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Archive for July, 2017

Ultra Frugal Month and Spending

July 22nd, 2017 at 07:26 am

I finally feel caught up after having guests for nine days. The home is cleaner, I paid bills, I took time for myself to relax as well as spent time with a friend.

I have not made any new progress with my list of items to use up. I estimate I used up half the list. But with guests the menu changed and more food was purchased that did not necessarily correspond with what needs to be used up. I probably should make a new list of food to focus on using before the month ends. I did my final grocery shop for the month yesterday. The grocery portion was $106.91. That should cover meals for three of us the rest of the month. My husband will be home next weekend, and he will also eat a few meals with us. In fact, I may give a few food items to him to specifically eat up!

And despite UFM, I've done some recent spending. We were on our very last three rolls of toilet paper (for three bathrooms), so I was motivated to stock up. I ended up buying four packages of 36 count Scott toilet paper for $23.99 each from Boxed.com.

I became aware that Boxed was offering American Express cardholders a $25 credit when spending $75 or more. I did two transactions, one was $75, the other $80, and received $50 in credits. I purchased four packages of 36 count toilet paper, two packages of 96 count menstrual pads, two packages of 5 count Degree deodorant, a large jar of pasta sauce and a three count package of 3 subject notebooks. All for $105.

Other spending last two days included cat litter, wet cat food, a rental textbook for the fall semester, and one way airline ticket. Not all frugal, but needed.

My best frugal action yesterday was line drying my clothing, and drinking water all day. Today, I will drink water, eat leftovers from last nights dinner, and rent a Redbox movie with a free credit I have.

How is your Ultra Frugal Month going? Mine has been challenging, but I'm enjoying being focused on using up food and avoiding waste.

Another Retirement Milestone

July 20th, 2017 at 04:51 am

Stock markets hit highs yesterday. As a result, our retirement accounts also hit an all time high. And that made us hit a milestone. Our retirement accounts are over $450K! Specifically adding up to $450,539.97.

At the end of last year we were at $392,814.02, so there has been some good growth this year along with our retirement contributions.

For a little perspective, and encouragement if you are just starting out, in May 2003 when I started tracking our retirement our accounts were valued at $25,742. I know we started far before that, likely in the mid 90's for me, slightly early for my husband. We were married in 1996 and we both were contributing a small amount of our small incomes before that.

Just like exercise, you never regret, putting money aside for retirement. You might regret how hard you worked or if you put to little money in for investment, but the effort you do make you never regret.

Start contributing as soon as you can, and increase along the way, such as 1% every year.

Guests Left

July 19th, 2017 at 12:41 pm

My parents left this afternoon after visiting for nine days! It was great to see them, but that was a really, really long time. I now feel like I need a vacation.

I don't think I spent too much money while they were here, as they took us out for several meals and even bought some of the groceries. We limited our trips out of town to two, which I purchased gas for. The museums and the beach were free, we also played a lot of games to keep ourselves out of the heat.

I do know some food was thrown out, but I now intend to use of the leftovers in the coming days. My meals may be a bit odd! The most frugal snack I bought was a large 2 pound bag of popcorn that cost me $1.79 at the commissary. We didn't use it all, but it made a lot of popcorn just using the pan on the stove. I had forgotten how fast and easy it is. That is a huge savings over microwave or pre popped popcorn.

I hope to have more updates soon, but for now a little rest before I get back into the routines!

Grocery Shopping & Using Up More Food

July 11th, 2017 at 07:28 am

I spent $139 at the commissary yesterday for food. I'm not sure this will cover all the days my parents are here, but it is a good start. I was hoping to keep it to $100, but I did put some extras in my cart. I do expect these items may help stretch my initial meal plans. We have a lot of fresh food we need to make sure to use up so none of it goes to waste.

Speaking of waste, I had to throw out two things yesterday that were past their prime. One was some milk that according to the package only expired on the the 9th, but had clearly turned days before. So glad no one tried to drink it! The waste probably amounted to 1 cup of milk. The other item was some sour cream, maybe two or three tablespoons worth. I was going to use it up in our taco dip last night but it definitely wasn't worth eating any longer.

Curbing food waste is a sure way to avoid wasting money and food. I know I toss out far more than we need to, so this Uber Frugal Month is a reminder to keep up on the expiration dates, and make an effort to use up before things go bad. Part of that starts with buying only what you know you will eat before something expires.

Yesterday, I ate the abandoned pasta micro meal that was in the freezer. I added the zucchini from the night before to it, so it was very filling. This morning I ate the waffle no one else would claim. I added peanut butter to it that I scraped out of the jar with a spatula. A lot can come out of a jar when you scrape it out. Today, I will eat the leftover taco dip we had for dinner last night, along with the last of the watermelon.

