Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Expense Report

Here is a review of every penny that we spent in December. If there is a category that you don't see, the explanation is here

$ 278.38              Groceries         Food Only

$ 49.24                Restaurant       Rest. &Take Out

$ 54.70                Electric Bill       

$ 67.04                Natural Gas      Heating & Cooking

$ 139.83              Cable TV, Int,Tel.  

$ 596.00              Cell Phone          Yearly Bill

$  50.73               Water & Sewer   Quarterly Bill

$    7.99               Netflix               Entertainment

$ 834.96              Medical             Ins,Med,&Dental

$ 889.00              Automobile       Yearly Car Ins.

$  38.25               Gasoline           Car & Snowblower

$ 150.00              Gift Cards         Dining in 2016

$   57.92              Household        Non-food

$   29.85              Alarm System   Monthly Bill

$  174.24             Gifts             PIF with Rebate $

$   70.00              Personal       Haircut & Tip-Me

$ 3313.89            Total Expenses

We did reasonably well this month in the grocery category considering I purchased a whole NY strip loin and over 20 lbs. of boneless chicken for our stockpile. 

I hate takeout but it was a necessity since we had so many late, late afternoon medical appointments and poor planning on my part. It was one trip to McDonald's and one to Burger King. My grandson wanted donuts the weekend he stayed with us so that was one trip to Tim Hortons. And one morning, Hubby and I had a wonderful breakfast at our favorite family owned restaurant.

Our electric and gas bill was higher because of heating season but lower than last year's. 

Our cellphone is on my son's plan. He only charges us the very basic monthly charges for the phone even though we have internet, texting and all the bells and whistles. We pay him once a year for the following year so we are all paid for 2016.

Our water and sewer bill is pretty much the basic charges for 3 months. We don't use a lot of water except when we water our lawn and landscaping.

Medical and dental is much lower than last month but not as low as I would like to see it. We will be working on lowering it in 2016 especially since our medical insurance is going up.

We pay our car insurance yearly since we get a discount for doing so. The personal included a $ 50. Christmas tip for my hairdresser.

Even with having an expensive month, we were able to save 52% of our net income. 

This is our last expense report for the year. Feel free to ask any questions in comments.

I am happily looking forward to a low spending year in 2016 so that we can reach our goal of saving $50,000. Will it be easy?  No. But nothing ventured nothing gained. It will be a significant challenge but we are up for it. I invite you to join us on our journey. Set your own goals and let's plan on having the best financial year ever.      

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gift Wrapping

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my grandchildren has a birthday in January. I purchased some of his gifts before Christmas. So I have already started wrapping them. I have been wrapping them with the same type of paper since he was born. I do the same thing for my granddaughter on her birthday.

As you can see in the picture, I use the Sunday comics. This way of wrapping became a tradition when my children were little. I have always saved the comics every Sunday. The kids don't even look at the paper before they tear into it. But if they do, it's colorful. All I need to do is add the bows and make out the birthday card. 

I can't even imagine how much money this has saved me over the years.  Some day when they get older I will have to put different paper on gifts but for now I am carrying on the family tradition.

When they get older and for other gifts all year, I use the above pictured wrap. It's a huge brown roll that I bought here. I do many things to decorate it including stamps like hearts, butterflies, balloons, etc., punches of stars, hearts, etc. especially when I have a solid colored box to wrap. I have put the kids initials all over it at one time or another for their gifts. If I am wrapping a small appliance, I might decorate it with ribbon and a wooden spoon. The grandchildren have even helped my by coloring on it. Do whatever  you imagine. I have always found this wrapping well received because people realize that you have put time and thought not only into the gift but the wrapping paper also. I do have a lot of Christmas wrap but when it is gone, I will use this paper for that holiday too.

By using this brown paper, I don't have to run out and buy specialty papers every time that we have an occasion to give a gift. Nor do I have to go out and get this paper to wrap a box to ship. It does double duty. It lasts forever and it saves a ton of money instead of buying specialty papers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meat Is So Expensive

Meat has gotten so expensive over the past  couple of years. Beef is the worst so Hubby and I started eating a lot more chicken and turkey. But with beef prices coming down, we are stocking the freezer with a bit of it. My grocery store has whole or half boneless NY strip loins on sale for $ 5.99 a lb. Depending on how good they look and what grade they are, I may buy one this week. If I get a whole one, I am going to have the butcher cut it into a roast and the rest into steaks for the grill in the spring.

Until now, the only beef that we have been eating is reduced price, 3 sirloin roasts that were on sale for $3.99 a lb which I cut into stew meat, and enough ground chuck to make a pot of chili. 

I am always combing the meat counter for reduced price. I found the pictured package the other day. It was expiring on December 27. The day I purchased it, we had steak sandwiches( that is why one steak is missing in the picture) with peppers and onions for dinner. The meat was a little tougher than I am used to being that it was chuck.

