Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No Spend Month: The wrap up

OK, So we finished out last week of NSM, and to be honest - we didn't do so hot.  We actually went out to breakfast AND bought some stuff at Home Depot.  So, basically, broke the NSM rules.  I think we were just over it.  That being said, I do think that doing NSM has given us a new perspective on how we spend our money and what we spend it on.  Being forced to think about each purchase really makes it clear that: 1.) Just because you want it doesn't mean you should buy it.  2.) Having a strict budget really makes you question each and every purchase.  Is it really necessary?  Do I really want/need it?

That last thing, I suspect, is what is going to influence how we budget from now on.  We have set a budget for different categories of spending (groceries, eating out, gas) based partially on what we did during NSM. Knowing that we have a set amount of money to spend on certain things will allow us to choose to do those fun things - but also choose not to.  And we have carried over a few new habits - yesterday, K drove my (more gas efficient) car to work. It turns out that NSM was good for our budget - even though we had some unusual expenses, our thrifty ways ended up balancing that out.  So, despite our failure to adhere to NSM rules, I still call it a success.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Spend Week: The Return

After our epic fail of No Spend Month, I am feeling hesitant to attempt it again.  But we had already agreed that after our weekend break, we would do one more week of NSM just to make up for ending early.  Of course, having a really fun weekend break with my BFF here, where we were able to go out to eat and drink a few times makes it easier.  And having it be only a week makes it seem REALLY easy.  I'm sure I will eat those words.  We are already on day two and I barely noticed!  But yeah, not spending money on Monday is way easier than not spending money on Saturday, as our last weekend of NSM proves.

I still have not gotten gas since before NSM started (go Mazda!), but my little gas light came on a few days ago, so I will need to do that.  K needs gas too, but we might try to squeak by with him using my car a few days to be able to hold off on two fill ups.  I will head to the grocery store to pick up some fresh produce.  After our weekend of indulgence, I feel like my meal plan for this week will have to be mostly gluten free and and meatless.

I found a money blog yesterday written by a woman who paid off a huge amount of debt in less than two years by going on what she calls a "spend fast".  It is basically a year long no spend month.  While I admire her discipline, that just sounds so miserable to me.  But you have to admit that it would be pretty cool to pay off all of your debt and start saving tons of money in such a short amount of time.  The plan that K and I have come up with for now is allowing a set budget for "fun" - that could be eating out, going to happy hour, going to a concert, taking a trip or anything else that falls in the not really necessary category    So that way, we won't feel like we are going crazy, but we also won't...go crazy.

The end of NSM will allow us to see if we actually learned anything about spending, and if we can actually apply any of our tactics in the real world.  I feel like learning how to have a balance is a process, and probably takes years.  At least it will be an adventure!

Start of No Spend Week
Day 1: $0
Day 2: $0

Let's see if we can make it 5 more days!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fry's trip 1/24

OK, here is my first couponing trip at the Arizona grocery chain Fry's.  They are owned by Kroger.  One nice thing about this store is they they bump all coupons up to a dollar - so if you have a .25 cents off an item, it becomes a $1 off an item.  This is for the Mega event going on right now. In this event you save $5.00 when you buy 10 participating items, and you can mix and match among all participating items. Since I don't buy as much processed food now, I mostly am focusing on building a stockpile of toiletries  cleaning supplies and things like that.

Paid $11.27, Saved $30.53

4x All Free and Clear Laundry Detergent (50oz) $2.49 after Mega savings (used $2/2 from 1/06 SS)
= $1.49 each, or (.03 cents per oz and .05 cents per load)

2x Bush Black Beans
= .49 each after Mega Savings

4x Hunts Diced Tomatoes
= .49 cents after Mega Savings

2x Hunts Tomato Sauce
= .49 cents ( got these on accident, I thought they were part of the Mega Sale but they weren't)

2x Colgate toothpaste, .99 cents on sale, used 2x $1/1 Colgate from 1/06 SS
= both for FREE

2x Colgate toothbrush .99 cents on sale, used 2x $1/1 Colgate from 1/06 SS
=both for FREE

Total Paid: $11.27
Total Saved: $30.53

Just for comparison, the All Free and Clear is .05/oz and .08/load at Costco, so this was cheaper than buying there.  I paid $1.49 for a 50 oz bottle, and the same amount from Costco would have been $2.50.
The cans of tomatoes are .75 cents each at Costco, and I paid .49 cents each for these.

