Friday, December 30, 2011

Did I mention I'm a die hard Iowa Hawkeye fan?

I was home sick today, but still had to watch email closely as today was our deadline day (normally it is Monday, but we are closed to celebrate New Year's Day on Monday), so I had to forward ads back and forth between our designers and customers this morning. This afternoon I rested, I really hope I get rid of this crud soon!

I didn't get anything accomplished budget or organizing-wise and now it is 8:20 pm and I am anxiously awaiting 9:00 pm to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl. Not much comes between me and the TV if the Hawks are playing. One of my reasons to get debt payed off and be able to save some money is so we can finally buy season tickets to the Hawkeye football games. It's something. My entire family would enjoy and something I've always wanted to do. But first, we need to be debt free!

I'll post something more interesting tomorrow, for now, it's time for a rum and coke and to cheer on the Hawks!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

January grocery budget

I've spent some time today checking my pantry inventory and freezer inventory. We purchased another freezer earlier this week. We had a large upright freezer and it was packed so full I couldn't tell what we did and didn't have. We bought a 14 cu. ft chest freezer, so we moved all the meat products into it. All the other frozen items are now nicely organized in the upright. I Love having two freezers! I had passed up a bunch of great deals on frozen products because I didn't have space. Now I do!

I went through the weekly sale flyer and made a list of items we needed (milk, bread) and what was a great deal on sale. This weeks groceries will finish off my December grocery money. My grocery budget for January is $100 per week, beginning next Friday. This should be plenty considering the pantry is well stocked and we have plenty of meat. I could probably spend less, and will, but want to make sure if there are some great deals, I can stock up. Any money I have left at the end of the month will go towards additional debt repayment.

As a side note, my months start a bit after the beginning of the calendar month. I get paid every other Friday. The first paycheck is my base pay, plus commission from the previous month. The second check is my base pay. The check with commission is variable due to fluctuations in my sales. Some months are busier than others. Once I know how much that larger check is, I can realistically set my total budget, including how much I am going to save and how much I am going to snowflake on debt.

Since I am participating in the no spend challenge, I am only spending money on food and gas, in addition to the other monthly bills (utilities, debt repayment, savings). I am trying to keep the grocery budget as low as possible so I can snowflake as much as possible! I'm also going to only drive when necessary and try to combine errands to save on gas. I'm going to spend only $60 per week on gas.

My next post will detail my other monthly bills and my estimated income. Next Friday I will be able to finalize the January budget.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Spend January!

I've decided to join up with Carla at My half-dozen daily
And her No Spend Challenge for January. I'll post my progress!

Where I save

I thought I would post where I do the majority of my grocery shopping. This may surprise some, but the most of the best deals I get are at our local, small town grocery store. We live about 9 miles away and it is in a town with a population of 2535 residents. It is also the town where I work. This community is very lucky to have a family owned (nearly 50 years!) grocery store. They are part of the Affiliated Foods Network, so they do have some buying power. Each week on Wednesday a new sales flyer comes out. I go through the flyer and list the items that are a great deal. I then check my pantry and decide who much of the items to buy. I try to buy at least three months worth when it's on sale. For example, recently glass jars of spaghetti sauce were on sale for $0.99 each. I bought 16 jars. When we make spaghetti, we use two jars of sauce and one jar of the tomatoes we can each summer, along with 1.5 lbs. Of hamburger, a can of mushrooms and some seasonings. I also use the spaghetti sauce in some casseroles and lasagna.

Most of our groceries are bought at this store and, like I said, the community is very lucky to have this store. They employ a large number of local residents and students, offer a large selection, great sales and wonderful customer service.

One of the other place I occasionally shop is Aldis. The closest is about 40 miles away, so I don't go there frequently. Plus, the last time I was there, the prices were the same or only marginally better, so I doubt I will go there very much in the future.

About 30 minutes away we have a large Amish and Mennonite community. There is a number of Amish stores that have great prices, wonderful produce, bulk herbs, spices and food items and unique items. They also have a discount grocery outlet that buys scratch and dent, close to expire date, and slow sellers from major grocery chains such as Meijer. We have been trying to go here about every 60 days. One of the great buys we found here was 124 assorted juice boxes in a big box. They were one brand, but many different flavors. The total cost was $12.50 for all. My son takes his lunch every day and takes one juice box per day. We don't drink them otherwise because they are more expensive than mixing our own juice, but very handy for lunches. Normally we pay about $0.20 per juice box, so this was an awesome buy! The reason they were selling them like this was because stores get some containers that have one juice box leaking, they remove the others and tris out the leaking one. This outlet buys the loose boxes, repacks them in large boxes of mixed flavors. A few were sticky, but that's an easy fix. Great deal!

As for meat, I purchase pork when it is on sale at our local grocery store. We raise two calves each year. We keep about 3/4 of one for our own freezer and sell the other 1 1/4 beef to friends and family at market price. They pay their own processing fees and pay us for the beef. We usually make enough from the sale of the 1 1/4 to pay the processing and at least part of the cost of raising them for our portion. So, for only about $100 per year, we have all the beef we need including hamburger, roasts and steaks. And it is wonderful quality and we don't use implants or excessive antibiotics.

We have chickens for eggs, plus I raise about 20-30 chickens for our freezer each spring. Is year I may raise closer to 50 because I have some friends and family that want to buy some. We have part of them left whole and part cut up. The processing facility is about 10 miles away, so we are really lucky! The chickens cost us about the same as the cost in the store, but the quality is so much better.

I purchase paper products,household cleaners, personal items at Target. I try to use as many coupons as possible and match them with sales. We have a Costco opening next summer, so I will check out their prices at that time.

I've learned that the most important part of grocery shopping is planning and buying what is on sale. After stocking up for a few months, I don't buy what we are going to eat that week, I buy what is on sale and build our menus from what is in the pantry.

Ready to start a new year!

I've spent the last few months reading and following frugal lifestyle and money saving blogs and decided it was time to start my own. Here are some things I have learned:

I have changed the way I grocery shop over the past few months and am really starting to see the benefits of shopping from the sales flyer, stocking up when something is on sale and sticking to a budget. My stockpile is growing and it is so convenient to make meals based on what I have on hand.

I have read a lot about Dave Ramsey's philosophy of living debt free and am ready to pay off our debt by going gazelle intense. I will outline our debt in the next post.

I have been using the envelope system and have a budget in place. So far, it is working great and helps me keep my spending under control.

Now, a little about me. My name is Cathy, I am 41 years old and live in Iowa. 7 years ago I purchased the home and 10 acres that I grew up on. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I have been married to my husband Todd for 5 years. I have a 14 year old daughter from a previous marriage, a 13 year old step-daughter and a 6 year old son with my husband. Overall, we have a great life! We also have three dogs, three house cats, three horses, one donkey, two calves,chickens, one duck and some farm cats. Needless to say, we stay busy. I work in advertising sales full time and my husband has a good full time job that requires him to work away from home about 6-8 weeks a year and lots of overtime in the fall.

Hopefully this blog will help me keep on track with my goals and possibly help some others succeed!