These days the stock market is really tankin' and its kind of depressing, the only consolation I have is that its happening to the whole world. So what to do? I could be like this giraffe at Busch Gardens and just munch away on some grass like I don't have a care in the world. That actually is probably sound advice, don't panic. But actually if you have a little bit of cash that needs investing, this is the time. But stick to the solid dividend stocks that don't really change a whole lot, except to mostly just increase in value and keep paying out dividends. I've had a couple energy stocks this past quarter that totally dived with the gas prices and not surprisingly; they ceased paying dividends. Now they aren't worth much, plus they quit paying the dividend that made it worth it in the first place. Needless to say, I don't check www.mint.com everyday these days.
Well 2015 was an expensive year, compared to the previous year 2014 where we lived on $34K, and the prior year 2013 where we lived on $32K. I was kind of hoping this year would be the same as the last two years but alas it is time to buckle down and get back to budgeting. My motto is that you can't improve what you don't measure, so even though you don't like the numbers you see they are what they are.
- $8548 The largest expense (20% of spending) we had this year was travel - we went on a couple cruises this year, 5 day and 7 day, a trip to Phoenix, AZ, a trip to Minnesota and our annual timeshare week at Naples, FL. This is probably about normal and we expect to continue to have about five vacations each year, so a budget cut will have to come from another area.
- $6000 The next largest (14%) portion is our allowance. We each get $250/month to spend or save as we like on stuff that is not included in the house. Lunches with coworkers, outings without each other, clothing that is not necessary, electronics, toys, experiences that we don't do together. The house buys if we go out together for dinner, or do a trip or activity together. Sometimes we splurge and each chip in our allowance because the "house" can't afford it right then. This expense is the same every year and we each have sizable individual savings that we occasionally withdraw from to purchase from when we can't justify it coming from the house.
- $3256 The third most expensive (7%) portion is clothing, electronics and misc. This is the culprit for the unknown spending. I did buy a GoPro this year, and some cool Columbia clothing for our BWCA camping trip, but this category needs serious tracking to keep it smaller than it is. This is not a frugal person category.
- $2546 Our cars, motorcycles and home (not counting insurance) maintenance costs were a little high (6%) considering all we fixed on the cars was an alternator this year. I think this is the patio paver project we did in the spring was the bulk of this spending. We also got a new metal roof installed on our home but didn't include that expense ($20K) in our living expenses since it was paid off from savings. Next year we're installing a polyvinyl fence around our yard and expect to pay up to $10K for that. Then our forever home will be solid, well, forever.
- $2207 Home Insurance - we have lived in our home in FL for twenty one years and have always had State Farm insurance. Amazingly, they have never canceled us, but then again we live in a inexpensive home 25 feet above sea level, and we've never filed a claim. So they are glad to take a couple thousand from us. We could probably get cheaper insurance but I don't want to deal with inspections and if we do ever file a claim, the fighting and denials that come with less than reputable insurance company.
- $2117 Food, Household supplies and beverages (not including the keg) - we still coupon, but have started to withdraw $100-200 cash a month for groceries and stuff you get at Publix. We still have large stockpiles and years worth of paper products and shampoo, plus 3 refrigerators and freezers full. Our goal is to move through enough so we don't need to chest freezer. This does not include our monthly keg of beer we purchase with our allowance ($1260).
- $2114 Entertainment, news, gifts - includes concerts, sporting events, season passes to Busch Gardens, newspaper subscriptions (I get 6 sunday papers, plus 1 weekly paper), and gifts mostly for grandchildren, since we don't exchange gifts with each other.
- $1859 Life Insurance - we both have whole life policies that have a sizable cash payout if we don't want to wait til we die to collect. We don't really need the insurance but its a cheap safe investment.
- $1564 Health Insurance, rx, copay, dentist - we are fortunate to only $15/mo each for health insurance through our employer, so the bulk of this was dental, a new crown I got in December.
- $1553 Electricity - this actually is more than 2014, but we have noticed a decrease in monthly costs since our new metal roof was installed. We also installed a new programmable thermostat this year and actually program it to ease off AC during workdays.
