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'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 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'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,