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An Extra $500?!

July 16th, 2019 at 08:04 am

Hmm, just balanced our budget after this last pay period and we had an even $500 left! I'm starting to wonder if i missed something. I do know there wasn't much activity, driving, eating out or spending this first half of July, but to have an extra $500 seems surprising.

I put it into the Emergency Fund category of YNAB, which brings that balance to $1,392. I tend to sweep extra funds in there lately when I'm not sure exactly where to allocate the money. I do like a little cushion.

I did remember after I put the $500 there that I was short for one daughter's fall tuition payment by the due date, but was just going to borrow from other areas and pay it back the following month. Actual shortage $521. So I suppose, I should be proactive and drop that money there. As a result I may be able to adjust the future monthly allocations to her tution down by $100 each month.

As I'm pondering this problem, which yes I know is a fantastic problem to have, I'm thinking I might rename the category, Slush Fund. I might try to maintain it at $1000, anything I drop in there over $1000, should then be swept into our EF earning interest. I think I've been putting more money in there lately as because I've been seeing this year as more expensive, but in some ways it hasn't been that much different.

On the other hand, I sort of want to sweep it all over (minus the $500) to pay back that down payment we made on our daughter's car. Things to think about at least.

Shopping the Fridge and Avoiding Food Waste

July 9th, 2019 at 05:55 am

Prior to grocery shopping on Sunday, I reviewed what we had on hand that could be part of some meals this week. I did have to throw out 2 ribs of celery, 6 mini peppers, 1/3 of a bag of greens and a few baby carrots. Not too bad on the waste!

We had taco salad last night where I used up some red onion and the oldest of the lettuce greens. I made potato soup the night prior to use up some milk that is expiring today. I didn't quite use it all up, so it may get tossed today if it is actually bad.

I'm using an apple and onion we had on hand when I make pork chops this week. And when I make taco dip I will use up green onions and olives. I did have eggs and hashbrowns available that will make up our dinner one night this week.

As you can tell I did have to buy other ingredients, but the meals were shaped by what I needed to use up before it went to waste or what I already had that could make a meal.

The food portion of our grocery bill was $81.40 for the week. My husband did buy some almonds to snack from another store for $7.99.

Today I'm going to make bone broth with a chicken carcass I have in the freezer which will use some more carrots, onion and celery for flavoring.

DId you waste any food this past week? Did you find a full meal or meal ingredients in your home before you went shopping?

Our Christmas Budget

July 7th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

It's July! Time to think about Christmas or any other December holy day you may be celebrating. These holidays come at the same time each year, so there is no reason we cannot plan ahead to save and make a budget.

We budget for Christmas gifts over the full year. A set amount each month to accumulate by December and ready for spending. That amount for us is just $50 per month, or $600 in total for Christmas gifts.

Our budget may be considered small to many, but our gift recipient list is rather short, covering my husband and myself, our two daughters, two nieces, our three parents. Occasionally, my husband and I skip gift for ourselves as we usually buy what we want, when we want it.

Now notice I referred to gifts only. I do not budget for other Christmas related expenses, which can include photos, new clothes, cards, postage, gift wrap, decorations, party supplies, food and baking supplies, babysitting services, and travel. We already budget monthly for food, clothes and travel, so we tend to inflate those categories during the month of December to adjust for increased spending. We rarely buy new gift wrap and cards, preferring to stock up at the end of season clearance IF we expect we need things during the next year. I did look at last years expenses that came from our Christmas budget and it does look like I included postage costs, likely because the gifts themselves came in under budget.

We are on schedule to have our $600 by December 1. I have already purchased two small gifts! I find shopping as early as possible so helpful in managing the busyness and stress of the season.

I will write more in a future post about some tips for those of you who have not yet started a holiday budget.

Do you have a holiday budget? Do you save ahead of time? What is your budget, does it include more than just gifts? How many people do you buy for?

Frugal Report Card

July 2nd, 2019 at 07:26 am

Here's a few frugal happenings from our corner of the world this week:

I found a $0.50 coupon for the shaving cream I needed to buy right on the shelf by the shaving cream. The commissary puts up tablets of coupons for certain items every so often. These are coupons only available for use at a commissary.

I found two dimes on two separate occasions while out walking this week.

We currently use foaming hand soap at all our sinks. A couple of them were getting low, so I added water to extend the life of the soap. It still comes out foamy. Eventually I will add more soap in, as it will get too diluted.

My nieces just went to a week long summer camp. Family and friends are invited to send mail. Instead of buying cards, I folded some scrapbook paper into note card size cards and used colored markers to write and draw inside. I had envelopes and stamps on hand, so no new out of pocket cost to bring a smile to their faces.

I went shopping at the thrift store and bought nothing. I did see some interesting items, but even thrift store prices were a bit much for what I was finding.

I did buy a new pair of Asics sneakers at the Exchange here on base. Normal retail was $124.99. I snatched them up for $37.18. This is my second pair of the same style shoe that I found at this price and in my size. I just started wearing the first one about a month ago. So this newest pair won't get use until my current pair is worn out.

