September in Review

Blogging:  Goal: 15 per month  Post number 14 for the month.  So close yet so far!

Weight: Goal to exercise 3x a week and to be down to 175 by December 2014.  This has been a really frustrating month for me. I am stuck at a number that I don’t like. I have been trying to get to the Y to exercise but once or twice a week is all I have been able to fit in.

Financial Goals:

1.  Pay off all debit by July 2015, except for mortgage.  Goal met for this month.

2. Emergency Fund to $2000.  Still no progress.

. 3. Groceries: Spend $600 a month . Goal Met  Total spent $599. This has taken deliberate effort on my part. We have not shopped in three weeks now and I am planning to keep shopping to a minimum in October and November as well.

4. Gas: Spend $400 a month with any remaining to be move to Auto fund for repairs.  Total Spent $$37. Goal MET.  I am not going to be moving this money instead we are saving for our trip and all extra money is being placed in that fund.

I am excited because after selling our small playhouse we have $45  surplus for the month!  I hope to build up even more in the months to come.

This does not look like a great month on paper but I am happy with where we are with most things and  plan to stay the course.


Low Spending Week #3 September 27th.

We are officially in our third week of attempting to find extra money in our budget for a trip. Find out the initial details here. Last week we did awesome and to be honest it was much easier as it was not a pay week and we really had no  spending other than a quick trip to the CVS.  This week was a little more difficulty.

First the good news, I did stop in at Aldi to pick up salsa and lettuce. The total cost of the trip was $3.44. That keeps me under our $600 grocery budget by $2.66. I will most likely stop at Aldi either today or tomorrow to spend this on a dozen eggs and a 2L Diet Coke.  Both of the cars needed gas this week but  with the cost of gas Slowly going down we still have $54 left for the month of September. I am anticipating that this too will be used prior to Wednesday for the van but  even so we have managed to stay on track for the month in both these areas!!  I was also able to purchase Amanda’s birthday present and stayed under budget.

Now the not so great news, we are going to be purchasing cheerleading uniforms for both the girls this week. This is not an unexpected expense but it is one that I will have to incorporate and for the short time it will move some money that I had hoped to place in the trip fund.

October starts on Wednesday, I am definitely going to plan on it being a low spend/no spend month. I may even join a couple of challenges on other blogs to help keep me motivated. I had originally plan to spend $100 or less on groceries for October, however because of a mistake at Costco, I will need to increase this to $200 or less. I will have to pay our yearly membership fee of $110 out of this amount. So $90 or less will be the challenge.  I am going to be honest and say upfront this amount may need to be increased to $300 for the month or $190 after membership. We are continuing to try and clean out our pantries and freezers. I am actually starting to see a change in these. We have empty spaces in both the bathroom closet and the kitchen pantry. I am down to 2 bottles of Diet Coke and Matt just told me that he has less than a months supply of K cups. I will watch for sales on both these items in October but that will also mean some additional shopping as well.  We are planning a trip to Costco next Saturday and this will be probably the most difficult part of the challenge at least for me. Costco is a place that you always see a good deal and we have always grabbed a couple of extra items that are on sale just because we can. I have already started a list and hopefully this will make it easier to stick to the must be out of it to purchase rule but we shall see.

Spending Update for the Week

Last week, I talked a lot about the goals we have over the next two and half months for saving money for a trip to visit family. This is where it starts.

This has been a great week in terms of this goal for us. We have received out water and electric bills for the month of October. Both were lower than the budgeted amount so that savings of $30 will go into our trip.

Next up is our spending, if you recall I had $7 left for the remaining 2 weeks of September to stay on budget. This week I have spent $1.02 which leaves $5.98 for the next week and half.  We ran out of baking soda so I picked up two boxes.  I did go to CVS this week, I was able to purchase 2 bottles of body wash for Matt and 2 Starbuck’s refresher. I used the CVS gift card that I have so nothing was spent out of pocket. I still have $2 on the gift card in addition to 3.50 in ECB.

I was also able to generate (hopefully) a little extra cash as well. I took 80 pieces of clothing to a consignment sale and we have placed our plastic playhouse up for sale on Craiglist.

