Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
... well, hopefully!
Just go to The National Assosication of Unclaimed Property Administrators website , click on your state (make sure you do it for all the states you've lived in!), and search for any names you've had (ie, married chicks, check your maiden names too!). Frugal Mister had an overpayment of $72 to an insurance company he used many years back and we got that money back!! It was always our money to begin with, but why leave it in limbo when you can have it to pay some debts you may have accrued?
You're Welcome ;)
I just needed to brain purge for a minute. This isn't technically a journal entry because DR didn't instruct me to write about this, but it's been on my mind and I feel I need to get it out there!
I fully recognize that we are in the "Honeymoon Phase" of our journey with Dave. We've been at this for just about 2 weeks, but Frugal Mister and I have both marveled at the sense of clarity and purpose we feel in our lives now that we are living by the plan. I can only hope that some of you guys out there will feel the same sort of peace if you decide to take a journey similar to ours.
Like a marriage, things mellow after a while. You find yourself savoring the sweetness that is love, not the burn that is lust. This is a change to your way of life. It's not always easy. There are fights, compromise, and a learning curve when it comes to melding your life with another person.
This is true, also for the journey to financial peace. There are things I will miss about my "single life", but knowing I am making my family a better unit for it is all the motivation I need! Well, that's not entirely true...
I need YOU. I need to THANK YOU. Through the years, it's been suggested to me that I have a blog with my menu, organizing ideas, frugal tips, etc., but I knew there were so many other great blogs out there that served that purpose! I've gotten many communications from Frugal Fam readers telling me how amazing/cute/inspiring this blog is for them. It's given people ideas to help set their lives on a path they want, rather than life leading them. That, in turn, inspires me to keep going!
So, no pressure... but keep loving this blog. Share it with someone you think might need a push in the right direction. Keep looking back at old posts. And please, always feel you can ask us questions, leave comments, share a tip or two (I might do a "From the Readers" tip post some day! You could be famous!), and give us general feedback and encouragement because it really does help us in our ultimate goal.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It's so much easier to stay on track and within our written budget when I feel organized! Today, I did just that.
I made my frugal idea of DR's Envelope System with small colorful envelopes from The Dollar Tree and used some scrapbook stickers I had on hand to label each envelope. I chose to try to find a frugal method of this rather than Dave's Designer System that I really want. If the envelopes prove too small (which might happen since they are smaller than a dollar bill), I'll use some of my "Blow" money to buy the $19.95 system. I figured I'm just out an extra buck if it doesn't work, and if it does, I've saved $18.95 plus shipping! I put the dollar amount each envelope gets in total each month but have it split according to our Allocated Spending for each paycheck. After all, I can't spend our entire month's paycheck before we even get it! It also serves to make sure I don't blow our whole gas budget before the month is over!
I also made use of a larger sized whiteboard I purchased a few years ago to keep track of my to-do list for school. A couple weeks ago, I made a grid with my dry-erase marker and wrote my menu for the week. I got so annoyed at the grid getting messed up because I'd brush against it. So, this morning, I made the lines solid with electrical tape and the days of the week with scrapbook stickers I had on hand. I "splurged" on some new dry erase markers last night at My Happy Place in 3 different colors. One is for my menu, one is for my schedule and to-do list that week, and one is for Frugal Mister's schedule. The blank space is used for general "to-do" items that I'll need Frugal Mister's help with on his off hours.
What have you done to get yourself organized? Made a Google Calendar for your menus? Huh? Huh? I can't heeeeeear you! ;)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
As I journaled about before, The Princess is very helpful around the house already. I've been worried about starting her on Commissions because I didn't want her habits to turn from "helpful" to "Show Me The Money!". However, I think we have come up with a reasonable list of Commissionable tasks that we don't expect her to do all the time now, but that she is fully capable of doing when asked.
- Put away her folded laundry
- Clean up toys before naptime
- Clean up toys before bedtime
Each of those tasks we will ask her to do for Commission. If she does them, she gets paid. If she doesn't, well, I'll let you figure that one out.
