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Archive for March, 2015

Fridge and Pantry Raiding

March 31st, 2015 at 07:28 pm

I ran out of our food budget about two weeks ago. I actually went a few dollars over on our last trip, but definitely better than the $350+ I've been averaging. I had made a meal plan for dinners through tonight, but what I hadn't accounted for is how much of the basics we'd run out of. We are currently out of sandwich meat, bread, sliced cheese, butter, eggs and bagels. I've definitely had to get creative, but we made it. Tonight is pasta, meatballs, and sauce. And tomorrow, we get to go shopping. We have a 60 day trial to BJ's that we're planning to spend the majority of the budget on, so we'll have to see how that shakes out for the rest of April.

Weekend Plans

March 27th, 2015 at 08:41 pm

This will be one of the busiest weekends I've had in a while. For starters, the pet expo is this weekend. I had brought a groupon last month, and since the cold will be back, I plan to take DD all 3 days, so he can get out and see something new.

SO and I have been like ships passing in the night this past week, so we are flexing our meal plan to make tonight Date Night after the pet expo. I have a groupon for a really good Mexican restaurant that his friend happens to own, so I'm hoping for less than $20 bucks from our entertainment budget.

Tomorrow and Sunday, I will be visiting the dog adoption fairs where DD2 (hopefully) is supposed to be. I want to see how she interacts with others as well as myself, SO, and DD.

Also tomorrow, I will be going to visit my mom to drop off the meals for my brother and wish her well on her trip. She lives 1.5 hours away, so it's not exactly a quick trip.

On Sunday, SO is off. In addition to visiting DD2 and the pet expo, we will probably price out things at BJ's. We're trying to avoid buying anything else until April, but it's literally going to have to be 4/1 as we're running dangerously low on stuff. Sunday evening is the finale of The Walking Dead (my all-time favorite TV show!). SO is making stuffed baked potatoes, and we may invite his best friend over to join us. (Side note: I totally just had the idea to dye the stuffed baked potatoes red like zombie guts which is kind of gross, but also a great theme idea...)

Trying to Cut Costs

March 26th, 2015 at 02:02 pm

Today, I am going to go have the parking pass removed since the weather is nicer. My complex charges $40/mo for garage parking, but street parking (which there is plenty of) is free. The garage was a godsend in the winter, but now that it's warming up, I can deal with street parking. That $40 comes out of our joint account, but will be more than repurposed for the pet charge for DD2.

The other area I was able to save is my phone bill. As you may recall, I pay the full bill for my family. About a year ago, I switched to mobile share bringing us down to $160/month. Last month, I switched again during a special. I'm not sure what the final average price will be, but this month, it was $132! That's including 7 gigs up from the 3 we had before (realistically, we use just over 1, but pricing wise, it's actually cheaper to have the higher rate plan). I'd still like to eventually be only paying my bill, but while my mom is still working on cleaning up her own stuff and with my little brother just entering the work force, it's nice to be able to continue helping them while saving a little.

Resisting Temptation

March 25th, 2015 at 06:44 pm

My boss sent out a link to NY&C who's having a huge sale. I even added 5 dresses to my cart, but when the discount codes didn't apply to the clearance dresses, I decided not to buy any. Each dress was only $20, but I ended up deciding not to purchase. If I do win more than $300 on my 6-month dietbet, I may put aside $50 for some new clothes.

The extra nice thing was after I talked myself out of it, my boss ended up buying me one since they were only $20 bucks.

Miscellaneous Updates

March 25th, 2015 at 03:27 pm

The scale finally moved! 2.3 lbs. to go by next week to win this month of my Transformer dietbet.

I haven't really been posting about this, but SO and I have been looking at getting DD2. This one will be a female as we've learned it might be better to integrate a female dog into our pack. There is a great Pyr mix that turns 8 weeks early next week. We are 90% certain we are getting the all white female with black raccoon eyes. Her name will be Riley. All 'startup' costs associated with her will come out of our joint account, particularly SO's commission for the month. After that, we are done on the pet front. 2 DDs and 1 DC Smile

I've been reading into the concept of once a month cooking. Anyone have any experience with this? Pros...cons? Tips for starting out/handling it with a small freezer?

