Lazy Bum

clearly, I’m still sucking at the blogging thing. I’m certainly out of the habit, and frankly, unless I really get into it this year, I’m going to ditch it in November.

At any rate, spending freeze continues! It’s not as eye opening as last year. In January 2015, I didn’t have a written budget, savings plans or a retirement goal. All of those (good!) things snowballed as a result of my first spending freeze.

Also, my situation has changed since last spending freeze. There are two of us now, and while I don’t mind living on pancakes and grilled cheese for a month, the fella has a more physical job and needs a little more than snacks and weird food combinations.

I have cut waaay back on groceries. My freezer and pantry need a good clean out. And I’ve been more careful with my random spending. As in, I did go to Ulta today, but I used coupons, sales and a gift card!

I would still recommend a spending freeze for anyone, particularly after the holidays. It takes 30 days to get into a habit of something and around Christmas, I bet we all get into a shopping “habit.”

Things I’m looking forward to: I have a pretty decent bonus at work coming at me next week, plus a significant raise this year. Those two things will change my current budget and savings plan (for the better!) and I can’t wait to use those new numbers in my budget.

The stock market has been rough, rough so far this year, so I’m trying to “buy low” when it comes to my Roth IRA. I budgeted $500/month for Roth contributions and so far, I’ve put in almost 3 times that…in the first month. I’m glad I have the money to take advantage, but that means my savings account is a little lower than I’d like. So, I need to start building that back up and probably stick to my Roth as scheduled.

Spending slow down is on for a few more weeks!

 

 

Spending Freeze Begins!

Day two of the new year and I haven’t spent a single cent! Mostly because I’ve been raging sick and basically didn’t get out of bed at all yesterday. But still, a win is a win!

For those of you who don’t know about my Spending Freeze, I did one in January 2015 and really learned a lot. I saved an astounding amount of money. Granted, this is before I started a monthly budget for myself, so while I was saving money, I wasn’t telling my money where to go at that point. I really recommend doing a spending freeze, even if it’s just for a week to see where your problem areas are.

Some people are really hard core when it comes to Spending Freezes. I have two very specific rules that I like to follow for mine:

  • I will continue to purchase necessities such as gas, milk, eggs, toilet paper, etc. I’m not going to stockpile gallons of milk in the freezer and I’m not riding my bike 40 miles in JANUARY to get to work.
  • Gift Cards don’t count. This is why January is a great time of year for a spending freeze. I come from a gift card giving family, so I have a lot of options to chose from right now, that will be “free” for me. Thanks, Family!

Pretty easy, right? So, the hard part is sticking to a very strict and small grocery list, tossing the sales flyers right into the garbage when I get them and finding something to do on my lunch break that is not shopping. Or on the weekends for that matter.

If I can do this, anyone can do this. It will give you a chance to use up the stuff that’s in your pantry and freezer…it will force you to think of alternatives to boredom shopping (I got a 1000 piece puzzle for Christmas…that should keep me busy) and it will give you some food for thought about your own budget and what you can change to meet your financial goals for 2016!

Bonus Advice (because you know you want it!): Get yourself a library card this year. In 2015, I read 114 books from my library between actual books made of paper and Ebooks. Even if you aren’t a reader, I bet your library has audio books and I’m certain they have DVDs and video games to borrow. They also have free Wi-Fi so if you’re bored on your lunch break, at least there’s somewhere warm to go.

I Suck.

I was checking my credit card statement the other day and there was a charge for $20+ and I didn’t recognize who it was from. Was I hacked?? Did someone steal money from me?? Is a guy in Paducah, KY going to empty my entire bank account at Walmart?? Nope. It was the annual fee for this domain name. The one I haven’t updated in 6 months. That’s not very frugal of me; it’s downright wasteful.I felt inspired to start up with the blog again, but guess who couldn’t remember her password? That’s right…this gal.

