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Archive for January, 2017

Looking to February

January 31st, 2017 at 04:10 pm

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 08:28 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 04:30 pm

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 02:34 pm

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 05:30 pm

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 03:00 pm

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 02:10 pm

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 04:02 pm

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 02:21 pm

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 03:44 pm

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.