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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Just when I think things are going to start settling down, they don't.
Here's some of the happenings in rambling form:
New Job: I'd been half-heartedly applying to other jobs. I don't really want to leave my company as I've built a lot of good rapport and flexibility there, but I feel very stagnant. I've been severely underpaid for several years now, and there's just not room for my salary to grow in comparison to how much my skillset has grown. I got a verbal offer late last week and am expecting the written offer this week. My biggest hesitation is that the job is hourly (meaning no PTO or paid holidays), but it's a solid 15k more than what I'm currently making. It would definitely give us a bit more breathing room and allow us to make some progress on paying off debts.
Holidays: I want to thank everyone for their comments on my last post. I'm definitely going to try and focus more on the spirit of the holiday rather than the number of gifts under the tree. That said, we did scrounge up what we could to buy some gifts.
Pet Care: I was delaying bringing the pets in to the new vet where we live because we didn't have the extra funds and they were fine. However, we did have to go in last week. DD1 (dear dog 1 for those who may not remember) has been losing a lot of weight. He's basically a bag of bones. We attributed it to the fact that he's now running top speed for at least an hour and a half daily and upped his food intake to make up for it. Well, when DH was walking him, he decided to check DD1's business and make sure there was nothing alarming there. He found tan and white specks, which according to Google, could be tapeworms. We took him in immediately, but there was nothing in his stool. We gave the go-ahead for bloodwork to make sure those levels were fine, and that was normal as well (except for slight anemia). Total cost was just under $200 for the blood work and float test (the visit was free since it was his first).
Cooking: I spend $160 yesterday on the ingredients for half of a 2-wk. once-a-month-cooking cycle (including several new pantry ingredients that I didn't have). Since this is my first time trying it, and we don't need that much to get us through December, I picked about half of the meals. DH and I will be prepping and cooking them tonight. Since they serve at least 4, we will divide them into multiple serving to get through the remainder of December. Fortunately, one that I chose serves 16-20. On Christmas eve, we will probably have both families over at our place. DH has a tradition that he does every Christmas eve that he wants to start in our new place. So that night, we'll do the slow cooker chicken sandwiches, so we can feed everyone. I still need to get Christmas day groceries, but I'm encouraged that we may be able to stick to our $200/month grocery budget in the future.
I'm sure there's a lot more, but I just can't really brain right now. I'm long overdue for a good hard look at the numbers.
I'm trying so hard to resist the temptation of holiday spending. Being the one who normally makes Christmas happen for my immediate family makes me feel like a failure for not being able to do it this year. I did manage to snag up several things on Cyber Monday for DH and our household, including a carpet cleaner, new filters to revitalize our vacuum, a Star Wars puzzle, posters for all the Star Wars movies (to hang in the office), discounted frames for the posters, pajama pants, and several thermal shirts for DH to wear in the winter (he works outside).
I've portioned out $300 of DH's extra paycheck for him to be able to buy gifts for his family. We also have enough points for 3 gift cards through our Marriott credit card (2 $25 gift cards and a $15 gift card). I also need to get one gift for each of my family members.
I feel bad because we're doing Christmas at our place so everyone can be together again, and my mom is worried DH's family will judge that there's not many gifts from my family. Honestly, I'm a bit worried about that too, but oh well. They are somewhat aware that my family is nowhere near as stable as they are, but I just hope it's not super obvious when their family has tons of gifts to open and mine only has 2-3 gifts for each person.
We had a great Thanksgiving. It was so nice to have our families (minus my little brother) all in one place. I also managed to escape Black Friday mostly unscathed (although there was some Cyber Monday spending today). On Black Friday, I bought 2 video games for DH. He knows this will be a lean Christmas, but I did want to make sure he has at least a few things he wants. He actually conned me into giving him one game already, but the other is with my mom. I told him that I only managed to snag the one game, so he'll be really surprised.
On the money side of things, his parents' generosity continues. They not only bought us a brand new 55 inch smart TV, a popcorn maker, a rotating waffle maker, and a bathroom set (not to mention, these aren't even part of our Christmas gifts because they gave them to us early), but they also forgave the gift they gave us for the house. It was originally intended as a loan, and we had every intention of paying it back further down the road, but they told us not to worry about it. I can only hope that one day, we'll be able to be as generous with our kids.
2 other things we've decided to hold off on for now are the Costco and YNAB memberships. Each runs about $50, but we have workarounds for now. I still have a BJ's membership until next August. Costco is around the corner whereas BJ's is about a 10-15 minute car ride. I still have YNAB4, so even though I find the import transactions feature so convenient, I will go back to the old way for now.
We've implemented something of a spending fast. We're not spending nothing completely, but we are going to be very scrupulous in our purchases.
I wasn't very good about tracking our cash flow purchases which made things a little wonky this month. The only miscellaneous spending currently on the books will be DH's XMas gift (he wants a game that is normally $60, but will be on sale Black Friday for $25-$30). December is DH's 3 paycheck month. As much as I'd like to be able to do half-savings/half-debt, there's too much happening right now, but starting next year, it will be that way.
This 3rd paycheck will go to helping us catch up on living on last month's income with $300 going to DH to pad his bank account/use for Christmas gifts.
I do feel like he's trying to get on board with the whole cutting back thing, so it's nice to feel like I'm not alone in this.
I had a very good weekend. DH was away at drill, so I took the weekend to recharge my batteries and get things done. It was a really good mix of busy and relaxing. Some of the things I got done were: dishes, laundry, unpacking a few more boxes, breaking down all the empty boxes, gathering all the recycling and trash, moving the pet things to their proper place, sweeping, and vacuuming. The house is in pretty good shape for Thanksgiving which is great news given that it's our first time hosting!