But I remembered our days when we were first married. I used to buy chuck for everything. So I cut up the rest of the meat into strips and put it in some marinade overnight that usually tenderizes the meat. Then, I used it to make a teriyaki stir fry with onions, peppers, and pineapple and served it on rice. It was tender and delicious. We actually had enough left for a lunch.

Don't be afraid to buy reduced price meat as long as  you can use it or freeze it before it's expiration date. I have saved a lot of money on the cost of meat doing this and I have only had one package that was bad when I bought it. I had no problem returning that package to the store for a refund.

Even though beef prices are cheaper than they have been for a year or longer, we still won't buy a lot of it. We have plenty of poultry and other meats in our freezers that we have purchased at rock bottom prices. Those items are what we rely on when we aren't eating meatless meals.

Monday, December 28, 2015

After Christmas Shopping

I was up and out before the crack of dawn on the day after Christmas. Some years I do better than others. This year I was very happy with the gifts that I was able to get for 2016. It's a good  start. 

I went to Kohls for opening, then to JC Penney's which was packed. Then I went home so that we could Skype with our granddaughter. After that I went back out to BonTon and Walmart.

The clothing and napkins are from Kohl's and BonTon. I picked up the Burts Bees gift set at Rite Aid at 75% off. I just happened to notice it when I stopped there to pick up a prescription. The rest is from Walmart. JC Penneys was so crowded that it was too hard to maneuver. So I looked for a couple of things and then left empty handed. I may or may not get back there this week.

Hubby was so excited when I came home with the fleece that he  claimed one right away and is wearing it. He is always cold so he is wearing it in the house. That gray fleece isn't even in the picture.

In my haste, I did make a mistake though. I am returning the  4 DVD's back to Walmart. Looking at them, I don't know what I was thinking. We have Netflix  and Amazon Prime for the grandchildren to watch. They don't need these DVD's.

The best part of the day was the fact that I paid for all of this with gift cards that I got for reward points and with Ebates money that I had been saving all year. When those rebate checks come, I cash them and put them into a special account for gifts. I still have some of that money to start the New Year with and will accumulate points and rebates all during 2016 so that I can pay for gifts and after Christmas shopping again.

The candy gets put in the freezer to make cookies during the year and to make Valentine gifts for my grandchildren. I separated out the red M&M peanuts and the red Rolos to save for that occasion.
I do this every year. It doesn't make sense to me to buy Valentine candy when I can use 50% off Christmas candy. I may fill up those water bottles that I got free from LL Bean and give them for Valentine gifts or I may do something else. I have about 6 weeks to make up my mind.

When I do my after Christmas shopping, I don't buy just because something is a good deal. I buy with a particular person in mind and so everything - fleeces, tops, slacks, Minion novelty items, napkins and Burt's Bees have been tagged with the name of the person or persons receiving them and put in my gift closet until I need them. I will continue to buy gifts at great prices through out the year to finish up Christmas, birthdays and other occasions. I actually have a grandchild with a birthday in January so I have been wrapping those gifts.    

I hope if you went shopping after Christmas that you did intentional shopping with certain people in mind and that you saved 50 - 80% off like I did. If you haven't gone yet, Happy Shopping.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

We Never Say No

We never say no to free things if we can use them. Relatives are traveling this holiday season for an extended period. So they offered us things from their refrigerator that would go bad while they were gone. We were more than happy to take them knowing that we could eat them within a few days or freeze them. 

Two packs of whole mushrooms and an almost full sliced mushroom package were part of what was offered. I cooked up the sliced ones last night and we had them on steak sandwiches for  dinner. It was an easy meal after clearance shopping most of the day. One package of whole ones will be sliced up for omelets this week. The second one will be used to make my mushroom sauce and then frozen in small portions for hamburgers, etc.  We were also given wheat bread and pumpernickel bread. Hubby loves pumpernickel so that will get used up for sandwiches. The wheat will be toasted for breakfasts. They also gave us Kobe Beef and salami cold cuts. This was a special treat since I rarely buy cold cuts. Lastly there was swiss cheese, a full chunk of cheddar cheese and about a half lb. of bacon.

None will be wasted and we are grateful to them for thinking of  us.
So when someone offers something like these items ( especially food that you will eat ) graciously accept. It will help your bottom line a bit.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

As we are preparing to spend Christmas with our family, I want to wish all of you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a very healthy and prosperous New Year.  

We will start preparing for the New Year with our annual shopping on Saturday. I can't wait to sneak a peak at the sales in the newspaper flyers tomorrow. Then I will chart out my path to the stores. I rarely shop on Black Friday but I love the day after Christmas because of all of the clearance and heavily marked down gifts that I can find. So the next few days will be spent with family and then bargain hunting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Energy Bills

Having received my natural gas and electric bill, I was almost joyful as I read it. This morning's bill was $35. less than the same period last year - mid November - mid December. It was lower because it has been warm here in the Northeast. Our average daily temperature was 10 degrees higher than last year.  Even though rates were higher this month the bill was lower.

