Getting out debt in JANUARY, 2012!! - Page 4 - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-20-2012, 06:02 PM
 
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Congrats on the job, lavatea!  That is super exciting and a great way to start your weekend.

 

Trekkingirl, glad you found a study group.  I have found the two meetings I have attended very valuable.  Each day gets better and better.


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Old 01-20-2012, 08:06 PM
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lavatea congratulations on the job!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I joined a Dave Ramsey study group. The first meeting was last night. The group is free but it will cost me $15 total for TTMM and the workbook that goes with it.

 It was fun to be able to talk Dave IRL. Only one other couple had read the book so next week should be even more interesting.



Awesome! I just started FPU class this past Tuesday. I wish it were only $15 but ours is $99 for the packet. Wow. Let me know how you like that class.

 

AFM,

 I'm going to have to use up my small emergency fund to pay little bit of the mortgage and some gas for work. Even though I'm working more and picking up hours on the other job, I don't get any money for another two to three weeks. Gotta pay the mortgage though. I think this puts me down to maybe $20 if I don't end up having to use that too.


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Old 01-22-2012, 04:00 AM
 
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esg, my FPU was $85 because our church subsidized part of the cost.  I wonder what the difference is between "financial peace university" and the "total money makeover"?

 

So excited, someone has bid on one of the dresses I posted on ebay - It is the minimum bid, but I am hoping that I get a little bit more than $15 that I had started it for, but decluttering and getting extra money, priceless!  I will know more this afternoon.


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Old 01-22-2012, 12:44 PM
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I wonder about the difference too. I'm going to continue with the class without paying for anything. I want the materials $99 is a bit over my budget!

 

That's awesome that you got a bid! I've been behind on my decluttering so I've got to pick it up. I did a little last night. Making some extra on the side would be great too.

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esg, my FPU was $85 because our church subsidized part of the cost.  I wonder what the difference is between "financial peace university" and the "total money makeover"?

 

So excited, someone has bid on one of the dresses I posted on ebay - It is the minimum bid, but I am hoping that I get a little bit more than $15 that I had started it for, but decluttering and getting extra money, priceless!  I will know more this afternoon.



I cleaned out the couch and found $0.43. Added it to the jar and added a bag of trash to my clutter total, I guess.

I'm hoping to pay a mortgage payment this weekend but I may be $75 too short. Totally sucks.

I'm exhausted beyond that now that I'm working double the hours and not seeing any money (yet still spending it to work) is making me lose a little bit of my motivation.

 


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Old 01-22-2012, 04:56 PM
 
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esg, keep it up.  These are difficult times to make money and spend it in the way we know we ought to.  Have you read the chapter on "pro rata" payments to credit card companies, loan companies and such - could you be paying others less so you can keep your four walls intact - shelter, food, clothing, and transportation.  DR talks about it in lesson 5 "credit sharks in suits".  Giving those sharks their "fair share" until you are stable inside your four walls may be helpful.  The "four walls" concept is under babystep 2.

 

AFM, I sold the hair clips and a dress = $15.99 total - now the people just need to pay for the things they won!  I listed 4 more dresses today so hopefully next Sunday there will be more money coming into the savings account.

 

Opened my natural gas bill that I have set up on a budget plan so I pay the same amount all year long and the budget was readjusted down 5 dollars.  Yeah, less money to bills.

 

 


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Old 01-22-2012, 06:00 PM
 
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We had a big hit in income this month so we havnt been making any progress, just keeping aflot, but no new debt, which is always a good thing.  I love reading about everyones progress.


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Old 01-22-2012, 06:25 PM
 
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me too paigekitten

 

I'm on disability so I make $500 twice a month and can't legally make money at a job until a doctor clears me too work. Hopefully March 1st.

 

But DH was on vacation this month. His vacation pay is usually more than normal pay as he gets an average per hour of the year prior. Usually its boosted up as they average in overtime and time and a half on Sundays, triple time on Holidays. Well last year he took the six weeks paid family leave offered by the state of Ca (birth of our third child) so it dropped his average. His vacation check was $200 short. Then when he went back to work he was suspended for three days with no pay for doing something stupid that he shouldn't have done. ( It was really funny though) I won't know how much that will cost us till I see his next check.

