Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year To All

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and I am excited. The thought of ringing in 2017 and a chance to do things differently this year is thrilling to me. You all know that much of it will be about frugality so that we can save and invest more money this year. 

This is also the year that Hubby and I will be married 50 years. We are so looking forward to that celebration. I love him as much as I did the day I first laid eyes on him over 52 years ago. It has been many wonderful years and we are hoping for many, many, more. 

We will be taking the weekend or perhaps a long weekend to spend time with friends. But I will be back posting on Monday or Tuesday.

To all of you and your families, we wish you a Happy New Year. May it be a healthy, wealthy 2017 for all of you. Stay safe tomorrow night!

We will stay home and enjoy our shrimp dinner and then ring in the New Year watching the ball drop in NYC.

I will talk to you next in 2017.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gift Cards For 2017

This has been another fantastic month or two for gift card deals. If you remember, I bought a lot of these deals in December 2015. I talked about it Here. 

Well, I took advantage of some great gift card deals the past two months that will be used for both shopping and going out to restaurants in 2017.

Our Top's supermarket had a deal where if you spent $50.00 all in one grocery trip, you got $10.00 off a $50.00 gift card. They had a limited number of cards that you could use this $10.00 off of. I would have liked it if there had been a better choice of cards. But I made it work for us. As I told you in my 2015 post, I only buy gift cards for places that are close to home and that we don't have to drive 25-50 miles to get to. So I was limited to J.C. Penney's, Applebee's and Panera Bread gift cards on this deal. They are all places that will work for us.

Dollar General also had a deal where if you purchased 2 gift cards, you got $10.00 off. The only gift card they had that interested me was Burger King.

So I wanted to disclose to you just what gift cards we are starting 2017 with and the amounts:

J.C. Penney's              $50.00

Kohls                           44.72

Old Navy or Gap         10.00

Russell's                     100.00

Applebee's                 250.00

Tom's Diner                 21.00

Panera Bread             244.97

Burger King                70.00

These gift cards total $ 790.69.  I paid  a total out of my pocket of
$ 519.69 for these cards. That is a savings of $ 271.00 for us. We also purchased these gift cards using our 2% back rewards credit card. One gift card was gifted to us. Not all gift cards are pictured because some are e-gift certificates.

The Kohl's and Old Navy or Gap will be used for clothing purchases through out 2017 if needed. We will also use a sale and coupon to make the money go further. The J.C. Penney's may be used for clothing or as a birthday gift. 

Russell's is our very favorite steakhouse. They have exceptional food and service. However they are so expensive that we only go there once or twice a year. This gift card from our son and his wife will defray the cost of dinner for us. With dinner, drinks and tip our bill will run from $150. to $200. for the two of us. This gift certificate will defray the cost for us. Here is their menu: Russell's
which is outstanding.

Applebee's is very close to our home. We will use the gift cards to go out for a few dinners, lunches, or get take out. We love being in the comfort of our home, so we do order their take out to go more often. We also belong to their Golden Apple Club for seniors so our entree's are always 10% off. If they have an appetizer or dessert coupon, we will use those too.

Tom's Diner and Burger King will be used for breakfasts. Burger King may also be used when my grandson is staying overnight for a dinner treat. Sometimes when we travel on the Thruway, we stop at Burger King for lunch.

Panera Bread is a favorite. We love their Tuesday deal of 13 bagels for $ 6.99. As you can see, I have already used one of these cards to get the deal. We do this about once every two months. I bring them home and freeze them. When we feel like a bagel they just need to be thawed. We also love their soup and sandwich deal. So we will either do take out or eat in.

We will not be limited to these places. If we want to go elsewhere we will. We will actually be celebrating the New Year sometime next month with friends of ours at a new to us restaurant.  But knowing we have these gift cards will certainly help us decide where to go or get take out from when the urge hits us. These should be a great savings for us in 2017.

How about you? Did you get some great gift card deals during the holiday shopping season? 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 2016 Expense Report

This is every penny that we have spent in the month of December. We will not be going anywhere or spending anything for the rest of the month. If there is an expense you don't see, it is explained HERE .

Netflix                                          $  9.99
Alarm System                                 30.90
CableTV,Internet, Tel.                     138.34
Nat. Gas & Electric                         127.27
Water & Sewer                                55.92
Personal Care                                  72.30
Gifts                                             153.95
Auto Insurance                              924.00 
Medical                                         317.35
Clothing                                          13.19
Gasoline                                          11.70
Liquor,Wine&Beer                             91.95
Household Goods(non-food)            245.61
Giftcards                                       208.98
Groceries                                      477.99
Restaurant Take Out                        13.98

Total Expenses                         $ 2893.42

We were able to invest $3,000.00 this month bringing our total investments to $ 51,200.00 for the year. Since our goal for the year was $ 50,000.00, we are happy that we exceeded it. We actually had another $ 4000.00 that we could of invested but we decided to keep that income available to help pay our hefty property taxes in January. 

