How to Increase Your Net-Worth by $86,000.00 in 10 months

How We Increased

How We Increased Our Net Worth by $86,000.00 in Ten Months

Quarter 1 of 2018 Update – Day 2763…….264 days in.

No.  That is not a typo…that’s the number.  $86,000.00.  I was in disbelief myself when I did the calculations.  I believe I actually said, out loud, Holy Smokes Batman!!!

Now before I get into the meat of how we accomplished this almost supernatural feat….Let me say this, it is NOT lost on me, read that gain…it is NOT lost on me, that that number is more than a huge chunk of Americans (the world really) makes in a year.  I absolutely do not take for granted that my husband and I are very fortunate to have incomes that put us pretty high up there on the income scale.  I also recognize that, even before we factor in our incomes, we start out in a place of privilege and opportunity.  I do not, however, feel guilty about what we earn.  We have both worked our butts off to get here.  Both of us come from very simple beginnings and what we have accomplished in our careers was accomplished through our own blood, sweat and tears (Not so much blood, but some sweat, and a LOT of tears).

I also, STILL, believe in the American Dream (but that’s a soapbox for another day).

….You’re still here?  I haven’t lost you yet?  Good, because I firmly believe the lessons we have learned on this journey to Financial Independence are for EVERYONE, irrespective of incomes.  It’s more about YOUR income, the percentage of YOUR income that goes to debt service and the percentage of YOUR income that goes towards savings for retirement.

When I first found the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) community last March we were drowning in debt, mostly due to our student loans.  Ironically, we had been Dave Ramsey fans for years.  I even led Financial Peace for many of those years.  The problem was our student loans were so large (think several hundred thousand dollars large) and it was taking so long to make any significant gains – that over the years we lost motivation and the life-style creep came back.  We also had not saved anything because if we were following the “Baby Steps” we could not move on to savings until we paid off our debt.  We became discouraged.  The older we got with NO retirement, the more anxiety we both had about what our future was going to look like.  Finding the FIRE community gave us hope when we had none.  Whereas before, we were resigned to die with our student loans, we now had HOPE that we could not only pay them off, but save for retirement at the same time. HOPE. Hope and a PLAN work magically together.

What was different?  Dave Ramsey’s principles are sound – but as I have discussed before, they are also not perfect, nor do his principles translate to every situation.  Ours included.  We were middle-aged with no retirement and debt in the six digits, several times over. What finally clicked for me was that, given our situation, it was OK to save AND pay down debt at the same time.  It was also possible to increase our percentage of savings significantly – far more than most Americans – and still live happy fulfilled lives.

Hearing from others who had a savings rate of 30%, 40%, 50% and some even more than that, not only intrigued me, but it inspired me.

Now that we were inspired and FIRE-ed up, we began drafting a plan.

We started by evaluating where we were, then focused on areas we could cut expenses DRAMATICALLY, then looked at how we could increase our savings, and, finally, discussed ways we could increase our incomes.

If you want to change your circumstances as well, look to these three areas: expenses, savings and income.

  1. Expenses

One of the best ways to immediately create more cash flow is to see where you can trim your discretionary spending.  The following are some common areas you can find savings.

  • Food budget
  • Eating out
  • This includes COFFEE! I grind my own beans daily and its AMAZE-BALLS!
  • Transportation expenses
  • Insurance (can you get your rates lowered, do you need to shop around?)
  • Cutting cable
  • Bottled water/water delivery service
  • Cell phone plans
  • Kids extra-curricular activities (The buggers will live.  Put them in something that doesn’t costa a small fortune. Remember, it’s temporary.)
  • Gym memberships
  • Make-up
  • Personal services (hair, nails etcs..)
  • Reducing housing/utility expenses

With some of this savings, you should be fiercely paying off your consumer debt as quickly as possible. Once paid off, the amount you were previously spending on debt service can now be allocated to savings.

With the reduction in many of the above expenses for our household, as well as paying off several lines of credit and one of our cars, in ten months we were able to reduce our monthly expenses by $3,300.00.

This reduction in spending allowed us to not only make significant progress in paying down our debt, but also, increase our savings significantly.

