Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Frugal Tuesday Tip: Never Pay Retail

After taking the Dave Ramsey course, Financial Peace University, his saying..."NEVER pay retail" sticks in my head. Dave teaches that you should never, never pay retail price for an item.  I can't say as if I follow this 100% of the time but most times, I check for a coupon or a discount.

My tip this week is one that resulted in a $345 discount on something we had to buy anyway.  We are in the process of purchasing another house (more on that later) and our home inspection needed to be done.  I called 3 places and got prices from each. 1 place charged $300, one was $325 and one was $345.  Our realtor highly suggested we hire the $345 guy so after I had gotten all of the prices, I called the highest price one back and asked if he'd price match our $300 offer.  He said that he doesn't usually do that but asked who we were working with.  I told him our realtor's name and the inspector said, "Oh, I have a deal for you then. I gave all of my realtors a coupon to use for 1 free inspection when I started my business and she hasn't used hers yet.  It needs to be used soon so I'll go ahead and do yours for free."

SCORE!!  I just saved us $345 on the spot by simply asking if he could price match.  I do it all the time.  Walmart price matches so I take ads in there and price match items almost every week.  I just helped my brother save $600 on a kitchen table set by calling 5 other places and finding the lowest priced one.  I called back to the store he originally looked at the table at and low and behold, they had a 110% price match guarantee so not only did they match the lowest, they took an extra 10% off of that.

I bet I save thousands of $$ each year by never paying RETAIL!  :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

31 Days of Nothing--Week 4 Update

It has officially been 4 weeks now since we have set out to spend no extra money.  It's been easy and hard, all at the same time.  Most of all, it has allowed us to appreciate what God has given us.  It has also made us realize how much unnecessary purchasing we do.  We don't go out and buy fancy new cars or lavish things, but we do squander money often. 

Here is how we did this week:

1.  I spent 25.57 on Groceries this week topping out our grocery budget at just over $100.  $101.xx is what our Mint account says in the grocery category.  I COULD be done with groceries for the month since we only have 4 days left to survive on what we have but I am going to go get a few things today.  Mainly because our Hy-Vee is having a pretty good 3 days sale with DOUBLE coupons.  Doubles are rare in my area so when they have it, I have to take advantage.  Also, when I budgeted for $100, I forgot to take into consideration that I needed a few non-grocery items (diapers, detergent, etc.) so I'll be happy if I can keep it around $125.

2.  We spent 0 in gas this week and we still have 1/4 of a tank left.  Other than driving 20 miles for groceries, I don't have any plans to drive anywhere so this should last keeping us at $70 even for the month.  We are blessed to have less than a mile (round trip) to drive our son to daycare and to work and home everyday so we don't need a lot of gas for everyday use.  This was one of the major attractions to us relocating from city to small town because we were spending over $400 a month on gas alone with our city commutes.

3.  I didn't sell much this week but J did find a check in his desk at work for $50 that had been there since November.  Who forgets about a $50 check?  My husband. :)  I did have one lady pick up something for $7 so with this + the found money....puts at $607 for the month going into the get-out-of-the-trailer-fund.  Yippee!

4. We did go out to eat on Wednesday but my brother picked up the tab.  J helped him with a couple of his online math classes so he was paying us back for that.  It was really a treat to be able to eat out.  I def. appreciated it more than I usually do when I eat out.  :)

 I will have to do a little bit of spending this weekend to prepare for Austin's birthday.  I think I'm going to attempt to make the cake myself.  I've budgeted $100 for his party and since his birthday is in February, that is when I will categorize this spending.

That is it.  Other than our normal bills and tithing at church, we haven't spent "extra" money this week. I can't wait to see how everyone else who is doing the challenge did this week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

31 Days of Nothing--Week 3 Update

Week 3 of our No Spend Challenge is OVER!!!  It's actually gotten easier each week, which is odd because I'd think that it would be getting harder.  Everyone is adjusting well to it and it is really helping to make us realize all we are blessed with and give thanks to God, daily, for those blessings!

