MM’s Money

September 15, 2008

I gotta figure stuff out!

Filed under: Site Stuff — mmsmoney @ 5:30 pm
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As I stroll through my ‘roll, I see all these  awesome tickers of peoples’ progress against their debt or toward their savings goals and I am covetous and I want! I wanna link to my NCN Network charts, too…How do I do that? Must research and figure this stuff out! Since my site is unvisited, I’m not terribly optomistic for some guidance, but should you stumble upon this lonely rock in the wilderness and have some advice to lend, Much Appreciated, Stranger!


Reduced Circumstances – Still Partying!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am

SingleMa over at Fabulous Financials wrote a compelling post this past weekend – from a reader’s question about comparing people’s reactions to lifestyle changes/financial struggles. Head on over & check it out! My comment:

That’s the thing – our perceptions are based on US not them – and you can never know all about the circumstances of another family. When my DH’s income went south, we made lots of changes in our lifestyle, but we didn’t stint on certain areas – because those were and are part of who we are!

Example – we LOVE to have people over the house to socialize, break bread and have a beverage or two. And comparably to the Family A’s party, we changed from providing ALL the steaks, sides & beverages to ask our friends to pitch in – we provide the main course and people bring a bottle of wine and salad/bread/etc. And most were HAPPY to be asked to bring something.

Some might think that’s crass (at that point it’s less a dinner party and more a communal meal), but the community and enjoying time with friends was too important to sacrafice even if we couldn’t live up to our prior ‘generosity.’ Of course that generosity had been financed with BAD DEBT and I’m dealing with that now! And just FYI – the ‘friends’ that resent this reduction in our hosting are the same ones who never reciprocated with invitations, either – strange how that works!

Moving on…it is hard to resist the temptation to judge, thanks for addressing the issue!

I still find peoples’ reactions to the change kinda funny – there were people who in the past, when we did tell them, “Just bring yourself,” that would always show up with a bottle in hand to share and another to leave behind as a hostess gift. Then there were those who would say, “you’re sure you wanna host – let’s do it at our place so I can clean up afterwards!” And someone else would bring a gorgeous gourmet salad that they had spent time, love & dollars putting together – and they’d make sure to tell me well in advance that it was already done, they were gonna bring it and I shouldn’t make a salad, ’cause they got it covered. And I love that – these are the greatest friends – generous in return. So the first time I said, “We’re grilling killer pork chop, but I don’t have anything to go with” these were the ones that jumped right in and said, no prob – I’ll bring the salad, I’ll bring the taters, I’ve got a couple of bottles of red that would go so well with that – I’ll bring those! And they were the ones who had invited us over to their homes, too. And my buddy – a long-time friend of DH’s – who’se been unemployed for 6 mos and has NO money – he’s the one that always helped load the dishwasher and made sure to be there to help with the grill and setting up – making his contribution the way he can (and we feed him often and ask him to dinner even when it’s not a ‘party,’ Lil One LOVES her honorary uncle and it’s just as easy to cook for 3 as 2 – as I’ve said before).

Then there were others that had the uncanny knack of arriving for the party just as dinner was hitting the table and making a quick departure as I started clearing the table. That when asked over knowing we were providing the main dish and maybe they could contribute, would bring a can of green beans from the cupboard and expect me to cook them! Thanks for pitching in! (I know – that’s me being judgy, too). Strange how you get to know the differences between friends when the money stops flowing out!

I know people have different feelings about entertaining and having people in their homes – I have one friend who is paralyzed with fear that her house isn’t clean when people come over. So she never invites people over – ever. I’ve known her and her husband for 6 years, they are regular fixtures at our house for dinner, and I’ve never seen their house. And that’s fine – she knows she has a problem and she would rather bring a fantastic homemade dessert and help me clean up afterwards than reciprocate. So in her mind, it evens out – and it sure does – can that lady BAKE!  (aside – I’m pretty sure it’s an OCD thing, I know she takes the meds for it).  So again – some stuff I can understand, but others – like the lady who will send her hubbie over early in the party and have him call her when stuff comes off the grill so she can show up with her can o’beans just as dinner is served? That I can’t understand and I don’t let her attitude affect me! She’s the one with the issues!