This bill was not the norm. The norm is for these bills to go up every year. Also the Feds and our State keep adding surcharges and fees to our bills hoping that we won't notice that they are really TAXES.  I do my best every month to try to lower these bills by 10-15%. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I fail. Since I can't do anything about the rates going up every year, I just do what I can control. 

In 2016, when I make my daily postings on what we do to spend as little money as possible on these bills I will go into detail on how we do this. 

Some things make a big impact like replacing all of your light bulbs with LED bulbs. Others are smaller like using cold water in all of my wash loads or using the Express Cycle for most loads. But all of it adds up. I know, because our yearly bills over the past 5 years have gone down year over year just because I think before I do something. It's well worth the little bit of time it takes.

So get your "thinking caps" ready and next year you too can start getting lower utility bills.

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Ten Must Do's For The End Of 2015

There are a number of things that I do every year to make sure that the New Year starts smoothly for us.
Some of them have been done already but most of them will be done next week between the day after Christmas and New Year's Eve. Here is my list:

1. Determine our financial goals and figure out how we will do this. This was done and is here and here.

2. Re-balance our portfolio. We have done this. If you don't know what this means read this.

3. We gather all of the receipts or tax items that we need to do our 2015 income taxes in one place. I have a folder that I just file them into all year long. As our 1099's and other tax items come in during January, I just add them to this folder. Then when I am ready to do and submit our taxes, everything is at my fingertips.

4. I give our home a good cleaning after Christmas so that we start 2016 with everything spic and span.

5. I always clean our freezers and refrigerator and make sure that the inventory for them is accurate. I try to always update our inventory when we add or remove an item but I am not perfect so things get missed. At least in the beginning of 2016, it will be accurate.

6. On this coming Saturday, I will be shopping for gifts for next year at 75-90% off.  I always go out on the day after Christmas and try to get as much as I can in the way of gifts for next year. I look for big markdowns and clearance and I always bring the coupons I need to use. I will scour the newspaper sometime on Christmas Day and determine what stores I will go to. I got so much wrapping paper, etc. last year that I have enough for next year also. So I will only be looking for gifts.

7. I will make my list of areas of my home that need some organization in 2016. That way I can plan for  whatever containers I might need to buy in January when they are cheaper.

8. I will take the pile of clothing, etc. that we have in the basement up to Goodwill so as to get a receipt for 2015 taxes. I just went through boxes that we moved here almost 6 years. If they hadn't been opened since we moved in, I figure we really don't need them. So I made an inventory of the items for my receipt and they are all getting donated.

9. I write out my cleaning schedule for each month next year noting daily, weekly, monthly, and bi-yearly items. This goes in my planner.

10. I also write out my exercise plan for each week next year. It changes according to the weather. I do more outside when the weather is nice. In the winter, I use my treadmill and recumbent bike regularly.

Those are my "Top Ten". Yours might be different but it is all food for thought. Organization has saved me so much money over the years that it is worth my time. I rarely lose anything and have to replace it. Except for that darn rolling pin that eluded me for 5 and 1/2 years.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Nutritious, Easy, Cheap Meal

I don't think there is a more delicious, nutritious, cheap meal than homemade soup. I make turkey rice, chicken rice, beef barley, minestrone, vegetable, vegetable beef, tomato, and bean soups with regularity in the Fall and Winter months. After 48 years of marriage, I am very experienced at making soups without a recipe. 

Knowing that a lot of you might be cooking hams for Christmas, I cooked one of mine last Sunday for dinner. We have been eating leftovers all week. Yesterday, I wanted to make bean soup for dinner. However, I didn't get home from an appointment until noon.
Fortunately, I had soaked a pot of beans overnight so they were ready to go. I threw about 1 1/4 lbs. of northern beans into my crockpot.  I added my ham bone with some meat still on it and then added water to cover the beans and most of the ham bone. During the cooking process, I would turn the bone over every once in a while so that the meat would easily fall off of it. I also added a tablespoon of dry mustard, a teaspoon of basil and a teaspoon of thyme. Just before 6PM, I took the bone out and made sure to put any little bits of meat that were still on the bone into the pot. By dinnertime the soup was not cooked enough. So I left it to cook another 2 hours. Then I turned it off and put it in the cold garage to let it cool down. Before I went to bed, I put it in the refrigerator. This afternoon I finished the cooking process and it is on keep warm. We can't wait to eat it for dinner. It is a crisp, cool, very windy day here and soup is going to hit the spot. 

