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” 🙁

Frugal Wednesdays – And We’re Back!

After taking a Wednesday off (for March Break fun) we’re back with another installment of frugal ideas that can work for everyone (nothing extreme, no recommendations of cloth toilet paper or taking one meal a week made primarily of cat food).  Money is on everyone’s minds these days.  Who has it, how to get it, how to keep it, how to spend it and how to save it are the five hot personal finance topics out there right now and while I can’t tell you who has it or how to get it, I can offer tons of ideas about how to keep it, save it and spend it – wisely, frugally and responsibly.  I think it’s Dave Ramsey who fancies sayings “Live like no one else now so that you can LIVE like no one else later.”  I’m not a big DR fan, but he does come up with some excellent ideas and sound bites on occasion.

And now, like sands through the hourglass, there are:

Honey Badger’s Frugal  (and maybe fun?) Wednesday Suggestions

1.  Roll your feet to warm and happy.  No, no, I am the last person who is going to suggest that you take up rollerblading, worry thee not!  No, I’m talking about taking one of those 1 or 2L pop bottles you normally fold up and put in your Blue Box (un, you DO recycle, right?) and re-purposing them to make your feet happier.  Fill the bottle with hot water.  Take a seat.  Roll the bottle back and forth under your feet.  Feel your tension ease.  Feel your feet send you lots of foot love.  Rinse and repeat as often as necessary/desired/awake.

2.  Learn how to cook at home. Even a sub-par fast food meal costs exponentially more than anything you prepare at home.  Let alone fancier restaurant food – the mark up is crazy and the food is often disappointing.  Not to mention potentially full of additives and preservatives that if you prepared it yourself, you could decide to add or avoid.  Either way, I’m not telling anyone what to eat or how to eat it, but it should be a conscious decision that you make as to what you put in your body and what you do not.  I am not the picture of health and fitness, so believe me, this ain’t no skinny chick telling the fatties what to eat, but I am aware of the choice I’m making when I order pizza instead of making it at home.  And that’s all I’m advocating for you too.  Oh, and a simple dinner out at Swiss Chalet for 2 adults and 4 kids, with the kids sharing a meal and two milks, is over $50 plus tip.  To put it in perspective, I feed everyone every meal, for a week for $150.00 or less.  1/3 of what a single meal out costs us.  Say what?!?!?

3.  Get honest about your spending habits.  “Thinking” that you only spend $x.xx on stuff is very different than actually tracking your spending and knowing that you spent $x.xx on stuff.  Want to ‘find’ $20.00 a month?  Track everything, I bet you end up finding a lot more than $20 that you’ve been literally throwing away each and every month.  Try it.  It’s a real eye opener and I won’t lie, it can be very painful to see it all in black and white.  Stop giving your hard-earned money away for little-to-no value in return.

4.  Follow the rules.  Yes, I know that you’re in a hurry and that where you need to be is far more important than where I need to be and more important than something so arbitrary as a speed limit but is the fine worth the extra two minutes you make in time?  And, come to think of it, the 15 or more minutes you sit by the side of the road waiting for your lecture and your pricey ticket costs you much more time that actually following the posted speed limit would have. And the wear and tear on your vehicle and the costly repairs will only hit your wallet and send your mechanic and his family on a European vacation on your dime.  If you’re in a hurry, leave earlier.  Stop terrorizing everyone on the road and beating your car into the ground.  It’s not rocket science and for the sake of not paying ‘Stupid tax’ for your haste, by way of fines, repair bills, your obviously very valuable time, and insurance premiums, are the costs and potential risks really worth it?  Follow the rules, be considerate of other drivers – and their cars, their time, and most importantly, their safety.  It is never the wrong choice and it will save you time, money and good karma points!

5.  Take the time to praise, not just to complain.  When you get really great service, a really wonderful deal, have a noteworthy experience, praise those responsible.  If your cashier at the grocery store was friendly and professional, smiled and said hello and thank you, stop for a second and tell the manager that she made you trip to his store better that day.  You would make the time to find the manager if the cashier had been rude and surly, so make the time to point out the good stuff too.   The horror stories of deals gone wrong and poor service and it’s important that bad experiences be shared, of course it is, but it is equally important to share the good stuff too.  When a business or a person goes out of their way to make your day or experience a little better, pay it forward by giving credit where credit is due.  It builds good will and good energy that will attract more positive, good experiences to come your way. 🙂

What are your favourite frugal or resource saving tips or tricks?  Share, share!