 

We were hoping to have at least $400 to rebuild the EF. But now were just happy to have the rent for our RV spot by the first of next month. I am so grateful that we took such drastic moves to lower our cost of living. If we had still been in our rental property we wouldn't have been ok with a three day suspension or even me being on disability for the most of the last three years.

 

I have so much more peace now. It's only going to get more and more freeing as we start our debt snowball. I just wish it didn't take so long to get the snowball rolling. I'm ready for an avalanche!


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Old 01-22-2012, 10:36 PM
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Thanks. I haven't read the chapter yet. I'm still waiting for the books from the library. I get most of my info from online.

We need to pay this mortgage payment since we're behind and then I can breathe (or at least try to) through these next two weeks so I can make another one.

I'm at pre-baby step and babystep 1.

 

Quote:
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esg, keep it up.  These are difficult times to make money and spend it in the way we know we ought to.  Have you read the chapter on "pro rata" payments to credit card companies, loan companies and such - could you be paying others less so you can keep your four walls intact - shelter, food, clothing, and transportation.  DR talks about it in lesson 5 "credit sharks in suits".  Giving those sharks their "fair share" until you are stable inside your four walls may be helpful.  The "four walls" concept is under babystep 2.

 

AFM, I sold the hair clips and a dress = $15.99 total - now the people just need to pay for the things they won!  I listed 4 more dresses today so hopefully next Sunday there will be more money coming into the savings account.

 

Opened my natural gas bill that I have set up on a budget plan so I pay the same amount all year long and the budget was readjusted down 5 dollars.  Yeah, less money to bills.

 

 



 


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Old 01-23-2012, 01:13 PM
 
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Hi Ladies,

 

Wow, it sounds like you all are doing awesome in the face of some pretty significant setbacks!  I love how inspirational this group is.  We're still plugging along.  DH's layoff becomes effective at the end of this month, so things are going to be tight coming up, but I'm hoping we can still pay down our debts over minimum payments.  If not, I have to just keep reminding myself that even if we just make minimum payments, we're in a much better spot this year than last, and that they will eventually get paid off.  I've got some things posted to craigslist, but so far have gotten a lot more spam than actual sales. 

 

In any case, I'm really proud of what we've done so far (we've only been DRing since Oct/Nov)!

 

Anka


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Old 01-23-2012, 01:54 PM
 
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I'm a little reluctant to post updates because... well, it's all good, and I remember feeling frustrated a year ago when I'd read about how easy it was for some people. Then I realized that maybe my good news can be inspiring to some, because this is the result of commitment and work. Our income is on the low side of average, but not low income - but I just mean it hasn't been all easy because I sold my yacht or stopped my latte habit or anything. A year ago I felt like we weren't getting anywhere and couldn't see my way out, and I felt like there really wasn't anything to cut, because we were not extravagant spenders anyway.

 

We started on our path in October 2010. We had no cc debt and we'd even knocked off our car loan by then too, but we were still living paycheck to paycheck and big, foreseeable expenses were always knocking us around, and we had student loans and a mortgage that we just couldn't see our way out of. Well, we still have the student loans and the mortgage, but I am starting to see a light waaaaaay at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel is currently 12 years long, but man, that beats 30 years.

 

In that time we've been sending small but steady extra payments to both our student loan and mortgage - yes, against DR's advice to focus our energy into one thing, but I can't pay off either one for years and years anyway, so I just feel better knowing we're working on both of them. I think ultimately he is about doing what motivates you, and this is what motivates me.

 

Much more exciting, we are within a few months of reaching our $10k in cash savings goal - the FFEF. A year ago - there's even a post from me in the getting out of debt dec 10 thread bemoaning this - I didn't think we'd get here for another 10 years. I felt like there was just no way out - 10 years for our emergency fund, and no way to pay off our mortgage even a year early.

