Showing posts with label budget. Show all posts
Showing posts with label budget. Show all posts

2016 How Much Were Our Household Expenses?


It might not look like much, but that 10 foot vinyl fence gate cost about a thousand dollars. It was one of the few remaining costs to prepare our forever home for retirement. It will last longer than we will, barring a hurricane. The fence was the big project this year. If you remember we put on a metal roof in 2015. So the only thing left to buy big is a new vehicle before we retire. Actually, our 2004 Camry would probably last the rest of our life, but we feel like we deserve to have a new vehicle to travel around the country. It will be our last vehicle and we expect it to last over 20 years.

Some of you may wonder why or how we bother to track our expenses. Actually, it is critical for anyone who is frugal and wishes to spend less than they earn. And if you are retired, you don't earn much from pensions and social security and your investments, so awareness is essential. As an Analyst by trade, I know you can't improve what you don't measure. If you can't even bother yourself to measure where you're at; you have little hope to improve. This philosophy applies to finances, health, exercise and diet.

If you monitor your expenses, there is immense peace and lack of anxiety about money if you have a good idea what goes in and out of your household moneywise. We use two different applications - both are free. Mint to monitor our spending and calculate our year end expenses. Personal Capital has some really nice retirement calculators and you can add in different income streams and expenses for certain amounts of time to really get a good idea of your readiness for retirement. Both can be accessed from your computer on their websites, or thru apps on your tablet or smartphone.

2016 was an expensive year, very expensive with the fence and shed purchase over $11,000. I'm not adding this to the budget because the projects were paid with our savings account. Even so we spent a lot on miscellaneous stuff. Way to much was spent on clothing. And our stockpiles are getting depleted so more was spent on household supplies and groceries. And of course we spend way too much on beer, it is over half of our grocery spending. We eat out two times a week on Friday and Saturday at our favorite little pub (The Firehouse) where we enjoy the best Buffalo chicken wings and a pitcher of Bud - this expense is from our allowance. We each pay for one night, its $21 including tip for 20 wings and a pitcher. Quite the bargain, its hard to go out anywhere else. Anyway, it turns out we spent more this year than last, about $45,000 for our household.
We do not have any debt, so we don't have any car payments (our cars are 13 and 19 years old), our house was paid off six years ago and now our home is completely ready for retirement as we have remodeled all rooms, fence, roof and appliances. Our dog died this year too so that expense has disappeared. Our health expenses were higher this year due to dental costs, we each had a crown replaced and we had some cleanings. Our health insurance remains inexpensive as we pay $30/month for a PPO plan through the State of Florida, our employer. The home expenses don't include the cost of the fence and the shed, but they do include the costs of removing some trees along the fence line, paint to remodel the doghouse into a nice sun porch, and AC service, a new dishwasher, plumbing maintenance and carpet cleaning.

The biggest category that needs to come under control is the Cash and ATM category in miscellaneous spending. We like to use cash to stay off the grid, but it doesn't show up in any of my apps (like mint, or personal capital). We also spend quite a bit on haircuts for DH, but I'm afraid he is too vain to let me cut his hair every 3 weeks (@$19 a pop). He is going bald so maybe in a few years this expense will diminish. We did cut back on our auto insurance coverage level, going from 300/100 to 100/50 since we drive so little (opting to walk, ride MC or ride bicycles to work).

We are already very frugal and generally do not employ home services, instead electing to take care of our own lawn, pool, house cleaning, tree maintenance, obtaining and splitting of firewood, home maintenance jobs such as plumbing, electric, carpentry and painting. With the excellent videos available on Youtube, one can really do almost any task with some basic training. I figure if a person who doesn't even have a college degree or HS degree can do a job, I certainly should be able to figure it out. The one exception is when special equipment is needed that is too expensive to rent. We did hire a tree guy to remove a 40 ft tall tree that was too dangerous for us to do ourselves.

Anyway, our expenses every year have been trending higher, but just barely, I'm going to attribute this to higher prices of goods and services. But we must remain vigilant these last few years before we retire to keep our spending in check, I would actually like to keep it below 40K per year.

2013 we spent 32K
2014 we spent 34K
2015 we spent 43K
2016 we spent 45K

Our plan for this next year 2017 is to start adding cash payments into mint.com as a manual payment. I also want to be better at always assigning and splitting ATM transactions so they are all accounted for before we forget and move on. I'm going to try to not buy any clothes or shoes this year, because I have plenty to last for years. We have a decent deal on cable/internet at $124/month but that contract will end in March of 2018 and it will be time to shop. DH will not give up his live sports channels, so until live streaming is "easy" on the big TV, its an expense we'll have to keep.

Well, that's about it for 2016, another year on the books.
 
 
 

2014: Review of How We Lived On $34,000

Our household expenses for the year

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.