The only food I threw out this week, was some celery that must had had root rot or something. I went to cut up some of the ribs were cracked and mushy. I had just bought it a few days prior. I did salvage some of it.

And finally, I have started saving any paper bags we get from the store. I have found they can be great packing paper for shipping eBay items! They can also be wrapped around a box, if mailing in the original box, so that a label can be attached. The lighter the box the better!

What frugal happenings do you have to report?

Frugal Report Card

June 24th, 2019 at 08:02 am

Here's a few frugal things that happened in the past week or so at our home:

I made black beans from scratch. In other words I took a pound of dried beans and cooked them, which resulted in over three cans worth of black beans. This is like getting at least one can free.

I shopped from our pantry yesterday before going to the grocery store and came up with nearly three meals we could make with what we had on hand. I only spent $75 at the grocery store as a result. I think this is good practice weekly, or monthly at a minimum.

We did much less driving last week and this week, partly due to my husband's work schedule and we simply didn't need to go anywhere. The amount we save on fuel living on the military installation is amazing.

My oldest daughter was ready to purchase new music for next year, something we do every summer. One piece of music she sent me a link to was nearly $25. I did a little searching and found it for $12.95. Searching for a better price pays off!

I choose a double package of ground beef, as the price per pound was lower. I used half and froze half, since I know I will use next week. I also chose chicken thighs this week instead of boneless skinless breasts because the price per pound was less and I knew we wouldn't notice much of a difference in the recipe I was making.

I ate the leftovers. No waste this week. We did not throw any food out!

What frugal things do you have to report?

Fresh Start Budget Done!

June 17th, 2019 at 12:27 pm

I've set up our Fresh Start Budget in YNAB. I'm thankful that so much transferred over. I did make some new categories and was able to delete some that just aren't needed any longer. We no longer have a line item for electricity or water since these are included with our rent. But we did need to add a line for our daughter's car payment.

The primary motivation to start fresh was the realization that I needed a different category for each of our daughter's tuition and housing. The money is coming from different sources and I wanted to make sure I wasn't spending money from one on the other. This is particularly important at tax time! I managed it for 9 months and should only have another 10 to go, but this will help keep me sane during those final months and at tax time!! No need to have things be difficult.

I also deleted some old categories like computer savings and combined eye glasses and medical together. I put medical into short term savings rather than every day type of expense because it is rare that we have out of pocket medical expenses. You get the idea. I simply cleaned it all up and it's more in line with how our budget really is right now.

Now that I've done this once, I can almost see me starting over more often. I think this last budget went back to 2015. I also like that the old budget is saved so I can go back and forth between the two if needed. This will be helpful at tax time or when I want to track the Big Goal savings progress for the year.

How often do your revamp or start fresh with your budget?

Fresh Start Budget

June 12th, 2019 at 06:14 am

I haven't done it yet, but I think it's time to make a new budget, or a fresh start budget as they call it in the YNAB community. There isn't anything exactly wrong with our current budget. It still works, but I'm realizing our lives have changed and the categories are not working quite as well I could have them work.

The most specific issue is how I track money for college tuition for our daughters. I have ONE category for two daughters. I save $400-$600 a month there. We also receive housing and book payments for our older daughter using the Post 911 GI Bill, and I add money from their ESAs into the account. So whose money is whose? I think I need to make a change. It worked great when it was one child and I think it's all worked out this last year, but going forward I need it cleaner. I tried adding a category and starting to change things...but boy was I going to mess things up going back and doing that.

There are other smaller reasons to make a new budget, too. So this could really clean things up in many areas. I'll be honest I'm a bit scared changing things over. I will try to do it starting this Friday or Saturday since I usually clean up the budget and pay off credit card balances when there is a new paycheck. The good news is IF this new budget doesn't work, the old budget is still saved. This actually helped me tremendously when I was making changes and realized I was messing things up. I just went back to the time stamp on the budget that was prior to my messing with it! Yay!

I still want to move from YNAB 4 to the new version...just waiting for the financial storm to pass before I commit to a new annual payment.

Those of you in YNAB, have you ever made a Fresh Start or a New Budget? And tips, advice or regrets?

Snowflakes and More About Things that Save Money

May 31st, 2019 at 06:11 am

First, I sold a soundbar and subwoofer yesterday for $100. And I received $3 from Pinecone for a recent survey. I need to get it redeemed to my Paypal account. I have other items on eBay that I hope will sell soon.

I purchase the How to Save on Groceries e-course from Living on A Dime this morning with the last money in our budget. (We have money, but all that's left is allocated to future expenses or savings). It's on sale for $12.50 through today. I think they are eventually raising the prices much higher than the regular $25 later this summer. I probably know quite a bit of what they talk about, but I may have forgotten and let my habits change over the years. I'm hoping I can share some of it with my oldest daughter who is starting to watch her own grocery costs!

