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Roasted Veggies, A Grill, A Vet Visit, and Other Happenings

April 20th, 2017 at 08:41 am

It's been a busy few days. I bought a bunch of groceries, including some veggies. DH and I don't really eat vegetables, but I'm trying to incorporate them more. I got tomatoes for his sandwiches and zucchini. I decided to roast those the other night (along with some leftover Easter green beans). It was pretty good. I'm going to make zucchini pasta tomorrow with some chicken.

DH's parents are giving us a new grill that they bought recently. We hinted that since the old one was still functional, that we'd be glad to take that one. But they decided to just give us the new one. They are so generous, and I'm incredibly grateful for their generosity. They're bringing it over this Friday.

DD1 hurt his paw two nights ago. We noticed him limping, and after inspecting his paw, found a crack nail. Unfortunately, it was the worst kind of crack - still firmly attached. I took him to the vet yesterday morning, and they had to cut off the part that had cracked. My champion of a dog did it without sedation. My heart broke a little because I was holding him, and he cried and yelped when they actually cut the nail. But an hour later, he was moving around. Total cost was much less than expected - $200 for the visit and procedure, plus $80 for 6 months of heartworm meds.

On the financial side of things, we're doing okay. We do have the final payoffs coming up on the Amazon Rewards CC, the ring CC, and the Chase Slate CC. I am also paying the full balance on the Marriott card. It's a small start, but I feel cautiously optimistic.

Ticks and more ticks...and poision ivy too.

April 12th, 2017 at 05:10 am

It's bug season again. Now that DH works outdoors, we're discovering new challenges. The big two are ticks and poison ivy. DH first encountered poison ivy over the winter. That's when we realized he is highly sensitive to it. I think we have a relatively good treatment plan in place now, but if anyone has any tips, please let me know. If he thinks he's exposed, he immediately washes with the Fels-Naptha soap when he gets home, and then throws all of his work clothes and gear into the wash. If it still develops, he gets by with lots of calamine lotion and hot showers. He's already got some nasty scars from his first bout, so I'm hoping we're now prepared for future outbreaks.

The second challenge is ticks. About a month ago, I bought 6 months worth of flea and tick meds for the pups. We tend to be a little more lax in the winter and didn't even do it last summer since they were never really exposed to the elements. However, now that we're in our house with a huge yard for them to play in that backs up to a wooded area, we needed to start treatment again. Yesterday, after lying down with the pups, DH found 3 ticks on himself. He says that he checked himself when he got home and didn't even work in a wooded area, so he assumed it was from the dogs. He then proceeded to inspect the house, and found several dead ticks on the floor. I did a very thorough deep cleaning yesterday (like washed the carpets thorough). Today, I plan to wipe down the baseboards and crevices with a mix of peppermint and lavender oils as those are tick and ant repellents. We didn't find anything on any of the animals, even the cat who doesn't have flea and tick repellent on. It looks like the medicine probably killed them off (hence the dead ones on the floor), but we have to be vigilant these next few months to ensure we don't have any more unwanted visitors.

Getting Things Under Control

April 11th, 2017 at 05:32 am

Things have really spiraled this past year and this is embarrassing to post. While I'm upset at the financial side of things, I'm also incredibly happy with our current life. We had an amazing wedding and are now in our dream home (with DH in a much less stressful, albeit much smaller salaried, job), so even though we took a few steps backward, I'm mostly okay with it. However, it does seem like we're finally normalizing, so now it's time to focus on undoing all the damage..

We did get 2 new 0% credit cards and transferred a couple of bigger/interest charging balances over to it. On the BoA card, I split the total amount by 17 (it's 18 months), and set that up to autopay, so that card will be completely paid off. We will pay the minimum on the other card while we work on some of the remaining credit cards.

Here are the credit cards I currently own and their balances:
Chase Slate - $17.79 (the only thing I use this for now that's been paid off is my essential oils order which is $10-20/monthly)
Chase Freedom - $2753.86 (this is the card my family has for backup; I just transferred 5k from here to the NavyFed card and part of my husband agreeing to that was that we take all of the Freedom cards and put them away which I'll do the next time I see my family)
Chase Marriott - $497.92 (We transferred almost 7k from here to the NavyFed card. This card gets charged our health insurance, DH's soccer tickets, and SlingTV monthly and will be paid in full moving forward.)
Amazon Rewards - $13.31 (This is the interest from the balance we just transferred to the new BoA card. This will be paid in full this month and moving forward if we even continue using it.)
Target - 0 (I rarely shop here as there's a Walmart 3 minutes from my house. My mom actually keeps this card as an emergency card, and only uses it 2-3 times a year. When she does use it, she pays the balance.)
NFL Points - $2557.11 (Average monthly payment is around $60. I pay $75 each month. We don't/can't use this card anymore as it expired in December. I supposedly received a new one, but have no idea where it may be and haven't bothered tracking it down since I don't want to use it.)
Capital One Venture - $3724.63 (About $800 of this is interest-bearing. The remainder is interest free through October. It will not be paid off by then as we're just paying the minimums.)
BoA Rewards - $1442 (This card is the transferred Amazon Rewards balance. It will be completely paid by the end of the 0% interest period.)
NavyFed - $14400 (This is all the transferred balances. I'm not sure what the minimum will be, but I'm guessing around $250/month. It basically just consolidated all the other payments, but since it's 0% interest at least everything is going to principal on it. It's obviously not going to be paid off by March 2018, but at that point, I'm hoping to be able to transfer again.)

We didn't get here overnight, so I definitely don't expect to get out of it overnight. I might need to consider a name change. I'm not even sure debt-free by 33 is possible at this point, but we will get there. I paid the full remaining balance of Slate this month (that $18 charge is new). The next debt on my list is a leftover Mariner Finance loan. It has less than a thousand left, and I should be able to pay it by June. After that, the plan is to stockpile cash. Before the end of the year, we have a wedding to attend (in which I'm a bridesmaid), car taxes (this surprised us last year when DH's were almost a grand), and some house stuff we want to accomplish (landscaping the backyard, fencing, the fireplace and the hot tub). We also want to begin working on an emergency fund since kids are on our radar.

