Out-of-the-Ordinary Expenses: July Update & August Projections

July was a pricey month, with several expense categories costing a good bit more than I anticipated. (Not to mention the categories I didn’t anticipate at all!)

Update on July Expenses

  1. Car insurance: $596 (anticipated), $596 (actual).
  2. Entertainment: $100 (anticipated), $399 (actual). In addition to the ballet tickets I included in my July projection, I bought tickets for two holiday events (one is The Nutcracker, of course), because the theater where they’ll take place had a two-day “Christmas in July” sale, and all tickets for holiday shows were discounted to $25. Two of the tickets are for my parents, and they will reimburse me for them. I left them in the total here, though, since they haven’t done so, yet.
  3. Ballet: $60 (anticipated), $60 (actual).
  4. Pet care: $0 (anticipated), $252.05 (actual). I should know by now to plan for at least some expenses related to my geriatric cats each month, especially Tony. He had a rough month, and needed a visit to the vet for fluids and medication, plus I needed to replenish our supply of both his dry and canned food.
  5. Food: $420 (typical), $811.29 (actual). O.M.G. $420 is a pretty typical monthly total on groceries for us, but it was nearly double that in July. There are two primary reasons for this: (1) we hosted three sets of overnight guests, plus a day-visit guest (a couple, actually), and (2) I placed my first Zaycon Fresh order, which requires up-front payment for an order that I’ll receive in early November.
  6. Christmas gifts: $0 (anticipated), $84.53 (actual). My daughter has been telling us that she wants a Kindle for the past six months or so, and we decided that we’re okay with her getting one this year. My husband took advantage of Amazon’s “Black Friday in July” sale, and purchased one for her.

August Projected Expenses

I’m not going to lie: August is going to be another expensive month for us.

  1. Vacation: $1,800. This is an educated guess, especially since my husband is the vacation planner in our family. We’re going to Maine for five nights, and staying in a hotel while we’re there. We’ve already paid for one of the nights at the hotel, as a deposit. We’ll bring as much food with as possible – primarily snacks and breakfast foods – but we will be guiltlessly enjoying a lot of delicious seafood on this trip. None of it will be fancy, but there will still be five dinners and five lunches for three people. We plan to spend a lot of time at the beach and taking in the free attractions, which will help keep the overall cost of trip down, somewhat. Could we take a cheaper vacation? You bet, but because I believe that making memories is something worth investing in, I’m okay with the (anticipated) cost of this trip.
  2. School supplies: $80. The most expensive school supply I’ll be buying is a sturdy, new backpack. The one I purchased from LL Bean last year held up incredibly well, but was too small. It held her homework/school projects and lunchbox, but her snow pants and boots didn’t even come close to fitting in it.
  3. Pet care: $100. I learned my lesson last month. I’ll hope for the best, but plan for a trip to the vet.
  4. Car care: $900. Our Accord needs new brakes. My husband, who usually drives the car, will push to wait until September to do this. From a financial perspective, I’d be happy to wait, but I prefer not to mess with brakes.

How did your July expenses turn out? Were there any surprises? What are you anticipating for August?

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2015 Goals Check-In #7

Red clipboard with blank checklist.  With clipping path.

