I each have an envelope to use on whatever we want)
  • groceries/household
In no way do I carry all of these in my handbag.  I grab them as needed.  We have a lot of categories, some people use less, but after doing this for 9 months, we found these work for us.  I also have an envelope for an item we're saving for: a soy milk maker.  Not a need, but we feel our family would get a lot of use out of it (and in the long run, save money by making our own soy, nut, rice and oat milk).  So we save a little each month (actually my husband and I are putting a bit of blow money in that envelope).

If you use cash, do you find you spend less?  How do you budget?

image credit: photoxpress

Thursday, August 19, 2010

L.L. Bean Backpacks

At our house we have a little tradition with backpacks: You get ONE when you enter Kindergarten and it has to last through 6th grade.  It started with our oldest who's going into 8th grade this year and we've continued on with our other kids.  Just two more left to buy!

So here's why we love these backpacks:

  • They last and last.  Some kids have theirs from K through college.  We've never had a zipper problem or ripping.
  • The selection is great, so you could actually buy one that would last a child from K-6 (meaning no Dora/Bob the Builder stuff)
  • They are able to be monogrammed (this may be a +/- for you, but I think it adds a special touch and we always know whose it is, plus I would think it's a deterrent for stealing).

The green one is our latest purchase and it cost $35 including shipping and monogramming.  That's $5 a year (K-6) for a bag that can be used even more later (my daughter now uses it for sleep overs).  Right now, backpacks are 20% off at LL Bean.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Couponers Nighmare

 done31 Pictures, Images and Photos
Wow, it's been a long few weeks!  I've had a rough go trying to save money with coupons lately.  Here's what happened:

1) Every time I tried to print from the past three weeks, it would try to tell me I had to install it (No.  Since I've already installed it like 499 times!)

2) Then, on Thursday, right before leaving to hang with friends in Montana,  my husband figures out that we need a new hard drive.  He got that up and running a couple hours ago.  That is the first thing we've had to replace on our Mac in 7 years!

3) Haven't even installed yet (still not feeling confident that's going to work) and my husband does a test print on the printer: out of toner.  Of course!
So, I've been doing my best with just my Sunday inserts, but I'm going crazy with that feeling of missing out on deals and paying more than I should by not having a coupon for something I need....I guess it's just that spirit that all couponers have, huh?  You have to be a bit diligent, competitive (I love to see how low I can get that grocery bill each month) and willing to be assertive with your time and money!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

$800 Towards Car Repairs

While dropping our oldest off at Camp Reed a couple of weeks ago, my husband accidentally hit an outcropping of rocks while making a sharp turn.  Poor guy!  He felt so bad (well, at first, he just felt mad!), but it was so tight in that darn parking lot.

While driving our van out to the body shop, we kept losing tiny pieces of stuff.  We lost some kind of lining on Nevada street.  Sigh.  In the end, we needed a whole new front bumper and new windshield cleaner parts.  Why on earth our windshield washer attachments are in our front bumper is beyond me, but then again I don't design cars:).

So here's how paying for this little mishap would have gone in the past: No money saved up for something like this, so either: A) Charge it!  or B) Write a check from our HELOC.  Thus adding more debt.  But, alas, we have an emergency fund of $1000 for things such as this.  Actually, we had $150 saved for car repairs, so it's good that we don't have to replace the entire $800 in our emergency fund, just $650.  But now that's what we focus on-getting that fund up to $1000 again.  That is where all our extra money goes now, not on debt.  When we're back up to $1000, we're set again to dump that extra on debt.

image credit: photoxpress/Marco Deias

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What Made Us Do This?

"The world is changing at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind.  DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!"

This sweet little quote came from a gift bag I got for my birthday in July!  There's all types of quotes written all over the bag, but this one caught my eye.  I started thinking back to that last day in October 2009, with me standing over the garbage can with my two credit cards and a pair of scissors.  I made that choice to implement change in our spending patterns and took action.  We were tired of dreading the end of the month-not enough money, so we charged it!

We haven't looked back, but I will say at times we get weary running this race, but we never stay in that rut for more than a few minutes and my husband and I always start talking about all we've done to date and how we'll feel when the entire $65K is at $0.

For us, these three things have made the most difference in getting out of debt/staying on budget:
  •  Using cash only in an envelope system
  • Budgeting our monthly income down to the last penny
  • Using coupons to keep our grocery budget low
Of course I'm just thankful that we're able to do this.  In my next post I'll share with you more about the envelope system and categories we use.

image credit: photo xpress