Monday, February 28, 2011

February grocery budget

As I've promised, I've been sharing my grocery totals for each month on here, so it's time for this months. My goal has been $150/month and for the last 3 months I've made it. Sadly, I have to report the truth is this month I went over. :( Thankfully, though, not by much. For the month of February I spent $154.50 on our family groceries. I already have list going for this week, so hopefully it won't get me off on the wrong foot for March. Has anyone else been able to lower their grocery bill by a significant amount recently? Share your successes with us too!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Debt Update

Thanks to our tax return, we are in the 'teens' now! :) for those that have been following along since the beginning that puts our paid off total around $21,000 in 7 months! Can some body please stand up and cheer about that?!?! WooHoo! :) I can't explain how happy this makes me. That's not even counting the almost $17,000 we paid off during the 41 months before starting this program. This process has gone so much quicker because of our diligence in saving money and living on cash only. I wish we'd been doing this during those first 41 months, we would be done by now, but no use looking back now. We are going to be debt free soon! :)

So, we've had a debt free date set for a few months, but I've been nervous to post about it because I don't want to fail...BUT, I'm going to now. I'm feeling hopeful we can do it, it'll for sure be a stretch, but hopefully it'll help us push through and get it done! Now, with that build up, I feel like I need a drum roll to tell you...

Debt free date goal is: March 2012, hopefully by that first week. :) It will be the week we both turn 30. I don't think there is any better way to ring in our next decade then being able to yell, "WE'RE DEBT FREE!" :) Now, I can't wait to turn 30! :)

I'm hopeful and I pray we'll be able to make that goal. It sure would be awesome. It'll also be the year we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, so it'll be a BIG year to celebrate in our house.

If you are just getting started, I hope this motivates you and encourages you to keep going. You too, can be debt free soon!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A generous heart

~If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord--and he will repay you. Proverbs 19:17

~The sin of your sister Sodom was this: She lived with her daughters in the lap of luxury--proud, gluttonous, and lazy. They ignored the oppressed and the poor. They put on airs and lived obscene lives. And you know what happened: I did away with them. Ezekiel 16:49-50.

~She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. Proverbs 31:20.

~But if anyone has this world's goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him? 1 John 3:17.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Set Goals as a Family

There are a lot of benefits to getting your children involved in your budgeting discussions. I don't think they should have a say in what you spend money on, but they should know (depending on their ages) that it takes a lot of money and hard work to pay for all of the basic needs for a family. They will then start to take some ownership of their contribution, they'll see the importance of conservation of some resources (like shutting off the lights when they aren't in the room, taking shorter showers, unplugging things they aren't using, etc) and not just a rule you made up!

I also think it's good to have the kids work with you on setting some goals for getting out of debt or saving for a family vacation. If they know what the goals are they will be less likely to "fight" you on your 'no' to certain things they've been used to having. They may even find ways to chip in financially if they are old enough to help with that.

One of the ways that I think this could be the most useful is for setting goals about cutting back on eating out or family activities that cost more then you want to spend. If you have a family meeting and decide what is a reasonable about of money and times/month you can do those outings the kids will see the bigger picture. That is also a great time to then share with them that it will require work from everyone to make it happen. Lets just use eating out as an example, if you are used to eating out 4 times a week and you've decided to cut it back to once a week, then you can explain to your kids that everyone will need to chip in at dinner time, so it doesn't all fall on you to make this goal happen. Also point out that everyone will benefit from the sacrifices you'll be making, by enjoying a family vacation or freedom from bills, etc.