From May of 2017 to the end of March, 2018, we reduced our total debt by, $25, 351.89.

  1. Savings

One of the pitfalls of living paycheck to paycheck and spending everything you earn, is that when someone tells you that you need to save money, your brain says, “I can’t afford it.” And when you believe you cannot afford it – you remain stuck.

Believe it when I tell you this is a false mind-set.  You CAN afford to save money.  In fact, putting money into retirement is the FIRST thing you need to do, before you spend what you earn.

After cutting our expenses significantly.  Curtis and I decided to test the above principle to see if we could still afford to pay our bills if we maxed out our retirement.  Can you guess what we found out?  We absolutely COULD afford it.  We still had enough money to pay our mortgage, feed our family of 8 AND put extra towards debt.  It was almost like magic.  I am still not entirely sure how the math worked, but it did.

The best way to put money into retirement is to make it automatic.  Either,  set it up to take it out of your paycheck or set up automatic withdrawals with the investment provider you have chosen.  That way, it is done and you don’t even need to think about it.

What Curt and I decided was, and it helped calm some of our fears, that in the worst-case scenario, if we could not make the budget work AND max out our retirement accounts, we would reevaluate how much we were saving and reduce it, if absolutely necessary.  We have not had to do that.

Following all the above principles, we have increased our retirement accounts by $22,994.57 in just 10 months!

  1. Income

Sometimes, you cut all that you can cut and it’s just not enough to get your savings or debt repayment where you need or want it to be.  If that is the case, you have an income problem that must be addressed.

First evaluate – is there any way you can increase your income?

  • Overtime
  • Extra-shifts
  • A side-hustle
  • Second job
  • Are you due a raise?’
  • Can you negotiate a raise?
  • Career change
  • Position change

Your income is your greatest asset.  It can also be a hindrance if it is not sufficient to cover your needs or prepare you for your future.

In this instance, we took my husband’s annual raise and put it into savings – we did not spend it.  We intend to do this for every raise from here on out.  He also began lunch duty coverage – the school district pays him an extra couple hundred dollars a month and it does not add any hours to his work-day.  Also, I began a side-hustle (that will hopefully become a full-time gig) in real estate.  The commissions I earn from my real estate business will be used to pay off our debt at a faster pace.

These increases have helped us achieve some of the above numbers, but we have also taken some time to put some of our money into projects that have increased the value of our home.

We do NOT view our home as an investment, but it does factor into our net worth.  Could our home value change depending on what the housing market does in our area? Absolutely.  Which is another reason why we are very thoughtful about what repairs and improvements we make to our home.

We were very fortunate to have found our home when there was still a slight depression in the San Diego housing market.  We also were able to buy a fixer-upper in a really great neighborhood, which was also pretty lucky.  (or Divine providence – whichever floats your boat.)

With every repair or upgrade we make to our home, our guiding thought is, “will this increase our home’s value?”  Second, we try to do as much of the work as our skill and middle-aged bodies will allow.  Finally, we have gotten pretty good at finding really good deals and never paying full price for any of the materials or appliances we have put into the house. Negotiating with contractors has saved us thousands.  My mother-in-law used to say, “closed mouths don’t get fed.”  If you think a contractor’s bid is too high, ask them to reduce it.  Worst they can say is no.  But if you don’t ask, you will always miss out on savings.

Since purchasing the home in 2016, a conservative estimate of its current value puts us at about $140,000.00 in equity. (Crazy, right?) If you have the patience to buy a fixer-upper, the sweat equity you put in can reap amazing rewards especially in a seller’s market.

We are mindful of market fluctuations and that we are not guaranteed any of the equity we currently expect to get out of our home, unless and until we sell it (and the market doesn’t crash). But still pretty exciting, nonetheless!!!

The increase in our home’s value since October of last year, makes up the remaining  $38,000.00 of our increase in net worth since starting this journey ten months ago.

So, there you have it.  That’s how we achieved an increase in our net worth of $86,000.00 (Well, it’s really a reduction in our negative net-worth, but who cares….we are $86,000.00 better off than we were last May and that’s pretty spectacular!).  