If everything goes well, then by the end of the year, we will have eliminated/consolidated 5 debts in to 2 and gone from about 17400 to about 14000 on those debts in addition to getting some house stuff done. I'm hoping to do even better if we both get raises this year.

It's going to be slow going, but I'm in it for the long haul now that we seem to be in a stable place.

**It should also be worth noting that while we're both committed to this, there are definitely more drastic things we could do that we're just not considering. My car is paid off, but DH's car is about $400/month and still has 5ish years. We fully realize that the smart thing to do would be to get a cheaper car, but sometimes the emotional beats the financial. Other examples are DH's soccer tickets and my essential oils. Neither of these things are needs, but we enjoy them and at this time, aren't willing to consider parting with them. We do try to keep them minimal though. Other drastic measures include putting off home improvements/not going to my friend's wedding, but again, not something we're willing to consider at this point.

Cooking Frenzy and starting to see progress

March 22nd, 2017 at 07:22 am

I went on a bit of a frenzy last night. I made the appetizers for dinner - Filipino egg rolls and bacon jalapeno pinwheels. I also made a large batch of rice and black beans (and threw in some leftover shredded chicken). In addition, I had some ground beef left from the egg rolls mix and some rice leftover from last week, so I threw those together for lunch for the rest of the week. I also have a bag of frozen peas that I need to add in to it.

My fridge is looking pretty empty, but we have a ton of chicken and potatoes. I'm going to stock up on rice and beans at the start of the month and try to just make a batch in the crockpot at the beginning of the week. We have a very small $250 grocery budget for April.

April will be the first month we officially live off last month's income. It's a really tight budget, but hopefully we can stick to it. I'll also finish paying off my first credit card next month and will start on one of the personal loans.

DH is being really supportive. I'm just hoping we can finally start seeing some progress.

In next month's budget, I also started putting $50 to savings. It's not a whole lot, but it's a start.

Getting By

March 15th, 2017 at 10:20 am

I think I'm back on track. Haven't spent anything these past two days, and while I do have to spend today, I plan to keep it as minimal as possible. DC needs litter and food. I also want to get shredded cheese, bread, eggs, a bag of potatoes and one snack item.

That should last us through when DH gets home.

Yesterday, I used the last of the regular bagels (still have 5 or 6 thins) ham, turkey bacon, and sliced cheese, plus one of the bags of shredded cheese, the pepperonis, pizza sauce, and biquick mix (all on pizza bake).

For the next few days, some of the meal options include sausage pepper soup (from the freezer) with quinoa or rice, black beans and rice, chicken fried rice, grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit, and any combination of chicken and potato meals. I also have one lb. of ground beef and some cream cheese to use up during an apps for dinner night (homemade lumpia - Filipino egg rolls and bacon jalapeno pinwheels).


March 13th, 2017 at 05:58 am

I really have to find a way to not let the unexpected derail me. Last week, DH ended up getting notified Wednesday night that he would be out of the country for the next two weeks leaving Thursday. While we'd known this was a possibility for a while, I just assumed nothing had come of it since no one had followed up. What followed was two days of scrambling followed by a weekend of sad eating. It was bad. We spent $50 on groceries, $10 on a wallet, used a BBB gift card for a $20 travel adapter, $45 on a gift card for dinner and alcohol on DH's last night here, and then I bought food out several times over the weekend amounting to at least $50. I turn to food to make me feel better which is terrible for both my waistline and my wallet. I got it together last night. I made soup from the leftover chicken broth and veggies and portioned it out over 4 containers of rice. That will be my lunch for the week.

My brother is staying with me these next two weeks, and I'm going to try and avoid buying groceries. We have almost 40 lbs. of chicken in the freezer, leftover sausage/pepper soup, a small container of chili, one loaf of a bread, a small amount of ham and peanut butter/jelly. I'm going to have to get creative with sides as I only have 2-3 more rice-in-a-bag packs, 2 frozen veggie bags and maybe some quinoa. I do have plenty of beans though.

A new outdoors store opened near me. I tried to go opening day to get a gift card, but it was packed. I found out later some 5000 people had attended a Thursday morning opening. They also did giveaways each morning through the weekend. I got a bag and folding stools. I couldn't go Saturday, so I paid out of pocket for the hat because DH really wanted it. It worked out well since I brought that home to him Friday and he promptly wore it out of the country. It is a really nice hat!

I'll have to see how finances work out, but I think we'll have enough to actually live off last month's income (albeit it, very tightly). DH will be getting paid for both jobs, so that should make up our grand deficit. The money won't come in until early-mid April, but I'm going to put it with the money earned in March and do my darndest not to spend any money earned in April until May.

We have a storm coming in tonight. I'm hoping we don't lose power as it just occurred to me that our house is entirely electric. If we lose power, we're in for a cold, boring time. Fortunately, we have plenty of blankets, two large dogs, and a fat cat for warmth. The basement holds heat pretty well, so we'll probably heat that up tonight, and also boost the house temp up to 68 (it's currently at 60). We also have MREs for food should we need something to warm us up.

Every little bit helps.

March 3rd, 2017 at 05:10 am

My first new paycheck comes in next Tuesday. I think it will only be about $100-$150 increase in take-home pay, but it also means I'm back up to contributing 10% of my income to savings. Eventually, I'd like to be able to max out both of our Roths in addition to our retirement accounts through work, but that's some time out.

I had about $90 extra in my personal account and only need about $30 for one more gas fill-up, so I went ahead and sent $30 and $32 to two of my credit cards. The smallest one is now at $214. I'm so tempted to just pay it off, but I know it's better to stick to my budget and not spend money that's meant for something else.

We both got check refunds for our personal property taxes because we moved our cars to a different county last November, but both checks were for $5.50 each. I have to call and get it verified because I was expecting more. DH paid almost $800 in car taxes. Prorated for the year, he should get around 100 back, while I was expecting around 20.

It's Fri-yay!

February 24th, 2017 at 05:08 am

Nothing much to report. I feel like this week has been crazy long for a 4-day week. A few days ago, I did get a call for a phone interview for a job that pays 10k more than the other job offer I had gotten. Since I just went through a situation with my work, I decided to show a little faith and decline the phone interview. I did make sure to let my boss know, so that she realizes she needs to follow through on some of the changes I've been promised.