These conversations are further preparation for them and their future financial decisions. Most parents don't want their children to struggle the way they've had to. What better why to prepare them then to teach them how to be responsible and make decisions that will help them have financial freedom (not everything they want).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cheap, Easy Dinners

I know I've mentioned soups as being a cheap dinner on here before, but this time I thought I'd give you the price breakdown of one that is also SUPER easy to make, Chicken Noodle Soup:
It depends on the recipe that you use, but the traditional, main ingredients are all really inexpensive and there are ways to make it even cheaper. This is a perfect use for left over rotisserie chicken or from a whole chicken that you have roasted or boiled. Usually you can get a whole chicken for under $1 a pound. Bags of celery and carrots (I just saw an ad today for $0.88/lb for organic ones) are also easily found for under $1/lb as well. Then you add a pound of pasta for about $1 too! Chicken broth depends on your brand of choice, but lately I've been using the chicken base or bouillon cubes and water. It seems to be cheaper to me and also less wasteful if you don't end up using all of the container for your current meal. This is also a great meal to actually make your one broth with. You boil the chicken in the pot you'll be using for the soup and add the seasonings you like and that'll give you a good flavor base to work with for the soup. So lets add this all up shall we? 

2lbs of chicken (I'm going to use $0.80/lb for a whole chicken since I've seen that price) $1.60
1/2 lb (estimating on these) of carrots $0.50
1/4 lb (estimate too) of celery $0.25
2 lbs (this will make a large pot!) of noodles $2.00
Chicken broth $1 (depends on your brand, this is for 2 cans of cheapest brand, but you may need to add more water for an extra large pot or make your own! :))

Total: $5.35

This should get you a pretty large pot of soup too, of course the price is an estimate, but I believe it can be done for pretty close to this price if you find the sales and cheapest brands. Add some seasonings that you have on hand and possibly some bread on the side and you have a healthy dinner for easy and cheap! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Age Appropriate Chores

Interesting how after I posted about doing chores a couple days ago, today I got this article in my mailbox, that list out age appropriate chores, it's a great tool to help parents get some ideas of what they can expect their children to do around the house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I've started a side job. I'm officially a tutor and have a regular student booked through the summer. I'm looking forward to having a little extra money coming in to speed up our debt snowball. I'm also putting together a Spanish class for elementary aged students on Mondays, if any one is interested. Other age groups are still forming, no details arranged yet. We'll see where this new adventure takes us!

Cheap, Easy Dinners

I thought it would be fun to every once in a while post about cheap dinners. My goal is to get them as close to the $5 mark as possible, hopefully that'll work out! ;)

So here is the first one I have in mind:
*Spaghetti and Meatballs, Veggie or Salad and Bread

--Side note about meatballs: these are one of the best things to keep in your freezer and have on hand. They are fully cooked and you don't have to thaw them before cooking them. It's literally 15 minutes from freezer to plate with these little beauties! :) They are filling and can be added to all kinds of meals in a hurry. If you have the time and are able to make them yourself and freeze them, you'll probably save even more money, but currently they are just a convenience item I buy.

Meal directions and price run down: I'm trying to think of meals that will feed larger families (at least 4) and families that have bigger eaters (husbands, teenage boys, growing kids!) So, the portions can be decreased if your family doesn't need as much. I'm also rounding up on some of the prices, trying to do prices that aren't the "sale" price so it's more realistic for times when you just pick these items up.

-A box of pasta (1 lb): $1, but have seen them regularly for cheaper ($0.89)
-1/2 a bag of meatballs (this will be a significant amount, I use about 1/4 each time and that's plenty for us and if this doesn't seem like enough for your family, I'd recommend using more pasta or breads on the side rather then more meat if you're hoping to cut costs) about $2.50 (the cheapest brand, full bag is around $5)
-Vegetables that are in season and are priced under $1/lb.
-Marinara sauce, if you canned it's free now! If not, you can get a variety of sauces at the store, but the cheapest I've found is a can, I believe it's Hunts brand, and costs about $0.88 for a large can. It can be found by the canned tomatoes at the store.
-French Bread with Garlic & Butter-$1-$1.50

Meal price: $6.38 (depending on which kind of bread you choose & your marinara sauce).

going to also list off a few other bread ideas because I think sometimes seeing more options helps us get out of our "usual" that may not be the most cost effective choice. Other options: Jiffy mix ($0.50), frozen bread or rolls (approx. $1/loaf), frozen garlic toast ($2-3 depending on the brand).

This should be a pretty decent size meal too, even if you need to make even more then this, it's still a family dinner easily under $10 and can be made quicker then you can order carry out!