If you need help budgeting, or want to bounce ideas of how you can increase your net worth, shoot me a message!  I am always down to chat finances.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your Girl.FI.day

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Flipped @ Forty – Turning Our Finances Around at Forty…Again.

Flipped @ Forty Finances PINTERESTPhoto by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

I sometimes feel our history with our finances mirror the story of an addict.  You hit rock bottom, you sober up.  You work really, really hard towards getting your act together.  Sometimes there are set-backs.  Other times, you fall completely off the wagon and are in full crises mode once again.  But eventually…hopefully…there is recovery.  Long lasting recovery.  You will always be an addict. You will always be faced with the temptations that could lead to a relapse.  You will always have a tiny bit of fear of the “what if”…But if super dedicated and committed to recovery – you can enjoy the life you have always wanted.

Financial recovery.  That’s where we are.  At 47.  Recovery from several years of financial relapse.

They say, (whoever “they” are) that your attitude about money begins in childhood.  What you were taught, what you saw, how money or lack thereof, affected you.  And I would say this is true.  Both the Hubbs (HB) and I grew up without a lot of money or guidance about money and debt.

For most of HB’s childhood, after his parents divorced, he was raised by a single mom. His mom worked really hard and long hours to take care of herself and her kids.  They were not poor – but it was hard.  Money had to be stretched.  Conversations about money were limited to how they needed to make more of it.

I watched my parents work their way out of poverty.  On my dad’s side of the family, I saw first-hand what poverty looked like.  It was a source of pride that my dad had gone to college and had “made it”.  My mom’s parents, on the other hand, still shopped at dented can stores, stockpiled canned goods, and brought us over government cheese and peanut butter.  At the time, I did not quite understand the significance of that.  I do now.

But there were never any conversations about money in our house, except when the request to buy something was met with “we can’t afford it.”

When we married at age 25, while still in college and expecting our first child, neither HB or I understood the importance of savings.  We also did not understand that it meant more than just working to draw retirement or until you could make it 62 ½ to collect social security.

For a long time, I believed college was an impossibility because we didn’t have the money.  That was one area HB had some advantage; he received a football scholarship from the University of Nevada, Reno.  I had all but given up on college until, through coworkers, I learned about student loans.  And so, began the cycle of taking out as much as I could get in student loans each semester, without really understanding the consequences of how much I was taking out, or the importance of only taking out what I needed.  I can’t tell you how much of that money was blown on non-essentials…the thought of it makes my stomach turn.

Besides.  I was going to be a lawyer and earn A LOT money.  Imagine my shock when I learned my starting salary at my first job as an attorney only paid $42,000.00 a year.  Far from the six figures I had been banking on and clearly not enough to pay back the balances that were now well over six-figures.

Long before this time, HB had also lost his scholarship due to an injury and began working to support our small family.  At nights, he attended private universities to get his teaching credentials and master’s degree.  Again, we borrowed as much as they would give us and he quickly racked up six-figures as well.

Then life kind of took over, and we began pursuing what we thought was the American Dream.  Who knew that it was bought on credit.  We bought our first house, almost entirely mortgaged.  That’s what you were supposed to do right?  Graduate and then buy a house. This was followed by two cars – both financed.  We “needed” them.  We were both professionals now and our family was growing.  I couldn’t drive my two-door Honda Civic anymore. I was a lawyer now.

And then we needed to get “things” for the house.  Houses require things.  Financed furniture. You can’t put old furniture in a new house! A pool…in ground, with custom waterfalls and mosaic turtles swimming on the bottom!  Of course…This was Phoenix.  You can’t live in Phoenix, without a pool.  People die there without them.

Yes.  It was a slippery slope.  Totally our making. No one else was responsible but us. But it soon became too much and we were barely treading water in our fancy-schmancy pepple-tec pool.

But there was a solution.  Bankruptcy!  I jest. It was not a solution.  It was a Band-Aid.  It relieved some of the pressure – but it didn’t solve the underlying issues of spending and of not saving for our future.  After the bankruptcy, we quickly charged up our credit cards, AGAIN. There were more things that needed buying.  Repairs that couldn’t wait.  This went on for several years and then crises hit.  We were “victims” of the real estate bubble.   Suddenly we had two houses that both were valued at half of what they were mortgaged for.  We were over extended.  Ultimately, we lost both our primary house and the investment property.  (Which it never really was – because it never made us any money.)

