Money Woes Lead to Money, Whoa! – The Results

A week has passed. Here’s a breakdown of how the ‘no-spend, no-shop’ week went:

Monday

Spent entire $30 budget (plus $0.76 on yogurt, raspberries, milk, eggs, shortening and sugar). Hmmmm. This is not awesome. Will have to make it last and make it work. I know I can do it. Best I stay in the house as much as possible.

Ran all errands first thing in the morning. Returned an online shopping purchase that was not suitable (free, paid-for returns = zero cost to me), picked up above-noted bits and pieces and delivered something to one of the children’s schools. Then home again and stayed put.

While at home, I dug out the glue gun and repaired the kids’ bathroom hand mirror that had fallen apart months ago and as been sitting collecting dust, waiting for me to fix. Done! Made beef stew in the pressure cooker while the vegetarian chilli cooked in the slow cooker, both made with ingredients entirely on hand (no spending!).

Worked in my office, paying bills, updating various projects and compiling various items to sell and items to donate.

In the evening, I had to attend a parents’ meeting for one of the kids sports teams, so a trip to Sutton was necessary (darn!).

Overall, Monday was a win.

Tuesday

Did not drive anywhere = no gas used (yay!).

Hung the laundry to dry from the night before.

Made tacos for dinner, using tortillas from the freezer rather making fresh (preventing freezer burn = no waste = yay!).

Sold two items on Varagesale (budget booster!).

Purchased a few Christmas presents online, budgeted for and free shipping.

The weather cleared up in the afternoon, so I went for a walk. A half-hour out of the house and in the open air was good for my soul (no monetary savings, but great gains for my mental health!).

Hanging laundry and weeping willows. Same, but different.

Wednesday

Followed the menu plan, used the slow cooker and added rice for my non-potato eater. All lunches were made at home (x6).

Volunteered at one of the kids’ schools, so had to use the car. While out, also picked up much needed UV light bulb for the water treatment system. This was a budgeted for purchase.

Logged onto the library website to confirm due dates for our borrowed items to ensure no overdue fees will be incurred.

Thursday

This is always a high car-usage day. Tutoring, soccer, yoga (Miss M, not I), so my limited use of the vehicle was blown to bits today. I did however make everyone lunch and dinner, (well, I provided leftovers, since our fridge was over-flowing with them so it seemed less than thrifty to prepare yet another meal when we were so well situated for a ‘choose your own adventure’ meal night).

As always, I didn’t use the clothes dryer and hung the clothes to dry (or hanged? I don’t know, I didn’t kill them, I just dried them. Sigh. Whatever).

Overall, spending is at a all-time (ok, recent) low although I am BEYOND annoyed that the  printer ink that I ordered last week (before this spending freeze) has been held hostage by Canada Post for the entire week now. And before you ask, I did send (maybe a snarky) Tweet to CP requesting my inks release. This was my follow-up Tweet:

Annnnnnnd, no replies. Go figure. No answer to go with my no ink situation.

Friday

Jumped in the minivan to attend the Remembrance Day assembly at one of my smalls’ schools. So glad that I could be there, but it chokes me up every single time. I guess that’s a good thing, proves my heart has not yet turned completely to stone.

Did NOT follow the meal plan today (although I pulled everything out of the freezer in time to do so). Mr. KB came home WAY early from work (fire in one of the adjoining offices – all was fine, no worries) and suggested (or perhaps just said) “pizza?” And I jumped on that like it was the last train to Clarksville and said “I’ll order!” Frugal challenge FAIL. But oh so delicious in my belly, nom nom, so = WIN?

Saturday

Back on track(ish). Made dinner (used Friday night’s plan) WIN!

But…

Also headed out afterwards to pick up eggs, Diet Pepsi (stop judging me), and butter – damn you Shoppers Drug Mart and your “One Day Only” sales. Either I spent on Saturday, or spent almost $7.00 more buying the exact same items on Monday. So, I justified the heck out of it and spent the money. Still though, used two free product coupons, so the total was under $19.00. I have decided to call it a ‘winnish’ and just give myself permission to live my life.