How To Save $2000 a Year

It has dawned on me that being frugal is boring. I know that sometimes I think its exciting to go recycling on Monday nights (Yeah! DH went with me last night too), and writing about coupon cost saving shopping trips, but y'all probably just skip the post after the first sentence, or even after the title. Today though is another boring tip that you probably already do, but maybe you didn't realize how much money you are saving by doing it. Its really simple. Brown Bag it. Yup, bring your lunch to work. It will save you thousands of dollars a year. But its boring because we do the same frugal lunch most days.

DH & I have been having homemade salads for lunch at work for over seven years, I've been doing it longer -close to ten years. And I'm not bored with it. Its really convenient to just grab it out of the fridge and eat, no waiting in line for the microwave, heating time or assembly. More on that some other day, we do have an assembly line when we make our salads on Sundays. Anyway, to avoid boredom with our lunch, we change the salad to Olive Garden greek salads, or BBQ pork salads, or Taco Salads, but mainly its grilled chicken salads.

There are always the comments in the lunch room as we get our salads, "Oh another salad day, how exciting!", Or "Gee what kind of salad today?", or "You're going to turn into a rabbit eating salads like that everyday". But we make GR8 salads that are easy and healthy. Sure we put meat and cheese on it, but you've got to have some fat in your diet. We portion the salad dressing into snack size ziplocs and put a bag in each bowl so its easy to bite off a corner and squirt it on and toss the bag - easy to clean up too.

But one of the best things about bringing a lunch everyday is that it saves us over $2000 a year. It's even cheaper now that we use coupons, and when we get our garden producing, it will cut the costs by another third. A typical lunch purchased at the Deli would cost about $6/day or $1440/year. Our salads cost $1.51/day or $362/year each, so thats about $724 total household cost, compared to $2880 cost of Deli lunches for both of us.

I know its boring, but VERY satisfying to save money. I've attached a yummy picture of my salad for today, and cost analysis (CLICK TO ENLARGE) so you can figure out how YOU can save money by packing your lunch and using coupons.

2013 Financial Review of Expenses

It's always interesting to figure where your money goes. Even if you track receipts and sync up all your investments with Mint.com, its still a little blurry and murky to pin point the exact amount of money you take in and put out. Really our finances are one big game of offense and defense, with the goal being to gain in the end. That means if your offense is weak (you don't take in a lot of money), you have to be really good at defense by minimizing spending and getting the most of the money you do spend. If you have strong offense and make a lot of money, its really tempting to spend a lot and then you really aren't any better off than the household that has a weak offense.

In my opinion my DH and I don't have much offense, since we are state employees and of course the State of Florida has not been generous with wages - ever. We get paid in sunshine. So, we have a strong defense and minimize what we spend in most areas, but we get what we want in other areas. We are fortunate to have already paid our dues working in corporate America and made decent wages years ago, where we paid off all our debts - student loans, mortgage, vehicles and credit cards. I'm going to say that even though we are frugal, we are not scrooges. There are certain luxuries, pleasures and conveniences that we "want" and are willing to pay the price for. With that being said, even though there are some discretionary expenses in our budget we try to get them as inexpensive as possible. There are many things we do in our life that are absolutely free - like gather firewood from curbsides when a tree is chopped down, split it with our hydraulic splitter and enjoy backyard fires in the chiminea every weekend.


Our household expenses for 2013 were $32,177. Here is a breakdown:

