Saturday, August 01, 2009

Budget Update: 7 months in - How we're doing

In a word: GREAT!

We've managed to pay off somewhere in the neighborhood of $14,000 since January 1st and we are in absolute awe of that fact. We give all praise and thanksgiving to God for giving us the inspiration and promise that He would take care of it if we would make the commitment to get out of debt.

We're now focusing on our consumer account that has not required a payment for over a year. Once January 1st hits, we'll be owing the regular monthly payments as well as the deferred interest that has been building, so we're definitely going full steam ahead to get it paid off by December 31st. It's a biggie, but we know we can do it.

Grocery shopping has been going great. I've managed to still stick to my budget of $75 a week on shopping for the most part, occasionally going over if there are deals that are just too good to pass up, but it's usually no more than $15 dollars over, and even that's rare. I recently had a really great trip to Kroger. I got all of the items in the picture below for a whopping $3.83! I saved 87% by using coupons and store discounts. Not too shabby!

I haven't had many other trips quite as good as this, but I'm still faithfully clipping, sorting and using my coupons every week. We still don't eat out very often and we've both gotten out of the habit of impulse shopping. We've been faithfully tithing out of every paycheck, and even been donating to some worthy causes that we feel are important to contribute to.

We did decide to splurge on new (refurbished) iPhones for both of us, which would definitely not be Dave Ramsey approved. But for me especially, I've found my iPhone has greatly freed up my time at home since I don't feel the need to spend my evenings "catching up" on emails and facebook happenings since I can do this at various breaks throughout the day. We both feel very much more "connected" and for the time it's given me and the stress it's taken off of me alone we feel it's been worth it.

I hope the next big update has more good news! And I pray all of you out there who are working hard to get out of debt are being as blessed as we are. Here's to being debt free!

By the way, in case you're not linked over, I do the huge majority of our family updates on Harper's blog at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

We try to be green. We have all energy efficient lightbulbs in our home. We recyle everything. We try not to leave the lights on and try not to leave the water running. We only wash a full load of dishes in the dishwasher. We have all energy efficient appliances including washer and dryer. I try to use towels instead of paper towels when possible.

But we can always do more.

That in mind, I saw something in the store this past weekend that intrigued me. Actually, it inspired me. So much so that I bought it without a coupon *gasp!*
Here's what I bought:

Now, I realize it's just a silly pack of granola bars. But is this one of the coolest ways of having earth-conscious packaging you've seen lately? I loved it and had to take a picture to share with the class. :) I can only hope more companies will follow Quaker's lead and develop clever ideas to eliminate waste like this package does.

Happy Earth Day!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Aw, Hail

A few weeks ago North Fort Worth had a severe thunderstorm which resulted in very large hail. Wouldn't you know it - our neighborhood was one of about 3 hit hard, resulting in the majority of homes now needed new roofs! Yes, us included. A new roof, along with a new skylight, new screens, new window frames and new vent covers. What a wild night it was.

Coming from California, I have the understanding that roofs are supposed to last until their warranty - 20 years is the typical time period in which one replaces their roof. In fact, in all of the houses I've lived in, I've never known to have needed a new roof for any of them. This whole reality is so strange for me. Come to find out, hail and other severe weather is the reason why insurance premiums are so high where we live. Insurance companies anticipate having to replace a roof on any given home once every 5 years at minimum. Crazy, right?

We're still waiting to hear back our estimate on what insurance will pay us to have everything replaced, then it's up to us to decide what we'll replace now and what might be able to wait. We're so not excited about paying our deductible, but from what other say, it's pretty common around here to even negotiate that down to next to nothing. To this I say "whhhaaaaaa???" but hey, I'm not gonna argue.

Here's some pics of the aftermath.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Budget Ketchup

We've been pretty busy with life lately, though I've been managing to keep Harper's blog pretty current. She's really the only interesting one anyway.

We've been doing really well with our budget, faithfully sitting down every 2 weeks to map out where every penny goes. We've wound up with a surplus every single time, which we then apply to our next account in our debt snowball.

Amount paid off in 2009 to date (roughly).... drumroll please.....


