Friday, April 25, 2008
My Five Budget Busters are:
Organic Food – Since we eat only natural, non processed foods I am so tempted by organic food in the stores. You know organic cookies that appear to be Oreo’s or organic frozen dinners which, since they are a whole food and usually just have a few ingredients would be fine on a night when I am too tired to cook. I shy away from those because of the high sodium content but it sure would be nice to have one of those sitting in the freezer for a night off for me.
Home school and Kid’s Books – Hello. My name is ChouChou and I am addicted to home school & kid’s books. I need a 12 step program. I try to do what I can: buying books a yard sales for .25 or buying off the clearance rack at our local used home school store but what is my problem???? For example I went into said home school store yesterday for a new science book since my 11 year old blew through hers in like three months so I went to get her the next grade up so she can start on it. One book. One science book. I walked out of there with a literature book, a study of the Tudor Dynasty book, a science book, and a history book. What is my problem?????
Travel – Lord knows I am a Travel Junkie! Being a homeschooling family does not help the situation either in that if we are studying Williamsburg why can’t we go experience Williamsburg? If we are studying the coral reefs why can’t we go snorkel in the Bahamas (we did this by the way this past September). I really try, I really do, to find the best possible deals, accommodations, eat in our suite, etc. but there is just something about traveling that goes hand in hand with the shocking realization that you have spent too much. I start off with great intentions but when we return I am almost always surprised at how much we have spent.
Starbucks Caramel Frappiccinos – Again, my name is ChouChou and among my many addictions I am also addicted to this particular coffee at Starbucks. I only go into town once a week and will usually get one, so a once a week addiction is not that bad [rationalization] but you can bet that I break out into a rash every time I fork over $4.43 for that thing. But I like the idea of little treats for myself now and then and if my treat is only 4 bucks then I think I can handle it.
Shoes – I think all women like the idea of shoes. I mean who does not like buying new shoes that go perfect with a certain outfit. New shoes do something for the soul. But is it really necessary to have six pairs of black pumps??? Hello, my name is ChouChou and I am addicted to buying shoes.
Okay after writing all that out I have decided that I have an addictive personality. Seriously though, those are the things that tempt me and even though I have a handle on them somehow they creep in occasionally and disrupt my budget. The good news is that since I have become a frugal zealot who is in control of my money the effects are not terribly devastating and that is the key. Once you get your finances under control a little deviation from the plan, even unplanned, is okay and is not the end of the world.
I am supposed to tag three people, so I will tag:
Thrifty Florida Mama
These are great blogs. Please visit them and see what they have to say on this subject.
If this is your first time to my blog welcome! I invite you to please take a look around and learn how we live on a fireman's salary with 4 kids in a 21st century world! There are many ideas and helpful hints on how to save money, make money and reduce your debt.
I thank you kindly for stopping by!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Snowflaking is a wonderful concept. You can read about it here. I mean I love the idea of the debt snowball where you pay off one debt and then apply the amount you were paying to the original debt to the next debt and so on. But snowflaking gives you the sense of mini-successes which I love. They motivate me to keep working towards the bigger debt. Granted you are moving forward while working on your debt snowball but the successes seem fewer and farther between. Chinking away at debt in $2, $8, or $11 weekly increments makes me feel like I am doing something rather than having my successes a couple of months apart or more.
Where to find snowflakes:
- Change around the house - Look everywhere. I mean everywhere. In the couch, in the laundry room, all of the drawers in the house, in the car, the garage, everywhere. I found three dollars in change in the playroom. Who knew?
- Store mistakes - The other day I was at Harris Teeter and they were supposed to take off $3.00 for their store brand organic salsa making it $.29. When they rang me up it did not come off automatically like it as supposed to so they sent me up to customer service to get my money back. the lady at customer service said okay you'll get back $3.14. I asked her if she had to put it back onto my debit card or if she could just give me cash and she said she could give me the cash. I took the money and out it into my orthodontist envelope that I have sitting in my desk. I use any snowflakes to pay down my $1600.00 ortho bill for my son's teeth. But in my mind I had already committed and spent the $53.00 in the original transaction. Getting three dollars back and putting it back into my account seems counterproductive to me [this could just be my bizarre thinking!] but since I know that money has already been spent why not take it and spend it in a snowflake instead? If I had really been on the ball I would have quoted them their store policy which is when an item rings up at the wrong price you get that item free of charge.
