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Trying to Save $ on Groceries

June 16th, 2019 at 05:31 pm

I am trying to save money on groceries....

Here is what we already do:
- meal plan/make a list
- don't each very much processed food
- eat generic
- no prepared foods unless it's a special treat
- no prewashed salad or precut carrots or fruit
- no pre-grated cheese
- we eat mostly vegetarian (some chicken, fish but no meat/pork/lamb)
- we waste almost no food
- F and I drink only water; we never buy juice or anything like that
- we only shop once a week
- I cook from scratch

What I won't skimp on:
- we buy some organic (strawberries and a few other things)
- we buy organic eggs
- I buy a lot of fresh fruit and veggies for snacks for F
- I like to be generous with guests (like my friends or F's friends when they come over)

I am trying to figure out why our grocery bills are so high... Here are some ideas:
- we buy GF bread and bagels (about every 2 weeks; we aren't big bread eaters) and GF pasta (pasta once a week) and GF oatmeal which are more expensive
- nuts (but if I don't buy nuts then F's snacks would be empty calories)
- we don't eat out a lot so we have to buy more groceries
- dairy; because we don't eat meat, we eat more dairy
- we don't have an Aldi here
- we don't use coupons (because they seem to be only for processed foods)
- D's coffee and beer (but having these at home is less than getting these at Starbucks or a brew pub)
- it takes us a long time to go through milk/almond milk so we can't use the whole thing before it's spoiled (otherwise, very little waste)

Some ideas to fix the problem:
- one week a month could be eat out of the pantry/freezer week (but I'd still need fruits and veggies)
- better meal plans
- less dairy

Maybe groceries are just more expensive than they used to be.... What do you do to save on your grocery bill?

Saving Money to be able to Spend Money

June 5th, 2019 at 08:55 pm

Some of you know me, and so you know that we are completely debt free (even mortgage); I wouldn't have done this back when we were paying off our mortgage. But sometimes I save money in one area just so that we can spend it somewhere else. (PS - we also save a ton for retirement, and everything is budgeted).

I am thinking about this now because F and I just went to Disneyland, and Disneyland is not a cheap place.

Here's how we saved-spent-saved-spent...

- We did only one day at Disneyland but we bought F the super cute $30 mouse ears
- Besides the mouse ears we did not do any shopping but we did a TON of photos so those were our souvenirs (be sure to write down the codes for the photos on the rides and link them in the photo section of the Disneyland app)
- We stayed at the Disneyland hotel for two nights ($$$$!) but the rest of our trip we stayed with my parents so no hotel cost for most of the trip
- We brought food for breakfast/lunch so that we could have one super nice meal out (Blue Bayou)
- We are not going to Europe to see D's family this summer so that we could afford splurging on Disney tickets
- D did not go on the trip for several reasons (work, isn't a Disney fanatic like me and F, can't go on the rides, didn't want to come for my SIL's baby shower which was the real reason for the trip) so we saved his airfare and Disney ticket so we were able to add California Adventure to our tickets
- We brought our own snacks so we were able to buy each a gf red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles (yum!)
- I did a ton of research on how to do Disney so we were able to go on everything we wanted to go on TWICE! We were there from 7 to 11, and we're still exhausted, but it was so much fun!

Just FYI - yes, Star Wars was open, but neither of us likes Star Wars, so we didn't do that. But because everyone there was so into the new Star Wars area, the rest of the park was pretty empty. We never waited more than 10 mins. for a ride (used fastpasses in some cases), and got take photos with Mickey Mouse (my daughter's favorite - she is nearly 14 and actually cried at Fantasmic because she loves him so much). We rode Small World ALONE and I sang at the top of my lungs!

Do you ever trade off your spends and saves?

Summer Project: Clean Garage

May 21st, 2019 at 03:45 pm

I am getting closer to a clutter-free garage. It's not easy, though. Tonight's fun: going through the hardware/tools section of our garage which has expanded and is now pretty insane. I am going to confess that this is my area and not my husband's. He is not allowed to touch my power tools!

