Prepping for Zero

Have you ever thought about closing up your wallet and just stop spending?

I have thought about this quite a bit recently. I have felt like I needed to really stop and figure out where our funds were being used. Clearly I still need to pay the bills, but how much do I spend that I don’t have to?

Just as I was contemplating what I could do to reduce some of our spending, I saw that Ruth Soukup at LivingWellSpendingLess.com is running a 31 Days of Living Well Spending Zero month in October. I immediately signed up.

I received the preparation document on how to get ready. One of the items is to not stock up on anything which sort of goes against my normal thought process but the point of this exercise is not to transfer the spending from another month, it is to spend less! I thought about this and also thought that it makes sense to me so I’m going to try it.

One area I really want to concentrate on, is food. Not just the food we splurge on for lunch or a quick bite here and there but general grocery shopping.

As a part of my preparation I am trying more to bring lunch with me to work. My office is very lucky to have a cafeteria on site where I can purchase very reasonably priced food for lunch. I have been purchasing sandwiches through there almost daily as it seemed to be reasonable enough to make sense. Now as a part of my preparation I am working on lessening that and finding other ways to bring my lunch.

I have always struggled with bringing lunch to school or work. I am not big on sandwiches that sit in my lunchbox for hours getting soggy andleftovers have been a struggle for several reasons, they sometimes are a little boring (after all I did just eat it the night before), or I haven’t made enough to actually make it for lunch the next day.

My plan is to develop a meal plan that is more flavorful and break away from the same meals we always make. I have wanted to get into meal planning for a while now and see this as my big opportunity to push for it. Planning ahead will help cut down on grocery costs as I won’t be trying to figure out the week of food the night before I shop, or even worse at the grocery store.

I should also be able to pare down some costs by wasting less. There are some days that I over estimate how much food we need and then we do not eat through it all before it spoils.

I have begun to gather up the recipes I would like to do for October and even some freezer meals I would like to try out. If I am able to prep more meals for later in the month at the beginning of the month that should help cut even more.

Do you do any meal planning? I would love to hear about how you make it work.

Did you sign up for the 31 Days of Living Well Spending Zero? Let me know I would love to chat about what you are doing to achieve this goal.

Great Book on Sale!

Just a quick post to note a great book that is currently on sale through Amazon.

Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life (Kindle Edition) by Michele Cushatt is currently for only $2.99. I am not sure how long this price will last, so check out the book to see if it is for you.

I read this book a few months back and could not put it down! It was a very inspirational book about dealing with what life hands you. We are all handed struggles in life to work through, in this book you follow the writer (Michele) through her journey of decisions. I found that reading this book really helped me work through some of the (in comparison, very minor) issues I had going on.

Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life

 

* Please note that the link in this post is an affiliate link and I may be provided compensation for any purchases you make using this link. Thank you for the support!

A Breakdown on How I Coupon

Coupons are money! Seriously! When you are ready to pay for your groceries you can hand over coupons and pay down that amount.

Coupons come in all shapes and sizes these days. There are the coupons that come in the Sunday newspaper, coupons found in stores (sticky pads or on the product), printable coupons and coupon apps. With the exception of the coupon apps all of the coupon types allow you to pay less at the register. Most of the coupons apps that are currently out provide rebated money based on the purchases made.

Now that you know where to generally find coupons, let me tell you a bit about using them. One thing I want to make mention of is that couponing can become cumbersome and overwhelming if you let it. What I explain here is not all there is to know. I could easily write individual posts on all the different things I do.

Certain stores offer to double coupons under a certain value. In my area there are two main grocery store chains that will double a coupon up to $.99. So if I have a $.75 coupon the store will double the value of that coupon and the value will be $1.50. You will need to check the coupon policy for the store where you shop to see how they handle coupons. You will also want to check the store policy about coupons to check for limitations. Some stores limit the number of coupons per item, some limit in total, some allow for multiple coupons.

Since the coupon apps are more like rebates you can currently take advantage of deals where there are physical coupons and coupon app deals.

