Friday, July 31, 2009

Spend Less

Sharon at Musings of a Midlife Mom is having a No Spend (or Spend Less) goal for next month. She and her family had an expensive Murphy visit which depleted her emergency fund. She is determined to rebuild it quickly. She has her goals and guidelines listed. Several bloggers are joining her, including me! I don't have all my plans in order, but my first goal is to enjoy a week--end visiting friends without overspending. I'm going to take my change jar to the bank, and just spend that (maybe $10). Sounds a little difficult....
If you need some encouragement in corralling your spending, head on over to Sharon's and join us. We'll encourage each other!

I'm off to the bank!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One way to decrease spending

In January, I went through a time of wanting to buy things. This happens to me periodically ;). I had read about the "30 day want list". The idea is to list items that you want, and then look at the list in 30 days. If you still want the item after 30 days, and have budgeted for it, then consider buying it.
Here is my list from January:
Jan. 17
blinds for dining room

paint for kitchen

new towels

scrubee thing from Flylady

What was the result of my experiment? Well, I didn't buy any of the listed items, so I guess I certainly didn't need them. I don't think my quality of life has suffered at all.

Did I save money? Maybe. If I had purchased all of the items, I would have spent over $150.

  1. Instead of the blinds for the dining room, I saved the budgeted household money until March when I spent $60 on a mirror for over the dining room mantle. I didn't use the 30 day list in March!
  2. I still need to repaint the kitchen, but this will not be on my list until next year.
  3. My mother gave my some towels that she no longer uses.
  4. I still need jeans, but these can still wait until September.
  5. I really don't need the "rubba scrubba".

Final analysis: It seems that for some items, I merely postponed spending, because I will eventually have to purchase them--paint, jeans. This is useful information. I can compare the advantage of postponing spending to the advantage of having the item now.

I think this strategy is useful for me to remember when I am tempted to spend on wants, especially when I am debt-free and have more discretionary spending money. In order to instill this habit by October, I'm going to start now. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Experimenting with roasted garlic

I have been thinking of trying roasted garlic in recipes. I like the taste of garlic, but the bite of raw is a little too sharp. On Saturday morning, I roasted a huge bulb, so now I have lots to experiment with. The whole house smelled like garlic for a few hours--not unpleasant, but pretty pungent!
To roast the garlic, I cut off the top and covered it with a small piece of aluminum foil, then baked it @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
My first experiment was potato salad. I started with the basic Hellman's mayonnaise recipe and made a few changes.
  • decreased salt to 1 tsp.
  • added 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • added 1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
  • added 1/3 cup chopped olives
  • added 3 cloves roasted garlic

My parents really raved about the potato salad. My mom even took the leftovers home.

This week, I'm going to try a hummus recipe with roasted garlic. I love hummus and I'm trying to improve my homemade version. I'll let you know how it goes.

Do you have a favorite recipe using roasted garlic? Does anyone know how long it will stay good in the refrigerator?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family Visits

I had a very nice weekend with my aunt and her friend visiting from the southern part of the state. My parents and my children (dd1, dd2, dsil, ds) also came in to visit. We had a pleasant lunch on the deck and then enjoyed reminiscing. My aunt brought four large containers of clothes and shoes for my daughters and I to try on. We had fun having a fashion show. The shoes (probably 20-30 years old) were gorgorus! 3-inch leather pumps--classic! They just fit my 21-year old, fashion-loving daughter. I think my aunt really enjoyed seeing that her old clothes would be enjoyed by the next generation.

Company Coming

My aunt and her friend are driving up to visit me on Saturday. I want to have a casual lunch ready and then something easy to prepare for dinner.

For lunch: pasta salad, sandwiches, hummus

I'm stuck for dinner. I don't have air conditioning, so I don't want to use the oven, or even the crock pot. I guess that means grilling, which intimidates me a little. I haven't used the new grill. It's a portable gas grill. Oh well, I'll be brave and try.

Possible dinner:
Romaine salad
Potatoes (I can peel these ahead of time and put on ice)
Flat iron steak (I already have this in the freezer.)
Frozen strawberry pie

What are your favorite easy summer menus?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spending Percentages--How do mine compare?

Since I have been tracking my spending with You Need a Budget since January, I want to analyze my spending percentages to see if my budget is in line with what I think I'm doing and with what the experts recommend.

Here are the recommended spending percentages from Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. My percentages from YNaB follow in blue. My percentages don't add up to exactly 100, because I did not include my contributions to my daughter's college expenses in my monthly budget until June, because I have that automatically deducted from my pay.