I've also been up since 4 am. I feel like tonight is going to be an early night. I felt rested when I woke up, so I got up and made a huge pot of chili for DH's chili cook-off. He later called me for a name for it. He wanted to name it Midnight Barker. I told him that sounds like it's going to make people sick...

He ended up going with my suggestion of 2 B Chili (Shakespeare reference and there are 2 different beans in there). Not the most creative, but hey, it was 6 AM...

Money In, Money Out

February 22nd, 2017 at 06:44 am

We got our tax return. We ended up paying DH's brother $650 back. The rest he said was a gift. We also gave DH's mom $100 towards his phone. DH had to get a new phone last December. He likes his fancy gadgets and doesn't ask for much, so he got the Google Pixel phone. It costs $600, and he did the monthly payments on Verizon since he's on his mom's plan. We've budgeted $100/month for the next 6 months to cover the phone just to get it out of the way quickly.

I also gave DH $300 fun money.

The remainder helped us fill out last month's income, but even so we're still not quite there (about $800 short). We should be able to do it in March given that DH should get both military pay and work pay for a 2 week period...provided his orders actually come through.

I decided to prioritize retirement above everything else. I had been diligently contributing 10% (8% to my 401k to get the match and 2% to a Roth). However, when we were wedding planning, I scaled it way back to 2% to maximize my paycheck. I think failing to plan for the future was one of my mom's biggest mistakes, so I decided that had to take precedence with the raise. I moved it back to 10%, so I'm thinking my take home will not be anywhere near as big an increase as I was hoping. Still, I think the retirement savings are important since my company does match 50% up to 4% of your total pay.

Same Job, New Pay!

February 18th, 2017 at 06:10 pm

I had alluded a while back about a potential job offer. It came through. It was about a 25% raise. I spoke to my boss about it, and she immediately asked that I give my current company a chance to keep me.

I have been with this company since right out of college. I'm on a management track within the company, and I  have a lot of flexibility built up with them since I'm very good at what I do. Unfortunately, I know that I could make a lot more elsewhere, and given our current financial situation, I decided to see what else was out there.

My company came back with a 20% raise, but when I add in my 5 weeks PTO, it is actually more than the new offer. Not to mention, the new offer is a longer commute, hourly contract work, and an unknown in terms of flexibility/security.

Given all that information, I  decided to stick with my current job. There are a couple of other concerns with it, and I let them know that should those things remain an issue in the next 6 months to a year, we may end up in the same situation.

I do feel reinvigorated though. And I'm currently working on a one-off project that should be fun.

My increase went into effect midweek this past week, so I'll see it in my first March paycheck. It should be a 500-600 monthly increase depending on taxes.

Yummy chili

February 14th, 2017 at 07:23 am

I don't know why I never made chili before. It's so easy, especially since I used a bunch of canned goods. We had a huge potful, and DH liked it so much that he asked me if I would mind making a batch next week for his work's chili cook-off. We both have some for work today, and there's 2 containers in the freezer, and two more large containers in the fridge. Tomorrow night, I will be making some sort of chicken-based soup and may also just do the batch of sausage and pepper soup while I'm at it. I'll keep small servings out of those for variety, and freeze the majority of it for next week and the week after.

DH is set to travel most of March, so I'm hoping to not buy groceries (other than eggs which I'm out of and perishables like fruit or bread) until he leaves. For March, I plan to lower our grocery budget since it will be just me.


February 13th, 2017 at 05:31 am

We did our big grocery shop this weekend. We spent right around $300 which is our grocery budget for the month, but I think we're good for the remainder of the month minus maybe 1 more trip for eggs and greens. That also included a BJ's shop where we stocked up on toilet paper, paper towels, and trash bags.

We missed out on saving $10 on our grocery shop. I had gone through Ibotta and marked everything we were getting. Plus, there was a $2 bonus for 3 redemptions. DH didn't realize that he needed to use my phone number at Food Lion. Apparently, he put in his mom's number. When it didn't automatically hit yesterday, we realized we'd missed an opportunity. It's disappointing since I had 4 or 5 rebates (including beer), but now he knows to always use my account.

I also went ahead and placed my first Zaycon Fresh order. 40 lbs. of chicken for $55 coming out to 1.39/lb. I was hoping they'd discount it once more before the delivery, and today was the last day for 18% off. If we like it, then we will start using them for our meat purchases. I also volunteered to be a helper at their events when needed. It's a $10 credit for every hour you help, so that would help offset the purchase even more.

Yesterday, I went down to visit my mom. It was so warm there that the dogs went swimming in the lake! Last night, the temperature dropped, and it was super windy. At one point, we heard a loud noise. There was a giant branch in our backyard that had snapped right off. DH is going to go up on the roof today and make sure it didn't damage anything since he the noise happened right above him.

Lastly, we had our date night last night. It was super fun, and we spent nothing out of pocket!

Frugalness Continues

February 10th, 2017 at 04:56 am

We've been mostly sticking with the frugal challenge and limiting our spending. The one exception thus far was $8 for 2 king pillows. There was a good deal for 3.99 pillows and I'd been shoving two random pillows into the king size pillowcase, so we spent the $8 to remedy that.

Otherwise, the only spending this month has been for groceries, fuel, and bills.

DH has been on a health kick. He's started working out daily and eating salads. I have been trying to eat a little healthier with him and would also like to start working out. I think I'll be able to ramp it up once the weather warms up. I simply hate moving in the cold - I have zero motivation. DH gets $5 a workout up to $20/wk, so that's his motivation since he likes having a little more play money.

I'm going to get some groceries this weekend to make two soups (one Sunday and one Wednesday). That will be our meals since DH has been simplifying things. I'll have to do more prep for the OAMC shop. DH's been having really bad heartburn (which partially prompted the lifestyle changes). He hasn't had it in almost a week and seems to have more energy too. While he mostly wants to stick to the salads plan, I'd like to have some meals prepped and in the freezer as the occasional splurge/my food.

For Valentine's Day, we decided to keep it super simple. We agreed to just cards and no gifts (although he did spend $5 on something small for me when he did groceries the other day...he felt bad so he confessed). I got him a .99 card that I'm pretty sure he'll love. We're going to use one of our 3 $50 restaurant gift cards to get takeout from Red Lobster and have a Walking Dead night on Sunday to celebrate. I have cheer practice Tuesday evening so probably nothing that night.