  • Travel (7,037) - this was our largest categorical spending. In the past few years we've had to remodel our home, so we traveled less. This was 21% of our budget and I see this staying the same whether its for a big household project (next year is a new roof) I would like to have about 20% discretionary budget to either travel or make a big purchase.
  • Allowance (6,000) - we each get $250/month to do as we want that doesn't come out of household budget. DH buys cigarettes and goes racing. I buy electronics and victoria secret. This is also where beer kegs come out of budget. Allowance also includes dining out at our favorite pub for wings and beer on Fridays and Saturdays. This is one area we could try to cut back since most of my allowance just goes into my allowance account and is more than I need.
  • Maintenance (car/mc/home 2,876) - this is kind of large this year because we had our 15 yr old Ford Explorer painted at Maaco, and we also had brakes replaced on both cars, plus motorcycle maintenance is a rip off. Motorcycles are not frugal when you consider the maintenance and insurance costs.
  • Home Insurance (1,960) - a necessary evil, but luckily we're not in a flood zone and we're lucky State Farm still finds us worthy of insuring in Florida.
  • Life Insurance (1,860) - these whole life insurance policies are not really necessary now in our life, but we keep them because cash value is worth more than we've paid in premiums. Actually, we have pretty risky lifestyles with our daily commuting by bicycle and motorcycle, and if one of us die, it means a loss of future pension and social security income for the household. So maybe we do need these policies.
  • Electricity (1,702) - we spend way to much on electricity but with our pool pump, hot tub, chest freezer, 2 refrigerators, kegerator and electronics its to be expected. We try to unplug when we can, empty the hot tub in the summer and I'm trying to get us back to just one refrigerator if we can get rid of all our food.
  • Internet/Cable TV (1,539) - This is an expense we should work on lowering. DH will not give up live sports broadcasts, and I like good fast internet and wifi. But we should threaten Verizon FIOS and try to get them to lower our rates or something - maybe they want to sponsor me?
  • Cell phones (1,409) - this category was expensive because I upgraded to a new Samsung S4 and my plan increased to $56/month. I passed on my old Samsung Epic to DH and his plan through Ting is only $20/month. So next year we'll spend $500 less in this category.
  • Car Insurance (1,212) - our 10 yr old car and 15 yr old truck should be a lot less expensive to insure, but this is Tampa where over 40% of drivers are uninsured. The majority of our policy expense is uninsured motorist coverage which we have at 100/300. Next year we plan to lower this to 50/100 since we don't drive much. It should save us a few hundred dollars.
  • Groceries/HH Supplies (1,248) - We purchased $21,529 worth of product using cash and gift cards this year. This involved 355 trips to stores. I save every receipt and log in the spending and saving, which I have done for years. We saved 88%, which averaged out to $104 per month spent. This is significantly less than we have bought in years past because couponing is getting harder to do with stricter usage policies, increased competition for goods and smaller value coupons. I expect to continue to coupon to save, but plan to continue to budget $100 per month for groceries and HH supplies.
  • Motorcycle Insurance (1,088) - again we have maximum coverage since the probability of needing it are good since riding is risky and most drivers will hit and run if they can, its best to have your own insurance because many drivers do not, and more than likely an accident will be the fault of the other party. 
  • Property Tax (1,088) - we are protected by the save our homes legislation that prevents tax increases in homes that people have lived in for many years.
  • Shopping misc (1,064) - This includes gifts, electronics accessories, clothing, and other weird stuff that doesn't fit in any other category. There is probably some room to cut expenses here. 
  • Water/garbage (725) - provided by the city so we don't have a choice in vendors. We do have an irrigation line so all outdoor water usage is charged at a tenth of the city water cost. We use less than 3000/gal water per month which is the threshold for the surcharge.
  • Newspapers/coupons (441) - this is large because I bought Winn Dixie $5 off $30 coupons, and I also get 8 Sunday papers for coupons. I might cut the newspapers back to 4 per week since I use a lot of printables now.
  • Health Insurance (450) - includes visit co pays and rx. Just trying to stay healthy to keep this cost low.
  • Pet (435) - includes dog food, meds and vet visits. The 13 yr old dog has been healthy this year except she has gone deaf. We also have a vet surgery scheduled to remove a cyst on her eyelid that will cost a bunch in early 2014.
  • Gasoline (291) - this includes cash we have used to buy gas cards at Publix, and the occasional time we have purchased gas while traveling by car.

So that's it for 2013. We want to spend less next year than this year, a simple goal. If we could keep our expenses under 30K that would be good. Looking forward to a prosperous 2014 with hopes of increasing our networth so that retirement is a little bit closer to reality.

Wishing you a healthy, prosperous and stress free life.

Happy New Year to You! 

Tips on Obtaining Your Budgeting Goals

As we find ourselves in a time of economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we are sticking to the budgets that we set out for ourselves. Going over budget in these tough economic times could mean not being about to pay our bills on time or having to forfeit assets. As these are things that no one ever wants to have to do, try following these tips that will help you to stay on track with your budget and make it through the economic crisis without worry.

1. Make a budget.
It will come as no surprise that a person can not stick to a budget that the have not made. Knowing this, naturally the first step to sticking too your budget is making that budget. The first step to making your budget is documenting your income for every month. Next tally up all of your fixed expenses, or bills. Whatever is left, distribute to categories like groceries, gas, entertainment, and whatever other things you find yourself spending money on. A key category that you should try to put money into every month is savings. That way if you do have to stray from your budgeting goals you have extra money to do so. It also helps in the event of an emergency to know that you have funds stored away if you need them.

2. Use the envelope system.
Even when you have a budget, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge your spending if you are always using a credit or debit card. A great way to keep track of your spending is the envelope system. This system is quite simple to understand and very easy to follow. You will simply make an envelope for each of your spending categories for the month and write the name of the spending category on the front of the envelope. Every month you will put in the amount of cash you have set aside for each of those categories in their respective envelopes. This way when the envelope is empty, you know that you should not spend any more for that month.

3. Do away with online shopping.
Online shopping is all to easy to do, meaning that it is all to easy to spend money that you wouldn't normally spend, and that you might not have for that category of spending. Just say no! Although you may be enticed by the ease and convince of online shopping, it will come back to bite you when you receive your bills for your purchases. If you do have money in your envelope in the category that corresponds with your online purchase, feel free to spend it online but be sure that you take the amount of money you spend online from your envelope and put it into your checking or savings accounts. This will prevent you from double spending your budget.