Thankfully, my friend Amanda is an email hoarder and still had the login information I gave to her (she helped me set this up!) from a YEAR ago. She’s my new hero!

So, here I am! Let’s play catch up!

  • After the move, I tried to buckle down with my spending, but it just didn’t seem to ever work out right. I still saved money and I still contributed to my shiny new Roth. But, I could have saved more. A lot more. Damn you, Ulta for being so close to my new home!!!
  • I did continue to contribute to my Roth, and finally maxed that out TODAY. I’m all done for 2015. I ended up putting $10,500 in this year ($5000 for 2014 and the rest for 2015…remember, you can contribute to the prior year until tax day!) which I am very, very proud of. A few short years ago, I didn’t even have an extra $100 at the end of most pay weeks. It might be a little late, but I started my retirement fund.
  • I upped my 401k contribution at work. It’s at 5% right now, which is kind of measly, but I should be able to up that to 6 or 7 percent next year. I asked for, and received a decent raise.
  • Old Cherry, my little car is looking kinda rough these days. I’m a few weeks from hitting the 200,000 mile mark, the check engine light is on (nothing serious) and she’s started rusting. It’s high time I started saving for a new car, so I dedicated a new account to just “CAR” and put a car payment in my 2016 Budget. I signed up with an online bank because they had the best looking interest rates and it’s easy to transfer money between my real bank account and this new savings account.
  • Speaking of savings accounts, mine is a good bit lower than I would like it to be. I’ve been using it to fund my Roth. I have enough for about 3 months of expenses if I lost my job today (which, I just was told I’m getting a raise. I can’t imagine they would fire me after that!). In my 2016 budget, I have a line item EVERY MONTH for my Roth. Eventually, I would like to get ahead on that and have $5500 in January available to dump into the IRA. But again, I’m really proud of what I did this year, and I’m not going to stress out about it too much right now.
  • I’m scheduling another spending freeze in January this year. I really enjoyed how I felt when I did it. The savings and the realization of how I spent my money was amazing. I’m working on my two favorite apps right now to bank some gift cards, because as we know, gift cards don’t count!
  • Speaking of Shopkick and Ibotta…in the last 13 months, I feel like I’ve done really well with those as far as bringing in extra ‘money.’  This year, through Shopkick, I’ve received exactly $100 in gift cards (mostly to Target) and for Ibotta, I’ve received $133 in rebates. $233 isn’t a crazy amazing amount, but that’s about $20 a month that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m pleased with it!

I feel like I’ve had a very expensive year. Even though the money is going to me eventually, I’ve “spent” over $10k on my IRA. I moved, which had a significant cost associated with it. My commute is longer, so I’m buying gas more often. I have to buy my own heating oil now, so there was an oil bill this year.

So many things have changed since I started the blog a year ago, and bailed on it halfway through. I didn’t accomplish every goal I set out to do. Some goals changed along the way. I had to adjust my budget for my new living situation…but overall, I feel pretty good about it. I’m doing something right for a change!

Reign it In!

I took some time off from work recently…I needed a break and I have a ton of vacation days saved up. That was the good part. The bad part was that I spent a LOT of money recently.

Since I pay my credit card bill off every payday; and sometimes between pay periods, it’s hard to realize how much I’m putting on my card. It’s supposed to be just for gas. I got into a pickle with credit cards a while back and I don’t want that 5-Figure debt back again. I sacrificed a lot for 3 years to pay it off and in February 2014, I was finally free. I can not let myself hop back on that train to no where.

I happened to check my credit card statement the other day. While the balance was low (about $100, easily managed) I noticed that over the last statement period, I’d paid $700 on that card! WTF?! I can’t really think of what I’ve been doing, and I’m very fortunate that I can pay the card off every two weeks, but seriously. I need to curb it.

So, I went back to work on Tuesday and that was the start of the “rest of July spending freeze.” I need to get myself back in the habit of saving. There were a few months that I did need to drop a lot of cash because of the move. But, we’re comfortably settled in at this point, and it’s time to back the eff up.