Taxes Done

February 6th, 2017 at 07:31 am

So my taxes are officially filed. They ended up much lower than I had anticipated. I think what happened is that DH's actual W2 pushed us just over the 125 AGI, so we couldn't deduct the mortgage insurance premiums which were $7k. It's really unfortunate because our AGI worked out to 125,500 and because of that, our refund went down to about $3k. Ah well, such is life. We're grateful to both have secure, well-paying jobs.

That means that we obviously won't be able to do all the things we'd anticipated. With the much smaller return, our priorities are paying DH's brother ($650) and living off last month's income ($1900). The remainder will be split between boosting DH's personal account ($300) and cash-flowing all of our random expenses (personal property taxes for the last 2 months of 2016 in our new county, medical bills, etc.)

I do hope to have some good news this week on increasing our income which should help us reach the other goals faster.

Computer and Fencing Update

February 2nd, 2017 at 10:26 am

Just popping in quickly. We mentioned to DH's brother about paying him back. He said to only pay half back ($500). We are incredibly grateful for his family and their generosity. Since he is still in school and living off his savings this semester, we decided we would pay him back $650. So that has moved up on our tax return priority list.

The hot tub has moved to the backburner for now. It looks like fencing will probably be more than we anticipated. At the back of our property is a line of cedar trees. The trees basically mark the property line, so we'll need to figure out whether to a) tear up all the trees (ridiculously expensive, but then we wouldn't have to worry about it anymore), b) install the fencing around the trees (I'm worried about the roots interfering with the fencing posts), c) install a less expensive temporary fence with the intent of ripping out one tree per year over the next several years and then putting in the long-term privacy fence. The other issue with the yard is that we have discovered some drainage issues with a part of the yard that doesn't get much sun due to our house blocking it. When we were doing the fencing, we wanted to look at getting a french drain put in that part of the yard as well as resodding it. Our neighbors actually go in together on an aerator each spring and have offered to include us in that. I'm almost wondering if DH and I could possibly do the french drain ourselves which would save some money.

Once the weather starts warming up, we plan to have a yard drainage expert and fencing expert come out to the house to give us estimates. From there, we'll decided on priorities.

One last random note, DH got a rare spurt of energy the other day and went to town on our utility room. It is now unpacked and completely organized. Plus, the laundry detergent soap for poison ivy is open in there, so it smells delicious when you walk in. I'm hoping we can capitalize on that and start getting some other areas of the house organized/settled. Once we got the basics unpacked, some other boxes just remained in their current state. The big remaining projects are our master closet and our storage closet in the basement.

Looking to February

January 31st, 2017 at 08:10 am

I did have to cave and buy groceries, but this should get us through early next week. I spent $62. I really want to get our tax return done, so I can fill out the living on last month's income money and do a big grocery shop. I'm going to get enough for a 4 wk. cycle from the OAMC cookbook. That should give us 2-3 months worth of meals in the freezer which would leave us with just needing breakfast and lunches each week.

We've been pretty consistent in our breakfasts and lunches. DH always get a breakfast sandwich from our breakfast sandwich maker (an amazing, albeit limited, Xmas gift). If I eat breakfast, I'll do a sandwich, but I want to get more in the habit of making several overnight oats and eating those for brekafast (we have a large container of oats in our pantry). Lunch is usually sandwiches or leftovers. I'm hoping to limit our groceries to $50/wk after the big shop. That would account for perishables, sides, and household goods.

As I mentioned before, we'll also be using our tax return to get a baby e-fund going (3k), pay off 2 debts (1200), and pay for fencing/hot tub repair. I'm hoping to keep the last two costs limited to $3500. Depending on what's left, we also want to look into paying DH's brother back for the computer. He bought all of the components for DH to build his laptop back during Black Friday sales. All told, it was right around a grand. We decided we would cover $500 from the two of us. The remainder would come from DH's overtime. That way, he could work as fast or as slow as he'd like at paying it back.

UFM and Tax Prep

January 30th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I've found that posting here really helps keep me accountable. I couldn't post for awhile because I usually do it during a break in the work day, but my computer started giving me the blue screen of death for coming on the website. No posting = no one to answer to (other than myself and my husband, both of whom are way too lenient...) = a bit of slip in the UFM. I'm still doing 5 minute showers, but we've had some craziness in the past week or so that caused some hiccups. I got sick, and the DH contracted a nasty case of poison ivy, so things went undone in the house. We did manage to get the housewarming party in before we melted down though. Spending wasn't 60, but still came in under the $200 budget at $134. We did order in food this past week once, and we also spent money on several Wal-Mart runs for Mucinex, Nyquil, frozen pizzas (because we were too exhausted to do anything in the kitchen), and several poison ivy remedies. We also both ended up in the doctor's office, so we'll have those visits to pay for once the bills come in.

I started doing our taxes. They are just about finished. I'm missing DH's W2 from his old job, but plugging in very rough estimates of the numbers nets us around 10k. We're trying to figure out the best way to allocate that money. Right now, we're leaning towards 3k savings, pay off 2 debts (my smallest credit card and an old payday loan that is under 1k), fill up our account to live off last month's income, and use the remainder to fence in the backyard and get the hot tub up and running. We feel like that's a good balance of fun things and practical things.

UFM: On the 11th day, we failed...

January 12th, 2017 at 08:30 am

We had a setback yesterday. It was supposed to be our uber-frugal date night. We were both really excited. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned...

It started with a phone call at 2:45 from DH. DD1 (his evil stepson as he likes to call him) decided to counter surf for the first time in the new house. He at about 10 milk chocolate truffles and a small box of mixed milk chocolates. The only good thing is that he somehow did that without breaking the large glass bowl they were sitting in.

DD1 happens to have a lead stomach (I could tell some stories about the things he's eaten), so I wasn't overly worried about chocolate poisoning. But it definitely put a damper on things. I got home about 345 and went to take DD1 out to see if he'd go to the bathroom. That's when I noticed the whole back deck around the hot tub was wet. I picked up the lid to see the water level, and yep, the hot tub is somehow leaking.

