Tag Archives: monthly budget

Praise Report: Auto Style

Can I just tell you that I spend entirely too much time worrying about things?!  Just Wednesday I was provided with fresh worrying material when the Toyota mechanic at the dealership informed us that our 2002 Sequoia needed new front and rear brakes, rotors, wiper blades, terminal for the battery, and on and on their list went!  Yes, fresh fodder for this weary mind that has a lot going on at the moment!

Well, the total for the above repairs would have cost $1,400 as I mentioned in a previous post, which nearly gave me heart palpatations just thinking about it in light of other recent expenditures.  We’re a one income family on a fairly tight budget, so huge unforeseen expenses are unwelcome financial intruders!

Our good neighbor across the street happens to be a Toyota certified mechanic and we’re also good friends with them.  I tell you, the Lord planted them there to be a blessing to us and vice versa.  My daughter often pals around with the young mom and her toddler, who is cute as a button!  We called our good neighbor last night to see if he could install the parts if we picked them up.  He said that it was no problem to order the parts and he could do the work today!  Wow.  Not even 24 hours later, he had our SUV up and running!  He picked up the parts this morning and paid with his employee discount too!  The parts cost $440 and he wanted to charge only $110 for labor.  We couldn’t let him do that, so my husband will give him a check for $650.  I know he doesn’t want to accept it and just wanted to be a blessing, which he was!  But, we also believe in treating people fairly and showing our appreciation.  We’ll have to bake him a cake soon.  He loved the last chocolate cake my daughter made for them.

What a tremendous answer to prayer this is!!  A savings of nearly $1,000!  (If the parts only cost $440, that means the dealer’s mark up and labor was $1,000!  Insane!)

God truly is so faithful to provide for our every need.  Why do I spazz out and doubt then?  “Lord, help my unbelief!”  Ah, somehow I think trusting God is a lifelong lesson.  God always provides and it’s not as if I didn’t think he would in this instance.  I just didn’t know how!  The timing couldn’t have been worse, but that’s when a pause is in order and deep breaths.  How I thank God that His favor lasts a lifetime.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!”  He is so good to us, full of mercy, compassion and love!

So, the lesson here is trusting God no matter what the circumstances or the timing are.  And, the bonus lesson is remembering how God provided this time when the next financial challenge comes along!  In the Old Testament, they built a monument in the desert when God performed a miracle.  Sometimes we need to also do that in our spiritual life today.  Write down the praise reports.  We’ve instituted a “Blessings Jar” where we write down all the great things God does for us throughout the year.  And at the end of the year, it’ll be great to reflect back on!  This testimony definitely qualifies a submission in the Blessings Jar!!

How has God provided miraculously for you lately?  Have you praised Him for it?  Built a monument?

 

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Thrift Store Haul

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Today’s thrift store adventure was successful!  This is what I found:

  • Four pairs of men’s shorts for my ever growing son – $3 each
  • One pair of shorts for hubby – $3
  • Casual men’s shirt for my son – $3
  • Two pairs of capris for myself – $3 each
  • 18 Joy Mangano non-slip “Huggable Hangers”- $3.50
  • a pen radio – $3.60
  • a set of VHS tapes – “History of the Gun” (A&E Special)  – $2.10
  • Hardback Book – $2

We mainly went to look for summer clothes for my son, but also to use the 30% off coupon I had.  🙂   All of the shorts were name brand, such as:  American Eagle, Polo, Aeropostle, Arizona, etc.

I absolutely love the huggable hangers (as seen on HSN)!  They are tremendous space savers, in addition to ensuring clothing doesn’t land on the floor.  I’ve bought several sets over the years, so I was thrilled to find the “like new” set of 18 today!  If they were grungy, I wouldn’t have been tempted, but they are in mint condition.

Guess whose idea the pen radio was?  Yes, my 14 yr. old son!  It was brand new in the package and even included batteries and headphones.  He was too thrilled!  What is it about teen age boys and gadgets?  😉

All in all, a good treasure hunt!  That’s the interesting thing about the thrift store.  You never know what you may find.  I’ve shopped at this particular one for a long time and have gotten some amazing deals.