Used the minivan twice today, once to Mass and once for my rogue shopping trip. Could have combined the trips into one (heading to SDM after church), but the children were acting particularly punchy and kicky, so decided it was probably best to feed them sooner rather than later (4:00pm Mass means we’re close to dinner time when we get home). Survival of the small people = WIN Cost of that survival = Extra trip out in vehicle.

Sunday

Mr. KB came up with the awesome idea of taking the kids up to Orillia to walk the boardwalk and explore. It was chilly but such a nice day to be out. Then he treated us to lunch (so I didn’t hurt the budget – yay!).

My smalls failing at being small but winning at being strong, smart and caring humans. 4/5 of my ❤️

After that, it was home to work around the house and bake some goodies for the week’s lunch prep. Also, made dinner using up the rest of our chicken and potato leftovers, along with some frozen veggies with a side of baking powder biscuits, we had a pseudo-chicken pot pie.

Conclusion

While I did manage to reduce our weekly shopping greatly, I did exceed my $30 goal. That said, between not needing to gas up the minivan and not spending $200 on groceries, I feel really good about how much I was able to help our budget. This week, I will need to replenish some of our fresh food options, since we are starting to run perilously low on apples (since the kids tend to go through approximately 24 pounds of them a week, including core weight, lol). I will also continue to use what we have on-hand, in the freezer and find creative ways to ensure that our food waste continues to be as low as possible.

While not using the clothes dryer is a bit of a pain, I know that I will see the savings on our next hydro bill from not running it six times a week (although always during off-peak times, it still really adds up).

Next, I think I may try to cut back on the dishwasher to every other night and wash the dishes by hand on the ‘off’ night. I know that it will save a ton of water and an hour of running the dishwasher and hot water heater (the ‘normal’ cycle takes an hour in this ancient machine). Bottom line, there is still work for me to do in order to tweak and boost and stretch the budget. 💁🏼‍♀️

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.

 

Money Woes Lead to Money, Whoa!

Yes, I’m exaggerating. I don’t have actual money ‘woes’ (bills are paid, everyone is well-fed, clothed, entertained and the future is being saved for) but I did notice that some of my budget categories are climbing a lot faster than I can juggle the money around make them all happy again. So, in the grande scheme of woes, this is a small one, I’ll admit, but it causes me stress so I’m pumping the brakes and saying “whoa!” to the spending.

Of course, right before Christmas is a wonderful time to stop spending, that I realize, but with climbing food prices, gas prices and growing children, I think it’s time to revisit my days of yore when needs and wants were very clearly defined and gratification was delayed in the name of frugality.

This week is now a “no shopping/out of pocket spending” week. There are regular bills that need to be paid and I have allowed $30 for fresh produce and milk (if we run out), but nothing else. All meals will be prepared at home using what I have on-hand and I have already worked out the menu for the week (posted below). Between the gas savings and the grocery/household purchase savings, I think that we should (conservatively) save around $250 just by staying out of the grocery store, taking fewer trips in the minivan and using up some of the stockpile in the freezer.

I have also implemented a few other cost-savings strategies. I have set up our drying rack, so the clothes dryer has already been dormant all week (save for once, yesterday, when I did use it to dry a comforter cover that is too large for the rack). Our dryer is 21 years-old, so you know it’s a hydro hog. I also decided a while back, to stop spending the big bucks are ready-to-eat baby carrots and bought a few big bags of regular carrots (at a fraction of the price). Peeled and chopped, the kids will eat them in their school lunches just as happily as they ate the pricier ones. Taking advantage of all of the various berry sales, price matching (and coupling them with Driscoll’s coupons) has also helped to procure fresh produce for far less.

