Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Well, I'm officially one of those bloggers that posts very, very sporadically and then pops up when you least expect it. Lame. But, this seems like a good place to record my New Year's Resolutions, so I'm back!

1. Finish our name changes! We both hyphenated our last names, but only got as far as Social Security and the DMV. I want to take care of it with the bank, work, insurance, etc, etc.

2. Save $10,000 in our E-Fund by August of this year (We need about $1,500 more to hit this goal, assuming I don't have to use it for anything).

3. Pay off the smaller unsubsidized loan before my husband finishes school in December (This is about $4,900). My plan is to use $1000 from our tax returns toward this, $1,000 from summer school for it, and to put about $275/month toward this goal. Speaking of summer school...

4. Work Summer School this summer, even if I really don't feel like it. The money is too good to pass up!

5. Hit 3,000 miles on my Fitbit by the end of 2014.

6. Go on some sort of trip with my husband, either for Spring Break or for our anniversary. I don't necessarily need to go somewhere elaborate, but somewhere we haven't been before would be great.

I have a few more ideas rolling around, but I want to look at them a little more...so I will probably add three more sometime later this month.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Some Good News!

The other day we got a letter from Aspire, the lender that handles 4/5 of my husband's student loans. The letter was informing us that his loans had gone into deferment because he is enrolled halftime in school. I didn't think much of it, figuring we were going to continue to pay the interest on three of the loans and put all extra funds into the one with the lowest balance.

But when I logged in yesterday, I noticed that all but one of his loans is subsidized. Meaning the government will pay the interest while he's in school.


So, I have a strategy question.

The unsubsidized loan, which is still accumulating interest, is the second lowest balance. So, my first thought was to throw all extra funds at that loan first, to lower the interest rate, and hopefully get rid of it first. Ideally we could be done with it by the time he finishes his schooling (two and a half more semesters).

OR, I am wondering if I stick to the original plan and pay off the lowest balance first, while it collects no interest. I'd still pay the accumulating interest on the unsubsidized loan, but perhaps it makes more sense to put all of our extra funds toward a loan that isn't growing each day so that we can get rid of it and avoid paying future interest on it. Kind of the way you might pay off a zero interest for six month loan in that window so you never owe interest on it.

What do you think? I'd love a second opinion, as I am torn on which path to choose. Either way, I am thrilled that his loans aren't costing us $5 per day in interest (which is what I calculated last month. And then got depressed.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Month One on One

...Income, that is.

We officially made it through our first full month of living on one income. And it's actually going really well. I get paid tomorrow, and I just checked all the numbers. We came in under on the budget, and while we did cut back this month didn't feel like too much of a sacrifice. We definitely ate out less. I didn't stop for coffee or food as much as I normally would. But you know what? It was a good month. It felt good to be frugal again.

And the even better news? We were able to reduce the student loans by over $600!

Also, my husband is signed up for a class to get his soccer reffing license to bring in a little extra cash soon. And he also passed the CBEST and will be applying to substitute teach in a few local districts. So, hopefully we can put even more extra cash towards the student loans when that happens. But it feels good to know we can live on one income and still make at least a small dent in our total loan balance.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

More Frugal Things We've Been Doing

Here's what I did this weekend and how I made it frugal:

*Shared a burrito at dinner: we went to our favorite Mexican place on Friday night (one of our only times eating out together this month!). They have a "monster" burrito on the menu. It's ten bucks and we split it. It was plenty of food, and we saved money by not ordering our own separate dishes.

*Decorated for Fall: I put out the decorations I already had, for the most part. Over the years I've gotten several pumpkin-shaped candles (either as gifts or on clearance after the holidays are over), but I never burn them. This way I can put them out year after year. :) I have one pumpkin scented candle that I do light, so I still get that feel. I also made this centerpiece and only spent $1.59 on candy corn (the rest of the stuff I already had).

*Made meals at home: Today I almost went to Ralphs, but then pushed myself to cook at home. We ate here and ate quiet well, in fact! I made cornmeal pancakes (thanks, Pioneer Woman) and turkey bacon for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and for dinner we had garlic chicken, pasta, and brussel sprouts. :) After I made all that, I felt silly for wanting to go to the store for food. Plenty here!

*Dinner with my sister: This was on Thursday, but we went to dinner and I used a Groupon I bought a few months back. It covered both of our meals and dessert. She paid the tip, so this felt free! (Yes, I bought the Groupon, but it was so long ago it hardly seems to count.)

*Swagbucks: when I read blogs or went on Facebook I was sure to Swagbuck it, and I am building up to get another Amazon gift card. The last one I got just posted today. These will be handy to have for Christmas time!

So, what did you to do keep it frugal this weekend?

Monday, September 9, 2013


So, in the past few weeks I've been off the blog, I've been delving further into our loan debt, crunching numbers and looking at history, etc. And most of what I've realized actually makes me realize we have further to dig out than I thought. Meaning, it's not very positive. I will update on that at some point, but for today I need to focus on the positive! So, here are some ways I've gotten my frugal on in the past few weeks. Or, as I like to call it, how I've been frugalling. (It's a verb.)

*I've been back on Recyclebank and Swagbucks, and am well on my way to some $5 Amazon gift cards. I plan on using those either for Christmas gifts or for necessities down the line.
*I also used two Bath and Body Works coupons to get free travel-sized items that I will use as prizes in a baby shower I'm throwing next month.
*Speaking of the shower, I've made all the invitations and decorations myself, spending $5 on paper.
*We've gone on two dates at the Dollar Theater in our area. We brought in our own candy and drinks, of course. Each date cost us a total of about $8 with snacks.
*We've done the vast majority of our eating here at home. I haven't stopped for coffee or breakfast on the way to work once!
*I've made birthday cards using my Cricut, and have plans to make a friend some homemade caramel corn for her birthday gift. I'm going to make a cute tag and put them in a mason jar that I already have.
*I've been going onto The Freebie Blogger and have requested various free samples. I'll either use these as stocking stuffers, for travel, or to save on my grocery/toiletries bill.
*I'm also back to tracking our spending to the penny, and should be able to make our first extra payment on the student loans at the end of the month.
*My husband downgraded his texting plan and minutes on his phone, which will save us $27 per month.
*We also cancelled Hulu Plus and just kept streaming on Netflix. There are always coupon codes for Redbox rentals, so we're going to get by on that for newer releases.

So, even though we've got a long climb to go, I feel good about these changes. And most of them aren't too difficult. I sort of enjoy the challenge of being frugal. Just hope that feeling doesn't wear off too soon!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Car Bill Coming Down...

Well, I think it is a tad unrealistic to think that I won't need to take any money out of my savings to cover the cost of my car repair. But, I did double check my travel rewards credit card and saw that two of my purchase erasers hadn't gone through. I went in and fixed that, which should take $96 off of my credit card bill in the next couple of days! I still have enough rewards to get a free flight to Portland, which I plan to use sometime in the next few months to go see my friend Shelley again.

