Down with Debt in 2011 – Our Debt Monster

Hubby and I (and a lot of God’s provision!) have narrowed our debt down to three final accounts:
1. My Student Loans
2. My Car
3. His Dad’s Lowe’s Card
In November 2011, the loan on my car matures.  I owe over $12,000. My car payment is NOT $1000/mth. Mathematically there is NO way this car will be paid off by November 2011.  I called to see if there had been a mistake but there had not.  The additional $3000 + is fees etc. associated with times they “assisted” us during his unemployment. (Thanks for nothing HSBC)
The Lowe’s card stands at $2400 (give or take a couple bucks).  The payment is $86, I have paid $100 for years now.  Every month another $56 gets added to the account. Finance charges they say.  Seems that account has a 29% interest rate. (EVERY SINGLE THING on this card is currently installed somewhere on the house that will be foreclosed on soon)
My Student loans are over $20,000.  We will tackle them in 2012.
After a couple heart to hearts, we have decided that for Christmas 2011 we will be free from the car and Lowe’s. That’s a $15,000 debt monster we intend to slay.  I have NO idea where we will find $1250/month.  That is $550 more than what we already dish out for these two bills.  What I do know is that when it came down to getting Christmas presents I found money.  When it came down to me wanting a new sewing machine I found money.  When hubby wants to take us the water park for the day, I FIND MONEY.
I think part of it is the visual. I see the stuff we buy.  I can’t SEE the debt go away- until now.
I’ve made myself a cute little debt monster.  I’m putting him in the sidebar of my blog and I’m printing him out for the refrigerator.  Isn’t he cute?

I will erase a little bit of him every month, to SHOW how much of a bite we’ve taken out of him. Each line represents $1000.
Should you decide you want to slay your own debt monster this year you can get your own little fridge decor here, in my zazzle store.  Any proceeds go directly to taking a bite out of debt.
If you’d like a debt monster for your blog just ask 🙂

Suddenly, Purposely Unemployed: Making the funds last longer

Now, don’t get me wrong- I love my Starbucks. But I just quit my job. I quit my job with nothing lined up. So, save for long, productive days at the coffee shop, I am giving up my beloved Starbucks. I am giving up a lot of things. But there are some things we can’t/won’t give up. And that’s okay too as long as we’re realistic. On my last day at work I will have enough money to get by for about three months if I stop eating.
I don’t intend to stop eating.
So what on earth am I going to do? This is a great question and the answer is a work in progress. Maybe I should have figured it out before I quit my job but there were a number of factors that went into that decision and it just couldn’t wait any longer. (If you are interested in hearing all about it, feel free to visit my blog) In order to stretch my limited funds, I am already implementing a number of new rules. (If I had started this sooner I might not be so stressed about the money now.)