People are different – and people’s reactions to changes are different, too. We’re thankful we’re blessed with some really cool friends and we’re still enjoying them, even if we’re not throwing down $200 bucks per weekend to entertain them.

September 13, 2008

Generic Vs. Name-Brand?

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Saving — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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I’m not the only one in the world who struggles with the choice between buying the generic and the store brand! I know there are also many others who never even make it a choice – “Coke, It’s the Real Thing” is firmly engrained in their consciousness. So I feel a little virtuous when I buy generic – although that should be the rule, not the exception. And it is the rule EXCEPT for the following:

  • Peanut Butter: have you tasted Jif? Is it not like heaven? How can you even compare store brand?
  • Charmin: my body is kinda sacred to me, and seriously – that store brand will not touch me. I mean it.
  • Light Bulbs: every store-brand CFC that I have bought has lasted less than 2 months. What is up with that? They are supposed to last a year! So we went back to GE/Westinghouse/Sylvania when it came time to replace these duds.
  • Charcoal: not that we buy a lot of it (well, compared to some, we do), but store brand is just harder to light & manage the fire
  • Shampoo: both DH and I have difficult to manage unruly wave & curl. So we buy the salon stuff and don’t struggle to manage. But I do wait for the buy-one-get-one, which halves our expenditure
  • Beer: I haven’t bought Beer Beer (remember the white cans with the UPI scan logo?) in years. We are a make-our-own or buy microbrew family
  • Toothpaste: I was a Crest Kid and am now a Crest Adult.
  • Gasoline: I will not purchase from no-name-brands or CITGO. Citgo for political reasons, no-names for watered down gas that caused an engine failure when I was in college
  • (confession. and I know you’ll be upset) Cigarettes: I know! I know! I’ll quit! I swear! Another post will detail how stupid and reckless this habit is, but I do and now you know and now you think I’m an idiot, and now I know that you know and that I know that you’re right! *ducking*. Again with the minor virtuousness, mine are a major retailed brand that often has the ‘keep them smoking’ buy-one-get-one promotions or major coupons, while DH smokes an ORGANIC brand that is like $2 more per pack and NEVER gets couponed or on sale or promotionally buy-one-get-one

But that’s about it. I might have left something off, but pretty much everything else is store-brand or not-major branded.

How about you?

September 12, 2008

Small Victories!

Filed under: Family Financial Makeover,Lil One,Planning,Saving — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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So based on the FFM (Family Financial Makeover -I’m gonna copyright/trademark that if I can) I went to the credit union and set up three new savings accounts, in addition to the one I already had:

Share Savings 01:  Primary savings – for holding the buffer. Balance: $230 (it was $260, but I transferred $10 to each of the new accounts). It’s still pitiful and sad though!

Share Savings 02: Major Emergency Fund – for building up 6 mos of expenses – which is at this point (including our slash & burn of the budget) roughly $18,000. This would cover us in terms of that major disaster deductible on DH’s business insurance or in the event of my losing my job. Not both – so we’ll have to re-address this goal as money starts piling up. Balance: $10

Share Savings 03: Car Replacement Fund – for the eventual replacement of my vehicle. My 13-year-old rattletrap which I love and cherish and whisper sweet “do not die on me” nothings to every single day. Balance: $10

Share Savings 04: Baby College Fund. With a grand total of $20 in it. Wait! What’s that you say? My numbers don’t add up? You’re right! My branch manager, who knows my name you know!, let me know that for college savings accounts, the credit union puts in their own $10. So free $10 for Lil One! Woot!

Now I know some of you would say, why local Credit Union with its measly 1.5% interest on savings accounts? Why not ING or HSBC or some other bank? Well, I plan on converting each of the values in these accounts to other accounts when they get built-up. A combo of 3, 6, 9, 12 mo. CDs (see below) and for baby-girl, an educational investment instrument of some sort that I haven’t yet researched. So for now, until we’re dough-rolling, I’m happy to have these monies socked away closer to home.