I have a bad habit of saving all sorts of stupid stuff - extra screws, extra anything. I have a box called "random parts" that I haven't opened in YEARS.

The hardware section is about one entire shelf and includes old spraypaint and half used tubes of liquid nails that are hard as a rock. I actually think keeping some of this stuff COSTS money because if that shelf is so packed full of stuff, you don't check it before you buy something you already have. If it was more streamlined, it'd be easier to see what we've got.

I already got rid of one thing in the garage today on our Buy Nothing group.

And I put in a call about getting the rest of our garage drywalled (this is an expense, but I am going to paint it myself). Drywalling the last garage wall and the ceiling will add value to our house and make the garage easier to keep clean.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't the worst garage in the world. We can get both cars in. So that's good. But on my journey to have less stuff, this is pretty much the last stop. My goal is the end of the summer, and hopefully the timeline will be sped up by setting up a date to get the drywall done.

May is Always Busy!

May 19th, 2019 at 04:31 pm

May is always so packed full of events! I am taking one day at a time...

Here's what's going on:

- Middle School Musical - this past weekend was the middle school musical, and F was in it... They did a performance for local elementary schools, then two public performances. We went to both, and the kids did a great job! Instead of buying flowers, I got F a little plant at Trader Joe's and a bag of dark chocolate peanut butter cups. We're not really cut flower people, and this will last a lot longer (well, not the peanut butter cups!) so in my mind a better buy.

- Friends Moving - So my best friend is moving out of the state, and her daughter is F's best friend! More like a sister really. Anyway, my friend M's husband already moved (he had to start his job in January) and they are following in June, which is right around the corner! (Crying). M went out to California for the weekend for a big work event for her husband, so we had her daughter all weekend, which is great for the two girls. I had to buy a ton of extra groceries, and I don't even care. Thinking of it as a gift to F and her friend. I will take the girls to school tomorrow; right now they are upstairs singing together.

- Garbage Disposal - I installed my own garbage disposal instead of hiring a plumber, and I want to let you know I'm pretty sure I did it better! When I took the old one out, I noticed it was screwed in at an angle, and mine was perfectly straight. It is a lot quieter (which could be that it's new, or it could be that it's put on straight!!!).

- Mother's Day - We didn't do much for mother's day, but F made me an amazing scavenger hunt - so much fun!! That's the kind of gift I love!

- Dinner - Tonight's dinner is Bad Breath Pasta (well, that's what we call it). It's my easiest dinner and pretty frugal... pasta, spinach, kalamata olives, capers, balsamic, olive oil and garlic. Maybe we'll have it with toast or garlic bread...

And that's about it...

Random Thoughts - Camp, YNAB, Dishwasher, Cleaning the House

April 26th, 2019 at 07:56 pm

Friday night... I am pretty tired from the week, and need to go to bed early to be up at 5 so I can get my daughter to school at 5:45 to catch the bus to a track meet.

I have been pretty successfully working with my 4 day work week (plus 5th day housecleaning/grocery shopping) so that I can have an actual weekend. I work super hard those 4 days. Today wasn't as successful; I managed to clean the kitchen and dining room and go to one store. So after I drop off F tomorrow for track, I'll do the rest of the house, and then we'll drive down to the meet to watch her (1600m and 400m relay).

I got frustrated with YNAB and decided to just track on a spread sheet. It's a pretty complicated spreadsheet, and it seems to do what I need it to do. I also added expenses v. income. It works pretty much like YNAB on a summary page, and I can easily keep track of what is in my categories.

So I can see we have $1866 in the household repairs category which is good because we need a new dishwasher. I've been researching, and it looks like our price range is about $700, but it seems like all of the dishwashers have problems. The Bosch that looked promising has a SMELL and I am super sensitive to smells. It doesn't fully dry the dishes either. Our current dishwasher stops mid-cycle so you have to be there to turn the dial or it just keeps running. Not great. That and the dishes are often not clean. You have to clean them before you put them in.