Author Jason Harter is an accountant who makes a living off of his skill with numbers. He handles a lot of busgetary decisions both in the workplace and at home. He is an authority on accounting because of his Masters in Accounting Degree

How We Spent Our Money in 2012


One of my favorite websites, Mint.com makes evaluating your expenses much simpler at the end of the year. They actually have a pretty good app for smartphones too which I check everyday to make sure no one stole my identity, or money. One of my other favorite websites, Mr Money Mustache has posted his yearly spending so I feel compelled to also drop our drawers and lay it all out there.
 
I thought it would be interesting to see where all our money went last year and what opportunities there are for improvement this coming year. You might not really care what we spend, but you're probably nosy and will continue to read and see how you compare to us, a couple of cheap asses who recycle plastic baggies (not really). I think this may be a useful exercise to see where our money goes and to try to manage it so that when we retire we'll be able to fully enjoy ourselves on a limited budget. We learned a long time ago how fun it is to not have a car payment. And we learned a few years ago how fun it is to not have a house payment. And we learned last year how fun it is to not have to pay for food, gas or household products. So, just there we have three categories of expenses that have just went poooffff! up the air, gone to heaven and hopefully, never be seen again.
 
As you recall, we did a pretty extensive remodel of our home including all three bedrooms, dining room, living room and office. This ended up being our largest expense of the year and its worth every dime. Now our home is totally renovated and modern, and we're on our way to a clean, uncluttered existence as we sort through the outcast stuff we still have in our "green" room or the stockpile room.
 
Anyway, listed here are our largest expense categories of the year.
 
1. Home (Insurance, taxes, remodel, furnishings, appliances) $13,291
This was by far our biggest expense even though we have no mortgage or loans. The taxes $1000 and insurance $2500 are pretty much out of our control so that is a fixed expense. The remodel and new furnishings were a one time expense we  don't anticipate this again, although there are other projects on the horizon in years to come such as a new roof, fenced yard and we expect a new A/C unit will be needed someday since ours is over fifteen years old. However, we paid for everything and expect next years home expenses to be less than a third of what they were. There are opportunities to repair rather than replace, and preserve what we have so it lasts longer. My goal for 2013 is to spend less than $5000 for the year on this category.
 
2. Utilities (mobile phones, internet, TV, electric, water, garbage) $6,056
We are generally frugal in our use of utilities such as water, electricity and try to recycle to minimize garbage. I've unplugged one dorm size refrigerator and hope to empty our small freezer so we can unplug that as well. That leaves two full size refrigerators and a kegerator sucking down electricity at a high rate. In the warm weather, I unplug and drain the hot tub since we use the pool. Likewise in the cool weather I run the pool filter pump less hours per day since we don't swim in it for half the year (although the dog does - every day!) I was hoping to decrease our TV/Internet expense when our contract was up, but that didn't turn out and I feel fortunate to pay the same rate for another two years. Maybe by then DH can be weaned off cable and we can subsist on online streaming of sports events and TV programs. I'm looking to cutting our cell phone costs in half this year as I combine my smartphone with DH's account at only $40 a line unlimited everything. We are both eligible to upgrade our phones, but the frugal thing is to just keep them both as is. So there is definitely opportunity to cut expenses in this category, so my goal this year is to spend less than $5000 in this category as well.
 
3. Allowances $6000
DH and I each get an allowance monthly to pay for stuff that is not a household expense.This category would also include going out to restaurants which we only do a couple times a year - except for the Firehouse where we go regularly for wings and beer. These optional expenses like beer, cigarettes, going out to eat, massages, extravagent unnecessary expenses (Ipad, extra computers, music) are paid for with cash from our allowance. We both save a significant portion of our allowance being the frugal spenders we are. DH used to spend a good portion of his allowance on driving a race car and I purchased computers and photography equipment. If we decide to do something extravagent that the house "can't afford" we both chip in from our allowance. This category will stay the same next year.
 
4. Auto & Motorcycle (insurance, maintenance, gasoline) $4,126
Our two old cars and two newer motorcycles are very expensive to insure in this state of Florida where almost half the drivers do not carry insurance, and I'm sure a good portion of them are driving on suspended licenses as well. It is dangerous and therefore we have probably excessive insurance compared to most people. But after DH was struck by an uninsured driver in 2010 and we received a nice settlement from our own insurance, we feel safer on the roads having sufficient insurance. But this is one area we can still cut back on insurance with the red truck since it sits in the driveway the majority of its life, and its the biggest boxiest safest vehicle we have. Of our auto expenses, over half is insurance $2470, $1657 was maintenance on all four vehicles. I've made a note to mention $1722 for gasoline even though this was paid for with gift cards we got at Publix from overage, and yard sale proceeds. So the opportunity here is to cut insurance a little and to ride my bike more this year, so this year we can spend less than $4000 in this category.
 