We also usually pay our son the yearly amount for our cellphone bill during December. However, his lease is up in January so he doesn't know what the renewal will be or if he will stay with the same carrier.
So that expense has been pushed off until January.

Considering our yearly automobile insurance was due for the next year, I feel we did pretty good with expenses this month.

The personal care was makeup and a cut for me at the salon which is my one guilty pleasure these days. It also included a cash gift for my hairdresser for Christmas.

Gifts was a gift for my grandson for his birthday in January. It was also $150.00 in gift cards for our son and his wife for Christmas. I almost forgot to buy these. I thought I had all of my shopping done but I had forgotten to pick these up until this month.

Our medical was low this month. Most of the expense was our health insurance premium.

Clothing was two pajama bottoms for Hubby. This was such a great deal that I was not passing it up.

Gasoline was low due to the fact that I had $ 1.30 off per gallon from our grocery stores reward points. 

The liquor, beer and wine was to restock and take advantage of that great Smirnoff rebate that I told you about.

Household goods was many things including rachet ties, bottle stoppers, Christmas clearance, freezer bags, toilet paper, a bowl and food storage container for the party we went to, 24 rolls of scotch tape for our dispenser, humidifier pads, 100 stamps, and a waffle maker and electric frypan.

Gift cards was what I actually spent out of pocket doing the Top's gift card deal a few times. This was where I got $10.00 off $50.00 gift cards. Most of these cards will be used in 2017. It also included the expense to buy 3 Amazon Anytime cards.

Groceries was for goodies for Christmas, our normal groceries and a little stockpiling.

And lastly, the category that I am most proud of - Restaurant and Takeout. The $ 13.98 was for one trip for takeout at KFC. Considering how busy we were this month, I am thrilled that we only relied on take out once.  

Well, it is on to 2017. I hope you all reached your goals this year or did extremely well trying. Sometimes things beyond our control pop up and you don't make the goal. But I will bet that you are much farther ahead than you were in December of 2015. Congratulations to everyone whose net worth is larger this past year!  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Clearance

I am glad that I hadn't posted my December expense report yet because I did do some Christmas clearance shopping this morning.

The one 100 sq. ft.  gift wrap I found at Top's for $ 1.64. That was all I needed to replenish my stockpile. I also got the Whitman's chocolates there for $ 4.99. Everything else was $.50 each at Dollar Tree. I desperately needed the tags. The bows are for decorating. I purchased those two gift bags only. One for each of our adult families next year. The pails I can fill up for the grandchildren. The cookie tins are for goodies for my neighbors next year. 

But the best bargain in my estimation was the spools of beautiful wired red ribbon. I love making bows with wired ribbon for my gift baskets.

I never go the day after Christmas because I hate the crowds. So I hope that the next day I can find what I need. I lucked out today.  

Did you get what you needed on clearance?

How I Use My Favorite Pantry Ingredient

How many of you buy those little cans of tomato paste? You know, the little 6 oz. ones that never seem to go on sale.

Have you ever needed just a tablespoon and then didn't know what to do with the rest? So you put it in a container in your deep freeze where it languished until it was dead. 

I haven't bought one of those cans in a very long time. I make my own tomato paste by always having tomato powder in my pantry.

Tomato powder only has one ingredient, tomatoes. No salt which those little cans have.

I used to use tomato bouillon granules but it had ingredients that I wasn't crazy about. Hence I found this tomato powder and I have never looked back.

I buy a 32 oz. jar of:

 Mother Earth

from amazon.com for $ 20.86. I just placed an order to replenish my supply. If you have a larger family than I do, you can get it cheaper by using subscribe and save. 

I make my own tomato paste when I need it. To replace a 6 ounce can, I just mix 1/4 cup of powder with 1/4 cup of hot water. If you want to add salt, you can. I don't.

If I need just a tablespoon or another measure,I just use less powder and less water adjusted to the thickness I want.  

In a pinch if I don't have tomato sauce, I can make that too. Just mix 1/4 cup of powder to 1/2 cup of hot water.

You can also make tomato juice or just sprinkle it on those hot house tomatoes in the winter to make them taste better.  

The first time I bought it was to flavor soups and make Spanish rice. But then I branched out to the tomato paste. I hate wasting partial cans of anything so this works for me.