  1. Try 40 recipes from Martha Stewart’s CookiesIt was way to hot to turn on the oven most days in July!
  2. Decrease debt total by $5,000. We paid off $524.53 worth of debt in July, not including our mortgage.
  3. Read 15 books. In July, I read my 13th and 14th books of the year: Spontaneous Happiness and ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. (You can follow my progress toward this goal here.)
  4. Create a weekly meal plan every week. 30 meal plans completed!
  5. Visit Aldi to develop an informed opinion, and, if appropriate, make it part of my shopping routine. While I don’t think Aldi will be my go-to grocery store, I will stop there periodically to pick up some items. I found the selection to be somewhat limited, and the store closest to my house is a good bit further that quite a few other grocery options.
  6. Develop and stick with a monthly cleaning plan. Finally done! We had three sets of overnight guests in July, so those gave me extra motivation to get things clean! I’ve also really come to appreciate how much easier it is to do the “big” cleanings for guests, when I’m keeping things cleaner and tidier throughout the month.
  7. Put together a chore list for my daughter, and make it a part of her routine. I’m still reminding my daughter to do some of the things I expect her to do on a daily basis, but others I can count on her remembering to do herself. I consider this progress!
  8. Grow 200 pounds of food in my garden. Finally some progress on this goal! My harvest total is up to a whopping 2 pounds, 10 ounces of produce from my garden! (You can follow my progress toward this goal here.)
  9. Have monthly financial check-in meetings with my husband. We discussed upcoming expenses this month, including our August vacation, school supply shopping, and the purchase of a new propane tank this fall. We’re both looking forward to the return of my regular paycheck in September. :)
  10. Make-ahead and freeze two meals each month. Only one in July, taco chicken for the slow-cooker.
  11. Sell all remaining small business inventory. My plan for completing this goal is here. Effective June 1, all of my remaining inventory is discounted by 40%. Also, all small board books are now $2.50 (regular $6.99). I had a pretty quiet month in July, with just two sales, plus a few purchases through my Amazon store. (Shameless plug: The discount code is CLOSING40, if you know anyone who’s looking for high-quality children’s books, toys, and more.)
  12. Redesign blog. I’m not going to lie: this goal (still) terrifies me.

How did you do with your goals in July?

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2015 Meal Plan #31

I mentioned in last week’s meal plan that we were hosting a family for lunch this past Saturday. In anticipation, I planned a menu and bought lots of veggies, fruit, cold cuts, and snacks. On Friday night, I emailed the wife to tell her to bring her daughter’s bathing suit with them for the sprinkler. She replied that she had our lunch on her calendar for a different day, and her family had gone out-of-town already. She apologized profusely, so I couldn’t really be upset with her. (Okay, I was a little upset.)

Between all of the food we have for the dinner, and the fact that we’re going on vacation next Saturday, I’m keeping my grocery shopping this week to snacks and drinks for our trip, and a couple of great stock-up deals at the store. As a result, we’ll be eating what we have on-hand again this week. Here’s what I expect that will mean:

Monday, 8/3: Cheeseburgers (ground beef from the freezer) with crudite

Tuesday, 8/4: Pasta w/ grape tomatoes, garlic, and basil from my garden!

Wednesday, 8/5: Slow-cooker taco chicken (from the freezer) w/ rice and crudite

Thursday, 8/6: Taco chicken salads w/ lettuce and tomatoes from my garden!

Friday, 8/7: Takeout w/ my in-laws

Saturday, 8/8: Seafood in Maine!

Sunday, 8/9: Seafood in Maine!

We’re leaving for Maine on Saturday morning, and my in-laws will be staying at our house while we’re away. They’re coming mainly to cat-sit, but are also considering it a bit of a getaway. While I feel pressure to clean the house for them this week – my mother-in-law keeps their house spotless – having them here will save us the cost of a pet-sitter, and it’ll be great to have someone at the house while we’re away, not just checking in on it. They always insist on buying us dinner when they’re here, so I expect my husband will pick something up on his way home from work on Friday.

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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School Supply Shopping Trip #1

I’m committed to keeping my school supply expenditures as low as possible this year. (You can read about my strategy for doing so, here.) With that in mind and my daughter’s first-grade supply list in-hand, I made a school supply shopping trip to Staples this week. Two of the items on her list were part of this week’s school supply deals – a pencil box and a composition notebook, each $0.50. I had just received a $5 Staples Rewards program coupon in the mail, so I brought that with me, too. (I also brought three empty printer ink cartridges for their recycling program. I earn $2 in rewards for each one of them I turn in for recycling.) Here’s what I bought:

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  • 6 composition notebooks – $3 total
  • 2 pencil boxes – $1 total
  • 4 packs of erasers – $1 total

And here’s what I spent after my $5 coupon was applied:

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So far, my school supply shopping expenditures total stands at $0. I know it won’t stay this way, but I feel like I’m off to a good start. This weekend, I’ll go through my stash of school supplies purchased during the back-to-school sales of previous years, and pull out anything that’s on my daughter’s list for the year. I’d love to pull together at least one-third of the items on her list without spending any money on them…

How are you saving on school supplies this year? Are there any big-ticket items on your children’s lists?