So, here we go…a no-fun spending freeze, but it will give me the chance to gain back some better habits, ratchet up my emergency fund and use up some food in the freezer. I don’t know how I do it, but the freezer is always so packed! Gah!

Rockin’ the Clearance Aisle to Eat Clean

Ok, probably not eating exactly “clean” but certainly scrubbed up a little.

Do you have the kind of supermarket where they mark down items that have been discontinued or are near the sell by date? It’s something you should really check out. I’ve found so many great bargains and only one run in with some cheap, but rough smelling chicken. I’m going to call myself ahead on the whole food clearance thing.

On a recent trip, I found a sack of Bob’s Red Mill Nutritional Yeast on sale for $2. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the same product, in the same grocery chain for about $9. I felt like a got a super deal and it fits right in with my effort to eat better.

20150713_212801Armed with this, a couple of potatoes, a few carrots, water, oil & salt, I made some delicious vegan cheese to put on the weirdo tofu macaroni noodles I stumbled upon. Check it out! The cheese is thick, gooey and when I made the fella try it when he stumbled out of the bedroom half-asleep, he said “Ooh! Nacho!”

20150713_211300 I used this recipe from Vegan Yumminess. I don’t have a Vitamix (yet) but my trusty little hand blender worked great. If you don’t have one of those, drop the $20 and hook yourself up. Absolutely worth it.

http://veganyumminess.com/vegan-nacho-cheese/

So…here’s the final product. I’ll pop some panko on there before tossing it in the oven tomorrow for dinner. I hope it is delicious as it looks!

20150713_211935

Breaking the Bank

The other day, the Fella and I decided it was time to bust into Miss Princess Pig to see how much her belly was holding. I think the last time I counted, It was around $60…I think. At any rate, my little oinker was keeping more than $120! The fella suggested that since the change was already out of the pig (and it’s a real bitch to get out), that I should just cash it in now.

I was trying to figure out where I wanted to stash this, and I think I’m going to add it to my emergency fund. It’s still lower than where I want it to be, and I need to work on getting it to a comfortable place again.

Lesson of the day? Save your change! Not to sound corny, but it really does add up!

A Fun, Fabulous & Frugal 4th!

First of all, my apologies for slacking on the blog…sometimes, life gets in the way. I promise to be better about it in the future!

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend…Happy Birthday ‘Murica! I decided that this year, we wouldn’t spend our holiday weekend saying, “What do you want to do?” “I dunno…what do you want to do?”  This year, I had a plan. The poor fella…when I handed him the list of scheduled events proclaiming all events were $8 or less, he thought I had signed us up for some crazy tour (I should write copy for an ad agency or something!) Once I explained my grand master plan, he was on board.

Being frugal and spending wisely takes planning…much like a successful Whole30 (er…not so hot on that front; that’s a post for another day) and I really planned this weekend!

Friday, we got a couple of breakfast sandwiches from the grocery store and hit the road. We headed up the coast to one of my favorite gourmet food shops. I knew by getting there early and avoiding the crowds, we could get our fill of free samples! It was fun for both of us. I got to check out what things the fella likes (horseradish cream sauce and some kind of red relish) and I can be on the look out for those items when I visit the outlet store that’s in my parents’ town.

Further North my little red car headed to check out the closest Whole Foods market. I’d never been to one and I love, love grocery stores, so I was super excited about this. Unfortunately, it was kind of a let down. It wasn’t as magical as I was expecting. I’ll take a Wegman’s any day over WF. So, change in the game plan…we traveled another 30 miles North to the Casino!! Not exactly frugal, but I won about $40 and the fella lost about $40, so we pretty much broke even and we had a great time.

Next up, lunch at a super cheap restaurant down the road. It was a place that my parents took me when I was a kid and I was *thrilled* that it is still around. We stuck to our $8/person plan and our lunch bill was a little over $14. They still have a killer grilled cheese!