The other advantage to me is that it will keep a very long time, almost indefinitely.

It may or may not be as cheap as buying all of those little cans but it is certainly handier.

Monday, December 26, 2016

This Week's Menu Plan, etc.

Surprise! I am back posting. I thought I might be too tired from yesterday but I was up at 6AM and raring to go. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We spent the day with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson at their home near Rochester. It was wonderful. We just love the look of delight on our grandson's face when he opens his presents. He got a lot of Pokemon items - cards and books. His favorite present was an I phone that he can track Pokemon on. He goes to the colleges to track them with his parents. They have taught him how to watch for cars and to always put the phone down by your side when crossing a street. His parents have everything else blocked on the phone for now until he gets older. Smart move!

It has become a Christmas tradition that they make fondues for dinner. We had beef, chicken and shrimp that we cooked in oil. Cheese fondue with different types of bread, cooked mushrooms, sauteed brussels sprouts and cooked baby potatoes. For dessert, we had sliced bananas, whole strawberries, cheesecake and bacon dipped in chocolate fondue. It was all delicious and we had a wonderful time doing it.

Moving on. I will be posting a menu every week of everything that we will eat for dinner in 2017. I decided to post this week's too. I will not be posting a lunch or breakfast menu because we tend to eat leftovers or soup for lunch. If I have cooked a turkey or ham then we might have sandwiches. Breakfasts are chosen from bacon, breakfast sausage, eggs, English muffins with jam, bagels with cream cheese, oatmeal for me, cold cereal for Hubby, yogurt with fruit or homemade granola, muffins, homemade donuts, pancakes and waffles.

You can see our menu above for this week. If it isn't big enough, click on the picture. I will not be following the Cheesy Enchilada recipe verbatim. I will be adding cooked rice at the end. I made double rice the other night when I made orange chicken. I am also adding ground turkey instead of the black beans. We have black beans but I want to use up an older package of the turkey. The other ingredients will be adjusted as needed. This should make two meals and perhaps a lunch.

Our choice of salads and BLT's is to use up some fresh veggies and white bread that we have left in the freezer. We freeze most of our bread and then pull out a few slices when we need it. Otherwise our bread goes moldy. I hate waste which I have talked about before.

I want to get rid of the chicken strips that I purchased frozen and the frozen onion rings that are remaining in the freezer. The shrimp dish is a favorite here and will be perfect for New Year's Eve.

We always eat our leftovers so you may see many meals where we just eat leftovers. With two of us, I tend to cook double or triple meals. Sometimes I will freeze a meal and other times we will eat them night after night. Neither one of us likes to waste food so we don't mind the lack of variety.

I am off to work in my kitchen today. I hope you all have a good one. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas Everyone

As we are preparing to spend a little time off with our family, I want to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. I also want to thank you for reading my blog this year and I hope that you have found some information that was of use to you.

If you are traveling, please stay safe. I will be back posting on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Am Done Spending Until.............................

We are done spending until after New Year's Day with one caveat.  We have monthly bills that are paid automatically every month from our checking account. I also will have to pay two credit card bills because they come at the end of every month just days apart. However that money is set aside for that purpose when the items are charged. Unless a true emergency happens, we have no intention of spending a penny more.

We needed gas yesterday so I filled up the tank using my $1.30 off a gallon discount while I was out picking up a prescription. I loved paying $ 1.06 per gallon of gas.

Our Christmas gifts and food for the holidays are all bought and paid for. We have our bottle of champagne for New Years Eve. We stay home on New Year's Eve and just enjoy ringing in the New Year together. We will watch the ball drop in Times Square. I will make a nice dinner of strip steak, baked potatoes and asparagus. Perhaps we will eat a cookie or two. 

So sometime next week, I will post our December Expense Report with our final savings tally for the year. Then we will be ready to start a New Year.

Don't you love the sound of that? A New Year always gives us a fresh start and hopes of good things happening in our lives. Even if we didn't do so well last year, we have the promise of starting over in the New Year. That feeling never gets old for us even knowing that Hubby and I will be married 50 years in 2017.  We still have goals and aspirations for the New Year and the hope that it will be better than the year before.

But it doesn't just happen by itself. We have to continually work at making the best life we can have. We have to continually work hard at controlling our finances and investing for our future and our children and grandchildren's future. 

I have had more than one person say to us " You can stop saving now and spend your money." Well we do for the things that we feel are important to us. Not for the things that other people feel are important for us. We march to our own drummer and always have. No one should be telling you how to spend your money but you!