Thanks to The Cents'able Shoppin for the matchups!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week Three of No Spend Month: The Epic Fail

Oh, you guys.  We failed SO HARD this week on no spend month.  We were doing really well until Saturday.  We went to the Farmers market and picked up just a few things.  We just managed to resist going to breakfast at our favorite breakfast place (which just so happens to be located a block away from the market).  It was tough, but we succeeded in passing it up.  Then we had to go to Costco.  Dun dun DUUUUN!  We are aware of the temptation that lies in Costco.  It is fairly impossible to leave Costco without having spent at least a hundred dollars.  We needed olive oil, and Costco has the best prices on that.  We also needed a few other things, and there were coupons that expire next weekend for several items that we need to get.  We had originally planned on doing a Costco run during our NSM break (when my BFF is here) - but Coscto is really not one of the sights that I want to show her while she is here.  So I reasoned that we should just go the day before she arrives.  And then K reasoned - well, why does it matter if we go Thursday or today?  Why should we just go in for one thing and then come back in five days for the rest of it?  Would it make a difference?  Not really.  So that was fail number one.  Fail number two is even worse.

See, we have been looking for an entertainment center for several months to replace the tiny Ikea "birch-effect" one we are currently using.  But we have been having a hard time finding one that we like that isn't five hundred dollars.  Then I saw this cool idea on Pinterest that involves putting up shelves instead of having an entertainment center....we actually have some gift cards and some stuff to return, so we figured we could pick up the supplies without spending any money out of pocket.  Wrong.  Wrong and wrong.  It was all downhill from there.

So, we have basically failed no spend month.  However, we had already planned on finishing NSM after the BFF visit, so we will continue with that plan ( and just have to readjust our budget for the last week.)

Spent this week:  So Much
What we have left: I don't want to talk about it

What we ate this week:
Tuesday:  Spinach, Sweet Potato and Quinoa salad (adapted with sweet potato instead of butternut squash)
Wednesday: Spicy Lentil Dahl
Thursday:Spicy Eggplant Stirfry
Friday: Grilled Chicken and grilled vegetables
Saturday: Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo
Sunday: Stuffed Bell peppers
Monday: Out (Yep.  That happened)

I'm participating in the No Spend Month Challenge with Growing Slower

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The No-Spend Month: Week 2

So, week two of NSM is coming to a close.  K has been sick this whole week, which means we have been laying extra low.  This weekend, unusually low temps, an air quality warning, and no spend month combined to equal a Harry Potter marathon.  I'm looking forward to the 25th more than ever.  And they say it's the third week that is the hardest.  Sigh.

But, this No Spend Month is doing its job, and that is to make us take a good, hard look at our finances.  I started a google spreadsheet of grocery prices to help us have a good idea of where we can get the best deals, and so that I can know when  coupon deal is cheaper than Costco (or wherever we normally buy it). We made some budget goals and strategies for the WHOLE YEAR.  This is the first time I have ever done anything like that.  It feels ambitious, but it also feels like it might be more effective than what we were doing before.  We also have been able to keep the grocery bill pretty low while still buying everything we need - I don't really feel like I'm skimping.  This is showing me that when we are no longer in a "no spend month" we should be able to keep a reasonable grocery budget.

Also, in the spirit of No Spend Month, I ventured to the local library and got myself a library card.  I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and functional the library here is.  It has all the bells and whistles that the Portland Library had, with the online hold system and everything.  It even has a huge wall of windows facing out on what looks like wetlands.  I wonder if they dry up in the summer.  I got myself three books that I will probably not be able to read before their due date.

Spent this week:
Groceries - $54
What we have left: $103

What we ate (dinners only)
(Posted links to recipes that are online)

Tuesday: Roasted shrimp and broccoli with Rice
Wednesday: Leftover Lentil Stew ( that I made last week.  I made this a stew instead of a soup when I accidentally added one cup of uncooked quinoa instead of cooked.  Whoops!)
Thursday: Sesame Peanut Tofu with Spaghetti Squash ( I adapted the recipe to use tofu instead of chicken and spaghetti squash instead of pasta)
Friday: Chicken Cacciatore (stovetop instead of crockpot, and again with spaghetti squash instead of pasta)
Saturday: Golden Vegetable Lasagna 
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Veggie stir fry with rice

I'm participating in the No Spend Month link up with Growing Slower

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

FREE Dave Ramsey Total Guide to Budgeting Download

Here is a free download of Dave Ramsey's Guide to Budgeting.  This goes well with any plans to get your finances into shape this year.  I have heard of Dave Ramsey quite a bit in the couponing community, and many people swear by his methods for getting out of debt.  Go HERE to check it out!