We also dropped off two large bags of donations as well as the bags from my Dad’s recent purging.  So, our trip was dual purpose.  Ironically, we donated two sets of VHS tape series … and we brought home another!  I guess you can’t go too wrong for a couple dollars.  Haha.

Thrift store prices vary from area to area.  As I’ve previously mentioned, we live in a high cost of living area, so these prices are pretty good.  I’ve been to some thrift stores that have a $.99 bin for clothing, which is usually the last step before the trash; but $.99 cent clothing is not to be had around here.  You might be able to find a t-shirt for that price, but that’s about it.  Considering a pair of shorts at Target or a department store runs about $20-$25 a pair, I’m pretty satisfied with paying $3 a pair!

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We Saved $217 Today!

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I got tired of the pens and pencils rolling around in the drawer of this side table, so I went dumpster diving in our recycling box.  No worries, the boxes were clean.  They are both Ziploc boxes that I cut out one side and taped together to form a tray.  Remember my sock drawer overhaul?  Well, this is very similar.  Look out now!  No drawer in my house is safe!  Have tape … will craft!

I did have to trim about a half inch around the perimeter as the box was too tall for this shallow drawer, but that wasn’t difficult.  Then I just taped around it for reinforcement.  As you can see, I separated the pens and pencils, so we can quickly retrieve what we’re looking for.  How is it that so many pens find their way into our home?  I haven’t had to purchase any in forever!

So, I figure the little organizers are $1 at the dollar store, which means I saved $2 today by using supplies I had on hand and a little ingenuity!

You ask where did we save the remaining $215 today?  …

The credit for this savings goes, first of all, to God, who gives us favor at every turn!  Secondly, to my husband, whose middle name is “Master Negotiator”!  Yes, he has two middle names because he’s so special!  Haha.

Well, the story goes like this:  Our garage door decided to give up last Friday night just after my husband left town for a men’s retreat with a group of 60 men from our church.  What an unexpected thing to have it go on the blink!  The torsion spring sprung!  So, we needed to replace both springs, plus a tune up.  We are creatures of habit and are so accustomed to going in and out through the garage, so using the front door for the last several days has been inconvenient to say the least.  I digress…

Sears came out this evening to repair it and initially, the guy quoted the repair at $665!  Ouch!  Talk about unexpected!  I prayed that the Lord would give us favor and help us with this expense.  We’ve been hit with back to back electric bills of $718 amd $596!  We have a budget, but it has been severely tested this year already.  Anyway, thankfully, my husband got home in time to speak with the repairman just as he was quoting me the price.  I don’t know how he does it, but I know we never, ever pay full price for anything!  He’s incredible.  He got the guy down to $450 out the door!  There’s our savings of $215!

Thank you, Lord!  So, yes, we saved $217 today!

My little craft project only saved $2 and, yes, I could have easily gone to the dollar store and purchased the needed supplies.  But, why do that?  I was actually tickled with myself that I came up with this handy, little tray.  It should hold up for quite a while and when it decides to tear, I’m certain we’ll have another box I can craft a replacement out of.

Instead of running to the store every time a need arises, why not ask the question:

  • Is this necessary?
  • What if I don’t buy this?
  • Can I make something similar?
  • Can I borrow from family or a friend? (for temporary use)
  • Can I delay this purchase?
  • If I must purchase, do the homework to ensure the lowest price possible.

Saving $2 seems rather trivial, but, what if I saved $2 every day?  Sometimes it’s the small habits that can snowball into larger ones.  Before you know it, you’re more creative than you ever dreamed was possible and the savings just follow as a natural occurrence.

I like challenge.  I think it’s because I’m stubborn.  So, it’s a competition of sorts.  I am always on the look out for new ways to save money even though we already incorporate quite a few frugal habits.  We make our own laundry detergent, do home hair cuts (aside from mine, but I don’t get it cut that often), cook from scratch, etc., etc.  The extensive list of 60 frugal habits can be found in an earlier post:

https://englishrose2014.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/budget-aving/

What is your favorite frugal habit?

