Monday, August 31, 2009

Frugal Family Finds a Fourth!

Wondering where we've been and where Menu Monday is?? We've been busing welcoming our Frugal Fourth in to the fold! You can be sure I'll have many posts about raising a child with frugal tactics, but for now, we're just enjoying each other's company. We haven't forgotten about you or our Frugal Journey!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Frugal Missus Is Soooo NOT Extreme!

I was doing my regularly scheduled Frugal Blog Searching (ok, so it's not scheduled, per se, but I definitely do it on a regular basis to find new ideas!), and came across some Extreme Frugal Practices. I can't help but wonder, as the author ponders as well, when is it "frugal" and when is it just plain CHEAP?!?

You be the judge!

Writing on post it notes in pencil, so you can reuse them.

Rinsing and reusing paper towels.

Fighting over the pinata candy at a child's birthday party so you can save it and give it out for Halloween treats.

Giving up your home to live in an RV, truck or car full time.

Cut up cereal boxes and use them for post cards.

Pouring pasta water down the toilet or in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used in a flush.

Bring your own cheese when eating hamburgers out so you won't be charged for a cheeseburger.

Go out to eat with friends and ask for their leftovers instead of ordering a meal for yourself. Using an old bra to grow tomatoes in the cups.

Spending hours to separate your two-ply toilet paper into two separate rolls when people will probably just grab more paper to start with.

Shutting off the water when people visit do they will be forced to use the bathroom multiple times and not waste a flush (Yes, I know of someone who did this).

Set up a cot in your office to save on housing.

Empty saved ketchup packets from fast food joints into a ketchup bottle.

Going through random garbage bags for the soda caps to collect for their rewards programs.

(For the record, I have never done any of the above mentioned things, nor have they ever even crossed my mind, and I KNOW I boarderline on "cheap" at times.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Frugal Missus Forgets Her Cash

We've started using the Envelope System to keep our spending in check. It's working for us, so far, I think! I have done all my grocery spending for the first 2 weeks and still have $19 left over! Yay me! My gas money was gone much faster than either Frugal Mister or myself had anticipated so we'll be doing some tweeking on that since Frugal Mister has almost half of his money left!

I've also found those small little envelopes I had been using were difficult to manage and left me feeling very scatter-brained, especially when I was trying to keep track of how much I was spending and what coupons I was trying to use. I stopped by My Happy Place and picked up a 13 pocket check-filing plastic envelope thing at the Dollar Spot. I have my sections labeled as I would my different envelopes, a small notebook in the front to keep track of what/when I spend, and extra pockets for receipts that need to be entered into my pricebook or coupons that need to be filed.

One benefit (among many) of using the envelope system is that if you forget your envelope, you can't spend. Period. I went out for a walk with a friend of mine today and headed home around lunch time. I knew I had leftovers in the fridge but a quickie burger sounded soooo good! (Hey, cut a Frugal Gal some slack! I'm almost 39 weeks pregnant!) However, having only anticipated a walk, I left my envelopes back at home. Sure, it's only a couple of dollars, but I didn't spend it. Now I have a couple dollars to spend elsewhere, save, or put towards the debt snowball at the end of the month.

For those of you wondering, Frugal Mister and I will sit down at the end of the month with the "extra" money in our envelopes and the money we've gotten from selling stuff on Craigslist and our garage sale we had a couple weeks ago, and shoot that off to our debt snowball. Just because we HAVE the money in the envelopes doesn't mean we have to spend it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

For Laughs

Menu Monday

Monday: BBQ Chicken Skewers, Potato Salad, and Corn
Tuesday: Spinach and Cheese Manicotti and Green Salad
Wednesday: Turkey Tacos
Thursday: Leftovers (Frugal Mister is working OT)
Friday: Rootbeer Pulled Pork Sandwiches (A new recipe! We'll see how it goes!), French Fries and Green Salad
Saturday: Corned Beef and Cabbage (One of Frugal Mister's favorites. It's not a cheap meal, but he deserves the Thank You after working 55-65 hours of OT the past 2 months).
Sunday: Fish Tacos

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Frugal Missus Finds a Deal!

I've known about for quite some time, but for whatever reason, didn't really take it seriously. I often found jaded customers skewing the reviews with a negative one, or overly complimentary reviews, which of course, could only have been posted by the owners themselves (who's jaded now??). Well, I'm changing my tune!

