Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Wonderful World of Food!

I love food. Today during work, I found myself dreaming of lunch, then dinner, and everything in between. And I know I'm not the only person like that. We live in a world of foodies! :)

So how does that relate to finances?

Well, quite a bit actually. Food does cost money, right? And it's not like it's something you can cut out of the budget during a tight week. You need it. And it's not only in terms of stocking your pantry-- you factor in fast food, date nights, being healthy, and so on and you have quite the impact on your wallet. It's really easy to let food eat your moola right up (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!).

Which means it's the perfect topic for my blog. For the next few posts, I'm going to look at how you can control your finances in the world of food. Here's what you have to look forward to:

1) A Trip to the Grocery Store. This one is a biggie. We'll talk about how to not blow the budget when you go to the store and what to do to get the essentials at a good price.

2) Fast Food Frenzy. Who doesn't love the occassional splurge on this junk? BUT, as cheap as it seems, how does it actually impact your finances? AND how can you keep it in check?

3) The Date Night Dinner. Granted, it's not just dates... even just going to a sit-down restaurant counts. How much is too much for these nights? What about tipping? Is it worth it?

4) Bulk It Up. This isn't just in the realm of food. Sometimes buying in bulk is a really great way to cut costs... and sometimes it kills the bank account. I'll look at the pros and cons of buying in bulk for anything, not just food.

5) Let's Get Healthy. This is another one that isn't just in the food world. Getting healthy can be expensive. Fresh fruits and veggies, gym memberships, etc. can put a dent in the budget! How can you keep it under control?

And that's it for now. Let me know if you have any specific points you want me to talk about that fall under any of these, or if you have another food-related issue that somehow relates to your moola that I've overlooked! And enjoy pigging out tonight-- next post you just might feel too guilty! :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is it Worth it?

I know, I know. "Is it worth it?" Such a mom question.

Well, I am a mom. And, in all honesty, it's a legit question.

Granted, during your high school years it probably relates more to breaking curfew or making some other less than intelligent decision, but it really does relate to grown up life, too. More specifically, finances.

Think about it. All too often I find myself looking at my checkbook register thinking, "I spent how much on that!?" If you literally have nothing to show for spending what you earned from your hard work, chances are what you chose to purchase wasn't worth it. Sure, that's not always the case. A lot of times though, it is.

Not only do I sometimes look back at my purchases and realize I spent too much, sometimes I look back at my purchases and truly know it wasn't worth it. Even a good buy can be a bad buy if it's not something you need. Take, for instance, my husband's never-ending garage sale purchases. (I pick on him because he has the opportunity to go to more garage sales since he works nights, but I'm guilty too... shhh!) He LOVES buying Tate fun little toys at a quarter here, a dollar here, a dime here. And granted, that isn't a big deal. I don't mind it, truly. But when Tate has hundreds of toys sitting around our house that he doesn't play with, it does seem a little silly to buy him more things, even if they are cheap. Of course, on the flip side, when you have a two year old fizzling out on the whole garage sale thing and a fifty cent toy will keep him from screaming bloody murder, chances are it's most definitely worth it.

But here's the challenge-- don't look back at your purchases and think if they're worth it. Ask yourself before you buy. And don't make rash decisions either. If you can't answer right away, that doesn't necessarily mean the answer is no. It might mean you need to sleep on it.

For instance, Corey and I decided to expand our deck so there was a bit more room for our patio furniture and such. Obviously decks aren't really something you can purchase instantly, but I still made sure it wasn't something I chose to do and then the next weekend did. I processed it through my mind, figured out an approximate cost, and then made the leap. I made sure we could afford it and that it was going to make a big enough impact for the cost. I thought it through!

However, I do need to work on the smaller purchases. Trinkets for the house, clothes (espeically for Tate-- see toy story above, the clothes situation is the same!), books, and the list could go on. I need to think before I swipe! AND you should too! :)

And for another little tidbit-- just because the money is there doesn't mean that you should spend it, even if the purchase seems worth it. THINK ABOUT IT! Weigh your options.