Here is our week in a nutshell.

1.  No groceries. I am almost out of milk, bread, and produce and I have some pop coupons to use up so I am going to the store this weekend.  I only have $30 of my budgeted $100 left so I'll have to be selective but I think I can do it. With some price-matching at Walmart, I think I can get everything I need in our budgeted amount.

2.  We spent another $35 in Gas....totaling $70 for the entire month.  If my calculations are correct, this should last us the rest of the month or close to it.  Our tank is between 3/4 and full and we don't have any trips planned besides our normal grocery store, work, church, and bible study driving but that isn't much.

3. I did buy a toaster this week.  Ours is on the fritz and a co-worker was selling a nice stainless steel one for $5 so I went ahead and bought it.  I figured it would save me $20+ in the near future so I figure I could spare a few extra bucks.

5.  I met a few other people this week to get things picked up that I sold on the Garage Sale website.  My total right now for things sold is....$549.77.  I'm VERY happy with this number.  It has helped pad our get-out-of-the-trailer fund and declutter our house.  

4. When we went to the ballgame the other night, I found $18 in my jeans pocket.  Score!

5.  I am so proud of my family.  We have gone to 7 ballgames this month and no one has asked for a treat or anything.  They know it's No-Spend January and they are really embracing it.  I'm VERY proud of them.  It's been fun to do this challenge together.

I'm extremely happy for our progress thus far.  11 more days.  I'm very thankful that everyone has been healthy (or at least not required a Dr. visit) and we haven't had any other unexpected expenses.  God is GOOD!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blessing: Our Trailer

This is a post I've been wanting to do for awhile but honestly, it's an emotional topic for me so I've put it off.

In August 2010, our family left our more-than-comfortable suburban living in Clive, IA to take new jobs in my hometown of Newell.  We took jobs without a place to live thinking, we will worry about that later.  We wanted to sell our Clive house, before we deciding what to do about housing in Newell.  After having our house on the market for 3 months, we took it off and decided to rent it out.  The market was (and is) flooded in Des Moines and we weren't interested in writing a check for someone to buy our house.

So, this left us with limited options as far as where to live in Newell.  Renting was really the only option.  Plus, we really just wanted to rent just to make sure it was going to work out. Well--finding a 3+bedroom rental in Newell is about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack.

My mom and sister kept a lookout for us on things that would come open but nothing ever did. Finally, 1 week before we were scheduled to move here, we decided to look at at 2 bedroom duplex owned by a friend of my Grandmother. We looked at it and I was totally depressed to imagine us fitting our family-of-four and plus stuff from our 2000 sq. foot house in this tiny 2 bedroom duplex.  While we were looking at it, Grandma's friend said her nephew had a 3 bedroom house trailer in town that he had recently moved out of and was wanting to sell, but would rent it out if we were desperate.

Well, desperate would have been an understatement knowing there were 7 DAYS until our Clive renters moved in.  So, off we went to look.  As she was describing it, it sounded ideal.  2 car attached garage, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths.  Perfect. We walked into the house that my grandma's friend so kindly showed us that day and I'm not going to lie....It was also depressing.  It's literally a double wide trailer house with a porch and a 2 car garage.

A few of the highlights?  The kitchen is circa 1970 with pretty brown and yellow flowered floor, orange counter tops, and 1/4 of the amount of kitchen storage that my Clive house had.

Other highlights include painted wood paneled walls, polyester curtains and yup, you guessed it....a redwood deck.  But--it was a "house" and at the right price tag of $400 a month.

So, after a few days of mind grappling disbelief that we were ACTUALLY doing this.  We were actually leaving our $200,000+ suburban house in La-La-Land to move to a double wide trailer house that was too embarrassing to take pictures of to show my friends.