Cleaning Up My Credit

March 23rd, 2015 at 03:06 pm

I've been working on my credit cards recently, but when I last checked my credit report using CreditKarma, I noticed something else dinging my score...old medical bills.

For several years now, I've been dealing with LabCorp regarding a $538 medical debt. My EOB from that visit stated my owed amount as 32.32. A few weeks after receiving the first bill, I sent in the EOB and requested an updated bill. They continued sending a full bill, and with everything else going on, it just dropped off my radar. After seeing it in collections on one of my reports, I finally decided to deal with it. I called the Collections agency and explained that I had never paid it since I'd never received an updated bill. She requested I send in the EOB again and call the next day to verify it. I forgot the next day, but just called and was told my owed amount is now 32.32. There is a $5 processing fee to do it over the phone, so I will send in a check instead. I also requested that they remove it from my credit report once the account has been settled.

My other credit report has a $90 collection on it, but that was fairly recent and just a dumb oversight on my part.

Hopefully, paying these will help bump my score up.

Also, SO is shaping up to have a pretty great month at work, so hopefully I'll be able to use some of that to still make a sizable payment to my CC. (Just fyi, this is money we spent on getting the apartment ready/pets/groceries before SO's paychecks were more consistent. I track it in our budget to be paid back as we get extra funds.)

Magazine Subscription Troubles

March 20th, 2015 at 03:50 pm

I have one remaining magazine subscription for Cosmo and Elle that was a combined deal. Since it's coming up for renewal, I recently cancelled Cosmo thinking it would also apply to Elle since I got them as a combo deal. However, the other day, I noticed a $15 automatic renewal charge for Elle. I immediately cancelled and got a notification that I would be issued a $15 refund for all unsent issues. Imagine my surprise when today, I had a $20 renewal charge from Cosmo. I repeated the process. I'm writing both here and made a note in my budget spreadsheet to monitor these refunds.

Freebies Galore

March 18th, 2015 at 01:50 pm

One of my biggest grocery busters is our alcohol expense. Both SO and I enjoy unwinding with a drink or two several nights a week. While we could definitely be better about cutting back on this, it's really the only splurge in our grocery budget, so we're hesitant to take it away. Enter the luck of the Irish!!

My company celebrated it's anniversary yesterday on St. Patrick's Day, and ended up with a huge cooler still full of beer at the end of the evening. Since I'm one of the few people that assists with planning and execution of company events, I was able to snag 12-15 of the older beers (leftover from our last company event) since we had to clear out the fridge to make room for these new ones. I also got a huge container of fresh fruit for morning smoothies!

Meal Plan and Spring Cleaning

March 16th, 2015 at 03:04 pm

On Saturday, I went shopping for the make-ahead meals for my brothers. While I spent nearly double what I intended ($130 rather than $70), a lot of it was for our own pantry/apartment. I had around $60 left in the grocery budget, so that will be it. The good news is that I believe I have enough on hand to make it through the end of March. I had forgotten about the HelloFresh subscription which came last Friday. I reworked the meals for this week to include those 3 which pushed the meal plan through midweek next week. I can easily survive on pantry food for the last half a week, so going to do my best to not do groceries.

This weekend, I got hit with the spring cleaning bug. We have a list of tasks on our fridge to get done. I managed to cross off quite a bit. Cleaned the bathroom and entryway floors. Changed the tablecloth and washed placemats. Washed bathroom and kitchen mats. Cleaned the stove top and decluttered the kitchen counter. Caught up on laundry.

Plus, I hit my 10k steps both days. I really need to start pushing harder during the week to hit it. I have less than 5 lbs. to go to my dietbet goal this month.

