January in Review- The Numbers

January ended up being a good start to 2017 overall. I know that I can do better at some things but hey at least there is effort.  Here is a look at some of the numbers

Debit Reduction: $115 (this is an overall number which makes more sense to me. This is the amount that we reduced our overall debit not including our van or mortgage.
Blog Post: 13
Days on Treadmill: 2  (I personally think I should get credit for one more day of walking around the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh).
Low Spend Challenge: We did very well with this. We did not eat out except for our time in Raleigh for the Cheer competition. I had purchased gift cards to use for these meals and spent an additional $20! This is a major accomplishment.
Eat out of Pantry Challenge: $162 spent of Groceries. My initial goal was $100 but this is  a huge accomplishment/success especially when it includes the purchase of 40 pounds of chicken breast. I know that our spending in February will be much higher due to the need to purchase some basic supplies in addition to our “junk food Sunday”.  I will set the goal to spend less than $500 for the entire month.
Gas: $260 spent.
Earnings:  Matt and I combined for a total of $200 this month from our apps and Swagbucks. This is less than December but after doing some investigation this is a steady amount to work toward.

January was overall  a good month. I did not accomplish everything but progress is achieved no matter how small or how long it takes.

February promises to be a very busy month with 2-3 cheer competitions, church and work commitments. My goal will be to file our taxes prior to the end of the month!

 

 

Thursday Thoughts/Update 01/26/2017

  • Kendall is student of the week, but her classroom name of “Super Hero” of the week is way cooler. As part of her celebration, Lily and I joined her for lunch today. I am so proud of her behavior, her grades and her loving spirit.
  • I am exhausted this week, it has been a rough week at work. In addition, we have had an activity every night this week. We leave Saturday morning to travel to Lily’s first cheer competition of the season. I need to get us all packed today on my day off.
  • Low Spend challenge- The month of January is quickly coming to an end. I have spent $162 on groceries. I did purchase a gallon of milk today, with this we should not need anything else. This is $12 more than I planned to spend this month but feeding a family of 5 for less than $200 is considered a victory not matter how you look at it.
  • Eat out of the pantry challenge-  The most exciting news of the month is that now all of our food is in the kitchen. We have finally cleaned out enough to fit everything in our kitchen pantry instead of the pantry and extra closet in the shower room.  I am making a list of items we are out of. My plan is to use my reward from my “Costco Visa” to purchase these items. I am going to try and stick to a $100 budget otherwise.
  • Both our electric bill and water bill are extremely high. After some checking, we realized that we have a small water leak out front that Matt fixed himself. The water bill is $12 higher than our highest so fixing the leak should return it to normal. We also figured out that the emergency heating strips for our heat pump were not working. The parts were covered under warranty but the labor for installation was $80.

5 Things Friday 1/20/2017

  1.  This will be our 3rd weekend in a row at home! I am so excited but I also realize that it will be our last weekend with limited to no plans for a while.  The big plan for the weekend is to take down my Snow Village.
  2. Yesterday, my mother had her final appointment and received her completed artificial leg. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. This process stared on June 9th, 2016 when she fell and broke her hip.
  3. I was able to spend a little time outside yesterday and I am so excited to discovery that my mint is surviving and growing. I still have oregano growing as well as some rosemary. I am very hopeful that my dill will reappear this year as well. If not having these two herbs survive the winter saves at least $10.
  4. Our heat pump was not heating as well as we thought it should be over the last very cold spell. Today, we found out that we have a 10 year warranty on the unit and other parts which last until June 2018.  Our auxiliary heat strips were not working so we ended up paying $80 in labor. I am so thankful this was not a bigger expense.
  5. Matt and I both continue to work daily on our app to make money. So far this month things are slower than December but we have still managed to cash out $100 with at least another $50 expected before the end of the month.

Goal Update-

I had planned to post pictures of the “tower” that we are building in the Dinning room to house our internet including firewall and router. However this project is taking longer than expected so I will anticipate sharing those pictures as soon as it is finished.  I have had some time to reflect back on 2016 especially in the area of our finances. Since I don’t have pictures to share, I thought this would be a good place to share some of my observations, along with updates regarding my goals for the month.