- Refunds - Those of you who shop Walgreen's or CVS know the power of refunding. These stores have free items every month where all you have to do is purchase the items and send in the rebate forms and they send you a check or gift card back. They give away these items hoping that you are going to spend more money while youa re in there but little do they know that we hardcore frugal people will not buy anything but what we have gone in there to get. Instead of getting the rebate amount back in a gift card which means you have to spend it at their store get it in the form of a rebate check which is money free and clear that you can deposit at your bank. Take that money and snowflake it.
- Sell your stuff - no brainer here. Sell your stuff on Ebay, Craigslist, wherever you can. Yard sales, etc. You have this stuff sitting aorund your house that is worth money. Pretend it is money. Pretend that book on the shelf is $15.00. Pretend that those shoes in your closet are $21.00 laying on the floor. That figurine in the living room is $11.00 sitting on your entertainment center. If that was real money wouldn't you gather it all up and want to pay off your debt with it? What is stopping you?
- Windfalls - Any money that you were not expecting is considered a windfall. That could be an overpayment to your mortgage company, a rebate stimlus check (hint, hint), a birthday present, whatever.
- Coupon Savings - If you are a couponer at the bottom of your receipt it says how much you saved in coupons and card specials. Every time you go to the store check this amount and immediately throw that amount towards your debt.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Today my husband had dive training with a few other guys from the station. One guy is single. one guy is married, both of them work, no kids. The other guy is divorced, no kids. Then there is my husband - married, four kids. Since my husband is a healthy eater he tends to make his own meals at the fire station. This particular day the training was off site and on a boat for the coast guard. Now that I have set this up let me tell you the host of circumstances that can rob even the most savvy frugal zealot.
There was no warning that training was going to be off-site - This means that my husband was caught off guard and had nothing prepared to grab on the way out the door.
He was on a boat - no refrigeration. Well, you say, he could bring a cooler. Nope, not allowed.
He was hanging out with guys who do not have kids, or are single - these guys decided that hey we are off site, there is a restaurant around the corner - Hey let's go there for lunch! These guys don't really care or watch their finances as closely as someone with children would and were fine with dropping 10-15 bucks on lunch.
Because he was on a boat he couldn't opt out of lunch - Normally he would just skip lunch and wait until they got back to the station to eat but being on a rocking boat and having motion sickness, it is not a good idea to skip lunch since he would be sick the rest of the day.
Alas, he was stuck. He dropped $11.00 for lunch that day. Not a big deal but we don't want to make a habit of it. But my husband was a bit irritated because the guys that he works with do not even think twice about going out to lunch. Husband does not feel as though he is missing out on something by not being of the same mind as those guys but more that he has goals that he wants to achieve and would much rather spend his money on travel or something worthwhile than a fancy salad.
So at the end of the day, be aware of the situations that you could get in, plan for them, so you do not get into a position of being caught off gaurd as my husband did this day. Planning is the secret to frugality and living on less.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
- Invest in Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) - These are pricier than regular light bulbs but will save the earth and your pocketbook from an untimely demise. Throw a couple hundred dollars towards changing all your light bulbs out and reap the savings in your power bill and longevity of the earth.
- Fill your freezer - Your freezer doesn't run as efficiently if all you have is a tub of Chunky Monkey and a Tostinos pizza in there. Consider buying some meats or other items to fill your freezer so a.) you will have a fridge using less electricity and b.) on those weeks where you are short on cash and have little money to spare to buy groceries you can pull that rump roast out of the freezer that you bout 2 months ago and throw it into the crock pot and not have to worry about how you will feed your family this week.
- Get an electric programmable thermostat - $100-200 buys you a regulator that you can program to lower the temperature when you are not home and thus save money over the long haul.
- Invest in a low flow Shower head - Again no brainer here - save the earth and your water bill at the same time.
- Replace all the filters in your house - New filters means the less your systems have to work to clean the air.
- Buy energy efficient appliances - Yes your 14 year old Whirpool washer still works but do you think that thing isn't a water/electricity hog? Donate it to a women's shelter and get a highly efficient model to save on water and electricity bills.
Before you make any decision have all the options in front of you so you are well informed.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Last night I gave a lecture for a local MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group in my area about agressive couponing. I showed them everything from how to organize my coupons for maximum efficiency to how to do great "deals" so they can keep more of their money in their pockets. Here are some of the topics we discussed.