Shortly after the market crash, we were very fortunate to discover Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University through our church.  His books and classes were exactly what we needed, at that time in our lives. He helped us learn what a budget was.  Helped us understand the importance of an emergency fund and of living within our means. We did everything he told us to do.  We followed his baby-steps.  We made significant progress for several years.  But we never made it out of Baby Step 2.  For YEARS that’s where we remained. It was discouraging and eventually, the momentum gave and, though we didn’t increase our debt by much, we didn’t make any progress either.

There were some relapses.  Not anything like what we experienced during the market crash.  But there was some life-style creep too.

We had purchased another home.  Relocated to a new city.  Added to our family.  We were both making really good incomes.  But there was no real hope of ever getting ahead.  The balances on our student loans were SO BIG.  And they just seemed to get bigger due.  We were resigned that this was going to be our lives.  Paying off debt and never being able to save for retirement.  The debt was going to follow us to our graves.  We wanted more for our lives – but we had no belief of how that was even possible.

Then, over the course of a few years of searching for a way to get out of this rut, I discovered this crazy-weird-almost cult-like FIRE community . (Financial Independence/Retire Early) It was almost like a religious experience.  My eyes opened wide and I began devouring every article, blog and podcast I could find.  I have discussed that more extensively in a previous post.

I think most addicts will tell you they remember a moment that changed everything for them.  It was almost like that.  Finally, there was hope.  There was a way to achieve what we wanted.  A mind-shift.  We began to see things from the perspective of what we COULD do to change our circumstances and not limit our thinking to what obstacles were in our way.  That was the key.  Not just having the knowledge of how to achieve what we wanted – but the BELIEF that we could.

Since then…(It has been almost exactly a year), we have made incredible-unbelievable gains.  I have seen the numbers, and I can’t barely believe them myself.  If there were any doubt left in me before that we couldn’t do this…they are gone.  We CAN do this. We ARE doing this.  Next week, I will explain how we have increased our net worth (reduced our negative net worth – more correctly) by $86,000.00 in ten months.  Come back and see me – I hope will come into the light as well.

Love and Prosperity,

Your GirlFIday

 

 

 

 

 

Aldi Meal Challenge – Week 1

7 Meals for $75.00 for our family of eight.

Aldi Challenge Week 1 PINTEREST

In one of the FIRE groups I am in (if you don’t know what FIRE means – it stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early and it really is “a thing.”) everyone was RAVING about this store called ALDI for really great prices on groceries.  Always looking to tame my grocery budget, I’m like, “what’s an ALDI and where do I get one?”  I learned they are mostly on the East Coast.  Extreme Sadness. 

To maximize our grocery budget, I generally have a plan of action.  Loosely it is this.  2 large shopping hauls a month and maybe one small one a week if we forgot something or produce has gone bad.  On the big shopping days, I hit four stores, typically in this order.  The 99 Cent Store, Costco, then Sprouts for produce and lastly Walmart for whatever else I could not get at the other store and because they (usually) have the best prices on household goods like laundry soap, deodorant, dryer sheets…etc. The stores are all within a few miles of each other, so even though it is a pain to get in and out of my car 4 times, the savings I get by doing it this way saves us hundreds throughout the year.

Well, to my surprise I did a search on the interwebs for ALDI and was pleased as a peach to learn one was opening 5 miles away!  SCORE!  My daughter and I were so excited to go try it out.  For those who don’t know about ALDI, it is a very “bare-bones” store; it will not have everything you need – but it will have most of it.  There will not be name brands, but off brands, but still excellent quality.  You will need a quarter to release your shopping cart from the other shopping carts (but don’t fret – you will get it back) and you will also need to bag your own groceries at a counter adjacent to the cash registers.  Tip: Don’t try to take the cart sitting there with the cashier without giving her an empty.  She might not like that very much.  (You’ll understand when you go there.)  I am happy to report, it really was worth all the hype!  They have an excellent selection.  The only thing that it was lacking was vegan options.  It had a few, but not a whole lot.  Over-all two thumbs up!