This bean soup is probably the cheapest soup I make. It is so flavorful, full of protein, and filling. I never cook with salt so we add what we need to our bowls. It definitely finishes off the soup to add a little salt. There is just enough ham in it to get some in each ladle full. We need nothing else to eat with this. It's a meal by itself. We are looking forward to many meals of soup this weekend and then I will freeze the rest into meal size portions.

I buy my beans in bulk and store them in food grade buckets in my basement. The soup probably has $ .75 worth of beans in it, a few bits of ham from close to the bone and then a few pennies for the spices that I also put in it. We can probably get 5 meals for the 2 of us from the crockpot full. So let's say the entire pot cost $1.00 - $ 1.50. Those 5 meals are $ .20 - $ .30 each for 2 of us. I don't think that too many recipes cost this little. So if you are looking for a way to use up some ham after Christmas, this is an easy cheap meal.

While I was soaking the beans overnight, I soaked enough to put some in the freezer for some casseroles in the future. That way the beans will be ready to cook when I am.  I also had about 4 meals of ham left so I used my food saver and then froze them for future meals. No food is wasted in our home.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Only Budget I Am Setting For Next Year

I've told you over and over again that I don't set  budget amounts. For 2016, I have set budget amounts for gifts.

I have listed each person or occasion that I buy for during the year with a loose budget amount for each celebration day. I do this not because I am trying to spend the least amount of money possible. But because I am attempting to keep myself from over buying. I have a BIG tendency to overbuy for my grandchildren. I have spent up to $450.+ each for them for past Christmases. I go way overboard for birthdays too.

Now that they are getting older, I don't want them to think they can get every gift they have on their list from us. I am realizing that as they age, their wants are majorly expensive also. I also know that their parents are teaching them that having money means working for it and I don't want to interfere with that either. They do jobs outside of their regular chores for a set amount of money per job. My granddaughter, when she was here for Thanksgiving, told me that she was saving for a particular game and has been saving for a long time. She was very proud of the fact that she had been doing that. So I have decided to set loose budget amounts for 2016 on my list.

This is the budget that I have set:

Grandchildren's Birthdays - $ 100. each
Grandchildren's Christmas -$ 200. each
Sons Birthdays - $100. each
DIL's Birthdays - $100. each
Son's & DIL's Christmas - $ 150. per couple 
Son's & DIL's Anniversaries - $ 100. per couple
Wedding or Baby Showers - $50.
Weddings - $100. per couple
Graduations - $50.
Hostess Gifts - $ 15.
Christmas Gifts for Service People - $15. each
My Hairdresser for Christmas - $50.00

We rarely have any other occasions besides these. Weddings, wedding and baby showers, and graduations are far and few in between. We do not exchange gifts outside of our immediate family. Our parents died years ago and our siblings need nothing. You will not see gifts on the list for Hubby and I. That is because we buy what we need when we need it all year long and do not exchange gifts on birthdays, anniversaries or for Christmas.  

These amounts that I have set is the highest amount that we will spend for each person or occasion. If I find a great gift at 90% off retail, I may spend less than the maximum amounts. For our sons and DIL's we tend to give them cash or gift cards so we usually spend the maximum amount.

If I can find a $10. bottle of great wine for a hostess gift then that amount would change. The same would go for service people. For example: I found a great gift for Christmas this year for my UPS deliverers, mailman, and paper lady for $8.50 each. I always give $50. cash to my hairdresser even though I tip her all year every time I get a service. She deserves it. She lets me change appointments an hour before if I don't feel well that day. She also lets me cancel last minute if it is snowing because she knows I don't like to drive in the snow.

The above picture is just a very few of the many Christmas gifts that we have purchased for Christmas. The bows don't get put on until last minute so as not to be crushed. 

I hope I have not gone too low on this budget. I have no idea what other people spend or what the normal is. If you would like to share what you spend or ask me a question feel free to by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Few Things That We Have Done Not To Spend Money in The Last Few Days

Before I show you the few things, I want to define how I think of saving money. If I spend $60.00 at the grocery store and use $ 8.00 in coupons, I may use the term I saved $8.00. However, unless I put that $8.00 into our investment accounts I didn't really save that money. I actually spent $60.00. Sure, I defrayed my costs by $8.00. But without the action of putting it in savings, I didn't save it. 

So in our household, we do what we can to defray costs almost every day so that at the end of the month, we actually have a large deposit that we can put in our investment or savings account. You can save money every day by using coupons or buying at a huge discount but unless you actually have some money to invest at the end of the month, you haven't saved a dime. You have spent all of your money. Spending with no investment every month doesn't help you to create net worth. Spending without any money left over to put on your debt doesn't help your bottom line. With interest you end up more in the hole which creates lots of stress in your life.

So instead of thinking about what you are saving when you make a purchase change your thinking to how much you are actually spending.