Watch for more quick and easy dinner ideas to come! :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sallie Mae

Ugh! Can I just tell you how ready I am to be done with Sallie Mae? They are the company that has our student loans and they are a PAIN to deal with. I don't think we've ever had a month go by that they didn't some how mess up our payment in some way or another. We actually have to call them every single payment and have them fix their mistake even though we CLEARLY write the loan number on EVERY single check. A pain, I tell you--a real, royal pain! On that note, I'm off to fix this months payment now too. *sigh*

Here's to getting a little closer to having them out of our life!! :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I know there are a variety of philosophies on children and chores out there, I'm not really sure why, but there are. I actually met a mom who was looking for a babysitter who insisted her children not do any work until after they are 4 years old. Instead of expanding on my thoughts on this perspective, I'll just say, I did not take that job!

I believe that part of a parent's job is to raise people that will be responsible adults, capable of doing things for themselves and contributing to their families and the society. If we never require our children to do some work and learn what it means to keep a house then they'll always be dependent on other people to take care of them and their messes!

So as you can guess, my kids have chores! My daughter is not even 4 yet and she's had jobs to do for over a year. They are simple jobs and she is fully capable of doing them as she gets older her responsibilities will increase. For now she has to clear her plate after each meal, put her laundry in the hamper, put her clothes away (she just lays each stack on the shelf in her closet), clean up her toys and her room, and "make" her bed, she helps unload the dishwasher some times too. When we have cleaning days, she always chips in on tasks that she can do, like wiping off the table or putting things where they go.

I want my kids to understand that in a family, everyone has to help out. Everyone has to contribute to the functioning of a home. I have no desire to be a maid in my home and have grown and capable kids who don't do anything while I work around them.

Train UP your children!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!

Yep, that's the plan for the day. We're all chipping in to get this house cleaned up. I've started doing a little spring cleaning, we have to get rid of stuff!! AHH! There is way too much stuff in this house. I'm a firm believer in a house that has a place for everything and we do NOT have the space for everything in our house. It's time to de-clutter some more!

Friday, February 18, 2011

National Debt

Info about Obama's plan for the national budget, good information to know regardless of your political position.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Romance Styles

Sticking with the "love" feeling for the week, I thought I'd share these fun romance styles I learned about a couple weeks ago. There is a whole little "test" (not at all scientific) to see which kind you are, but I'll just share the descriptions with you and you may be able to figure it out just from those! :)

So as you think about the way you respond to and show love through romance, chose the one that best describes you.

*Rock n Roll Romance-everything adventurous! These are the people that will go skydiving together or other crazy adventures. You're moments of romance are all BIG and bold, it's not frequent because the size of the adventures are too hard to do regularly.

*Pop Romance-Things are fun, exciting, and more routine. Spontaneity is key, go with the flow attitude. It's a very sweet romance, but nothing over the top.

*Country Romance- moments are significant to this style. Romance can be simple, but holds a lot meaning. They are the practical romantics.

*Classical Romance- There is a purpose behind their romance. Very creative romantically and the details matter. Some what of a perfectionist mind set. Memories are special.

*R&B Romance- romance happens naturally. They have a strong sensuous side and are good with words. They are good at drawing the person they love toward them.

So, what are you? What is your spouse? I thought this was fun! :) Any guesses for us based on the stories I shared on Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buying Organic Food

The main reason most people chose to not buy organic foods is because of the extra cost, it's sometimes significantly more expensive. I got an email from LearnVest all about this today, you can read their whole article discussing when it's worth buying organic. But my favorite part was this really handy chart:

I love that they make it clear that it's not necessary to buy ALL organic and that there are specific things that you can save money on by skipping the "organic" label. In the article they go into more detail about things to keep in mind when making the choice between organic and non-organic. As with all things, you'll have to come up with the right balance for your family. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of the day of love, I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of our romantic stories! ;) My husband is such a romantic, it's easy to come up with some great stories. There's been several times that he's written songs for me and serenaded me either privately or in public. He's made up some scavenger hunts that take me to some of my favorite places around town to treat me to some of my 'loves'. Last year I woke up on my birthday to breakfast and flowers and no kids for the day. After I was ready we walked out the front door to find a limo waiting for us to take us around town for a day of pampering and fun. See?! He's such a romantic. I love him!! :) One of the best things about him is that he makes a big impact out of small, meaningful things for me. For example the scavenger hunt was to places like DQ, Starbucks and Arby's! Nothing fancy at all, but the part that made them meaningful were the cards he included at each stop that shared a memory of a time we've enjoyed at those places and also noting my favorite things from that place. It's the thoughtfulness that takes it over the top! Telling me he remembers, he pays attention to the things I enjoy and the memories that have been meaningful to us.

Today, he went with a simple, thoughtful gift. I woke up to a card on our cupboard and a gift bag below it. As I opened up our kitchen cupboard I saw he had bought new tupperware and re organized that cupboard for me. I know! Totally NOT romantic in of itself, but he knows I HATE that cupboard and our tupperware was always a MESS! It was special to me because it was something I wanted to change, but never made the effort to deal with it, so he did it for me. :) I think it probably cost him a whole $20 and my life will be easier because of it. Then, remember the gift bag? Yeah, that's the fun one! :) Well, fun for me at least. He got me a 4 pack of my favorite Starbucks frappuccinos. Again, probably not the biggest and best gift he's ever given me, but something simple to make my day. I NEVER buy those for myself because they are what I consider to be an extra expense and not necessary, so it's nice of him to get me a treat he knows I'll enjoy.

Love lesson from me today: sometimes it really is the simplest things that can make the best presents! Making someone feel special isn't about the price or fanciness of the gifts you can get for them, it's that you thought about a way to bless them when you were buying it.

Happy Valentine's Day friends! I hope today you've had an opportunity to cherish, appreciate and bless on the ones you love.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Coffee anyone?

I came across some coffee deals so I thought I'd share! :) If you  live near a Caribou and have a friend or lover you'd like to treat this weekend, print off this coupon before you go! For those of you who have a Peet's coffee by you and have the same intentions, you have a few more days to cash in this offer! :) And yes, I will totally go get BOGO coffee drinks with anyone who'd like to! ;)


Paid on debt so far this month!! :) Making progress, one dollar at a time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coupon Deals

Now that I've had a few days to look over some of the deals I got using the coupons at the grocery store, I thought I'd share them with you.

Like I mentioned, I did save $30 off the total bill, which ended up being about 40% off. So, I don't think I did too bad.

These two were my favorites, though! :)

-The store had "I can't believe it's not butter" (which isn't what I normally use, but it'll work just fine for spreading on toast, etc) on sale for $0.99 a tub. Then, I had a coupon for $0.75 off. So I spent a whole $0.24 on it!

-They also had Philadelphia cream cheese on sale for $0.99. I had a coupon for $1 off the purchase of 2. So I basically got 2 for the price of 1, or each one was $0.49, however you like to look at it.

I can't wait for the time I actually get something FREE by combining sales and coupons-that'll be the best kind of deal! :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How many days til pay day?

For some reason this last budget has been difficult! I'm not really sure the reason, but we are out of money in so many categories that it feels like the days are dragging by! Thankfully the count down is only 2 more days! :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time vs. Money Calculator!

I got an email from LearnVest today with a cool calculator on it! :) It was basically talking about the "time is money" saying, suggesting that it depends on your situation and what your time is worth. Anyway, check out the calculator to see how much your time is worth.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Is healthy food really more expensive?

I've been pondering this question and wondering if in part is not actually always true. Then, I came across this article and am still not convinced by their "calories/per serving/price" logic.  I guess it depends on what your definition of 'healthy food' is and also what you consider to be expensive. I think this is a common excuse people use for not changing their cooking, shopping and meal planning habits. They assume they can't afford anything healthier.

BUT....have you ever looked at a price of a bag of potato chips? Yikes! Those bags are expensive, considering what you get, not to mention the bag is half full of air! Around here they're usually over $3. So you can get a bunch of salt and other not so good for you things from them or you can buy a 3 lb bag of apples for about the same price.