After finding Grocery Heaven (I “heard” that’s what ALDI’s goes by) – I stumbled upon several Pinterest ALDI food challenges.  I am ALWAYS down for a challenge.  But even more, I am ALWAYS down to see how I can trim this food budget for our family of 8!

All of the challenges were for smaller families.  So, I am here to fill that void.  I know many of you have large families like us and are always looking for ways to optimize your budget.

SO….the next four weeks I will be posting our challenge.  My daughter and I will be creating a  seven day/seven dinner meal-plan for our family of eight for under $75.00.

DISCLAIMER:  I am going to rat on myself here….initially, this was going to be a $50.00 challenge; however, that proved really difficult – especially for a family of eight.  But also, we do not eat meat – only seafood and shellfish which is, by far, more expensive by the pound then chicken, pork or beef.  HOWEVER, I will be attempting to get it as far under as I can.  I am also confident that if your family is smaller than ours and you either eat meat or use 100% vegan protein alternatives, you should be able to get this to around $50.00.

Here goes…

WEEK ONE DINNERS:

DAY ONE: Shrimp seasoned with lime and spices, pineapple/avocado salsa, refried beans, cilantro/lime rice, corn tortillas. (If you wanted this to be Vegan, you could sub out the shrimp for roasted peppers and/or grilled squash cut lengthwise.)

DAY TWO: Grilled tilapia, with roasted red potatoes and yellow/green squash.

DAY THREE:  Crock-pot chili with “meatless” crumbles over baked potatoes.  Shredded cheese and sour cream as optional toppings. (you can sub in ground turkey or beef to the chili.  See my recipe here.)

DAY FOUR: Shrimp and noodle chow mien with stir fry vegetables over Basmati rice. (You could sub in chicken)

DAY FIVE: Personal Pizzas

DAY SIX: Veggie Burgers with green salad.

DAY SEVEN:  “Garbage” Stew (I will explain below!)

Note: Normally,  I do not include in the budget, rice, spices or oils.  Also, there were a couple of items that were not at ALDI’s so I had to get them at Walmart.  For Next week’s challenge, I will modify the menu if ALDI does not have the item. (I also happened to be out of rice, this week, so it is on this receipt, but normally would not be and accounts for the items purchased at Walmart.)

Also, if you have a well-stocked pantry (see what I suggest here) many of the items on this receipt are unnecessary.  

The items purchased at Wal-Mart were:

  • Pita bread $2.00
  • Chow-mien noodle $2.00

Below is a picture of the receipt:

Aldi receipt

Now, about that stew….

One of the best soups we make in this house we call “Garbage Stew” – don’t let the name scare you away.  It got its name because it is made with the left-overs for the week that did not get eaten.  If they don’t get eaten they find their way to the garbage.  Trust me when I tell you, there is just something about putting all of these foods together – it doesn’t matter what it is – that comes out delicious!   To make it, follow these  simple directions:

Empty your left-overs into the crock pot.  (If you don’t think something would be appetizing in your soup – just leave it out – easy peasy).  If you have meat, chop it up into bite sized pieces and put them in.  Then add a few canned, dry or frozen goods to it (you should already have these in your pantry/fridge…still don’t know what I mean? – Well, here it is again.)  I usually add a can or two of diced tomatoes, maybe some vegetable broth, corn and/or beans, frozen mixed veggies….just be creative.  Then several spices.  If you are going to add dry noodles, add them during the last 30 minutes., otherwise they will get super soggy.  For rice, I typically will cook the rice separately and simply serve the stew over rice.  That way it does not get over done.

So, even though, adding ALDI into the mix will mean a trip to a fifth store on shopping days, I am hoping to see an even bigger dent in my grocery budget.  More savings means more money invested, which all means Momma gets her beach house sooner!

I look forward to updating out challenge next week!  See you there.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your Girl-FI-day

 

Friday Night Under Five – Momma’s Crockpot Chili

Momma'sCrock-potchili PINTEREST

I must REALLY REALLY like ya’all because I am about to share my super-secret chili recipe.  Some things are sacred, this recipe comes close.  It’s a family favorite and we always end up with empty bowls and full bellies.  It is so simple to make; takes just a few minutes, but you’d never know it.  Let it crock all day and make sure you leave left-overs, it tastes even better the next day!  Serve with some home-made corn-bread.  Your family will love you.