Grilled CheeseOn the way back home, we stopped at Cabela’s for the fella and talked about all the things we would have bought if we had hit it big at the casino. It’s fun to dream :-)  Friday night was spent grilling with the neighbors. Cheap, because we had most of the stuff.

Saturday’s list was a trip to the Farmer’s Market, followed by a round of mini-golf that I got on Groupon for about half price. This was my first experience with Groupon, and I have to say, I’m impressed. I’ll be stalking their site going forward! A little wrinkle in the Saturday plan was that the fella had a few too many with the neighbor the night before, so…I was on my own for the Farmer’s Market, but it’s not really his bag anyway. And as it turned out, it wasn’t very frugal…but I am happy with the food I purchased and especially excited about the scapes…I’ve never used them and am looking forward to it!

Farmer's MarketThe fella was out of bed and showered by the time I got home from the market, so off we went to use the discounted mini golf Groupon. We got there right in time as it was a little drizzly when we left and completely packed. Score one for us!

Mini GolfWe had some quiet time on Saturday afternoon and prepared our food for the neighborhood BBQ that night. Fireworks are legal in our city, and the guy next door had hit up the local fireworks store and brought home a ton. The food & company were great…and we had a fabulous, private fireworks display!

July 4thSunday’s agenda started out with “a lazy breakfast of bacon and eggs.” The farmer’s market eggs were DELISH…we might be having breakfast for dinner this week!

The fabulous & frugal event for today was to go to a matinee. I cashed out my Ibotta earnings and put $15 in my PayPal, which I transferred to my bank account, which paid for our tickets to Ted 2 this afternoon. It was decent…pretty much what we expected.

Neither of us are looking forward to going back to work tomorrow…ugh. But we did have a fun, fabulous and frugal 4th!

Mid-Year Inventory

It’s stunning that Independence Day is coming up in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were getting 12-18 inches of snow every weekend and I was house-bound for the entire month of February. I hate to say it, because it makes me sound so old; but man, does time fly!!!

It also seems like it was just yesterday that I started this blog as a way to keep myself focused on my financial goals. It’s time for a check-in and some adjustments.

I started out the year with a spending freeze…remember that?? It went really well and I was encouraged at my ability to face the challenge and astounded at how much money I could actually save if I really focused. Definitely an important lesson learned.

In February, I decided on some financial goals and I took steps to get started on those. I opened up TWO different Roth IRA accounts and started contributing to them. I read some personal finance books and took notes to see what other things I could do to get myself in a better position. I dumped that entire tax refund right into my retirement account. I created a budget for myself and with just a few tweaks, stayed within my limits. I had savings goals and was achieving them. It all felt good.

In March, I kept reading about personal finance. I contributed more to my Roth. I upped my 401k contribution at work to a higher percentage. I was making real headway and seeing results. I was EXCITED!!

And then, in April, the bottom fell out of everything. I got notice that I needed to move. I am *so fortunate* that I had my emergency fund in place. Just a few years ago, I would have been completely effed and it would have been entirely my fault for being so ill-prepared. I can’t stress the importance of having an emergency fund.

Since the move, I feel like I’ve been struggling. I haven’t been saving as much, I haven’t made the contributions to the Roth accounts that I was expecting to do and the budget has been completely whacked. Things have settled down enough that I know I need to re-assess the ol’ budget. I’m buying food for both me and the fella now, so, I’ve decide that instead of a $120/week allowance, I’m going to give myself $160. The old allowance included food shopping, but $120 just was not cutting it and giving myself my own spending money for the week. I want to be able to pick up something fun for my niece that I know she will like. I want to meet my girlfriends for breakfast. I want to be able to do something fun yet frugal with my fella during the summer. So….I’m expecting to spend about $60/week for food and the other $100 is everything else. The ‘everything else’ includes toiletries, new clothes, haircuts, dinners out and ‘treat food.’ The cheese that I love from the Italian market is *not* in the food budget at $14/lb. That is treat food, and it’s wonderful.