By that point, DH and I were both in debbie downer moods. He suggested cancelling completely which I agreed to, but that made me even more upset. We decided to just drain the hot tub completely and winterize it that way. Unfortunately, that way involves a wet/dry vac to clean out the pipes/motor pool compartment. We decided to go to Home Depot to rent one, but renting costs $13 and to buy one outright was $24. I'm sure you can see where this is headed...we spent $24 on a wet/dry vacuum that we hadn't planned. While not necessarily a need, it will prevent much more costly damage that would result from the motor pool freezing. As it is, there may already be damage which is why it started leaking in the first place, but I'm trying not to think about that.

On the way out of Home Depot, we saw a Chinese restaurant. Ordering in Chinese and playing board games is one of our favorite homebody dates. DH asked if it would be cheating if he spent his birthday gift card to treat us to Chinese since our dinner plans were ruined. While it doesn't espouse the mindset behind an UFM, at least he wasn't spending money from our bank account or even his own individual bank account. We ended up having Chinese food, playing Battleship, and marathoning 24. Not the worst way to spend an evening, I guess.

The Chinese food leftovers are lunch today for both of us and will be DH's lunch tomorrow. Since I was out of sandwich meat, that worked out okay.

We're going to try again tomorrow evening.

Day 12 about making excuses came just a little late because that's exactly what we did. Life handed us lemons and we went out and bought soda. I'm going to try and remember this lesson in the future. Spending on something to make me feel better in the short-term when things don't go as planned is probably one of my biggest weaknesses.

Budget Check-In

January 11th, 2017 at 06:34 am

I forgot to post my original budgets for January, but I decided to post them here along with my progress so far.

I know there's room for improvement, and I want to make some changes, but I'm trying to focus on one goal at a time. I took all debt payments down to the minimum to try and get a better idea of how much money we actually have left. It's looking like about $500. This month will be the first month in a long time that we haven't actually added any credit card debt. The next two goals will be $1000 in the Savings account and enough in our checking to cover living off last month's income and a $200 buffer. I'm hoping to accomplish these things by March provided nothing comes up that we suddenly have to cash flow.

After that I have a card payoff plan, but I'm trying not to focus on that just yet.

Here's my budget snapshot. I get paid twice a month, so I assign bills to each paycheck based on their due dates. My student loan payments did go up a bit from $155.

Here's our joint budget snapshot. I'm on track to come in well under budget on the Entertainment category. The clothing purchases are documented under Miscellaneous.

Spending Yesterday & Meal Plan for the Week

January 10th, 2017 at 09:30 am

Yesterday's spending was definitely more than anticipated, but still within budget...if that makes any sense. I went ahead and decided to combine this week's $50 and next week's $50 so I could just make one trip. I actually spent $108, but that included an $8 thermal and $35 bag of dog food. I also spent $15 at Goodwill for 2 pairs of jeans for DH. I redeemed $4 back between Checkout 51 and Ibotta.

For the rest of the week, a rough meal plan looks like this:
Today - Spaghetti (OAMC meal)
Tomorrow - Nacho Car
Thursday - Frozen Pizza (Wal-Mart has these really delicious $3 pizzas...probably not the most nutritious thing in the world, but satisfies DH's pizza cravings and easy)
Friday - Tuna Pasta (OAMC meal)
Saturday - Potluck with friends (bringing bacon jalapeno pinwheels)

I know for sure that we have at least another week's worth of dinners. I think we may also have a few remaining MREs on hand, so worse case, we'll work those into the menu.

Since I hadn't planned for the $15 or $7 clothing purchases (I had taken the miscellaneous budget down to $0 in a really ambitious move...), I'm going to take $22 from the last week's $50 and try to get by with only spending $28 that week.

Unfortunately, there was no way to add the beer into the grocery budget, so that $60 is still there. Considering the original party budget was $200, I feel pretty good getting it down to $60.

Lots of Stuff

January 9th, 2017 at 07:00 am

The UFM Challenge is chugging along. DH hasn't spent any money this month. I haven't spent anything outside of the $91, cat litter, and a $5.30 wine purchase for two more bottles for the party. The wine purchase was from the Groupon gift. Since it shipped late, they issued me a $50 off $50 or more purchase with free shipping. Given the prices of the bottles, I had to go slightly over $50. That gives us 14 bottles (7 red, 7 white), so I'm not getting any more wine.

After reading some of the comments on my last post, I feel silly for commenting on the cold. Some of you are dealing with single digits to negative temps. When I said cold, I meant 20's...We did actually find out that we could run the small space heater in the basement with the door closed which would make the room quite toasty. The hard part will be when we decide to do our own things for the evening because DH uses that heater in his office to play video games. At that point, I'll either stick with the heated throw and more blankets or just read upstairs in our bedroom.

We do have some spending planned for today. As I mentioned late last week, the dogs need food (there's 2-cups left which is one meal for one dog). We also discovered Friday that DH needs more thermal shirts and when he wears layers, his jeans are uncomfortably tight. We did wait the 72-hours suggested by Mrs. Frugalwoods, and DH even worked all this weekend, but he really needs a pair or two of larger jeans that will comfortably fit pants under them. We are going to get the thermal shirts and jeans from Goodwill since they'll get beat up outside regardless. DH also wants thermal pants, but those are definitely more of a want since he has military gear and one pair of warm running pants that he can use for this season.

I also started Checkout 51 and Ibotta. I got a $10 bonus through Checkout 51 and need to do my first Ibotta receipt to get that .50 bonus. We apparently go through bread really fast, so we need bread and eggs. I also plan to get a few more of the party appetizers under the grocery budget this week.

DH and I had a really productive weekend. Ever since we moved, it's felt like a never-ending cycle of laundry, but this weekend, we finally caught up (putting away laundry is the worst...)! I also made some phone calls that I'd been putting off, organized the linen closet, cleaned the floors, and got all Christmas and Halloween decorations stored. One of the recent UFM days was about using all of our groceries before getting more, so we tried to focus on that. We cleaned out the bad stuff from the fridge, and I turned 2 celery stalks, a handful of potatoes, a borderline bell pepper, some leftover green beans, and an onion into a pretty amazing soup. DH was really excited to take some for lunch today.

