Tag: savemoney

Managing Funds for October

With it being the first weekend in October, the tingling sensation to go out and buy everything pumpkin, boots, flannel, and anything fall is literally gnawing at me. It is taking every ounce of my will to not go to HomeGoods or Kirkland’s (or Michael’s thinking yeah, I totally can craft…). I love fall and everything that comes with it, especially being outdoors or bringing the outside in! I love to decorate and I love to warm up the home with scents and flavors of fall. There is something about roasting acorn squash or baking maple cookies during this time of the year…

But alas, with this time of the year comes the mental recollection that the holiday season is literally around the corner. There are 90 days left of the year (okay, less than that but I didn’t want to officially panic) and for my family, the holidays also mean birthday season (my husband, my father, then me…)! So I cannot overindulge despite my inner Martha Stewart wannabe.

So I am taking some time to make some budgeting plans, which will be a challenge with a couple of travel opportunities coming up. But I need to make sure that I have all my affairs in order so I am making some drastic changes!

As you may know from earlier posts, my husband and I are saving a LOT of money by cooking exciting new meals at home during the week (and cooking them together is a great way to spend time together AND cut down on the time it takes). Sunbasket has been great and with their organic menu, we are eating cleaner and healthier while saving money — now THAT is a win-win. If you are interested in getting a box of your own and saving $40, I do have an affiliate code you can use: click here.


So with groceries off the list, there are a few other items we have to account for, like bills and yes, some fun even for an introvert like myself! So here is the plan for October:

I get paid bi-weekly and get my paycheck a day early thanks to my wonderful bank. I get those funds deposited into a checking account. So I am allocating my take-home into four expense categories:
Standard
Frivolous
Savings
Miscellaneous/emergencies

Let’s start with the “Savings” expenses:
I immediately, and automatically, pay myself in terms of a savings account. I consider ‘savings’ as a bill so without thinking, I set an auto-transfer and don’t touch that account. It is associated with my checking and is a fail-safe in case of a rainy day but otherwise, I don’t acknowledge that account at all. So ~10% of my pay, every paycheck, goes here.

Then I look at “Standard” expenses:
This is the bulk of my expenses as I strive for a debt-free lifestyle (with the exclusion of my student loans because, well, education isn’t free).
So in this bucket are expenses like rent, credit cards, utilities, and car payments. This is ~60% of the month’s income.

“Frivolous” expenses:
Withdraw $100. That is my spending limit for anything frivolous outside staple items like medication or groceries. So if I want to go out at lunch or want to go to the movies – that’s all I have for the whole month. ~2.5% of the month goes here.

Miscellaneous expenses or emergencies:
Use my debit card and spend less than 10% for the month. This is for those desperate food cravings or emergency items that we didn’t have in the house. When we can, we go to our local farmers’ market for those one-off items like zucchini for bread or peaches for dessert. “Miscellaneous” items do not count towards frivolous purchases like clothes, makeup or unnecessary items (see how that works?).

Only allowing myself $100 cash means I will not need to go into my wallet to grab a card OR allow me to spend any additional money. Credit cards should not see any daylight with the exception of our rental car or hotel (this is a preplanned trip). And if I don’t have the money, there is no way to spend it -so I have to spend wisely! I also have gift cards that I can and need to use so those will come in handy.

So inquiring minds want to know… What are you doing to prepare for the holidays? How do you budget? Who is ready to join me!?

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HomeChef Update

So back on August 20th, I wrote about a way that I am trying to cut back on excessive spending when it comes to my groceries, reducing waste with unused food, and reallocating time that was previously spent running from store to store. Well, 2 weeks in and going on to week 3, I wanted to share an update! Also, I want to add that this is not sponsored.

When I posted about HomeChef in my New Take on Groceries post, I wasn’t sure what to expect – honestly. I grew up with a mom that worked fulltime but also cooked every week. She taught me to love cooking and that the kitchen is all about organized chaos. She taught me that a little of this and a pinch of that were real measurements for ingredients. She taught me that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And with all of those lessons, I learned about cultural foods, how to basically cook for an army (I am having a really hard time cooking for just 2), and how cooking can bring people together. So when I decided to take a leap into these pre-planned meals, I thought I was shaming my up-bringing. I was not going out and buying my groceries, one cucumber at a time. I was not examining my produce or selecting that portioned ground beef (you know, the one that was priced $6.98 and not $7.02). I was not coming up with my own concoctions. I was not experimenting or playing with food. I honestly felt slightly ashamed.