Looking back at my original list of foods to use up it seems I have used up almost half of the items, with portions of others. If I can get rid of the sauces and marinades this month that will help quite a bit.

And....my neighbor just stopped by with produce from her garden. I now have a large pepper, two roma tomatoes, a pint of cherry tomatoes, three jalepenos, two banana peppers and four of some other kind of pepper! What a wonderful blessing. My mom and I will have to figure out how to use up all the peppers while she is visiting.

Have a frugal week! Use it up before it goes to waste!

No Spend Sunday

July 10th, 2017 at 05:16 am

I didn't spend any money yesterday, although my husband did. He needed some groceries for his hotel room, and he bought gas for his vehicle. I will be glad when his class is over, so we can combine grocery expenses again. Just seven more weeks I believe.

I found signed up for Redbox texts and sent in a code to get a free movie. We rented Hidden Figures and watched that last night. Movie is just as good the second time!

Food is getting very slim around here. My oldest daughter was going to eat the waffle in the freezer, but realized we don't have syrup. So she refused to eat it. Ugh. I will probably eat that for breakfast tomorrow with some peanut butter.

Last night was pasta and sauteed zucchini. There is leftovers so one of use will likely have that for lunch. I actually need to get to the store before lunch as we will be out of bread before that!

I'm eating the last serving of steel cut oats this morning with some strawberries. Since we will have bread after I have been to the store, I will likely have a sandwich for lunch, unless no one claims the zucchini and pasta. Dinner will be taco dip, unfortunately this won't really use up any old food, but it will be inexpensive. I will use one of my Frito Lay coupons for a free bag to buy the Tostitos.

I'm expecting to buy lots of veggies and beans as my parents and my girls all lean to being vegetarian. The goal will be to eat all the food that I buy today.

Less Frugal Saturday

July 9th, 2017 at 05:02 am

Saturday was less frugal because three of us went to see a matinee showing of Spiderman: Homecoming. Amount spent $17.50. It was an 11:30am showing. I made a point to say I didn't want us spending any money on food and drinks, so we ate lunch at home before leaving. I know that saved us about $10-11.

My husband used a $10 gift card to get a wash for my van. We did purchase the gift card earlier in the year, as a fundraiser for our daughter's school. But at least no money out of pocket this weekend. We really need to be washing our vehicles at home, something to discuss with my husband. Smile Do you wash your cars at home?

We had homemade pizza for dinner. I used up the turkey bacon, the remaining tomato sauce in the fridge, and the pepperoni. We did buy mozzarella cheese and more turkey crumbles. I thought I would be using the turkey crumbles up on the pizza, but my husband had used those up for breakfast and wanted more for the pizza. He also bought a 24 oz package of mozzarella when one 8 oz package would have worked, and decided we needed shredded parmesan cheese as well. So a little overspending on food, but it will all get eaten at some point. I may need to make lasagna or something to use up the cheese.

Did I mention I was going to make chia pudding? I made a double batch with the last of the almond milk. It makes for a great healthy sweet snack.

Other spending: my husband's haircut, gas for my van (don't think it needed it quite yet, but he filled it), and alcohol. I've definitely cut back on the alcohol, we are both not drinking while we are apart. But it seems to be the go to on the weekends we are together. I was able to limit the amount I had, so progress for me!

The best part of the day was listening to our youngest daughter sharing the pictures she took on her Europe trip! That was a couple of hours of very enjoyable entertainment.

My parents arrive on Tuesday, so I think we can get through today with out shopping and I will go tomorrow to stock up for while they are here. I hope to incorporate some of the items I need to use up into the meals we have. I also need to be mindful of what I buy; making sure to buy ingredients that won't get pushed to the back of the pantry.

This morning I'm eating my steel cut oats for breakfast, with some of the frozen strawberries. For lunch I will likely have a sandwich with watermelon, and a very small side of the rice and lentils I had leftover. Dinner is likely pasta with a side of zucchini from the garden!

I didn't mention a couple items in the freezer we need to use up. One pasta microwaveable meal, that was bought for my girls but they don't like. A frozen homemade waffle. And several cups of frozen grapes. I do like these food challenges. Not sure the family does! Oh well. Smile

Living On A Dime

July 8th, 2017 at 05:30 am

I've been watching some videos from the YouTube channel Living on A Dime. It was especially interesting to hear the mother, Jill, talk about living on $500 a month with two teenagers in the 1990s, after her husband left her. She had to be very frugal with her cash. Her experience reminds me a bit of what you hear about people doing during the Depression. Oh, and she was making $12,000 a year and paid off $35,000 worth of debt in five years at that same time!! Very impressive.