We've decided to wait on the hot tub. We found out that it's wired incorrectly, and the correct breaker box that we'd need runs about $350. The heater board also has a slight burn mark. It may still work, but we won't know until it's properly wired. If that doesn't work, then we'd need a new heater board at about $250 (he said installation is easy enough that we should be able to do it ourselves). DH and I decided to forget about the hot tub until after the fence is in. We do need to buy an incandescent light bulb to put in the motor compartment to prevent it from freezing since we won't be running it, so that's another expense added into today's spending. Even though it's not running, the $150 visit was really fruitful. I learned a ton, including that the hot tub is from 2008-2010 (most likely 2008), costs several thousands upfront and is a steal even if it ends up costing $500 or so to get it running, and will last at least another decade or so with proper upkeep.

DH and I have two events later this week that may present challenges, but he's been pretty committed to this whole month, so I think it'll be okay. The first is date night. DH and I's birthdays are a few weeks (and several years) apart. We both get free movie tickets for our birthdays, so we've decided to go see Rogue One this Wednesday. The challenge will be food. This particular theatre serves full meals, adult beverages, etc. in addition to standard concession fare. To combat this, I'm going to bring one small box of Raisinets (I hate doing it, but I need something for my hands) and a stress reliever toy. We're also going to get food beforehand. One of our favorite Mexican restaurants does a free happy hour nacho bar. Again, we'd normally get a margarita or something to support the restaurant, but this time, we'll just eat our fill of nachos. The other event is a potluck. I normally make lumpia, but since I'm making that next weekend, I'm going to go with pinwheels. Those ingredients will also be purchased under this week's grocery money.

Speaking of date night, we also agreed to go minimal for Valentine's Day. I bought him a .50 card on his birthday, and I told him to skip the flowers/chocolates/gifts. He's happy because that's less effort for him.

One last random thing, one of the pets' Christmas gifts was light up LED collars for $8 each from Groupon. On a day-to-day basis, it's been our best gift. I can see the dogs in the backyard without having to go out there with them. I also use it when walking them later and have gotten people at red lights who asked where they're from.

Free Inspection, Cat Litter Flop, and Other Stuff

January 6th, 2017 at 06:10 am

Day 6 of UFM is getting finances in order. While I do feel like I currently have a system that works for me, there is so much room for improvement that I'd like to do. It seems overwhelming to do at this time. Two things I did implement are Snafu's suggestion to pay cash for everything and tracking everything spent. It'll take some manipulation to get all the payments in an appropriate order to align with our paychecks, but I did start immediately paying off anything charged to the cc's with money in our accounts. I will continue to do this and pay minimums on all accounts until we have $1000 in Savings and can live off of last month's income. We used to live off last month's income, but fell behind with the house and DH's job change resulting in less income. Currently, we pay the mortgage from last month's income, and everything else gets paid from income within the month. It'll take a few months to get to this point and will hinder my debt payoff, but I think it's an important first step if I want to get our finances back on track.

As for the spending yesterday, DH's inspection was free, so the only spending was the cat litter. I failed on two accounts with that expense. First, I also needed dog food, so that will be another spending day, but I'm trying to put it off and will get it when another expense comes up. We're running pretty low though and feed 2 large dogs, so I suspect I will have to cave early next week. I plan to root through ads/do some planning, so I can go ahead and get some of the party foodstuffs with the $50 allotted to groceries for next week. The other flop associated with the cat litter is that I had a $5 PetSmart coupon. It expired on the 2nd which is a bummer because had I planned ahead, I could have used it taking ~30% off the $16 price. I'm terrible about using those PetSmart coupons...

Back to the UFM, our other money saving strategies are going well. We've been sticking to our 5 minute showers and kept the house at 60. It's been challenging, but it's also become kind of a game. DH gets one 10 minute shower at some point this month for his birthday. I've had multiple layers on at all times this week. We have an electric fireplace space heater, but it makes a disturbing noise when on, so we can't run it. I have to look into troubleshooting because if we had it, the basement would be much more bearable.

The last bit of news is that the hot tub is being looked at today. The cost for the visit is $150 which I've already budgeted. DH's dad had connected it, but when we filled it and tried to turn it on, it didn't work. My FIL rechecked the power and everything is good there, so it seems to be an issue with the unit itself. Really hoping we just missed something simple (like the time we tried filling it without plugging the drain plug). It would stink to have gotten a hot tub that's broken. Since it had already been drained, we took them at their word when they said it still ran fine. Their reasoning for getting rid of it was that they were moving to a townhouse and the backyard was small and afforded little privacy. I haven't yet discussed it with DH, but I'm thinking if it's anything more than $200 to get it up and running, then we'll just wait on it.

UFM Day 5

January 5th, 2017 at 08:02 am

I had already done this, so today's an easy day for me. There will be two unplanned expenses today: DH's inspection and cat litter. Both kind of necessary. (I've somehow managed to not clean the litter box once since we moved, so I had no clue it was out...)

With the food we have on hand, I think I can get through next week without doing grocery shopping. Since we had 50 budgeted for groceries, I'm going to move some to pets for the cat litter and push the rest to the following week when I plan on picking up party food.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to put all the party food under our regular grocery budget since we have enough food on hand. This should take the party budget down considerably.

DH's lunchbox is really coming in handy. It's not the healthiest meal, but he's had Ramen and a fried egg all week. Both stay hot which is awesome. Today's a big test since it's the first super-cold day in awhile. I also switched the containers around since the noodles kept drying out and DH loves soupy Ramen. Today, I put the noodles and fried egg together in the main bowl and put the soup separate in the little bowl.

I have a bunch of veggies on hand and a few potatoes so this weekend, I'm going to try my hand at some form of soup for DH to have in his lunches next week.

UFM Check-In

January 4th, 2017 at 06:21 am

I've been sick ever since NYE. The good thing about that is that I haven't really made it out to spend money. So far, the only spending has been $91 at Wal-Mart. This included DH's birthday gift (Nerf guns and darts - $30, groceries for the week - $26, allergy medicine - $15, and cash back - $20). I also ordered DH pizza on his birthday totaling $25.