Oh, and I opened another account too – the credit union version of a Certificate of Deposite is a Share Certificate. Normally, the minimum initial deposit is $1000 and earns 4.1% (12 month – I think the 6 month ones earn slightly less). But right now, they are running a promotion to attract members who might not be able to affort the minimum deposit. SO I bought a share certificate that can be augmented with additional funds throughout the term for $10. And it earns 6%!!! Upon thinking about it, I should have put baby’s CF amount in that, but they wouldn’t have matched it. And I can always earmark the Share Cert for Baby Girl when we are wealthy and almost debt free next September. I just can’t exceed the 1000 or the entire thing becomes a normal Share Cert – which is weird. What if it had 990 and earned interest to top 1000? Would the whole thing then lose the special rate? I am so uneducated and Sometimes don’t ask enough questions!

September 11, 2008

Conflicting Goals, Maybe?

Filed under: Debt,Planning,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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So part of my family financial makeover is to start saving. Family Financial Makeover has a nice ring to it…Googling…No, it doesn’t appear that I am using someone else’s trademark/copyright (I get those confused). OK. It’s MINE. My Catch Phrase. Hands Off! Now how do I trademark/copyright it? Can I get people to pay me for usage?

 Ok- back to topic: Yes, I am trying to build the buffer between me & disaster (that YNAB Rule#1 one-month’s expenses discussed in the previous post – listed as Goal 1 below), but at the same time, I have equally important and compelling goals:

  1. Goal: Generate Buffer. Execution – slash & burn expenses and allocate avoided dollars to buffer.
  2. Goal: Pay down debt. Execution – begin snowballing personal loan (at the YIKES! interest rate of  18.6% !) to free up cashflow in the budget ($201.50 per month). Current Snowball Amount: $100/month
  3. Goal: Start saving for Major Emergency Fund/Baby College/Car Fund. Execution: start slowly at $10 per payperiod in 3 accounts (total per month: roughly $60).

Now why would I try to accomplish all three goals at once? Am I setting myself up for failure?

First, for psychological reasons. I have been so beaten down by financial trauma, stress and discontent that I need to start on that debt ASAP. And I feel that with the help of YNAB, I can get to my one-month’s goal within the same timeframe as paying of that personal loan. And I do buy into the Dave Ramsey small-victories build momentum approach…I need to change my behaviors and I need to get positive reinforcement through accomplishing a goal. I should note I have not read any of Dave Ramsey’s books – I’ve heard his radio show two or three times, but I have read A LOT of blog posts and comments-debates on his theory and alternative approaches! I guess I am luck that my smallest debt and the highest interest rate are the same debt so I don’t have to be “stupid” according to varying groups of blog-commenters (and I’m pretty sure they are roughly divided in half in each of these camps).

Second, it’s kinda six-of-one, 1/2 dozen of the other to me. I’ve screwed up and screwed up badly in the past and have not done the requisite learning from my mistakes (yet – I need another disaster to prove/execute on what I’ve learned). Building the buffer will implement the YNAB approach, but only if no emergencies happen in the near term (til I get that loan cleared). My credit union really takes care of its members and in conversation with my branch manager, who yes – does know me by name, she indicated that the credit union is very willing to help members get out of trouble when they proven themselves dedicated to fixing their issues which (in context that I shan’t go into) to me sounded like my clearing my loan successfully (never been late, never asked for more funds, paid extra upon occassion and more regularly lately) would be beneficial if that near-term disaster were to appear. I really think my car is going to die soon – I really do. And being eligible for a car loan from them in 6 months is more likely than my being able to save $7000 for a good used vehicle. So as awful as it sounds, I’m almost resigned to needing another loan! and need to clear the current one to ensure this future one becomes available.