As I told you in another post, my Christmas shopping has been done for weeks. However that doesn't mean that if I see a really good deal that I can't jump on it.

After buying some clothing during the year at LL Bean for Hubby, I ended up with 2 - $10. promotional credits on my account. For those of you who aren't aware of these, you get them when you spend a certain amount of money on clothing. Each $10. has to be spent on one purchase so you can't combine them. Hubby needed no more clothing so I wanted to find a way to use those credits before they expired without spending any more money. I found these:

Water Bottle 

LL Bean allowed me to use the $10.00 credits on these even though they were only $9.95. Shipping is always free at LL Bean, so the total was $0.00 for each separate order that I submitted. I will save them for next Christmas and fill them with candy at that time and they will be one of the gifts for my grandchildren. If you don't have grandchildren, you could do it for your children, their teachers, the UPS man, the newspaper person, your hairdresser, anyone you normally give a gift too. Buy the candy cheaply when it is 75 -90% off after a holiday and you have a very nice gift purchased cheaply.

Yesterday, I ordered 5 coupons for 12- packs of Diet Coke cans for free. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones who ordered while they had the limit of 5 coupons up on the My Coke Rewards site. Then they quickly changed the limit to 4. I used only 30 points (for each) which I had accumulated during the year. I purposely saved them knowing that they do this every Christmas. Hubby loves Diet Coke. I gave up drinking soda over a year and 1/2 ago. But I faithfully enter his codes all year so that I can get these coupons. This free soda will save us from buying any for a few months. That will help increase our net worth.

If you need batteries and can find a sale on Energizer, look for the specially marked packages that give you $8.00 back via paypal or check. We needed AAA's and found two packages that had the codes inside. You need to have two codes to get the $8.00 back. We were lucky to find the batteries on sale for $6.49 each and we had $1.00 off coupons so we paid $10.98 and will get $8.00 back. I realize these weren't free but $ 2.98 for 16 Energizer batteries that we needed is really cheap.

Well, it is time for me to eat a late breakfast. So I am off to have ham, an egg and a toasted English muffin with my homemade strawberry jam that I made last summer. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Busy Crazy Day

I am to too tired and stressed today to even think at this hour. It's one of those days where a lot got accomplished but a lot went wrong too.

Happily, I jumped out of bed this morning to get ready for a busy day. Knowing it was going to be a warm day made me even happier. We ended up with a high of 71 which broke a 100 year old record for this day in December.

After getting a lot of things done before 9 AM, Hubby and I went to our cleaning appointments at the dentist. Fortunately, I had pulled all of our paid bills from the dentist last night and made a list of things that he has charged us for all year and when. Hubby and I had decided we were not going to pay for anything except the cleanings. No X-rays. The hygienist tried to get me to do them but I cut her off and told her I had a full panarama of X-rays when I had my root canal in November.  So we get to the desk to pay. As I am getting out my checkbook, the girl says to us, it's $ 438.00 for today. I just about fell over. I asked her if the cost of the cleanings had gone up. She said no. I said the cleanings last time were $151.00 each. She says but you each have to pay $68.00 for the exam by the dentist. Now all the dentist did was the same exact thing that the hygienist did. The hygienist checked a couple of teeth pockets, checked all the soft tissue and that was it. The dentist pretty much just looked at my mouth ( checked no pockets) and then checked the same soft tissue she did and left. Two minutes at  $ 68. for each of us is bordering on ridiculous. Then she says he charges you for that exam twice a year and he hasn't done it since last April. Then I pulled out my receipts and showed her that on October 26, he charged me $74. for an exam and then another $ 74. on November 2, which were appointments for my root canal which was a fortune besides those exams. She says I see what your saying. Well I will take that charge off for you but Hubby has to pay it. Bottom line this dentist is ridiculously expensive. I found a site online that shows the average price for dental procedures in my area. Then it shows the highest prices in the area. My dentist charges us 3 times the average price and he is way higher than the highest prices. We made our cleaning appointments for April 2016 but I am hoping to have found a cheaper dentist by then. I will do the research in the new year by contacting every other dentist in the area and asking them for a price sheet. Most of them will either mail me one or I will go to the office and pick it up. Then we will make our decision.

When we got home, we had voice mail. The message was from my cardiologist's office informing me that they could not do a test that they had me scheduled for tomorrow morning. They said they had mistakenly booked me and another patient at the same time in the same slot. The other patient had been booked the day before me.  I was not a happy camper. I have been very nervous about this test and had myself all prepared for it tomorrow. I don't understand why they didn't catch it until the day before when it has been booked for a month. When I called back she told me that she would see what they could do to fit me in elsewhere. I haven't heard yet. UGH!

Anyhow speaking up for myself, I saved $ 68. at the dentist today. 
Then I  filled the car up with gasoline for $ 1.89 a gallon because I had $ .50 off a gallon in points.

