Thursday Thoughts 2/22/2018

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!

CVS Saving 2/11/2018

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.

A704B29D-CE19-445E-9642-7F221773AA25Not 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.

Six Things On Saturday- 2/10/2018

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!

$30 Grocery Budget

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?

Saving on Food

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!

Saving On Saturday 02/03/2018

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%

 

 

Saving on Saturday- 1/22/2018

This week we , Matt, kids, my mom and myself, decided to search out some clearance deals.  I will go ahead and say that Matt was able to get the best overall deal.  Matt works at Dollar General.  Until Tuesday of this coming week, the majority of Christmas items are twenty-five cent each.  After hearing of his awesome deal, we decided to browse the other Dollar Generals in town.

On Friday night, Matt found a candle that was placed in the wrong area with a twenty-five cent coupon on top of it. He purchased the candle for me and a box of candy canes for a total of twenty-six cent. He also submitted his receipt to Ibbotta and receive a twenty five cent rebate so a candle and box of candy canes for one penny after rebate.

One store had lots of canned pumpkin (I purchased 12 cans) a container of green sprinkles and a container of cloves all priced at twenty-five cents. We also found a Cars stocking also priced at twenty five cent.  I also purchased tissue paper, gift boxes and bows of varies sizes.   Plastic round ornament boxes were priced at $3 each, I purchased at total of three at two separate stores. I also found some paper plates for a Ladies banquet that I am responsible for a table at. These were not on clearance but a great deal.  I ended up spending a total of $50 !  I will say I am very impressed with my self.

Our final stop was the local Big Lots, we found all Christmas items between 50% and 75% off. We also discovered at the register that this weekend, we received an additional 20% off. I am excited to say that we found wrapping paper that will work for several occasions for less than seventy five cents a roll! This was a huge score and completes re stocking our wrapping paper.

Today, we claimed and sorted the recycle paper bin at our church. I started with many years ago.  After less than an hours work for the sorting we have a case or more of paper that will be used for printing coupons, art work and recipes for the next six months or so.

 

 

 

Monday Menu Plan 1/15/2018

I have always said that menu planning saves us a ton of money, now I have the proof.  On Saturday, we headed to Aldi to purchase some items that we were out of, we even added in three boxes of cereal to help with breakfast this week.  Our total was $25.57.  Matt was working Sunday morning and the kids and I decided that we wanted to make a big “Cracker Barrel Breakfast”. After checking, we need a couple of items to make the things we wanted.  Kendall and I took our list and headed to Food Lion.  The one meal list cost $25.47.  No more special meals for us. Everyone is home on Monday but then it is back to reality.  To end on some good news, we have $6.41 left out of our $160 grocery budget.

Breakfast- Saturday- Pimento Cheese and Bacon Biscuits, Sunday- Cereal and toast, Monday- Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday- Choice of cereal, eggs or left-overs, Thursday(kids have eye appointment) pancakes or waffles.

Lunch- Saturday- Left-overs/sandwich, Sunday- Baked Potatoes, Monday- Sandwiches. The kids are taking 1 day of sandwhiches and 2 grab and go days. I will be taking left-over soup all this week.

Sunday- Saturday- Chicken Tacos, Sunday- Egg Casserole, Hashbrown casserole and cooked apples, Monday- Pizza Rolls, Tuesday- Chicken Pot Pie (from freezer), Wednesday-Hamburger Helper, Thursday- Country style steak or pulled pork, Friday- Chicken Nuggets and French Fries.

We are eating a lot of quick simple meals and sandwiches this week but it is just what we feel like. The menu may change depending on the weather and my work schedule.

Saving on Saturday

The weather has improved slightly here (50s) so Matt and I spent a considerable amount of time outside working on improvements.  We have a tower that we have replaced the tarp cover on at least once a year. We had initially thought about covering with tin or wood but after much thought and debate, decided that easiest and most cost effective solution was to remove the top and leave it open. Next, we tackled an upgrade to our composite bins. These were built several years ago with all scrap material. The tops are deteriorating quickly so we used some salvaged tin to cover. This did not cost us anything and hopefully will speed up the process due to extra heat and keep unwanted animals from eating out of it.  The final improvement outside was to reinforce the structure of our rain barrels.  We added several pieces of scrap wood and the difference is amazing.  We will be reconnecting the rain collection system in March to prepare for the summer.

A different way that I am trying to save money is finding ways to reduce our water and energy consumption. I am enjoying my huge bathtub on these cold days! To try and save even a little bit, I have been dipping out a small bucket of water from the tub each night and using it to water the house plants.  The only issue is me remember to water the plants.

The final way I am “saving money” requires a little bit of flexibility. Both Matt and I actively complete Swagbucks to earn extra money. In December, we discovered that they were discounting gift cards to Burger King. We decided to purchase these instead of placing the money in our “extra account”  This month, they are discounting Domino’s pizza cards. At 20% off this is huge. So far we have “earned” $65 in gift cards with my personal goal to earn $100 by the end of the month.  Especially this summer, this will save us time and money!

Savings this week- 1/11/2018

As I have mentioned before, we are on a tight budget this month in hopes to get us on a good financial track for the year.  I have been able to find some really good deals while staying on track this week.

CVS has the best sale that I have seen in a while. Add to the fact that Matt is completely out of deodorant and it was a definite stop. I was able to grab a tube of free toothpaste. Which BTW, I have not paid for toothpaste in at least two years. Matt ended up with one stick of deodorant, two were purchased for me and 2 bottles of shampoo. Total out of pocket was $6.38.

Lily had most of her Christmas money left so I took her to the stores of her choice today.  I was able to grab Oreos on clearance along with a couple of items for Easter baskets at Target for $3.17.  The overall best deal of the day was at “Five Below”, their Christmas items were discounted by 75%. I grabbed 7 rolls of Disney wrapping paper for $3.50, I also added a couple of items for Easter as well. So for a total of $8 between the two stores I am very pleased.

The final deal of the day, cost me the least. We continue to earn extra money through Swagbucks every month. This month, I was able to grab a $25 Bath and Body Works card.  Bath and Body Works also has their semi annual clearance sale in January and July. I was able to use a coupon code in addition to the sale for 20% off. I ended up with 5 bottles of shower gel shipped for twenty four (yes $0.24) out of pocket.