I listed a few more DVD's on Ebay this week, and sold a book on Amazon. A lot of what I have to sell isn't worth too much, but I will make a little more money on Monday when the auctions finish.

I have stuck with my $100 budget until payday. I got gas the other day, paid back my coworker, but have only spent $16 on groceries. If I can go without spending any more money until Thursday (which I'm really going to push myself to accomplish!) I will only need to take out $174 from my savings to cover the cost of the repairs. Considering it was a $630 bill, I feel good about that!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ebay and Car Repairs

Now that I'm back into frugality, I decided to list some items on Ebay. I had four listings up and made a profit of $115! I sold a bridesmaids dress, a Cricut cartridge that I decided I didn't like after all, a purse, and Six Feet Under on DVD. I am VERY happy with these sales!

When I started out selling these items, I figured I would set the money aside for some things I'd been wanting to buy but didn't want to take out of the budget. In fact, I went ahead and ordered some blades and mats for my Cricut (which actually saves me money on cards, baby shower supplies, etc.). I also went and bought a new pair of black flats (since my last pair was purchased in 2010...it's time). They were having a BOGO sale, so I got a second pair of shoes for half off as well.

I still had some money left and felt good about having extra money laying around.


Well, today several of the warning lights went on in my dashboard. I took my car in and found out I need new brakes (apparently they were worn down to 1mm...oops) and a variety of other smaller things done. I work out with a few people who work at the dealership, so they were able to give me a discount (and the service guy's wife is a teacher in my district so he threw in a free oil change for me). BUT, it's still going to cost me a pretty penny to get all the repairs/maintenance done.

As in, around $670. $630! (The guy at the service desk's wife works in my district. And I have friends from the gym who work there, so he gave me a discount! Score!)

To be fair, I haven't had much done on the car in the last few years. And what's crazy is that I used to pay about $500/month in car payments on this car (BANANAS!). So, I know this is just part of owning a car. But I am still not thrilled about the cost of the repairs.

My new goal is to see if I can pay for these repairs without taking money from my emergency fund.

I know I'll need gas again before payday, and a small grocery trip or two for some ingredients to make dinners and lunches at home. I am also bringing snacks next Friday for my work, and I owe a co-worker $20 for snacks we use as student incentives. So, I am budgeting $100 for those items (which is keeping it pretty damn frugal, actually). That leaves me with about $330 $278 to put towards the bill.

I also have some of the Ebay money from those four items I mentioned about left in my Paypal account. I will transfer that over, which is only about $20 after the shoes and Cricut supplies.

I am going to go through my DVD's, books, and the rest of my apartment to see what else I can sell on Ebay. Hopefully, this can bring in some good money. I will probably also take in our recycling to put toward the cause.

Honestly, it will be tough to pull this one off. But I want to push myself to see if I can make it happen. I'd love to keep our E-fund as large as possible going into this next chapter of living on one income (though my husband is already signing up for subbing and looking into some other side/odd jobs to earn some money going forward).

So, think I can pull this off? Any advice for bringing in more money? :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Tricky With Food

One thing that drives me crazy about my husband is that he is not a big leftovers eater. He will usually eat pasta-based leftovers (spaghetti, lasagna, etc.), but most other things are up to me to eat. Which means that sometimes we waste food because I can't eat the same thing for a solid week.

So, one idea I'm trying is to reconstitute our leftovers into "new" meals. I found one idea online that I plan to try, and I'm hoping you will share your other ideas with me!

Meal 1: Beef stew (using stew beef I have sitting in freezer from a couple of months ago...really trying to use what's in my freezer these days!). Probably served with a side of bread.

Meal 2: Drain the stew and make a thicker gravy out of the liquid. Put stew and gravy in ramekins and cover with Pillsbury store brand croissants. Pop into the oven and make a beef pot pie. (Thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration).

I would also eat the leftover stew the next day at work.

No, this isn't a drastically different meal. But I am hoping it's different enough to get my husband to eat it more than once during the week. (Maybe I'll skip a day in between?)

I'd love to hear how you repurpose meals to make your leftovers more interesting!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Organized Pantry is a Frugal Pantry

Continuing in my series of ways to save money on food, I wanted to share about how organizing my pantry has saved me money.

I am a Type A personality. I actually love organizing things, and have thought about going into some sort of organizing business. But, like everyone, there are areas in my house that still get away from me at times. After our trips this summer, I set out to fix that. I went on an organizing rampage. I posted the before and after photos on Instagram, but I can't figure out how to get them here. :/

Basically, it was a disaster before. I was also digging through it, finding half-eaten bags of chips, duplicates of canned goods I had already purchased...ugh. I wasted money because of those things.

So, I went to the Dollar Tree and spent $4 on baskets (and used an bin I already had). I created the following baskets:
*Snacks: granola bars, almonds, fruit snacks, Craisins, etc. all go in here. This helped me realized that I didn't need to buy any more snacks when I went to the store today. And, when I'm in a hurry before work, it's easy to grab a snack from here for my morning break.
*Sides: I put pasta, rice, mac and cheese, etc. in one basket. Now when I have a main dish figured out, I can see what sides I already have. This saves me from buying duplicates and helps me throw together a quick dinner.
*Chips/Crackers: My husband knows to look here when he wants some chips and we've been way better about finishing off bags now.
*Jello: Yes, we had so many small boxes of jello that they got their own bin. Seeing all of it is motivating me to make that for dessert/snacks.
*Garlic: I got a tiny bin for garlic, since it's always floating around in the pantry. It goes bad or I forget I have it ALL THE TIME.

I put all my baking items on the bottom shelf and all my canned goods on another. The canned goods still get hard to keep track of, but for $4 I'm happy with what I've got. It's nice too, because when I'm at the store, I can picture the bins and know whether I need to buy something. Not that I've memorized it, but for example I know that I have a pretty full snack bin. So I skipped that at Ralph's the other day.

I did the same thing with our toiletries cupboard, and now I know that we pretty much never need to buy body wash for my husband or mouth wash again for the rest of our lives. So that's a plus.

Do you like to organize your home? Do you find it helps to save you money?

New Grocery Strategy

One area that I'd really like to work on my spending in is grocery shopping. I know I overspend here, and have food waste way to often. Here are a few things I did to improve in this area.

Baking: Last weekend I had some almost rotten bananas and a HUGE zucchini that a friend gave me. I made a loaf of banana bread and two loafs of zucchini bread. I shared some with my mom, we ate two of them, and I sliced the last loaf up and froze it in individual servings. When I want a quick breakfast I can pop a slice in the microwave next to a wet paper towel for 30 seconds. YUM! I also found a recipe for zucchini fritters and made them to go with my Sloppy Joes for dinner on Sunday. We LOVED how they turned out. The best part: I already had all of the other ingredients on hand, so that was all free!