Frugal food

March 13th, 2015 at 05:01 pm

Last night was stir-fry using the leftover rice and a bag of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots mix. To accomodate SO's taste for meat, I cut up my last piece of lemon pepper chicken and threw that in there along with a couple of leftover roasted veggies from Monday. We then threw in some soy sauce, duck sauce packets from previous chinese take-out nights, and scrambled two eggs in the middle to mix in.

It. Was. Delicious!!!

That was the first time I've ever just completely made it up and it worked perfectly. Tonight is also leftovers, so I get to relax a little.

Plus, my lunch today is free Smile

Food Updates

March 12th, 2015 at 03:25 pm

I've been really happy with the progress I've made in terms of cooking. It really helps that SO seems to enjoy everything I make which boosts my confidence. Some of my better meals have been a quinoa, broccoli, chicken casserole; bang bang shrimp pasta; and last night, lemon pepper chicken with brown rice and cheddar bay biscuits. I even carved out a meal plan to get us through the rest of this week and next week since my food budget ($300) is pretty much gone. I'm hoping to make it through most, if not all, of the rest of March with only 1 or 2 trips for staples (I'm running low on milk and eggs).

Out of my own account, I will be shifting some priorities around. I'm going to pull $100 from one of my credit card payments for food. My mom is going to the Philippines next month to bury my grandmother. My brothers will be on their own for two weeks for food. While they will cook some small things on their own, I imagine they will rely a lot on fast food/take-out. Since one brother doesn't work and the other makes very little, I anticipate phone calls asking for money for food. To make this a bit easier on myself, I have decided to make ahead 4 meals that they can quickly pop into the oven and will last 2-3 days for them. This and their simple home-cooking skills should cover most of the 2 weeks. I will be making the aforementioned quinoa/broccoli/chicken casserole, crunchy tex-mex casserole, enchiladas, and baked mac & cheese with cut-up hot dogs and peas. My intention is to double-up on these meals where possible, so that SO and I can also enjoy them at home. It wouldn't come out of our own account's grocery budget, but would help us make it to the end of March.

Free Swag

March 9th, 2015 at 02:49 pm

This weekend, my cheerleaders had their competition. I was determined not to spend any of my own money, so I packed snacks for the day, and treated myself (it was 7 am on a Saturday...) to Starbucks using a gift card I had lying around. Unfortunately, I ended up leaving my lunch bag at the venue. It had been a gift for Employee Appreciation Day a few years back and has served me well since I've started packing lunches. Fortunately, Employee Appreciation Day just passed last Friday. My company had decided to divvy up all the free swag lying around rather than get new stuff, so different projects received different things. My project was not slated to get the lunch bags (which I knew because I had helped make the bags). So imagine my surprise this morning, when I found both a lunch bag and cooler on my desk in addition to the gift bag! Now I have a sparkly new lunch bag and a second cooler. We haven't used the cooler yet, but I imagine it will come in handy when we go hiking when the weather warms up.

March Budgets

March 6th, 2015 at 07:20 pm

Below are my budgets for my own account and our joint account:

My Account
BOA Savings: 25
Capital One Savings: 30
Netflix: 9
Insurance: 84
BOA CC: 0
Navient Loans: 175
Amazon CC: Closed!!
ACS Loan: 170
Phone: 157
Wells Fargo: 50
Target: 0
Food/Gas: 100
Chase Freedom CC: 226.47
Chase Slate CC: 330
NFL Points CC: 70
Apartment*: 1400

Our Account:
Rent: 1650
Electric: 140
Gas: 80
Verizon: 127
Couch: 150
Groceries: 300
Entertainment 75
Misc: 0
Pets: 200

The apartment under my account is my contribution to our account. For the CC's, Freedom will be paid off, and Slate will only have about a $500 remaining balance.

