We received our income tax return today. I was very determined to use it in the most efficient way possible. In order to accomplish this I have spend the better part of the morning, looking at budgets and trying to put together some plans and strategies. One of my main concerns and areas of focus was “known” expenses. These are expenses such as yearbooks, pool dues, brakes, and oil changes that I know are coming at some point. These are also where I feel like I really don’t plan enough. I have tried to come up first of all a list of these expenses and more importantly a plan to pay them. My overall goal is to be able to set a budget and any money saved from that budget can be used to help cover kids expenses, or reduce our debit. Currently it is more like a move money to cover this expense but opps now I need to cover this expenses. I am overall really pleased with where I think we stand as far as a budget goes.
The tax return will be used to cover the deposit on our beach vacation in August. The rest of this will be paid from my “extra” check in June. We will also replace the windshield in my van, replace the brakes on Matt’s van and get an oil change for his van. The rest of it and our state return will be used to help fill some gaps that I have identified in our budget.
The weather for the last few days has been cloudy but with temperatures in the low 70s. We have turned off the heat and opened a couple of windows. Both our electric and water bill have decreased in February but an extra week without heating and air goes a long way. Matt has also been able to stop a leak in the hall bathroom and did some minor repairs on the dryer. We are very hopeful that these small changes will bring both bills down to a lower level.
A huge surprise or change that we expect in March is a reduction of our cable television bill. With Septrum our bill that we just received jumped $35. We have made no changes to our service. Matt called and it was a “your promotional period has ended” increase. We are currently researching options and will honestly give Septrum one last chance to match our current price. If not then we are cancelling our landline and switching to HULU live. This change will save us around $40 a month. I know that the first two months saving will be used to purchase one additional box for our televisions.
The thing I am most excited about is my plan to purchase mulch and all plants for the Square Foot Garden this year with earning from Swagbucks. In the past, I have used the grocery budget for these purchases but this way the pressure is off to “harvest ” enough to cover the expenses!
I was doing so well and blogging several times a week, and then 7 days of silence what happened?
The short answer is LIFE
But in order to give you an idea about what that looks like for us here is a more detailed answer.
For the next six weeks, Lily has practice for the theater Monday- Friday from 4-6 pm. The good news is that we have worked it out so that Matt drops her off and I am picking her up most evenings on my way home from work. The bad news is that means we are eating dinner at 6:30 which means that the evening does not exist for me.
Kendall stays after school on Tuesdays for Battle of the Books till 3:30 and on Wednesday for Sign Language club. Zach and Kendall both attend a kid’s program on Wednesday nights from 6 to 8pm.
Zach has just signed up for spring baseball this past week. I am assuming that we will start a practice schedule of 2 or 3 days a week very soon. In the meantime, he was asked to play on a different team than he has in the past. This team is playing “kid-pitch” baseball so this adds some interesting changes and expenses to the table.
Matt has been working extra, in fact, today was his sixth day in a row working with it also being his 7th out of 8 days as well. We fully expect this to change over the next month but are open and encouraging to continue try and gain some financial ground this year.
Next let’s talk a little about the weekends. Friday night, Lily stayed after practice for some fun and food with her cast mates until 8pm. Kendall attended her very first sleepover on Friday night as well. On Saturday, all three kids had a piano lesson, this is a wonderful opportunity but takes a good 3 hour chunk from our day. Zach ended up going to a friends house for several hours as well on Saturday.
As you can tell life is back to it’s busy pace around here.
CVS and I have a love/hate relationship. It remains one of the stores that I always monitor sales at but it is also one that I can honestly walk into and walk out if I don’t get the coupon that I am looking for from the red machine. After leaving last Thursday without purchasing anything, Lily and I ventured back today. Lily did end up buying herself some make up but this does not count in my spending. I only supply the coupons that I have available.