I've been searching for a great, local, CHEAP haircut place for myself f-o-r-e-v-e-r! I go through spurts of growing my hair out (read: not cutting it for far too long and having it be nasty and dried out by the time I just get fed up and chop it to my chin) because most decent hairstylists I've found charge $45-$60! I found a great one, but it was over an hour away from my house! BLECH! Who wants to drive that far for a haircut? Not me! With gas, a bridge toll, a lunch out, cost of the cut, and tip, we were looking at about $75. Yikes.


I decided to look up a salon in my area with the price range set at "$". I found a salon about 4 miles from my house that had gotten 4.5 stars from 4 different reviewers! While normally, I'd walk by this place and think "chop shop" (aka stylists fresh out of beauty school with little extra training no matter how many Vidal Sassoon and Paul Mitchell posters they put on the wall of the salon), I thought the reviews had to be somewhat legit. Besides, I just wanted a trim AND it's only hair; it'll grow back! Upon further research (a visit to the salon's website), I found that haircuts started at $11!

Furthermore, I've been doing the "no poo method" on my hair since May (don't judge till you've tried it. My curls have never looked better! And no... I don't stink) and haven't gotten a cut since I started going "no poo" (man, I hate that term), and knew I didn't want some stylist scrubbing at my head, undoing months of adjustment to the method! So, this morning, I took a shower, threw my hair back in a ponytail, and went to the salon with a wet head. It was perfect for me! And I didn't get any weird looks from the stylist. Bonus!

It was also very comforting to hear both stylists greet everyone (except me since I was a newcomer) by name. Repeat customers. Always a good sign! After the cut, my stylist said "See you after the baby!!" Already knowing I'd be back, I told her I would indeed!

While it's fun to walk out of a salon all done up, in reality, most people don't have a prayer of styling their hair to look like it does when they leave the salon. By not having the washing or the styling as a part of the price, my haircut came to a WHOPPING $13!

WHAT?!?! You mean I can get my hair cut on a regular basis instead of every 6 months?? You mean I don't have to feel guilty about not getting The Princesses hair cut because I need to pay $50 for MY trim (Trim = less than 1")?? What a new fangled concept!

In any case, is my new friend for finding great deals with great vendors. I highly suggest you take a chance on a couple of searches! Just make sure you do two things: 1) come back here to tell me about the awesome luck you had, and 2) write your own Yelp review about the place. Pay it forward...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frugal Missus Makes Cents

I did a big ol' shopping trip at Costco this week, in preparation for our Frugal Fourth, and finally decided to make a Price Book of my purchases to help me figure out where the best prices were for the things I buy on a regular basis.

What's a Price Book you ask? Well, it's a list of grocery items and the best price you've paid for them! With this record, you can tell where your commonly purchased items are typically the best priced as well as if stores are buffering their sale prices (marking them higher so you think you are getting a better deal than you are when they are on sale). I spent a couple hours working on an Excel Spreadsheet for this exact reason and when I came across this AWESOME spreadsheet from (disclaimer: I've only checked out the PriceBook spreadsheet so I am not endorsing their other ways to manage debt/finances!) and spent another couple hours with my past receipts to get started.

Seeing things broken down in black and white like that gives you an interesting insight into how your money is being spent! Only after inputting my purchases, did I come to find out that one of the items (Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts) I typically waited to go to Costco for is actually $0.46/lb more expensive than when it's on sale at Safeway! Now I know when chicken is on sale at Safeway for $1.99, it's actually a better deal! I used to kick myself for having to buy chicken at Safeway, always thinking it was so much more expensive! Now I'm REALLY kicking myself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Menu Monday

Seeing as how I am 37 weeks pregnant, family and friends are sweeping in and saving my tired body from having to cook a couple nights this week! I'm not sure I'm going to be able to deal with not having to cook all weekend long! (oh, who am I kidding?? I'll manage!)

Monday: Beer Can Chicken
Tuesday: Baked Penne (making an extra night's serving for the freezer)
Wednesday: Spicy Tuna Melts
Thursday: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole (a new recipe! If I like it, it'll be a staple OAMC)
Friday: Chicken Taco Salads
Saturday: Dinner out with Frugal Missus' Parents
Sunday: Friends bringing our favorite pizza to share!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frugal Missus Gets Honest

There has been so much talk about the federal gov'ts Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), aka"Cash For Clunkers" program that I felt compelled to write something about it.

When you get down to the brass tax, C4C is just a way to draw Americans further into debt by offering what seems like a great deal (either a $3500 or a $4500 cash rebate) on a new, more fuel efficient car when you trade in your "gas guzzler". That's $3500 - $4500 off a new car, but, really? You are still paying THOUSANDS of dollars you would otherwise not be spending by signing a new lease or loan. I've got an even greater deal in my driveway! A fully paid for reliable vehicle that passes smog. Check it out! I just saved $20k+!!