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Target Haul & More Frugal Thoughts

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I popped into Target yesterday afternoon for a few groceries and noticed they had a good bit of items marked down on clearance.  Those nifty little red tags always vie for my attention!  Sometimes they are good deals, sometimes fair and sometimes a definite pass.

The large boxes of Cheerios were not on clearance, but on sale for $2.50 each, which is pretty good.  Three seemed like a good number to me yesterday for some strange reason.  I love Cheerios.  It’s a strange addiction, but fairly harmless, nonetheless.

The clearance price on the Palmolive (set of 2) was $2.48, which makes them $1.24 each!  They had three on the shelf, so I bought all of them.  I felt like a hoarder, but it is an item we use daily.  I just won’t need dish soap until Thanksgiving maybe, but it’s all good.  🙂

Target also had a bunch of laundry detergent on clearance.  If I were in the market for some, I would have picked that up as well.  We make our own laundry detergent primarily.  Toward the end of last year, I broke down and bought a large container of Tide pods, which I love.  We are still working on that, amazingly enough.  I also do my dad’s laundry, so that is doing pretty well.

If I had coupons to stack with those sale items, that would have been even better.  I wanted to share these deals with you to let you know to keep an eye out for those nifty red clearance tags if you shop at Target.  As seasons begin to change, they generally mark more things down, I’ve noticed.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And now a Few Frugal Thoughts …

Just because an item sports a nifty red clearance tag, does not mean it is a good price or that it is imperative that I take it home with me.  You have to know your prices.  And we must ask ourselves whether we really need the item or  not.  I’m finding myself becoming increasingly more selective when making purchases.  It’s not so much because of the price always, but I have this inner debate whether or not there is a purpose to my spending.  Sometimes I think we buy on impulse, out of habit or because of a perceived future need.  ‘Well, maybe one day we may need that item.’  Meanwhile, it collects dust and consumes mental space.

And if you watch t.v., be aware of the effect that commercials may have on you.  I don’t watch t.v., but  my 14 year old son finds himself repeating commercial jingles all the time.  It worked!  The advertising company succeeded in brainwashing my son that he needs the new Swiffer or car insurance or whatever it is!  Say no to these subliminal messages whose only goal is to take your money to line their pockets.  No thanks!

I got a few things from the dollar store yesterday: a gift bag, spray bottle (for my homemade Pledge spray), two toothbrushes and some bobby pins for my daughter.  I tried to find other things to buy, which is silly, isn’t it?  I guess I say that because I was looking for “deals”, but that’s all I found of interest (or need).

I have mixed feelings about the dollar store & here’s why:

  1. It’s a great place to find plastic bins for organizing.
  2. Much of their merchandise hails from China, thus I would not purchase food or candy.  (Remember the toothpaste & dog food scandal?)  And the candy is likely stale even if it’s not imported.  I’ll pass.
  3. The quality isn’t there for most items.  I’d rather spend a little more for something that will last in general.
  4. It is good for one use items.  Because that’s probably as long as they will last anyway.
  5. I can usually find items on clearance for equal or lower prices for better quality and name brand.
  6. Their prices are not always the cheapest, even if I purchased similar items at a regular store at full price.  They sell, for instance, trash bags in small quantities; but if you did the math, it wouldn’t wind up being a good deal when compared to a national or store brand for a large quantity.  Again, you have to know your prices.  (And, I have a pet peeve about garbage bags tearing and strewing coffee grounds all over the kitchen floor…)  🙂

In Summary:

When I travel to an economically depressed area of town, I always notice their gas prices are vastly inflated compared to my local gas station.  This isn’t limited to just one part of town.  There are other economically depressed parts and it’s the exact same scenario repeated.  Why do you think this is?