- $1550 Cell phones - We have two Galaxy S phones, one unlimited SERO plan on Sprint that I use, and DH uses Ringplus.net on his phone since he doesn't really need or use data. This includes purchase of a new Galaxy S6 phone I got 6 months ago, and the repair cost of $146 from Samsung to fix a cracked glass. I now have an Otterbox case so that won't happen again.
- $1442 Car Insurance - we have a risky state to drive in, so we are fully covered and have high uninsured motorist coverage despite having a 11 year old Camry and 18 year old Explorer. We could cut this back but DH doesn't want to.
- $1413 Dining Out - this doesn't include our weekly dinner out for wings and beer because that is out of allowance. So, I'm pretty sure this category can be cut back.
- $1321 Internet/Cable TV - We could cut expense here and probably will. I have super duper fast internet uploads and downloads and could downsize on that. We don't have a DVR or any extra packages, just HD cable but DH watches live sports every night so there is no way we can get rid of cable. I never watch TV, but I do use the internet so we each have our needs met.
- $1241 Gasoline - for all vehicles. We drove 14000 miles between 2 cars and 2 motorcycles, plus the 1300 miles I rode my bike to work (130 days of the year).
- $1121 Property tax - our home is not really appreciating despite the market conditions, and the property tax is capped due to a "save our homes" law in FL many years ago.
- $1069 Motorcycle Insurance - I know, we spend a lot on insurance. But DH collided with a car 5 years ago and lived to tell about it, we collected our maximum uninsured motorist amount due to injuries received, so now we keep this insurance high.
- $743 Water, Garbage, Recycle pickup - twice a week pickup, not much we can do to decrease this except watch our water usage. We are already frugal in this area so I'm okay with this one.
- $664 Personal care - haircuts. I am growing my hair out so I've only been to my stylist a few times this year, but DH gets a haircut every 3 weeks. I think this should come out of allowance, but alas I do not always get my way. I've tried negotiating this every year, but its not worth drama and resentment.
- $328 Pet - our old lab mix dog is over 15 years old this year. She has vertigo, is totally deaf, has cataracts, and has a huge fatty lump on her body and now her bad hips are very weak and she struggles to stand for more than a minute, but she walks fine. Despite this, she didn't have any medical needs this year other than routine meds. She probably won't make it through the year 2016.
In summary, our expenses are about $12,000 more than last year. Most of our set costs have remained similar, but the misc category and travel can be monitored more closely. We can continue to travel, but we'll be more deal seekers. And we don't need more clothes this year. I would like to have a no clothing spend challenge with DH this year.
Do you have any ideas for us to cut back expenses?
|my sock drawer before decluttering|
6 months later...
Wow, I need to get remotivated. I wrote this post 6 months ago and actually did a purge of clothing, we got rid of a dozen garbage bags of clothes. But I felt very little joy from my clothing. I actually threw out too much and didn't have any of those old grungy tshirts to do lawnwork, or painting in. So, I dug out some of my favorites that I had tossed and put some shirts on my shelf. I also didn't continue to other items beyond clothing. I'll have to start over and read the book again because I do have too much clutter.
If you're feeling to love and want to declutter, another blogger is having a challenge in January to declutter with a nifty calendar plan, check it out at Simply Stacie. The calendar is a printable pdf so you can print it out and hang it up to follow all month.
If you've got a new fitbit, here are some tips.
- Wear it and forget it. If you take it off, you may forget it and miss out on your tracking.
- The unit charge lasts several days, it charges on a usb port on PC or wall charger. charge it while sedentary reading or watching tv, or overnight.
- Track specific workouts by tapping twice. then you can check the data on your PC to see expanded view of your activity progress.
- Log sleep manually if you forget to tap twice before you lay your head down.
- Link your fitbit to My Fitness Pal app to automatically add your steps to that app. Go to settings on your MFP app and click add devices, it will take you to website to allow fitbit to access your account.
- If unsure of accuracy compare to cardio trainer app, or Moves app to validate movement. Actually if you don't want to buy a fitbit, the moves app will track activity without an additional device, just have your phone with you. Won't work for swimming or yoga, but would work for biking. The Moves app also can be linked to your www.ShopYourWay.com account to earn you points and $2 each week at Kmart or Sears.
- Join higi.com to make money from exercising, android app. Link your fitbit and moves app to higi to earn even more. There is usually a new Challenge every month where you can win gift cards by logging in at higi stations (blood pressure machines) in Publix stores and other retail pharmacies.
