Sunday, January 15, 2017

We're Moving

I have made the decision to continue this blog on wordpress.  Sad :(  but necessary.  Pick up where we leave off at

Happy Blogging!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Found Money

        I've learned a few lessons already on my new budget journey.  I am choosing not to let it discourage me, rather focus on the wins, takeaways, and lessons for improvement.

  1. Stick to your budget.  This has been my biggest win so far.  In all of my silly spending follies I made this month so far in trying to use coupons, at least my spending hasn't gotten out of control.  I set out to spend $50 a week and so far I have not exceeded the budget, and it doesn't feel like we've had to go without.
  2. Don't lose sight of the real price.  My sister pointed out to me that I ended up paying more for a product to use a coupon than I would have if I bought it at a different store.  Oops.  Don't do this.  As you pay attention to prices more, you will quickly start to develop a price awareness on staple items you regularly buy. I'd say by the second week I could see the value in buying a couple extra of non-perishables when it was on sale and holding off on other items on my list for a sale to come along.
  3. Start with in store sales.  Lesson two fortunately led me straight to a well-known rule in the smart shopping game.  Basically, don't buy anything that isn't on sale.  My first week, I only had a couple coupons to work from, and I had a few items we were completely out of that I had to buy.  So using coupons to save a few cents seemed like a win.  However, then I noticed the next week the item went way on sale and my coupon would have still been valid.  Obviously, don't make yourself crazy over it, but if you see a good sale on the store shelf, and you have a coupon, there's a better chance next weeks price won't give you buyers' remorse.  
This week I'm starting meal planning.  I recommend giving it a try.  All I did, was go into google's calendar app, go to month view and space out some of my staple recipes off the top of my head (spaghetti, tacos, chili mac, meatloaf, beef stroganoff).  Then I went to Pinterest, and my issue has always been that if I make too many recipe boards, they all seem to get more and more irrelevant.  It works best for me to just have one board for sweet dishes and one for savory.  However, then all the recipes that I will realistically use for weeknight dinners get lost among all the appetizers that I may only need a few times a year not to mention the pretty food pictures that we all know no one ever actually makes.  Anyway, this is a great time to sift through my savory board and copy the recipe titles onto a respective day of the month.  Then, I made my grocery list from the recipes for this week.  I also try to have a general awareness of the recipes on my calendar for the whole month in case there's a great sale on one of the ingredients now, however, this is a little advanced for me (and my budget) at this stage so I'm not going to make myself crazy over it.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017


       I have never followed a budget before.  I assumed since I managed to avoid paying interest on my credit cards, or overdrafts fees and didn't have any loans I was doing alright.  However, I was constantly in a cycle of barely getting by or playing catch-up.  My self-help reading informed me that we continue to circle around to the same obstacle over and over again until we learn the lesson.  This particular loop I was stuck in was one of climbing the payscale on my career path and seeing my spending increase until I changed careers (I know this is a lesson to be learned loop in itself, but that's for a different day), and had to start back at entry level pay and had to go scorched earth on my budget.
        Upon recognizing the need to rid myself of this cycle once and for all I got serious about budgeting.  I started with the app Everydollar.  I like this app better than others because you control what it tracks.  I've had other budget apps before that you have to link to accounts, and it seemed like I spent all of my time correcting the data so it got allocated correctly.  That's why Everydollar is great.  I enter my income and outgoing transactions myself so it gets done in a way that is helpful to me.  It really feels like a game.  I enter my paycheck, allocate every dollar to a category, and if I'm overspending in a category I can start looking at ways to adjust my budget or know I have to reduce spending.  But it is simple and exactly what a budget should be: a way of setting up a plan for your money and tracking it clearly and effectively before you've gotten yourself in trouble.  Apps linked to your bank account show you the data after it is too late.  This has you enter every transaction so you can see if you boarded a run-away train mistakenly and can hopefully course correct before it wreaks havoc on your bank account.
        Next I decided to give all the home-making coupon pins I receive everyday some attention. Now, I am clutter averse.  I will never be able to "stock-pile" anything.  The thought makes my skin crawl.  But the blogs and pins pointed me toward some coupon sites Redplum,, and Smartsource.  These seem to cover all possible coupons you could receive in a newspaper, which feels like a healthy Sunday routine and not all the way crazy lady territory.  Furthermore, I only save coupons that are on my shopping list for that week or that I predict I will need before the coupon expires.  This is not about trying new items.  The coupon printing and keeping track of thing is a little awkard for me, which led me to Dollar General's and Walgreens system of saving the coupons to your phone.  At checkout, you simply enter your phone number and watch the magic happen to your bill. All of these places accept the same coupons but offer very different starting prices.  So I got the apps Flipp and Favado next.  These are useful resources for comparing prices across stores to help get the best deal.
           There are also rebate sites out there, however, I found receiving a few cents back was less motivating for me to buy something than getting the price reduced upfront with a coupon, and it took more time than it was worth for me to make that a factor in my grocery shopping so those didn't last.
           The best part of all of this, whether you choose to do more than I do or less is to spend a little time being aware of your money.  I used to find myself looking at Pinterest, Amazon, or Target's website for the 10th time in a day bored and trying to fight the urge to spend money! I wished to myself that there was a more productive way to scratch that itch but didn't have the tools.  Finally, with the new year, I got on a kick and came up with this plan.  And I wanted to share some of the great resources that are out there to maybe make it a little easier and approachable.
         Now anytime I get the urge to buy, I can open flipp or favado and make my shopping list.  I don't have to wait for the ads to arrive at the door.  If I'm antsy about getting my next paycheck, I open my Everydollar page and make sure that is all up to date and start planning where I have more wiggle room or less and whether I need to make adjustments.   I like crunching numbers, and I find it thrilling to see that I'm saving money in areas that I used to spend close to double.
         Finally, I should note I read a great book in the midst of all this called I Will Teach you to be Rich.  I found it entertaining, and an easy read.  If its not your thing, though, my most important take-away from it was to have areas that you are willing to cut from your spending in order to have the money for items really important to you.  And at this no-frills point in my life the item most important to us is milk.  So, every week when I am making my grocery list and looking at coupons I forego the packaged cookies, candy and salty snacks.  I know I can make these items in bulk at a way reduced price if I really want them, but more importantly they aren't a need.  However, in my house we average about 4 gallons of milk a week.  We love milk.  And I used to grind my teeth at the pace that it was consumed, then I realized two things 1) we could be consuming things a lot worse than milk and 2) this became the thing we weren't willing to give up!  By cutting a lot of the frills that I didn't value but ate up my budget now we can consume all the milk we crave and it's not an issue.  What a great feeling.  So, feel free to make that thought process work for you, it really can be about something fun like shoes if your budget allows or vacations but it's more about being mindful of your money so that your money isn't controlling your mind.  Another quick lesson this reminds me of comes from The Alchemist and it is also my resolution for the year.  "Every blessing ignored becomes a curse", Paulo Coelho.  By thinking about our money, and making a plan for how we are going to spend it, allows us an opportunity to appreciate the process.  It isn't just about mundane tasks of paying bills and going grocery shopping.  You are strategizing the best combination to get the most out of your money.  Stop and appreciate how much you have to work with at the beginning.  Allocate it to your fixed bills and budget the rest.  As you start to become more savvy and come in under budget, put that money in a savings account.  Be more mindful of careless spending, most times it is never something we actually need. You'll be better prepared for Christmas shopping, quality vacations with your loved ones, or emergencies.  And you can't put a price on the peace of mind.