Category Archives: financial

Goal Update

It’s about time … *shudder* … to check in on my goals.  All of my goals.  Which I have been “working towards.”  In theory.

It’s not so bad, really.  I think I’ll find that I’m not doing quite as well as I thought, though, which is the reason for the shudder.  Here goes nothing…

1)  Make delicious, home-made dinners a non-event

OK, this is the goal that I’m probably doing the best on (so I’m really glad it’s first!).  I’ve gone from burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and soggy PastaRoni to oven fried tilapia and martini mac and cheese.  My current goal is to find some lighter recipes to try.  Grade: A

2)  Buy and make quality pieces for our home

I’ve given more thought to the amount of time any given item will last, and if it’s worth putting in a few extra dollars for a better product.  Sometimes it’s not – a book at Half Price Books will be the same as a book at Barnes and Noble – but if it’s something that will be an obvious quality difference (for example, the watch H wears daily), I’d rather buy one that will last.  I try not to balk at spending more on an item I know we can get for less, and instead focus on the quality.  We haven’t had any major purchases in the past few months, though, so I’ve only put this into action on a small scale.  Grade: B

3)  Continuously improve our marriage

I read The Five Love Languages (and I’d highly recommend it to any person, married or not), and I’ve put a good dent in my second reading of Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus.  In a stroke of what can only be called brilliance, I put that book on the shelf behind the toilet.  Best marriage move  yet.  That may be an exaggeration, but it really has been a success – I could never convince H to read a marriage book so frequently otherwise.  Grade: A

4)  Be confident in my appearance

On the positive side, I’ve started wearing makeup on a regular basis, and I’ve started styling my hair once in a while instead of pulling it back every single day.  I haven’t been able to lose the weight that I wanted, though, so I’m disappointed most of the time  I look in the mirror.  Grade: D

5)  Be proficient on the sewing machine

I haven’t spent much time on this goal, so there’s not much to report.  I’ve only done one sewing project in 2010 (an apron), and it turned out well.  It’s nothing that I couldn’t have done in high school, however, so I’m going to have to give myself poor marks for this goal!  Grade: F

6)  Keep an organized, clean home

I’d say the house is organized.  We have a place for everything, anyway.  Everything in it’s place?  Not so much.  H is organized.  His jacket is never on the floor, his books are never left lying about, and his keys are always on the key hook.  I am a little more scatterbrained.  If I can see my desktop, it’s a good day.  I am working on it, though.  Whenever I get a spare moment, I play a game where I put away five things in every room.  (We only have six rooms, so it doesn’t take long.)  It’s made a difference.  Cleaning doesn’t happen quite as frequently as it should, but it could be worse.  Grade: B

7)  Act instead of plan

I used to waste a lot of time blog surfing.  I truly mean waste, too – I was subscribing to every semi-interesting blog that I came across, which quickly snowballed into over 250 subscriptions.  I’d fill up to 1000+ items in three days if I didn’t keep on top of it .  I’d spend hours just hitting next, next, next, next, on Google Reader.  I am very proud to say that I’ve kicked the habit!  I do still love reading posts, but I found a way to dramatically reduce wasting time on blogs that I wasn’t getting anything out of.  This left me with quite a bit more time to live in the real world, and I am getting only quality, interesting information daily.  Grade: A

8)  Keep a healthy household

After hundreds of dollars in dental and eyecare bills, I’d give myself an A just to make myself feel better about spending so much.  And that’s AFTER insurance.  We also joined the YMCA and have been regularly attending.  My $1 per half hour plan has been largely successful.  I’m still using and loving it, and H has made such a good habit of working out that he doesn’t even need to use the program anymore.  We’ve cut out chocolate and chips for Lent.  Next up: portion control and cutting the calories!  Grade: A

9)  Be confident in our finances

I use Mint.com to track all expenses, and I know where nearly every dollar goes.  That’s not to say that I rigidly follow our budget, however.  Something always seems to come up that we weren’t expecting, or that I thought would cost less.  I also would like to have a better “big picture” idea of finances.  H typically handles all larger transactions (stocks, mutual funds, etc.), and I do day to day items.  It would be better if we had a little more overlap… or at least if I had a better idea of our finances on a whole.  Grade: C

10)  Be a friend

After a long hiatus, I’ve made friends with Facebook once again.  As much as I dislike it in theory (more on that later), it does have quite a few redeeming values, and at this point I’ll use it for the purpose of being a better friend.  Also, another good mark: by the end of this weekend, I’ll have spent time with three different groups of friends – a really good weekend for me.  I’m still not making the grade, though.  One of my best high school friends moved into a duplex about a mile down the road two months ago, and I’ve seen him ONCE in all of that time.  Grade: B

11)  Give back to the community

Big fat failure.  Nothing else to say about this one.  Grade: F

That wasn’t so bad!  I think I need to check in on my goals every month – it has been eye opening, and it’s motivated me to get up off of this couch and get going!

Know the Low

After weeks of entering data from my grocery bill, I should now have a base of how much items cost.  I’m frustrated with myself, though, because I know I’m not using all of this knowledge to get the lowest possible bill.  I forget to bring the coupons, or I buy what I need when it’s not on sale, or I mistake a marketing trick for a sale.  Here’s my updated grocery price list:

Grocery Price List

If you didn’t read my last post about saving money at the grocery market, I vowed to learn the prices of frequently purchased items, so that I could stock up when needed and know a great deal when I saw one.  So far… not so good.  I really should take the advice of Coupon Mom – stick with my most common items.  At first, maybe I should stick to less than ten.  Keeping track of the prices of 38 types of food hasn’t been working for me so far.