Okay now that we have some basics about coupons out-of-the-way lets talk a bit about the actual how. Start with the easy part, what do you need from the store. I always try to make my grocery list first so that I know what I plan to buy, then I add in the coupons as a part of the payment of what I need. I find that starting in this way I save a bit by buying only what we need, not what there is a great deal on. Don’t get me wrong there are times where there are great sales and I will stock up on some items, but that is a whole different how to.

Once you have your list, start to check the coupons for what is on your list. Where possible be flexible with brands or sizes of items, this helps to identify coupons. I also will start to look at the sale flyers to line up with any possible sale prices as well. Time to shop!

Tools of the trade (or Tools of the couponer):

  • Online Coupons – There are several different sites where you can print coupons from general coupon producers, the manufactures webpage to even Facebook.
    • Coupons.com –  Generally you can print 2 of each coupon per device (computer, or phone/ tablet if connected to a WiFi Printer). These coupons generally refresh once a month but sometimes will have a few changes throughout the month.
    • Print coupons through a Point Program such as Swagbucks – earn points for each coupon printed and used.
  • Coupon Apps – These apps will provide cash back on specific purchases. Generally they require a picture of the receipt and maybe a scan of the bar code on items. Some may ask you to complete activities to “earn” the rebate.
    • Ibotta – Items are tied to specific stores for rebates and activities to unlock items are required. Scan item bar code and receipt. Minimum of $10 to cash out PayPal or Venmo options as well as some gift cards.
    • Snap (By Groupon) – Works for Any store, just scan receipt. $20 to cash out, send to you by check.
    • Checkout51 – Works for Any store, just scan receipt. $20 to cash out, send to you by check.
    • SavingStar – Attach your store card and have the savings are tracked for you. Items need to be added to your list before purchase, but not receipts to upload. There are some upload options now available for stores that do not have a loyalty card program such as Wal-Mart. Cash out with $5 minimum, PayPal or straight to your bank options are available.

Other ways I may find savings but don’t often use:

  • Coupons in the newspaper – I generally do not buy the Sunday paper (or any paper for that matter) because it is not in my budget. We generally do not devote enough time to reading the paper that I have not found it worth while enough for me to do this (at this time).
  • Home Scanner Programs – I am not currently in any program to make reference. These programs would require you to scan each item you purchase every time you shop. I have mixed feelings on some of these programs. I know my family was a participant in one when I was young and we were able to earn quite a bit but I am not sure how the programs are currently run.

As always be cautious of programs you sign up for and try to read through how it works to make sure you are signing up for something that will work for you and your life.

*Please note that some links provided in this post may be affiliate links where I may earn a commission for any sign-up or purchase you make using one of the links. Thank you for your support!

Progress and accountability

I was at the gym this morning and started to think about progress and what that means, how do you define it.

When I first started going to the gym I was a bit disoriented on what I was doing. I am not traditionally someone that goes to work out (you probably already know that). I knew that I had some goals I wanted to accomplish, lose a few pounds tone some areas, pretty typical things. I had a session with a trainer to get a workout setup to help me achieve my goals but I was still new and was still trying to get myself in to all of it. I saw a few ladies working hard on the different cardio machines and they were (sorry about this but my brain has strange though trails sometimes) very sweaty, and I remember thinking, that is awesome I need to sweat like that, they are making progress.

So this morning I was working hard and (yup, sorry) was sweating and I was reminded of my previous thoughts. Well In order to make progress you need to have a goal, where are you trying to get to. Progress is forward motion towards a desired destination. On this train of thought I was thinking about my goals and what I was trying to accomplish. What progress was I working on in life (not just the gym, those goals are fairly clear).

I started to t write in this blog again for a few different reasons, it is therapeutic to me to write, but I also wanted to have some accountability (this is why I publish to the world). I am also more of an introvert at heart so speaking in public, putting myself out there is rather difficult for me. I have been pushing myself to do a little more to reach out of my comfort zone. Writing this blog helps me with that. I am very real in the things that I post about, no fluff going on in this house and you will see what I mean in a minute.

Accountability is one of the things I love about writing in my blog. I know that when I put something out here that I plan to do, I should really do it. For one most of the people reading this probably know me personally and could potentially ask me about it when I see them next.