March Goal List – Keeping Me Real

I’m a list person.  I like to have lists for everything.  I have notebooks of all sizes and shapes full of lists.  Something about crossing something off my list makes me happy.  Sometimes too happy, I worry.  I don’t always get everything on my list done in a day.  So I bump it to the next day.  And being a world champion procrastinator, this can mean that I still have “bag/box winter outerwear and store” on my list in July.  Sad?  Yes.  True?  Yes again.  So, it would appear that I need to remove my ‘permission’ to bump things on my list because it’s just too easy to ‘do it tomorrow’ when you know that said ‘tomorrow’ will never come.  So, from here on out, my ‘list bumping’ permission is revoked.  SOB!

So, I suppose my first goal would have to be to stick to my lists and see them through to the bitter end.

Honey Badger’s March Goals (’cause this may hurt a mite, and HB don’t care)

Figure out how to have at least one Date Night a month (with Mr. KB, of course *grin*) – This one is at the top of my goal list and that is not a coincidence.  Mr. KB and I really do love to spend time together, we have fun together, laugh with (and at) each other and usually genuinely really like one another and that’s why it makes us both sad that we never (ok, it’s maybe been a handful of times fo the past year) get to go out alone together anymore. And like any couple, we need time together to just be a couple.  Our babysitting budget isn’t big, but I think we can make it stretch to at least one night out a month and I do have a lead on a recommended teenager in our area so I really just need to bite the bullet, set it up and go, go, go! 

Meal Plan weekly – This one thing, that takes less than 10 minutes a week, is one of the biggest time and money savers.  I can’t rave about it enough.  And I apparently can’t remember to do it enough either.  So, here it’s listed and the list reigns supreme.

Update Excel sheets daily – I’m currently tracking every penny that we spend in order to see where the leaks, craters and gaps are in our budget.  I’m also tracking coupon savings and sale price savings to make sure that it’s not cost us more than it’s saving us to shop this way.

Call and /or email my parents et al. at least once a week – I’m bad for this.  I know that.  As much as I love my parents, my days seem to get away from me far too often and so I don’t check in with them as often as I should.  And I really don’t like that and want to change it.  So, I’m setting it as a goal.

Wash, dry, and fold one load of laundry each night – This sounds excessive, I know.  But this household is a laundry mecca.  There is always laundry waiting around here.  To be washed, to be dried, to be folded, to be put away – there is always laundry in one of these categories, so I’m just trying to get a handle on it so I’m controlling it and not the other way around!  And, I only do laundry at night because of the Time of Use electricity rates.  Doing our laundry at night (after 7pm) makes a HUGE difference in our hydro bill at the end of the month.  Pennies add up quickly, especially when subjected to HST!

Shop only two days a week, maximum – I covered most of this in my February budget update post, but it bears repeating.  The  more times I go to the store, the more money I spend (even with buying everything on sale, with coupons, etc.).  I need to make my list, be organized about it my shopping trick and stick to my list like white on rice (and I still don’t know that the hell that expression is supposed to mean.  Can anyone fill me in?).

Spend more time having fun with my kids – I’m with my kids all the time.  I mean it.  I’m always with them.  But I often forget to play with them because I’m so busy doing “stuff” that “needs” to get done.  Yes, everything I do needs to get done, but if I can get a handle on my time management skills, work a little smarter, then I’ll be able to do more playing with my kids, because they are my priority and they are all growing up sooooo quickly – and we all need that fun time together. 

Continue to prepare for our upcoming move – Time is flying by.  Our closing is in six weeks and we have A LOT to do before and after that date.  We’re moving two weeks after closing, so I need to come up with a very detailed project plan to make sure that we get everything done that we need to get done before we move our kids into the new house.  This is a BIG job, and we’ll get it all done, but I really don’t want to fly by the seat of our pants.  Doing so just adds too much to our stress levels 😉

Stay on Budget – I really want to save every penny we can right now.  Our expenses are about to go up (moving, running a bigger house, etc.) and I want to be prepared for them.  I need to think critically about everything that we purchase and make sure to categorize it as either a “need” or a “want.”  True “needs” will be purchased.  “Wants” will be noted and left behind.  In order to get what we really WANT (our new home, the way we want it), the smaller ‘wants’ are going to have to go unanswered, at least for now

Quit my diet pop habit – I love, love, love me some Diet Pepsi.  But, I know that it’s not good for me and I won’t let my kids drink pop or any kids, and it makes me feel like a total hypocrite when I drink it in front of them.  And I don’t like feeling like a hypocrite.  So, I’mma gonna quit that noise.  Not today, but this week.  For sure.

