Six Ways to Save $1200.00 This Month

6 ways to save 1200 this month PINTEREST

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

For years, I felt behind the ball with our savings.  Regrettably, I stuck by several beliefs that contributed to accumulating a negative net-worth well into our forties.  One of them was that we should not save while we still had debt (which is sound advice in most instances – with some exceptions – and we fell into one of those exceptions).  The other was that we could not “afford” to save.  We were living paycheck to paycheck and just couldn’t see how we could make saving work.  Ultimately we turned those beliefs on their head and instead of believing we couldn’t do it – we worked really hard to figure out how we could.  Ultimately, we discovered there are only three ways  to do it, 1.  reduce/eliminate fixed expenses, 2. reduce discretionary spending,  or 3. increase income.

Today we are going to look at six simple ways we reduced or eliminated some of our fixed expenses.  In total, this put $1200.00 back into our budget and increased our annual savings total by $14,000.00.

  1. Cutting the Cord

We did it.  We cut cable.  Well, what we really did was kept the Internet and only the local stations.  But, just this switch saved us about $120.00 a month.

We purchased a couple used Amazon Fire-sticks on Offer-up and then we subscribed to a couple of services like Hulu and Netflix; we already had Amazon Prime.  With the three of these together, we have not missed cable one bit.  We have actually expanded our options and have watched some really great programs we might not have watched otherwise.

Hubbs still is able to watch most of the sports he wants through a combination of local channels and streaming apps on his devices. Hubbs is happy – so is Momma.

  1. Cancelling Water Delivery Service

A  couple of years ago, I felt extremely guilty about all the plastic water bottles we were using in our household.  With a family of 8 and multiple athletes, we were  going through bottles like crazy AND spending a small fortune!  So, in an effort to curb my guilt, I signed up for bottled water service.  The rental of the cooler was insignificant, but the jugs and the delivery was starting to total over $100.00 a month.

So, I found a cooler on Offer-Up for $50.00.  We bought a couple of jugs and fill them up on the weekends for about $1.25 each.  HUGE savings.  And the water is cold and tastes no different in our re-usable shaker bottles.

  1. Cancelling Our House-keeper

Not gonna lie….this one still hurts.  It hurt extra this morning when I was scrubbing dirty hand-prints and grease off of my white cabinets and fingerprints off of all the stainless-steel appliances.  Do these people not see there is perfectly good hand-soap and paper towels on the counter right there beside the sink?  And when a fur-ball the size of an armadillo scurries across the floor, I have to stop myself from speed-dialing our former housekeeper.  Then I remember what we are trying to achieve and this was an expense that was costing us about $400.00 a month.  That is some serious cash.  Our housekeeper was amazing and there is just something about coming home to a fresh and clean home…She always seems to do a better job than we do.  Instead, we all pitch in as a family, even the Littles (they have gotten really good at cleaning the baseboards), no one gets a red-shirt on Team Mays.  It doesn’t take all that long and we still get the fresh smell of Fabuloso afterwards.  Maybe when we hit a positive net worth I will consider adding this one back in, out of all of them, this one pains me.

  1. Cell-Phones

Because we are stuck in a contract, we have not been able to seriously cut our cell phone bill, but we have been able to cut it by $45.00. $25.00 of it was by taking off services we were not using.  The other $20.00 was by paying off one of the devices.  We have a few more devices we are going to attack one at a time and once the contract is up, we will consider switching providers, though we are a bit wary about this.

I travel for business through the desert between Arizona and California and with another provider that promised service as good as Verizon – it was simply not true.  I lost service as soon as I left the city.   We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

If you do not have special considerations like we do, there are a ton of really great options out there that will save you a lot of money.

  1. Cancelling Gym Memberships

If you use the gym regularly, I won’t be mad at ya’ if you keep this one.  But if you are not – then just cancel it!  If you are ready to commit to a healthier life style, there are plenty of ways you can do this for free (or close to it).  Walking, running, hiking, biking…Be creative – get outside. This one saved us about $150.00 a month….twice.

  1. Extra-Curriculars

But..but…but…my kids NEED to be in gymnastics, t-ball, soccer, piano-lesson and karate….NO.  No, they don’t.  I know this is probably going to be an unpopular one, but you need to hear it.  ALL of us parents need to hear it.  We are over-involving our kids anyway.  This last generation of kids is SUPER-STRESSED out and it’s because of US!  Chances are your kid is NOT going to be the next NBA or NFL star.  So why are they competing to the extent that they are? Do sports and other extra-curriculars help with scholarships?  Yes.  Am I saying sports are not good for kids? No.  We are a family of athletes.  Sports and other extra-curriculars offer so much more than that.  We love sports!  What I am saying is that your kids don’t need to be involved in EVERYTHING.  They also don’t need to be in competitive soccer at age 5.  Put these things on hold until you have your spending and savings under control and you have money in the bank.