As an example, the money Corey and I spent on the deck we could have used to do a different house project, go on a trip, or something else entirely. That was part of my thought process-- did I really want a deck first, or should I make remodeling the bathroom a higher priority? Would we have enough money for a vacation if the chance to take one arose? In the end, I thought the deck was worth it-- and I still do. Corey did AWESOME (with the help of my grandpa-- who without a doubt is the hardest working man I know) and I truly think it was a great investment.

Plus (this might be going off on yet another sidenote-- I do that a lot sometimes, sorry!), one of the great things about attempting to live below your means is having the money to spend on things like decks, vacations, and the like. Corey and I try really hard to save a good chunk of the money we bring home each week. And every month I try to put a large portion of that to paying off our lovely lump of debt, but I also think it's important to occassionally have fun. Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt to save a bit more (yet another thing for me to work on!). Granted, not everyone can do that, and don't feel guilty if you can't. I TOTALLY was there. The key if you're in that situation is, like I said before, not going into debt!

DEBT SUCKS!!!!! Sorry, but there's no other better way to put it. Corey and I could afford a lot more home remodels, trips, garage sale finds, and clothes if we didn't have that awful four letter word sucking our dollars and cents every week! We would also have a larger savings account which would make me  a much happier wife and mama! :)

So, to link this all back together and wrap it up-- don't forget to ask yourself "is it worth it?" Whether it's for a tiny little garage sale purchase, a deck expansion, or even going into debt, use the brain God gave you and make sure that you're not wasting your dollars and cents!

P.S. I looked back at my past posts-- and a lot of them follow this same theme... apparently I'm not good at remember what I write about in the past... and this is a real issue for me! I promise the next post will be a completely different topic-- any suggestions let me know! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I was fully intending to get back to this sooner... why is it that life always gets in the way? Or maybe it's just me being lazy???


Part of what brought me back to blogging was that I have a confession to make-- I did one of the things I hate the most in my very own checkbook. I used the dreaded ESP. What is ESP? Well, it's a lovely little abreviation for "error some place." Not a good thing. For the past few weeks, my checkbook has been off by about $3. The dollar amount doesn't change. It's always the dreaded $3 and some odd cents. SO FRUSTRATING!

Which, to go off on a little tangent, I fully blame Redbox. While those little machines may be one of the best inventions ever, they're also awful, terrible creations. I despise the way they show up on my checking account statement. For instance, say Saturday night we rented a move (we didn't, but just saying!). In theory, it should show up with the $1.26 or whatever it is for that night, and then if I don't return it until Monday morning, it should show up $1.26 for the next night. Does it do that?! NOOOO!!! First off, it takes them FOREVER to process. AND if I happen to get more than one movie, do you think the whole total shows up right away? Of course not! And then if I keep it for more than just one additional night they just bulk it all together. I HATE IT! And granted, I should do better at keeping track of it on my own so I wouldn't have that problem, but somedays I forget, or I enter it twice, or just get thrown off on what $1.26 Redbox charge is what. They need better labels. Or something.

Okay, enough of that.

I made the mistake. I used ESP. My time-saving, stop worrying about everything side says it's no biggie. It's three bucks. Chill. My accounting, where the heck did that money go side is going nuts. WHAT HAPPENED?!

I tried to go through and analyze. It didn't work. One day it balanced, the next it didn't. I for the life of me cannot figure it out. And, it doesn't help that I spend my days at work making things balance and get PAID to do it. I don't get paid to do my own.

So what's my advice here? Well, a couple of things:

1) DON'T use ESP. First, it really is a bad habit. You should know where the money went. Trust me, I TOTALLY get being fed up with it and just giving up. And I think if it happens like ONCE a year it's not going to result in epic disaster. Just keep in mind that it's not the best option!

2) Don't short-change yourself. The whole time I was trying to get it to balance and failing, I kept thinking, if I was at work I'd get paid to do this for the company. I really shouldn't have thought like that. Isn't it WAY more important that I do it for myself? It's MY money, not the companies. By knowing where my money goes, it IS like paying myself!

3) Advice to myself: write more. It feels good. And it's a great confession tool! :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Too Easy

This weekend taught me something-- it is way too easy to spend money.