But I knew I had to do something to help my husband and I cut down on cost, cut down on overindulgence, and reallocate time that has become so precious and so limited (working fulltime, going to school fulltime, and managing some personal side projects really take a toll). So I told myself that this is an experiment so the scientist in me could rationalize the change and took the plunge.

As I mentioned, my first order was curtesy of a promotion code and subsequent orders would cost a bit more but still be less than what we normally would spend on just the groceries themselves. I did a breakdown in my earlier post (you can find it here). So to date, these are the expenses we have incurred for any and all groceries:

HomeChef – $57.50 (week 01) + $89.50 (week 02) + $99.50 (week 03)
Local Farmer’s Market: $30 (week 01) + $32 (week 02) + $0 (week 03)
Local grocery: $30 (week 01) + $20 (week 02) + $28 (week 03)
Costco: $0 (week 01) + $0 (week 02) + $55 (week 03)
Subtotal: $117.50 (week 01) + $141.50 (week 02) + $182.50 (week 03)
GRAND TOTAL: $441.50

Now, I have to admit that some of the local grocery shopping was for our pups who eat home-cooked food which we mix with their kibble, but for the sake of the cost analysis, we will include it. Additionally, there were some expenses that were for work functions, but I cannot find that recent and it was partially reimbursed so we will exclude that. I also excluded non-food items like hand soap, detergents or aluminum foil (Costco for the win though). Also, I had cooked a storm before we started this so we had a LOT of food in the freezer so, for those 2 days when we didn’t have a HomeChef meal, we still had food without having to go out to eat or scramble for last-minute ingredients.

So if we look at what I had predicted for expenses for a month, we will go over $500 in groceries BUT we have had less waste, less time spent shopping (hence my weekend of homework), less gas running from store to store, and less stress during the week. In fact, I opened my fridge this morning and realized it was basically empty – and by empty, I mean full of milk, eggs, and those other staples but not full of food in every Pyrex we own.

Yes, we still have to make some additional improvements but overall, this is still a savings for us. On a given month, we could easily surpass $600 in groceries alone.


Now, let’s talk about the food itself.

I am still feeling guilty about not having my mother’s recipes sprawled about the counter or making up my own concoctions, but I have to say that some of these meals are going to become part of our regular meal rotation when this little experiment is over!

The food is really quite good and I am still able to play with the recipe a little bit – mostly because we cut out a lot of salt (some of these have 50% of your daily intake!). My husband and I also still cook together, most days. And on those days we aren’t cooking together, the recipes are simple enough that one can cook and the other can do homework or personal tasks and he doesn’t yell at me that “a little of that” doesn’t mean anything! Most importantly, we eat together, at the dinner table, and have 1 serving – and we aren’t hungry!

I am currently editing my first unboxing video of the HomeChef delivery, which comes every Tuesday for us and is well packed! So stay tuned as I hope to have that up this weekend.

And just to leave you with an idea on the meals we have had…

So inquiring minds want to know… How important is home cooking in your household? Do you eat out often? If so, how often? How do you manage your budget with groceries?

Healthy Home

So one of the steps I have looked at for my health journey is looking at the products I use in my home. Is that air freshener really good for me? Is there a better alternative to clean my furniture? Could there be a better way to organize my pantry items? How can I feel safer in my home and protect my family? I live in an apartment – how could I make improvements to save money every month?

Below are some items and techniques that I added to my home the past few months, have tested, and could not live without! Some were investments, some were quick fixes, but overall they all took my place from an apartment to my home.

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. While this does not impact your experience or cost with the product, if you purchase through my link, I do receive a small percentage. This allows me to continue bringing you original content and testing out new products. Photos are stock from the retailer’s website – they are not mine.

The first place I wanted to look for a healthier alternative is in the laundry. We all know this is one of the areas we neglect – mostly because we never quite seem to get around to the folding part. But after finding out just how bad those dryer sheets are for the skin, and how they actually repel water (which is the opposite of what you want your towels to do), I made the switch to these wool dryer balls. I bought the six-pack for cost effectiveness but also to give me options. I say options because I get to use my essential oils and customize my laundry scent. For example, lavender for my sheets and tangerine for my towels! They remove static and help reduce drying time because they are wool. They are reusable so one order from a year ago is still going!

This one is a double benefit because it is environmentally friendly and a cost saver! I bought these toilet tank bags in 2018 when I wanted to find a good way to start saving water (we have to pay for water every month) because I know that every flush is an exorbitant amount of water wasted. You’re literally flushing money down the toilet. I bought these tank bags, filled them with water, and placed them in the tank. That day, the amount of water expelled was significant which has reduced our water bill every month. And the best part is that they are holding up great even in the hard water. They are filled with water so they are reusable and conveniently clip to the side of the tank – never obstructing anything inside!