We have $1874 in the Camp category, which is a lot because F did just one camp last year. I've put down a deposit for karate camp already. Her friend is doing a creative writing camp in CA, and I thought we could stay with my brother and it would be perfect (F looooooves writing) but the mom said "Oh, and it's reasonable, too - just $2500" and I felt like I was having a tiny heart attack. Was she serious? The camps F has done are $250/week at the most!

If anyone has any camp ideas for teenagers, I am open to them!

Once she's in 11th she can get an internship where my husband works (they even pay!) and it's a very, very cool place. But right now she's at that in-between age (just before 9th grade). She's not a counselor, but too old for most of the camps near us. We aren't near a university.

Those are all my wandering thoughts... I am off to bed so I can get up early!

Thinking about Banking Differently

March 19th, 2019 at 09:16 am

So it's Spring Break!! D had to go to the UK to see his parents, but there wasn't enough for all three of us to go, and F has soccer and track anyway, so she and I are having a staycation.

Try explaining that to my clients, though! I've had to do at least some work every day. Thankfully, I can do some work while F is at practice. And she is also working on a musical about the suffrage movement (no, not for school; yes, she is a super focused person), so I try to do work while she's doing that.

I still haven't finished our taxes (I probably have one more hour to finish up - grrrrr).

And I am trying to figure out a workable banking system for us. My local bank is being bought by another bank, and I am seeing some really annoying changes. I have a business online account with Barclays and personal accounts with Capital One 360. I am thinking of opening an account with HBSC because they have an opening bonus, sweep money into there to earn some interest, and then using it to move money back and forth from our personal account so we earn some interest on the money we don't need right away. Specific categories we let build up are: household repairs/projects, vacations/rewards, camp. I could sweep in a lot of money, and return it to our account as necessary so that the bricks-and-mortar bank will act only as a check-writing bank. Have any of you done this?

Spring Break

February 17th, 2019 at 01:22 pm

So, Spring Break this year - a two week break, and we are staying put.

D is going to the UK to be with and help his parents ($713.53 flight plus rental car but no hotel or food because he'll stay with family). F and I are not going for several reasons:
- why spend an extra $1400 to go over there to only stay 1 week (when we go, we maximize our time there)
- F has soccer and track (practices, meets, games)

So we will give him a list of things to bring back (Nairn's rosemary and sea salt flatbreads and Tesco GF chocolate wafers which are like kit kat for F), and then plan a fun couple of weeks.

On the agenda:
- a chocolate tour and tasting at a local chocolate factory that was a gift (so no charge to us)
- trip to Albuquerque to get lunch, hopefully find an 8th grade graduation dress
- online scavenger hunt (also already paid for Christmas present)
-a splurgy lunch out (not somewhere expensive, it's just that we are normally pack lunch people)

The weather will probably continue to be cold for a while, so that eliminates a lot of outdoor activities, but if we get some nice weather, we can go on some hikes. Or just play board games at home.

My daughter is such a great kid - she says she doesn't care about going places and that all she wants is to go see her new cousin in August in San Francisco (and see Hamilton!). Her friends will be going all over, though - one skiing in Pagosa, one to Belize, etc. What are you doing to make Spring Break special?

Raise v. Expense Increases

February 15th, 2019 at 10:06 am

My husband got a raise this year- yes! Not a huge raise, but we are super happy! The result is $98.90 per month net.

Now for the increases in expenses for 2019:
- 83.33 more to the IRAs which gets us to our limit
- 58.67 increase in F's tuition
- food cost increases - our old food budget is not cutting it anymore - probably need to add about $75 more a month to be safe but $50 more would be ok

So budget needs to change by about $192 and we have $98.90... need to find another $93.

One way to do this is to take money out of other categories:
- 20 from karate (since she does so many sports that there isn't time for a lot of privates and the testing will slow down, too)
- 10 from camp (since F doesn't really like camp anymore and will do one or two at most - one karate and one soccer)
- maybe some money from the tuition savings (we try to save a little extra each month) to offset the tuition increase

Another option is a small distribution every so often from my business, but I hate doing that.