Isn’t it sad that proprietors prey on the ignorance of their customers?  Yes.  Such is life, however sad.  It’s the same way with the dollar store or many other venues.  You have to know your prices!  It’s that way with car insurance.  I shared this in a previous frugal post (“Budget $aving$” on 2/2/14), but when we switched car insurance companies last fall, we wound up saving $1,500.  I knew we were overpaying!  Insurance is definitely a budget area that necessitates annual review for optimum savings.  Prices fluctuate all the time.  Companies will charge what their consumers are willing to pay!  That’s the bottom line.

Be an informed consumer and you will save $$ every time!

 

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The Credit Card Trap & Hope

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There’s something to that verse that says:

“Owe no man anything, but to love him.”  ~ Romans 13:8

We’ve all been there…credit card debt.  They say the average American owes over $15,000 in consumer debt.  That is an astounding figure, isn’t it?  Ouch.  Double ouch.  I’m happy to say that, in this instance, we are well below average.  We almost have none.

It is entirely too easy and relatively painless to swipe that shiny plastic card when making purchases, isn’t it?  The illusion is that we can buy anything we want.  And, we can…up to our credit limit.  But, eventually that dreaded credit card statement arrives in the mailbox and it’s time to face the music.  If we are spending within our means, it’s no problem.  We merely pay the balance in full.  The problem lies in our inability to make that payment in full and the compounding interest on our outstanding balance.  And, then how do most of us deal with this issue?  We pay the minimum balance due.  But, that’s not all.  We continue to charge.  This is when our spending habits can really spiral out of control.

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul never works!  When we are taking money from future earnings (which is what credit card debt is), we are stealing from ourselves.  We are stealing our time and energy…and joy, my friend.  This is a self defeating habit that must end.

The advertisements for credit card debt seem to be so appealing with cash back bonuses, airline mileage points, hotel points, etc.  They neglect to equally advertise that you are more than paying for these purported advantages in credit card interest and any annual fees that may apply.  They lure you in, and, if you’re not careful, things can quickly get out of control.

I’m no financial advisor, but I’ve had some experience in this arena.  If you find yourself in credit card debt, I’d definitely recommend:

http://www.daveramsey.com/get-started?ictid=hpbanner.ny14&goal=debt

The first step is obviously to stop spending and assess your present situation.  Write down every debt you owe.  Map out a game plan on paper of how you’re going to eat this elephant.  One bite at a time.  It didn’t occur overnight, therefore, it will not magically disappear overnight.  But, you will begin to see progress as you put one foot in front of the other.

A change in the way you view money and debt is vital at this point.  Finances are a direct reflection of our mindset.  If you are weak in the area of finances or need motivation to get back on track, I suggest reading books on the topic from successful people.  Your local library is a great resource for this…and it’s free!  Bonus!

Why do you think the Bible says that we aren’t to owe anyone?  Is it just another verse to keep us from having fun??  A resounding no!  It’s to establish freedom in our lives!  God wants us to be free in every area.  Freedom.  No chains.  No bondage.  Anywhere.

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My husband and I often pray that we will continue to be wise stewards with the resources that God has entrusted us with.  I pray that for you as well, my friend.  When we are financially free and operating in wisdom, we are then able to further God’s kingdom on this earth and accomplish His will for our lives.

Prayer:  “Dear God, I thank you for the resources and talents you have given to me.  I pray that you will give me wisdom to use them.  Show me new ways I can be a better steward of all you’ve entrusted in my care.  Help me to walk in financial freedom every day, I pray.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Other Resources:

http://www.christiancreditcounselors.org/crown/

(This is the ministry that the late Larry Burkett merged with.)

http://www.finishrich.com/

(My husband has been devouring David Bach’s books, especially Start Late, Finish Rich and the one on real estate.  I can’t say I’ve personally read his books, but I thought it was worth throwing it out there as a possible resource worthy of investigating further.)

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60 Frugal Ideas

I have been a stay at home mom for nearly twenty years now, and want to share a few things I have learned along the way.  Surviving and thriving on one income, particularly in today’s challenging economy, encourages one to continually find creative ways to save.