We have always lived life on our own terms. We have had a wonderful life filled with the joy of children and grandchildren. That is the most important part of enjoying life to us. Hence we have the goal of helping those children and grandchildren even after we are gone. We have lacked for nothing and will continue to lack for nothing while still advancing our goals.

That said Hubby and I have no plans to check out anytime soon. Although Hubby did try to escape me last June and July when he was so sick. But I wouldn't let him go.

So we are planning a terrific New Year in 2017 of showing you how we do and don't spend money. I will try to incorporate every big and little thing that we do or don't into this blog. I will try to give you as much knowledge as I can in 2017 to help you along your financial path. Please join us on this path in 2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Little of This & A Little of That

First I want to let you know that the bean soup turned out yummy. Best of all it didn't make us sick. We will have a couple more meals before I freeze the rest for lunches.

Also Hubby made party mix yesterday. As usual it was a huge success. Since I have already had a small bowl, I can tell you that it is delicious. We will fill a few nut cans and gift them to our son, DIL, and grandson. Christmas wouldn't be the same without party mix. Hopefully my son on the other side of the state made some for his family. He usually does.

Take a look at what a mess this plastic container is. After heating soup in the microwave a few times, the container is only good for the recycle bin. It was one of the last few that we have.  

I started to add plastic containers to my grocery list but I stopped. Why do I buy containers that will just get ruined all over again and have to be recycled again? It seemed kind of stupid when I thought about it. What can I substitute?

Perhaps I could use my assortment of glass containers with lids instead.

I could also substitute my many pieces of Temptations, a few of which are shown here. 

Then I have a few pieces of Tupperware that I could use, Pyrex and Corningware dishes with covers, and some stainless steel bowls with covers.

Now that I think about it, I have more than plenty storage and cooking options.

So why would I go and replace these plastic containers?  After thinking this through, I won't. I have plenty of substitutions. I don't need any temporary plastic cluttering up my cupboards or taking dollars away from my savings goals.

Yes, this is just an example of the way I think things through before I act on them. By doing this my whole married life, we have saved thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. Just little cuts in the way we do things adds up to big money each and every year.

So the next time you go to add something you think you need to your shopping list stop and think it through. It could be financially beneficial for you and your family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Making Mistakes

Do you ever make mistakes? Is it frustrating? I know I could get frustrated if I allowed myself to.

Yesterday was one of those days where I made a big mistake. Did I let it ruin my day? Nope, not in the least. Matter of fact, I am still laughing about it.

On Sunday I cooked a 11+ lb. ham. Hubby and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with apple, raisin, and  pecan coleslaw, pineapple and baked potatoes for sides. A nice glass of wine topped it all off.

After dinner, Hubby cut the ham in half. He took the bone out so that I could make bean soup. He also took a chunk of meat off one of the halves as extra for the bean soup. I always get all of the bits off of the ham bone to add after the soup cooks for a while. I froze half of the ham for future meals. I put the other portion in the fridge for a dinner and for sandwiches or ham and eggs for breakfast. I put the ham bone and the extra chunk of ham in a ziploc in the fridge. That night I soaked my northern beans overnight in the crockpot.

Yesterday morning knowing that I had a very busy day, I drained the beans and washed them well and cleaned the crockpot. I then put the beans back into it, added my spices, and added the ham bone. I covered all with 3/4's cold chicken broth and 1/4 ice cold water. I covered the crockpot and turned it on to low to let it cook all day.

I went out and ran all of my last minute errands. Until a reader, Pat, reminded me in comments yesterday, I forgot to get all of the ingredients for our party mix that Hubby makes every year. If I had forgotten, my son would have been so disappointed. I was so afraid that the store wouldn't have every thing that I needed. I was lucky because they only had two boxes in the entire store of wheat Chex and I snagged one. I picked up the rest of the ingredients and was happy to get them all. This party mix is not cheap the way Hubby wants it made but it is a tradition in our household. Hubby hates peanuts in his party mix. So I buy 3 cans of mixed nuts - no peanuts every year. However yesterday, they only had two cans. So I bought a third can of mixed nuts that said it had 50 less peanuts. I told Hubby it was all I could get without driving 26 miles. He can decide whether to add the third can or not. 

Then I made a run to the beverage center to pick up some Beer- Fat Tire which is my son's favorite. Lastly I went to the liquor store to pick up 3 bottles of wine and our bottle of champagne for New Year's Eve.

When I came home I put everything away and sat down to do my Ibotta rebates for the wine. I also had $7.00 worth of Frontera and Yellow Tail rebates to fill out and get in the mail.