 

How did we do it? Nothing special, but it worked. We just really tightened our belts. The biggest thing by far was having DH on board. I couldn't have done it without him being on board. He has the same financial values as I do but isn't quite as watchful on the budget, but he has accepted me being the gatekeeper of the spending, and I've rode us hard on that. DH earned some extra money on the Internet. I didn't get a raise in all this time (years and years, actually), so I am amazed that we got here though the tide was against us - the same money but costs increasing all around.

 

Having a sinking fund, which I prioritized earlier than DR's plan, was another huge factor, I think. At first, we were still having hard months. But after a while, with our sinking funds funded, the hard months went away. A lot of that was luck - I mean, we haven't needed major car repairs or anything - but a lot of it was also just planning. I had a sinking fund for even relatively small items - like DH gets a prescription online (to save a little) every 3 months. Instead of eating the $40 every 3 months, I was saving $14 a month. Just one example of dozens. At first we often didn't have enough in the funds to cover the expense fully, but even then, it made it a lot easier. Say DD had to go to the dentist and it was $240. Maybe I only had $150 saved for the dentist, but coughing up $90 extra went over a lot easier than coughing up the whole $240.

 

It was very motivating for me to work with a tighter budget when I was managing the sinking funds. I'd look and say "uh-oh, there's not a lot in our heating fuel fund and it's September" and I'd go crazy putting money in there.

 

It also eventually had a very different effect, almost an opposite one - after being very concerned about it for so long, I eventually got to feel peace. At some point, there was finally, finally enough in there that I felt like we were in good shape. Oh no, I wasn't done by any means, but I stopped feeling like we were 1 call to the plumber away from disaster, and started feeling like we could absorb small and medium things without losing any sleep.

 

I'm not at the 10k goal yet, but I know that, barring any major problems (KNOCK ON WOOD) we'll get there by July. And frankly, it seems like we have a pretty fair shot of getting there as early as April.

 

I am super frugal and a tightwad and don't like to spend, but today it occurred to me that we should reward ourselves when we reach this milestone. I talked about it with DH and we agreed that the month after we hit the milestone, we'll give the month's savings to OURSELVES! Just one month, but that will be a few hundred dollars (don't know exactly how much yet) - anything we want. A little one-night vacation away. Going out to eat once or twice. Maybe DH would like buy himself a new outfit, DD a new nice toy. I'm so accustomed to not spending, I'm having a hard time thinking of things for me other than a cheese grater (um, $6) but I'm sure I'll think of something! I have time to dream it up, anyway.

 

Then after that, we are putting $100 a month into our retirement, which is pitiful but we're excited because it's been so long since we've put anything in there. Then all our extra money is going to the mortgage! (Yes, I know DR says 15% to retirement before doing the mortgage, and we may adjust in the future but right now this is what we are most comfortable with).

 

I have a huge spreadsheet (seriously, it's insane.. I've got 15 different tabs going on in there, cross references, calculating current and projected everything, etc) but it's hard to predict REAL LIFE years and years down the road. But with a simplistic calculation, we could be completely debt free including our mortgage in 12 years, without us having to win the lottery or have a long-lost uncle die and leave us his estate. Now, I can't count on that, but it's something to hold on to.

 

So I'm just super excited to be so near such a big goal, and to be able to see, even if very far away, the finish line. I hope this happens for every one of you, if it hasn't already.


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Old 01-23-2012, 04:33 PM
 
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laohaire thanks so much for your post. It's been slow going and we have sacrificed so much already! It's good to hear you are getting somewhere. That means I can too!


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Old 01-23-2012, 05:11 PM
 
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Okay, I'm revealing my newbie-ness at all this, but what is a sinking fund?


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Old 01-23-2012, 05:53 PM
 
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sinking fund is a stash of money that prevents you from sinking. For example every march I have to pay $180 for the registration on my car. In the past I would be turned upside down and stuck with late fees while I scraped together enough money to pay this. With sinking funds in place it's ready when I need it just by putting a little aside each month for this expense.