  • I am making coffee at home. Even if you drink only plain, black coffee (which I usually do) Starbucks is a $60/month obsession and that is for one cup a day. It’s much more than that if you’re going for lattes and those frozen-almost-a-milkshake-but-with-caffeine kind of drinks.
  • Gas is expensive! Are there errands you could run on foot? Do it! You can get your exercise and give up your expensive gym membership and save the gas money. (You may think these are minimal amounts but it adds up. If you are in an area where this is possible, consider it.) Plus, the walk will be good for body and mind.
  • Each of us have a list of things we know we are going to buy on a regular basis. Generally speaking, in regards to the things we know we buy a lot, we know the cheapest place to get them. If you don’t know then start paying attention to how much you spend on these purchases and (assuming it is not a big difference is gas usage) go there. The cheapest place may not be the most convenient, but if money is really tight, every dollar counts.
    • Gas is a big item that we all buy on a regular basis. The difference in price per gallon is not usually huge from one station to another. But how many gallons of gas do you purchase in a year? Figure out where the cheapest gas station is that you already drive by regularly. Start getting all of your gas there.
    • I know that produce is cheapest at the grocery store ½ mile to the east and that meat is cheapest at the grocery store ½ mile to the west. I try to lump my purchases together accordingly. That’s not to say I never pick up a red onion while I’m buying chicken. But the majority of my purchases come from whichever is cheaper now.
  • I am a big basketball fan. I like to go out to watch my team play and I think it is important that I don’t totally abandon all social activities. My first plan of attack on this was to drink fewer drinks during the game. I’m also shopping for the cheapest places to get one drink that I can slowly sip and still enjoy the social atmosphere of watching my boys play while sitting at the bar. (I can’t watch at home- I haven’t paid for cable in 5 years. This, by the way, was the best decision I ever made. Money saved AND time gained!) Also, check out happy hours. I can grab a drink with a friend for $3, have some time out of the house and not feel like I’m seriously impacting my financial state.
  • Food! This is one thing that nearly every person in this country can save money on. It is something every one of us consumes every day. And we can’t stop spending money on it, no matter how much we would like to. But we can:
    • Eat out less. This one explains itself. We all know that eating out costs more than cooking our own meals.
    • Eat out cheaper. For me, the biggest reason I go out to eat is to be social. I am there to enjoy the company but I can easily be suckered into the $14 dollar dinner instead of the $8 burger. But if I am there for the company, the $8 burger is totally sufficient. Maybe even just ordering a side of something if I’m not really all that hungry. I am focusing on the reason I am there. I can enjoy steak at home or the company of eating at a restaurant with friends. I don’t need both.
    • Eat everything I pay for. This is huge. We throw away so much food in this country. Especially those of us that are single. Our grocery stores aren’t set up for us single folk. Very few items are sold in single servings. So we have to commit to eating the same meal three or four days in a row or realize that certain ingredients will go bad before we eat them. I have to eat, and I want to eat good, healthy food. We all love variety but do we need it? Not really. Tonight is the fourth night I have eaten the same salad. It is a great salad. Spinach, heirlooms, red onions, feta and balsamic/olive oil for dressing. Tonight I ran out of spinach. But I am going to snack on the tomatoes until they are gone. The feta will go into a couple of omelets with the red onion- eggs are an excellent, cheap protein. And the eggs are also being brought to work, hard boiled, for lunch. I am really trying not to let any food go bad. (This counts for those restaurant meals too. You don’t have to have a lot left in order to make it a snack later that night. If there is food on your plate, bring it home! Eat it!)

What about you? Have you ever really needed to conserve your money? What corners did you cut?

Brooke Farmer is currently living in Los Angeles. She’s a writer, a blogger, and a freelance hopeful who is looking to create a life where her passions are her priorities. She can be visited atLearning the Language of Brooke Farmer or followed on twitter @brooke_farmer.

Back in the game!

There is ONE BIG thing that has really been a thorn in my side since last spring, my grocery bill.  Last fall, I began playing the grocery game and couponing and was saving money like crazy!  My stockpile helped us get through two months of snow storms with only stopping to pick up milk and bread.  There came a point where sitting at the table with my big fat pregnant belly was uncomfortable.  I didn’t want to cut coupons.  I didn’t want to plan my shopping.  I didn’t even WANT to go shopping.  The only one that suffered was my wallet.  Full price sucks.
Sunday night, I cut out my coupons.  Monday, I reactivated my membership to the Grocery Game.  Tuesday, I came home with $208 worth of groceries at Kroger for only $140.  33% savings.  I’ll take that.
Today, I’m hitting up Food Lion to “steal” some cereal.  (Not a grocerygame.com tip… I don’t subscribe to that store. I just happened to see their weekly flyer)
Even after getting cash back to cover paying my “mommy helper” for the next two Mondays I STILL saved money!!  It’s like I just earned FREE babysitting!
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Yes, you can win with coupons without using that site.  I’m lazy, and it’s convenient.  There is a four week free trial.  The fee is less than the cost of a Sunday paper every week.  If you sign up, please use my email address (memrband3 at gmail ) and help me earn a free week.  If it’s confusing, follow me on twitter and I’ll help you out!  It’s really easy once you do it.

The ever growing to do list.

Hey ya’ll.  I know, this is supposed to be a post of one of my great grandma’s recipes.
Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit depressed lately (there.isaidit.)  Nothing harsh like before.  I can just feel the spiral beneath me ready to suck me in and during a couple of real good cryfest-pittyparties it almost got me.
Hubby has been sent out of town for work almost every week for two months.  He goes again next week.  I have in laws visiting this weekend and my mom visiting next weekend because our oldest daughter turns 9 on Halloween.
My house is a wreck.  My toddler is a whirling dervish. My attitude is quite frankly just bad.
The good news is, my house can be cleaned, I’ve lost 5 lbs and started the couch to 5k, and I have a couple of orders to complete. Hubby will be home all day today and his parents will take the big kids out tomorrow to give me a little break (aka time to work).
We are supposed to go see a car salesman today about a bigger vehicle.  I’m praying hard that we will make the correct choice here.  Every time I ask for guidance I get an answer, conflicting answers.  I know this is because there is an outcome I want and things are being filtered through those desires. Right now I’m feeling like it might be a waste of our time.
I got in some new fabrics AND new PUL so I’m looking forward to getting some more bibs made!  I’m also considering making one of each of my items as a matching set to list together.  Guess I should probably finish the Halloween costumes first huh?