We can hardly believe it and we feel tremendously blessed to be able to look back and see such significant progress being made. Though admittedly, it's a little frustrating knowing what other uses that money could have been put towards had we not been living our lives so stupidly the past 13 years or so each. We've been prayerfully seeking God's guidance as we continue to chip away at our stupid debt and we really feel His hand leading us through every step of the way.

We're also very humbled to have never missed a tithe and even felt God leading us to tithe our tax return. We've still got a ways to go, but we're well on our way to making our goal of having all consumer accounts paid off in 2009. It feels nice to have 5 accounts paid off and closed, out of our lives for good. We've got our 3 biggest balances still to go, though we're already halfway through the third biggest - my last credit card.

Grocery savings are going well. Not much exciting and different to report, though I've managed to stick with my $75/week budget every week very successfully. Remember, I include all personal items such as shampoo, soap, & lotion and household items such as paper towels & cleaning products in my weekly budget - it's not easy! I average 50% savings on my receipts every week which is very encouraging and reminds me why I work so hard to clip coupons, keep everything organized and plan meals out. It's like a second job most times and there are many, many times I don't feel like clipping out all the coupons or schlepping the baby in and out of the car and cart - though she's always an angel and a joy to have out and about.

One small (big) success I must post about is Harper's 1st birthday party. I now know it is possible to do a child's birthday party on $100 or less. A few examples of how I saved money.

- Designed a theme around clearance items. Her party had a heart theme, which I planned because of the Valentine's Day sales. Every single thing I got for at least 50% off including the invitations which I made myself from do-it-yourself valentine's cards. I purchased her balloons, paper plates, napkins, and sweets and treats the week following Valentine's Day and in total spent $12. Yes, I said $12. And I like to think I mixed enough other types of decorations in and around to avoid it looking completely like a big giant Valentine's Day party. Next year might be bunnies. :)

- Planned the menu ahead of time and bought accordingly. We kept the menu simple and planned on doing a laid-back bbq fare with hamburgers and hotdogs. I bought several packs of hotdogs on sale weeks beforehand and froze them, along with the hamburger meat. I'd been picking up cans of baked beans on sale with coupons as well and boxes of cake mix and frosting, from which I made my own cupcakes and avoided a store bought cake. I bought a couple boxes of Rice Krispies and bags of marshmallows for a fraction of the cost, and even stored butter for a few weeks when I found 4 sticks on sale for $0.79 - and voila! Rice Krispies Treats! A couple weeks prior to the party there were 2-liter bottles of soda on sale for $1 so I stocked up with a few of those. The things I did not find on sale, such as chips and buns, I bought generic. No one knew the difference since I set everything out in decorative bowls and I even heard several comments on how good the chips were. The day of the party I found strawberries on sale for a great deal so I "splurged" and am so glad I did because they were a hit and so so yummy.

- I found a coupon online for $5 off a purchase of $25 or more at Party City which I had planned to use on the day of the party to blow up the balloons I had purchased and buy a couple of mylars and anything else I thought I could use. Traffic was so backed up, it caused a change in plans which ended up being a good thing. I found mylar balloons at the Dollar Tree and just blew up the balloons at the grocery store when I was there buying strawberries. Even the last-minute changes don't have to be expensive.

- Speaking of the Dollar Tree, I picked up a few last minute items such as little toys for the older kids to play with. We didn't have a big guest list and I wasn't doing goody bags but I wanted something for them to do while they were here. They were a hit and I was so glad fun doesn't have to be pricey!

I realize that not every birthday is going to be done so successfully on such a small budget, but I feel pretty good about what we were able to do this year. We were reminded it's all about the celebration and not the fanfare. In total, we had 10 adults and 4 kids here celebrating. And yes, we did it on less than $100.

Well, there's my 1st Quarter update. Here's to a successful next 3 quarters this year...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grocery Budget - weeks #??

Well, I've let too much time pass now to go back and figure out my savings from 2 and 3 weeks ago, but let's just all agree that I scored, k?

My grocery detailing seems to have gotten off in weeks as well, so from now on I'll just list each week by date.