 

Furniture replacement

car replacement

clothes replacement

an unexpected dental visit

etc

etc 


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Old 01-23-2012, 06:17 PM
 
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laohaire - Thank you for posting!  I'm feeling a little in limbo at the moment, because we are waiting for our tax return to buy a new to us van.  Almost every penny of our monthly savings goals are going to this, and I wish I could be putting that money into our FFEF.  But buying the much needed van must come first.  Your story is inspiring to me to just keep plugging away.  thumbsup.gif


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Old 01-23-2012, 07:18 PM
 
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Yeah, keep plugging :)

 

A sinking fund is money set aside for specific things.

 

For example, I have a life insurance policy, let's say it's $160 a year. Instead of having a hard month when the bill comes due, I put money into it every month.

 

There's also categories that aren't fixed costs but you can guess you might need: like medical/dental (even just for copays), or auto maintenance (oil changes or repair).

 

I keep track of each category. So if I've got $100 in my auto maintenance fund and I can add $12 to it, I mark that it's at $112 now. And if I withdraw $55 from it to cover whatever, then I adjust the amount.

 

I think it has an advantage over having just a lump of savings sitting around. Sure, you could just say "well, I've got $1000 in my fund for whatever I need it for." But I think having a purpose for each dollar keeps you focused. Of course if we had a big emergency we would take money out of other categories to cover it if we needed. (Thankfully we never had to). But otherwise it really helped me have a really good feel for where we were. Having $1000 or $2000 or whatever doesn't mean anything unless you know you could cover all the expenses you can foresee: you know the life insurance policy is all set, that you have the amount of your medical deductible set aside in case you have to run it up, that you have $500 sitting around just for the car when you realize you need a whole new set of tires, and so on. Conversely it helps motivate you when you realize you've got nothing set aside for your next dentist appointment, or you only have $200 to buy heating fuel to get you through the winter.

 

So for me, it provides context for the money, and it really helps. If you are going to spend some money on extras like vacation, you can have a fund for that too, and you know it's ok to use it. Or you know you really shouldn't because if you landed in the hospital you have nothing to cover your deductible. So it helps you prioritize and understand a lot more clearly what you have. If you have $4k in your savings account, you might think - hey! Let's go to Disney! Cause you do have the money - but do you really?


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Old 01-23-2012, 08:23 PM
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laohaire, I always like to hear/read success stories. Hopefully I can start on mine soon!

 

 


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Old 01-24-2012, 05:44 AM
 
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laohaire, thank you so much for a success story!  The sinking fund is exactly what I am trying to convince DH of.  We created separate savings accounts on ingdirect.com so I could see "car repair 400" and know that the fund needs $400 so we can buy new tires or "professional dues 300" and know that when they come up for renewal in May I will have the money for them instead of having a "I don't think we have money for food, since it is the last category we can "borrow" from on our budget."  Last night hearing DR talk about the Four Walls and how people "below the line" in the budget where the money runs out don't get paid was inspiring to remind me that I must take care of food, shelter/utilities, transportation and clothing first before I pay back creditors, even though I want to, it won't be best for my family.  I am still wearing clothes I bought 4 years ago and have a crisis each time I need a new pair of pants or a shirt because I really don't have "clothing" in my budget right now.  Need to talk to DH about that, tonight.


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Old 01-24-2012, 07:37 AM
 
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I kept thinking about what I posted because I felt like I wasn't able to put my finger on what changed. A year ago I saw no end. But at some point the process speeded up - and it was not because I got a raise. headscratch.gif

 

I still don't know if I understand the whole of what happened, but I think a large part of it was plugging leaks. When I got on the ship, so to speak, there were leaks, and I had to spend a good year bailing out. And it's hard to feel like you've made any progress when there's still water in the boat. But at some point the leaks were plugged and suddenly we were getting somewhere. Maybe not super-fast but getting anywhere feels incredible after you've felt like you were sinking.