My local grocery store had sent me a $5./35. coupon for this week with another 100 points coupon for gasoline. So I used the coupon to purchase boneless chicken breasts at $ 1.58 a lb. That is the lowest price we have seen here in years. I stocked on $20.+ lbs.
When I got home Hubby helped me get them ready for the freezer. I always cut  each breast in 1/2 so that it looks like 2 breasts. That is enough for a meal for us. I cut and he put them in food saver bags and used the machine to suck all of the air out and seal the bags. Then I stacked them in the freezer. We had run out of chicken so I was happy to replenish it.

By the time we got that done, I realized that I had not thawed anything for dinner nor had I even thought about dinner and it was now 4:30PM. Hubby says we can always go out to dinner. I said no let me think a minute. I grabbed my recipe notebook and saw the recipe for Cheesy Ritz Chicken. I grabbed a package of chicken from the freezer that I had just put in there and that is what I made along with some rice pilaf and some tomatoes cut up on a plate for a vegetable. I made two meals worth so dinner will just have to reheated in the toaster oven tomorrow night.

So I am sorry that I didn't do my regular Monday post that I was planning on but I wanted to let you know why. My brain just isn't functioning well right now and I am overly tired so I am off to bed.   Hopefully I will get back on schedule for Wednesday.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rare Coupon for Aldi's

Rarely does Aldi's offer $ off coupons. In our newpaper last Sunday, they had a $ 10.00 off coupon when you spend $50.00. I decided to take advantage of it last week and pick up some purchases for New Year's Eve dinner and a Christmas party that we were going to last night.

I spent a total of $43.23 after the coupon. I think it was a pretty good haul for an 11-1/2 lb. spiral sliced ham, 2 packages of English muffins, 2 packages of frozen medium shrimp, 4 packages of cream cheese, 2-5 lb.bags of flour, 2 cans of spinach, 2 port wine cheese balls, 2 lbs. of brown sugar, 1 - 32 oz. chicken broth, 1 large container of strawberry yogurt, 1-24 oz. chunky salsa, 4 fresh tomatoes, and 2 lbs. of light sour cream. Not all of the items are in the picture because Hubby had already put them away before he realized that I was taking the picture.

I made a Mexican Seven Layer Dip using some of the ingredients above. I brought that and 2 bags of whole grain tortilla chips to a Christmas party last night. It evidently was a hit because it was gone half way through the party and I made a double batch.  

So watch your newspaper for this coupon. Look for iin the white print pages too because that is where mine was.        

Friday, December 11, 2015

Planning for 2016 ( Part II )

As I told you in Part I, our priority goal for 2016 is to save $50,000. This will be taken from our retirement income for the year. It will not be an easy task for us and we are not sure that we can accomplish it but we are sure going to try. If you can't save $ 50,000., $10,000. or even $2000. that is okay. Just set a goal for what you can save and strive to make that dream happen.  If you can't save because you have debt, set a goal to pay off as much of that debt as possible. If you want to become financially independent, you have to start somewhere and build up over time.

Now back to our plan as to how we will try to reach that goal.
We will strive to spend as little as possible over the next year without feeling like we are deprived. We won't make a budget. If we do then, we will have a tendency to spend every penny of the amount set for that category. For example: How many of you have set a budgeted amount like $400. for groceries for a month?  You go into a store for a needed gallon of milk and come out with things that you really don't need because you know you have $25. left in your budget that you can spend. Hence that is why we don't set budget amounts. When we do we have a tendency to spend up to them.

Clothing:  We will not purchase any unless it is free after coupon. I am thinking of the $10. off type coupon from LL Bean or JC Penneys or the printable coupons for Target clothing.  We will wear what we already own. Our closets are full as I am sure many of yours are. The only exception to this will be if either of us loses weight. Then we will buy no more than 2-3 outfits to get us through until we drop to the next lower size. 

Books: None will be purchased in 2016. We have plenty on our bookshelves that we can read, can get free books from Amazon Prime, or go to the library and borrow them.

Restaurants or Take Out:  As you know, I have been purchasing deals that give me a bonus or discount for  restaurants this month. I will continue to do this until the end of December. This is what Hubby and I do for our Christmas gifts each year. Whatever we have accumulated will be used to dine out or get take out all during 2016. The only two exceptions will be a few groupons and coupons that we received in 2015 that are unused and any gift cards received as gifts. Those will be used when we have enough money to put with them from rebates. We also sometimes find a coupon for a free item or use points from Subway for a free sub. Many times I have gotten the one item and Hubby and I share it. The gift cards that we have will be combined with any coupons available or senior discounts to make our money stretch further. Hubby and I like to go out for a drink once in a while and split an appetizer so this makes the money really stretch. All other meals will be made at home.