I admit to having hit the ‘Easy Button’ for dinner a little too often in the past couple of months, but I’ve tossed that button out the window now and have a solid plan in place (the plan mostly involves me not being a lazy numpty and making ALL of our meals, pretty sophisticated plan, yes?).

Dinner Menu Plan (including vegetarian options)

Sunday – Pasta with vodka sauce and garlic bread
Monday – Beef stew and vegetarian chili
Tuesday – Tacos and taco salad w/o meat
Wednesday – Chicken, potatoes,  peas and corn
Thursday – Tuna casserole
Friday – Burgers (choice of beef or black bean patties), fries and veggies
Saturday – Pizza and panzerotti night
Sunday – Spaghetti with garlic bread

Lunches are always homemade, various sandwiches, bagels, cereals, salads or last night’s leftovers. Yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables and applesauce (and whatever Halloween candy the kids have managed to hold on to – lol!) are included for snacks.

So, this week started yesterday (Sunday) and will end next Sunday. I’ll post the update on Monday (even if I fail miserably) and I will be sure to include the other cost-cutting measures that I remember or figure out to try throughout the week and whether or not any of these measures resulted in any savings (real or imagined).

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.

 

 

The results of my 30-day spending freeze

Are not so much good. But I did learn some things over the past 30 days that have been helpful and I can use to re-evaluate my budget and spending.

I realized that the only way our family functions without accumulating debt is largely due to:

1) Mr. KB’s amazing talent of being able to fix anything and everything for a fraction of the price of hiring the job out or buying a new beebob;

2) My constant awareness and ability to plan for and predict future needs for our family and, for the most part, have provisions in place to cover these needs;

3) Stockpiling food and other consumables through price-matching, couponing and attention to detail (even though this means that I make the actual shopping trip(s) less about fun and more about function);

4) Ensuring that I maintain separate budget lines and accounts to cover most expenditures – both expected and unexpected, large and small. My one oversight, I have learned was not having a new-to-us car fund started to buy a replacement daily driver. Getting on this now so maybe when the need arises (as we expect it to in the near future), there will be some money available to help fund the purchase.

5) Our combined efforts to make purchasing decisions based on function and price/cost rather than impulse and glitter.

We are so fortunate that we can largely be a one-income household (because can you believe that no one is paying me to write? No, really. I can’t believe it either. Gaw.) Our combined contributions and talents make this possible and while we don’t pack up the family for a week in the Caribbean or Disneyland every winter, we do have family vacations, go to movies, go out for dinner, the kids participate in school pizza days, we hit at least one town fair a year, have swimming and dance lessons, take in a couple of big Rogers Centre events a year, and summers include cruise nights and beach days. And we do it all without racking up expensive, soul-crushing, consumer debt. We use credit cards for the points, gas discounts or other freebies and never carry a balance. If Murphy has been a particularly big bastard, I cut back in other areas to make up the difference without tapping into credit.

These past thirty days have not been the big money-saving adventure that I envisioned it would be. But, staying aware of our family spending and making sure that I’m creating balance, between saving and shopping has been useful. Did I follow all of my original parameters? No. I didn’t. When I find flip-flops for the kids at 75% off, spending 25% of the money now, rather than 100% of the money next summer just makes sense for the way our family and budget works.

Luckily though in terms of reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ I did quite well this past month. We tossed and donated a lot of clothing, household goods and toys. We still have more to go through, but we made a great start at it. Was I sad to say good-bye to some of the clothing that I’ve been hanging on to for ‘one day’? Yes, but the lightness I felt seeing my newly tidied closet and easily closing drawers more than made up for those sad feelings.

The next 30 days, I’m going to work on continuing to reduce our ‘stuff’ Broken or outgrown toys need to go, VHS tapes that no longer play need to go, outgrown clothing needs to go. With this many people in a house, hanging on to every single thing is not reasonable or plausible. I’m all for fame and fortune but the last place that I need to find that fame is on an episode of “Hoarding: Buried Alive” 🙁

Another day, another self-inflicted challenge designed to increase my awesomeness. Or to reduce my already limited sanity. Same thing.