Overall I am very excited for being able to stay on track so far and add $30 to our trip fun. The menu is planned for next week so I am looking forward to another week of low to no spending!

Saturday Yard Work

photo 2Today brought more beautiful weather to North Carolina. I had already decided that we needed to spend some time outside doing some yard work. I spent most of the day, trimming our iris and pulling weeds from the flower beds. However the yard work that was most exciting was the “reworking” of our square foot garden.

I was so excited to start this year as I had great plans to get the most use and some yummy veggies to use all year. That was a plan that did achieve it’s greatness.  First of all the weather has been strange this summer. We have not had our typical hot (90plus) temperatures and also have lacked some in the rain department as well. We have been enjoying tomatoes all summer in addition to lots of green peppers the last couple of weeks. We discovered several nice size watermelons, however the last 3 have rotten before they ripen so I knew we needed to make some changes.  First, was a new bed over to the right side in the picture. This will be for squash as they grow really large and take up a lot of sun!  Next, Matt added another back stop to use with cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes have been our best and most enjoyed treat this summer so I definitely want to have more of these next year.  Finally after some discussion, we moved out watermelon  and cantaloupe planters from the back of the deck to the front with the rest of the garden.  We hope this will allow them to grow, spread and ripen in the future.  I am so proud to say that with all these additions we have not spent any more instead we have used some recycled work. We will need to purchase or hopefully find a piece of wire to complete the backstop.  So our only purchase next spring will be some additional dirt to replenish and fill the new and improved beds!

I will admit this was a lot of work so I plan to enjoy a restful day tomorrow.

Stockpile Full?

photoThis is a picture that I took today of one of the 3 closet/areas that I use to keep most of my stockpile items in. If you can see most of this shelf is complete full and it actually has about another 2 foot of space above it as well. I have been working over the past several days to straighten and organize my stockpile. One of the reason is that I have been making some pretty awesome purchases over the past several weeks, such as Scott Extra Bath Tissue for $0.32 a roll and needed to make room to store it. Another reason is that I have been looking at our budget for the next several month in an attempt to locate enough money for a trip at Thanksgiving.

I have discovered several things during the arranging and rearranging of items. The first of which is that quite literally, we are out of space. I have moved and boxed and rearranged but at the end of the day, my stockpile is full!!  I can honestly say it is overflowing. A second thing that has occurred to me is that most of our freezer space is full as well. This would not normally be a huge deal; however I have recently order and paid for a huge 120# order of chicken breast that will be picked up the second weekend in October. So I have to find a place to store this food. The final thought that occurred to me was no wonder my grocery budget is slowing climbing higher and higher each month. I am focusing on buy the great deals but failed to realize that I have 20 boxes of cereal already purchased on a great deal. Taking into account all this information in addition to the trip that we would like to take over the Thanksgiving weekend, I have decided that I will be limiting the amount of shopping and purchasing that I am going to be doing over the next two and half months.

I am definitely going to commit to and be accountable for living off our stockpile until December, approximately two and half months away. Because I know that as soon as I make the commitment to do this undertaking then we will start to run of things or will need to purchase milk and eggs or even worse Diet Coke.   I am going to budget $100 a month for groceries during October and November. I have a CVS gift card from our recent toilet paper purchase for $10 so this will be my play money to keep shopping the best deals. If you are wondering about the grocery budget for September, we have $7 left which may or may not get used at CVS as well. My goal with allowing $100 in spending is to purchase only items that we are “out” of.  I know that I may miss some really good deals but I also realize that I need to make some space prior to the first of the year when my local store usually runs the best sale of the year. I also will be able to grab “free” items and pay just tax! I will be the first to say that this is going to be hard for me as I enjoy the “shopping game” and love to play it especially at the grocery and drug store but I also realize that this is a great opportunity to prove my self control, manage to save at least one half of the money need for our trip, reduce our overall grocery budget for the year and clean out the 10 boxes of mac and cheese that have been hiding in my closet.  I am going to plan to provide a weekly update on my spending just to make myself accountable!  Does anyone else have a stockpile that is full?

Freezer Cooking- Not as Expected!