5. Travel $3,384
This category has suffered since we have been remodeling. Now that our home is updated, we plan to resume frequent travel. We already have booked a nice seven day cruise to the Virgin Islands this spring, and plan to book another for Fall 2013, in addition to our annual trip up North to visit our families. We have let all our season tickets to NASCAR races go unrenewed and we may attend these types of events at most once a year. I actually desire to travel to places I haven't been to before, or places I traveled to as a child. I would love to visit San Francisco, Hawaii, Yellowstone National Park, Colorado and Canada. We're actually in a holding pattern for extended long trips as long as we have our old dog. When she passes in a few years, we'll be able to take longer trips overseas without having to worry about finding a caretaker for her. So this year, I would expect this category to at least double, if not approach $10,000.
 
6. Shopping $2,793
Amazon is the death of me. It is way to easy to shop online and it shows up here in this category. We have way to many clothes and shoes and could easily go years without purchasing anything to wear. I see this category as an opportunity to cut in half to about $1400.
 
7. Health (Rx, copays, insurance) $1,722
This category just increased this year because of our Governor, for the first time in ten years we were required to pay health insurance premiums. I hope to just maintain the cost of this category in the future, not much hope of decreasing it until I hit menopause or quit having sex, and can quit going to the doctor for those little pills.
 
8. Entertainment (Busch Gardens, Concerts) $1,656
This category is actually not very much of our budget and I hope to be able to maintain that amount this year. We do go to a lot of free festivals and inexpensive concerts to keep this cost down. Actually, since we used to work concert events we have seen almost every performer we care to see and the cost is often not worth it if we've seen it. We did splurge and buy good tickets for an upcoming Lady Gaga concert this spring.
 
9. Pet $695
The love, companionship and protection we receive in exchange for vet bills and medications is worth the cost for our dog. Dog food and treats are paid for with overage at Publix so this is actually less than most pay for a pet. If we keep this expense under $1000, that would be good. In the future this expense will go away when the dog dies.
 
10. Personal Care $249
This category is probably low since DH pays for his haircuts with cash and takes out the money when he gets his allowance. So it really should be double, closed to $500 for hair cuts and perms. It helps being low maintenance people - no manicures, hair color, no pedicures or expensive massages. All that individual stuff comes out of allowance anyway, it is not considered a household expense.
 
The missing category -  Food & Beer
This category is one where we have eliminated the expense by using coupons and shopping the sales. We buy stuff we don't need, to use the overage to get what we need. We actually made $803 last year, spending $2951 in cash and gift cards to purchase $32,729 worth of products (including $3755 in gift cards and gas cards). The cash used in shops was proceeds from yard sales selling our stockpile from couponing. We also use the cash to pay for our beer kegs, and extra spending money when we travel.
 
So, in summary our goal for the upcoming year is to cut our spending by 10% overall.
 
How did you do?

 

2012 Yearly Shopping Totals


This is complicated calculating yearly totals since there are so many factors that everyone uses differently. My yearly totals include all household products that are consumed, including gasoline for the vehicles. I pretty much only shop at Publix, I went to Sweetbay three times and Winn Dixie twice. I did not shop at CVS, Walgreens, or Target. Using manufacturer, store and competitor coupons matched with sales and occasional rainchecks we were able to get all our household products essentially free this past year.
  • We had 444 transactions and purchased $32,729 worth of products and gift cards.
  • Of that amount purchased; $3755 was gift cards ($1005 Publix, $2750 gas cards).
  • Total spending was $2951, for a profit of $803 in gift cards plus all the product was essentially free. 
  • On average, we spent $245 a month to purchase an average of $2727 worth of product.
  • The largest transaction was $179 spent for $384 worth of product including $200 in gas cards.
  • This does not include rebates and gift card offers received - I didn't track those.
You may notice we purchased a lot of product. We consume a normal amount of product and have stockpiles of paper goods and non expiring products to last years.  With food and products that expire, we determine our usage and purchase enough to have through expiration. If items are free or very cheap (less than $0.25 ea) we will buy to get our totals up to use a $/$$ coupon, or to use up the coupons I have. We donate a lot of product, and also have a yard sale to move any products that are extra and we cannot consume before they expire. The cash we earn from the sale goes into my coupon envelope and is used when we need to get gas cards, so the months with lots of cash spent - it is yard sale money. We are still learning how to manage a stockpile and determine what is appropriate amounts to keep. It is very frustrating to sell extra laundry detergent at a yard sale, and then the good deals disappear and we come perilously close to running out of a household item. 