I know. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Increase my awesomeness? Reduce my sanity? It just cannot be done. I hear you, I do. But stay with me on this one, just for a minute.

Ha! I jest because I’m a fool. But it is another day. And I have decided to challenge myself to do something for the next 30 days. But it has nothing to do with my awesomeness (or lack thereof). No. This challenge has a few objectives, but mainly:

  1. To slow the rate of speed at which things (stuff, crap, treasures of little to no value) accumulate in our home;
  2. To use or re-purpose items we already own rather than introduce something else into our space, and to widdle down our current stockpile without adding to it;
  3. To save money;
  4. To follow through with an initiative that I decide to start (other than marriage, kids, work, etc) for longer than two weeks. I’m committing to 30 days initially, and then will re-evaluate to see what’s working, what hurts, what I need to change and what I need to continue going forward;
  5. To prove (to myself) that I can stay on task and on point when it comes to something not terribly fun but still important.

The challenge? No shopping. The only exceptions are: groceries (within budget only), prescriptions (if needed), back-to-school or seasonal clothing or shoes to fill in the gaps that their constant growing has created in the kids’ wardrobes (I have an abundance of ‘nothing to wear’ in about eight sizes, so I shall survive no matter what the weather throws at me). Also excluded from the spending freeze are items NEEDED to repair the house when I break it (as happens a little far too often). Other than those exceptions – no shopping. No picking up that clearance tee-shirt, cute picture frame or that awesome Hello Kitty notebook. No toys, no clothing, or knick knacks or kitchen stuffs. No electronics or entertainment. If it costs money and is a tangible doo-dad – it’s a no go for this chica for the next 30 days. Now, in the interest of fairness, I am going to have to host a birthday party for two my boys during these thirty days, but I have that cash set aside and it should not result in any non-consumables coming into our home.

Believe me, I would love to make the challenge longer, but I’m a chicken-shit at heart and while I feel fairly confident that I can pull this off for 30 days, the thought of trying, at least at this moment, much longer than that makes me feel nauseous and anxious. So, in the spirit of being a bit more gentle on my pathetic, wimpy self, I’ve decided to start with 30 days and go from there.

It will take better planning on my part, a little more creativity, and a lot of willpower to stick with only the necessities and not load up on the ‘deals.’ I’ll just need to remind myself often that the deals will still be there in thirty days. And then sob like a baby when that amazing hair conditioner never goes on clearance again and I missed my last chance to get it for nearly free (with a coupon!). But I’ll recover. It’s what I do.

This challenge is to begin on Saturday, September 26th and finish on Monday, October 26th. I will document just how many times I struggle to stay on track and how it is making me FEEL to not spend, to miss a deal, to have to leave something behind, to have to let a coupon expire, unused. Because I suspect that I am using accumulating things to avoid dealing with my FEELINGS. Because dealing with feelings is no fun and buying five bottles of dish soap for next to nothing is SO much fun.

And so let the adventure begin.

 

**UPDATED** My Hydro Savings Experiment and Challenge Starts Today

It is no secret.  I hate our Ontario Hydro bill.  But I really love having all of the modern convenience electricity allows me to have – like a washing machine, a laptop, my Kitchen Aid mixer, you know, just the staples of my everyday life *grin*  But, I really do resent it when our hydro bill just goes up, up, up and it seems like no matter how much I cut, how much I reduce, and what changes I make, that no significant difference is made in our bottom line.  Why?   Time of Use billing is a pain in the ass, making it necessary to make my working day even longer, as running bigger, harder working appliances before 7pm is akin to shredding our dollars while pointing a 100w spot light directly into the sun.  Stupid, see?  So, I am always thinking of things to try in order to reduce our usage and ultimately our bill.  I would like to say that my primary motivation is to reduce our ‘footprint’ but I would be lying and I really trying to stop that *grin*, so I will openly admit that my true motivation is to wrestle our monthly bills lower.