I. Types of Coupons - the secret is piggy-backing several coupons for one product
· Manufacturer’s coupons
· Store Coupons
· Catalinas - coupons that print out at register
· Holders to organize your coupons – binder or plastic tub - you can see my organizer here
II. Which Stores Work Best For Couponing
· Harris Teeter
· Walgreen’s - here is a primer on how to maximize savings at Walgreen's
· Rite Aid
III. How To Compile Deals
· Be organized
· Let others do the work for you – Coupon Mom, The Grocery Game, etc.
· Websites that post the deals for you – Money Saving Mom, etc.
· B1G1 Free - use two coupons for two products instead of just one
· Register Rewards (RR’s) - get cash back from Walgreen's
IV. Rebates & Refunds
· Be organized - if you lose you receipts or do not enter them in on time what goood is it?
· Get Rain checks - if other couponers have bought up all the good deals get a rain check so you can make sure you get the item at the same great price
· Roll savings onto Gift cards for no out of pocket expenses or get a check in the mail
· Take your savings and roll onto your next purchase by purchasing iems with your giftcard or put in savings or pay down debt by snowflaking
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I remember when I was eager to get out of debt and save money. I was so hungry for any tips that would help me and motivate me. Unfortunately there is a lot of stuff out there you have to weed through to get to the real tips that you can actually use.
Money Saving Ideas to Get you Out of Debt or increase your savings:
Make a budget - I know I know, everyone says this but it couldn't be more true. Pay everything in list of priority – pay shelter, utilities, food, transportation (PUFT) and first. Then work your way down the list of who gets paid until you are out of money for that month. Pay people in this order:
· Shelter, utilities, food, transportation
· 2nd mortgages/HELOCs
· credit cards
Increase your income - take a second job, part time job, get a better job. This is only temporarily.
Sell stuff on eBay – Since you have plenty of time on your hands because you won’t be eating out or going to the movies, etc. collect all the stuff in your house that you don’t use that is taking up space, plus you have to dust it. Recoup some of the money you spent on frivolous stuff and throw it towards debt or savings.
Have yard sales.
– you know that you are losing brains cells by sitting in front of the tv for hours at a time don’t you?
Loose the cable/satellite
Cut back on extras – No Starbucks Caramel Frappicinos. No new red shoes. No filet mignon. Remember this is only temporary until you can get your bearings. That stuff will always be there.
Ditch anything that is not in PUFT – Blockbuster/Netflicks movie rental – you can borrow movies for free from the library, piano lessons, etc.
Freecycle for what you need – Sign up for your area’s Freecycle and post what you need and someone will have it and email you to come pick it up. You can read about my recent success story here. Stuff that you think you cannot sell on Ebay post onto Freecycle so it does not end up in a landfill.
Collect all of your bills and call each company to get a better rate – again you have time on your hands since you are in lock down from yourself and your bad spending habits. Spend this time calling each company and get them to lower your rates to the very best rate they can offer – this includes your cell phone, insurance (life & car), credit cards, power company (see my post here about how to do this). Every company you deal with wants to keep you as their customer and not loose your business. Use this to your advantage.
With a few major and minor adjustments you can get yourself out of debt or increase your savings. Sure it will be difficult. Sure it might not be much fun.
But just as you teach your children that they must suffer the consequences when they make a bad choice the shouldn't the same be for you?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Here are some tips for frugality when it comes to pets:
1. Feed them the right food so they don't get sick - This is the most important element to having a pet. As anyone with a pet knows, one visit to the veterinarian puts you into the poor house. You can easily avoid unnecessary visits by feeding your animal decent food. By decent food I do not mean the most expensive that is out there. I am talking about food that does not have fillers or preservatives in it. Just as people shouldn't be eating food with this junk in it because it gunks up their system the same goes for animals. There is a relatively inexpensive product at Walmart that is called Maxximum (blue and black bag) that is the store brand that is decent with no additives or preservatives and no fillers. Look at what you are feeding your animals and find a better alternative to junky food. Your pocketbook will thank you later. So will your animal by living and loving you for many years to come.