The Recycling task is a different type of task though. Frugal Mister gets the credit for this one! We recycle (Do It! All the cool kids are!) everything we can in our city provided recycleable containers, but thought we could teach a very good lesson with the bottles and cans we typically just give to the city!
The Princess already helps clear the table after dinner, which typically includes Frugal Mister's empty soda can. Rather than just throwing it in with all the other non-refundable recyclables, we will encourage The Princess to separate it into it's own bin. At the end of the month, we will take all the cans to the recycling place behind the local grocery store and her "work" all month long will be paid to her! It's another form of "if you work, you get paid", because if she doesn't put them in the seperate container, she won't get paid! If her task sheet says she only put the cans in for half the month and Mom and Dad did it the rest of the month, she'll get half of the earnings. Simple, right? Well, as simple as working with a 3 year old can be! We'll be doing the first month so she understands how it works and we'll start our Commission Tasks around her birthday next month.
We had our first "Budget Committee Meeting" this weekend, for which both Frugal Mister and I were very excited! I know... it's a sickness.
Frugal Mister journaled below about the different forms DR provides us and how he took to them, which I am THRILLED that he liked them so much. As I've said before, most of what DR teaches us, I've had the idea of before even knowing who DR was! The Allocated Spending is one of those things that I knew I liked the idea of, but the Type A in me needed a written form to tell me what to do, and the Type A in Frugal Mister needed a form that I didn't throw together! DR is an angel in that respect! He filled a need for both of us!
Like Frugal Mister, I am very excited about our monthly Budget Committee Meetings. Dave warned us that our first few would be hard. That we'd have conflict over where we thought money should go. I am incredibly pleased to report that that didn't happen. We just focused, compromised, and listened to each other. It felt as if we really had formed a committee, with equal amounts of input, and I have to say, that feelts great.
Monday, July 27, 2009
We finished up the Cash Flow Planning/Budget lesson this weekend. A wealth of information to be had, without a doubt. The final lesson included some questions for the journal (blog) that I wanted to address here:
What’s the difference between a “monthly cash flow plan” and an “allocated spending plan”? Which one is best suited for you? List the bills in your budget that are due irregularly (bi-monthly, bi-annually, etc.) How have you traditionally prepared for them? Is there a better way? How difficult was it for you to prepare your initial budget? Do you think it will get easier as you move forward?
I was a little put off initially by the allocated spending plan. It seemed cumbersome and not really necessary after completing the monthly cash flow plan (budget). I couldn't have been more incorrect. The CFP is, in my estimation, more of an overview of how much you are budgeting (e.g. $400 for food, $556 for car payment, $2500 for mortgage, etc.). The ASP is where the rubber really meets the road.
The way the ASP works is you start with your income (we get paid bi-monthly) and you allocate what bills get paid when and how much. For example, our mortgage is due early in the month, but our car payment is due at the end. We pay the mortgage with our first paycheck and our car payment with our second. The amazing thing is that DR utilizes a zero-sum budget. That is to say, at the end of your ASP, your total should be zero. With each item, the money budgeted is subtracted from the money earned. Say I earn $1000 in the first pay period and our mortgage was $150. The entry after $150 would now be $850. That $850 is all I have left to allocate my funds to. Every dollar in the budget has a name, an identity, a destination....including BLOW money.
What is BLOW money, you ask? That's $$ you know darn well you're going to waste. DR says if you budget for it, you can still do it. It gives us a sense of freedom. A sense that our money is working for us, not independent of us.
We will continue to use both the CFP and the ASP on a monthly basis!
The bills we see irregularly are things like garbage, water, and property tax. Used to be we'd get the bills and just adjust our weak excuse for a budget. "Honey, let's watch our spending this week!" That was my financial advice to the Missus. It worked...at least well enough to get everything paid on time. Where it failed us is we never saw any kind of light at the end of the tunnel.