 

One of the leaks were just prior spending habits. We were never spendy - we're just not like that. But even non-spendy people can really spend way too much when they aren't careful. If we went out to eat in a restaurant once a week - hardly out of control by American standards - heck, that's half the month's grocery budget right there. That was probably our biggest single leak. We plugged that baby, but it wasn't like us stopping going out to eat suddenly got us out of the water. It took time, because the effects were spread out. Us going out to eat for a couple of years meant we had no buffer in savings, for example, so when things came up, they hurt. Slowly, slowly, we rebuilt the buffer, and at some point things just changed.

 

Another (smaller) leak I could think of was our auto insurance policy. When we were making our monthly payments, we had to add $6 "processing fee" for each payment. We were on a 10-month payment plan, so that was $60 a year we paid for the privilege of owing them money every month. Our payment was $60-ish a month, so I started paying them $75, figuring I could eliminate the last payment and save a whopping $6. At some point I started paying them $100 a month. Then when I paid it off (2 or 3 months early) I put $100 a month into a sinking fund for the insurance. When the next bill came due, I had most of it saved up. I coughed up the extra $200 and paid it off in full. Not only did I save $60 that year, but they, to my surprise, gave me 3% off the annual total for paying in full. That wasn't a ton of money (around $18) but on the other hand, I was paying $78 a year to insurance, for nothing. $78 is like a 13% surcharge. That's a leak, folks.

 

And here's another way it suddenly starts catching up to you in a good way once you plug it - I never stopped putting aside the $100 a month for auto insurance. I paid it off in November. I'm going to have next year's full premium saved in 6 months. When that time comes, suddenly I'm going to have 6 months (until my next bill) with $100 extra that I don't need to set aside for the insurance. $100 extra a month to savings or to paying off my mortgage is going to be a big deal. For example my regular monthly payment to my mortgage pays down only $151 of the principal - an extra $100 on top of that is going to go a VERY long way.

 

I do want to add that I don't think we HAD an extra $40 a month we could throw to this at first. That's why I started with $15, and that was an adjustment by itself. But as our savings very, very slowly expanded, I felt like we could free up another $25. So I just wanted to explain that while, yes, we are fortunate enough to have that extra money and not everyone does, it was a process to get there, and even the initial $15 a month was painful.

 

I figured our progress was going to be a lot more linear - it took me a year to save up $1000, therefore I thought it would take me 10 years to save up $10k. But there was a curve. Maybe even an exponential curve - I don't know yet, I'm still relatively early on in the process. So, sorry to go on and on, I am just pretty analytical and felt dissatisfied with my previous vague explanations.


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Old 01-24-2012, 12:06 PM
 
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laohaire - 2 years ago, our car insurance came due on an "extra" paycheck period, so we did the same thing, paid it in full.  I was able to use that money that would usually go to a payment to snowball on our other debts.  While I hadn't set up a fund initially, by the time the insurance was due again, we had freed up enough money to start our sinking fund about 4 months in advance.  It was just a small stretch to cover the full amount again.  This year I have a fund.  Since we bought a much newer car recently, we had to pay the difference, and I've had to increase payments to the fund by about $5, but far less painful than making a monthly payment with interest!  

 

I agree, there was a definite tipping point where our process went from seemingly impossible, to a ball rolling down hill.  We are still very low income for the size of our family, but we don't feel desperate anymore!  In just a few more months, we'll have two fully paid for reliable vehicles, our sinking funds fully funded, and be making good progress on our   cc bv FFEF.


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Old 01-24-2012, 01:27 PM
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That's one of my goals this year - to pay off the auto insurance instead of doing monthly payments.

 

So, today I asked my sister (who lives with me) if she could help with the remainder of the mortgage and low and behold she said yes.

It's usually the hardest thing in the world to get her help on bills but she said yes which means I can begin to breathe since I should be making double starting in 2 weeks!!

My BEF is depleted but I'll put the $100 back in soon and pick up from there. Gah, I'm so glad today has turned out well.


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Old 01-25-2012, 04:31 PM
 
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I'm really glad I asked about sinking funds!!!  I just set up an extra checking account at our bank yesterday which I'll use for that, and keep track of what is in what category on my budget/debt spreadsheet. 