Inspired by using what I had, I planned Sloppy Joes (all I needed was a bell pepper and some ketchup) for dinner that night. That cost me $2.25 (and of course I have most of the bottle of ketchup left).  Last night I made Sesame Chicken with frozen chicken leftover from other recipes. That's the kind of thing I tend to let languish in the freezer, so I was glad to use it. I also have two half-used bags of hash browns in there. I found a recipe for potato soup that uses hash browns, so I picked up the other ingredients I need to make that (spent about six bucks on that. I think I should be able to get a few meals out of it). We also have TONS of jello, so I bought a can of mandarin oranges and some Cool Whip and made dessert from that.

While I was at the store, I picked up some meat on sale. Some was clearance and all pork was half off. I got Italian sausage ($1.98), spicy turkey sausage ($2.99), ground beef ($3.89), beef short ribs ($1.89) and two pork loins ($2.97 & $3.50).  I spent seventeen bucks and got quite a stockpile of meat. Now I will meal plan around those items in the weeks to come. I also snagged a pack of buns on clearance that I threw in the freezer for the next time we make burgers or Sloppy Joes (a new favorite. Pioneer Woman's recipe had Freddie and my sister raving).

I usually plan my meals before going to the store, but then I can't always take advantage of items in I find on clearance. This way, I know I am building my meal around the best deals possible.

I spent a total of $40 at the store today. I got all of that meat, ingredients I needed for the two dinners I planned ahead for, fruit, yogurt, cake mix, frosting, and lunch meat. Normally, I can easily spend $60 at the store, so this is a victory!

How do you save money on groceries?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sticking With the Plan

This week I have continued to live frugally, even when faced with some temptations.

Temptation: Go out to lunch Tuesday-Thursday because they were teacher work days and we never go out during the year.
Solution: I forgot that the principal buys us lunch the first day back, so Tuesday was a gimme. I compromised by bringing my lunch Tuesday (leftovers) and going out today to Panera.
Cost: $10 (but I found that ten bucks in my back pocket yesterday, so it didn't come out of my budget!)

Temptation: Book club met near several food places, Starbucks, and Coldstone. Of course I wanted to get dinner and a coffee. I had a Coldstone gift card, but was also trying to be a little bit healthy.
Solution: Ate leftover sloppy Joe for dinner before I left the house (you should make the Pioneer Woman's sloppy joes...they are AMAZING). Looked up Coldstone nutrition info and got a pineapple frozen yogurt with strawberries as a mix-in.
Cost: FREE, since I used a gift card.

Temptation: Make a fun new recipe from Pinterest that would require all sorts of shopping for ingredients.
Solution: Look through recipes I've already pinned and make meals based on what's already in my freezer. Tonight I had Sesame Chicken, rice, and edamame.
Cost: $1.50 for the edamame, I had everything else I needed.

What spendy temptations did you overcome this week?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Found It

Even as I wrote about getting my frugal mojo back, I was having trouble finding it. I knew what I needed to do, but was having a hard time moving in the right direction.

Then, on Friday, my husband quit his job.

My frugal mojo? I found it.

To be clear, I totally support my husband's decision. He has been HATING his job for a long time, and I have repeatedly told him he can quit and work on finding something he actually enjoys. He has held off because he felt bad, but he hit a breaking point, and put in his two weeks notice on Friday.

In the long run, I think this will be a good move. He is starting a school program to earn a certificate in radio production and taking the CBEST (the first test you need to get a teaching credential). He decided to take an extra class in the program (so nine units, instead of just six). If he passes the teaching test on the first try he should also be able to apply to start substituting, which would be a great way to make money and still be able to prioritize school. He's also applied for a job as a production assistant at a local radio show, and is going to continue to look for jobs and internships in the radio field. I'm glad he's actually pursuing jobs that would make him happy, rather than sticking it out somewhere that makes him miserable.

I worked the budget, and it's definitely do-able to live on one income. However, it will require some lifestyle changes from where we are now, and rather than wait until he is done at work, I'm implementing them NOW.

A few ways I have gotten my frugal on this weekend?
*Made banana bread from almost rotten bananas rather than just throwing them out. I did the same with the giant zucchini a friend gave me that probably would have gone to waste otherwise. I also froze individual portions of one loaf of zucchini bread so I can have them for breakfast before work. This was free since we had all of the ingredients already.
*Bought sandwich stuff to make sandwiches in a cooler for tomorrow's trip to the water park instead of buying overpriced, unhealthy food there (we have passes, so we get in for free).
*Snagged a free lotion from Bath and Body Works to use as a prize for a baby shower I am throwing. I plan to package it up cute with stuff from my gift wrap bin. That will save me from buying a $5 gift card.
*Made invitations and decorations for the baby shower using my Cricut. I spent $5 on paper at Michael's and still have a lot left from the pack of paper, so I feel good about that. I'll have to do a separate post with pictures of the baby shower stuff I made. It came out really cute!
*Went back on Recyclebank and earned a $5 Amazon gift card (planning to put it towards blades and mats for my Cricut, since I'm using it a lot for cards and such).
*Wrote five vendor reviews on The Knot and got a voucher for a free 8x8 photo book from Shutterfly. I will probably make this a Christmas or birthday present for someone.

I am also committing to bring my lunch to work this week (even though the kids aren't there yet, so it is VERY tempting to go out to lunch with co-workers). I bought good sandwich stuff and some crackers and fruit snacks to bring.

These are the kinds of things I didn't focus on after my debt was paid off, but knowing that we are going to be living on one income has immediately snapped me back into being more disciplined! My goal is to not tap into our savings at all, and in fact I'd like to pay at least $100 extra per month toward the student loan debt.

While there is some stress associated with this decision, I'm sort of enjoying getting back to my frugal ways. It's satisfying to me to see how much I can save and get for free.

Do you find frugality more satisfying than spending? Or do you prefer the rush of the mall/shopping?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Blogs?

I've been off the PF blog circuit for a while...anyone want to recommend any new or favorite PF blogs for my blog roll?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thanks, Less Frugal Me!

I wrote a post about this a long, long time ago. Even though I am now committing to be more frugal again, I am pretty thankful to my more spendy self for some big purchases I made recently. Some are just things I love, and others will actually help me save money.