Now? We divide those bills into equal parts over the course of a quarter or the year. Water is usually about $90 every three months. Instead of trying to scrape together $90 in a month, we now allocate $30 into a "sinking fund" (savings). So, when the bill comes due, BAM, we've already got it saved for.
Initially preparing the budget wasn't as difficult for us because I've religiously used Quicken for years. I update and balance my accounts numerous times within the month. I always knew how much we had. The difference now is I know exactly where it's all going.
Like I've said in previous posts, the Missus and I have always been great communicators with each other. Having the CFP and the ASP in action and physically writing them down was a pleasure because it only served to show us we can do it. I whole-heartedly believe it will only get easier from here on out!
This is my menu for the last week of July. We've been living by our budget as much as possible for the past 15 days, but have a new one all ready to go for August. I'm excited/invigorated/ slightly nervous about adopting our new budget for a full month, but I'll save all that for another post later this week.
Because we didn't live by a written budget for the first half of the month, I found my grocery budget was GONE before the last week! So, I took stock of what I had in my freezer and *voila*! An entire week of menu without having to buy any ingredients! Seriously. I'll go to the store for milk (we drink a ton) and some romaine lettuce because we eat an insane number of salads, but past that, we're good to go!
I encourage you to take stock of what you have already in the weeks you find your wallet tight, but encourage you even more to have a realistic written budget and menu plan accordingly!
Monday: Steaks and French Fries
Tuesday: Italian Sausage and Pesto Linguine
Wednesday: Chicken Foccacia Sandwiches
Thursday: Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa
Friday: PIZZA NIGHT!!!
Saturday: Bacon and Eggs
Sunday: Lima Bean Soup (we didn't have it last week because of overtime shifts)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Yes, I know, technically it's brass tacks, but this is a financial blog. Make the leap...
The brass item we're facing now is better known as the Budget. I've religiously balanced my checkbook for years. Particularly since marrying the Missus, I've been relied on to make sure we had enough to get from the first of the month to the end. Up until this week's budget lesson, I thought that what I was doing was, in fact, budgeting. I was wrong.
Sure, I was paying the bills and providing, but only insofar as saying, "Missus, stop buying stuff 'till we get paid again." In retrospect, I never really understood a budget...at least a true budget. I was operating under the impression, mistakenly as it turns out, that once written, a budget is in stone. I don't know why I always thought that, but I did. Perhaps I just never gave it enough serious thought. As luck would have it, those days are over.
The questions posed in this week's lesson were "Have you ever lived on a budget before? What is your "gut reaction" to the word "budget"? Does it bring positive or negative images to mind? What has created those associations for you?
I think I more or less answered the first one, but, for the sake of clarity, I'll answer with "sorta". My gut reaction to "budget" is kind of a nervous anxiousness. Not anxious in a negative connotation, but like you look forward to something. Geez, what a Nerd. With regard to images, I think it's mostly positive. I think hammering out a budget and sticking to it will help our money go further and make it work for us instead of simply disappearing and leaving us wondering where in the world it went. I think my associations with the budget have more recently been adapted to a more positive spin, even pre-DR, because of the Communication and Love in our marriage. This is just another obstacle for the Missus and I to master. There is literally nothing we can't do together. Except create matter. That's just physics.
Frugal Mister and I started putting together a Big Girl Room for The Princess long before we decided to get serious about our financial hole. We put a little money into some paint for the room and some furniture (and bought a new bed with one of those 90 Day Same as Cash "deals" that would have Dave Ramsey kicking us in the gut!), but the long list of wants for finishing touches (crown moulding, baseboards, etc.) is going by the wayside for now. Instead, I am looking at some seriously frugal ways to repurpose what we already own!
We bought a 6 drawer dresser off Craigslist a few months back, and I painted the white frame a slightly darker shade of blue than the light blue of the walls, leaving the drawers white so they'd really *pop*. I shopped around for some glass knobs to replace the god awful red plastic ones that came on the dresser (it reminds me of 6 little clown noses. Not exactly the look I'm going for in her Shabby Chic Big Girl Room!). The only ones that appealed to me were from Anthropologie, but at $8 each, I couldn't pull the trigger. It would have totally defeated the purpose of buying the dresser on craigslist and saving a few bucks!