I know that there are many, many other things that I need to focus on this month, but this list will have to do for now. 

What about you?  Do you make a track goals regularly or do you fly by the seat of your pants and hope it all comes together?

My Couponing and Shopping The Sales Challenge. The February Results

Okay.  So.  Ya, well, um, ya.  I think I’m a dismal failure (again) this month *thud*

Back on February 1st, I posted my shopping goals for the upcoming month.  They were good goals.  They were noble goals.  They were goals, that appear to have been WAY out of my reach.

But it’s not entirely my fault (ya right, chica, ain’t nobody believing that story again).  No, but really!  Who could have predicted a product pairing that gave you TWO full-sized products which would normally cost anywhere from $2.49 to $3.49 EACH would go on sale for $2.49 for BOTH and that you (or, I, in this case) could match it with a $.75 coupon and end up paying $1.74 – or, half the price of ONE of the items?  I mean, come on now!  And yes, these were both products that my family goes through A LOT of – because my family is awesome and there’s just no helping that.

What can I say? My kids are budget conscious creatures too, I guess.

But, all besides the point.  The point is that I completely blew the budget and the number of shopping days/trips challenge, LARGE.

My grocery budget goal to feed and keep clean my family of feral (but totally awesome) monkeys (and man) was (and is) $500.00 a month.

To recap, here were January’s stats:

Coupon savings – $337.33
Shopping the Sale Price savings – $321.59
Over Budget – $265.33 (Ouch!)
Number of Shopping Days – 7 (Opps!)

and here are February’s stats:

Coupon savings – $208.98
Shopping the Sale Price Savings
– $469.99
Over Budget – $128.90
Number of Shopping Days –
15 (or, embarrassingly enough, more than TWICE January’s number)

Ok, now I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking that I actually did better  this month than I did last month.  And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, I’ll give you that.  But I shopped on 15 out of 29 days of the month – that’s over HALF.  That’s too much.  My challenge isn’t just to save money, but it’s to save resources and time and these stats show that I spent way too many of both this month.

A new month is starting tomorrow.  I better get my ducks in a row, because there are 31 days and I definitely don’t want to spend half of them shopping. 😉

For March, my goals include: $500 grocery budget and spend only part of 6 days of the month spending it 🙂

Are you tracking your spending/savings?  How are you doing?  What do you track and how strict are you with yourself?

I’m not an extreme couponer, but

I do love me some coupons!  For 2012 I have decided to track just how much money I am saving our family by shopping sales, ad matching and using coupons.  I’ll post my monthly totals on the last day of the month (if I’ve done the final shopping for the month).  My hope is that posting, it will keep me motivated and accountable.  I’m trying to shop once a week, although I’ve kind of rationalize the weekend into being one day, so in reality, for the past two weeks, I have shopped on both Saturday and Sunday 😉  And, for honesty’s sake, I will be shopping once more this week for milk and a few other super sale items, mostly likely at Wal-Mart in town.

All this, and $12 in coupons for FREE delivered via UPS! And using said coupons resulted in more free and almost free Kellogg's products 😉 Thank you Kellogg's!

I’m tweaking our grocery budget and trying to get it as low as possible and still have lots of fresh, healthy food for everyone.  Note:  The free swag cereals are not ones that I have ever purchased (we’re all about the Shreddies, Special K and Cheerios around here) and I don’t think that sugar cereals actually are good breakfast choices, so we’ll use them for treats and snacks 🙂  The Gluten Free Rice Krispies will either be eaten as is or made into the never nutritious but always delicious Rice Krispie squares 😉

It’s just too easy to spend oodles of money at grocery stores, especially when one (um, ok, I) like to need to have a relatively healthy stockpile of everything my family uses and eats.  It practically gives me heart palpitations to run completely out of something – probably because I know if it’s not on sale that week that I’ll have to pay, gasp!,  full price 😉  But no, I don’t have rooms full of shelves full of cereal, chocolate bars and Gatorade, that just ain’t how Honey Badger rolls *grin*

In other news, Mr. KB and the three youngest boys went somewhere very new, fun and exciting yesterday.  As soon as I have the pictures, I’ll share 🙂  Moon and I had our own adventures yesterday too, no pictures to share, but we had lots of laughter and fun too (thank you again and again, Mel!) 🙂