While the pizza wasn't planned, some stuff happened right before DH's birthday. He then shared that his ideal birthday would include pizza, laser tag with friends, and dinner with family. I decided to use my $25 miscellaneous money for pizza and got the Nerf guns in lieu of laser tag (it was too last minute to get a group together). He loved it and that $55 was less than the $80 I had planned for the go-karts.

For the cash back, I'm actually planning to put $18 back in the bank in the next few days. I had money from a cheerleader for competition fees, and I'd use $2 when I needed cash last month, so I had to get the cash to pay it back.

The remaining $41 was from the grocery budget. I actually gave myself $50 each week for groceries, so we're off to a good start (especially considering $15 of that was my allergy medicine).

Groceries and meals are set this week. By my estimates, we have enough dinners for 10-12 meals depending on our appetites already in the freezer. The bread and sandwich meat I brought should last us through most (if not all) of next week, so I shouldn't actually have to touch the $50 grocery money that is budgeted to next week.

For the housewarming, I've been doing some thinking around ways to make it more frugal. One of our Christmas gifts was a groupon for a 12-pk of wine. I chose the mixed box, so I think I'm going to forgo the boxed wine completely and offer those to people instead. I've already bought some of the ingredients for the party food out of my first week's grocery budget ($50), so I'm going to try to continue doing that. If I can purchase all food items for appetizers under the weekly grocery budget, then I think I can get the party budget down to $60 from $200. The $60 would be beer, sodas, and probably the veggie tray.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2017 at 07:44 am

Wishing everyone a blessed and happy 2017.

DH and I rang in the new year with friends of ours. It was a fun, frugal evening with wine and Settlers of Catan.

Today should be a no spend day. DH is out shooting with his family, and I am home resting since I haven't been feeling well.

DH also decided he wanted to hold off on the go karts until his brothers could join us. If he's okay with it, we'll push that to February.

Uber Frugal Month Prep and Challenges

December 30th, 2016 at 05:34 am

One of the blogs I read (frugalwoods.com) is doing an Uber Frugal Month challenge. I'm going to to make a valiant effort at doing the challenge, but there are several obstacles.

First, the challenges:
1) DH's birthday - DH's birthday is the 2nd. He already usually gets shafted, so I try to make it a big deal. I've discussed it with him, and have it limited to 3 things: an experience (there's an indoor speedway at a nearby mall that he's been dying to try - 3 14-lap races will be $40 each), dinner (we're eating out with his family, so I'm not sure yet if this cost will fall to me), and a physical gift (DH works outside. With the cold weather, I want to invest in a good insulated thermos/food container, so I can give him soups and such to warm him up).
2) Our housewarming - We moved in last November. Given the holidays, we decided to host a housewarming in January. The date had already been set and invites sent when I signed on for the challenge. I'm going to give myself a $200 budget for party things including beer, wine, and 4 appetizers, plus a veggie snack tray. I'm going to do my best to get it under that, but that's a realistic number given the area I live in.
3) Eating out - DH and I tend to just give up and eat out when life gets overwhelming. I'm doing my best to combat this by having meals on hand that require little effort to get to the table.
4) House Stuff - Other than the hot tub, we're going to try and make do with the things we have. Given that we live next to Wal-Mart and 5 minutes from Home Depot, we've gotten into a bit of a habit of just going out and buying it when we find we need something.

In order to tackle the month as best as I can, I've done some prep. DH and I discussed some things we'd like to attempt to be more frugal in. At the end of the month, we'll go back to the things we've missed and nix the rest. The prep work:

1) Cancel Netflix and Hulu. We have Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Sling TV to cover the shows we're not willing to give up. I'm going to put Netflix and Hulu on hold for the month to see how we make do.
2) Food - we're going to stick to a $50/wk food budget. This should more than cover sandwiches, fruit, and basic ingredients for things like soup and rice and chicken.
3) Water Use - We typically take 15 minute plus showers. We've agreed to limit it to 5 minutes. We'll set a timer to keep us to it.
4) Minimum Payments - I usually pay 5-10 over all the minimum payments, but I think it's hurting rather than helping. I'm going to pay the bare minimum on everything (except the Target card which I'll pay in full) and see what that leaves us with. Based on estimates, we should have anywhere from $30-50 extra to throw at one debt.
5) Eating Out - I bought 2 gift cards for food in December. We have a $25 card to both Firehouse and Papa John's in case the urge strikes, but we're going to do our best to not eat out at all. My boss also gave us a $50 gift card, so that's a future date night at some point.
6) Temperature - We've kept the house at 65 which is much lower than I'd normally prefer. It hasn't been terrible, and this winter's been mild, so we're going to try taking it down to 60.
7) Pets - We've lowered the dogs' food back to their normal levels, so that should help with food cost. We're also pretty well stocked on treats. I was going to get them groomed prior to the party since they smell pretty bad, but we're going to take that on ourselves. Total savings - $110.

Starting Fresh

December 29th, 2016 at 07:26 am

DH and I sat down and had a talk last night, and we are going to really focus on our finances this upcoming year. 2016 was amazing for us, but all the wedding and house expenses really set us back. Not to mention, we really want kids. Here's some tentative thoughts we've laid out:

Tabling the kids discussion until: 1) we eliminate balances on 4 credits cards (did I mention that we really fell hard off that wagon) leaving us with 3 cards that have balances 2) we have $5000 in savings (we currently only have $500)

I'm toying with adding that the total credit card balance across the 3 must be under 10k. Currently, the 3 total $16k. This one is a stretch, so I'm not sure about adding it in.

We have 2 remaining anticipated house projects, and then we're going to hold off on house things for now. The first is fencing. It was always the plan to fence this Spring using our tax refund as the jumpstart on those costs. The other is the hot tub. DH's dad hooked the power up, so all that's left is to fill it and see if it runs. We're also having a technician come out next week for $150 who will run through basic maintenance (how to monitor levels, drain it, change filters, etc.) and check over it. We're currently missing steps, but those cost another $100 for even the cheap ones, so we're going to hold off on that for now.

I think that in January, we can pay off 2 cards (Slate - less than $300 and Target - $250). Hopefully more since we're doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

Done Christmas Shopping!