Corey, Tate, and I went a little crazy in the world of blowing cash during the past few days. Friday we went to Applebees, mostly because neither of us wanted to cook, then went to Menards while we were in town and got a few things (granted, they were things we needed, like a new hose-- ours had holes galore, but still...). Saturday was even worse-- we went to Toledo to the Amtrak station because they were having a free tour of the 40th Anniversary Train, and since Tate absolutely adores trains, we figured it would be a good (and cheap) thing to do. And it was... except for you factor in the gas, and that, since we were up there, we stopped at a few stores, and of course went out to eat. Poof! There goes the cash.

Let me go back for a minute-- I already knew it was easy to spend money. It's always easier to spend than to save. AND it's really really really really easy to forget how easy it is to spend money when you're in the store or out and about and just want to enjoy your time.

Which, to take further, I don't think there's anything wrong to spend money and enjoy your time to a certain extent. In all honesty, Corey and I only spent money we had this weekend-- nothing was put on a credit card or anything like that. And you know what, we do work hard for our money and should be able to do things that we enjoy with it. But by spending some of our extra money this weekend, that puts us a little bit further from reaching our goals. That has to be something we're okay with. Even more importantly, that has to be something that's always in the back of our minds as we're spending that cash, which I think is the hardest part.

One thing I've been thinking about doing is putting a picture or list of Corey and I's dreams in my wallet by my debit card and where I keep my cash. That way, every single time I swipe my debit card or spend a couple bucks, I have a visual reminder of what I'm taking from myself. I can actually think "Is this worth it?"

So, the moment of truth, was this weekend's spending worth it? Mostly, yes. Maybe going back I would have not been quite so free, but I am happy with all of our purchases and don't think we were too lavish. The way I look at it, Tate's only little once. To a certain point, we need to be here now and enjoy the time we have. Of course, there is a fine line between living in the moment and being dumb with what you're given, but I think most people have the common sense to know that... you just have to apply it! :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Things Get Crazy...

Sorry it's been a couple days... end of the month at work (which, ironically, is actually the 1st week of the month) is crazy, and by the time I get home I just want to relax. But I really need to get back to blogging, so despite the craziness, I'm writing today!

And, I decided craziness is the perfect thing to write about...

Life is crazy. Unexpected things happen. Expected things happen. Both can be a little bit stressful and overwhelming. Especially when they relate to your finances.

So what happens when the craziness enters your financial world?

Number one, you need an emergency fund. If you don't have one now, try really hard to do it. I know, you might be thinking, I don't have a single extra cent! I understand, trust me, I do. But try... really try. Instead of getting fast food, sack that money away. Even just put aside $5 a week. Do what you can! I would try to put aside at least $500, more if you can handle it. Corey and I didn't put any extra money towards paying off our loans until we had $1000, but we still put $25 a month into the account. And, I'll be honest too-- our initial $1000 was from our tax return last year... then something (I don't remember what... it truly wasn't an emergency... oops!) came up, and we took some out. We never built it completely back up, but between all of our savings accounts we feel comfortable that we have enough to cover what is necessary at this time in our lives, plus we add the $25. Once our debt is paid down though, we want to build up an even larger emergency fund-- probably around 6 months of expenses. Those of you who have taken Dave Ramsey classes will recognize a lot of this, only notice that mine is a bit more casual. Ultimately, the emergency fund is your safety net. It'll make you feel better about your world and less overwhelmed by an craziness that comes your way!

Some other things? Talk to your significant other about any emergencies that could happen (the car breaks down, one of you lose your job, etc.) and what you might do. I'm not saying imagine insane worst case scenarios or to spend hours on end on this, but just some basic things. Granted, if you have a brand new car, you likely won't have the emergency of a car break down, so maybe you don't need to discuss this one. Maybe yours is an unexpected pregnancy or a medical emergency. And remember the post where I talked about the "nerd" and the "free spirit?" The free spirit will think this is stupid. The nerd will find this comforting. Remember to compromise! :)

Pray about it! Seriously. God might not answer your prayer the way you hoped, but He will hear it. And I promise you that if you pray about what's overwhelming you and making your life crazy, you'll feel better.

And that's it for now! I'm off to watch some TV, chill on the couch, and pray that the craziness calms down-- hopefully I'll be able to post again soon! :)