I’m going to start memorizing the prices of the following items.  Reasons vary, but for the most part, I’ve chosen items that are expensive, frequently consumed, or have a long shelf life.

  • Frozen blueberries (it’s expensive, and I eat them 4-5 times per week on cereal)
  • Carnation instant breakfast (H drinks daily)
  • Peanut butter (I don’t like the cheapest kind, I eat it frequently, and I can buy multiple jars without it going bad)
  • Dishwasher detergent (I just don’t know how much it should cost, at it’s easy to stock up on)
  • Flour (I recently got tricked into thinking it was a great deal… the wound is still fresh, so I’m ready for revenge)
  • Cheese (it’s expensive)
  • Deodorant (easy to stock up on, and I usually don’t get it until we’re out)
  • Face wash (same reason as deodorant)

I know that I could just print out my page, bring it to the store, and all problems would be solved.  It just seems somewhat time consuming, and, it I’m being completely honest here, it would be pretty embarrassing.  Maybe it would just look like a grocery list, and no one would know…

What do you think?  How do you recognize a sale?  And what would you think if you saw someone whip out a page full of prices in the cereal aisle?

Phone Plans

I got my cell phone bill this week.  Between my husband and I, we talked for only 353 minutes on our $70 per month plan.  It truly seems wasteful, especially when you figure that we have a land line that I’m perfectly happy with.  I’d drop my cell phone all together, but it really does come in handy every so often.  For example I was in a car accident a month or so ago and thanked my lucky stars that my cell phone was in my purse and charged at the time.  I also use it now and then to call H when I forget the grocery list, or to call any long distance (that way we don’t pay out the wazoo for the land line).  I’m weighing my options, though, to see if we can save a few dollars since I don’t use it frequently.  Here are the pros and cons of the options I’ve thought up.

Option 1: Keep our Current Plan

Summary

Family shared plan, $70 per month after all taxes, fees, and discounts.  700 anytime minutes per month, unlimited weekends and nights after 7 pm, unlimited mobile to mobile.

Pros

  • Don’t have to mess with contracts, service people, and general hassle
  • No worry of going over minutes – don’t need to keep track of minutes
  • Already have all equipment (phone, home chargers, car chargers)
  • Same brand of phone as husband, so can share chargers on trips
  • One bill to pay

Cons

  • Expensive, especially since so many minutes go unused (used about 60 of 700 anytime minutes last month)

Option 2: Change Plans, Keep Cell Phone Company

Summary

Two individual basic plans, about $60 after fees/taxes/discounts, 200 minutes per phone per month, free weekends and nights after 9 pm.

Pros

  • About $10 savings per month ($120/year) over the other plan
  • Already have all equipment (phone, home chargers, car chargers)
  • Same brand of phone as husband, so can share chargers on trips
  • One bill to pay

Cons

  • Hassle to deal with phone company again
  • Worry/hassle of checking minutes used
  • If we go over, 45 cents per minute charged – if we use 20 minutes more on either plan, it will be more expensive than keeping our current plan

Option #3: One Tracfone, One Individual Plan

Summary

H keeps individual plan for $25 or $35 per month, depending on plan; I use tracfone – $40 for 400 minutes/90 days

Pros

  • Least expensive option – savings of $15/month ($180/year)

Cons

  • Must track minutes
  • Minutes expire
  • Cancel current plan – worry about contracts, service people, and general hassle
  • Must buy new phone and chargers ($10-50)
  • Different brand of phone than husband, so can’t share chargers on trips

**Update: After all of that, we decided to stick with what we have.  If either of us go 20 minutes over on plan #2 (switching to the minimal plan), all savings for the month are negated.  And #3 (Trac Fone)…. to many cons to justify it.  It would be a big money saver, but the hassle isn’t worth it – for now.

Small Steps

I’m one of the guilty: I know how much I can do to reduce our household energy use… and I don’t.  The heating bill came today, however, and even though this is the fourth winter I’ve been in this drafty old house, it still shocked me.  And this was AFTER I had all of the windows replaced.  That did save quite a bit of money, but regardless, a doubled heating bill from November to December isn’t a treat to get in the mail.  I’ll spare you the reasons why our heating bill was still so high (they have to do with combining households), but will focus on what I’m going to do to help. I’m not to the point where I’m ready to invest loads of money, time, or effort, but I know there are small steps that I can take.

  • Check out tax breaks. Like I said, we replaced the windows in December 2008.  I didn’t get any tax credit for it, but it’s possible that it would have qualified.
  • Thaw frozen meats as much as possible before cooking.  That’ll shorten the cooking time… but require me to remember to transfer the meat to the fridge the day before I cook it.
  • Use fewer dishes so we can run the dishwasher less frequently.
  • Take shorter showers, reducing the amount of water the hot water heater must warm.
  • Cover pots and pans on the stovetop.  That way, I can cook on a lower heat.
  • Change the filter on the furnace on a regular basis.
  • Put on a sweater and a pair of slippers. I set our programmable thermostat pretty low, but am known to bump it up several degrees every evening… thereby completely defeating the purpose of it.  A few extra layers can go a long way.
  • Insulate pipes. We have exposed hot water pipes in the basement that are warm to the touch.  I’m guessing that they lose quite a bit of heat this way.  There must be some form of insulation that can go around them.
  • Unplug. H does not enjoy reaching behind the television to flip the powercord for the entertainment center, but there are many things that I’m the main user of (stand mixer, toaster oven, certain lamps), and I don’t mind plugging and unplugging – I just need to get into the habit!