TYD totals JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
 $   1,925.47 cash spent  $ 546.48  $     (3.28)  $     (23.34)  $     438.88  $      (4.65)  $    219.26
 $   1,025.82 GC spent  $   97.14  $   136.30  $      75.24  $     121.32  $     92.96  $      76.04
 $   2,951.29 Total Spent  $ 643.62  $   133.02  $      51.90  $     560.20  $     88.31  $    295.30
32,729.70 Value of Goods 4,322.47  $2,729.67  $ 2,534.65  $  3,856.14  $ 2,458.57  $ 3,212.34
$3,755.00 GC purchased 890.00 270.00 145.00 910.00 65.00 520.00
$803.71<---earnings 750 Gas 50 Gas 750 Gas 400 Gas








JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC YEAR AVG
 $     (42.62)  $      1.32  $     (5.04)  $   562.52  $      42.07  $   193.87  $   160.46
 $      83.84  $     33.57  $     55.93  $     32.98  $    108.04  $   112.46  $     85.49
 $      41.22  $     34.89  $     50.89  $   595.50  $    150.11  $   306.33  $   245.94
 $  2,366.35  $1,308.27  $2,529.04  $ 3,323.63  $ 1,860.68  $2,227.89  $2,727.48
10.00 0.00 0.00 705.00 0.00 240.00 $1,005.00 Pulbix CG
700 Gas 100 gas 2750 Gas CG







 
There were a lot of coupon policy changes in 2012 and a lot of the usual coupon offerings dried up - Publix booklets weren't as good, MQs are smaller value, and limits on usage make it tougher. I expect it to continue to be a challenge in the future. It does seem that empty shelves aren't a problem as much now and there are less opportunities for rainchecks. We have had to decrease the size of our orders and increase the number of transactions to take most advantage of the $/$$ coupons. My goal with every shop is to pay less than a dollar. I don't really like to have my orders go negative and have them pay me. It does happen occasionally, but I don't plan it that way. I spend my overage on non coupon items. One advantage of frequent transactions is that you are in the store almost every day and usually get the coupon booklets before they are gone, or you can ask CS each time you're in the store and get the amount you need.
 
My strategies for the upcoming year - continue multiple Sunday newspaper subscriptions, multiple computers to print coupons, frequent smaller transactions, review forums for deal ideas, use GroceryTracker app for planning each shop.
 
Hoping for good coupon karma in the upcoming year!
 
 

How to Get Out Of Debt This St. Patrick's Day


St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner. The holiday is a great opportunity for people to get together with friends and family and knock back a few beers. Traditionally, people don green attire on this holiday. However, if you want to enjoy all of the St. Patrick's Day festivities, there is another green thing you need to worry about. That green thing is money. Many people suffer from mountains of credit card debt. Debt can be suffocating for anyone who finds themselves in it. For St. Patrick's Day this year, it is time to take steps to get out of debt.

Assess the Situation
The first step to getting out of debt is to figure how serious the situation is. To do this, pull up all of your credit card statements and figure out exactly how much you owe. You also want to think about how you wound up in debt to begin with. A good way to do this is to track your spending for a week. Write down every cent you spend. This will help you understand where all of your money went. The first step to getting out of debt is understanding how you got there. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting in to debt all over again.

Make a Budget
If you want to figure out a plan to eliminate debt, you need to figure out how much you can afford to pay. In order to do this, you should make a budget. A budget is a template that helps you live a financially responsible life. You can make your budget in any number of ways, but a monthly budget is the most common format. When making your budget, you want to list several categories. First, list all of your income. Then, list your fixed expenses. This includes loan payments, rent, and utilities. The next category will be your variable expenses. This includes groceries, gas, clothing, and entertainment. This is the area where you have some flexibility. Assign a reasonable amount that you feel you can stick with. After your expenses, list another category. This category should include money you can put toward debt and money you can save. If you have left over money in your variable expense categories, that is more that you can put toward debt. The key is making a budget that you are comfortable with.

Learn to Save Money
If you pay a little more attention to detail, you can save a lot of money in every category. With groceries, look for coupons and sales before you go out. If you have a smartphone, take advantage of the many apps that are geared toward saving money at the store. To save on gas, consider combining trips. If you plan your activities ahead of time, you might be able to knock out more errands in one trip. For your gas bill, turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees. You will still be comfortable while saving a sizeable amount of money on your bill. As for entertainment, look for special event deals. It may be difficult to find a money saving pattern that works for you, but you will see results once you do.

Consider Debt Relief
If your credit card debt is sizeable, consider debt relief programs. First, contact your credit card company. They may be willing to work with you on a payment arrangement that will save you money and not destroy your credit. If you have debt on several cards, consider a debt relief service. These services can help you eliminate credit card debt in a less stressful way. Essentially, they will eliminate fees and interest so that you can save in those areas. As long as the debt relief program is reputable, you should be able to eliminate your debt as time goes on.

Author’s Bio: Mark Paul is a regular contributor for Debt Consolidation Advice and guest writes for several other finance related blogs. He covers the debt relief industry and provides helpful ways for getting out of debt. He also offers various tips for saving money and being financially responsible.