So here is what I have planned, I want to clean up my basement. I have been frustrated with the disaster that it has become and I really just want to tackle it and get it sorted out, thrown out, sold or put where it should be. Yes, I realize that we are into the Fall and this is not Spring cleaning time but there is no time like the present!

I have already begun to make a list of the things I know are piled up down there so that I can start to make an action plan. I know that I have to tackle this in a brutal and tactical way as there is just so much stuff and it easily gets overwhelming (reasons why it is the way it is, I have tried and failed at this before).

During my lunch today I started my list so that I could make this happen! I know that I have my extended pantry items, bulkier and extra kitchen cookware, extra coffee mugs and drink glasses (we currently have plastic ware because of little ones). I also have baby items that are not currently in use and need to be packed up for storage for the next (maybe) potential baby (should that happen someday in the future, this is not any type of announcement, trust me!). There are piles of Thirty One bags and purses from when I was a consultant (seriously, if you are looking for something, there is a lot on my to be sold list). I have two book cases that hold books and movies, we have board games and office supplies all down there as well.

I need to be brutal to clean this up because I have tried to be less than brutal before and it just ends up like this again. My next step is to pull out the items I can easily get to that need to be packed for storage, and get that done. Then I want to pull the items I plan to sell (there is more in the garage left over from our Summer garage sale as well) and get pictures of everything, make a list and post to an online garage sale page on Facebook.

I plan to document everything so that I can keep this blog up to date with how my progress is going (please hold me accountable to that). I also want to see how this beyond cluttered clear out method works for me so I want to document when things are going well and when they are not. I know the struggle I may run into is time. It is difficult for me to get to that area of the house to do much for too long with two little ones that either want to be held by me, have me play with them or help me.

Wish me luck on this venture!

Take a chance, do something scary!

I have been enjoying Periscope so much lately. There are a few people that I really try to catch their shows, live (if ever possible) and on replay if not. One of those is MacKenzie Monroe (@BOLDTurquoise) and her Cultivating the Lovely Show. I really enjoy the daily chats she has they bring so many insights and encouragements. This past Friday she extended a challenge of “Smiling at your kids” it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the overwhelming day to day chaos and our kids sometimes add to that. Her challenge was meant to put on that happy face a little more even if you don’t feel it right then.

My kids were not giving me reason for feeling overwhelmed but I wanted to take this challenge where I could. This morning I just decided to get Connor (my 3- year) old outside to ride his bike. He has been asking all weekend to get out there (always at the time when we are getting ready to go to bed, eat dinner or other inopportune times). I had gone upstairs to get myself ready, grabbed his clothes and came back down, told him to get his clothes on we have something to do. He (I swear he can read my mind sometimes), got very excited and said “We go ride my BIKE!”, yup buddy we are. We headed out and I let him decide which direction we would go, he decided to go right at the end of our street, this direction gives us more places to go and farther. Just a few minutes in our trek I thought, let’s see how far we can go, we both needed the time outside and it was a great morning (not yet too warm at 8 am).

We pushed along and made it all the way to the schools and played on the playground for a bit. The schools are 1 mile away from our house, a bit of a hilly trek as well. He was so excited to be on the playground, he was running around doing everything he could. He was very brave and climbed up really high to slide down a pole. He was clearly scared but so excited when he did it, he had to get up and do it again, and again, you get where I am going with this.

You see, this is not just a story about Connor doing something scary and having a great time because of it, it is about me too. In the spring before I really started to workout in the mornings, I never would have made it all the way to the school playground, maybe half way. I wasn’t sure if we would have to call my husband to come pick us up after the playground or if we would make it back on our own, but I was willing to take that chance. I surpassed my own doubts and not only did we both make it to the playground, we played and had an amazing time, I got to see a really great smile from one of my children and it was worth every achy muscle I have right now.

The trip home really went better than the trip to the playground. I think I had to chase Connor down a few times because he was riding his bike faster than I was walking. When we got back to the house, he just couldn’t contain himself, he was so excited to tell Daddy about where we went. My husband was shocked to hear that we had made it that far as well. I was so proud of myself for pushing past the limits I thought were there.

Have you done something lately to push yourself past the limits you thought you had? You might be surprised to find that limit doesn’t exist.