February Numbers - Joint Account

March 4th, 2015 at 03:54 pm

This is my first time posting about our account. SO and I use a joint account to cover all apartment and cohabitation expenses. I contribute $1400 monthly to this account. SO's contribution varies based on his job. Using the minimum amount for SO, we have a $500 deficit in our overall budget. While his income is still leveling out, I'm fairly confident that that deficit will be covered by his additional contributions the majority of months. For months in which it is not, we have a buffer in our account, as well as several categories I can forgo to keep us within budget. Below is our spending for February. Budgeted amounts are in parentheses.

Rent (inc. trash, H20, pet fees, parking): 1411.66 (1650)
Gas: 77.13 (80)
Electric: 116.16 (140)
Verizon (Internet, cable, phone): 126.36 (126.36)
Groceries: 387.11 (300)
Entertainment: 0 (0)
Miscellaneous: 105 (0)
Couch: 150 (150)
Pets: 410.97 (200)

I previously did not have an Entertainment category. We've decided moving forward to include this as our grocery overage is mostly due to 3 times eating out. Since eating out is more fun for us, I've added a $75 entertainment budget beginning in March. Our miscellaneous spending is for a BJ's membership, reimbursements to my Jan. spending, and an account fee (only charged if our minimum balance is below $1500...shouldn't happen anymore). We budget $200 to DD and DC since we do not have pet insurance. My thought is this money would just grow and we'd have it for emergencies. Poor DD had such an emergency this month, so that's the overage there. The couch is on 0% financing until Feb of next year. The goal is to have it paid by Nov.

February Numbers - My account

March 4th, 2015 at 03:38 pm

Drumroll, please! This time I also put the budgeted amount in parentheses, so I could see how I stacked up against it.

Joint Account - 1400 (1400)
Savings (BOA) - 25 (25)
Savings (Cap. One) - 30 (30)
Insurance - 84 (84)
Phone - 164 (158)
ACS Loan - 170 (170)
Wells Fargo Loan - 50 (50)
Mariner Loan - 100 (100)
Navient Loans - 152 (175)
BOA CC - 197 (165)
Target CC - 207 (207)
Amazon CC - 403 (150)
Chase Freedom CC - 500 (25)
Chase Slate CC - 135 (25)
NFL Points CC - 50 (45)
Netflix - 8 (9)
Food - 54.76 (50)
Gas - 69.64 (50)
Clothing - 0 (0)
Bank Fees - 35 (0)
Pets - 75 (0)
Car - 0 (0)
Misc - 117.49 (0)
Entertainment - 75 (0)

One thing I'm taking away from this is that I need to start allocating money for miscellaneous expenses and a little to entertainment. My miscellaneous spending consisted of a one-off charity expense, a trial of HelloFresh subscription service, Valentine's Day, and Dietbet. My entertainment spending was groupons for the upcoming pet expo and a Mardi Gras king cake.

Goal Evaluation

March 2nd, 2015 at 05:51 pm

My February spending totals for both myself and our joint account are forthcoming, but today, I thought I'd evaluate how my goals are going.

Financial
- Build emergency fund back to $1000 (I'm really slacking on this one...I do automatically put $30/mo to savings, but there are several savings accounts with only $15 going to the EF)
- Reduce credit cards (Major progress!)
- Add savings categories (No progress...)
- Increase retirement savings to 10% (Will be done automatically to coincide with raises in June)
- Build $200 buffer in checking account (Done - 2/6)
- Build $1500 buffer in joint account (Our buffer is about $1300 right now)

Personal
- Lose 10% of my weight (I'm just over 6%!)
- Win at least 4 months of my dietbet (1 win, 1 loss)
- Adopt a puppy with SO (We're following a set of puppies who are about a month old.)
- Get dogs outside for more than an hour 4 times a week (Waiting for DD to heal/the weather to not suck...)
- Cook more from scratch (Doing great on this - note to self: this should be a future post)

Blogging
- Blog at least twice per week (Check!)
- Post monthly budget and month in review entries (Check...even if they're a little delayed...)
- Participate in one 'challenge' quarterly (Not sure about this one...I'm doing dietbets, but that's not an official challenge...)