Yesterday, I did end up at Target to stock up on my hair mousse and feminine products for the girls. There was a cartwheel coupon that save me $2. While I was there, I bought one bag of chips, lunch meat, tomatoes, sliced cheese, two loaves of bread, and jam. My total bill for all of it was $31.45. Oh and I did buy some M&Ms and gum...two items I should have skipped and now regret buying and eating.

Yesterday, I used up a shallot, tossed the ginger that was growing mold (ick), cooked the lentils and ate them for lunch over rice, ate fried rice for dinner which used up the frozen carrots & peas and some of the frozen corn. We also ate sauteed zucchini and summer squash from the garden on the side. Yummy!!

Today I will eat the second serving of the steel cut oats. We will eat sandwiches and watermelon for lunch. Tonight we will eat homemade pizza. I did forget to buy mozzarella cheese at Target, so will stop by the store for that later. The pizza will used up the bacon, pepperoni and some turkey crumbles in the fridge. I wouldn't be making pizza if my air conditioning wasn't working, but it is! Smile

What will you do today that is frugal?

Frugal News

July 7th, 2017 at 04:30 am

This morning I'm eating my steel cut oats I made overnight in the crockpot. It usually makes enough for four breakfasts. There are no more steel cut oats in my pantry, and I have now used half of the almond milk I wanted to use up.

Yesterday, I harvested two nice size zucchinis, a summer squash, one cherry tomato and a bag full of romaine lettuce. I could have harvested more lettuce, but I will wait until I have finished what I harvested. When I'm out mowing in a bit I will fertilize all the plants again. It is very satisfying to have a garden even if small. I really may need to consider that we need to rent a smaller home with a yard, rather than an apartment next year.

The last two days were no spend days. We only left the house once and that was a trip to the library where one of my daughter's picked up two books, and I borrowed a DVD (The Help).

Tonight we are having fried rice for dinner, so I will use up most of the frozen veggies that have been in the freezer a little too long. Does anyone freeze rice? I saw that some people do that to save time.

A book we had listed on eBay sold last night. That will drop a couple dollars into our bank account. Adding it to the Big Goal, of course!

I redeemed Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card. I hoping it arrives soon as I would like to buy a food processor. I don't need high end at this point, just one that is reliable enough to do shredded cheese and make hummus (my blender doesn't do that well). I'm sure I will use it for more things, but until I'm using it regularly, I'm not spending a lot.

I joined back up with Ibotta. I stopped for awhile as it seemed to take forever to get to the pay out threshold. I do want the savings on the things I buy anyway. I don't get as many as some would as the rebates are on a lot of products I don't buy. Anyone else still using Ibotta? If you are new to this savings and want to sign up, my referral code is here.

The really good news is my lower level air conditioner is working! I didn't pay for the service call because that is a landlord responsibility. The bad news, it isn't technically fixed. The technician couldn't find a leak, or any other parts that weren't working. So added freon and said it should keep cooling for three months. So annoying! I'd be really irritated if I were the one paying for the service calls.

That is the frugal news of the day!

Use All The Food

July 6th, 2017 at 05:36 am

I'm the one that usually eats the leftovers. Occasionally one daughter will eat leftover and pasta. So use all the food that Frugalwoods referenced yesterday feels overwhelming. But I know in January I did make a point to use up things we had in our pantry. In fact, I don't think my pantry and fridge have not been as full since then.

So the goal is to use all the food. Or at least be using the stuff we have at the back of the fridge and pantry. Here are the items I have noticed should be used up this month:

1/2 c red lentils
3 inches of fresh ginger
3/4 jar of Hoisin sauce
1 pound brown rice
2 pounds white rice
1 c steel cut oats
1 box of unsweetened almond milk
8 oz Kerrygold butter unsalted
1 can tuna
2 fresh bananas
1 pound frozen strawberries
1/2 bottle of Herb & Garlic marinade
1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce
1/2 c frozen corn
1/2 c frozen peas and carrots
3 potatoes
4oz of whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 bottle of poppy seed dressing
four strips of turkey bacon
nearly full jar of tahini
chia seeds

We have two other pastas in the cupboard, but I know these will get eaten, so not too worried if they are around by months end or not.

I do plan to make a batch of steel cut oats in the crockpot tonight for the next few days of breakfast. I usually like to use apples in it, but those bananas are looking like they would make a good topping, or the strawberries!