Yearly Totals 2010

This was my second year of couponing and it is finally coming together. When I first started saving with coupons, I bought lots of the processed foods and then subsequently gained weight. Then I stockpiled too much and stuff would expire before I could use it. Then I would under estimate how much we consume in our regular lifestyle and actually have to pay full price for something, while waiting for it to go on sale again. But in the final analysis, I did awesome and hope to do the same in 2011. My goals are to use rainchecks more to my advantage to even out the pantry stock and pick up more product after its been restocked in the stores.
 
I'm had a terrible time trying to find those Clorox wipes that were free after coupons because the stores were bare. I also can't seem to find the Centrum vitamins at any stores. Anyway, I've got my rainchecks. So, here's how I did this year. My DH has been an invaluable resource and coupon helper. It really helps to have support in doing this activity - from getting booklets, clipping coupons, counting items in the cart, doing the high math in the store aisle to make sure my overage is accounted for, and encouraging me to get stuff we don't need because it makes us money.
 
And we did make money on our grocery and household supplies shopping this year, about $263. That's right. We spent $1,496 on products and this included $1,760 in Publix and BP gas cards, and products valued at $14,278. We saved 89% ($12,782) on our products and food. I was kind of shocked to see these totals, but after summarizing our 253 trips to the store to get yearly totals, it was amazing to see. I would encourage everyone to keep a yearly savings log of all your receipts to help you manage your savings.
 
Prior to couponing, we used to spend $5000 a year on groceries - so that money goes to savings and travel now. I just hope after seeing shows like the Extreme Couponing episode on TLC, that our world of savings isn't revealed too much. I'm noticing more and more couponers and there's only so much product the stores have to sell.

Eat for Less Than $3 A Day

At the end of the month, since its the only payday of the month - I like to take a look back at things and assess. Additionally, since its the end of the 3rd quarter of the year, its also a good time to estimate expenses for the quarter or year, and what to expect coming up.
Today, I figured out that we spend an average of $2.81 a day each on food, me and DH (and the dog - her food and treats and toys are included in that too). We have spent $869 this year on household supplies, and groceries at the store. When you add our eating out at restaurants it brings the average per day to less than $3 each. Can you believe it? I thinks its pretty great. If I figured this month alone, it would be even lower, about $1.82 each. Here's how we do it
  1. Use coupons - I get 5 newspapers every Sunday and 3 other people at work bring me their coupons on Monday's. So with 8 coupons I can match up the sales with the coupon to save over 90% on all my grocery store purchases. I used to shop at Walmart and Target for household supplies but not in the last year. Publix can always beat those prices with BOGO sales, advantage buys and stacking manufacturer coupons with Publix store coupons.
  2. Stockpile - when there is a sale of products we use regularly, I use all my coupons and get at least 8 of the item. This usually lasts until another similar deal comes along (most sales rotate every quarter). I stockpile pasta, sauces, mixes, croutons, salad dressing, coffee, creamer, cereal, soda, condiments, paper supplies and dog food. If chicken goes on sale for less than $1.99 a lb, I'll stock up.
  3. Cook at home - a great way to minimize food expenses is to prepare your meals at home - breakfast, lunch and dinner! Using the products we stockpile, we can make plenty of food, enough for leftovers which brings me to the next tip.
  4. Eat leftovers - we usually have leftovers at least 2 nights a week which help minimize cooking time and expenses.
  5. Shop at produce stands or start a garden - we usually stop at a produce stand when we're out motorcycling in the countryside to get fresh, inexpensive vegetables for our salads and cooking. We do have a garden with our Earth boxes, but we've found that it costs more than it produces - so its really just for a hobby. But so far our boxes have nice large tomato plants, green peppers, green onions, cucumbers, celery, and yellow squash. The harvest will be about 2 months from now.
  6. Brew your own coffee - We both love our coffee every morning and it helps to brew our own. Coffee is something that is often available for a great deal when you watch for a BOGO sale. This is definitely something I'm always watching for to stockpile, you can never have enough in your stash. It would kill me to pay a high regular price for it. We also use flavored coffee and creamers so it tastes just like Starbucks. We occasionally get a Starbucks in the airport or when we travel, but we always use a free gift card for that.
  7. Bring your lunch to work - Bringing your lunch to work can save you $2000 a year. We make 10 salads every weekend and its easy and fast to pack a lunch with salad, yogurt and soda to eat at the office.
  8. Bring your snacks to work - Another way to cut expense is to bring your own snacks to work, avoiding the vending machines. Fresh fruit, granola bars, trail mix, cheese sticks and baked goods make great healthy snacks. Of course most of these can be purchased for a few pennies with coupons.
  9. Limit eating out at restaurants - we only eat out on Friday and Saturday nights at our favorite pub. Any other time is with a free gift card we get from AMEX reward points, or for a secret shop where the meal is reimbursed. When we go out for our usual weekend chicken wings we also pay with our own allowance, in cash. It's not considered a "house" expense.
  10. Eat & drink less - we don't starve ourselves, but we eat and drink only moderately. We can make a pizza last 2 meals, and we limit ourselve to one soda per day. Most of the restrictions we place on ourselves are to help maintain our healthy, active lifestyle - but it helps to stretch out your food supplies. We don't waste food and we are not gluttons. Its usually better to take a normal serving, and if we're still hungry then have seconds. We usually only eat when we're hungry, not necessarily when the clock says its a meal time. I don't eat anything after dinner, no night time snacks.
To be frugal and minimize expenses is a lifestyle, not a recipe to be followed for one week. Anyone can cut back expenses with very little effort. It just takes willpower to keep it up for a couple weeks to make it a habit.
Try it.