Not a bad purchase for $4.85. I ended up doing a total of 3 transactions. Two of these transactions show 100% savings, which means I only paid tax on the purchases. The final receipt shows a saving of 73%, which is really above my goal of 70% each time. My overall saving was at 80%. I used a combination of paper coupons and those from the red machine. Back to loving CVS for the month of February.
Yes this is the “day late and dollar short” version of 5 Things Friday. I will be the first to admit that the last couple of weeks have been very stressful and emotionally exhausting in addition to being financially straining.
Yesterday, was our first full paycheck for the month of February. The good news is that we were able to catch up from the snow week. I have a plan in place for both our tax returns and am very hopeful that this will allow us back on a slow but steady track to paying down our huge debit this year. We are working to reduce both our electric and water bills to a more normal level. Matt and I have already worked out a Menu plan for the month which means we should be able to keep the grocery bill on a lower than usual level. Another positive is that Matt has been selling vinyl decals on a very steady basis this month. This is definitely helpful as we have lots of unexpected expenses.
I am battling left-overs in our fridge. Our super bowl party is always fun but we end up with some interesting left-overs. This week, I made an effort to make meals of left-overs and strongly suggested that Matt and Lily eat left-overs for lunch. Today, I am repurposing left-overs, we had a bag of carrots, and a bunch of celery, several cups of rice and some pulled pork. I did a little bit of thinking and decided to make pork fried rice. I chopped up the pork and realized that we had over 4 cups left which is enough to make 2 full meals for us. I let Kendall help chop up the carrots and celery. I added some green peppers and onions and that became our veggies for the stir-fry. One set for dinner and a second set in the freezer for a crazy day of what is for dinner.
Zach has officially started taking piano. He has been asking for over a year but we really wanted him to wait until he was a strong reader before attempting. Kendall started teaching him this week for fun. He even practiced every day without being told. This is definitely an expense that I don’t mind adding.
I am so ready for spring, in fact I have already planned out our square foot garden and added several more containers. I am very hopefully that with a little extra work this year we will have a bumper crop. I purchased trees a couple of years ago to start work on a landscape line. The trees came with a 2 year guarantee. I received an email yesterday that a new peach tree is being shipped this week. My mother has also been growing several pecan trees in her flower bed. So we should be able to finish the border without spending any additional money!
Our busy schedule has returned. Some days, I am honestly thinking how do we actually do this. This week, Lily has practice for her play, 4 nights and a party the 5th night. Kendall has 2 days of extra curricular activities in addition to church on Wednesday night. Matt has also doubled his hours at work for this week. Yikes, better rest up today!
I have often shared about our huge shopping trips to Costco in addition to great sales I find here and there. This week is a different week for us, we are not in need of many things and I could not find a great sale either, so I have spent less than $30 on groceries for the week.
First stop was Dollar General. We needed, like down to the last 2 rolls of cheap spare toilet paper needed, toilet paper this week. I did some research this morning and discovered that Dollar General had a $2 off 2 digital coupon on our favorite brand. The lesson learned is that you can not combine digital and paper coupons. Total spent $8.70
Next, was a quick trip across the street to Food Lion to grab some breakfast deals. They are currently having their Buy 2 Get 1 Free Sale. My receipt showed a 50% saving which is great for this store. I purchased 6 boxes of cereal, 3 boxes of pop-tarts, 6 bowls of instant noodle soup and 2 packs of hot dogs for $16.77
I did stop at CVS but did not receive the coupon I needed to get a great deal on hair styling products so zero spent there.
My last stop was Aldi to pick up the other two needed items milk and half and half. Matt uses the half and half as creamer. Total spent $3.01
How are you saving?
Food is the single most expensive item in our budget. I have been very proud in the past several years to slowly but surely reduce our grocery budget from $800 to $475. I also will just put out there that we no longer have kids in diapers either so that helps. Eating out is a huge expense and one that we have also reduced significantly over the past several years. I am trying to find a happy balance between a stocked pantry and shopping sales. This week the only real need we have is milk, cream and toilet paper but I plan to stock up on cereal and pop-tarts as well because they are on an awesome sale.