But--being the frugal-loving-gal that I am, how could I refuse $400 a MONTH to live?  That's less than 1/3 of our mortgage payment we'd paid for the last 7+ years.

Seventeen months later, I'm still alive to tell you that we have survived in this trailer.  Has it been easy?  Nope. But, it's actually been good for us.  It has been a blessing in many ways.  It's allowed us to save up a quite a nice amount of money that we've now labeled, get-out-of-the-trailer-fund.

My next post about the trailer will be a post about things we have learned while living in a trailer.  It's a far stretch from my dream house, but it has taught us many valuable life lessons and for that, I'm thankful.  God works in mysterious ways and I truly believe one of the ways he's worked in our lives is to put us in a trailer house for 17 months....and counting.

Someday, we'll have a nice house again but for now, I'm trying (it's still a struggle at times) to count my blessings and be thankful for what we DO have, not to wish for what we DON'T.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Frugal Tuesday Tip: Buy coupons on Ebay

I had fun linking to last week's Frugal Tuesday Tip over at Learning the Frugal Life so I'm doing it again this week.

My tip this weekend is to buy coupons on Ebay.  One of the biggest ways I save in my grocery budget is by stockpiling.  That simply means buying several of a certain item when it's at it's rock bottom price.  For example, Wheat Thins were on sale for $1.67 a box a few weeks ago and I ordered 14 $1.00 off coupons from Ebay making them $.67 a box.  Yes, that meant I had 14 boxes of Wheat Thins to store but my family eats them fairly quickly so I knew it wouldn't be a problem.

I recently bought TWENTY $2.00/off 2 Pepsi Products (6 pk. bottles) on Ebay. I paid $1.44 for the auction and essentially will save $40.00 off of something I would have bought anyway.  I'm not a fan of buying ten Sunday newspapers for the coupons. I've done this before but it seems like I waste a lot of money and coupons.  I'd rather just purchase lots of muliple coupons for things I stockpile.

Friday, January 13, 2012

31 Days of Nothing--Week 2

Our 2nd week of the No Spend Challenge is OVER. This week was a little bit easier, mentally, than last week for some reason.  I think I got used to the fact that I don't HAVE to spend money on something to satisfy that little shopping craving I get.

Here's how our week went this week:

1.  Grocery shopping:
Friday 1/6--spent approx. $40.  This is sort of a big cut of our $100 budget but I got chicken, pop, a TON of produce, and diapers.
Today 1/13--spent $34.32 but again, I stocked up on some rock bottom prices, (chicken, onions, ragu)  and got since we haven't been eating out, I got groceries to make a "fun" meal at home--gyros.

2.  I sold some more things on a Facebook Garage Sale site and on total sales so far are close to.....drumroll please....$450!!  My goal was $250 so I am very happy with my progress.  I still have more that I plan to list on Ebay this weekend.

3.  We put $35 in gas in our car.  This is the first we've had to put gas in all month so I'm happy with our gas conservation.

4.  We did buy some girl scout cookies today.  I'm a teacher and 3 of my students are selling them...and they are my husband's favorite so that set us back $10.50--I'll count that as grocery budget.

5.  We also joined a fitness challenge that we're having through our work.  We're looking at it as more than an investment because there are cash rewards $300, $200, and $100.  I'm confident we will win.  That set us back $20.

Overall, I'm happy with our progress. I couldn't decide if I wanted to buy the Girl Scout cookies, or not, but since they only come around once a year, I went ahead and bought them.  That was our big "splurge" for the month.  No eating out, which has been HUGE for us.

We've also been down with the stomach flu this week but I'm thankful none of us have required a doctor visit.  I keep praying that we stay healthy for the rest of the winter!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

Today as I was reading a devotion, I was smacked in the face with that scripture verse.  I had a feeling of guilt come over me while reading this verse.  The guilt that I've been focusing too much on the "seen" and not enough on the "unseen".  Yes, I've read the bible everyday (via You Version...more on that later) and also kept up on my daily devotions at Proverbs 31 Women.  But (there is always a but), I feel like 90% of my thoughts have been overcome by the unseen.

