Monday, June 18, 2012

Pinching Pennies

Happy Monday!  What a busy weekend we had!  My husband had to work on Saturday and on weeks where he has to work six days, it seems we never get that relaxed down time that we truly need.  We did have a beautiful weekend, nonetheless that I will recap for you later.

But I wanted to write one more blog post dedicated to finance and budget before I let go of this topic until anyone else has questions/comments that I can answer.  So with that....

Let's talk about pinching pennies.  This is written to be informative for you and in hopes that you will share tips with me as well.  Let's help each other out, shall we?

First, let's revisit the car.  I have mentioned it several times on here about the regret of taking on 10K in debt just to save money on gas.  We were dumb.  Don't do what we did.  But, to make any light out of a really dark decision, we are saving tons of money on gas.  Now that I am not working, I never really go anywhere.  Or anywhere out of a ten mile radius.  I can fill up my tank and run on it for a couple of weeks.  That alone, is a huge savings.  It has taken our gas budget from $600 to $400 and now down to about $300 a month.  Huge.  I plan outings that are super close to home.  We go on walks when we're bored.  I find things to do at home or in our neighborhood to entertain us.  Easy.

Coffee.  It's no secret that I am a die-hard fan of Dunkin Donuts coffee.  Medium, iced, cream and sugar.  That is my drink of choice.  But, at $2.25 a day, it just wasn't worth it to me. I mean, I love it-really, really love it- but I love paying off debt more.  So I have been (gasp!) brewing my own coffee at home.  It took a long while to find a brand that I could handle, and that didn't tear up my ever so finicky tummy, but I have found it and I really enjoy it.  AND, this weekend, I learned that I can take the leftover coffee from my morning brew and make a wonderful iced coffee in the afternoon.  Win!  It's Papa Nicholas brand, for any of  you wondering.  And I can't even tell you what it costs, because I'm not sure, but I do know that it was on the cheaper end--at it's way less than $2.25 a day.  As a side note, I did have a Keurig, but it died.  Which is fine cause the K-Cups are more than I want to budget for coffee.  End of the side note.

Laundry Detergent.  That stuff is not cheap.  I love the smell of Tide for Cold Water--but the price is just stupid.  I couldn't see paying that much for just the scent.  So now, I buy my detergent at the Dollar Tree.  It's a dollar store (and I'm sure it's nation wide) and they have detergent that is pretty decent.  It smells good, cleans our clothes, and is only $1.  Serves it purpose.  I also buy dryer sheets at Dollar Tree as well....and any other cleaner that we may need.  It's $1!  You can't go wrong!  Now, if it didn't do it's job--I wouldn't think it was a good place to pinch pennies.  But it does, so I do.  And, pinterest has recipes for homemade laundry soap that is equally as cheap, but it makes like 5 gallons at a time and I have zero space to store 5 gallons of detergent.

Aldi.  I used to despise Aldi.  I remember shopping there with my parents when I was little and I HATED it. I felt poor.  I didn't like it.  But you know what, my parents lived on one income and had a house and three kids.  We WERE poor!  My dad was a small business owner, in a small town.  He worked his behind off to provide for us.  --stay on track--  Aldi has come a long way since my days of despise.  I now do 98% of our food shopping there.  You save so much money!  I refuse to do extreme couponing.  I don't have the time, attention span or storage space to even begin that mess.  We eat pretty darned well each week for about $100 or less in groceries.  I have made recipes from pinterest using Aldi ingredients and they taste wonderful!  I can share those if you are interested.  There have been a few items from Aldi that I deem not acceptable and those are:  mac n cheese, coffee, and chicken nuggets.  So I still do use the "regular" grocery store for those items.

Yard Sales.  Let's face it, I'm a girl and I like to shop.  I hate feeling "broke" when we're not broke.  We're living on a budget and paying off debt.  But I still want to shop!  So I have dived back into yard sale shopping--occasionally.  It's just fun to get something new--and at a great price.  I don't go all the time, and you won't find me waiting on one to open at 6 a.m.  But we will venture out in the later morning if we have nothing to do and are up and moving.  This past weekend, I got an adorable basket, a pretty good sized one too, for K's room.  It now holds her current stuffed animal loves.  And, it was $1.  We also scored a stacked plastic bin thing in pink and purple for her room.  More organization for her mess of a toy box.  It was $3.  And then my big item, that was probably a dumb move, but maybe not....a desk. It's white and super cute and it was only $5.  Now, currently, we have zero room for it, so it's in the garage.  But my neighbor was into refinishing furniture before downsizing and moving in to an apartment, so I plan to pick her brain about painting it a bright pink and later putting it into Kinley's big girl room.  My next yard sale find, will be a chair to go with it that I can paint green.  I am super excited about it.  So you see, my shopping itch has been scratched and we spent $9.  Score.