Now I have to warn you, I am not a “measurer”…I usually use the palm of my hand to estimate most spices.  My mom did this too.  (Liquids, not so much – that would be super messy.)

Because of that, this is going to be a little loosey-goosey with the measurements…

I am also including two versions.  For years we ate this recipe with ground turkey and LOVED it.  We switched to a mostly plant-based diet last year and so I have omitted the meat.  It is just as delicious without it.  However, my oldest children still eat meat, so I usually end up making a batch of both and freezing some for another meal.

VEGAN

Ingredients:

Put all of the following ingredients and crock all day on low.  (If you only have half a day, then put it on high.)

  • 6 cans of assorted beans. (We like to do 2 cans of white, 2 cans pinto and 2 cans light kidney.  Sometimes we will mix it up and put in black beans too.)
  • 2 cans petite diced tomatoes. (Fire-roasted are also good!)
  • I can tomato paste
  • I box of vegetable broth
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup chili powder
  • a few TBS of Paprika
  • 2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tsps. minced garlic
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 2-4 tsps. cumin (I LOVE cumin, so I am pretty generous with it.)
  • 2-3 tsps. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsps. black pepper (more if you like)
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (I don’t always add this)
  • 1-2 TBS sugar (I have also subbed in 2 packets of Stevia)
  • 1-2 tsps. salt
  • ¼ to ½ cups diced and sautéed sweet white onion (I also will use about ¼ of dried minced onion instead)
  • Add enough water to fill the pot to just under the beans.

 

Optional:  Sometimes I will add a little onion powder and/or fennel)

Tip:  let it cook for a few hours and then taste it.  If you think it needs more spice, have at it!  Better to add not enough in the beginning than too much!

To thicken the chili, during the last 30 minutes, mix about 3-4 TBS of flour in COLD water until all the lumps are gone.  Then stir into the chili as you pour it.  The chili should thicken fairly quickly.  If it’s not thick enough, repeat the process.

Tip: If you cannot get all the lumps out, pour through a strainer. 

FOR THE OMNIVORES:

Brown ground turkey or beef then add in chopped onions, minced garlic and a bit of salt and Italian seasoning to taste.  It’s done when the onions are translucent.

Add browned meat into the crock with all the other ingredients.

You can also substitute the veggie broth with chicken or beef broth.

Now we have (mostly) given up dairy; however, cheese and sour cream are a must to top this deliciousness.  But you do what you like.  If you cannot do dairy – then there are lots of other yummy toppings…

  • Dairy-free cheese
  • Onions
  • Salsa
  • Corn
  • avocado

You pick!   Our family hopes you enjoy this favorite.   It comes to you with a lot of love.

Friday Night Under Five – Personal Pizzas

Friday Under Five Personal Pizzas PINTEREST

Photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash

 

Pizza Fridays have become a tradition in our house.  It started when my husband was coaching football, we would pick up pizzas for after the game to watch the local “Pigskin Report”.  Then when we adopted all of our boys, they couldn’t wait to eat until 10:00 pm (go figure), so pizza was an easy and cheap dinner on our way to the games.

Now that the Hubbs has taken some time off from football, Pizza Friday has stuck and we just order the pizza. The kids know that if its Friday – there will be pizza.  We usually keep it cheap by ordering with coupons or by picking up at Costco – but sometimes to change it up, we make them at home.  It’s a fun change for the kids and, frankly, it’s better for us.

Because we keep a well-stocked pantry we typically have all the supplies we need on hand to make them.  I buy whole wheat pita bread at Walmart and freeze several at a time.  They do not need to be thawed before making the pizzas, so I pull them out right before we are ready to start dinner.  I use spaghetti sauce, which is always in my pantry, for the pizza sauce and I top the kids’ pizzas with shredded cheese we also always have on hand.  The kids are simple – they prefer to just have cheese.

For the grown-ups, we keep several different items in our pantry and refrigerator to make our pizzas super-yummy and fun.