Last, the savings issue – I’m oh-so optomistic here. We have to have the major emergency fund – DH’s insurance (liability) has a $10K deductible. Where we would get that money should a project he’s working on go up in flames and we’re liable…Oh I could lose sleep over that. $10 at a time sounds miserly, but babysteps, right? Next – the baby. She will get college tuition paid for and I need to let the power of compounding interest begin to work its mojo. Simple as that – it is as important as any other goal in my personal view. And last – yes that car will die sometime. Maybe its death is 6 months from now, maybe 18 months. In any case, some money will be set aside for that eventuality and to avert the total need for another loan!

So tackling them concurrently, although with differing amounts budgeted against each per month, seems like a reasonable approach to deconflict the goals. Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure we don’t screw up again and this is the plan for now. Subject to revision, subject to God’s Will!

September 10, 2008

BIG News And a Hurricane!

Filed under: DH,Lifestyle,Planning,Relationships — mmsmoney @ 5:49 am
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Big news – DH reconsidering his work situation + a chance conversation at a social event = NEW JOB. Having just started this blogging thing last week, I didn’t post anything about his resume-writing, interviewing, etc – especially since this all came together since Labor Day, but OMGoodness! And I didn’t want to get my hopes up, either.

He was talking to an old friend at a cookout, and she mentioned being overwhelmed at work – she had an empty job that no one had applied for in the 6 weeks the posting/requisition had been open. She works for a non-profit community agency that manages social support grant money from the Federal and State governments – including a brand new program area that supports green-building efforts in the lower income housing field. DH was/is fascinated by this burgeoning industry – green-construction – and they spoke for a long time about the new program and the job itself – serving as project manager/inspector for this new program. That was MONDAY 8 days ago (9/1/08)!

Tuesday (9/2/08) I fixed up his resume to highlight the associated work skills/qualifications and he emailed it to his contact. Wednesday (9/3/08) she called to set up the interview. Thursday (9/4/08) he interviewed. Friday (9/5/08) they checked his references and ran background checks. Monday…nothing. Yesterday (9/9/08) – HE GOT THE JOB. It’s definitely nowhere near the money he had been pulling in a few years ago, but it is a JOB. 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, they want him to start this upcoming Tuesday – the 16th. After consciously trying NOT to get excited/hopeful, this is an awesome and amazing change for our family.

Money. He’ll bring home roughly $2400 per month. $800 will go to daycare, right off the top. Now we have to budget the rest responsibly. We haven’t had the conversation, but certainly a large chunk of that will hopefully be going to pay down our debt at a rate I will be HAPPY to report month after month!

 So since this will be the first office environment in 8 years, he’s gonna have to buy some clothes.  That will be an investment not accounted for in this month’s budget, but it has to be done. This is a slacks and shirt office, no jeans/t’s/golf shirts – so I figure he can get by with khaki’s (3 or 4 pairs – NOT dry-clean-only) and roughly 5 to 8 shirts. He really does not have anything that will do – his previous jobs/contracts had been construction sites – where a t-shirt without holes/stains was fancy! We’re hitting Kohl’s Department Store (maybe one-step up from TJ Maxx and one-step down from Dillards) first for the basics…I’m thinking $250 for the slacks/shirts and a pair of shoes. Does that seem reasonable? If necessary, he can get by with his ‘nice’ boots if we can’t find any office shoes this weekend.

Then there’s Hurricane Ike swinging through the Gulf at us – projected to hit Corpus Christi Friday afternoon – putting storms at our door Friday night/Saturday morning. So maybe shopping should be done tomorrow evening, instead. Our landscaping sure could use the rain – but I hate to hear of damage/destruction from storms, so we’ll be praying it lands gently.