1. My Cricut. When I was making decorations for the wedding, I ended up buying a Cricut on Ebay. A Cricut is a machine that cuts paper into super cute shapes/designs. It's great for making cards, scrapbooking, and making various decorations. I was able to make my super cute table numbers, letters for signs, and other wedding goodies. I've also used it recently to make cards for my husband, make a sign for a friend's wedding, and I plan on making some decorations for a friend's baby shower in October. This is a super fun purchase, and it will definitely save me money! I put myself in charge of decorations, and my only cost will most likely be some pink and gray paper. Score!
Cost: $160 for machine and four cartridges

2. My Fitbit. I bought this fancy-pants pedometer back in January. It keeps track of steps, calories, and miles burned each day. Then, it syncs with my computer and shows all sorts of graphs and keeps track of my stats (I've walked almost 1,000 miles this year!). You can also add friends who also have Fitbit and compete against each other. It's super fun, and it's definitely gotten me moving more.
Cost: $60

3. Boot Camp. I started going to boot camp classes last August, and it revolutionized my body. This year I have lost weight but more importantly, I'm so much stronger, fitter, and more confident because of it. The classes aren't cheap, and in March I locked in my price by committing to one year. Which means this is a monthly bill I have, but I am glad I signed up for it. If I hadn't, I probably would have let this go when I cracked down on my budget. But it's worth the cost to me, so it stays!
Cost: $109/month

What purchases are you glad that you made when you were more spendy? Or, what purchases are worth the cost to you, even if others disagree?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Backyard Wedding

Okay, I posted 200 wedding pictures to Facebook, so I will try to control myself in sharing some of our wedding with you. We kept our total wedding expenses to about $6,000. I know there are cheaper weddings, but I am happy with that amount. We had a fun, intimate, casual backyard wedding. Not pictured is the food. We had a taco guy ($400 for 65 people) and a nacho bar. We also got a keg and had a friend make sangria. We had plenty of leftovers, but kept it very reasonable cost-wise. And people RAVED about the food. My friend Becca is also amazing, and she and I went to the flower market in downtown LA and did all of the flowers ourselves (with help from my sister and another friend). This was time-consuming, but we spent $200 on flowers (two bouquets, 8 centerpieces, flowers for the cake table, and a bunch of corsages and boutonnieres).

Our wedding was exactly what I've always wanted. So, without further ado...

We took pictures in a park down the street from the backyard where we had the wedding. The photographer was a friend who gave us a great discount. Still one of the pricier parts of the wedding, but saved us easily a thousand dollars.
Our first dance, on the patio. We made that the ceremony site, table for the two of us during dinner, and the dance floor as the night went on. 
Cutting the cake. We had a cake for us and cupcakes for everyone else. A friend got us this as our gift, which was so generous! You can also see our paper lanterns in the background. This was behind us for ceremony. We hung them from fishing wire at varying heights.
I used this frame as the seating chart. I actually registered for it, got it at a shower, and have plans to print pictures and hang it in the house now that the wedding is over. 
Our super cute cupcake table. The flag pennants are homemade with paper and twine. They were a theme on various tables, as well as the invites, programs, and thank you notes we ordered on Etsy.
Gift table with flag pennants
I highly recommend glow-sticks for the dance floor portion of the evening. I bought 100 of them online for $20. We busted them out right after we cut the cake and it got everyone on the dance floor and made for some fun pictures.
We had those champagne poppers from 4th of July as our send-off. This was super fun! A friend bought them for us, and since we got married on the 6th, I think she got a good deal! :) 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Joint Finances

Today I thought I'd share our plan for combining our finances come September. This is new to us, so there will probably be some tweaking as time goes on. But for now, we plan to open a joint checking account for our household expenses. These include rent, utilities, groceries, charitable donations, eating out together, and a cushion for unexpected expenses each month. This represents 41%* of our total income.

Then, we will each have a separate checking account for our own money. We will each get a set amount and out of this we will pay for gas, cell phones, and our own fun money. This would include socializing without the other person, stopping for coffee or fast food on our own, and for me it includes boot camp and getting my hair done. Because I have those two expenses, I am getting an extra hundred dollars a month. Which isn't exactly fair, but he supported it completely. These accounts represent 18% of our income.

We also need to save each month because I don't get a paycheck in August. This represents 6% of our monthly income.

This leaves us with an about $2,000 per month toward the student loans. This represents 33% of our income going to debt repayment each month!

I definitely gave a higher amount for groceries and eating out for the first month. I'm hoping we can adjust our habits and have some left over to put toward savings or debt at the end of the month, but I wanted to be generous the first month we are getting used to this, and go from there.

So, that's our plan! How do you and your spouse share finances? Any advice for us as we start this adventure together?

*All percentages are approximate. I don't think it adds up to 100% because I rounded things.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The New Rules

Last time I had debt to pay off, I lived with several different rules for myself that helped me accomplish my goal of paying off over $28,000 in debt in two and a half years. Well, now that we are married, my husband's student loan, car, and credit cards are OUR debt, and I'm back to some rules for myself. These rules mostly apply to my personal checking account, not our joint account. We've found ways to save on our joint account, and as we adjust to sharing money we may come up with rules together. But I don't feel like I should start out our marriage ruling with an iron fist and proclaiming rules for the both of us.

Anyway, back to my rules for getting out of debt:

Rule #1: No new clothes shopping! I did this for a full year when I was getting out of credit card debt, so I know it's possible. I lost weight but did clothes shopping throughout the year so I should be good to go. Of course it can be tempting at times to shop, but I've learned the less I do it, the less I miss it.

Rule #2: Only order water when we eat out. I gave up soda (minus a total relapse while on vacation) in January, so I've been getting iced tea at restaurants. I've decided an easy way to save will be to stick with water (exception: happy hour/bars. I mean, come on!)

Rule #3: No more pedicures or manicures. I discovered the amazingness of the gel manicure before my wedding, and it's SO tempting to go get one. But, it's super pricey and not something that is a priority for me.

Part of the reason for these rules is to pay off debt faster, and part of it is that I'd like to hang on to my fun money and use it to go on a trip with a friend this fall (and ideally a few more small trips throughout the year). So when I want a pedicure or an iced tea, I need to remember that I would MUCH rather go on a trip to New York without derailing our debt payoff plans.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Debts Do We Have?

Okay, so I'm not sure my husband would be cool with me sharing his financial business on the internet. I guess he's into privacy or something. Psshh. So, this post will be a little vague, but I wanted to share a little about what debts we now have to pay off.

Credit Card: This is already paid off actually. He had a card with some wedding expenses and a car repair on it. We went ahead and took care of that as soon as we got back from the honeymoon, using some cash we got as gifts and a little bit of savings. So, score! One less debt!

Car: His car is due to be paid off in 2015. We have enough in savings to actually pay this off this month and still have almost four months of expenses in savings. So, we're going to go for it and take care of this by the end of August. Score, again! Two less debts!

But, here's the biggie: the student loans (duhn, duhn, duuuuhhhhnnnn). This will be the only thing left to pay off after this month. He has four loans, totally the same amount as all the debt that I paid off last time (so if you're dying to figure it out, do some digging and have at it).

It's...daunting, I'm not going to lie. I didn't actually know the total of the student loans until the other day. It's something he's been in some denial about, I think. I knew they existed and I guess I was sort of in denial too. But, I've worked out a budget and it looks like we should be able to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 per month toward his loans (depending on the month, other bills, etc.). Which is GREAT. That leaves us with money to have a little fun and for each of us to have some spending money of our own.