Now, I get that certain times of the year produce prices do go up, but still, on average you can get a pound of fresh fruits and veggies for under $1, if you're shopping sales and buying things in season.

Not to mention dried beans, which are full of nutrients & protein (which will actually fill you and give you energy much longer then a candy bar will) and have to be one the cheapest things you can buy! Whole grain pastas really don't cost much more then the regular ones and you can find whole grain breads for reasonable prices too.

Like I've mentioned before you can buy natural meats in bulk from local farmers to cut costs and eat healthier as well as the fresh, hormone free milk and other dairy and egg options.

All I'm saying, I guess, is that there are options. If you want to have a diet high in fibers, proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables, you don't have to break the bank to get it. Now, if you want an all organic diet, you'll pay the price for it. But is that the only definition of "healthy"?

Maybe it's just a matter of starting small and switching out the french fries for a baked potato or the chips for a handful of carrots or apples. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One Closet done....

Okay, so the closet didn't quite look this messy, but it was driving me crazy! Not only was it a mess, it was full of clothes that didn't fit! My daughter or husband were always pulling out the clothes that didn't fit--at least it seemed that way--so frustrating! So, today, I tackled it. She now has her clothes in neatly folded piles again and all of the clothes in there are appropriate for the season and fit. I actually have a 'Goodwill' pile started now too, clothes that I've deemed no longer worthy of space in my small house. I'm sure the pile will continue to grow (as I maintain some sense of motivation to keep this going--I hope!), which will eventually make space, which is the goal! :) 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Re-organizing--motivation, please!

Ugh! I've been needing to go through my kid's closets for several months now. It seems like I'm doing that every other month, between changing seasons and them growing their closets always need an update. I've been putting it off for a while now and have SO little motivation to do it. Here are my reasons for being a procrastinator (as if there are any good reasons for putting something off that should be done...)

-I know that I'll have to find a place to keep all the clothes that don't fit them any more. I'm running out of storage space in my house for newborn-toddler sized clothes for both boys and girls, but I have that "If we have more kids we'll have to re-buy it all" issue....ugh!

-Which brings me to another issue, if I go through their clothes and need a place to store it, then that means I'll have to go through all the clothes we are currently storing and weed out the ones I don't need to keep.
-Then, by the time I'm done with both of those projects, it'll be time to do it all over again...

See why I'm putting this off? Maybe it's my way of consolidating the next two closet clean outs into one time!?!? ;) If I wait long enough, winter will be over and I'll have to get their summer clothes out...right?

Anyone have any good ideas about getting me pumped up and motivated for a task I obviously don't want to do? See, even me posting about it, is further procrastination from doing the job! I'm totally open to anyone coming over and doing it for me too--I will provide coffee and cookies to any takers! :)'s the deal, if I haven't posted about getting at least ONE part of this task done in the next week--someone get on my case---please!!

I don't wanna...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tax Returns?

It's the tax return season and boy do stores market hard for you to use that money on their products! Throughout the years we've done all sorts of things with our tax return, some good choices and probably  some not as great. I don't think we've ever gone out and bought something big with it though. This year it appears we'll be getting a decent return, not our best ever, but either way, it's nice to have a fat check show up in your account, even if it really is your own money! :)

We haven't completely decided on how it'll all be divided out among our goals, but I'm certain the majority of it will be going to pay down debt. It's so awesome to put a huge chunk on it and see how much it knocks your balance down. The extra perk is that you're not paying the interest on as large of a balance any more either. So awesome! I think we'll probably put some in our "date night" fund and maybe start a vacation fund with a small portion of it too. We'll see, a lot will depend on the actual amount we get back.

If you're in the same boat we're in (the one with more bills then you want), don't fall for the "you-need-a-brand-new-larger-than-your-living-room-TV" ads. I'd suggest you kick a debt out of your life, you'll feel so much more satisfied! :) Just treat your return as if it was a little savings account you forgot about and now you have extra money saved up to get you a better future.