Gifts:  I have already made a list of whom I need gifts for next year that includes all birthday, anniversaries, weddings and Christmas. Next to each person, I have written their sizes and likes. I will keep a log of all purchases so that I don't overbuy. I hope to purchase most gifts at a 75 - 100% discount. I will keep my eye open online and when I am out  shopping for these gifts. I especially love clearance. I always make sure to go through Ebates to get a percentage of money back. I also love finding the perfect toys for the grandchildren at garage sales. Once in a while I see just the perfect one and it is brand new in package. I also have no problem re-gifting something that we can't use that is perfect for someone else. There is no sense hanging onto an item that you can't use. We will use any coupon or rebate that is appropriate for these gifts also. We also pay for most gifts with points that we accumulate on our credit cards. We charge almost everything during the year so we accumulate many points.

Medical Costs: For us these costs have been extremely high. They are about to get higher. We have been notified that our Health Insurance for 2016 will be going up $ 27.14 a month or $ 325.68 for the year. This is our secondary insurance after Medicare. We have also been notified that some of our  co-pays for drugs that we take will be going up 67% for 2016. So we have no choice but to cut costs if we want to continue to save money. We will be doing this by using every coupon or drug card that we can find online from the drug manufacturers that we income qualify for. We will make sure that all doctors give us prescriptions for long term medicines that are 3 month prescriptions since it is much cheaper for us to buy them that way. We always buy generic prescriptions when they are available. All OTC medicines will be researched for the cheapest price. We won't overbuy and will use up what we already have.

Our dentist is very costly and we have had to have some major work done since we retired early. We have no dental insurance and even if we did, he would charge us the same  amount minus the insurance. We do not qualify for any low income dental. We have checked out getting insurance and it very expensive for the things that it does cover. We don't think it would help us much compared to what we would have to pay yearly for it. So after looking at our dental expenses so far this year which are over $4,000., we are keeping a running total on paper so that we can keep that in mind when we go for cleanings and checkups. Our dentist insists that we go for cleanings every three months. He charges you the same amount yearly for cleanings or exams whether you go every three months or every 6 months. Each time we go, the cleanings cost us close to $200. each and that is without X-rays. A full set of X-rays cost us $250. each which he does once a year. So cleanings and X-rays alone for the year for
us total $ 2100. You add in anything extra and it gets quite costly. We had an $18,000. year in 2013. So we are going to be researching other dentists costs in the area over the next few months. We feel like we are being ripped off every time we go. This dentist does not give a senior discount nor a reduction because we can pay cash either. So with this in mind, we have our cleanings and exams coming up in the next week. Both us have discussed the amount we have already spent and will not be doing any expensive work he recommends. He has been trying to get both Hubby and I to  get three crowns on teeth that he says have big fillings. The answer will be no.  He also told me the last time that I had my cleaning that I was due for X-rays this time. The answer will be no because I had an emergency  appointment recently for a root canal and he took a full mouth set of X-rays that cost me $250. besides a fortune for the root canal. His prices go up every January 1st so I am expecting that this January will be no exception. He is also building a new building in a more costly area so I expect that costs will go up when he moves there. So we have to find an another dentist. I will be going to every dentist in the area to get a copy of their prices after January 1st and do my research. We really like this dentist but just can't afford to pay his prices.

Homeowners and Automobile Insurances:  We just paid our automobile insurance and it seems to go up quite a percentage every year. So just before our homeowner's insurance is due in March, we will be looking for a new company who can match the insurance we have now at a cheaper premium per year. We will also make sure that we are taking advantage of every discount that they can give us.

Gasoline:  We check prices per gallon at our closest stations and check any discounts we have from buying groceries, etc. Then we fill up at the cheapest while we are out running errands. We never make a special run just for gasoline. 

Natural Gas and Electric: We will be doing everything we know how to reduce these costs by 10-15% this year. 

Cable TV, Internet, and Home Telephone: We get a letter every year that this bill is going up. I will call and get them to  keep it at the same cost as this year or reduce it. The trick is to get to the retention department. I also call them every time that we have lousy service and get a credit. For ex: Our sound has been cutting in and out on different channels at different times which led us to believe that it was Time Warner who had the problem. We called them the other night and they admitted that it was a service problem that they had been having and that the problem was being fixed but they didn't know how many days it was going to take. I asked for a credit for the lousy service and we were credited $10. You have to ask for credit because they are not going to offer it if you don't ask. If the problem continues into next month, I will call for another credit. I could easily get rid of cable tv but Hubby loves it and I have to keep my man happy.

Travel:  Any travel will only be by car. We use our EZ Pass to get a discount on tolls on highway travel.  Any hotel rooms will be paid for by checking for the best rate which usually is calling the hotel directly, being super sweet, and asking for the best price. I will also use any coupons available and pay with points given for opening travel credit cards. We rarely use hotel rooms so this is pretty easy for us. We instead stay with family or friends.