I already used the three potatoes to make a batch of potato soup. I expect to eat that for lunch the next couple of days. Maybe with a tuna sandwich on the side. The peas and carrots will get put into fried rice that I already planned to make for dinner tonight.

I do not have any meat on hand now, but I'm going to check the ads for a good price. If I find some, I will use the marinade and barbecue sauce (separately) to season some meat for the crockpot.

I also could probably buy some spinach and have strawberry spinach salad with the poppy seed dressing. Not sure, but I may be the only one that would eat it. Although my parents might when they visit next week.

Since I started this post, I already used the Kerrygold butter to make a batch of butter cookie dough. It's in the freezer to bake when our air conditioning is working again (hopefully today), or when the weather is just cooler in general.

The chia seeds were bought to make a chia pudding that actually is quite tasty. It does use almond milk, so I expect to make that with any leftover that doesn't get used making the oats.

The tahini is definitely prime for using to make hummus. I've only tried it once years ago. I'm kind of interested in trying again. As we do like hummus and this could save some money making fresh batches. I bought the tahini originally for use in some new recipe I tried. Anyone make their own hummus?

I'm definitely going to need to buy a few things in order to use some of these items up. But I hope to come back at the end of the month and report that I have used all these items up! Or most of them...the tahini make take some time to use.

Four Days of Meals

July 5th, 2017 at 12:26 pm

My daughter and I did have refried bean tacos for dinner last night, after I purchased a can for $0.54, regularly $1.09 but I used a $0.55 coupon. There is enough for two more tacos which I'm having for lunch!

Today is our youngest daughter's birthday (she made it home safe from Europe), so I was up early to make her favorite spice cake in the oven (remember no A/C on the level with our kitchen) so I didn't want to heat the house up in the middle of the day. Tonight we will have spaghetti with Alfredo sauce and corn on the cob. These were requested by her.

Thursday night we will have fried rice. I'm making sure to use up the frozen corn, peas and carrots. I also have plenty of green onion to add.

I made potato soup yesterday so that will likely be eaten on Friday, although it may also become lunch this week. If we eat all the soup, we may just eat grilled cheese and watermelon.

On Saturday, I will probably turn the oven on and make homemade pizza. I have the sauce, the items to make the dough, as well as some meats. I may just need to buy the cheese.

When I was at the store I did pick up a few other items and paid $13.24.
1 dozen eggs
1/2 gallon of milk
celery
1 lb of carrots
three ears corn on the cob
pretzel sticks
refried beans
large watermelon

Birthday cake, watermelon and pretzel sticks should help tide us over between meals. I expect this will get us through Friday, maybe part of Saturday before we go to the store again. Saturday's shopping list will have to include groceries to feed my parents while they are here, so I expect it could be a bit inflated.

My next post will be about the things we need to use up in the month of July, which what the Uber Frugal Month post is about today on the Frugalwoods blog.

Frugal July Thoughts

July 4th, 2017 at 09:33 am

I currently have our lower level air conditioner off, as it is not cooling properly. Why force it to run overtime at more expense if we don't need to? The landlord did call for service which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. We are definitely in a heat wave so I don't think this can be a long term solution given the humidity we are currently experiencing.

The lack of air conditioning on this level, where our kitchen is, did force me to cook chicken in the crockpot yesterday. Today we are eating out of the fridge and cupboards. The oven will not be turned on. I suppose that will save some energy too. I wonder if I could go nearly oven free for July?

We went grocery shopping on Friday and spent about $65. It did include my daughter's birthday cake (she arrives home tonight and her birthday is tomorrow) mix and frosting and her preferred meal of pasta. I think my other daughter and I can have bean tacos tonight if I make a run to the store for the refried beans. We have everything else, so that would cost me less than $1. I'd like to get through at least Thursday or possibly Friday (shopping on Saturday) with what we have on hand. Oh, just remembered I have everything on hand for fried rice, too! And I have three potatoes I could make into soup. I think I can make it! We do have salad greens in the garden. But I might pick up three ears of corn on the cob to accompany the pasta. That should be just another dollar. I'll post a food plan tomorrow.

Not sure what my husband's plan is for food. He is traveling back to his school location today. The commissary there may not still be open by the time he arrives. Thus I can imagine he will pick up some fast food. He only plans to be there 2.5 days before he comes back this coming weekend. He wants to see our daughter soon after her trip to hear all about it! I'm hoping he picks something from the commissary rather than going out for every meal before he returns.