Yes, we are doing a 31 Days of Nothing Challenge.  Yes, I've blogged about it a few times already.  No, I do not think the challenge we are doing is a bad thing.  However, when it occupies my thoughts and conversations, it's time to shift the focus.   

From today on (for at least the rest of the month), I'm challenging myself to pray every single time I think about our No Spend Challenge or anything related to the "seen".    Justin and I have both talked about the fact that we want to be able to bless more people.  I will pray about God's wisdom and his will in our lives and finances. I was blessed with the gift of managing money.  That gift was given to me by God.  What can we do to make an eternal difference with the gifts God has given us? 

I'm starting out by doing some random acts of kindness.  I've got a few in mind and I may blog about that later, too.  I want and need to be able to make an eternal difference!  For what is eternal will withstand and be rewarded.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Frugal Tuesday Tip

One of my favorite local Blogs, Learning the Frugal Life, hosts a Frugal Tuesday Tip.  I've never joined but in addition to joining her 31 Days of Nothing Challenge, I thought I'd join for fun this week.

This month we're not only trying to not spend any unnecessary money (regular monthly bills) but we're also trying to 1)reduce clutter and 2)make a little $ on some things we no longer need/use.

My tip this week is to buy things worth value at a garage sale and/or thrift store and sell them at a higher value. This week, I listed a Coach purse on Ebay. It was one I got last summer for 50 cents at a garage sale.  I'm not sure if it was fake or authentic and I said that in my Ebay listing.   It sold this week for $65!!  That's a $64.50 profit.  I was super excited.  I haven't done this too often.  Most of the time I just buy things at a garage sale that my family needs and will use but in the summers when I'm off of work, I should do this more often.

Including my purse sale, I've sold nearly $450 worth of things that were just sitting around our house or in tubs being stored.  I still have quite a bit to go but it's $$ that will go toward our "get-out-of-the-trailer" fund....aka:  Down payment on another house. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blessing: Beautiful Winter Weather

Wowza....Iowa has had record breaking high temps this week.  On Thursday, it was nearly 60 degrees outside.  Usually, in early January it's below freezing so this is a welcomed break! 

We took the kids for a walk and of course, Austin did NOT want to come inside so we stayed out and played until it was dark.  They had fun!

Friday, January 6, 2012

31 Days of Nothing--Week 1 is harder than I thought to not spend ANY unnecessary money.  This truly shows me how much money we squander on little things that don't matter.  We did make it the whole week without spending any money, yahoo!  I'm especially proud of my husband.  We had two professional development days at work that we typically eat out with co-workers and he came home to eat both days. That's HUGE for him because he's naturally a spender.  Great job, honey!  :)  Plus, we've attended 2 basketball games and it's usually nothing for our family to drop $5+ on snacks and drinks at a game but we didn't spend any. 

On Wednesday, I attended a professional development class with co-workers in Storm Lake.  I did eat out but I didn't count it because I get to turn in my receipt at work for reimbursement.  Justin goes to one of these on Monday and he will do the same.

I just pray that our family stays healthy and there are no extra, uncontrollable expenses this month.  Last January, I found myself at the doctor with our kids, both needing Tamaflu medicine costing upwards of $200.  I've been praying we steer clear of any doctor bills like that this winter!!

I am running to get groceries tonight and Hy-vee has milk, cheese, and some produce on sale.  Plus, our stockpile of diapers is out.  I have a raincheck for $5.99 huggies + a coupon so it should't take too much out of our budgeted $100 for the month.  I'm pretty sure I can still stay within our budget. 