2. Search out alternatives - We recently adopted a hurt chicken. She was a major layer in her flock but got hurt and was getting attacked by the other chickens so a friend of ours let us keep her until she was healed and then we ended up keeping her. My daughters love this chicken. They named her Roxy because, as we all know, once you name an animal your dad cannot butcher it. The woman that gave her to us gave us a bag of feed to give to her. We had already decided that she would be free ranging in the back yard and that we would add to her meal by supplementing with feed but I did not run out and by her some feed which was certainly overpriced from the feed store. I made my own. Since we buy grains in bulk for the family it was not difficult to come up with a mixture that would be good for a chicken. I combined in a container millet, steel cut oats, regular oatmeal, flax seed, flax meal, corn meal, and sunflower seeds. These are all organic so she is eating organic feed. She also eats scraps from the kitchen. Since she is a layer she is giving back to us for our caring for her. Great symbiotic relationship - like it is supposed to be. Again, don't just run off to the store to spend money - seek out alternatives first.
3. Animals do not need "things" - Does your dog really need a skirt? Does your cat really need a jeweled collar or that complex jungle gym thingy- ma-bob taking up space in your living room? Do you really need to provide a lavish pet bed or fancy walking gear or a pet stroller for your animal? Do you think that it increases their quality of life? It doesn't. Buying animals things does not do anything for the animal - the things are for people. So people can show off their pet or feel better about their pet or perhaps it makes the person feel better about themselves, who knows? Let me tell you before you think I sound like some bitter pet owner - I spoil my pets rotten, but with love and not things. Kind of how we should treat our kids don't you think? (Rant for later)
4. Let's say your animal does get sick - Try, if it is not an emergency, to wait until business hours to get treatment for your pet. If you go to an after hours emergency vet you might as well leave your first born child as payment because you will be in debt if you weren't already after you leave that place. Try to comfort your animal until regular hours and then take them in.
5. Weigh the options of treatment - We lost our dog of 14 years two years ago. We loved that dog. He was the healthiest dog. never went to the vet except for shots. Again I believe this is because we fed him the right things and loved him with all our hearts. He was heading down hill and when it came time to decide what to do we elected not to do all the expensive tests to see if there was an "out" and they could stabilize him. His body was failing him and so we had him put down. That was probably one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make and as bad as I wanted to spend whatever the amount to see if he could be saved, if there was a 1% chance, I knew we couldn't do it. He was in renal failure and we just needed to let him go.
This has nothing to do with frugality but I will share it just in case anyone out there who reads this blog (does anyone read this blog?!?) has pet that they lost or if they lose a pet explaining it to children can be difficult. We heard comments like "I never want another animal again" or "I cannot love another animal" or "We should have never gotten him in the first place if he is just going to die and we feel bad." These are all valid feelings that children will experience. We told our children that yes, it would be easier if we did not have to say good-bye but we would never trade those years that we had Jake because he added so much to our lives. Our lives were better because of him. (I am starting to cry) We would have missed out on a lot if we did not have him so it was worth it even though he had to leave us. We buried him in the back yard and had a funeral for him. The children stood at his grave and threw flowers into it before we buried him. We also buried him with his tennis ball because he loved that stupid ball. The children planted a tree over top of him in his memory. And they can "visit" him anytime they want to by going to his resting place.
Perhaps some of these things can help you and your family whether the grief of losing a beloved pet.
Dedicated to Jake - 6-23-06
[Disclaimer - I'd like to add that Augie left a comment about there being a true need for some pets to use strollers. I agree with this wholeheartedly! I believe there are cases where it does add to the animal's and the owner's life. I was merely speaking of people who buy strollers for animals that do not NEED such devices to make their lives complete. Thank you Augie for helping me to remember that I need to clarify these things.]
Friday, April 4, 2008
- This will save you a bunch of time that you do not have - time = money
- You will easily recoup this amount in savings - she has a staff that monitor all the possible deals. If you are doing it you are guaranteed to miss something. Let the experts do it. Kind of like changing the oil in my car. Would I attempt to save money by changing it myself? No, becasue I would have no idea what I was doing and I would probably mess something up, not to mention I would spend twice as much of my valuable time doing it. I think the money would be well spent letting the "experts" do what they know how to do.
- This is money spent for something useful. You are not buying a new shirt. This is something that will help you save, a tool - that makes it worth the money coming out of your budget.
Stay tuned for Part II of this series.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
4. Can this be temporary? So what if you have to cut the cable? So what if you can't let your kid play soccer this year or get that new sweater you like? This is only temporary. Once you have your financial bearings then you can let yourself breathe a little bit and add back in some of the things you are cutting back on now. Nothing is forever. You'll like another sweater. You'll probably read more or devote time to getting your financial life back on track when you cut the cable. Your kids can play soccer next season because by then you will have put aside money to plan for that expense (hopefully).