So, if we were to keep up with this plan, and could throw our tax returns at the debt as well, we might be able to pull off being out of debt by the end of 2014. The only reason that I'm not comfortable proclaiming this is that we might have some big changes up ahead (Freddie's job, going back to school, and hopefully a baby at some point--I hear they cost some money). But, I want to prioritize now to get as much paid off as we possibly can. My husband is on board and still kind of in shock that we have already paid off some of the debt and at how aggressively I think we can do the rest. But, I've done it before, and I know I can do it again. And if we can pull it off in less than two years, I'd be pretty excited.

Because after that? FREEDOM.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'm back...now with more debt!

I feel compelled to blog again now that there are a few new things in my life. Will it last? Time will tell, but here's what's new:

*I'm married! 
*We had a wonderful, super fun, backyard wedding and stayed within our budget.
*We went on a great honeymoon in Boston and on a trip to Oregon for a friend's wedding.
*Now that we're married, his debt is our debt. :/

Which means that as we have talked budget and debt payoff, super frugal Jess is being awakened from her sleep. Spendy Jess has been having a lot of fun this last year. Nothing too crazy, still managed to save a lot and pay for the wedding, but I've definitely relaxed more with my spending. I actually stopped doing budgets and used a credit card to earn miles (while paying it off every month).

Much like TeacHer Finance, I am much more motivated when it comes to paying off debt than I am when it comes to saving. Don't get me wrong: I built up a healthy savings over the last year or so (a chunk of which is going to pay off debt this month), but I wasn't as into budgeting, saving, and (obviously) blogging about money.

Now that we have debt to conquer again...it's on! I wrote out a budget for August (our last month of separate finances), and another one for joint finances in September. We are each keeping a checking account for our own "fun money" and a few other bills we are keeping separate. And I'm already getting back to my frugal ways. In just the last week I have:

*had my husband cancel Hulu Plus and take the discs off our Netflix, just keeping streaming
*made dinner with ingredients I found in the pantry and freezer instead of going to the store
*made a friend a birthday card and am giving her a bottle of champagne left over from the wedding as a gift
*signed up for a PD class so I can get a raise sometime this year (this falls under spending money to make money)

So, my point is that I am once again interested in blogging. Anyone still have me on their feed and interested in reading? I will work on recapping our wedding and honeymoon, and once again regale you with tales of my frugal ways. 

I'm back, bitches!
Hugs and kisses,

Friday, May 10, 2013

Redecorating on the Cheap: Printables

Yesterday I posted about how I spruced up my apartment for free. Today and tomorrow I'd like to post about how I added some pizzazz to my place by spending very little money. I was able to use some things I had around my house to keep it low-cost, but you may need to purchase some of these items to make it happen.

I have five 5x7 frames in my dining room from Ikea. They have floral prints (also from Ikea), and they've never really been my favorite. I just put them up because I already had them and didn't want to spend more money at the time. I went on Pinterest and searched for "free kitchen printables." I chose these ones, from Questionable Domestique.  They are legit, and not stolen! Holla! They are also super fun. I like that they're neutral, so they'd work in almost any kitchen/dining area (mine are connected, so the kitchen theme works in the dining room).

The prints are available in both 4x6 and 5x7. If you have a better printer than I do, you could print these at home and keep it even cheaper. I chose to upload them to the Biola print shop (where I did my wedding invites) to have them printed and cut.

Inspired by how great I think these will look, I started looking for seasonal printables as well. I already had an 8x10 black frame, so I searched for prints in that size. I collected ten different prints that I liked, and again had them printed at Biola. I put all ten in the frame so that I don't have to go searching for them when the time comes; I can just take the back off and rotate the correct one to the front. I found most of them on a site called Over the Big Moon in the printables section. I also searched her blog for various holidays. I searched Pinterest for the holidays I didn't see on this blog. Here are a few of my favorites:

I liked this for January because all the other one's talked about snow...doesn't really work for Southern California.

I used a 40% coupon from Michael's to get a picture frame stand for under $5. I set up my frame on the corner of my dining room table, and I think it will be really fun to have a rotation of prints all throughout the year.

These two changes really added a lot to my dining area. I find that buying wall art or decorations can be SO expensive, but with these blogs giving away prints, it really keeps things affordable. If you don't have a printer, you could also upload the jpg files to your local drugstore photo department, which would keep the cost low as well.

Have you used free printables before? There were also a lot of fun ones that could be used for party favors and decorations, so I will probably use them again in the future. Hurray for creative bloggers who are kind enough to give things away, right?

I am going to attempt a craft this weekend as part of my cheap decorating scheme. If it comes out, I will take pics and post about it. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Redecorating for Free

So after my shower on Sunday (which was great! People were so generous, including my aunt who gave us the money for our table, chair, and linen rentals as a gift!) I suddenly became very dissatisfied with the decor in our apartment. Something about having some nice, new things made me annoyed with all of my old decor.

When we moved in, I did decorate. However, most of my stuff was just what I had from my old apartment. I was feeling very blah about it, so I decided to do some redecorating. BUT, obviously I didn't want to spend much since we are paying for the wedding.

So, here are my ideas for how to spruce up your home FOR FREE. Holla! I'll do another post on some of the cheap upgrades I did (spending very little), but let's start with the things you can do today to make your place look better without spending a dime!

(Of course, it would have been awesome if I took before and after pictures...I didn't. Boooo.)

1. Organize your books by color. A friend of mine did this, and even though I thought it looked great, my Type A personality just couldn't handle it. I had all my books organized by genre, alphabetically by author. (I know, I know.) But aesthetics finally overtook my need for library-like order and I did it. I did a blue shelf, a red shelf, and half green, half yellow shelf, and a black shelf. My other bookshelf in the spare room contains all my other books. It does NOT look pretty. But this one, in the living room looks great! I also have a million frames, so I put the ones that are these colors on the shelves. I took the random collection of candles off of the top of the bookshelf so that it would have a more clean look. Finally, I printed a 4x6 photo of a quote from Dr. Seuss (from "Oh, the Places You'll Go"). I searched for "free Dr. Seuss prints" and found one that's super cute. If you have a photo printer, this would be free. I paid 21 cents at Walgreens for the print. This looks SO MUCH BETTER than it did before.

2. Declutter the bathroom. I used to have a bin with all sorts of bathroom products on top of the toilet tank in my bathroom. But, after I put out my new bath and hand towels I got at the shower, I thought the bathroom could use some sprucing up too. So, I reorganized under the sink and made room to keep that bin out of sight. Then, I grabbed two blue candles that I had laying around (anyone else have a candle surplus??) and put them on the back of the toilet. I kept a couple of rolls of TP there ('cause let's keep it real), but even that tiny change made it look better in there.

3. Vacuum the couch! Freddie cleaned out the vacuum hose that had lost its suck (and no wonder! So gross how much dirt was trapped in there!), so I used the opportunity to put on the brush attachment and clean the couch. It made a surprising difference in how it looked. I also flipped all the cushions, which made it look much fluffier and inviting. So, if you are the type who keeps up with this, than this tip doesn't apply to you. And maybe you all do. But if you're like me and let things slide sometime, this is a chore that's worth doing.