Now, I know there are a few folks out there that have cars that really should be off the road for a number of reasons (environmentally unsound, safety hazards, etc.), but a vast majority of the people that I've heard cashing in on the C4Cs program are just trading in their minivan for a newer minivan that happens to get better gas mileage. Of COURSE it's fun to get new toys! I mean, who isn't intoxicated by the smell of new car? I am!

There are a couple of things I see wrong with the C4Cs program rules:

1) For passenger automobiles, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon.

I used to drive a 1997 Saturn SL2 that got 26 miles per gallon. I don't see the 22 mpgs as a huge improvement.

2) ...The Act directs NHTSA to set up a program in which owners of vehicles meeting statutorily specified criteria may receive a monetary credit for trading in their vehicle and purchasing or leasing certain new vehicles.

NEW vehicles. You know, the ones that depreciate at the exact moment you sign your John Hancock on the dotted line?? I found this pretty cool website that allows you to calculate your cars depreciation. Here are the examples I did:

Car Price: $25k
Years old when purchased: 0 (ie NEW)
Age of Car at Time of Estimated Value (in years): 1
Car Deprecation: $6250
Estimated Value: $18750

Car Price: $25k
Years old when purchased: 1
Age of Car at Time of Estimated Value (in years): 2
Car Depreciation: $3000
Estimated Value: $22k

You read that right. That $3500 you got in rebate from C4C on a NEW car doesn't even cover depreciation of the first year! You could get a great used car and save almost the entire "rebate" amount, and not have had your "investment" slashed so dramatically in the first year! Not to mention, $25k for a new car and $25k for a used car can be quite a difference when looking at the bells and whistles. It could be the difference between leather and cloth seats, or the XM radio package and a stock CD system.

3) The CARS Act provides two limitations on the duration of the program. First, the program ends November 1, 2009. Second, NHTSA has been appropriated a fixed sum of money ($1 billion) to fund the program.

1 billion dollars. To keep the American Public in debt. Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised when I look at this. Don't we have teachers to pay, potable water to find, and a housing market to fix? Hey, Federal Government Folks, hows about you send me a $4500 check for having paid my mortgage on time every month?

Oh, and this original $1b (that ran out in a matter of days!) doesn't include the possible additional $2b the Assembly approved last Friday for the program (still waiting on the Senate to approve). Go big or go home, right? I mean...we're already in insane debt as a nation. What's a couple billion more? Hell... let's send some to Dr. Evil while we're at it, hrmmmmm???

Ok. I'm almost off my soapbox. One more thing...

A car payment is NOT a way of life!

We have 1 car payment (just paid off a Ford Explorer last month) and once the second car payment is done, that's it for us. Done. Finito. Our Explorer is most certainly still in drivable condition. It's still rather comfy. It fits our family and our needs. No, it doesn't smell like new car anymore. Yes, it has a couple scratches on it. Yes, there are some stains on the carpet. But it's PAID FOR. For 6 years, we paid $542.10 every month. We now have $542.10 in our income to pay off debts every month that we didn't have for the past 6 years. Once our second car is paid off, we'll have almost $1100 A MONTH in our pockets. With that, we'll be saving for a while to purchase a great used car WITH CASH.

So, Cash For Clunkers? I don't think so... at the risk of offending some readers, I think it would be more aptly called Debt for Suckers.

Hey man, I told you was getting honest in the post title.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Menu Monday

Here we are... another week, another menu! This week was hard for me because we've decided to make our budgets go from the 10th of the month to the 10th of the next month becuase that's how our paychecks roll in. That means that we had to stretch yet another week to keep things under control until August 10th.

It's a funny thing... writing down the menus each week, and being held somewhat accountable to them via the blog and readers we've gathered, I notice how often I make adjustments to the menu! For example, we had a family member over for dinner last Thursday, so instead of having to use twice my freezer stash of the Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa (costing me twice as much, obviously), we moved our Pizza night to Thursday. We ended up having enough pizza left over to have yet another pizza night on Friday! YAY!!! So, that means I have another night of Kielbasas on this weeks menu :)

Monday: Burgers
Tuesday: Angel Hair and Italian Sausage
Wednesday: Turkey Tacos
Thursday: Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa
Friday: Chicken Spinach Salads
Saturday: Honey Glazed Chicken
Sunday: Salsa Chicken