Though new to the house, this is something that I am not quite sure how I lived without! This is the Mealthy CrispLid for pressure cookers (like my instant pot). This is essentially an air fryer but without the need of buying an additional gadget. This allows us to enjoy our not so healthy foods in a much healthier way. We have already made “fried” chicken, french fries, tater tots, and a few other items! If you have an Instant Pot, or a pressure cooker of any kind, I highly recommend getting this!

I have these in BOTH of my crisper drawers and I am so glad I took the plunge to test these out. These are OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Standing Crisper Drawer Insert (2 Pack) and they are amazing little gadgets! So what are these? They are pyramid shaped containers that house enhanced carbon filters which absorb ethylene gas to keep produce fresh longer. And they really work! They will not keep the cucumber crisp for weeks but definitely a lot longer than without. In fact, I was able to get my lettuce to last 4 days longer having this than without them. And they are reusable so I have the filters auto-delivered every couple of months so I can keep my produce longer!

Back to that laundry conversation from earlier… If you ever do laundry at home and don’t want to throw that expensive sweater in the dryer or those jeans because if they shrink one more fraction of an inch, it’ll be WWIII when you try to put them on again…then you need this foldable laundry drying rack by Amazon Basics. It keeps my clothes from getting damaged in the dryer, reducing drying time, and folds up for easy storage!

I have two of these air purifiers by aer -one in each bedroom. They are compact, relatively noiseless and powerful. I even have the filters on auto-ship from Target because of the amount of dust and airborne particles. They have three speeds with the lowest being almost impossible to hear. The filters are easily replaceable and there is a date setting at the top to remind you when you changed and when you need to change the filters. These are great for small rooms, like a bedroom or office.

This compact steamer has been a staple in my home since late 2018 and is used often! I was honestly hesitant to get this because it is plastic but I needed to find an alternative for my husbands’ dress shirts as ironing was not cutting it. I also needed something to help me refresh garments that weren’t quite laundry mat material but not quite fresh either. So I took the plunge and bought this steamer for $25 and am so glad I did! This heats up quickly (within a minute) and the aluminum interior keeps the water hot the entire time you’re using it; the plastic exterior is easy to hold and doesn’t get hot. It even comes with a carrying case so you can take it with you when you travel because you know all those clothes are getting wrinkled in that suitcase!

Each of these products have helped us directly, or indirectly, start making our home a healthier place to live. I really am grateful that I had the opportunity to integrate these pieces into my home and have already purchased some of these several times over for gifts!

Inquiring minds want to know if you have found any household items that you simply cannot live without and how has it helped you? Comment down below!

A New Take on Groceries

When talking about our home budgeting needs, the one area that always gives us some pause is the “groceries” line item. We have been saving money when it comes to our no spend weeks and our pantry challenges (which is using only what you have in the house for food) which we usually combined! In fact, this past weekend is the first in a month where our fridge is back at capacity!

We are eating healthy, cooking more, and enjoying the time together without interruptions. And yet we are still spending more than we really need to for a household of 2 (humans and 2 pooches).

So we are going to try a little something new and I am bringing you along for the journey! We are taking a new look on groceries and trying HomeChef!

So what is HomeChef? It is a meal delivery service that allows you to customize your meals on your dietary needs (say vegetarian, gluten free, and so on) BUT you are actually the chef. So that means that all the ingredients, including the “dash of pepper” or “sprinkle of salt” is included, along with the main ingredients and the recipe guide. Then you cook the meal. So, if you’re like me and you don’t use much salt in your meals, you can customize your dinner. The best part is that they provide the ingredients per the number of people and the recipe -nothing more. So there is less waste and no science experiments growing in the back of the fridge (c’mon…I know I’m not alone on this one).

Now you are reading this and thinking, didn’t you just say you are being frugal and not spending money? How does that align with ordering meals delivered to your door every week? Well thanks for asking!

We were lucky enough to get a promotion for our first box (slated to arrive Tuesday the 27th and I’ll bring you along for the ride) which only came out to $57.50 for 5 days worth of meals for 2 people. Now I’m not a mathematician by trade but… $57.50 divided by 5 days means that we are eating dinner for $11.50. And if you divide that by 2 … $5.75 per person, per meal, Monday through Friday. Honestly, I’ve spent more at Starbucks on one coffee that I finish in 5 minutes (don’t challenge me on that…I’m a coffee addict and proud).

