Living Smarter

As I’ve been reading other posts out there on the inter-web, I’ve noticed more and more posts about living a more frugal lifestyle. I’m feeling really convicted about this lately, because I have been struggling with our budget. Some of this is because our food costs have been spiraling out of control again, and some is because we’ve had to slow down a little on our debt reduction and it is so disappointing to me.

So I think it is time to work a little harder at living smarter.

One thing is that my husband and I need to be much more disciplined in packing our breakfast and lunches. May was a BAD month (so bad, I still haven’t written about it), and while June has been better, we are still pushing beyond our limits. One of the things that has been a tough balance is that I have been on Weight Watchers since early January (it works – I’ve lost over 25 pounds in 6 months). This means that we really can’t use most coupons (because they are for processed foods), and that we need to stay on top of our fresh produce and use it before it goes bad. This also means more work.

GULP.

A full-time job, grad-school at night, taking care of the house, trying to work out regularly and making sure to connect with our friends…who has time for more work?

Turns out we need to make the time – our finances require it.

So what are we going to do?

  • Price Book – We’ve used a calendar and food-plan before and we try to limit our trips to the grocery store/Costco to 1x/week. But I think we need to be even more specific when we go to the store and we NEED to get our price book together. What is a “Price Book,” you ask? It is a book (paper or electronic) that keeps track of the prices of things that you normally buy and tracks it at the 3-4 places that you shop. That way, when you go in, you generally know what you are going to spend, so there isn’t a surprise at the check-out.
  • Pre-pack – Ugh. I really hate this, but I’m going to do it anyway. We’re going to have to pre-pack our breakfasts and lunches before we go to bed. Well, breakfast for me – hubby can eat at home, but I have to wait at least an hour after I take a pill in the morning, so that means that I eat at work. But this will mean that we have insured ourselves against having to dine-out because of poor planning.
  • Balance – Ugh. This seems like more work, too, but you know what…oh, well. Time to be more disciplined. 18 months ago, we were really, really on top of our budget every single day. Why? Because I balanced the checkbook EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Time to go back to it. It will keep us more accountable and make sure that our purchasing decisions are informed and *not* emotional.

Well, there you go. This is my plan to start working some of this out.

Are there any other folks out there on Weight Watchers who have found some tips on cutting costs while staying on plan?

Myth? Myth? Yeth?

Oh, Muppet Movie, even today you impact my life with your funny and corny jokes.

I thought I’d share a mainstreet.com article today – 10 Common Credit Myths.

A few that were interesting…

Myth #3: Carrying a balance is good.

It’s a common misconception that carrying a balance on a credit card is a good thing because it helps you build your balance faster, especially when you’re first establishing credit.

But that’s simply not true, says John Ulzheimer, a consumer credit expert at Credit.com. Actually using your credit cards is good for your credit score, but carrying a balance just means you’ll have to pay interest on your balance.

Myth #9: Closing accounts increases your credit score.

Among credit card holders, 18% believe that closing credit card accounts will improve their credit score and 27% say it won’t affect their score at all, according to a survey from Harris Interactive and Lending Club.

This simply isn’t true, credit experts say. The amount of credit you have compared with the amount of credit you’re using plays a large part in determining your score. To put it simply, it’s best to have more credit available than what you’re actually using.

Did you see any information in the article was that was interesting to you?

Time to get the house in order

Okay, this isn’t the post about the budget issues for May (that I’m dreading), but it is a declaration of some lifestyle changes that need to happen in our lives. I mean my life, but if it what I write below applies to you, then let’s do this together!

  1. Time to de-clutter – what does that have to do with debt, you say? Take a look at this article about How Clutter is Linked to Debt and see if you can’t see some valid points in there.  My thought is that clutter keeps us from really being able to enjoy what we have, so we don’t treasure our time at home and the things we already have, and instead, start to look at what we think we need and want. I want to be more appreciative and grateful for what I do have, so I need to start using and enjoying it
  2. No more cafeteria coffee – the free coffee that we have at work is horrid. No, seriously. You could use it to clean toilets. So everyday, I go down to our cafeteria and purchase a $1.69 cup of coffee. What the heck is wrong with me? Yes, I get that it isn’t a $4 cappuccino. It doesn’t matter. I could drink water, or use a french press to make my own coffee at my desk.  If I buy a $7 bag of coffee each month, I should save about $33/month.
  3. Must clean out the cupboards – I am blessed with a lovely, large kitchen that is far bigger than one finds in a standard apartment. But we are not using it to its maximum potential because our pantry is just not organized enough. This is an easy fix, but I just need to take the time to do it.
  4. What is hubby’s credit score anyway – due to sheer laziness, I have only been looking at my own credit score. This just won’t do anymore. We need to check his out and make sure that we are doing all we can to raise both of ours.
  5. Yarn Sale! – Okay, it is early to announce it, but I have approximately $1,000 worth of yarn in apartment. It is a problem, it totally admit it. If you aren’t a knitter/crocheter, you may not know that it is totally normal. But we are trying to make more space AND re-focus my creative energies. This looming wall (no, seriously, it is a WALL) of yarn is too intimidating and needs to be pared down. So, I am going to log everything on Ravelry.com and then sell everything that isn’t already dedicated to a project. I anticipate I will be able to reduce my yarn levels by 65% and hopefully make a nice little sum for an important fund we have set up.

I think that 5 steps is enough for me right now – I’ve learned that more than that is too much for this busy gal and will just become something that haunts me instead of inspiring me.

And we all want to be inspired, right?

What is on YOUR house-cleaning list?

June 2010 :: Goals

Our goal for June is to pay $1,355 toward our debt. Taking into account the interest that will be charged ($179) , the net will be $1,176.

So our totals at the end of June should be:

Credit Card Debt    ::  $ 26,473.63
Taxes Owed              ::  $          00.00
Personal Loans        ::  $          00.00

Total Debt*              ::  $ 26,473.63

*does not include school loans

And now for the Savings Goals – at the end of June, we aim to have:

Regular Savings  :: $   190
Family Leave       :: $ 1146
Emergency           :: $  669

Total Savings      :: $ 2,005

According to MSN Money, our debt-free date is :: November 24, 2011

May 2010 :: Report

Debt Reduction

Our goals for May were:

Credit Card Debt    ::  $ 27,639.05
Taxes Owed              ::  $          00.00
Personal Loans        ::  $          00.00

Total Debt*              ::  $ 27,639.05

And here is where we were after 5.31.2010:

Credit Card Debt    ::  $27,649.63
Taxes Owed           ::   $       00.00
Personal Loans      ::   $       00.00

Total Debt*             :: $27,649.63

*does not include school loans

I had mis-projected some of the interest fees, but we were really in line this month which was great!

Budget

I’m going to have to do a separate post on this. I should have determined that sooner so that I could get numbers out to my dear readers beforehand (sorry about that).

Savings

Savings Goals for May:

Regular Savings  :: $    110
Family Leave       :: $   1017
Emergency           :: $     651

Total Savings      :: $   1,778

Where we landed at the end of May:

Regular Savings  :: $   176
Family Leave       :: $  657
Emergency           :: $  624

Total Savings      :: $ 1,457

We opted out of some of our savings deposits this month – I’ll have to do add that to the budget post, since the two are related.