 

Laohaire, what you said about plugging leaks really rings true for me, also.  When we first started a few months ago, I ran through my bank statement in preparation for writing my first ever budget.  I found about $100 in recurring payments that were from things I had signed up for a "trial period" and didn't know I had to cancel!  That's $1200 per year I was just throwing away.  No single one of them had been big enough to draw my eye, but $15 here and $15 there really adds up fast.  Then the eating out hole that you mentioned... for us it added up to $200/month (half of our current grocery budget).  So, just by drawing up a budget and meal planning, we saved $3600 per year.  I feel like such an idiot for going the way we had been for so long, but I'm thankful that it ended when it did.  I'm definately going to see about that auto insurance thing, though... DH didn't know if we were paying an extra fee or not, but we're gonna check into it.

 

As always, ladies, you are such an incredible resource.

 

Anka


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Old 01-25-2012, 05:52 PM
 
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  I feel like such an idiot for going the way we had been for so long, but I'm thankful that it ended when it did.


Tell me about it - years ago we were making significantly more money than today. Like, half again as much. We have NOTHING to show for it - n-o-t-h-i-n-g. We're better off today with 1/3 less income but our belts tightened, crazy as it sounds. Far better off.

 

I still kick myself... I mean, we could have had our student loan paid OFF in ONE year. And still had extra left over. If we'd only been halfway smart about it. KICK.

 

I tell myself over and over, if things get easy like that again, I WILL NOT FORGET. Good times makes it easy to just slack off and forget. I will treat good times like it was a very temporary respite - and if it's not, then I will have no debt and a pile of cash to show for it when the good times keep rolling.


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Old 01-25-2012, 06:13 PM
 
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I noticed something that's driving me nuts and I have no idea what to do about it. DH has been doing the grocery shopping with me. We end up staying on budget,  that's not the problem. The problem is he gets a bunch of stuff that don't equal meals. He has cut back his spending to the point where this is really the only shopping opportunity he has. For example we spent $60 on groceries today and I have nothing to make for dinner. I can't tell him I'll just take care of it. If he has no means of shopping he'll just go blow our budget on something stupid.


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Old 01-25-2012, 06:18 PM
 
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Meal planning.

 

I will list 7 dinners for the week, and write a list of exactly what I need to make them happen. Obviously I think about what we already have. We also are CSA members, so our veggies are the base of my plans. The meal plan doesn't have to be exciting - you can have the same 7 go-to dinners every week if you want. You can decide ahead of time what you are having on what day, or you can just see what you feel like each day, but you know your list.

 

Breakfast and lunch, I think about as well though I don't carve them in stone like dinners. So you figure you need your sandwiches or your soups or whatever, and make sure they are there.

 

DH does all the grocery shopping but I tell him exactly what to get. It's only fair - I do the cooking, so I am the one who knows what I need to make it happen.


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Old 01-25-2012, 08:09 PM
 
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Trekingirl -- that sounds really annoying, but I'm glad you're able to be so sympathetic to your husband in the face of that annoyance!  Would his shopping urge be filled if you wrote shopping lists for each meal plan, then let him pick six "sets" of things?

 

Anka


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Old 01-25-2012, 11:02 PM
 
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not really sure what you mean anka?

 

We tried meal planning when we had a house with a kitchen and while it was helpful I found it to be really rigid. But I guess budgeting is too. Perhaps my carefree days are over. IDK?


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Old 01-26-2012, 04:09 AM
 
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laohaire, I kind of feel like my grocery trips don't always mean I have something to eat.  I have been trying to meal plan a least half of the evening meals for DH and me.  I buy the ingredients and then because I have to actually "make" the item, the ingredients sit in the cupboard and go uneaten.  I come home late and there is "nothing to eat".  I could eat potatoes with veggies, baked beans, and cottage cheese every night if my DH would let me.  He wants "variety" and honestly so do I but I don't always have time to cook variety.  I need to get better at that, because I have spent the food budget and I have little to show for it.