Oh, I almost forgot.  In addition to saving money by not spending, I'm making a little cash by selling unwanted things.  So far this week (and part of last) I've sold $236 worth of kids clothes, toys and shoes.  This cash is very motivating for me to take more pictures this weekend and get more listed.  I can't believe how much "extra stuff" we've got sitting around.   My goal was originally $250 but I think I'll smoke that.  Maybe I'll up that to $300.  :)

I'm excited to see how everyone else's 1st week of the "nothing challenge" went!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

31 Days of Nothing Challenge

I know this is a personal blog but I'm going to do something a little different this month.  I read a lot of money-saving blogs and one of my favorite local (Iowa) blogs is hosting a challenge called 31 Days of Nothing Challenge. Sara, at Learning the Frugal Life, is in her fourth year of spending nothing for one month.  I thought it'd be fun to join up, mostly to motivate myself, but also to be motivated by other bloggers.

Directly from Sara's blog, here are her rules: 

"1. The ultimate goal is to spend NO money except for necessities. For my family I consider necessities to be gas for work and appointments, monthly prescription medications, groceries (although very minimal, more on this later) and our basic bills and utilities. Necessities may mean something different for your family.

2. There will be no consumerism. My hope is to stay out of the stores completely. No new clothes, books, or any other impulse buys. No shopping the deals!

3. Groceries. I am allowing $25 per week for grocery shopping or $100 per month. I really just want to stick with eating from the pantry and freezers as much as possible. We will need milk for the baby, as well as fresh produce so I am setting money aside for those things. We should be good on most other items because our freezers and pantry are very full. I usually budget $500 for the month.

4. Zero money spent on entertainment. No eating out, we will cook from scratch and eat at home each day. No money spent on movies or impromptu ice cream cones. We usually budget $150 each month for entertainment.

5. Allowance. Everyone is giving up their allowance for the month. There will be no money in our pockets tempting us to spend it.

6. My gas budget is up in the air right now. I need to actually keep track of what we are spending so I can get a more accurate number. For this month though, I want to just try and stay home as much as possible. Combine our errands so that we aren't making multiple trips each week.

7. Get back composting, recycling, and shutting off. Our compost bin has been missing so scraps have been being tossed in the trash which makes me crazy. We are great at recycling but the bins need to be cleaned up. My family has gotten extremely lazy about shutting off lights and unplugging items when not in use. This is going to be enforced more.

8. Cutting back on water usage. Our water bill has done nothing but climb. We use alot of water. Mainly because of long showers and children playing in the sinks. Showers will be timed and sink time monitored to make sure we aren't being wasteful."

We are motivated to do this challenge for 2 reasons.  1) We are saving $ to buy a house here or paying down on our mortgage on our Clive house, whichever comes first.  2) For the last 2 months, we've spent $3000 over "normal" budgeted expenses with traveling for Justin's sister's wedding, Christmas shopping, and doctor bills--OUCH!

Sara says you can change the rules to make it your own challenge so after talking to Justin, we've set a few ground rules to make this challenge work for us. Here is our strategy for the month of zero spending:

1)  Cut out all unnecessary spending from our monthly budget.  
      Here are some of the things we typically budget for each month that we plan to cut out or cut back  on this month:
  • Cut Uncategorized spending (aka: blow money)--$100
  • Cut Restaurants/coffee--$150
  • Cut Shopping (clothes, books, etc.)--$100
  • Cut Entertainment--$200
  • Groceries, normally $250 plan to spend $100, saving $150
  • Gas, normally spend $250, plan to spend $125, saving $125 
   Just by cutting out these unnecessary budget items, we'll save $775.

2)  Sell unwanted "clutter" around the house.  I've already listed several things on an online Garage Sale.  I hope to make $250 off of unused things sitting around the house.

3)  We plan to be more mindful about turning off lights and conserving water.  I have no idea how much this will save us but we're going to try it.

I am excited about this challenge and plan to update the blog each weekend to re-cap our week of saving.   I am passionate about saving money.  :)