So, I look at those hideous red knobs day in and day out. Until a little godsend came along in the form of One Pretty Thing. On OPT, a link was posted to Ready For Anything who posted directions for fabric covered knobs! I LOVE the look of them and will be trying my hand at this little Frugal Find in the coming days! She used wooden knobs, but since I have them and don't care about them, I'm going to first try to cover the plastic knobs and see how the fare. I'll be sure to take pictures, so stay tuned!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
What do you think of Dave’s “commission” structure for kids? Is this something you could easily implement in your home?
There is a HUGE difference between "Commission" and "Allowance"! In Dave's lesson "Kids and Money", he states that, to him, "allowance" sounds like "welfare"; that you give allowances to your kids because they are unable to do anything of value, so you are going to make allowances for them. Commission, on the other hand, means if you work, you get paid, if you don't work, you don't get paid. BRILLIANT!!!
Enter the good ol' fashioned Chore Chart! Each "chore" is worth X amount (Dave paid $1 per chore. I'm inclined to think we'll be paying a little less to start), and as the chores are completed, a check mark is placed in the box next to it. At the end of the week, you sit down with your child and pay them their commission for each chore done.
I've been working since I was 11 when I started babysitting. When I was 14, I got my first "real" job, dusting shelves at a collectibles store (you know, engraved pewter stuff and embroidered blankets). At 15, I worked at Baskin-Robbins. At 18, I was a receptionist in a hair salon. At 19, I waited tables. At 22, I nannied. I KNOW the more you work, the more money you get, and when you don't show up, you don't get paid!
I wish, after so many years of working and earning, I had known the fiscally responsible route to take with my money rather than piddling it away on candy, makeup, and when I got older, adult beverages and pedicures! I had nothing to show for my aching feet (hence the pedicures) but a pretty good social life and a bucket-o-debt.
That stops now. The Princess is almost 3 and will be learning about working for your money, saving for special purchases, and giving a portion of her earnings. I think we'll be getting Dave's Financial Peace Jr. Kit for The Princess' birthday. She already enjoys putting away her laundry, helping clear the table at dinnertime, and cleaning up her room (it's a sickness, really. She is her mother's child!), so why not show her that her hard work and helpfulness can benefit her and help her reach goals?
I do like that Dave reserves some tasks for "just 'cuz you're a part of the family". Meaning, not EVERYTHING they do around the house earns them commission. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to pay The Princess every time I want her to pick up her shoes from the middle of the kitchen, but her help in picking up her toys before she goes to bed is something that is commission worthy.
Frugal Mister and I haven't worked out the Commission List for The Princess yet, but I am leaning towards not giving commission for things that are health/hygiene related (brushing teeth, taking showers, etc.). I am sure this, along with everything in this program, will be a learning experience for us all and take some fine tuning.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Like Frugal Missus has explained, journaling is an important part of FPU, so I won't belabor the point here. Suffice it to say, we're going to try and answer some of the questions posed to us at the end of each lesson we complete.
The one I'm going to tackle today is:
In this session, Dave introduced the notion of actually paying cash for major purchases. This is something we’ll talk about A LOT as we work through FPU. As we get started, what are your initial reactions to the idea of never borrowing money again? Do you think this is too extreme?
This lesson covered saving for emergencies and purchases. We've made it through Baby Step 1: Our $1000 Emergency Fund and now we're moving toward Baby Step 2: Paying off Debt. The concept of never borrowing money again is just that...a concept.
I find it difficult to wrap my brain around it. Since college, I've become pre-conditioned to borrow money. Hell, I borrowed money to go to college (all five of them, thank you very much). So, the idea of no longer enslaving myself to the Bank of Gimme is completely alien to me. I've been able to get some very nice things in the past 20 years. The majority of them have been paid off, but at what cost? I'll guarantee you I ended up paying far more than they were worth at the end of my payments. It's an irritating thought, but true nonetheless.