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Old 01-26-2012, 07:29 AM
 
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When you crave variety that you don't have, what do you do?

 

If you order out... yeah, that's a bit of a problem. You could at least improve on that, though. Let's say you usually order out 2-3 times a week, you can promise yourself you will only do it once a week. You don't have to plan which day if you don't want; just get home and say "let's use our Order Out day tonight, whattaya say?"

 

Also, it is possible to build home-cooked variety into your meal planning, but obviously that takes more work. I mean, there's nothing stopping you from planning entirely different meals every week, if that's what you usually do - except the effort.

 

You could also do something like make a 4 week meal plan (and not necessarily all at once, you can build it over time). Having a meal once a month is pretty infrequent, so if you do 4 different weekly plans, then you can rotate those.

 

I said I start with my CSA vegetables, but I realized I also start with the sales. Both my local groceries put their weekly sales online, so I can browse through them when I make my list. I only buy sale meat, for example - so if pork chops are on sale, then we're having pork chops that week (along with whatever other meat on sale that week). Some sale meat is packaged in bigger quantities, so I'll buy it and put the remainder in the freezer for next week. I've got 3 different pork chop recipes I use, so even if we have chops every week, there's still a variety.

 

You can also subscribe to meal plans, and I would say they are frugal if you actually use them. www.cookingtf.com is the one I would recommend if you were interested. She tells you what's for dinner, gives you the recipes, gives you the shopping list as well (!), and also builds in reminders for any prep work you need (like soaking beans the night before, or taking out meat to thaw, or starting the crock pot in the morning).

 

I don't use her meal plans but I do use her recipes (and make my own meal plans) - they are terrific, yummy and healthy. But that brings me to another thought, and that is style of cooking. Before I got into local, seasonal food and traditional foods, I had a mishmash of recipes that called for all kinds of unrelated ingredients. So if I wanted to make a particular dish, I had to go out and buy three different things that just were not staples in my pantry (or very expensive that time of year - good luck getting asparagus and red bell peppers at the same time for cheap). But cooking from scratch and seasonally uses core ingredients in a way that is much more economical - while also still being fresh and exciting (you always get excited about the next food in the season).

 

Meal plans don't have to put what's for dinner a certain night in stone. You can just have a list of 6 or 7 dinners and decide each day what you feel like, then cross it off the list. But having at least a loose plan also helps because it eliminates the just-got-home-now-what? tizzy which can make you give up and order out.

 

Anyway, just some ideas.

 

ETA: I think that, bottom line, planning SOMETHING is better than not planning at all. Even if you are not planning cheap meals. Even if you order takeout or go out to eat sometimes. You are still going to save money when you plan than when you go the store every day or two (and grab impulse items each time as you go), and you are still going to save money when you decide to do takeout X times a week instead of Y. You don't have to be perfect by any means, but any type of planning will already get you somewhere, at least that is my own personal experience.


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Old 01-26-2012, 08:19 AM
 
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not really sure what you mean anka?

 

We tried meal planning when we had a house with a kitchen and while it was helpful I found it to be really rigid. But I guess budgeting is too. Perhaps my carefree days are over. IDK?



Sorry, I should have been more clear.  My husband, when he goes shopping, has a similar thing going, so what I do is something like

 

Fish:  Salmon or Cod... but if you get Salmon, pick up some maple syrup, and if you get Cod, pick up some bacon.

Breakfast:  Bread or cerial.  If you pick up bread, please get some preserves.  If you pick up cerial, grab some soy milk.

 

and so on... obviously it would be tedious to do it for everything on the list, but this gives him enough freedom to pick stuff while at the same time lets him "shop".  We also have some standing buy parameters, like "If you see ground beef for <$1 per pound, buy five pounds for the freezer", "'never buy spice from the big grocery store... we get that from the ethnic store, etc."  That lets him feel like he's "shopping for a deal" when he's in the market.