Channeling my inner beer commercial…

Waaaazzzzzuuuuupppp????!!!
(Now, I’m wondering if it was a beer commercial or not…oh well)

Wow, how a week can flip so fast!  God is really testing me this week 🙂
Hubby was sent out of town for three days – last minute thing.  Today was karate, tomorrow is ballet AND we were hoping to get a call about a possible Yukon Denali for sale.  Now IF the call comes in I’ll have to do negotiations over the phone OR take all four kids to the dealership alone.  I keep praying that we’ll make the right decision with this.  It could be a really good thing or a really bad thing and I have a hard time knowing the difference when deep down I WANT it so much.
I’ve been all caught up in my new plan to get healthy. I’d like to say that’s why I haven’t blogged lately but we all know I’m just flighty and easily distracted – SQUIRREL!!
I started the Couch to 5K yesterday and surprisingly survived.  I have run since…well, ever.
In a week I have managed to get my jeans up almost all the way.  My goal was by Thanksgiving so I’m not complaining at all.
I was staying up late tonight, since hubby is gone, and was planning on sewing but now I’m on a caffeine crash.  I want to get a few new things listed in my ArtFire shop since my buddy at Just the 10 of us is hosting a giveaway for MY SHOP!  Check out her review of my Lil Dribbler!
OH!  I keep forgetting!  I did my first guest post 🙂  (Did I tell you this already?)
It’s over on Smockity Frocks blog, it’s a recipe for Potato Bread!
I guess I have yapped enough for one night.  So before my typos get out of hand I’m going to take my lil man and find a place for us to sleep.  The big girls have taken over my bed since Daddy is gone.

Purging, Cleaning, Kids and Yard Sales

Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...
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Sitting on your tuckus for the better part of 6 weeks gives a momma lots of time to look around and see the crap that accumulates in a year.  You see, we moved here last May, and there was a TON of purging that went on during that process as we were going from a 1300 sq ft four bedroom home to a 950 sq ft 3 bedroom split level.  Even with the garage we seem to have less then half the space we had before.
As we wait for the arrival of our fourth child, I am becoming more and more aware of not only the NEW baby stuff coming in but all the other JUNK that has crept in since last year.  Once ‘peanut’ arrives and momma can get up and get going we’re going to do some housecleaning.  This time, however, this mom is not doing it alone.  No more sneaking toys out behind the kids backs.  No more doing all the hard work by myself.  Everyone gets a table….  you keep what you earn.  Hopefully, the girls will earn more then money.  Maybe they’ll earn a little understanding of what it means to let stuff go, appreciate what you have, and working hard for a buck.
My friend Peggy knows what I’m talking about when I start ranting about how unappreciative my kids are with regards to what they HAVE already! (you can check out her thoughts on this subject with her kids HERE)  With a room full of toys, they still whine about being bored.  They have been taught (my us and our parents unfortunately) that each trip to the store will probably end with a new something or another….  even when we tried to break the habit we couldn’t.  We like to shop.  Hubby and I will buy little things for each other throughout the year, rather then waiting for a holiday, and in turn the kids end up getting little things as well.  To us it’s a dollars worth of new water guns on a hot Saturday, to them it’s equivalent to a new Wii game.  They don’t see the difference at all.
So in an attempt to help them learn a few lessons in money and ‘stuff’ I have a game plan for this yard sale.
1. Each of us will have our own table.  What goes on your table is up to you, what your table earns is yours to keep.   I will also  handle the ‘family’ table, that will go towards, well, family stuff…. like a camping trip or our annual park pass.
2. Doodlebug will have her Lemonade/Koolaid/Water stand.  Taderbug will sell popcorn/cookies.
3. With a little luck, us girls will be selling some crafts.  I’m hoping to start up my old etsy store again and I think having a little immediate feedback on my products will help boost my confidence enough to really give it a go.  At a festival last year, a mom selling her wares had a small table at the front of her tent that had crafts in it her son made. Simple things like fun foam wands and crowns for $1 each.  He was so proud of himself, and my girls really enjoyed purchasing wands from him.  I gladly gave over my $2 because he was cute, and it looked like he had worked really hard.  Now to just find something for my girls to make….. any suggestions?
4. HEAT…  our yard gets terribly hot.  I hate a hot yard sale.  I won’t stick around and look.  I think this time I’ll borrow a couple easy ups from my in laws, or use some rope to rig up some tarps for some shade.  Maybe even plug up a fan just to offer a little breeze.
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What tips do you have for yard sales?  Do you enjoy having them or do you tend to just donate your stuff?