I'm both excited and nervous. The only sad thing is that I found out my brother has to work, so he won't be joining us, but everyone else from my and my husband's immediate families will be with us. Our moms and myself split the menu up, so the pressure won't all be on me. My mom is going to make the turkey as I've only tried it once and it didn't turn out well.
Our bedroom furniture arrives this morning. Besides that and 1 or 2 more cans of paint, we've decided no more unnecessary purchases for now. We're going to do our best to make do with what we have on hand.
Money is tight right now, so it's going to be a meager holiday, but so special because we're in our forever home for our first Christmas as a married couple! Today also happens to be our 6 month anniversary, and I feel so blessed even if our financial situation is a little tight right now.
I had a very good weekend. The plan had originally been for DH and I to drive up to Boston together with the dogs to visit my best friend from college. She's the one who gave me DD1 and she has one of his brothers, so we try to get them together a few times a year.
Given everything that had been happening lately, we decided it would be best if I went up alone with DD1 and DH would stay at home with DC and DD2 and work on unpacking/set up.
Outside of driving and snacks, I didn't spend any money. My hosts generously comped our meals out and we also ate several meals in. It was a very fun, low-key weekend. We took the dogs to the dog park both mornings. Saturday afternoon, we had lunch with one of my other college friends and then just hung out. Saturday night, we rented The Jungle Book (really dark for Disney) and then had a campfire out back with drinks and s'mores. Sunday morning, we had brunch and then I headed back.
Some car issues did pop up on the trip (both for me and DH). DH had a flat tire. He has tire protection, but it wasn't covered since he hit the curb. He has really nice sports tires which cost $260. We did get a break on the labor though, since FIL's friend has a shop. I'm taking my car in there later today. On the drive back, my check engine light came on and remained on the rest of the drive. I'd thought it had to do with my oil since I was pushing the oil change before the 8-hr. drive. I added some oil since it was low, and bought an extra quart just in case ($10). My check engine light didn't come on this morning, but since this car needs to last another 2-3 years, I want it fully checked.
Unfortunately, DH didn't do any of the things he'd planned and instead spent the weekend recharging his batteries as well.
So this week will be our organizing week. I have 2-3 weeks before the winter cheer season starts, so we should both be home by 4/5 every day. Today, we have to do groceries and plan for hosting next week, but we also need to spend an hour or two each day unpacking boxes and finding proper homes for everything.
Well, we are officially moved in. It's been a very spendy few weeks, and I anticipate there will only be more.
A couple of highlights from the weekend include:
- losing our cat (she found her way in to the utility room and was hiding behind the hamper)
- the skunk who sprayed on our front porch causing the whole entryway to smell
- the stink bug who took up residency on our shower curtain and scared the living daylights out of me while I was hanging it
- enjoying a drink in our sunroom
A couple of frugal wins:
- getting a nice, new-to-us dining table from DH's parents that seats 6 and looks great in our dining room
- ordering pizza instead of eating out for all of the people who helped us move
- having DH's parents pay for the painter to come 2 more days and finish out the painting (not sure this really counts as a win, but it was generous of them and saves us money)
- the paint was nowhere near enough and (as I suspected) there were some labor costs for FIL's friend to paint (another $350 in paint and $300 in labor)
- one of the lights went out and we decided to slowly switch to LED bulbs ($8 for 4 bulbs) and ended up getting a pantry LED light as well ($10)
- forgetting to use a 40% off Papa John's coupon when ordering pizza
I spent my fun money last pay period on a cookbook. I'd decided I didn't need it quite yet, but a week and a half later, it was still very much on my mind. It was only $13 which is technically half of my fun money. It's the Family Favorites edition of Once a Month Cooking. It very thoroughly lays out meal plans, shopping lists, materials, prep order, and meal cooking/assembly order. There are 2 4-wk. cycles, 2 2-wk. cycles, a Gluten-Free cycle, a summer cycle, and a fancy meals cycle. We've already decided which 2 wk. cycle to try first. Given that the meal sizes are anywhere from 4-12 servings, I think that we could easily stretch a 2-wk. cycle to a month (or at least pretty close to it). Since DH has weekends free now, we've committed to trying out this new way of cooking. DH makes it home in plenty of time to make dinner, and while he's an amazing chef, I don't think he's the biggest fan of cooking meals that take longer than 30ish minutes. I think OAMC will help a ton since he'll just have to reheat the meal and maybe make a quick side. I'm also hoping this will help us to keep our grocery spending down.
For TV, DH and I have decided to try a few different things. We're going to cut cable. We are getting Fios Internet only in the new place. Our biggest TV needs at the moment are soccer (DH is a big fan), Designated Survivor, 24 (we're marathoning it since I've never seen it and DH loves it), The Walking Dead, and Reign. To meet those, we have Hulu (5.99/mo), Netflix (10.99/mo), Amazon Prime (99/yr.), and we are adding in SlingTV (24.99/mo). I prepaid the 3 months upfront in order to get a free Roku streaming stick. We have one Chromecast, but 2 TVs, so this way, both will be entertainment enabled. I'd like to look into cutting Netflix, but it would have to be after finishing Reign. I also want to look into the Mohu Leaf once we get settled. If we can invest in one upfront, then I could get rid of Hulu since we only need it for Designated Survivor. That would just leave us with Prime and SlingTV which I think we could learn to live with.
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