Our mail came and I was happy to see the free coupon for a 12 pack of Diet Coke from My Coke Rewards. I also got a notice from Social Security of a raise effective January 2017 for .3%. I didn't expect it to be much. However I didn't expect that my net check would be the same as last year. Yup, between Medicare going up and the taxes going up that I have withheld every check, my net didn't change one penny. Here's hoping that Hubby's notice when it comes actually gives us a raise. It should. I don't get a very big check because I didn't work that many years while my children were growing up and I didn't make much money. That said, it was a choice we made and that we have never regretted.

I was then very busy for the rest of the day doing many odds and ends. Hubby asked what we were having for dinner. I said ham, pineapple, scalloped potatoes and green beans. He asked was the soup ready. I said no. That I always cook it at least a day and a half because it is so much better. So I told him we would be having it tonight.

I made dinner, we ate and then I proceeded to wash  the dishes. Then I decided I would take the ham bone out of the soup, take the meat off, and put the rest of the bits of meat back in. As I started to do this, I realized the water was ice cold. The soup didn't look like it had cooked long enough(picture last night). Guess what? I turned it on but never plugged it in. I was so busy I just never noticed. Fortunately the crockpot kept everything cold enough so that I am not worried about it going bad. Hubby put it in the cold garage last night and I just brought it in and plugged it in and turned it on. So hopefully we will have bean soup tonight. UGH!

I could have let it upset me. But I didn't. I was just happy that it stayed cold enough and because the ham is processed with salt that it is fine to eat. 

I haven't made a mistake like this one in a very long time. But they do happen and when they do I just go with the flow. I know that I am not perfect.

Today Hubby will happily be making our party mix so that I can wrap a container for my son's family for Christmas. We will enjoy the rest ourselves over the next couple of weeks.   

It's a cleaning and laundry day around here so I best get moving.      

Monday, December 19, 2016

2017 - A Year For Action

You all know the phrase "actions speak louder than words". You also all read my post: 

Every Dollar Counts .

I can tell you what I will do but if I take no action then it is all meaningless. We could read about frugal things every day but if we don't put them into action, we have wasted our time.

How many people see frugal things and say to themselves I am going to start to do those things and then move on and forget about them. How many people say "I don't have time to do these things. Yet, you spend endless hours surfing the internet or playing games on facebook that won't help your bottom line or net worth at all.

I believe that everyone can make the time to do some frugal things even if you work outside the home all day. Hubby and I did it when we worked. You just have to want to get ahead in life. It doesn't take that many hours to accomplish. You do one frugal thing a day until it becomes a habit, then add another habit. If you keep doing that it becomes a way of life for you that you barely have to think about. We have many habits ingrained in our every day life.

That said, we are going to spend a lot of time thinking about every little thing we do this year. We will ask ourselves: Is there a better way? What can we substitute? Do we really need to make this purchase? Can we borrow said item? How can we save on this today? Even after almost 50 years of frugality, I know that I can do better. And I will share those thought processes with you.

Do we really need to make this purchase is one that I am going to concentrate on in 2017. If every dollar counts, then every purchase must count. It will be my goal to NOT SPEND this year. I will take you along on this journey five days a week, Monday through Friday. Yes, everyone needs some downtime. I might do little posts on a weekend like I did yesterday and today depending on what needs to be said.

We believe that we have too much stuff. That stuff needs to be assessed and some of it donated. How much stuff is enough and how much is too much? These are questions we will look at as I go through every item in the house from basement to attic. If the item isn't part of our design plan, can we get rid of it? How much time is it taking us to hang onto it? Does it save us time? Does it save us money? Is it an heirloom that my children or grandchildren might like or will they just trash it when we are gone? Do we really need to hang onto all of this paperwork? Can we just scan it into the computer? So many questions to ask ourselves.

If we have too much stuff, why are we purchasing something else to add to our stuff. That question will be asked of every purchase except necessities like food, cleaning products, personal care items and medicines. But those items will also be looked at with a critical eye. How many of you have stuff tucked away that you haven't used in years? Make a decision and donate it or sell it. It's just cluttering up your way of life and your mind. 

Impulse buying hurts everyone's bottom line. we have all been guilty of it at one time or another. That's how I ended up with so much stuff. So there will be no impulse shopping in our lives in 2017. 

We will take action on everything whether it is a big item or a little item. We will take action on everything in our life. We will decide what we can do better that will help our bottom line. 

So why not join us for the ride. Don't you want to be dollars ahead by December of 2017? Or do you want to be in the same monetary position that you are in today? It's your choice!  

Bottom line: You will know the way I think and what we do every day. I will continue the expense reports each and every month because a few people have expressed an interest. I believe that even one person counts.