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Coupons! An Organizing Challenge for a Thrifty Mom

One of the biggest black holes for money in our household is in our grocery bill.  We totalled up one months worth of receipts (back before there were five of us) and it totalled over $1200 for the month!  (We went a little nuts at Sam’s Club)
Coupons
That was a while ago, and we’ve added more people to the family since then.  Still at $800, which included toiletries and diapers and such, it was more then I wanted to spend.  With the help of The Grocery Game I have managed to bring it down to $600 or less, with much of that still going towards Domino’s and the occasional cheese wonton from China Xing.
The key to the “game” is couponing and using Teri’s List.  The list is easy, the coupons though…wow, they get out of hand fast!
First I tried a basic coupon sorter. You know, the kind you pick up from the dollar store.  Well, when you’re buying or acquiring multiple sets of coupons every Sunday those little sorters don’t last long.
Then I stole my husbands baseball card holders and recycled an old binder and created my GIGANTIC “WATCH OUT KROGER HERE COMES THE CRAZY COUPON LADY” BINDER.  He was never going to put his baseball cards in there anyway.
It’s sorted by aisle, because I always shop at the same two or three stores, with the bulk of my shopping being at Kroger.  So I formatted it after that stores layout and after a while, finding what I needed at other stores was a breeze.
The baseball card slots are perfect for most coupon sizes.  The others can easily be folded to fit and still show what the coupon is for.  This has made it so much easier in the store, even the Mr. is willing to flip through the book and look for the picture of his favorite pickles.
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Then came the holidays.  We actually lived off our stockpile for 6 weeks only buying milk, bread, and ‘I just want that now’ type items.  So I had SIX WEEKS of coupons building up that had not been cut, sorted and filed.  Not only that but I had a binder full of mostly expired coupons.
The pile was getting bigger, and I was less and less inclined to touch it.  So I met my coupons in the middle.
I took out a bunch of envelopes, just plain ones, and labeled them to match the dividers in my binder.
Doodlebug and I cut coupons, Taderbug and Bubbagirl played in the scraps.  We had a SEA of paper on our living room floor.  Then I simple shoved them into the appropriate envelope.
Every day for the next week, I made it my goal to empty ONE envelope into the binder.  By the time my usual shopping day rolled around my binder was back in business!
I’m keeping my envelopes to use as a ‘presorting’ place, so I can get my coupons in order in case they are needed for a quick purchase between normal shopping dates.
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Do you use coupons?  How do you organize them?
(if you decide to try the grocerygame.com , please help a momma out and use me email as a reference.  memrband3 at gmail dot com.  I receive no cash, but will earn a free week of the game if you subscribe AFTER your FREE trial)

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Looking for testers for Budgeting and Checkbook Balancing Spreadsheet

Becky BudgetImage by Hamden Alliance via Flickr

Morning friends!

I’m finishing up a Home Budgeting and Checkbook Balancing Spreadsheet and I’m hoping to find a couple moms willing to test it out for me.  It’s not anything I intend on selling.  Actually I’ll be giving it away right here on the Chaos Blog.  I’m just terrible with details.  I miss typos, or forget to change the color, or my directions don’t make sense to someone.  I also know that everyone’s situation is different (which is why I don’t like any of the budgeting sheets I’ve found online).  I’d like to have a couple honest opinions before I officially post it.

Any takers?  Just leave a comment below or DM me on twitter @TaderDoodles…. I’ll email you a copy of it as soon as it’s done. (Please specify Excel or OpenOffice Calc)

Thanks Ya’ll!

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