- Join www.Fitstudio.com and link it to your www.ShopYourWay.com account (at Kmart and Sears) to earn 2000 points each week you walk 15 miles. The points expire quickly within the week, but we've used it to get stuff almost every week.
- Download app and join Google Fit which you can link to GoodCoins to earn points. Not really sure how many points you need or what they are worth.
- Fitbit comes with a small and large wristband. Its good to have spare. If you don't like your color you can buy a fashionable band. They even sell leather and metal ornaments to make it look pretty.
My expectations have changed and my goal is simply to save as much as I can, rather than just get free stuff. My stockpile room has overflowing shelves and some of the foods I know I just will not get to before I decide I need to just toss it. As a former food scientist, I know that expiration dates are simply a suggestion and manufacturers use the date to rotate stock and try to ensure freshness. However, shelf stable products that have been stored at ambient temperature are good for many years, despite the expiration date. Anyway, I've been trying to scale back my stockpile and its really difficult. My three freezers are bursting and I have to pass many frozen foods deals because I don't have room.
So, onto this shop. I think this is a good sale week so I stocked up on a lot of dairy products. The unique thing I noticed about my coupons this week is that they were all printables. I think that's a good thing, since here in Tampa we don't get the Red Plum in our Sunday papers and getting multiples takes a bit more work from gathering from friends and neighbors.
The pork sausage rolls were a money maker with the raincheck from Thanksgiving time, and the International Delight creamer is a money maker. This helped offset the cost of the Kraft Cheese which is a good deal, but cheese is still expensive. I didn't read the TGIF coupon closely and the 1/1 mq from www.saveinstore.com is only good on 10oz or larger, so I had to pull out the $1.50/3 mq print from coupons.com that was good on any size to get the smaller potato skins snacks. I would have saved a couple more dollars by getting 6 larger size boxes and using all $1/1 mqs (it would have been $0.39 for all 6 boxes). I also didn't have any $5 off basket coupons, deciding against using the $10 off Visa coupon in the ad this week because they're a hassle to use. So, in the end my total was $8.74, and I saved 92% which was $106.39. I paid using the $100 GC I won recently from a texting sweepstakes with Publix and Kelloggs.
We decided to go out for chicken wings at BWW in Ybor City, a fairly close ride about ten miles from our home. When we had touched base with our friends I opened the Uber app and a map of my area showed with a marker for pickup area. I entered our exact home address and then down on the bottom part of the app I clicked UberX. There are three types of fares for Uber; UberX is regular 0.95/mile, and UberXL is for larger groups so you'll get a van or SUV to answer your request for a ride and this costs $1.35/mile. There is also UberSelect which is fancy cars like BMWs and this costs + $2/mile (not exactly sure of price). But for most people UberX will work just fine.
When I clicked the UberX I could see on the app that my request was picked up by a car less than a mile away from my home and it would be a Camry. It linked my pickup spot to the car and I could see it move on my map as it got closer. Within 4 minutes the dude was in our driveway. He was really nice and when we started our ride and he clicked his app on his phone to start the ride it showed our destination and gave him verbal and visual directions to Ybor City. We asked the driver a ton of questions being that we had never done a Uber ride before. We had an equally nice experience on the way home with another Uber driver.
It was an easy way to get around, and we'll definitely do it for the airport when we travel. The thing in Tampa is that Uber is not licensed to provide services at the airport so drivers take care to make sure a passenger is in the front seat to appear less like a taxi service; and to ask the passenger to not answer any questions from people who may question them upon disembarking from a vehicle about whether they just utilized Uber for their ride.
So, if you ever need a ride around town, I'd recommend you try Uber. And use my promo code uberFPLS to sign up for your free first time ride only. I am not being compensated for this blog post from Uber, I just like the service and think its a great alternative choice. The only benefit I get for sharing is if you use my promo code uberFPLS, I also get a free ride on Uber just like you do.