But lets say we did not get a promotion to try out. The normal box of meals that we are trying is for 5 days and 2 people which equates to an average of $99 (some prices vary depending on the recipes you choose – like scallops would cost more than chicken). That still is only $19.80 per day or $9.90 per person.

That all means that in a month, we will be spending under $400 for varying meals on the most hectic nights of the week!

Now if we just supplement that with fresh, in season, produce from our farmer’s markets like fruit and some vegetables for our smoothies and weekend meals, then we can stay under $500 a month. And that means a monthly savings of over $100 for us! What?! I told you we like to eat! Plus we need to look at the bottom line which includes time spent looking at flyers, comparing prices, and actually going to the stores. And speaking of going to the stores, lets not forget gas!

So now you’re asking me what type of food are we looking at because you know I love to cook and won’t eat just anything… Since I won’t receive my first box till next week, I can only share what my menu is slated to be in no particular order:

Meal 1: Steak with Sauce Robert and spinach scalloped potatoes
Meal 2: Salmon with Dill Crema and green beans amandine
Meal 3: JalapeƱo Popper Burgers with chipotle mayo and fries
Meal 4: Umami Miso-Mushroom-Cream Gemelli Pasta with Parmesan & green onions
Meal 5: Chipotle Refried Lentil Flautas with queso fresco & sour cream

I am very interested to see how these are packaged because with the 100+ degree weather we have been having, I don’t want my food to spoil before we get to cook it and eat it!

So tune in this upcoming Tuesday (8/27) as we uncover the world of meal deliveries you have to cook yourself! You may even want to follow me on IG where I’ll do some reviews live!

Fiscal Health – Updates and Apps

Some of you that read my post on “No Spend Week”, know that my household has opted to have one week where, unless it is a bill or medical, we do not spend money! That means no frivolous expenses, no outside meals, and no grocery shopping! While we will be starting our second No Spend Week on July 9th (through July 16th), I have learned a few helpful tips & tricks as well as wanted to share our results from our first run!

Update
Overall, drum roll please, we saved about $250 during our first No Spend Week!
How?
We did not grocery shop at all! We did some fresh produce shopping on the Sunday before our week started and then reverted to eating the food items we already had on hand. It did force us to get a little creative with our meal planning (see my take on a burrito bowl dinner) but we did not find ourselves tossing any expired goods and started to cleanup our deep freezer items!
Another way we saved is putting some of our desired items on ice and came back to them a week later. We did this in three ways: first we literally just put items in our online shopping carts and then closed out of the page; secondly, we put items on our grocery list so we knew exactly what we needed when we could shop again (added bonus is we had the time to go through our cabinets, fridge, and freezer before adding an item to the list or purchasing only to find out we already had it at home); and thirdly, I put things on ice meaning I could not even add it to my shopping cart!
The last way that we saved is through finding free things to do with each other. So instead of going out to eat, we cooked at home -together. We played video games, watched Netflix, went to the gym, played with the dogs, went on walks, and other fun things at home that we normally have to try and squeeze into the day.

Apps
So I mentioned that I learned a few tips and tricks during this time to help us save those big bucks. Some of the tips are apps that we never really got around to researching before while another is an extension I was able to add to my browser (Chrome).

Starting off with “putting things on ice” – introducing Icebox. This extension is free to add to your Chrome browser and reduces your impulse buying at many online retailers like eBay, Amazon, and Sephora. How it works is it literally replaces the “add to cart” button with “put on ice” and it saves it for you depending on the “thaw” period you set, with the recommended 30 days window as a default. This means that those impulse buys you may regret later or even forgot you ordered when you’re scrolling through the Amazon abyss at 2 AM instead of sleeping, will be saved instead of purchased so when the thaw period is over, you may find yourself realizing you don’t need that hipster cat throw pillow after all. But if there is an item that you really need to purchase, you can override Icebox and purchase the item!

Another two extensions that I automatically added to my browser for those times that I can shop help me save money by either offering cashback or adding coupon codes that I did not previously have. These two extensions are Ebates (which is now called Rakuten) and Honey. Just install and when you are shopping, these two extensions will automatically notify you when they can save you money!

There are three main apps that we have been using lately to help us save money through scanning our receipts, and in the case of the latter two, matching them up with savings within the app for additional money in our pockets.

  • Receipt Hog – This also has a Chrome extension and can automatically link to your Amazon purchase and email, With this app, you get tokens that you can redeem for cash through a visa gift card, PayPal, or an Amazon gift card.
  • Fetch Rewards – This app scans your receipts for points and can link up with additional savings. You can also make money for gift cards at several retailers or donate your profits to charity.
  • ibotta – When you scan your receipt with this app and match it to a number of specific, or general, products, you will get money added to your account that you can cash out after accruing $20. Some items that are specific to a brand can save you up to $4+ dollars while some of the “any” items will save you less but you can still save money and those pennies add up!