Daycare & Working

Filed under: DH,Lil One,Planning — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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We made a hard choice last month – facing my DH’s difficult work situation, we decided we would cut back our daycare to two days per week. This saves us $100 per week and major bucks in cost avoidance. It’s a double-edged sword. Yes, we have to increase our income and figure out our path out of debt, but he’s been bidding jobs all summer and not having a lot of success. Paying for daycare while he’s at home trying to drum up business put a lot of strain on our finances and on our emotions…

Factor 1: He won’t bid jobs that require him to finance significant materials/parts/equipment. We’ve gotten into trouble with this in the past and we can’t do it. Not above a certain threshhold – which we determined together to be $500. That’s the max. So that limits the jobs he can go after. Some jobs/customers will buy the materials (to avoid the contractor’s mark-up which can be 50% plus), so he focuses on these kinds of jobs which are few and far between.

Factor 2: He won’t hire illegals as helpers. It’s not fair to some, but from a legal perspective, and from his personal liability, he can’t do it. Helpers are covered under his umbrella policy and his bonding, but only if they are registered apprentices with the state. So there you go – he can’t get help for $8/hour. He has to pay a living wage to his helpers – and that’s $13/hr and up depending on the skills of the people he needs. So that too limits the size of the jobs he can bid. If he can’t get good help for the amount the customer is willing to pay for the job, the job goes to another bidder. Again – finding the niche that will pay the labor costs for this work is difficult – so jobs are few and far between.

Factor 3: Our babysitter is awesome and flexible with us. Lil One has been with her since she was 3 mos. old and is a favorite at the sitters. So keeping her at all, even if only 2 days a week, was something the sitter was willing to do. She would have been within her rights/and I would have understood, if she needed to kick us out to get a full-time child in that spot. But she didn’t and that’s such a blessing.

So DH has 2 days in the week and the weekend to schedule jobs. Most of the time, he can do that, unless the General Contractor’s schedule requires Monday through Friday. If we run into that, our sitter will accept Lil One for the additional days – as a drop in at a slightly higher rate – but otherwise, we’re only accountable for paying her for the two scheduled days. 

DH is reconsidering his business model – and the ‘industry’ he’s in. It has been so difficult these last few years to make it at all (even without all the bad choices and financial missteps), that it’s time for a significant change for him. And hopefully, getting this figured out will be good for him and good for us, too.

September 9, 2008

Another Non-Compromise for Quality

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Lil One,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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or won’t compromise. Lil One was breastfed for 15 months. Oh, that was an awful day she rejected me and made me feel unnecessary to her continued existence! It was a horrible, no-good, rotten day (that’s a book title…Googling…Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst). Horrible To me, of course, she thought Cow’s Milk the best thing EVER. 

 “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” – King Lear, Shakespeare.

So that all being said, it was a transition for me, but not her. I started out buying Horizon organic brand milk – at 2007 pricing, it was $4.50 a gallon compared to $2.89 for hormone-riddled store brand milk. And at the time, the store didn’t offer their own branded organic option.

Every week, I go to the farmers market – for produce, it’s the only stuff that’ll do – in season, local producers, no food miles involved. well, about 6 months ago a new vendor appeared – a DAIRY. Organic, local, fresh milk! at $5 a gallon. Wow, it was like crack or heroin or potato chips. We were all hooked. It had about 10% more butterfat content than the horizon and was sweeter and glorious. Even to me, who had been suffering through fat free milk in her coffee and cereal. Lil One gained about 6 pounds instantaneously, and was getting a lot of chub in her little legs and arms (as a breastfed baby, she was kinda lean and I had weight issues on her behalf, thinking she was underfed).

Then 6 mos ago, the dairy abruptly stopped coming – I was devastated and the whole family was upset with the store brand organic (which was available at that point -how could they pass up the market)! And the dairy was close to 150 miles away, so it wasn’t as if I could go there to get the milk! Well, it turned out that the farmer had purchased another dairy and was integrating it (equipment, etc) and its herd into his operations – including being the recipient of their wholesale licensing. That licensing allowed the dairy he had purchased to sell their milk to groceries for resale to the public. The farmer hadn’t had that license and was only able to sell to companies that would use his milk in production of another product – BlueBell Ice Cream for one – and direct to the public via farmers’ markets, local delivery, etc. So this was a great thing for the farmer, but we were needing that milk!