The Best Way To Manage Your Money

Mint
 
One of the most helpful tools I've found to track my spending is MINT.  Mint is a free online service that allows you to link up your credit cards, banks, investments and input assets to determine your net worth. It is read only and in the last year I've used it, I've never had any issues.
 
I love that I can log into ONE account to see an update of my expenditures and I can categorize and analyze them. For example, yesterday I realized that we're on track to spend $1643 this year on beer (we have a kegerator). That's more than we'll spend on groceries, which is on track to be about $1100 for the year. I also can see how much I make from rebates and secret shops by categorizing the payment checks.
 
So if you don't already use a budget tracker, I would highly recommend MINT.COM. You can sign up by clicking the banner or the link. Its free too.

Frugal Racing Road Trip

This past weekend we drove 1200 miles on a road up to Darlington, SC to attend the NASCAR races. Its a trip we do every year because we are race fans, plus its close enough to drive to. The problem with attending out of town NASCAR races is that its possible for the race to rain out and be postponed until the next day. The Darlington Southern 500 is run on Friday night and then Saturday night, so Sunday is free to drive/travel home, or be the makeup date for a postponed race.
 
This year the weather was sunny, hot and breezy - so no delays. Anyway, back to the road trip.  We attend this race every year so we actually renewed our tickets last year so that expense was already taken care of. But they were not particularly cheap, the Busch race was $35 each and the cup race was $94 each. We have premium seats right on the start finish line, twenty rows up so we can see the entire track and we have the end seats so we can run up and down the stairs to get food and use the restroom. Plus when the big fat sweaty smelly guy sitting next to you stands up (and your nose is in his butt space), you can squish over into the aisle to get away from it. So the tickets put us back $264.
 
For frugal hotel expenses, we used our government id to get the cheap rate of $70 for each of three nights at the Marriott Residence Inn. This was a great deal to stay at a nice hotel with free newspapers, free hot breakfast and a full kitchen. The race weekend is an event weekend and all hotels within 100 miles are booked at full rate. We are lucky that this hotel was less than 10 miles to the track, and we know the back way to get there so we didn't experience the hours of frustration sitting in traffic that most race fans go through. The trick to getting the government rate at the hotel, is to book it online as soon as allowed for the next year, before the venue realizes that its race weekend. Unfortunately, most of the racing travel packages, and race teams and media all like to stay at the nice hotels too, and the Marriott actually called me last year to try to get me to cancel my reservation because they needed it for a team. I refused and they actually honored the reservation.  That's exactly why I always book our stay at least two hotels, in case one cancels us to get a full price paying customers. So the hotel cost us $235.
 
We drove so we could bring all our beverages and the kitchen sink too. The wonderful thing is I've been using my overage from shopping at Publix to get free or cheap beer. We also had free bottled water from coupons, and really cheap Powerade from recent sales and coupons. So we consumed 36 bottles of water, 60 beers (5 12 pks), a 12 pk of Diet Mt Dew soda, and a 6 pk of Powerade. Total cost $0.
 
Since this is a regular road trip for us, we know where we want to eat. We get a $50 gift card from the charge card and eat at Outback the first night for free. Then for lunch we get Zaxbys wings, and dinner is a Schlotzky's sandwich we bring to the track. The other wonderful thing about going to NASCAR events is that you can bring in soft coolers of beer and beverages, plus a bag for your scanner radio, peanuts and food. We brought everything in and didn't spend a penny at the track. Parking is even free on site. But we opt to pay the local dude $20 to park in his yard for a shady spot, and a quick getaway at the end. So in the end parking cost $40, and meals were $48. We also bought a pizza on the drive up there so we could eat in the car, for $10. Our Einsteins bagels were free with the facebook coupon, and I had a birthday card for free Starbucks we got free too.
 
Our gasoline for the trip was all paid using BP gas cards we got at Publix, so they were already paid for in March. Our average mileage was 31 mpg for a cost of $112 worth of gas, but I'm not going include that in this trips expense.
 
So our entire trip expenses totalled $600 for a 4 day weekend out of town. If we had had paid the regular hotel rate, had to pay for our beverages, food and gas the cost of the trip would have been $1517. So I'm proud of our frugal trip. The great thing is that I don't feel like we were being frugal, we got everything we wanted, and never hesitated on an activity due to expense.
 
Now thats the way to travel.