 

As far as meal planning, it can be rigid or flexible, depending on how you do it.  We have a couple of meals picked out each week and assign each to a day, but then flex things around pretty regularly (e.g., this week Monday was supposed to be a little on the elaborate side with a new recipe, but I was exhausted so it wound up being an old standby recipe that I have ingredients in my pantry for, then we did the more elaborate thing another day.).  I think it's one of those things where you start out rigid, but as you gain fluency with meal planning it'll get more and more second nature.  You'll also eventually have the pantry to back up your go to meal choices, so shopping for your meal plan becomes less of a production.  For example, when we first started meal planning, I'd have to pick up every one of five ingredients for Chicken Adobo every time we did it.  Now we already have canned peppers in adobo in the pantry, frozen chicken breast in the freezer, rice in the pantry, onions and garlic hanging about etc... so we just pick up one or two ingredients if we want to make that.

 

Anka


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Old 01-26-2012, 08:34 AM
 
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Quote:
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laohaire, I kind of feel like my grocery trips don't always mean I have something to eat.  I have been trying to meal plan a least half of the evening meals for DH and me.  I buy the ingredients and then because I have to actually "make" the item, the ingredients sit in the cupboard and go uneaten.  I come home late and there is "nothing to eat".  I could eat potatoes with veggies, baked beans, and cottage cheese every night if my DH would let me.  He wants "variety" and honestly so do I but I don't always have time to cook variety.  I need to get better at that, because I have spent the food budget and I have little to show for it.



I totally feel you on this one.  It's hard to meal plan when both of you are working out of the home.  One thing I do is make and freeze, with Sunday being my big cooking day.  For example, if DH is making pizza, he'll make two and freeze one and bake one.  The frozen one is for next week.  If I'm making Adobo Chicken, I make twice what we need and it makes an appearance later in the week.  Meatloaf comes up a couple of times a month, where I'll make two loaves on Sunday and freeze both, then on Tuesday bake one, leftovers on Thursday, then the other one stays in the freezer for a couple of weeks or longer until everyone forgets we had meatloaf, then another Tuesday/Thursday thing.  So, if I'm going to have a busy week, on Sunday I'll make and freeze two meatloaves, a bake a couple loaves of bread, make chicken adobo for that night and another night's leftovers, and DH will make and freeze two pizzas, one of which is for Friday.  If you do this for long enough, you wind up with a freezer stash of things that you can make if you're tired.

 

Another thing I do is use Cook's Country 30 minute recipes... they come on the cards in the middle of each magazine, and every time I get a couple of cards that look like fun.  Cook's illustrated/cook's country really uses a lot of the same ingredients for  many of their recipes, so once I started cooking regularly from there, I wound up with a lot of their ingredients on standby so I go through them even if I just use part of it for any given recipe.  It allows us to change things up a bit, and their recipes are so explicit that you never wind up with a real disaster on your hands.  Plus, if people like it and it was easy, you can put it into your rotation of meals everyone likes!

 

Recently I found a chart of ideas for leftovers, which I'll (at this risk of making this post insanely long) excerpt from here:

Steak: slice very thin and serve on crusty bread with leaf lettuce and horseradish mayo (three parts mayo with one part prepared horseradish)

Pot roast: chop the meat or shred with a fork and stir into leftover gravy.  Serve over toast as an open-faced sandwich, or as a topping for baked potatos

Chili: reheat and serve over baked potatos -- add cheeze if interested.  Alternately, put chili in a baking pan and cover with cornbread batter.  Bake at 400 degrees until cornbread is done.

 

etc... it's a really long chart from a home ec book I took out of the local library.

 

Finally, nothing makes "variety" better than a couple of tastey snack type things, even if you're eating essentially the same entre.  So, if you can make or buy some dips or cheeses and serve them with crackers/chips/veggies, even if the entre is a little boring no one feels deprived.  I'm not above plating it pretty to make the repetition more palatable, either.

 

Anyway, good luck!  Meal planning took a lot of energy at the beginning, but as you get used to it and build your pantry, things get a ton easier.

 

Anka

 

 


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