Budget Billing.  I did this more for my spreadsheet planning than anything, but what the heck.  It keeps our gas bill at a steady $34 a month, every month.  No surprises.  You can set this up on (most?) utility bills.  I was able to do this online.  I just checked the box for "budget billing" and it estimated what our new bill would be, right there on the spot.  So now, I know that every month, I need to budget for that much for our gas utility.

Craigslist.  This should have gone after yard sales, I guess.  But I also do a lot of shopping on Craigslist.  I recently bought Kinley a new bedding set for $15.  It's a princess theme, which I don't like, but it's $15--regularly $50.  The lady bought it for her daughter, in hopes that she would start sleeping in her own bed, and it flopped.  So she just wants to get rid of it.  It's never been slept on.  So, Craigslist is not only a place to make money, but to find steals too.

Free Days.  For our daily outings, I scour the internet to find free events.  Kinley needs stimulated, or she makes me crazy.  Sitting at home day after day is not an option.  For me or her, really.  So I plan things out on a printed calendar (just used MS Word to print one) and fill it up with as much as I can.  The only "pay for" summer activity is her dance lessons on Tuesdays.  Other than that, it's free stuff.  We are super fortunate to live in an area with amazing park districts.  Which is why we stay where we are...  The park districts have so much to offer, and mostly, things that are free.  On Wednesdays, we are doing "Story time in the park" from 10-11.  Each week it's at a new park in the area.  They will be reading a story, doing a nature talk and discussing local wildlife, etc.  And after, we can play in the park or have a picnic lunch.
We also have a free splash park in our town.  Kinley loves the splash park!  The library often hosts a free story time, or we just go to sit and read and do puzzles.  Kage loves to check out puzzles and books to take home.  So if there are no free events for the day, I let her go to the library.
You can also just go on a nature walk.  Have your little one look for different leaves, or rocks.  On Friday, we went looking for rocks and pinecones and then brought them home to paint.  She had a blast!

Meal Planning.  We initially tried the e-meals program.  It was a great starting point for us, with both of us working.  It planned the meals, shopping list, recipes, everything.  We did the 3 month plan and I feel that we got our money's worth.  But with the start of pinterest and finding easy recipes there, I learned that doing on our own was just as easy.  I now plan our meals, staying on the cheaper to make recipes, for the full week and then some.  Then I make my complete list and head to Aldi.  Like I have said before, I am able to feed our family of three for $100 or less each week.  You just have to take the time to plan. We now have favorite meals that we cook almost weekly, so it's a lot easier than dreaming up new, fancy recipes all of the time.  We're living on a budget, we eat simple, but good.  We'll save the fancy stuff for when we're debt free.  Again, I will share some of my recipes if you are interested.

Hair-cuts and products.  This one was hard for me.  I was always accustomed to using salon products.  I paid $25 a bottle for shampoo and conditioner, and my hair products would run around $15-$20 each.  I spent good money on my hair.  Haircuts/styles would run me about $160 every 6-8 weeks.  Yikes.  Thinking about that now, I feel dumb.  Since learning to "live like no one else," I have learned that cheap inexpensive products are really, just as good.  I now use the Suave Professionals line of shampoo and conditioner and honestly, can't tell a difference.  I'm not joking.  I can not tell the difference from this and my Biolage.  I can't even tell you how dumb I feel after spending God knows how much for that expensive stuff.  Suave Professionals.  Love it.  And, it's like $2 for a big bottle.  Also, my products.  I have stupid hair.  If I don't do anything to it, it's the biggest afro ever.  I wrote a post about it, like forever ago, so you know that I can't go sans product.  I usually go curly, since I'm now a lazy SAHM.  Not saying that SAHMs are lazy....but this one can be!  So I need curling product.  My old stuff was $19 a tube.  Small tube.  Now, I use Garnier stuff.  It's like $4 and does almost the same job.  When/If I flat iron my hair, I go sans product.  Now, I know that this may be bad, but it's what I do now.  I do have some left over Chi product that I sometimes put in it before I dry my hair, but mostly, I just dry and iron.  And, I scored a new flat iron (my Chi died) for $19 (this thing was regularly over $150) on one of the "one sale a day" sites!  My haircuts?  Well, I decided that since I couldn't afford the $160 stylist, that I would just let it grow.  Not such a good idea.  It got crazy unruly.  So I held my breathe, and walked into a Great Clips.  Twenty minutes later, I walked out unstyled but trimmed.  And with tip, I paid $16.  I'm sure that she would have styled it, but it would have cost me more and I really didn't mind just putting it into a ponytail for the remainder of my day.  The next day, I styled it and loved the cut!