Exercise:  All of this will be free by walking or biking. We have a beautiful neighborhood that we can walk in. In colder months we use our recumbent bike indoors which was purchased years ago and has many miles on it. No gym memberships here.

Groceries: This is one of our largest expenses. We are in the process of eating from our stockpile. We have decided to eat up every last piece of food in the house over the next few months so we are not doing a lot of shopping. Just filling in here and there. We want to clean out our freezers for garden season and to stockpile meat at the best rock bottom prices in the spring ( corned beef and lamb) and summer (ground meat, hot dogs, and steaks). We will be planting a container garden this coming year with just enough salad items for Hubby and I. Over the summer we will buy fresh rock bottom priced fresh fruits like we do every year to freeze and to can and to make jam for the winter. We will be eating healthy and mostly meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruits, cereal- mostly oatmeal, and some dairy. We will try our best not to waste one morsel of food. We will attempt to always buy at rock bottom prices. We hope to greatly reduce our food costs. 

All Other Non Food Costs: They will be purchased or homemade as cheaply as possible, or made cheaper by substitution. For example: This time of year of year the sun hits the sensors on our garage door and the door won't close after we pull out of the garage. It takes some effort to get it to go down and is a pain in the neck. You can buy shields at the hardware store for about $ 20. or you can do what Hubby did. He made shields out of toilet paper tubes.    

I think I have covered all of our large expenses where we can make cuts. Over the next year, please join me on this journey to cut our costs and save more money. I will be reporting every day starting on January 1, 2016 on how we do this. I will also do a monthly expense report like I have been doing. If you want to retire early or even retire when you are 65, feel free to follow along.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask by leaving it in comments and I will do my best to answer them.          

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Planning for 2016 ( Part I )

It's just a few short weeks until 2016. This is the time of the year when Hubby and I set our financial goals for the coming year. We realized many years ago that if you don't know where you are going, you can't get there.

Let me tell you who we are so that you will know why we do certain things. We are frugal homebodies. We haven't always been as frugal as we are now. We enjoyed our first six years of marriage doing the normal things that newlyweds do. We threw parties, went out with friends almost every weekend, furnished a home, bought lots of clothes, traveled with friends, and ate expensive meats. However the one thing we never did was use credit to pay for these things. We used cash that we could have invested for future goals. The frugal things we did do was max out our retirement accounts, open taxable  mutual fund accounts and savings accounts, and save for a 20% down payment on our first home which we bought a year and a half after our marriage. 

After we found out that we were pregnant with our first child we knew that things had to change. We became pretty much the homebodies we are today. We still had friends over and threw parties. Most of our friends had children too and this became the norm for all of us. But we stopped wasting our money on things that didn't fulfill us. We saved for our children's education and we started really thinking about early retirement and how we could achieve that in our early 50's. We felt that would be after the children were out of college. We finally retired when our last child had graduated.

It was not an easy path since my husband was the sole provider for most of those years. We made choices based on our goals. Hubby even changed jobs so that he could better provide for our family's future. We did our best to live very frugally so that we could build our net income. But it was a path that we were fully invested in. When we decided to send our children to an expensive private school for junior high and high school, I found a job that would help pay for that. Having saved for college, our children had choices. One went to a public college and the other went to a private college. 

Today, we still are the homebodies we became back in our 20's. We enjoy our home which will most likely be our last. It was paid for in cash. We furnished it so that we would be comfortable and surrounded by things of beauty. It is a pleasure to stay home. We do have close friends who we party with and dine out with. But less frequently than when we were 19. Our children and grandchildren are close enough that we see one family weekly and one every 10-12 weeks. That is all we need to be happy.

We never kept up with the "Joneses" and still don't. Most of the "Joneses" we knew are scrimping now that they are retired. A lot of them are living on Social Security trying to make ends meet. They didn't plan for their future. Please don't make that mistake. It's not fun deciding whether you eat or pay for an expensive drug you need. Most of the people I knew would not go to a food bank or take any kind of handout even if they needed it. They are too proud.
Now that you know a little bit about who we are, let's get back to our 2016 goals.The largest one is:

- Save $50,000. to add to investments and savings. We always have to be mindful of inflation. Our income today if it was the same as when we retired 14 and 1/2 years ago would have lost over 42% of it's purchasing power. Fortunately we have saved and invested as much as could so that we don't have to worry about future inflation. We would also like to leave our children and grandchildren a nice nest egg. Since we don't buy into making corporations rich by buying every little thing, we believe that we can do  this by making a series of cuts and living on as little as possible this coming year.

Since this post is getting too long, I will give you a brief synopsis in my next post on how we hope to accomplish this large goal.

To be continued............