The idea of never borrowing again is at once exciting and fear-instilling. Lord knows, I am an adrenaline junkie...perhaps this can be a high of one kind or another. I don't think the idea is too extreme at all. I think this country is getting it's backside handed to itself because we've spent the last fifty years or so borrowing ourselves into the poor house.
Perhaps I'm wrong, though. Perhaps the idea is just extreme enough. Extreme enough to motivate Frugal Missus and I to right our own ship. Extreme enough to encourage us to go against where a lifetime of instruction and habit have gotten us.
So, yeah, on second thought, I absolutely think it's an extreme idea. Just extreme enough to work.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I'm not the worlds greatest cook, by any stretch, but I do take pride in my ability to menu plan, execute a new recipe, bargain shop, and make a semi-decent meal out of what I have in the house on the days when the money just isn't there. However, just because I have the ability doesn't mean I've always put it in to practice! During our "flush months", when Frugal Mister was able to work mass amounts of overtime and it showed in his paycheck, I would go crazy with our meals. I'd buy expensive cuts of meat, buy extra veggies and fruits because they were just calling my name, or "stock up" on toiletries at my happy place, Target.
What I'd end up with was meat that would sit in the freezer for far too long because we ended up not being able to afford to buy all the ingredients to put that nice cut to good use, fruits that got mushy, veggies that spoiled, and 3 bottles of partially used conditioner!
No more. Because of that super strict written budget, our months will look frightening similar from one to the next! Any "extra" money Frugal Mister's paycheck brings us goes directly to paying off debt and watching our snowball gain momentum! Hence, the need for a written menu plan.
There are many benefits to menu planning!
- The food you buy, you actually USE!
- You can plan healthy and well rounded meals by seeing what you've eaten in the past week.
- You save yourself from those irritating last minute dashes to the store in the pre-dinner hour to get ingredients.
- Gone is the stress that hits you at 4pm when you wonder what's for dinner!
- It's really REALLY easy. Really.
In the past, I'd plan out the month with exact meals for each day of the week. I know now that it's unrealistic to expect me to know exactly what the Frugal Family will feel like eating/how many leftovers we'll have in the fridge/if we have plans with family or friends/etc. In other words, I was planning meals that most often still went unused! I'm not sure I know of anyone that can say for certain how an entire month will pan out for their mealtimes!
So, I came up with a solution. First, I wrote out Frugal Family's favorite meals (23 so far, but I know I am missing some) and put them into categories.
- BBQ (Frugal Mister's nights to cook!)
- Once-a-Month Cooking (OAMC)
- Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)
- Special Meals (the ones that cost a bit more but are huge family faves)
I then took those categories to Google Calendar and made a new calendar with just the categories. I like that this method gives me flexibility in the recipes I choose for each week, but I don't have to over think what should be on the menu for the week! I just pick from the category on the calendar and TA-DA! A menu!
We very rarely eat out and I am doing the vast majority of the cooking, which means I am one tired Missus by the end of the day. So, I included on the Master Menu BBQ nights when Frugal Mister can do one of his tried and true dishes or find a fun new recipe for us to try! Either way, I get a break from the cooking!
In our written budget, we have $40 for dinners out per month. However, I am going to relish the fact that Frugal mister is making a meal a week and am going to abide by only going to Papa Murphy's Take n' Bake every 3 weeks for our dinner out. Also, I'll only go if we have a coupon. We can get a large pizza for $9.99 (plus tax) which is enough for dinner and lunch the next day! I get excited just thinking about my first no-cooking night :)
So, without further ado, I give you Menu Monday. I will be posting my menu for the week, to help keep me honest and to hopefully help you all out in your quest to reap the benefits of Menu Planning! I can't promise the menus will be anything fancy, but they do the trick and with the right amount of dollars spent (hopefully).