First let’s talk food. Last year, we spent a total of $7884.51, which averages out to be $657 a month. This amount is actually less than the $700 a month that I began the year with. It really surprised me to learn that it is almost $40 less a month than our spending in 2015.  We have also significantly reduced the amounts we are spending on eating out. I order pizza on Friday night and used gift cards to pay for it. While eating and talking, we realized this was the first “take out pizza” we had eaten in six months! I shared several time that I was participating in an “eat out of your pantry challenge.” I am excited to say that as of today, my pantry floor is empty!  I initially set my goal to spend $100 or less on food for the month. I have change this to $150 or less. The reason for the change is that I purchased 40# of chicken breast to be picked up the end of February.  This week is the most difficult for me as we are starting to run out of the “normal” convenient meals but I am determined to make it work for the month. So far I have spent $131.11.  I did go to both Food Lion and Aldi today. Aldi will be closing for the next six weeks and I wanted to grab a couple of items for our Super Bowl party.  I have spent some time over the past few weeks looking at our budget and working on ways to make it work for us. My goal for the year is to spend  $550 a month or less on groceries.  Small action steps including eating out of the pantry and purchasing only the items we are out of until March this year.

The second challenge that I have decided to participate in is No Spend/Low Spend month.  I am excited to say that so far this month, I have not paid for any extra items.  The biggest reason for this is gift cards. Matt and I both are using several different strategies to make extra money. Most of the apps and Swagbucks rewards are paid in gift cards. I have been collecting and using these gift cards instead of spending money from our budget. So far this has been paying off. I know that February will be an expensive month because we have a cheer competition every weekend except the last one. However I need to focus on one month at a time. So January is a success.

A final note is that we will continue to budget $300 a month for gas and other vehicle expenses. I anticipate meeting this goal simply because both of our vehicles are in good repair and should not require additional spending this year.

5 Things Friday

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  1. Today is my first paycheck of the year.  We have started out on a much better foot than last year. We will be using cash only for purchase this year.  I am determined to make a huge dent in our debit while continuing to enjoy activities including vacations with our family.
  2. The kids have missed three days this week due to the snow. I ended up with several short days.
  3. My parents watch the little kids this evening while both Matt and I worked. I was able to purchase pizza for dinner using gift cards from Mplaces/Cricket. I forgotten how good free food taste.
  4. One of my goal this year is to sort through all of our pictures that are currently stored in several different places. So far, I am making good progress with the cabinet over my desk completed. I hope to sort out a filing cabinet that we stored in the bathroom 4 years agl.
  5. We are continuing to work on getting our dining room together. I am hoping to share pictures of our progress tomorrow.

Menu Planning

Today is Snow Day #2 for us.  The kids school has already been cancelled for tomorrow and I would bet a delay or closure again on Tuesday. I have a really short day at work tomorrow to begin with so even if I go regular schedule, we should still enjoy another day with extra time at home.  I feel very confident and satisfied with our breakfast choices. I am also extremely hopefully to keep our grocery budget less than $100 this month as we have finally completed a plan for the month.  You will notice more elaborate, read time consuming, meals at the beginning of the week.

Breakfast–   Saturday- pancakes. Sunday- French toast  Monday-Egg muffins Tuesday-  baked oatmeal Wednesday- choices. Thursday-  Choices Friday- Choices.  Saturday- Pancakes Choices include : pancakes, baked oatmeal,  eggs, grits, French toast, toast or cereal.

Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese roll up, homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week.

Dinner-  Saturday- Chicken Stew Dinner- Chicken Stew.
Sunday- Lunch- personal pizza on bread Dinner- shoulder roast with carrots and potatoes, deviled eggs and broccoli corn bread.
Monday- Copy cat lettuce wraps
Tuesday- Alice Springs chicken with sweet potatoes and pineapple
Wednesday-  Sloppy joes and FF
Thursday- Stuffed green peppers
Friday- Leftovers or pizza.

Matt will be going to pick up buns for our sloppy joes along with eggs this week before our local Aldi closes for remodeling.

Saving on Saturday 1/07/2017

sosToday was officially a snow day in NC, that definitely helped with the saving as our cheerleading competition was cancelled which at minimum saved us $30 in admission.

I mentioned that I am participating in  a low spend challenge, I have budgeted $100 for groceries this month. I did spend $14 on Monday at CVS and my plan was to hold on to the rest until it was a need. The need and some wants found me on Thursday, I went to our local Aldi to grab some plastic wrap and realized that they will be closing next week for 6-8 weeks of  construction. We decided to go ahead and grab some items that will be needed before March. We spent a total of $42.  The need that came about today is for labelling tape, so another $5 on Amazon. My totals are now at $61 for the month which leaves an $39 for any need that may arise.