My absolute favorite is sundried tomatoes.  I keep a jar in the fridge or the pantry at all times.  The julienned ones in oil are the best. You can also top with other fresh veggies you might have on hand; onions, peppers, mushrooms, as well as any protein or cheese you want.

We no longer eat meat (not that it was not delicious) but were meat-eaters for several years so most of our suggestions have meat/protein options.

Salad is a good side for this meal as well.

What you will need:

Whole wheat pitas. Papa Pita brand is the best. They are not hard and dry – but thick and chewy. (Walmart for about $2 for six)

Spaghetti Sauce (I usually buy the canned Del Monte for $1, but you could use a homemade sauce or any other sauce you prefer.)

Shredded cheese

 

Optional toppings:

Feta cheese

Olives

Mushrooms

Peppers

Onions

Chicken (use a BBQ sauce instead of tomato and cheddar cheese, with red onions or bacon – so good! From what I remember. LOL)

Pepperoni

Bacon

Sounds delicious doesn’t it?  The Hubbs, who is known to be persnickety at times, has even remarked, “these are better than take-out.” Hubbs approved – score!

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

Holey Chonies & Black Flip-Flops

Holey Chonies&Black Flip-Flops.Pinterest

My wardrobe is pretty simple.  There are no 30-minute wardrobe changes or rummaging and trying on 10 different pairs of shoes in my morning routine.  The only question that runs through my mind is, if at all, is it too cold for flip flops?  They sit at the bottom of our staircase and, except for when I am upstairs on the carpet, they are just about a permanent appendage.  I do own other shoes, of course.  I have boots for when it is really cold – which is rare in San Diego.  I have tennis shoes for when I work out which, admittedly, I should do more.  I also have several pairs of dress shoes for when I need to appear professional.  But those days are less and less and I sometimes ponder if I still need all of them.

But even before now, to a time when I had to dress-up for work most days, I was still fairly simple and optimized my wardrobe budget.  I had a few classic suits, in conservative colors, black, blues, and browns.  I also kept a few shells and camies for under my suit-jacket, and shoes to match.

As we have journeyed closer  and closer to financial independence, I have come to realize that being a bit more thoughtful about our wardrobe has been a significant source of savings in our budget.  We do not frequent the mall – and shopping is not an extra-curricular sport in our household.  Malls (and let be honest – Amazon) exist to separate us from our money.  It’s not that we are weird or that we “look” as frugal as we are.  We are just a bit more conscious of our spending choices.

There are several strategies you can implement to trim your wardrobe budget and maybe pocket a bit of cash to ramp up your savings in the process.

SURVEY.  First, take an honest look through every closet in your home.  Your closet, your partner or spouses, your kids.  Determine what is needed for the season.  If you launder weekly, there is really no reason for you or anyone else in your family to have more than a week’s worth of clothes.  I keep just a few more than a week’s worth for my Little Ones, because they still have accidents and seem to be really attracted to dirt! For me and my husband, we each have a couple pairs of jeans.  We do not need more than that, because we do not wear them every day.  You can usually get more than one days wear out of a pair of jeans as well.  I also tend to wear the same style of dress – so when I find something I like, I buy them in multiples.  This keeps my wardrobe pretty uncomplicated.  For instance, leggings, a cami and a large comfy shirt/blouse (and, of course flip flops) is my go to outfit these days.  And if I want to dress it up a bit, I switch out jeans for leggings and wear a nicer pair of shoes.  Set aside the items you do not need.  Also box up anything that is needed – but out of season, label, and put them away for the next season.  This keeps things uncluttered and easier to find.

PURGE.  With what is left, I typically create 3 piles.  Toss. Donate and Sell.  Selling items you no longer need or want is a great way to make some extra cash to throw into savings.  I have found that clothing, even when sold for $1 a piece, adds up and I can usually bring in a nice sum.  For bigger priced items, like a barely worn pair of tennis shoes, they might be worth selling on an App like Offer Up to fetch a better sum.  I do not spend much time selling – a few minutes to upload the pictures to the app and then to communicate with the buyer.  Easy-peasy.  For anything that does not sell, I immediately load it up and donate it.  (Don’t forget your receipt for taxes!)