Monday: Beer Can Chicken, Green Salad, Corn on the Cob
Tuesday: Pasta Salad w/ leftover chicken from Monday's meal
Wednesday: Salsa Chicken, Cold Corn Salsa
Thursday: Leftovers (Frugal Mister is working overtime)
Friday: Chinese Chicken Salads, Trader Joes Chicken Fried Rice
Saturday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, French Fries
Sunday: Swiss Inches (Enchiladas), Mexican Rice
Friday, July 17, 2009
A group of friends are going out for dinner and drinks tonight. Sounds great, right? Not as great when your monthly budget doesn't have room for it! Does that mean I have to lose all connections with the outside world and become a hermit while we pay off our debt? NO!!
Girls Night Out (GNO) is scheduled to start at 7pm and because we are early eaters (I've been known to have dinner on the table at 5pm if not before!!), I can eat my planned dinner at our normal time and still be able to enjoy some social time while snacking on the free chips and salsa at the Mexi restaurant! It's a last minute date, so I'll be drinking water, but had I been able to budget for it, I could have splurged on a non-alcoholic fruity drink (lord knows the N/A drinks are cheaper!).
In any case, I look forward to escaping the house for some quality time with some of my favorite people!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Frugal Family leads a pretty great life. We live in a nice home, have 2 nice cars, a trailer for vacations, 2 college degrees, and a myriad of toys to keep us entertained (children included!). But, at the end of the day, Frugal Mister is tired from working necessary overtime to keep us provided for (of which he does an amazing job). The last thing I want is for him to burn out on a job he is made for and carries a passion for.
With all the things we've accumulated in our lifetimes, also comes debt. I hate debt. I hate debt so much it makes my palms sweat and my heart rate go up just thinking of paying bills. I'm not sure there has ever, in my life, been a time that money, or lack thereof, hasn't been a source of stress for me. That's not to say Frugal Mister isn't doing his "duty", if you will, and keeping bills paid and food coming. Every single month, we do it. Some months are scarier than others, but we've never not made a house payment/utilities payment/car payment/etc. There have been some months that we both just shake our heads in disbelief that, on top of Frugal Mister's providing and my household budgeting, God has always provided for us. Always.
Though we credit God for helping us through some rough times and for generally keeping an eye on us in good, I have always felt like we should be able to give back more! However, it's just not possible with the accumulation of debt that we have (for all the aforementioned "things"). I would love to be able to go to church and put more than $1 in the offering plate. In my life, I've gotten more out of church than I have out of school! It's only right to help when we can!
So, through some major talks and consideration, The Frugal Family is embarking on a new journey. Though we could keep living paycheck to paycheck, paying those bills on time, everything status quo, we want more. We want more for our children. We want to be that change we want to see in the world, and that starts in our home, with our kids.
We've enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. We, as a family, are sticking by a very strict written budget, to be able to conquer the 7 Baby Steps (we're on Step 2!). That means, if we are invited out for something, we might have to decline based on REAL funds, not on our desire to hang out with you! That means, if we "do dinner" at our house, it'll have to fit in our regular weekly budget. If we "do coffee", it'll have to come out of our "dining out" money (which also includes Frugal Mister's lunches while at work). If we have to decline, it's not because we don't love you! Honest!!
Most of Dave's suggestions are ones I have thought of independently but having them written down, in those 7 Steps, makes it seem ok to try to do. By sticking through with our Debt Snowball, we are on track to pay off ALL of our debt (except for the house) in around 4 years. Cars, trailer, credit cards, student loans... ALL of it. Freedom. Bliss.
I know it's not going to be an easy journey some days. Some days, I simply don't want to cook. I want to have my feet pampered. I want to go laze around on white sandy beaches with some fruit concoction. But for now, I'll have to make peace with a meal BBQed by my amazing husband, digging in to my Body Shop products for my tootsies, and The Princess' sandbox.
Come to think of it, that doesn't sound too shabby!