Here is the truth – If you are living paycheck to paycheck – these are expenses you cannot afford.  Instead, if you must, put them in a recreation league…it will save you thousands in a year.  We cut Karate – and saved $375.00 a month.  Instead we put one boy in basketball and another in tumbling at a local church’s rec league.  It was cheap and the boys are, most of all, having fun while learning the foundations.

NOW YOU PICK!  

Can you make the same cuts?  Are there others?  Take a look at your bank account, what fixed monthly expenses do you have that you can either reduce or eliminate entirely….

With these six easy cuts, we are saving almost $1200.00 a month!!! WOW. That’s a big number and each expense alone was not killing us.  But a cut here…and another there…it adds up.  $1200 a month is $14,000 a year.  NO KIDDING!  How would It make you feel to have $14,400 growing in an investment account – every year?

If you think you can’t afford to save, take me up on a challenge.  Go through every expense you have on a monthly basis and ask both, can I reduce this expense or can I cut it and see how much you can save?   Prove me wrong.

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIday

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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). 

A Year In Review

2017A Year in Review Pinterest

When we began this Financial Independence journey 7 months ago, I wrote down a very long list of immediate goals on a yellow legal pad.  I, frankly, didn’t know how long it was going to take to check off everything on the list, but it really didn’t matter at that point as long as we were working on checking off the boxes.  As 2017 has come to a close, I have begun to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row and are ready for 2018.

That meant pulling out the trusty yellow note-pad (I can’t help it, I am a lawyer and I love yellow notepads).  A quick survey of the list and I realized we had checked off just about every box! With the exception of two items; 1. Paying 2017 Estimated taxes entirely, and 2. Paying off our devices with Verizon to reduce our monthly bill.  The taxes we are still working on and since we are not paying interest on the Verizon devices, I chose to pay off other debts first.

The following is a summary of what we have been able to accomplish in less than six months:

  • Cut Cable
    • Purchased Fire Sticks and use Hulu & Netflix, instead.
  • Cut Verizon bill by $25
  • Analyzed previous 3 months expenses which allowed us to:
    • Reduce spending on food by 50%
    • Reduce energy costs
    • Find multiple areas of other savings
  • Opened Vanguard retirement account for Wendy
    • Increased savings rate to 20%
    • Opened solo i401k for Wendy to begin contributions for 1/1/18
  • Paid off multiple accounts to create significant monthly savings:
    • Tuition Wendy
    • Tuition Maddie
    • Dentist bill
    • Wendy’s Car
    • Multiple credit cards
  • Cancelled gym membership (twice!)
  • Set up additional retirement accounts for Curt
    • Sent in paperwork to max out contributions beginning 1/1/18
  • Cancelled water delivery service – savings of $120.00
  • Looked into removing PMI from mortgage (a refi will be on the 2018 list)
  • Inquired about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for Curtis
    • Paperwork ready to send in the lenders (on the 2018 list to complete)

As of December 31st,2017 we have seen a total gain in our net worth of $46,689.00.  That’s simply AMAZE-BALLS!

The net gain is due, in large part, to the significant reductions made in our monthly spending.  Going forward the reductions will continue to help us fund our retirement accounts, while at the same time reducing our taxable income. (HUGE!) (Which also leads to additional savings – WIN!)

If you had asked me six months ago why we were not contributing to retirement, my response would have been that we could not “afford” it.  It’s quite likely, that if you are currently not putting more into your retirement, you believe the same thing.  Friends, listen-up!  Those are limiting beliefs and limiting beliefs have the power to keep you stuck.  Instead, try something different.  Try focusing on what you CAN do.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering either.  Start small.  Focus on small areas and build upon those.  I truly believe that most people, even those who live paycheck to paycheck and who are convinced there is no room in their budget, have areas where they spend unnecessarily.   (If you simply do not believe me, track every single penny you spend in a month.  If you can’t do a month, do week. There is waste there – I will bet money on that, and I am not a gambler.)  So, start there, and then create a simple goal.  Let’s say you start with $100 a month.  Then the next month increase that by a small increment.  Then keep going. Then move on to a different area and repeat the process.

Write each of these goals down and track your progress.  Then review them often.  Focus on your accomplishments and keep moving forward.

This is how we started and now, a little over six months later, we have a full page of a yellow legal pad checked off.  For 2018, we have a brand-new page full of UNchecked boxes.  I look forward to next December when we are here again and we are able to announce another full page of checked-off boxes.  I am even more excited to see what each of you has checked off!

Share with us some of your checked and unchecked boxes – we would love to send you some encouragement!

Love and Prosperity,

Your Girl.FI.Day