 

 

 

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August 1 Debt Totals & July Side Hustle Income

July Overview

July ended up being a fairly pricey month. Several expense categories were a good bit higher than anticipated, unfortunately. It was also the third month that I didn’t earn a paycheck, which means less disposable income coming in. Even though I never wish away a single moment of the summer, it will be nice to start earning a more regular paycheck when I get back to work in September.

August 1 Debt Totals

July was yet another uneventful debt repayment month. Since I’m not currently getting a paycheck, we didn’t put any additional toward any of our loans. Here’s where they stand now:

Home equity loan: $58,960.01 (-$239.81)

School loan #1 (mine): $3,417.72 (-$93.76)

School loan #2 (my husband’s): $56,588.53 (-$22.12) *I think the total I quoted in my very late July 1 update was after the July payment had been processed. Apologies for confusion!

Car loan: $3,674.89 (-$168.84 )

July Side Hustle Income

Small business: $104.27

Children’s consignment store: $20.01

Amazon store: $13.57

Surveys: $20 Visa gift card

Swagbucks: $11 in Amazon gift cards

Affiliate income: $1.54 (woo-hoo!)

SavingStar: $6.47

eRewards surveys: $10 Best Buy eGift card

How was your July?

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Summer Goals Check-In #2

It’s almost August? It’s feeling very much like summer here in upstate NY this week, with high temperatures in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s. Even the unheated water in the pool we go to is warm! Now if only all of the green tomatoes on my plans would ripen… Here’s my summer goals check-in. (Eagle-eyed readers may notice that there hasn’t been much change from last month’s update.)

Parenting Goals

  • Teach my daughter to tie her shoes. Velcro and slip-on shoes have made it so easy to avoid this, but since she’ll be six in fall, it feels like it’s time. Nope – I showed her once, but we were rushed at the time. I better buckle down on this!
  • Read with my daughter daily. I’m amazed by the progress kids make in kindergarten these days, and I want my girl to at least maintain her current reading abilities over the summer, if not improve somewhat. Yes, still going strong on this!
  • Work on 1st grade readiness workbooks with my daughter most days. I stocked up on a few of these recently, when our bookstore had a 20% off everything sale. My girl enjoys “doing worksheets”, which helps a great deal. Yes – as long as the emphasis is on “most” days, not all.
  • Teach my daughter how to ride a bike. (My husband will be taking the lead on this one.) We have a gravel driveway and live on a fairly busy road, so we need to take her someplace else to work on this skill. Oh, and we don’t have a bike for her, yet! I’ll be combing Craigslist to find one over the next few weeks. Nope – we still haven’t even gotten her a bike yet. :(

Personal Goals

  • Exercise four days per week. I’ve learned that exercise is important for both my physical and mental health, and I greatly prefer exercising outside to inside. I’ve been walking several days a week for the past couple of weeks, and want to continue this throughout the summer. Some weeks, it’ll get a little challenging, when my daughter is home, but not in camp. She likes going for walks with me, so I’ll take shorter, slower ones with her on days when we’re together all day. On weekends and on days when she has camp, I’ll go for longer, faster-paced walks by myself. Sort-off. I’m consistently going three or four days a week, depending on the weather and my schedule.
  • Continue working on all of my goals for 2015. I’ve had great success with some of my goals, and others have been more challenging to keep up with, but there’s still plenty of time to complete all of them. On my way!
  • Read four books. On my way! I’ve finished two, and just started another. (You can see all of the books I’ve read this year here.) 

    Financial Goals

  • Sell $1,000 (wholesale) worth of my small business inventory. I currently have $5,103.48 (wholesale) of inventory, and plan to sell everything off by the end of the year. I’ll continue offering a progressively-increasing discount on all inventory, aggressively price the inventory I have for sale in my Amazon store, host a “summer reading” party for my local customers, and do some giveaways (stay tuned for details!). On my way! The value of my wholesale inventory is now $4,788.24. I better step it up to get to the $1,000 mark before Labor Day, though.
  • Earn at least $100 per month in additional side hustle income. Be it selling items at the local children’s consignment store or on Craigslist, or taking surveys, I should be able to exceed this goals fairly easily. Yes! 

How are you doing on your goals for the summer?