So for our first No Spend Week, we were able to do a lot with a little and decided that we will be doing this every month! This is a good way to take back some control in an economy that strives on spending! Plus we get to take our debt down and save more by finding ways to use our time more effectively and get back to basics.

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate and will pay me through a sign-up or utilization bonus. This does not impact your experience or my honest review of the services.

Please share with me any tips you have used to curb your spending and if any of these methods are tools you will use for yourself.

Frugal Tip – Automatic Savings

Part of adulting is learning to put some money aside in case of that rainy day or emergency or, if you are being really frugal, for those long-term goals like vacations or holiday shopping. However with the state of the economy and the cost of living increasing and paychecks not keeping up, how can we conscientiously put away $$ every week, paycheck, or month?

Introducing AI that helps you save automatically and in increments that your budget allows! I have been using Digit for over a year now and have created several different goals over the course the year which has helped me save over $1.5K with me barely noticing and not having to be actively calculating my bottom line.

Digit is a secure app that links to your bank account to automatically withdraw small increments on a daily basis per your goal(s). The way that it saves you money is by tracking your spending and calculating upcoming bills so it never depletes your account. Plus, you can setup a “low balance protection” clause so when your account dips below your set amount, Digit will automatically transfer money back to get it above that minimum.

For example, I currently have three goals – “Rainy Day” which is simply a pot for emergency funds; “Credit Card” which is a newer feature of Digit that automatically saves money from your checking account and pays your credit card, lowering your monthly balance; and “Gifts” for the Christmas season (this one also has a count down so it’ll automatically stop saving after December 1st).

So yesterday, Digit reviewed my account and my spending habits and automatically saved me $19.94 across my three goals. I also have a maximum amount setup so Digit can never pull more than $10 per goal, regardless of what my checking account says.

There are some days that Digit does not save me anything at all because of what I have upcoming financially. There are others, like yesterday, that it moves over higher amounts. Additionally, you can pause your savings if you ever need to for any reason and set an automatic window so Digit resumes without you having to stress.

Every new Digit subscriber gets about 90 days without a charge and there is a $2.99 charge monthly thereafter, but between its efficiency and ease, I feel that the charge is justifiable.

You also get a savings boost which essentially similar to your savings account interest. This is quarterly and it does start at 1%, so it is not that big, but I have been able to accrue about $7 since October 2018.

If you want to save some money without the stress of having to move money every month or want another way to save, try Digit! And let me know if you find this app helpful OR if you have another way that YOU save!

Disclaimer: This post is NOT sponsored and it my personal opinion of the app. There are links in this post that are affiliate and do provide a small payment to me but do not alter the experience or savings benefit for you.

Frugal Tips – No Spend Week

Being an adult is hard! The worst part are the bills that come every month and the cost of living that continues to increase despite salaries not being able to keep up.

So in order to combat some of the mundane adulting tasks, the I have decided to start installing some “frugal tips” into day-to-day living. Some tips have helped me save money. Some tips have helped me knock down some debt. Some tips have helped me find some new and exciting adventures. And since they have been fairly beneficial, I wanted to share some of them!


This week’s challenge/tip: No Spend Week


While the title of this week’s tip, and challenge, is pretty obvious, the purpose behind it is to not spend any extra money! This may have been something that has been written about before, normally called “no spend months,” but there were always exceptions – food being one of them.

While that is difficult, I feel that food shopping is one of my vices – I can go to 4 stores on a given day and shop way beyond my list. Hubby and I do eat it all, but that also feeds into the cycle of over-indulgence and our healthy journey.
So, this upcoming week, we will not allow any food shopping as well as no erroneous spending except for health/medications and bills. Anything we normally would have purchased is put “on ice” and can be revisited the following week. That also means that we have to only eat items we already have – think of it as a food clean-up too!
We cannot spend money on anything from Amazon or other retailers, and if the appointment for any personal indulgent item (like my nail appointment) can be moved, it should be!

The challenge starts today: June 17th and ends on Sunday, June 23rd.

The rule: if you were going to spend money on any “fluff”, it has to be deposited into the savings account. That way, at the end of the week, we will calculate how much we saved. That means that if I was going to buy lunch on Tuesday, I would transfer that $8.00 (or whatever the price) to savings instead.

Who is with me!?