Tune in tomorrow to get my tips for low-cost decorating tips!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wedding Plans: Saving Money on Invitations

We've done lots and lots of wedding planning lately! Our biggest update is that our wedding invites have been sent! Here's how we did invites on the cheap!

First, we went to Etsy and perused their invitations. We found some really cute ones with a flag banner and little birds on them that we liked. They are very simple, but cute. The cost to personalize them and have the file emailed to us as a pdf was $12. I went ahead and added on the thank you notes and programs as well, which were $5 and $10 respectively. So, we spent $27 on that part.

Then, I went to the print center at Biola, the college I went to. They worked with us to print our invites and thank you notes, which included the cutting and folding as well. Including tax, I paid $45 to have them printed. I haven't had the programs printed yet because I haven't figured out what I want on them. That's my project for this month!

I ordered envelopes for both the invites and thank you notes on Amazon for about $15. So, we've spent a total of about $90 so far, BUT that includes our thank you notes and the program design. I'm guessing our programs will cost another $20 or so to print.

I addressed the envelopes myself and didn't do the double envelope thing. Honestly, people are just going to throw them away and my writing is semi-decent, so I was fine with that. Invites just aren't something I care too much about, and the envelopes are definitely at the bottom of my list of concerns.

We also saved by making our RSVP online, rather than printing another card, buying envelopes and putting stamps on them. I used weebly.com to make a website that includes a map of our location, our registry info, and an RSVP form. All of the RSVP's go straight to my email. We figured only our grandmas might have trouble with the online RSVP, but we know they're coming, so it should be fine. :)

We could have kept it super cheap if we ONLY did invites, but I figured since we'll need thank you notes and programs anyway, it made sense to go ahead and get it all at once, so that they will all coordinate. I'm happy as well, because I think we will spend the same amount on all three things that many people just spend on invites.

I think the fiance spent about $20 on stamps as well. But, there were a few extra that a stole to send out thank you notes for my shower.

How much did you spend on wedding invitations? Are you traditional-wanting the double envelopes, calligraphy, etc.? Or are you more like me?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wedding Update

Here are some of our most recent wedding plans/purchases:

1. I reserved our tables, chairs, and linens for the big day. I called a few places, and went with the one that had what we wanted. They'll charge my credit card after they are delivered, so that's not something I have to pay right now. The total for the rentals is $350.

2. We ordered a pdf of our invitation on Etsy for $12. I'll have them printed at the Biola Duplicating Center, which is usually very reasonable. The same seller also does matching thank-you's for $5 and programs for $10. So, I'll spend $27 on all of the designs and then have them printed.

3. I ordered 12 white cloth napkins on Ebay for $12. I'm going to put these down on each table, with a vase of flowers on top for centerpieces (my tablecloths are royal blue). After the wedding I'll be able to use the napkins again, and the cost was close to the same to rent them for the day.

4. I also ordered 100 glow-sticks for the reception. We did this at a friend's reception: during the height of the dancing, we passed out glow-sticks to everyone on the dance floor. It was super fun, and made for some great pictures. I ordered them on Ebay for $15!

5. My last Ebay purchase for the day was a bra/corset from David's Bridal. The original price is $70, and I got mine for $26 with shipping. Yesssss.

Oh, and we're doing cake tasting on Thursday! FREE CAKE!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Do you Fitbit??

I spent $60 on a pedometer a few months ago. It's called a Fitbit Zip, and I think it might be serious. Yes, it might be love.

The Fitbit is a high-tech pedometer that tracks your steps, mileage, and calories burned. The super part is that it syncs to your computer, so you get to see charts and graphs of how many steps you took each day, week, month, etc. You can also break down the day into five minute increments to see when you were the most active. You earn badges on the site for steps in a day and total distance. All of this is compelling, making it much more fun than a regular pedometer. Because I am a giant nerd.

BUT, I haven't even gotten to the super-awesome part yet. The super-awesome part is that you can compete against other friends who are on Fitbit. The leader board is based on a seven day running total, and it updates anytime someone syncs up their info. I have been pretty constantly logged in since I've gotten it. Because, for those of you who don't know me in real life, I am uber-crazy competitive. It can be a curse, but in this instance, it's a blessing. My competitive drive has made me work to get in way more steps than I normally would, simply because I am competing against my fiance and several other friends and relatives.

The competitive-factor has actually added many other benefits to my life. So, without further ado, here are the ways wearing a Fitbit has improved my quality of life:

1. Obviously, walking more is healthy. I am moving more, which research shows is important not just in working out, but in spending less time sitting down. So, this is the most important and most obvious benefit.
2. My house is cleaner, because when I want to get more steps in at the end of the night I go from room to room tidying up. I can get in a couple of hundred steps just by taking things from room to room to put them away.
3. I take out the trash a lot more. That's around 100 steps by itself. I used to avoid taking out the trash like the plague, but now I see it as an opportunity to squeeze in a few more steps.
4. I walk around my classroom more. This makes me a better teacher, since I am more aware of what all the students are doing and I am able to stop and help them when needed.
5. I watch less TV because I want to get steps in. Last week I went on several short walks and even went on a hike after work, simply because I like to win.
6. I have been walking on more of my errands (grocery store, post office, library, etc.) This is also a benefit for my wallet, since I save on gas.

Anyone else have a Fitbit? If so, let's be friends! I can't wait to beat you compete with you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Re-embracing Frugality

Over the last nine months or so (since I've been debt-free) I've definitely relaxed in the area of frugality. I'm sure I'm still more careful with money than many people out there, but I let loose in a lot of areas. I buy myself clothes, joined boot camp, went to some concerts, and just generally relaxed about money. I don't stick with a budget anymore, though I do keep an eye on my accounts. I am still contributing to my Roth IRA, my house down-payment fund, and saving an additional couple hundred dollars a month to my emergency fund.

Sounds pretty good, right? Enjoying the fruits of my labor, but still making some good choices.

But lately I've realized a few things that have made me realize it's time to get back to some of my more frugal ways.

Realization Number One: Even a budget wedding is still going to cost me quite a bit of money.
In order to pay deposits, pay for our honeymoon, buy my dress, etc. I've used all of the extra money I've stocked away in my e-fund each month, as well as my tax return and a financial gift from my grandma. I still have the same amount I started with when I got engaged, but I haven't been able to save any extra. This would be fine, except that the day of the wedding we are going to owe quite a bit of money to different vendors. As in, I need to have a couple of grand ready to spend on the big day. If I don't start aggressively saving each month, I'm going to have to tap into my savings (e-fund) in order to pay for it. No, it wouldn't drain it completely, but my goal is to keep three months of expenses in there.