RESIST.  Now.  Don’t defeat all of your progress by purchasing more STUFF.  You don’t need it and I strongly believe you will find it refreshing to not have a closet or dresser overflowing.  Simplifying your life and paring down your wardrobe can be extremely liberating.  Freeing.  It is deciding to care more about the long term than the immediate and fleeting emotions that an overflowing wardrobe closet brings.

Lastly, if buying retail, always use sales and coupons when making purchases.  While working in retail years ago I learned a couple of things.  1.  The price on the tag is sometimes marked up on purpose and the item is “on-sale” the moment it hits the floor, and 2. If it is not, it will be next week. 3.  Comparison shop.  We have the internet for a reason.  There are also several APPS available to tell you the best price on items.  (CamelCamelCamel is one that comes to mind.) I know several people that buy at resale/thrift shops (I admit – I should be better about this) but don’t forget this is an alternative to retail.

A word of caution largely based upon experience.  During my most recent purge of my unmentionables, I was looking through my underwear drawer and found I was holding on to several pairs that had holes in them.  Without much thought, I examined them and then folded them back up and was about to put them back in the drawer. What the heck!?! It was truly a moment. I found that I was resisting purchasing myself something I truly needed because I was fearful of spending the money.  I turned to my husband and had a good laugh at myself – so did he.  This life is not about deprivation.  This road to financial independence is not about frugality at the expense of caring for ones needs.  And you are not a bad person for replacing your holey chonies, your back flip-flops, or even buying that really cute shirt in 3 different colors because you really, really like it and know you will wear all three of them at some point this week.

(And, I did go out at buy myself some new chonies.  They were on sale AND I had a coupon. 😉 )

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl.FI.day

Friday Night Under Five – Tostadas

Friday Night Under Five Tostads PINTERESTPhoto by Natasha Bhogal on Unsplash

A big part of saving and reducing our food budget, particularly with a family of 8, is to get our per person per meal costs as cheap as possible.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean living on rice and beans every meal.  Although, rice and beans ARE delicious and do make an appearance on our menu quite frequently.

Going forward, I hope to share with you easy, quick and inexpensive meals that have helped our family control our food expense.  I am not a chef.  I am not even an amateur chef.  I sometimes enjoy cooking, but more often than not, it is a task I must complete.  So, you should not  expect to find any culinary masterpieces here.  What you will find are simple and practical meal suggestions – that will hopefully make your life easier and your wallet a bit fatter.

There is nothing glamorous about this dinner suggestion I am sharing, but I am sharing it because several years ago it was new to me and it was shared by a dear friend whose family, just like ours, exploded overnight via foster-adoption.

When you have lots of mouths to feed and both mom and dad are exhausted and you just need to get food in the bellies, it is always good to have a quick, filling, nutritious meal than you can slap on the table and check off one of your momma and daddy boxes at the end of the day.

Bean and cheese tostadas does that!  You can get both the tostadas and the beans extremely cheaply at the dollar store.  And they both keep in the pantry for extended periods of time.  My kids are simple.  They like just the beans and cheese.  But for the grown-ups, or older kids you can have a little fun and load them up with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sour cream or a protein.  These take minutes to prepare and literally will feed the whole family for close to $5.00.  For us, it comes to less than a dollar per person for dinner.

What you will need:

Tostada shells (you can pick up at the dollar store for a dollar apiece, or big box stores for about $2.)

Canned refried beans  (usually less than a dollar at most stores)

Shredded Cheese (we buy cheese in bulk at Costco)

Options:

Ground beef, turkey  or sofritas* (I season myself with chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion, garlic, salt and oregano to taste.  No need for those taco packets that are full of chemicals and additives.)

Corn

Whole black beans

Avocado

Olives

Tomatoes or Salsa

Lettuce

Sour cream

You can pair with a quick side of Spanish rice or a simple green salad, or my FAVE – coleslaw – to bulk up the meal without much additional expense.

Simple, right?  Give it a try – your food budget and your bellies will all say THANK YOU.

Love and Prosperity

Your GirlFIday

*sofritas is made with drained and browned tofu and then seasoned with spices.  One of these days I will share my recipe (wink).