I have found two great fast food deals that I want to share with you. First is McDonalds, download the app! The deals always change. Currently, the focus is on mobile ordering. It is super easy to do. Matt and I both have the app so we were able to eat lunch for $5.47 on Tuesday. We used the $1 any sandwich and I added a large fry and $1 soda. Another great deal can be scored today, Sonic had fifty cent corn dogs all day. This is honestly even better than purchasing and frying ourselves!
I am super excited to share about my trip to Harris Teeter. I receive the weekly email but often delete it before checking it out, however this week the 12 pack of Cokes for $1.99 caught my eye. I also was glad that I found packs of shredded cheese for $0.99 each. I stocked up on my limit of 10 and may have convinced by Mother to purchase another 8 on her card. The other really exciting part of this trip was that they are doubling coupons up to $2 this week. This is the most I have saved!
By the numbers:
Total before VIC Card and coupons $176.18
VIC savings $126.20
Coupon Savings $19.98
Total Savings $146.18
Total spent $57.30
Saving Percent 77%
The final week of January has been a rough one for us, on many different levels. Today is Thursday and I can see a small light at the end of the tunnel at least for this week. Both our electric and water bill will be extremely high for February so I am already working the budget numbers to accommodate the extra amounts.
Since I am not totally positive on what things I want to monitor this year I am going with a list method of goals and may decide to add or delete a few as the weeks go on.
Financial- We are attempting to use a cash only method for the first six month of the year in order to get us some better financial balance.
- Total paid to credit card debit $1050 total reduction in credit card debit $415
- Grocery budget $160- Total spent $200. This is still $275 less than budget.. I will be increasing the February budget to $300.
- Gas budget- $280- Spent $235
- Kid/Summer expenses : $85
- Earned $170- this is indeed a much lower amount but this is the expectation until at least March.
Personal- This is truly where I am add or change several things
- Blogging- 15 for the month. I am going to set a goal for 20 but realize that is probably not realistic.
- Reading The Bible – 31 days complete!
- Exercise- 7 total days for the month. Again setting a goal for 15 but not sure if that is realistic or not.
Fair warning this is not a happy post, I had even considered naming it 5 Financial Woes but decided that was a bit dramatic.
- My snow days last week, which I did enjoy ended up being unpaid.
- On Saturday of last week, the windshield of my van started to crack for no apparent reason. The crack has now spread to cover 3/4 of the windshield. It is not actually in the line of site but the entire windshield will need to be replaced in the near future.
- Our water bill increased this month by $18.
- Our electric bill increased by $160 from last month and $80 from our average bill.
- Our earning apps, extra money has slowed to a crawl. This is expected for the first several month of the year but still a cut in pay.
I have really slacked off with CVS over the past year. In fact, I usually only go every couple of weeks. One of the main reason is that they are making it difficult to save money. Just a few weeks ago I was greeted by a sign that stated “Limit of two transactions per household per day.” I asked and got a crazy explanation and thankful someone has at least told them that is not legit. Earlier this week, I stopped by to grab a good deal on deodorant that I found on Southern Savers. I ended up with 4 sticks of deodorant for $5.12 and 5 ECB to save.
Today, Matt and I made a quick trip to CVS to grab more deodorant on a different deal. I also had printed coupons for Campbell’s Soup, $0.80 off 4 cans. I did not realize that Tomato Soup was on sale.
Today I spent a total of $2.25 for 3 sticks of deodorant, 4 cans of Tomato soup, and 2 kit kat bars. I purchased the 3 sticks of deodorant in the first transaction using the 5 ECB from earlier in the week, and the soup with the 4 ECB I received back!
Matt should have enough deodorant for several months and Kendall is one happy girl with four cans of Tomato Soup!