Thanks to The Cents'able Shoppin

The no spend month challenge

Do you ever look at your bank account and ask yourself "Where did all my money go?".  If you are like me, this happens all the time.  I have been seeing these "No-Spend Month" challenges on a few blogs, and had entertained the idea of trying it.  Now that the house buying, moving, and holidays are over, it seems like January is the perfect time to try it, with everyone all freshly energized with new resolutions to improve themselves.  The rules of the no spend month vary, but the gist is that you are trying to curb your incidental spending by setting a tight budget and sticking to it.  The way we decided to do it is this:  Keep paying all regular bills, but think about what we should spend on groceries and gas, and then set the budget a little lower than that.  The idea is to challenge yourself to think differently about spending, and try to find creative ways to not spend.  I used to be VERY good at this, back in the broke days.  And even now, we have already made some changes to the spending habits we had developed in Portland.  We go out to eat much less often, and generally shop less as well.  But it still felt like the spending was a bit out of control.  I feel like the no spend month will allow us to look at where the leaks are in the budget, and changes we can make to fix that.  We are not trying to become cheapskates or misers, but to become more mindful of how we use money.  It is also just a way to challenge ourselves and grow.  Sort of like a budget fast.

We set our expense budget to $250 including everything outside of our normal bills.  We were going to set it to $300, but we have to cut the month short since my BFF is coming for a visit at the end of the month.  Since we are not doing quite a whole month, we decided to bring the budget down to $250.  We will probably go back to a "no spend week" the first week of February to make up for the few days we take off during our visit.

What we started with:
I started with a full tank of gas and K started with an empty tank. For food,  we weren't particularly stocked up on anything, but have staples in the pantry and freezer.

The Challenges:

The biggest challenge we anticipate is the gas for K's commute - we now live further from his work and his car...has a drinking problem.  The second challenge, and the one I am hoping will make the biggest improvement, is the grocery budget.  Since we started cooking at home nearly all the time, our grocery bill has exploded.  We look at cooking as entertainment, since we enjoy cooking together, so we were not trying to limit ourselves much with what we spent on food.  My goal for this month is to be able to continue to enjoy cooking delicious foods, but to do so frugally.  We have already cut out many processed foods and started eating less meat, which lends itself nicely to this goal.

What we changed this week:
K had a problem with his headlight, and thought it would need to be replaced.  Because it was no spend month and he didn't want to go buy a new headlight, he took a look at it and discovered the he could actually fix the problem for free!

I avoided driving to the store for one ingredient I was missing for dinner, and found something I had on hand to substitute for it.

We made a meal plan that consisted of many ingredients we already had, and is mostly meatless.  The items that did need to be purchased were mostly sale items.

I decided to start couponing again, and the no spend month is forcing me to do it carefully to avoid spending too much out of pocket.

We normally go to breakfast on Saturday mornings, but instead we went to the farmers market to pick up a few veggies.

We found a nice walking path near our neighborhood.  Free entertainment, plus exercise!

What we spent this week:

Yikes!  I'm a little nervous because we have already spent a big chunk of our budget.  The main expense was filling K's car up, but we are hoping that is the only time this moth we will need to get gas.  This challenge is forcing us to think of ways to save gas.  I am trying to limit my errands, and K is thinking about working from home one day a week, and possibly taking my car to work one day a week since mine gets better gas mileage.

Expenses ( rounded)
Gas: $56
Groceries: $29
Misc: $8
Total: $93
Left: $157

What we ate this week (dinners only)
Tuesday: Soup (I had some in the freezer)
Wednesday: Spaghetti Squash with sesame peanut tofu
Thursday: Veggie Stirfry with rice
Friday: Grilled steak, sweet potatoes and onions
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Spicy Lentil Stew
Monday: Veggie stir fry w/ the remaining leftover steak

Most of this was from what we already had since I didn't go grocery shopping until Sunday.

I'm participating in the No Spend Month link up with Growing Slower