Well our shopping has changed since the end of Winn Dixie $5 off $30 coupons. Occasionally there are other competitors or gas card deals ($10 off $50) or even Publix coupons in the paper, but generally we've been eating more off our stockpile. For our produce, which is expensive at Publix we shop at Save-A-Lot. We can get a 4 lb bag of navel oranges for $2.99, when the same 8 oranges at Publix would be more than double that. So, we go to the store a lot less; one trip to SaveALot and one trip to Publix. I also have to watch the ads for Winn Dixie and Aldi to see if there is any produce deal we need. It costs about $6 a week to get lettuce and stuff for our salads.
This trip was about usual, spending a little more than $5. Our goal now this year is to spend $100 a month to feed the two of us. This trip was all coupon stuff, the craisins were free, and the vitamins and buddig meats were moneymakers. I did another similar shop with vitamin A which is cheaper than Folic, and the same basket of stuff cost me $2.48. The bacon was a good deal ($1 each) because we used the Publix coupon from last weekends paper for $2 off $8 of meat, and also some $2 off pork coupons we picked up at the state fair in the Florida Living Building at the Iowa Corn booth. In the end it cost $6, and we saved $78.35 - a 92% savings.
Here is the breakdown:
Another year has passed us by and it is admittedly getting tougher to live frugally. I especially felt like spending money this Christmas season, and felt jealous of others my age (in their 50's) who have houses worth 3x ours, and fancy vacations, and some even retiring. Granted there are plenty of people out there who are also falling into poverty through no fault of their own from medical issues to just bad luck in their careers. We are thankful to be able able to stay the course and hope the stock market continues its steady climb.
We do not make a lot of money, but we both work. But we have managed to save over half of our income and invest in some dividend stocks, peer to peer lending with Lending Club, and ETFs through Wealthfront. As a result our money made more money than we did this year. We have no debt and our retirement portfolio increased by over twenty percent again this year. And it is because we save more than we spend. We also spend less than we make. Both frugal actions are necessary to plan a successful future. But it is hard, even though the behavior is ingrained throughout life. There are always new temptations and desires so my defense is to always wait on spending decisions. I have to think it through, alot. I once read that you should take a day to think about every $100 you spend. So, it you want to buy a $500 dollar laptop, you need to think about it for 5 days before you spend to determine if you can really justify the purchase. Thats my trick anyway.
So, this year we spent about $34,000 maintaining our lifestyle and household. We track everything on Mint.com and categorize the expenses. Last year we spent $32K. One big expense ($2,125) this year was our dog. She is over 14 now and has developed a permanent case of vertigo due to chronic ear infections and being under anesthetic surgery this year. Our largest expense category this year is allowance and personal care ($4200). We each get $250 a month in allowance to spend or save as we please. If we both do something together it is considered a household expense, but if only one person wants the expenditure it is allowance. I usually buy computer stuff or victoria secret or clothing, my husband buys experiences like auto racing, or massages. Our next largest category is travel ($3661) and it was lower this year than previous years. The third largest expense category was Clothing, Electronics and Miscellaneous ($3611). This was a surprise to me since it didn't seem like we spend much on clothes but I guess we did. This is an area for opportunity to cut back since probably most of it was discretionary and unnecessary.
We did have a couple categories where we managed to cut expenses, one was cable and also phone. We played the mars movie moments sweepstakes and won hundreds of dollars toward our cable bill this summer. We essentially had free cable and internet for four months. We also changed my husbands smartphone to ringplus where he only pays $11 a month for phone, text and data. I pay $50 a month for the unlimited Sprint plan. We still coupon for our groceries and with the changes in Publix coupon policies it has affected our ability to stockpile.
We expect to see our grocery bill go higher in 2015 but still plan to do what we can with coupons. I still will get six newspapers on Sunday for coupons, but I think printing coupons is probably cheaper and there are many of the same insert coupons that available to print. I also want to investigate a way to decrease the insurance costs of our 17 year old truck. We have max coverage and we only drive it 1500 miles a year making it expensive per mile analysis. We need to separate the vehicles and get a separate policy with just minimum on the truck. There are other areas we could cut back but at this point we don't see the need.
Need to plan for a bake sale, cookie exchange or holiday party? Pillsbury’s Quick Peanut Butter Blossoms recipe makes it quick and easy to bake up this holiday classic.
Be on the lookout for exclusive savings on Pillsbury refrigerated cookies starting December 4, available at Publix!
Printable coupons available at www.ReadyPlanSave.com
Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.