The last two weeks, I’ve spent $60 or less at the grocery store. That includes one week with lobsters, another week I bought grass-fed steak. I love coupons, meal planning and sales flyers. I think $60 should do it for two people. This obviously means I won’t be saving as much as I hoped I would, but it’s the right move for now.

New budget starts Friday! Next up…planning another spending freeze! Let the games begin!

The Half-Assed 30

Friday was not a good Whole30 day. Actually, it started on Thursday night. I was eating shrimp & ghee (clarified butter…make this…it is AWESOME) and watching TV with the fella. About 30 minutes later, I started to get itchy. Really itchy. For the first time in 39 years, I had an allergic reaction to shrimp. Hives all over my neck, face and upper back. And it ITCHED!!!!

I did have a lot of seafood this week (shrimp earlier and lobster was on sale for $5.99, so I got a couple of those) so I’m hoping the reaction was just too much of a good thing.

By Friday morning, the itchy hives had cleared up and I trotted off to work. I’d been there for about a half hour and I felt WEIRD. Like really weird. Light-headed and woozy. I had already eaten a hard boiled egg & a banana for breakfast and I was working on my 32-oz container of water that I keep at my desk, but it felt like a low blood sugar thing, so I popped 3 munchkins in my mouth. It didn’t help…I still felt weird. My co-worker later said he smelled something strange, so maybe I was reacting to something in the air. Anyway, by lunchtime, I was feeling better, but I’d still ruined my Whole30.

The fine folks at Whole9 say you should start over when you have a day like that. I love you and I thank you for your guidance, but I’m so not starting over at this point. For dinner, I stuck with the plan and had cauliflower and steak and plan to stay on track.

I have noticed that I feel better, my clothes are fitting better but I’m still waiting for that ‘more energy’ thing. Most of the time I feel like I’m dragging.

Here’s the recipe I used to make my own ranch dressing this week. I used the egg-free version & it’s surprisingly great! A little more runny than I would prefer (I’m more of a dip person than a dressing person) but it really tastes like ranch and perfect for carrot sticks!

http://www.planksloveandguacamole.com/2014/05/ranch-dressing.html

Fails & Prevails, the Mayonnaise Edition

It’s been a week since we started the Whole30 and so far, I’ve pretty much stuck to it (there was an incident with a whole wheat bun yesterday, but I’m not ready to own up to that yet). There’s a lot of effort that goes into this kind of thing, including making a lot of things from scratch that you normally wouldn’t…such as mayonnaise.

Last week, I tried my hand at mayo. I’m not a huge fan of the stuff, but I thought it would be good for chicken salad or something. HUGE fail. It was disgusting. I made it in the blender, but I think I didn’t pour the oil slowly enough, or let the egg come to room temperature or something because it didn’t thicken like mayonnaise should. Overnight, it separated and was a greasy blobby mess. I promptly tossed it down the sink.

After doing a little research, my knight in shining armor appeared in the form of the Healthy Foodie. Her recipe was so easy; no hassle of letting things sit out or drizzling…it was awesome. Surprise, surprise…it turned out looking and tasting like mayonnaise and it took less than 2 minutes!

mayoI don’t usually buy a lot of mayonnaise, and it’s one of those things where the price has been creeping up. So, I would absolutely make this again even after the Whole30. I would say that I nearly always have oil and eggs around and it’s far less expensive than buying a jar of it when I know half of that is going to go to waste.

The only thing I did differently from the recipe was that I used canola oil instead of olive oil. It tasted delicious on our ham salad and it’s totally worth a try! Sonia’s link is below…click it!

http://thehealthyfoodie.com/fail-proof-home-made-paleo-mayo-whole30-compliant/