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Budgeting is so much fun!

I know what you are thinking, this lady is crazy! Well though that may be true, thinking budgeting is fun is not the reason why. I have struggled in the past with trying to think ahead to some of those fun home-ownership purchases that may be needed such as a new furnace or new water heater, the eventual upgrades we would like to do on this house. When something has come up like the furnace no longer working in the middle of a cold cold February, or the water heater deciding to have a slow leak, we have been caught in the, okay what is going to get cut to make this happen mode. Has this ever happened to you?

A few months back I came across a budgeting system that really pulled me in. Not just a system but support! I watched several of their webinars before I really made my decision to spend money of software to help me. I am so glad I did. I was so impressed with the company that I knew it it was worth the price. At the time that I was wavering the cost they actually ran a sale and I was able to purchase at a significant discount which was just about perfect for me.

All this talk about why, let me tell you what it is. The program is called  YouNeedABudget (YNAB). The software is on my computer, on my phone, on my husband’s phone. This way we can always keep up with what is available. The goal is to assign every dollar a “job” by placing the available funds in a category for budget. You then enter your payments in each category. The software is so simple it seems ridiculous but it works. I can set myself the limits with the system and easily track my spending. If something comes up I can easily move funds from one category to another to cover.

I highly recommend checking out their webinars on the product to see how you like it. There is a trail period where you can even do a test run and if you decide to purchase it, you won’t loose your data. Check out their 34-Day trial and see if it is for you.

If you sign up through my page you can receive $6 off your license. One license is all you need to setup your family on all of the devices you use, computer and smartphones.

*Please note that the links provided are referral links and may result in some form of payment if you choose to purchase, thank you for your support.

Online Surveys, are they worth it?

I know that most of you (if not all) know that I work a full time job outside of the home in addition to writing this blog and caring for two young boys, along with my husband. This leaves little time to do much else, so I really only take on things that are worth my time. I have tried a few different online programs over the years and I have found there are some that are worth it and some that were not (for me anyway, you life situation may allow for different programs to work better for you).

I have found that i-Say surveys have been the most beneficial to my family and our current lifestyle. I can earn points for the surveys I answer, and I never feel overwhelmed by the number of emails they send to me to let me know of available surveys. The thing I really like about this program is that not only do I earn points for each survey, completed or not, but after a survey I can answer a quick poll question and earn entries for other prizes. I feel that the points awarded for completed surveys and the amount of points required for rewards is obtainable and worth my time.

I also find that their surveys are interesting to me. I have been a part of a few home study surveys as well where they send a product for me to test out and answer follow up surveys. These have been very fun!

You can easily get swept away with completing surveys and have it take over, this also makes it less fun to do them, I think. Make sure that if you sign up for any online survey program you are comfortable with the way they have their program setup. If you find that you do not like the program, make sure you close your account and unsubscribe from emails so that they don’t pile up in your inbox and continue to take up your time, even deleting the emails is time consuming for something you are not benefiting from at all.

The link provided in this post is not a referral link, this program requires a direct email to be sent for referrals. This is honestly one more reason why I love this program. They do not want to have referral links floating around and potential SPAM to users out in the world.

A Spend ZERO Month?

Ever feel like you just need to stop spending money? I know I do. How about the Holidays just around the corner, many will spend a lot during that time of year.

In an effort to not only save money but also to break myself of some of the ‘wants’ I have been feeling lately, I am going to introduce a 31 days of no spending in my family for the month of October. Another blogger that I love to follow, Ruth Soukup at LivingWellSpendingLess.com has a program she is running for the month of October to help others have a zero spend month. Right now she has an email sign up to join and receive daily challenges to help you throughout the month. You will get a preparation guide to get you going now.

This program is FREE and may help you save a bit for the upcoming holidays, or if you are feeling like me help you break away from the ‘wants’.

You can check out Ruth’s post about it here, 31 Days of Living Well Spending Zero, and sign up if you are interested.

I will be bringing updates throughout the month of October with how we are doing with this as well. Let me know if you sign up I would love to know your goals about this challenge.