Another reason it may be hard to have a frugal July that I don't think I mentioned is that my parents are coming for an eight day visit. That means more food and possibly gas and admission for some outings. I will do a search for free activities. I can currently think of just one. And it will be so hot outside, I'm thinking we need indoor activities! But I did have one frugal idea concerning their visit. I can use some small travel shampoo/conditioner containers and fill them for myself to use while they are here and they can have access to my nearly full bottles. Normally, I would go buy another set and then use it up later.

I printed off a coupon for my contact solution. I did just buy some, but winced as the price has gone up. The coupon will reduce the next purchase by $1.50. I need to make an effort to look for a coupon to print every time I need to make this purchase.

I also need to make July the month that we cancel cable. i'm just being lazy about going into the store to drop off the digital adapters. I need to remember this should save us at least $30 a month.

My van did not end up needing repair at this time. They charged us over $100 for the diagnosis, testing and clearing the check engine light that was on. Our bill did include the 20% discount we asked for. It wasn't the same as getting the full 10% on the truck we should have, I do wish we would have argued this, but it is done.

Finally, I scored two pairs of socks and a greeting card at Kohl's for $0.70 yesterday. I had a $10 reward and a $1.34 Kohl's cash that I applied to bring my original bill of $12.84 to just $0.70. They don't charge tax on the reward portion, so that did reduce the tax as well.

More frugal thoughts later! Happy Independence Day!

Free Cat Food & More

July 3rd, 2017 at 06:49 am

On Friday, I stopped by PetSmart to pick up a free bag of cat food with a coupon that had been mailed to me. I could pick any brand as long as it wasn't more than 3.5 pounds. The one I picked would have been $10.99 normally in the store. But it was completely free.

The last time I bought dry cat food was in December when our other cat was ill. It was a large bag and it is taking awhile for my other cat to eat through it! We also supplement with wet cat food now as well. But we will use this new bag when I run out of the other that is already open.

Today we have my van in for service. We noticed we didn't get their 10% military discount on Saturday service for my husband's truck. We inquired and their solution is to give us 20% off today's service. We'll see if that works out in our favor depending on the cost of the repair.

Our outing yesterday did allow us to visit a museum for free as a Blue Star family. The admission would have cost us the three of us $28. It was a beautiful art museum and grounds. I was especially intrigued with one artist who used old items and added glass. For example one was an old wood desk, but the drawers had been made out of glass, a frosty type. There was also a wagon, a chair and an umbrella.

We did take our own water and lunch to eat in the car on our road trip. We did stop to eat ice cream near the beach to tide us over. We also found free parking twice in the little beach town, once while we bought our ice cream and another time while we walked the beach for about 30 minutes. The only other expense besides fuel was the purchase of three or four waters/sodas. Each time we stop to use the restroom, my husband feels obligated to buy something. It's hard to harp on him for it, but I do personally feel it isn't an obligation. I'll guess that cost us another $6-8.

Oh and I overhead a couple speaking with the cashier at CVS yesterday about a $100 bill. This is what the couple said that the cashier agreed with. "If you break it, it's gone." Obviously I don't know these people, so I don't know exactly what they meant. It seems like an odd way to look at money. Once you have $85 in smaller bills for example, you should just consider the money gone? You can't save $20 bills? Every purchase we make with or without cash should be considered right? It doesn't matter what size bill we paid it with. Just my thoughts. What do you think about it?

Not A Frugal Month

July 2nd, 2017 at 06:04 am

I just don't see this being a frugal month for us. We are trying to enjoy the time with our college daughter home and my husband is traveling home most weekends from his school. Thus there is fuel for cars, and money spent on some activities. We do embrace free as much as we can. In fact today, we may go visit an art museum that we can get in for free (Blue Star Museum participant). We do have to drive to get to it however.

We spent $352 on my husband's truck yesterday. He needed brakes badly. Can't say no to maintenance that is important for safety. He also got an oil change. He later picked up new windshield wipers at AutoZone (not the most frugal store to purchase from in my opinion) as he was overdue for those as well.

My van is being repaired tomorrow as I have a check engine light on. I'm expecting it to be an oxygen sensor. I checked my blog and it was over $300 for that repair last time.

Yes, all this money being spent is a good reason to watch the budget in other areas. And I will. I expect the grocery budget would be the best one to focus on.

I am going to follow along with UFM though here and on the Frugalwoods blog. As I know it will be inspirational. I may be able to do a Ultra Frugal Month in August or September.



June Interest

July 1st, 2017 at 07:59 am

Interest for June on our savings tallied up to $90.52. A little less than last month, but there was one less day!

Upon logging into one of our bank accounts, I found out there is a new interest rate! It's higher. Moving from .95% to 1.10%, not a lot but sure is a step in the right direction.

Have your savings interest rates increased?