What categories do you use to offset budget increases?

Taxes - Two Ways

February 9th, 2019 at 01:42 pm

Because I had been reading so many stories about refunds v. owning money as a result of the new tax changes, I decided to do our taxes two ways: using last year's tax code and this year's because everything else could be a result of withholding/different earnings/other factors.

This was easy to do, because I do my own taxes and I use Turbo Tax. I just opened a new file in last year's program and entered the info side by side with this year's program.

My dad said he had been planning to do the same thing: like father like daughter! My dad is 86 and still does his own taxes. The first time I did mine, he sat patiently with me as I did my (then) very simple return.

Ok, so this year we are getting back $4475 more than we would have under the old tax code. That is insane (and not in a good way, except for us it's good, but not for the country).

This is the part of the post where things get nerdy. But this is SavingAdvice, so you're probably into this! This is why I think the difference is so much in our favor:
- Standard deduction - we always took the standard deduction so the difference is pretty dramatic for us (we never itemized)
- Child tax credit - this gained us $2000 (would have been 0 under the old tax code)
- I made some pass-through money (my business profit which is taxed as personal income, and under the new rules, 20% of that is just written off
- I guess we end up in a lower tax bracket because they changed the brackets (we would have been in the 28% tax bracket last year, and now the same income is 24%)

All of this is great for us, as I mentioned, but completely unfair. Of course we can use the money (D may have to go back to the UK, but that's a different post and we are saving for college) but we shouldn't have been the ones to get a tax break. We make a good living (with both of our salaries about 120k) and I feel like this should have been aimed more at people less fortunate. Besides giving to college, some of this refund will be given as a charitable donation (along with the money F raised by making friendship bracelets for a local non-profit that deals with domestic violence).

School Re-Enrollment, Tickets to CA, etc.

February 4th, 2019 at 07:12 pm

Frugal stuff....

1. Spent the weekend playing around on Excel to make sure we have enough to pay for school. I also called the school's financial office to find out what we save if we pay the full tuition by June v. paying monthly. It's $75, and it would be super hard to pay by June, plus we keep the money that we're saving for education in an account that makes interest. So - monthly it is! But good to do the research.

2. We bought our plane tickets to visit my brother and sister-in-law after they have their baby. Not cheap, but it's our vacation this summer and we're going to help with the baby for a few days. (We'll also do some driving trips around our state - maybe Chaco, Very Large Array). My mom let me know there was a sale, so I got on Southwest. The choice was Oakland v. San Jose, and although San Jose would've been more convenient (a little closer to Palo Alto), it also meant two flights and a lot more time spent traveling, so we opted for Oakland.

3. I am finishing up a library book - Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (one of my favorite writers!). A super fun book! I'll return it tomorrow along with books that F read. I truly love our little library.

4. We now have a professional soccer team in our state (second division, but still - how cool for our young soccer players)! The are having a youth clinic up here (they play in Albuquerque, so that's super nice). You get to watch them practice, then you get a meet and greet, then a training session with them!!! I had to get a ticket but the ticket was FREE! They just want people to register. The whole team is going.

5. More free stuff - our wonderful soccer coaches have been putting together some winter programs for the team including what they call "soccer class." These are in addition to indoor practices, and each week covers a different subject: athletes + sleep, focus + relaxation, goals + habits, game day prep. And I talked to the owner of the gym where I teach and she let me do a class for three weeks on resistance training for free.

6. Track is starting and uniforms are - gulp - $95. But not unexpected, and since it's a school sport, everything else is covered. F told the coach she wants to run the 800 and 1600 and his eyes lit up. She came in first in the soccer team timed mile (6 min. 45 sec.), and I'm excited to see what she can do with training. The coach said he has picked several meets at lower altitude to take advantage of the fact that our students train at 7000 feet.

7. We spent $138 on groceries this week, which isn't great. May need to do "eat out of the freezer" at the end of the month. This does include bringing a meal to my friend B who has a concussion (and is a single mom).