So three months ago, I was shopping in the fancy local grocery (an upscale version of the regular grocery) and they were selling 1/2 gallons on the shelf of that milk – for $5. A half-gallon. I was so torn. Our family LOVED that milk. But to pay double? I was not willing to do it and kept the knowledge (that it was available) from DH. Silly of me, but I made that choice. And then considered and reconsidered that decision. A few weeks after that, the farmer reappeared at our farmer’s market – with gallons for $6.25. A hike, but not surprising – in that same period, Horizon went from $4.99 to $5.99 and local organic from $3.99 to $4.50. So now we’re hooked again. And $0.26 is a very very small premium to pay (comparing to Horizon) for this stuff…it is that good. I usually buy 4 gallons at a time, every other week. Its high-butterfat and the pasteurization required of organic milks keeps it fresh for up to 3 weeks (meaning I’ve bought it and not opened it for up to 2 weeks, then had the gallon working in the fridge for up to a week after), so it really seems a frugal and conscientious purchase rather than an extravagance…

September 8, 2008

What We’re Doing

Filed under: Planning — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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So we had a budget for many months and unsuccessfully tried to spend only what we made only when the money was available in our checking account. But that really wasn’t working for us…timing of bills, the variability of DH’s income, fixed expenses were just piling up at the wrong times. So we have been struggling, even with the help we’ve received this year. Recently – like 6 weeks ago, and I wish I could remember how I found the link/referral, I found the And I read a lot without even realizing the blog was in support of or accompanied a product! Duh! So I was reading about these “Rules” and thinking, yeah – that makes sense. How simplistic (and not necessarily in a good way) – I could have come up with that!

When I finally looked to the top of the page and saw the links to success stories and the history of the blog, the light came on – OH This is Selling Something! And that something is You Need A Budget software – YNAB.  The creator of the software is an accountant who started his homegrown spreadsheet budgeting solution when he and his now wife were still in school – trying to live on pennies a day and struggling to forecast what monies they would have to spend in the future. Well, we’re there, DH and I. We needed a tool and a system that allowed us to budget without knowing the variables that would impact the upcoming month. So here it was – the tool and the system – and for the bargain basement price of $39.95!

Funny the timing – August was a good month, since I actually caught up on the electricity bills for the summer ($300 June $450 July $360 August) and had about $150 to live on after the month’s first paycheck. So I spent that $39.95 and downloaded the software, the bonus excel worksheets and the YNAB way ‘book’ which is the detail of how The Rules work and how to begin integrating the budgeting and The Rules into your life.

I read the book at the gym that next day (I run on the elliptical machine for an hour every other day) and installed the software that afternoon. And we’re on our way! In a nutshell, YNAB advocates the following Rules:

1) Spend last month’s income to pay for this month’s expenses. Since you know at the end of the last month what you’ve made, you can allocate that amount and only that amount for this month’s budget.  To live under this rule, you have to save up the amount of a typical month’s expenses (including plug numbers to accumulate annual expenses across a budget item) before you can truly be worry free! So far we are $200 towards our one-month’s buffer.

2) Give every dollar a job – allocate all monies to specific budget line items to balance to zero each month. This concept is not new (see my simplistic comment above), but the execution approach is – sock any extra income into that buffer category instead of letting it be ‘unassigned’ in a savings account. That way, you know what each dollar is doing for you and this removes temptation to reallocate if things get tight in the month!

3) Prepare for circumstances – like annual bills – that you can expect, but sometimes don’t know the numbers! Setting aside money in categories within the budget to prepare for these amounts seems simple, but again, something about the methodology and software allows me (or will allow me to try) to resist the temptation to raid a category to fund a minor budget gaff.

4) Roll with the punches. Once you’ve funded the buffer and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck you can proact for #3 events and react as necessary for the stuff you can’t foresee.