Energy Savers.  Luckily, we don't have the pay for water in our apartment.  One less bill, right?  But to make a savings on everyday chores, I always have our dishwasher on the "no heat" dry cycle.  It probably doesn't save much...but some.
And our washer, washes all clothes in cold water.  And I swear, I don't notice a difference.  Our clothes don't stink.  The only exception to this, is our bed sheets.

Those are just a few of the things that I focus on to pinch pennies each month.  They really aren't much, but it's a start.  I am working to add to this list and find more ways to start saving even more each month.  Our current "cost of living" is about $3530.00.  That's what it costs to run our family of three each month.  I know this because of our budget.  So I know that we need to make as much over that as we can to put toward debt repayment.  Or, my goal is to drop that number as much as I can by pinching pennies wherever possible and increase our income each month.  Do you run your family on less?  Can you pass along any good budget saving tips?


Christina said...

I, too, am a huge fan of Dunkin medium iced w/ cream & sugar - so I know your pain. We started brewing our own ICED coffee, though (because, even into the third trimester, the smell of brewing coffee makes me gag).

We make enough for the week for the both of us - 1/2 lb of coffee for a gallon of water, mix it together and let it brew for 8 hours. We put it in one of those cheap Walmart lemonade pitcher things with the spout and it keeps for the week in the refrigerator. We use Trader Joe's medium roast, but that's just because it's one Mike and I can both agree on. $5 for a full pound and that lasts 2 weeks. MUCH cheaper than $2.25 a day for each of us!

(Really, the reason I threw this on here is because I've noticed taking hot brewed coffee and making it iced just isn't the same - it's not a strong enough brew, maybe? Not sure - but this is a brew specifically for iced coffee - and it's amazing!)

Brandy said...

I love vanilla lattes...have one every morning! $3.23 a piece for a small at Starbucks, so I got an espresso machine and brew my own at home. An investment at first, but it has saved me TONS!
Also, we dumped our cable TV and do only antenna and netflix instant. $7.99/ month for TV. If there's a new movie we want to see, Redbox. In the winter we are considering getting movies through Netflix too, since we watch more in the winter. Summer time is for outdoor activities, though!
We are with you on free kid activities. We have a pool here at our apartment, and other than that library, the beach with a packed lunch, local parks, and our free splash zone.
Dumb phones. We do pay $56 a month for fast internet at home, we don't need it on our phones, too! Saves a bundle. As long as I can talk and text, I'm fine.
Costco flea and tick preventative for the dogs. Like 6 months for $20! And I don't have a flea in the house. Also, there is a low cost vet clinic that I take the dogs to for their yearly shots and heart worm tests. It's saves me about $50 per dog.
I also buy a lot at our Dollar General. I'm looking into a Dollar Tree!
For Evelyn's clothes, I buy a lot from Once Upon a Child, or I buy at the end of the season for the next year ahead. At the end of this summer, I'll stock up on 4t summer clothes for next year! I love Kohl's and Children's Place the best. Their clearance is super cheap, and I can usually scrounge up a coupon on top of it! Last summer I bought all of Evelyn's clothes for this summer for a few dollars a piece, and they're all name brand!
John and I really want a new car, but don't want the car payment...Reading your blogs has convinced me we would regret it if we purchased one now. Learn from the mistakes of others, right? Thank you Joy...

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