Dave's Recommendations
Charity - 10-15% 6%
Saving - 5 - 10% 2%
Housing - 25-35% 28%
Utilities - 5 - 10% 8%
Food - 5 - 15% 8%
Transportation - 10-15% 9%
Clothing - 2 - 7% 2%
Medical/Health - 5-10% 8% (including premium)
Personal - 5 - 10% 7%
Recreation - 5 - 10% 1%
Debts - 5 - 10% 15%
(Daughter in college) 8%

My percentages look pretty balanced except of course, savings is too low until the debt is paid off. One surprise for me was that transportation was so high (9%). Since I don't have a car payment, I thought it would be lower, but when I added up insurance, repairs and gasoline, the total was surprising. Now that we are down to one car, these expenses should be reduced.

This exercise is useful to help me see if I'm on track with my spending plan. I think I'll do this check up every quarter.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Check out the 200th Carnival of Debt Reduction at No Credit Needed. There are informative articles on credit scores and credit cards, as well as motivating getting out of debt stories. "Credit Scores" on FiveCentNickel shows how credit scores affect loan rates and also has links to free FICO-like credit scores.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Frugal Goal Complete

Well, I did it. I spent less than $5 more on food from Sunday until now--7 days. My cupboard is really getting bare, so I will have to go to the grocery store today or tomorrow. I need to make a list and stick to it so that I won't go overboard. I have most of the ingredients for these dinners for next week: steak and oven fries, quesadillas, leftover steak sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti with meat sauce, pork barbecues.

I was really tempted to stop at Subway on the way home last night, but because I knew I would have to confess to you guys, I came home and raided the refrigerator. Thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Car Temptation--Back again!

My mother called last night and told me that my cousin was selling his 2001 VW Jetta for $3500. It is red and very cool, so once again car temptation rears its ugly head. Yes, I'm tempted, but I know that this is not the time to buy another car, neither monetarily nor parentally(?). I will re-evaluate in a few months. I explained my position to my mother and she understood. I think she and my dad are getting car fever, too, plus they know that it will be difficult to share a car when school starts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Frugal Goal Day 5

If I can limit food spending to $1 for the next 2 days, I will make my frugal goal of spending less than $5 more on food this week. I'm going to try to make it until Saturday. I'm heading out to pick up DS from running camp right now. We have enough food for the next few days if we just eat what we already have--grilled cheese, hamburgers, spaghetti. We don't have gatorade. Does anyone have a good homemade sports drink recipe?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Milestone: Credit card debt under $2000!

My July snowball brought my balance down to $1984. Finally, I'm under $2000! This is huge for me because I have paid off $2000 in CC debt many times before so I know it can be done ;(

The difference is that this time I have a financial plan in place so that won't have to use credit cards again.

Frugal goal update: Spent $2.64 on breakfast at McD's with a friend. This was an out of the ordinary treat. We walked for an hour and then had iced lattes and breakfast.

Total spent $3.97. I'm getting awfully close to $5!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Frugal goal update

Now that I have announced that I will try to spend under $5 this week, I want to buy more! I'm sure there is a psychological explanation for it, but I think that it's pretty funny. I'm over 50 for goodness sakes, not a spoiled child. Self awareness is always good, right?
Spending so far: $1.34 for bread at the discount store.

Planned spending for the rest of the week: bananas, breakfast at McD's with a friend (she has a coupon). This will be close.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Frugal goal

My frugal goal for the week is to not spend over $5 more on groceries this week. DS is away at running camp until Thursday so I should be able to eat well on what I already have in the refrigerator--plenty of lettuce, veggies and hummus. I also have pasta and frozen food. I should be eating pretty well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two Years ago

In late June, 2007, I read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Before reading this book, I really thought that I was in pretty good shape financially because I was able to make my monthly payments. I had 2 zero interest credit cards that I had used for big purchases, one CC with a $1000 balance that I was unsuccessfully trying to pay down, and one card that I paid in full each month. I also had a $3000 car loan.

What I didn't realize was that I was getting farther and farther in debt each month. I was spending more than I brought in. I was pretty upset and ashamed that I hadn't seen what was happening.When I calmed down, I started on Dave's Babysteps. For the first few months, I got even further in debt because I wasn't used to living on that month's income.

My journey has been pretty long, but I can see light at the end. I think that in 4 months, I will be finished with Babystep 2. Lessons I'm learning along the way--tracking my spending is important for me because I tend to be unrealistic in my estimates, saving for unexpected expenses and irregular expenses decreases stress, and accountability really helps me stay on track.

I am enjoying this journey and I have made progress in reducing my debt. Hmm...maybe the journey is more important than the final outcome. Interesting....