So, I hang all the laundry from as early in the year as possible until October/November.  The dryer does not see a day of use during that time.  I have, up until the last two weeks, washed all dishes by hand, no dishwasher.  I turn off power bars, lights, unplug things and we do not run the central air conditioning, for we have found it only keeps the main floor livable and the upper floor (where the bedrooms are) is still a sauna.

A daily sight at our house 🙂

The result?  It still feels like we spend far too much for hydro – and it’s only summer!  When the days get shorter and it gets darker earlier and too cold to hang laundry, the cost is only going to increase.  So I figured out that I really need to know what is and what is not saving us money on our hydro bill.

Maiden Savings Experiment – Doing The Dirty (Dishes, that is!)

I read somewhere that using the dishwasher once a day at off-peak times would save money over hand washing dishes all day long (six people produce a LOT of dishes over the course of a day).  I wash dishes after breakfast, morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner and bedtime snacks (when the smalls have them).  And I use HOT water to clean my dishes.  I scald my hands in the water, but washing them in cold water just feels wrong and like I’m not really cleaning them, just moving the junk around on them, you know?  So that means that in addition to my high-peak time frame shower, I’m firing up the hot water heater at least six times a day to wash dishes.  That MUST be more expensive than using hot water all in one shot, during off-peak pricing to wash a single load of dishes in the dishwasher, no?  I do not know the answer anymore, so I’m going to try to find out.

Starting today (Tuesday) I will go back to hand washing all the dishes, as I always have.  I will record our hydro usage for the day, including the cost of hydro every day for five week days.  So, because this week had a stat holiday on Monday, I’ll record Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday.  Then, on next day, I will use the dishwasher after 7pm for the next five week days and record our usage and cost for those five days.  All of our other ‘hydro habits’ will stay the same for this period of time.  At the end of the two weeks, I’ll post the results for all to see.

The battle begins, only one can win. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

To be honest though, I have enjoyed my hiatus from the near constant dish washing so I am just a little, teeny, tiny, eensey-weensey bit hoping the dishwasher proves to be a cost saving measure, but either way, I’ll be painfully and brutally honest with my reporting.  The only one it can hurt is, well, me. 😉

So, I am off now, to empty the dishwasher for the last time and then get elbow-deep in piping hot dishwater to wash up our breakfast dishes. 🙂

Now, now, don’t be a hater, we can’t all live the glamorous life of the Keswick Blogger *grin*

Have a good day, ya’ll!

UPDATED (many moons later)

I ran the experiment as outlined above.  And then realized that our hot water tank was leaking like a bastard.  And that it was probably using far more hydro than necessary because of it being a p.o.s.  So, mid-way through the experiment, Mr. K.B. installed a new hot water tank (have I mentioned lately how handy he is?).  And then I started again.  And I checked our usage every morning and honestly, running the dishwasher once a day, during off-peak hours is NOT any more expensive than washing our dishes throughout the day, by hand.  And except for the fact that I have SO MUCH EXTRA time on my hands by NOT washing dishes four to six times a day, I’m kind of weighing in pro-dishwasher right now.

I still hand wash pots and pans, and anything that I need immediately (usually my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer bowl!) or anything I’m not certain will survive the dishwasher.

Oh, and if you forget to turn the dishwasher off BEFORE the dry cycle (which is the smart, frugal and KB-way) and you let the dishes cook inside to dry, just know that little kid plastic plates do NOT fare well.  They get all kinds of warpy and stupid looking.  And then they are not even decent frisbees.  What a waste!

But, back to Hydro – the biggest savings I can see is from hanging up all the laundry for those months (and today!) and forgetting that we had a clothes dryer.  Just doing that one small thing easily knocked around $20 a month off of hydro bill without me getting dish-pan hands in the mean time = Win!