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My School Supply Shopping Strategy

My School Supply Shopping Strategy

Here in upstate New York, school doesn’t start again until after Labor Day, so when the back-to-school catalogs started arriving in the mail a few weeks ago, I was not happy. Of all the seasons, summer is the one I least want to wish away! However, now that the Sunday newspaper fliers have started to highlight back-to-school sales, I’ve decided to make the most of the time and savings.

This year, my daughter’s first grade school supply list came home with her final kindergarten report card on the last day of school. At first it seemed depressing to be mentally skipping right over summer, but I’ve come to appreciate the notice I have to buy supplies for September. Here’s what my daughter needs to bring with her on the first day:

school supplies001

And here’s my school supply shopping strategy for saving as much as possible this year:

  1. Reuse. While some things are used up completely or take such a beating they can’t be reused, it pays to give everything a once-over to determine what – if anything – can be. The headphones, art smock, scissors, and one of the plastic folders on this year’s list are all items I bought last year, and that my daughter can reuse this year.
  2. Raid my stash. A few years, ago, I first learned about the insane back-to-school deals stores like Staples and Target offer on some items every year. I started stocking up when things were dirt cheap, even if we didn’t need them right away. Now I’ve got pencils, glue sticks, crayons, and notebooks coming out of my ears, and I paid just pennies for all of them!
  3. Shop the sales!! Any items I’m not able to reuse or find in my stash, will have to be purchased. Because I already have the list, I’ll check the fliers for the things I need every week. When they’re offered for rock-bottom prices, I’ll grab what I need. Because there are still about five weeks before school actually begins, I can spread my spending (and saving!) out over time.
  4. Use gift cards. I can earn free gift cards for stores like Staples, Target, and Amazon through sites like MyPoints and Swagbucks, and use them to pay for my daughter’s school supplies.
  5. Use coupons and earn cash back. At this time of year, coupons start appearing for school supplies online and in the newspaper. I clipped several paper coupons on Sunday, and printed an online one from the Target website. There are also some great Cartwheel discounts for additional savings at Target. Some items on my daughter’s list for this year – like zip baggies and tissues – may also be eligible for cash back on sites like SavingStar and Checkout 51.
  6. Earn cash back for online purchases. I hope I don’t have to, but should I need to purchase anything online, I’ll shop via Ebates, and earn cash back on my purchases.
brokeGIRLrich

When does the school year begin near you? How are you planning to save on school supplies this year?

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2015 Meal Plan #30

My sister and nephew visited us from out-of-state this past weekend, and as I always seem to do, I spent a good amount of money stocking up on food for their visit. I have now surpassed the $400 mark that I try to stick to for grocery spending every month, and as a result, I’m not buying any groceries until this Friday. (We’re having a family we know over for lunch on Saturday, but I haven’t finalized the menu for that, yet.) Since fresh produce is something I value and always purchase, we have quite a bit of it on-hand. (My garden is also keeping us well-stocked with lettuce for salads.) I also have tons of cheddar cheese, dry pasta, and a package of bacon I meant to use last week, but didn’t. So, I put together a meal plan taking all of this into consideration. Here’s what it looks like:

meal plan 30001

(Like my meal planner/grocery list sheet? It’s from the List Plan It Meals ePlanner.)

A side benefit of this rather boring meal plan is that it’s doesn’t involve very much cooking! What are you having dinner this week?

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The Most Frugal Decision We’ve Made

Please note that this post is written without judgement of anyone else’s choices, or the decision-making process behind them. I hope it will also be read in this way.

My husband and I each have one sibling, so we always assumed we’d have two children, too. But after getting a later start at parenting – my husband was already 35 when our daughter was born, and I was two months shy of it – we decided to be a single-child family. It wasn’t just our age, since plenty of people have children at ages later than 35. The bigger factor was that we were shocked at how life-changing the transition from married couple to parents is. Sure, we’d heard the stories and understood the difference intellectually, but the reality still took a lot for us to get used to. And this isn’t a reflection on our daughter, whom we love dearly, and who has always been a pretty easy kid (and baby). By the time she reached the age at which most couples seem to have second children – 18 months to two years old – we just didn’t want to start over with another newborn. We freely admit that this was in some ways a selfish decision, but then again, family size is usually an inherently selfish decision. Fortunately, it has turned out to be the right decision for our family.