Realization Number Two: I really, really want to buy a house.
For a while, I was content to take my time in saving for a house and just see what happens. But, prices are starting to creep up again, and I don't want to get boxed out of the market. I also would like a bigger place for entertaining/having family over for holidays. We're also talking about starting a family, and it would be great to get into a house before we have a kid. So, I definitely don't want to stop contributing to my house down-payment fund, or my Roth IRA (which could also be used to supplement a down payment).

Soooo...back to frugality. Here are a list of things I am going to go back to in order to save more money each month:
1. Make an effort to have ten "no-spend" days per month. This stops me from the little purchases that add up throughout the month.
2. No buying clothes (exceptions include wedding-related events like showers and bachelorette party, but I am going to try to borrow clothes for those). I legitimately need some new clothes since I've lost weight, but I am going to try to hold off on that until after the wedding.
3. No stopping for coffee on the way to work. I want to work on making coffee at home, or--even better--just not drinking it.
4. Rather than buying new shoes for the wedding, I am going to try to get my white wedges repaired and use those. They are super comfy, and just need new insoles.
5. Cook from the pantry...I have a lot of stuff in there, and this would cut down on my grocery bill.

I also called T-Mobile and got my bill lowered, and I am working on being more diligent about my electricity use (though this has never been a huge expense for us).

What other frugal things am I forgetting? It's been a while!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Saving Money for an Out-of-Town Wedding

So, besides planning my own wedding this July, I am also a bridesmaid in my dear friend Shelley's wedding at the end of July (just three weeks after mine). Her wedding is in Oregon, so my fiance (who will be my husband by then!!) and I will be traveling to the wedding shortly after our honeymoon.

I'm thrilled to be a part of Shelley's day, and also thrilled that I have found some ways to save money as a bridesmaid/guest at her wedding. I thought I'd share a few tips for those of you with out-of-town weddings to attend this summer.

First, I bought my bridesmaid dress used from www.bridesmaidtrade.com. I'm not getting any kickback from them for posting this, but I wanted to share this resource. My dress is from David's Bridal, where it would have cost $99+tax. I scored this one for $65 flat. I tried it on in the store so I know my size, and this one was worn once, no alterations made. Seems pretty cool (I'll confirm that when my dress arrives in the next week or so). If the dress does not come as described, you have 48 hours to mail it back for a full-refund.
Savings: $35

Next, Freddie came up with an idea to save us more money. I will fly up on Thursday morning to help and hang out with Shelley. I bought a one-way ticket. Freddie is going to drive his car up to Oregon (a 15 hour drive, yikes) that same day. He'll be there for the weekend, and then we'll drive home together Sunday. We may stay at a cheap hotel on the way home, just to break up the driving. This saves on his plane ticket, my ticket home, and we won't need a rental car. Even after gas, we'll definitely come out ahead on this deal.
Savings: $200-$250

Finally, I started researching places to stay. At first I looked at hotels, but then the bride suggested I look at cottages for rent. The wedding is in wine country, so there are lots of cute places available. I found a two-bedroom, one bath cottage that sleeps four for $135/night. I found two friends that can share it with us, so it ends up being an amazing deal! It also has a kitchen, so we can save money by cooking breakfasts and lunches at the cottage rather than eating out. Score!
Savings: $100 (plus whatever we will save on food...that is a looser number, but definitely cheaper than eating out every meal).

So, we are saving between $335-$385 so far! I'm definitely happy about this, especially since we will just be coming back from our honeymoon and money will be tight. Plus, I think the cottage will be a great place to stay!

How do you save money on out-of-town events? Any other ideas for me?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Money in the Bank

The other day I posted about the wedding expenses so far (and how we're saving money so far). I thought I'd also post an update about how much I've put in my savings for the big day.

My grandma gave me a check for a thousand dollars toward the wedding, which was super nice of her. I deposited that, along with $515 from the weight loss contest I did. My grandma also gave me a bag of coins as a "stocking stuffer" (even though we didn't do stockings this year). That was another $51.11. And then I took in our jar of coins. We started it when we moved in together a year and a half ago. We have occasionally raided it for laundry money, but we've obviously been pretty good about leaving it alone. The total in there was $119.55!
So, for those of you playing at home, the grand total in the wedding budget is $1,685.66. Holla! This is good news, since I need to pay off my dress, the taco guy deposit, and will be paying another $200 deposit this week. Luckily I am still ahead of the game in saving, and will continue to add more from my tax returns, and my regular paycheck as time goes by.

I put the money in with my E-fund for now. As I use it I will transfer it to checking, but I want to keep it somewhere I won't just spend it. I have added another thousand to my E-fund since I stopped blogging, so I am at three and a half months of expenses, plus the wedding budget in there. If it gets too difficult to keep track of, I can start a new account...but I'd rather not since I have money in five accounts already.

Now, I am just chomping at the bit waiting for my W-2's to come so I can do taxes and see what my return will be. Anyone else excited to do taxes? How did you save for your wedding?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Saving & Spending on the Wedding

So, here's how we have saved and spent on our wedding plans thus far...

*We are having our ceremony and reception in a friend's backyard. This saves in obvious ways, since we aren't paying for a venue. It also limits the size of our wedding to about 60 people, which is great. I want a small(ish) wedding, but I know if I had a large venue I'd keep inviting people. By keeping it intimate, we are able to save on table and chair rentals, food, drinks, cake, etc. It also gives us flexibility in what vendors we use. Speaking of...

*The food will be from a "Taco Guy." (Sort of like a Taco Truck, but no truck just a metal grill he brings in to cook three different kinds of meat for tacos, quesadillas, beans, rice, and salsa. We are feeding 60 people a great meal for $390! I had this same guy for my birthday and have attended other parties where he has catered and people always RAVE about the food. During the cocktail hour we are going to set up a nacho bar, which I estimate will cost us another fifty bucks or so.

*We are serving beer and wine (and my friend's Sangria!) but not hard liquor. This will save us money, and since we are in a friend's yard, we can just buy the booze ourselves. I plan on hitting up BevMo during their five cent sale to get the wine. Still need to figure out if a keg or bottles would be cheaper for the beer.

*We booked a photo booth (a splurge that we really wanted) and our DJ together. I saved $200 right off the bat by booking the services from the same company. He was also running a $100 off special for the photo booth, and I saw a $50 off coupon on Yelp. I asked if I could combine offers. He said usually he doesn't, but since I asked he would do it. (ALWAYS ask!) The photo booth will serve as our favor for guests, and our guest book. The attendant will put in a photo of each group and have them write a message next to it. We thought about not hiring a DJ, but we think the night will run a LOT more smoothly if we have one. Also, we would have spent some dough renting the equipment and getting all the music, so I feel good about hiring the DJ. We are spending a total of $900 for both services.


*I bought my dress last week. It's lovely. :) It's a Vera Wang, on sale from David's Bridal (I saved $200). The total was $675, which was a little more than I wanted to spend. However, I love it and I don't think it's too unreasonable. With tax and alterations, I will end up spending about $1,000 total for my dress (ugh). But I am reminding myself of all the other places we've saved.