Because I’m an avid list maker, I compiled this list (in no particular order) some time ago that outlines 60 habits our suburban family strives to adhere to.  None of these ideas are new, but, they may prompt additional ideas that you can adopt to save a few $$.  I’d love to hear your money saving tips too!  Life is best lived in community.  “Iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 22:17)

Life is all about choices.  If we do this, it = this outcome.  If I trim my husband’s and son’s hair, then we’ll have more $ to go on a family outing, etc.  It’s all about what’s important to you, how drastically the budget needs to change, etc.

See if there’s any that may be useful for you and your family. Enjoy!

1.)  Use less/Make it last philosophy.

2.)  Have fewer wants.

3.)  Delay purchases or do without.

4.)  Plan ahead for purchases. (prevents impulsive buying at a higher cost usually)

5.)  Maintain organization to prevent duplicate purchases.

6.)  Read Dave Ramsey’s books/watch his DVD’s.  (Financial Peace, Total Money Makeover)

7.)  Consider the cash envelope system.

8.)  Implement a monthly budget.

9.)  Hold regular budget meetings with spouse/Communicate! It’s a blessing to be on the same page, financially! 🙂

10.)               Shop at thrift or consignment stores when possible.

11.)               Mend clothes to make them last.

12.)               Shop at discount grocery stores when feasible.

13.)               Buy store brands.

14.)               Use coupons for things you need.

15.)               Stock up on sales (for things you regularly use)

16.)               Buy quality when it counts & it will last longer

17.)               “Do it Yourself” mentality for most services.

18.)               Negotiate for everything.  (I happen to be married to a “Master Negotiator”! It’s embarrassing sometimes…but I always                          appreciate the $aving$!  Can anyone else identify?)

19.)               Comparison shop for goods/services

20.)               Bundle services (insurance, utilities, etc.)

21.)               Conserve electricity.

22.)               Maintain steady temperature on thermostat.

23.)               Check for drafts around windows/doors.

24.)               Install attic insulation.

25.)               Install water heater blanket.

26.)               Maintain furnace with regular service.

27.)               Cook from scratch.

28.)               Take leftovers for lunch.

29.)               Take snacks/drinks when running errands to avoid the drive thru.

30.)               Combine errands.

31.)               No lattes/coffees to go.  Brew at home & take with you!

32.)               Limit sodas & junk food.

33.)               Make our own iced tea. (I love sweet tea!  Any others out there??) J

34.)               Bake our own snacks vs. pre-packaged sweets.  They taste better too!

35.)               Have a meat-less dinner once a week.

36.)               Eat less.

37.)               Incorporate leftovers into next dinner

38.)               Shop perimeter of grocery store to avoid junk (essentials are always on      perimeter)

39.)               Go shopping with a list & stick to it.

40.)               Don’t take the kids when grocery shopping (if at all possible).

41.)               Clean oven during cooler months (serves double purpose)

42.)               No therapy shopping.

43.)               Wash laundry after 9p.m. (cheaper rates)

44.)               Wash only full loads of laundry & dishes.

45.)               Wash in cold water.

46.)               Make homemade laundry detergent.

47.)               Hang clothes to dry when possible. (less wear & tear on clothes too)

48.)               Take vitamins/supplements.

49.)               Exercise.  Be proactive about our health.

50.)               Practice good dental hygiene to prevent disease & costly procedures.

51.)               Invest in good shoes.

52.)               Communicate via email vs. snail mail when possible.

53.)               Print documents sparingly.

54.)               Pay bills online to save a stamp.

55.)               Stay with friends/family when traveling (if feasible).

56.)               Rent DVD’s via Redbox or purchase movies at thrift store.

57.)               Maximize your local library. (free entertainment!)  Many offer free classes as well.

58.)               Don’t buy “dry clean only” clothing.

59.)               Home haircuts & coloring. (Any other homespun barbers out there?)

60.)               Donate to charity. (tax benefit, plus it’s good for the soul.)  🙂

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