Lake George point

“I spy Lake George!”

Although we made this decision without considering the financial ramifications, we’ve come to realize that it’s actually the most frugal decision we’ve made as a couple. You’ve probably seen the statistics the government periodically releases, stating how much it costs to raise a child to the age of 18. The most recently released numbers were for a child born in 2013, and the range was $245,340 to $304,480. There’s always much debate about whether these numbers are too high or too low, and since my daughter is only 5 1/2, I have no idea how accurate they are. Do they assume that parents are buying all organic food? All the latest toys and gadgets? Paying for private school? Taking multiple trips to Disneyland? Who knows. But here are some concrete ways I know my husband and I are saving money by having only one child:

  1. Diapers, food, and clothing. I’ll start with the obvious: diapering, feeding, and clothing one child clearly costs less than doing all these things for more than one child – especially when you’re feeding teenagers! However, there are clearly many ways to economize in all of these areas.
  2. Vision care. I have horrendous vision, and started wearing glasses when I was in second grade. My husband made it until college before he needed to wear glasses most of the time, and he has worn them all of the time for his entire adult life. While we haven’t noticed any problems with our daughter’s vision yet, we know we’re looking at years of paying for regular eye exams, glasses, and/or contacts.
  3. College. Although we don’t think we’ll be able to pay for all of our daughter’s college education, we’d like to help out as much as possible. Needless to say, doing this for one child, will be a lot cheaper than doing it for more than one.
  4. Orthodontia. I had braces three times – sorry for not wearing my retainers, Mom and Dad! – and my husband had them once. It seems pretty likely that our daughter will not be blessed with naturally straight teeth, either.
  5. School supplies. My daughter’s list of supplies for the upcoming school year came home with her final report card in June. Although it’s definitely shorter than last year’s list – and there are several things that she can reuse from last year – it’s still likely to cost us $40 – $50. (Thank goodness for all the back-to-school sales which have ALREADY started!)
fireworks

My (only) kid watching fireworks this summer

While we didn’t consider finances when we made our decision to have an only child, seeing the “savings” has certainly been a nice benefit.

How many children to you have? Did financial considerations play into your decision?

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Priceless to Me & 2015 Meal Plan #29

I’m half Italian and half German, but I’ve been much closer to my Italian side for my entire life. (Long, family-drama-filled story…) My Italian grandmother was an amazing cook: not fancy, but delicious. Although she had quite a few specialties, her shrimp scampi and baked ziti were two of my personal favorites. Until I left for college, most Sundays were spent with my family, at her house, eating her wonderful Sunday dinners.

My grandmother died a couple of years ago, and she became increasingly demented in the years leading up to her death. She stopped making Sunday dinners about five years before she died, and because she was self-taught and cooked mainly from memory, many of her recipes were lost with her. However, she did keep a collection of recipes – some clipped from magazines, others hand-written – and they were the only thing of hers I really wanted after she died. Not only was her food wonderful and something I wanted to recreate, but it was also the thing most closely associated with her in my memory.

Unfortunately, my grandfather didn’t realize I felt this way, and he threw out the recipes with a lot of other things, in the months after she died. A relative who lives much closer to him than I do, knew that my grandfather was cleaning house, and she asked to look through some of the boxes of things he planned to donate. She knew about my interest in the recipes, and miracle-of-miracles, found a ziplock bag containing some of my favorites – including shrimp scampi and the wonderful cookies my grandmother made every Christmas! It truly felt like a gift from my grandmother. I can’t wait to make this recipe, myself.

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Grandma’s Shrimp Scampi Recipe

 

Speaking of recipes, here’s my meal plan for dinners this week:

2015 Meal Plan 29001

(Like my meal planner/grocery list sheet? It’s from the List Plan It Meals ePlanner.)

It’s a bit of a light week, since my husband and I are going out to dinner with friends tonight, and my sister and nephew will be here this weekend. We have a day trip planned for Saturday, so we’ll pick up takeout on our way home that evening. I’m particularly excited for the chicken piccata I’m making on Wednesday. I’ve made it before, and it’s delicious! (But what food soaked in lemon and butter isn’t??)

What’s for dinner at your house this week? Do you have any treasured family recipes?
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