*This week I mailed deposits for the Taco Guy as well as the DJ/Photo Booth totaling $250.

Tune in tomorrow for an update on how much I have saved/collected for the wedding. And later this week I hope to have an exciting update on how we're saving on our honeymoon...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where is My Wedding Budget Coming From?

I mentioned in the last post that I wanted to keep our wedding under $5,000. That's still a large chunk of change, and I wanted to share how I will be paying for it. Because I like to share all of my personal information on the internet.

So far, here's what I have:
$1,000: coming from generous gift from Grandma :)
$500: winnings from last weight loss contest at the gym (I won first place! Boo-ya!)
$50: Christmas money
$100: Change jar (we've had this going for a year and a half, so I plan on cashing it in for some wedding related expense).

Future plans:
$2,000: Tax return. I don't know exactly how much this will be, but based on previous years I am assuming I'll have about this much to put towards wedding expenses.
$??: Change from Grandma. She gives it to me or my sister as a stocking stuffer each year, but she forgot to bring it on Christmas. It's all her change in a jar and she empties it once a year. No clue the total, but it should be a large chunk of change (literally).
$??: Ideally I will place in the weight loss competition I just joined, although I can't depend on this, of course.

Other than that, I will be pulling money from my regular paycheck to cover the balance. This should be no more than $1500 more dollars over the next seven months, so I that is definitely manageable. I am putting extra money in E-fund each month, but if I have to use some of it that's fine by me. I definitely won't dip below the three month mark at any point, but I already have several savings accounts, so I am not opening a new one for the wedding.

And there you have it. In the coming months, I'll be sharing how we are having a wedding for no more than $5,000. I truly believe it is possible, and that it can be a nice event without busting the bank.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Goals

Some people hate New Year's Resolutions. I LOVE them. Because I like having goals, and I like to think that the month of January makes me suddenly more disciplined. :) Without further ado...

Financial Goals
1. Keep wedding under $5,000.
2. Get at least $10,000 in house fund.
3. Get E-fund up to six months of my part of expenses (four months of total household expenses).

Health Goals
1. Maintain weight/current clothing size until/unless I get pregnant. (Yes, I'm going there).
2. Continue working out at least three days per week.
3. Eliminate soda completely.
4. Only have desserts for wedding related things (cake tasting, wedding cake, cupcakes at shower, etc.) I am trying to conquer my addiction to sugar (the white Satan).

Work Goals
1. Teach Summer School if it is available.
2. Find out if my LACOE salary points from old district can convert into real units for this district.
3. Take three classes to earn units towards a raise.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

More Discipline (But Not Too Much)

So, yesterday I posted about how I am not tracking my spending, using a credit card, and how it's working out famously. Boo-ya!

However, with wedding stuff looming and some savings goals that I still want to make happen, I do want to find ways to save more money.

So, here are some goals for January in order to save more throughout the month:
1. Have 10 No Spend Days. This helps to save on those little mindless purchases, which adds up to more saving throughout the month. It also helps me to plan what I want to spend and run those errands all at once with lists to make sure I don't forget anything. The list also helps me stick to the plan and not buy extra stuff.
2. Cook From the Pantry. My cupboard seems to be overflowing, but I am always buying stuff to make meals. My goal is to sort through what I have and try to make meals without shopping. Tonight I am making Korean beef and Asian salad using all ingredients I have here.
3. Stick to Weight Watchers without Subscribing. I have lost about 10 pounds in the last few months (it was about 13, but then Christmas happened). I didn't renew my subscription, but found some online calculators and would like to follow the plan without the services. This saves about $20 per month, and the fiancé is doing the same thing, so hopefully we can work together on that.
4. Lose Five Pounds. No, not because I'm getting married. But because I joined a second weight loss contest at my boot camp, and the prize money would be AWESOME. :) So, I want to lose at least five pounds this month, and five more before the contest ends in February.

My end-goal is to have at least $200 left over at the end of the month to put into my E-fund ($50 more than I had last month).

What are your goals for January?

Next Up: 2013 Goals

Saturday, January 5, 2013

You'd Better Sit Down For This One...

Okay, hold onto your hats...I'm about to shock you.

1. I got a credit card and am using it ALL THE TIME.

2. I'm not tracking my spending anymore.

3. It's all going really, really well.

So, I decided to get a rewards credit card a few months back. After doing a lot of research, I went with the Capital One Venture Card (the one's with Alec Baldwin on the commercials). I figured I might as well earn points and save money on some of my travels, and this one seemed the most flexible.

My plan was to use the credit card for everything, but keep tracking all my spending as I had been for the last few years.

But then I didn't. I just used the card for my usual expenses, including my cell phone bill, groceries, etc. Basically anywhere that lets me pay with credit card, I use this card to rack up points. I keep an eye on the balance throughout the month, making sure nothing crazy is happening. At the end of the month, I looked at my checking account (which has only a few bills auto-paying out of it), paid the credit card bill in full, and had about $150 extra bucks to put in my emergency fund.

Hmm. That all worked out okay. So I went ahead and did the same thing in December. Lo and behold, the same thing happened. I had about the same amount left over in my checking (even after Christmas spending!), so I transferred it to my emergency fund.

I am still doing several automatic transfers to savings right after payday:
*Summer Saver: this district doesn't pay in August, so I am saving for that)
*Travel Fund: I throw $100 into this every month.
*Roth IRA: I have this set up to max out my $5,000 contribution over the course of the year
*House Fund: Right now I have $500 per month going into this account

Since my E-fund is funded for over three months right now, I am not putting too much in it, just whatever is left over at the end of the month. I wouldn't have thought I could be comfortable not tracking my spending obsessively, but things are working really, really well.

Are you shocked? Want to shame me? Want to punch me for pulling this off? Let me know your thoughts (and that I still have a reader or two out there).

Next post: How I plan to be more disciplined in spending, without tracking every penny.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'm Back, Baby!

Why, Hello.

Happy New Year! I haven't posted in many, many moons. And my "new blog" didn't really happen either. I make no promises that I will keep up blogging daily again, but I do miss writing, so I have decided to pop my head in and write some posts over here.

The biggest news in the last month is that Freddie and I got engaged! Whoo-hoo! He asked me on December 4th, a random Tuesday while we were sitting in the car. The element of surprise was definitely there, as were many nice things, a lot of happy tears (from me of course), and a gorgeous ring. I said yes!

We are planning a simple, backyard wedding in July. My goal is to keep it under $5,000. My grandma has said she will give me $1,000, which is super generous of her. I have enough in my savings to cover the whole event, but my goal is to keep my E-fund at at least the three month level AND keep adding to my house fund. I think this is do-able, but it is making my hard-core PF side perk up.

So, over the next days/weeks/months I want to start updating what's been going on in the PF world of Jessica. I'll also talk wedding on a budget (which will bore some of you, but may be useful for others). I also made goals for 2013, so I'll share those as well.

In other words, I'm back, baby! Anyone still reading?