December 15th, 2016 at 05:10 am

We finished up our Christmas shopping last night. All that's left is to wrap everything and actually order the two credit card rewards gift cards. We did end up spending the $100 at Target. We got his goddaughter's gift, the last of the pet gifts (yes, I know...we're ridiculous for giving our animals presents, but my older dog actually does recognize the stocking and knows that it comes with goodies, so he likes to sit in front of it and stare at it), ice melt for this upcoming winter, and some odds and ends (the popcorn, bread, and envelopes). For those who were wondering, you can buy a gift card with a Target gift card.

Random story: we were looking at pj's because I'd like to start a Christmas Eve tradition where we get pj's and watch a Christmas movie. DH immediately picked out the Darth Vader pajama pants I'd already gotten him. I told him no because we had to coordinate, and he was visibly sad. He knows that I got him pj pants. He even tried them on to make sure they fit (he had his eyes closed). He actually guessed they were Star Wars themed awhile ago. I laughed and said 'who'd want Star Wars pants?' knowing full well the answer was him. His face dropped, so he has no clue he's getting them. He'll be really excited about them. He also ruined his Darth Vader light saber light for the office which I did semi-tell him about. He saw a fancier one in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and pointed it out. I got frustrated and told him to stop ruining all his gifts! He goes 'Really?!?!?' and got really excited, so I know he'll love all of his gifts. He also guessed his big gift: framed movie posters from all 7 movies for his office (the big Michael's boxes gave it away), but I played that one off pretty well, and he doesn't know he got it right.

We couldn't find his parents' gifts at Target, but we were able to get them last night. We found the bed rest pillow thing from Michael's. With my 20% off coupon, it came to $20. For his dad, DH compiled a bunch of smaller things he'd like/need totaling about $50 (paid a little less thanks to a $10 Wal-Mart gift card).

I forgot stamps to mail in DH's computer rebates, so I'll have to get those today.

The last big thing I need to do is Christmas day groceries. So far, my tiny foray into the world of once-a-month-cooking is going well. We've had the spaghetti and chicken dijon and both were really good. Last night and today were supposed to be the meatball sub casserole, but the chicken dijon actually made two meals, and we have a happy hour today with free appetizers that we plan to treat as dinner. Christmas Eve meal is covered by the slow cooker chicken for shredded chicken sandwiches. For Christmas day, we're planning on turkey breast, ham, baked mac and cheese, potatoes au gratin, broccoli cheddar casserole, and rolls with bacon jalapeno pinwheels and deviled eggs as appetizers. I'll need most of those ingredients as I don't have any of that on hand.

Frugal Date Night & Upcoming Uber Frugal Month

December 14th, 2016 at 07:00 am

Tonight is our rescheduled date night to go see the Christmas lights drive through display. The cost is $12/car (it jumps to $25 on the weekend!). I'll never understand why people go then because we drive by it pretty much every day. There's maybe 2-3 cars on the route during the week, but on the weekend, it's stopped traffic. Seems much less enjoyable to me. We're aiming to go around 7:30 to hopefully avoid the frugal families who take their kids during the week (I'm thinking they'd go right around 5/6 to be able to make it home for dinner/bedtimes).

We are also going to finish up our Christmas shopping. At this point, we have one gift card to buy, 2 credit card gift cards to redeem, a bedrest pillow thing, a gift for DH's goddaughter, and something for his dad. We also have a $100 gift card to Target that I'm hoping to use for most, if not all, the gifts. Can you buy a gift card with a gift card?

We're also planning on buying a bag of white cheddar popcorn while at Target. For some reason, I feel like the lights show calls for popcorn and hot cocoa. We're making the cocoa at home, but the popcorn would be cold if we did that, so buying white cheddar popcorn seems like a good compromise. It's certainly better than the $5 small bag they offer at the refreshments stand there.

Next month, I'm doing the Frugalwoods' Uber Frugal Month with a few cheats. One being DH's birthday, and the other being eating out. We got a Firehouse gift card from one of Amazon's deals, and Papa John's has a deal where you get a free large pizza with a $25 gift card purchase. I plan to get that as well with this month's budget. So next month, we'll have 3 opportunities to eat out, but none will come out of next month's money since they've all been bought this month.

Are you doing any sort of January challenge to reset after the holidays?

Holiday Party and Gifts Update

December 12th, 2016 at 06:22 am

We had our holiday party this past weekend. Guess who was lucky enough to win the grand prize? That's right, this girl. Since it's not something I can use (an Apple watch), we will be giving my little brother a very nice Christmas gift. Christmas shopping is almost done. We have a few gifts left: a bed pillow for my MIL, something for my FIL, a gift card for DH's goddaughter's parents, something for his goddaughter, and maybe one more gift each for my mom and older brother. Overall, I think we did pretty well. From the bedroom furniture purchase, we had $45ish in Amazon rewards, so I used that to get coloring books and pencils for each of my 3 closest friends in this area. I also got some cooktop cleaner and scrubbing pads that had been on my list awhile.

The last big purchase was Christmas cards. I never did get around to sending out thank you notes from the wedding (I know...shame on me), but with the move and all the other life changes, it just got away from me. DH has a friend in this area who's working on growing his photography business. He did our engagement shots and is really talented, so we asked for his help with holiday photos. Since it only ended up being an hour-long shoot, he didn't charge us anything, but I would like to get him a $25 gift card as a thank you since he also spends time editing. I read about a hack for using holiday business postcards instead of Christmas cards to make it cheaper. We are getting 100 postcards for $12. I did end up splurging for the rush order though, so that was another $16. Overall though, $30 bucks for 100 Christmas cards is a good deal to me. I'm hoping to have those sent out this weekend.

In the next few weeks, we have a few spendy things planned. Tonight, we're hoping to finish up the shopping. Wednesday, we're doing a drive through light show ($12, plus the popcorn and hot cocoa we bring ourselves). Saturday, we're probably going to visit DH's goddaughter. And Sunday is tentatively decorating our work office (we go all out each year...this year, we're doing The Nightmare Before Christmas). Next week is my big 3-0. I told DH not to make a big deal out of it, but that I do want some sort of date night. I think we're leaning towards Allied at a movie theater that serves dinner food. I'm also really hoping he and his dad come through with the hot tub as that's all I really, really want.

Then, we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with both of our families. Going to be a hectic few weeks, but filled with lots of good memories.

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