I have been doing some type of freezer cooking for years. I have done this several different ways including share a day with friends as well as simply doubling recipes to place in the freezer or most recently finding ways to process meat/chicken when purchased in large quantities.  I have learned that doubling is the easiest way to keep the freezer stocked but it is not always convenient  to work things this way. This weekend, my best friend and I decided to try a menu plan. I am going to be really honest and upfront, I did not spend the money to actually purchase the plan so I am hopefully that the problems I had/discovered would have been covered if we had purchased the plan. This is the actual plan.

First, the reasons that I was excited to attempt the plan. This plan includes 20 meals but in reality it is 10 meals that can be repeated. This was a huge plus as it allowed us both to work together share the cost and end up with 10 meals. We were able to reduce some of the cost by using ingredients that we already had on hand such as the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Total spent out of pocket was $66.25 each. I did end up with 11 meals because I could tell that the soup was easily tow full meal so that cost per meal is $6. The fact that this plan used four different types of meat and was gluten free were also high on the reason to try list.   Another advantage to this plan was shopping at Costco, I love Costco and the food is always a better quality.  We were not able to find all the ingredients at Costco so we did end up spending money at Food Lion as well. Finally, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to try the plan was the idea of “completing/assembling” in 2 hours.

Now on to reality, first as I mentioned we were not able to find all the items at Costco, which meant we shopped the first time at Food Lion. Second as we were working on the meals, we realized that some of the ingredients were incorrect, for example we only used two cans of black beans instead of four, we needed an additional two or three peppers and two cans of rotel were left off the list entirely. My husband ended up going out to grab things twice while we were assembling. Finally the biggest negative about this list and preparing it was the actually time we spent. I didn’t keep account of shopping time but we spent 5 hours at my friends house cooking on Saturday. I have gone back to the site today and realized that she used the word assembled in regards to the two hour time frame. I did not purchase the plan so I have not watched the video but I am pretty sure that when she used the word assembled it was just that putting all the items in a bag. This plan is labor intensive and require a lot more than just assembling.  We both enjoyed spending time together and overall this was probably not as much time as most people spend on preparing two weeks worth of meal but I had I anticipated the time more accurately than it would have been more enjoyable.

I am excited to try the food because each of the meals looks and smells good so in the end this may not be a bad experience; however I will be very careful about my reading in the future.


Thursday Random, Budget Related Thoughts

I made the comment last week that September was turning into a very expensive month. I am relieved to say that things have calmed down a bit and although it will still be an expensive over all month, I am hoping that we can stay on track budget wise.

As of today, I have spent $380 of our $600 monthly grocery budget. This does include a 120# of chicken from Zaycon food, that will not be picked up until mid-October. I currently am planning to do a freezer cooking day with my BFF on Saturday which will add somewhere between $50 to $100 to the budget. This will give us another 10 crock pot meal for use as well. I am expecting $20 in rebate cards from my stock up of Tide Detergent. I will be using this as they come in and moving $20 into our special saving funds, which I will explain in a minute. I also have $7 left on a gift card from CVS. My goal for the rest of the month is to speed as little as possible on groceries. I will definitely be under budget this month, the only question will be by how much?

Currently we have $240 remaining in our gas budget for the month. I estimate we will need to use at least $180 of this but should be able to hang on to the remaining $60.

I was able to finish out Zach’s clothing needs for the fall by purchasing some clothes from a friend!  She has the next size up as well so if Zach decides to grow I have an option to purchase  without breaking the budget again.

The weather has been very usually in North Carolina this week. Beginning on the 7th, we have not used out central air. I am so excited about this, I have been keeping a close eye on the weather and realized that today (Thursday) was the warmest out of the week. The temperature did get up in the high 80’s and the temperature in the house was sitting at 84, but we survived and with a cold front passing through along with rain, our goal is to make it at least 2 weeks without central air in September. We are usually able to enjoy a lower electricity bill for October and November so this should generate some nice savings for us.

Now for the announcement of where these savings are headed.  We would like to make a trip to Michigan to visit with Matt’s family over the Thanksgiving holiday. However, after much discussion and a hard look at our budget, we agree that in order to make this trip we will need to save around $1800 for the trip. So we are both search for any extra money in our budget in addition to searching for extra ways to earn money. For us this is a lofty goal for an 8 week period but I am excited to see where this challenge leads us!