The second challenge is Eat from your pantry.  This is actually a very easy and doable challenge as we have a pantry full in addition to several full freezers.  We have actually have two full weekends at home, thanks to the snow, therefore I have been trying to stock up on some prepared foods that we really like and can use during the hectic weeks ahead. Last week in my menu plan, I share how we started this process.  This weekend, I have already made a huge pot of chicken stew, which we ate for two meal before freezing the remainder for a quick dinner.  This morning, Matt made a triple batch of pancakes and the plan is to make French toast in the morning. This should definitely help with breakfast in the next couple of weeks. I am planning to share our menu plan, once we decide on it for next week.

We have started working on making our now dinning room more functional.  I am determined not to let this project take over either time wise or financially this year, so small steps. We mover our smallest refrigerator to the outside building, which allowed us to re-position the black refrigerator, removed the cabinets that we hung last year, and placed a shelf back over the black refrigerator for storage. During the process we had to paint the wall.  I am proud to say that this was all completed without spending anything.  Before sending the cabinets to the dump, we removed the hinges and handles which are going to be reused for the custom buffet I want to complete. I was able to earn a $50 gift card to Lowes last month and Matt grab a $25 one this month. These should allow us to place new electrically and build a “tower” for the internet and cable that comes into the house in this area. The current goal is to have this completed by the end of January with zero out of pocket.  In an effort to make goals that are achievable this year, I am going to wait till then to look ahead at the next step.

5 Things Friday-01/06/2017

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  1. It is currently snowing in North Carolina. This is honestly, one of the best kind of snows. Today is Friday and the snow did not begin until around 4pm so I was still safe driving home at 5:30. We are expecting all snow and no ice. We are all home for the weekend so the kids can enjoy a couple of day playing in snow and I don’t have to worry about heading toe work .
  2. Lily’s second cheer competition of the season has been cancelled due to the snow. She was really excited about going but I am glad to have some more down time.
  3. We filled our freezer with beef on Wednesday. It was about what I expected in regards to quantity. I was pleasantly surprised at the taste and tenderness of it. We will continue to stock up the freezer this weekend so I have no plans to venture anywhere until at least Monday.
  4. One of the fun task I accomplished today was to start planning our Disney trip in November. It is always fun to research options and decide which day to spend in which park in addition to thinking about where we want to eat each day.
  5. Yesterday, I realized that our local Aldi store is closing to remodel for six weeks beginning next week. I was planning to limit our grocery spending for both January and February, without this convenient store, this task will be easier. I did however grab some items to keep her for the next several months. Total spent $42.57 which still leaves me with $45 to spend out of my $100 grocery budget for January.

Menu Planning

I mentioned in yesterday post that I am attempting to participate in two separate but very related challenges this month, No Spend January and Eat from the Pantry. Today I want to share the most important thing that will help us achieve both of these planning. This is actually a two part process, first is making food ahead of time and the second is planning and using the meals.

Part of the time I spent for my three day weekend is cooking ahead. On Saturday, we made 6 batches of pork fried rice using left over BBQ from Christmas.  We ate one of these for dinner on Saturday. On Sunday, we made taco rice and cheeseburger pies. On Monday, we made Salisbury steaks and mashed potatoes. We were able to use pull out raw hamburger from our freezer. Which was very helpful due to the fact we are receiving the cow I purchased in December this week.

The final step in this process is Menu Planning. There is a slight increase in the need for this with attempting to eat out of our pantry.  Here is our plan…

Breakfast–   Saturday- grits, eggs and  bacon . Sunday- Donuts  Monday-Baked Oatmeal  Tuesday-  fried bologna and eggs Wednesday- choices. Thursday-  Choices Friday- Choices.  Saturday- Pancakes Choices include : leftovers, eggs, grits, French toast,, toast or cereal.

Lunch- Zach and Kendall have chicken and stars soup, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese roll up, homemade lunchable and chips w/salsa. I am taking left-overs this week.

Dinner-  Saturday- Lunch- left overs  Dinner- Pork Fried Rice and egg roll.
Sunday- Lunch- Shrimp Gumbo in crockpot (kielbasa and shrimp, both from freezer) Dinner-  left-overs
Monday- Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and fruit
Tuesday- Steaks and salad
Wednesday-  Chicken cacciatore (found in freezer) and pasta
Thursday- Broccoli and cheese soup in crockpot
Friday- Leftovers or pizza.

I did have to make a quick trip to CVS this week for a total of $14.45 out of our grocery budget.