I do know that I blew our grocery budget by caving in and scoring on the soda deal Tom Thumb had Superbowl weekend. They were purchases I wasn't intending on making and I think I went over by $12 or something. Thankfully we were about $17 under on our gas budget and other places too, so I was saved. And we can enjoy our Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper with (relatively) clean consciences.

Last week's grocery shopping is a bit of a mess to figure out because I began buying clearance stuff for Harper's birthday party and didn't always separate that stuff at checkout. I've also done some massive returning as I've changed my mind a billion times in exactly what I need/want. Once I get it all totaled, I'll share what that cost me to buy for as well.

I have to share one great deal I got last week on Jon's fave cereal, Frosted Mini Wheats. Here's a quick break down of savings buying 4 boxes:
Regular price: $2.99/ea
Sale price: $2.50/ea = $10.00
Store "Super Coupon" for $4.00 off 4 boxes= $6.00
Store coupon printed at checkout a few weeks ago with my receipt: $4.50 off 3 boxes = $1.50
Manufacturers coupon: $1.50 off 2 boxes = $0!!!!!

$11.96 in free money, just by using coupons! He hasn't had his cereal in quite a while because I don't buy it until it goes on sale. Now his Frosted Mini Wheats will taste just a bit sweeter - and longer with 4 boxes to get through!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Brotherly Love

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Grocery Budget, Week 5

On a week when I wasn't very inspired by the available coupons and advertised specials, I was pleasantly surprised by the savings.

Jon and I will typically map out our menu for the week based on the fliers and what the grocery stores have on special. The end of the month is usually when a lot of coupons expire, so that also has an influence on what I might buy. This week was very heavy on Superbowl party-type food, which did not lend itself well to dinners for the week, at least not for us. Therefore I did more shopping at Walmart, which makes it hard to determine what savings you actually get if. There was really only 1 must-have item and that was the soda that was on sale at Tom Thumb - oh, how I've been waiting for the Diet Coke to go on sale, I think it's been forever!

Here's how the savings went:
Tom Thumb
spent: $22.24
store savings: $48.21
coupon savings: $21.80
total savings: $70.02 = 76%!!!

spent: $15.01
store specials & coupons: $18.87 = 57%

We haven't mapped out the days yet, but this week we're going to make a homemade corn chowder, which should supply us with enough to freeze for a second time (if we don't eat it for lunches and leftovers!). We're also having BLTs, rice and beans with bacon and some chicken and veggies. All of these hot dishes just as the weather warms up nicely this week - of course!

By the way, the shepherd's pie was a hit last week and has now made it on to our "Favorite Dishes" list. It fed us well that night and gave us each leftovers for 2 additional meals (Jon made 2 batches - 1 veggie, 1 ground beef).

Here's the recipe:
Shepherd's Pie Recipe
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
10 oz. can cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic (we used cream of celery)
3 cups refrigerated mashed potatoes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In heavy skillet cook ground beef and onion until beef is brown and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Stir in vegetables and soup and cook until hot, about 4 minutes. Place in 9 inch pie plate. Spoon mashed potatoes over hot meat mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes until potatoes are golden brown and pie is bubbling. 6 servings

I know there's a few of you reading this and I'd love to hear from you and what you're making for dinners. Trust me when I say that I can't cook - but my husband can! We're always looking for new ideas and inspiration.

Update: First Month With Our New Budget

Well, we've done it! We've made it a whole month on our new budget, and we're very proud to say we've not overspent at all and in fact have wound up with a surplus every paycheck from not spending as much as we anticipated in all areas. It's a great feeling.

We had 3 paychecks in January which allowed us to make significant headway our first month in the Total Money Makeover. Seeing 2 accounts completely paid off, and my very first credit card balance dwindle away has been fun. In fact, we're only $150 from that one being gone. Oh, you have no idea how much I wanted that one closed on this last payday. Our flesh even crept in for a moment when we saw that amount and more in our tithe. Ha! Sinful creatures, aren't we? Of course we left it as-is and resolved to pay it off in 2 weeks and get a start on our next account.

We're on our way!