So we’re 3 weeks in…and ended August with $200 ‘in the black’ on our buffer.  And we’re budgeted into the middle of September without ‘raiding’ savings. Maybe by the end of September we’ll be a week ahead in earning vs. spending!

What I Love – Frugal Stuff or Not!

Filed under: DH,Frugality,Lifestyle,Lil One — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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  1. I love to cook. So eating out or grab-n-go foods are not appealing. This is a big money saver in our household. DH makes it very clear he’d much rather eat my cooking than spend money on not-as-good restaurant offerings. However, this does add to my stress sometimes – like this past month – when I’ve been so very busy at work that I haven’t been able to plan well and when coming home to jump right into cooking doesn’t really appeal. I grew up cooking for my big family (6 of us) so I’m used to cooking for a crowd. If I make dinner for 3 vs. 2 (adults we’re talking here – Lil One would rather eat cheerios and chicken nuggets than my cooking – I’m trying not to take it personally), then it doesn’t cost all that much more and I have leftovers for lunch. Not eating dinners out saves probably $80/month and leftovers saves $100/month.
  2. I love to read. Now that I’ve decided to stop buying books and use the dang library, I can indulge my reading without breaking the bank. I tracked my B&N/Amazon Books purchases last year and WHEW they were high. I’ve been on the not-buying boat since January and it’s save us … wait for it…$800 so far this year. Yes, the library sometimes doesn’t have the immediate gratification of getting the latest releases first. And yes, I can’t love the book and reread it again and again (without checking it out again) like if I owned it, but really – $1200 a year on books is a lot.
  3. I love coffee. I drink at least 2 mugs (and real ones – 16 oz.) each day – one right when I get up and one for the commute to work. I will not sacrafice my shade-grown fair trade good stuff for some cheaper alternative. One – for the taste. Two – for the principle of the thing – buying organic, fair trade ensures living wages are paid to the farmers and that is something I believe in and will continue to support. Not to mention the negative ecological impacts of clear-cut coffee plantations (FOLGERS!). I try not to hug the trees too much, but in this case I would hug the coffee tree if I could. And really – that extra $2 per week is not gonna pay off $40K anytime soon, so we’ll stick with good coffee.
  4. I love Good Diapers bought with a Good Coupon. Well, actually I don’t love them, I just hate the alternative. Lil One’s rear-end requires the high-end purchase, so if I buy generic she is miserable with the rashes & chaffing. That then requires purchase of expensive baby diaper rash creams and so on. Yes, I’d save $10 per week on the diapers, but a tub of Dr. Smith’s would be $12 every other week, so there’s no real savings there (only $4 per week). And how could we put a price on discomfort for the Lil One? Buying the better diaper is the way to go for our family. That being said, we’re preparing to potty train this fall and these expenses could go away soon, adding $70/month back into our budget.
  5. I love good beer. No, not Miller Geniune Draft vs. Miller Lite. I mean flavorful, handcrafted beer with a significant hop profile. A balance of sweet malt to bitter hops. I mean a beer that follows the 4 ingredient rule of the Germans: Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast. NO rice, no wheat, no additives, no hops extract. So what is a family trying to cut our expenses – slashing and burning – going to do? DH learned how to make our own. Yes, we’re like moonshiners cookin’ up brew in the backyard. I may post another on this topic itself, as it is pretty interesting, but the short story: a 12-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is regularly $15 (grocery not discount store). And we could drink that within 2 days (no we’re not alcoholics, we just drink beer most days). That’s $3000/year on BEER after sales tax (8.25% in Texas). Or about $1.35 per beer.  So by buying the ingredients (and the equipment, which we got a great deal on) making it ourselves is less than $0.60 per serving – plus the purchase of the ingredients is TAX FREE because they are ingredients, not finished food products. So we don’t sacrafice our sophisticated beer palate AND we save upwards of $1500 per year! DH has perfected a California-style American Ale (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone), a London-style Ale, an excellent porter – dark, balanced and yummy in the winter. These are our standard beers.

So what do you love that you think helps you save money or that you wouldn’t give up even for cost savings?

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