So, if you're getting a tax return this year, what are you planning on doing with it? Will you be able to pay off a balance on a debt? Will you become debt free with it? Will you use it for a saving account to meet a goal for your family? Will you use it to live off throughout the year? Will you invest it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stretching your meat

One of the most expensive grocery items is meat. Although, cheese is quickly rising to the top if you ask me. Yikes! Anyway, we've found some ways to make our meat last longer and not using as much of it per serving.

Here are some of the things that have worked for us:

- Using 1/2 lb of ground beef in main dishes. This works well in meals that have pasta or other starches that make the meal more filling.

-Cutting your chicken breasts in half, widthwise. It still looks like and 'feels' like you're eating a whole chicken breast.

-Substitute for other meats you have on hand like sausage or ham.

-Chop up one or two chicken breasts (obviously, don't use 2 if you only have two people eating, it defeats the purpose! ;)) and add it to the dish instead of serving a whole chicken breast to each person. Sometimes I'll use one chicken breast and then a little bit of sausage or ham to add more meat, but it doesn't use up a lot of either that way.

-Load the dish up with vegetables that are on sale and filling (squashes, spinach, beans)

-Add beans. One thing I do to add to meat for things like tacos/burritos is to add a can of black or pinto beans to the 1/2 lb of meat. You still get the protein and it's filling and it'll make more then a pound of hamburger would. For a big group this is a great way to use less meat and still have a lot of food.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Grocery Budget

I did it!! I've had a goal to try to keep our grocery budget under $150 a month. So far, I've kept it up for two months! :) I just added up all my grocery receipts and our grand total was: $147.70, which includes our milk delivery service. I think my "using what we have" goal for two weeks really helped keep our shopping expenses lower. We'll see how February goes, I'm hoping I'll be able to keep this up. Although, I have been noticing a lot of prices have been going up on the things we buy regularly, which could make this more challenging.

By the way, we are NOT eating a full diet of Ramen Noodles and Spaghetti-os either! ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Coupon Update and Tips

I did it! I tried to follow as many tips as I could on a shopping trip. I did a pretty good job and was encouraged to see the $30 in coupon savings at the bottom of my receipt! :) Like I said, it was pretty good, but it wasn't one of those experiences that you see on TV where the total bill is like $100 and then after all the coupons the person only pays $10! I'm not sure I'll ever get that good at working the system. Maybe some of you will master it and can give me your tips! ;)

One thing, I think I've posted about before is to find out if stores match competitor ads. I know this is NOT a couponing tip, but it can help you save time and money if they honor other store's prices. I know this is probably annoying to the people behind you because check out doesn't go as quickly, but I can't even tell you how much money I've saved just by matching ads. For example, last week one local store had General Mills cereals for $1.49 (which is what I was charged instead of the $3-$4/box b/c of the price match), combined with my General Mills coupons, I got boxes of cereal for about $1. Another store around here always has great deals on avocados (which we eat a lot of and they aren't cheap this time of year!) for 3 or 4 for $0.99, rather then driving to that store for just one or two items, I show the ad at Walmart and save myself at least $4-$6 on that alone!

Couponing--Here's what I know & have done:

-Register your "loyalty" card. If your store offers a card to get additional discounts, go online and register your card, often times they'll send you additional coupons in the mail for the items you buy regularly! :)

-Another benefit is that some stores offer ecoupons that you can just add to your card, so when you check out, they automatically take off the extra savings.

-Bring in printed or clipped coupons, even if you have the ecoupon, they'll (at least the store here does) use both for the same product. On top of that, they will double your printed/clipped coupons up to $1.

-Some stores (NOT Walmart) will let you use multiple printed coupons for the same item. For example yesterday I bought some frozen bread that I had 3- $1 off coupons for. They used all 3 of my coupons, so instead of paying $4.99, I paid $1.99!!

-Look through the sales and match your coupons with their sales.

I'm not an expert yet, but as I learn more, I'll be sure to tell you how it's done! ;) Yesterday, it paid off pretty well.

By the way, if you're local, all of these tips work at King Soopers. For non local readers, this store is part of Kroger, so if you have one near you, that may work for you too.
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