I watched another YouTuber this morning that talked about items that you purchased or invested in that save you money. This is somewhat related to not using disposables, but yet includes so much more. The programmable thermostat is an excellent example of controlling energy usage and usually saves people money. We do not have one in our rental, but I wish we did.

The one item that came to mind while watching the video is that I'm sure I have 'made' money with my sewing machine. I know I have made things that would have cost more at the store, as well as gifts for others. Now sewing something isn't always frugal depending on your time and the cost of the fabric. It's officially a hobby. Over a year ago I made probably 16 fabric key fobs for a neighbor to give as gifts. I charged her $7 or $8 each! I definitely made money on these as they are quick to put together and the fabric needs of a small item are minimal.

What items have you invested in that save you money in the long term?

Frugal Groceries: Homemade Seasonings

April 30th, 2019 at 09:52 am

I'm going to be going back to basics regarding our grocery bill. I am on a new eating plan, which has lowered our grocery bill and I will talk about that when I have more definitive results to share. However, we are attempting to keep costs in check this summer with our daughter home while supporting our older daughter who will be staying in our college town. She may end up covering most of the expenses since she does have an internship and a very part time job, but until that gets going we have to be prepared to help a bit.

So as I alluded to in the title, I need to tweek my homemade seasonings. We have tacos or fajitas once or twice a week and I have always bought those premade seasoning packets. A quick look at the Budget Bytes website and her recipe for taco seasoning is almost exactly what I pay for a packet. So it may not even work out as a savings, but I will avoid the added preservatives and unnecessary ingredients, which is important to me. I will have to watch for good prices on the
individual prices from now on!

Once I get an idea of what our daughter wants to eat on a regular basis, I'm going to be checking sales ads weekly. I may be able to stock up on some of her staples if they are loss leaders and save over the cost at the commissary. Generally, the commissary saves us 30% over the cost at traditional grocery stores. They do have some sales, but not always things we buy.

Anyway, you may be seeing more posts from me about grocery savings. Please chime and share your best tips for saving on groceries! My first one for anyone to work on is avoiding brand name items. Nearly all the time store brands are less expensive and the taste is the same. If you have never tried the store brand, I suggest it would be worth a side by side taste test to determine if you really can detect a difference. And if there is the difference is the price difference worth it to you? I will admit we need to switch back to store brand shredded cheese...or shred our own cheese if that is more cost effective.

Do you make your own homemade seasonings? Do you buy store brand? Why or why not?

A New High And Budget Adjustments

April 28th, 2019 at 09:05 am

Yay! Our retirement accounts have reached a new high as of the closing on Friday afternoon. So grateful we have money increasing in value for retirement! We just keep plugging away adding funds to our account monthly. All of these contributions are set up automatically, so other than recorded them in our check register (which is auto on YNAB), we don't think too much about it. Auto investing is the way to go!

Yesterday's mail was fruitful financially. We received a refund check from our utility service here on base. We have stay at or under the average compared to similar sized homes on base for electrical and water usage. The result is a refund of $55.

The other check in the mail was the proceeds from our oldest daughter's UTMA. I'd have to go back and look at our total investment in that account, but I'm going to guess under $1,000 since the late 90s and early 2000s. The final redemption amount was $3,973.62. This is money going towards her first car. Her car will likely be more than this, but hopefully not by much.

I have two items ending on eBay that are being watched, so two sales possible. They won't make more than a few dollars, but it all adds up, as I have shown over and over again on this blog.

I cut our Hulu Live subscription effective today. It's saving us $45 a month. This is planned for the summer months to offset the need to pay $55 a month for our youngest daughter to store her dorm items this summer. Our older daughter has always stored her items at my parents since she is pretty close. Our youngest is much farther away, so this just made sense logistically. Not exactly how I want to spend money, but we are going to try it this first summer and see how it goes. I think my husband is going to miss Hulu, so this is temporary because we did like it for accessing college football in the fall.

I stopped our youngest daughter's allowance for the summer. She was receiving $125 a month from us. Honestly it far exceeded her needs and expenses. I noticed she seems to buy music and make Go Fund Me donations with it. I love that she is generous. The primary reason to end it for the summer and reevaluate is to help cover rent for our older daughter. Our younger daughter will be home and we can cover anything that comes up with our own budget. We will likely reinstate some form of spending money, but we also know she is starting a part time research job, so she will start accumulating her own spending money, thus less needed from us.

I've also decided to stop funding our car maintenance and repair sinking fund for a few months. We currently have $1000 set aside plus an emergency fund. We have been funding it with $275 a month because we have older cars. We are very current on major repairs and maintenance we we think this will not be an issue short term. We expect to start it back up in August or September. This change is also due to upcoming expenses with our daughter staying in her college town this summer.

I'm doing my best to maintain our current Big Savings Goal progress and monthly contributions, thus the reason for making other adjustments to the budget temporarily. I'm grateful that we have flexibility to make changes to how we spend our money.