Wants and Needs, a life of confusion

I was at the gym the other morning and another woman hopped on the machine next to me. I nodded a hello and she said hello, I took one of my earbuds out so  I could hear what she was saying and she started up a conversation. Normally I am not one to talk at the gym, for one I have a hard enough time keeping my balance and this is my time to zone out and read a book. I took out my earbuds and shut off the music I had playing so that I could oblige her, you never know she may have needed someone to talk to, so I wouldn’t feel right about ignoring her.

As we got to talking, she told me all about her son and his current state of not knowing what direction he wanted to go, he wasn’t sure about a college program so he had stopped attending, and the story continued. After a few minutes she mentioned her need to earn a bit of extra money, I mentioned that I blog a bit about earning a little extra. Before I could get too far into any of what I do to earn those extras she scuffed it off and said it was too much work for too little and she needed real money.

Now I do understand, very clearly, that what I do with point programs and the like is not earning enough to make a care payment each month so I can understand what she was meaning to say. She continued to tell me about the money needs she had and the ideas she had about renting space in her garage or maybe even getting a roommate. This was quickly followed with the notion that she lacked the time for actually getting anything done about it.

At this time I had finished my workout so I went and grabbed the cloth to wipe the machine down and as I did so I made one last attempt to offer something and simply said to her, my best advice would be to try to not think too much about how much needs to be done or the time it would take and just try to do.

She of course had another response to this. Her reply was that she already had an ad out about the garage and someone had responded and she was just waiting for the next steps of conversation and she had already spoken with a friend that was considering the roommate spot.

REALLY!

I was just baffled at this point and headed to get ready for work. As I was getting ready I just struggled with processing the whole conversation I had just had. There are a few things that I think are really important about it that I wanted to mention.

  1. Apparently this lady really needed someone to talk to because I am not sure any of the conversation made any sense with any other parts of the conversation so I think she just wanted to chat. Maybe? I am hoping anyway. If that is the case, I am glad I listened to myself and took my earbuds out to do so.
  2. There is a big difference between needs and wants. I am not sure where her money thoughts really stand but I am not sure she really did either. She noted a need to pay bills but what bills and the importance of what was being paid for was not mentioned. When we are at a point that we struggle to pay bills, we should really evaluate what those bills are, and decide if they are needs or wants. If they are wants it may be the wrong time to have them and we should try to eliminate them. If they are true needs, then we should do everything we can do provide them.

Because of this conversation, I wanted to try to evaluate what I can to try to simplify my life. Here are a few areas that I am going to be trying to clear away the wants and work down to just needs.

  1. Clothing – It is easy to think we need to have a closet full of clothes for any given occasion. I know that I enjoy having an array of shirts to wear to work so that I feel like I am not wearing the same thing all the time. I also know there are many ways to have a minimal wardrobe that allows for a variety of looks. I did recently go through many of my clothes to pair down, but I think there is still some wiggle room to remove those that I am just never going to wear for one reason or another.
  2. Bags and purses – I used to sell Thirty-One so I have a fairly large collection of items. I love the variety and there are a few that I have always felt would be great for something someday. That day had not come, or the practical use for me is just not really there. This is another area where I have gone through the items once before and even sold off a few items but I have not done anything about the items that did not sell right away. I think it is time to go through again and make another attempt.
  3. Kids toys and clothes – I have had two boys so far and I do wish to try for another baby (at some point, not too soon) but I know there are several things that we were handed down from others that just never looked right on either boy, didn’t fit our general style, or just don’t work for our house structure, and so on. I have a nephew on the way that may enjoy some of these items for sure.

These are just some of the areas I am sure I can think of more. Not only will going through these areas provide a clean up of the wants in our lives and focus on the needs but it may even provide an opportunity to fund new needs (or maybe wants, depending).

Are there areas that you feel you maybe confusing your wants for needs? What do you think you could go through to try to focus back on the needs and help clear up potential clutter (physically or mentally)?

Getting it all done?

So this past week has been very crazy (see my last post about the rough start). We seem to be finally all feeling better and getting back into the rhythm of our normal day. This morning my ‘alarm’ went off at 4 am, I rushed around to get my self ready and went and got my little one out of bed. He was mostly content to sit with me on the chair and drink his milk. He is still a snuggle bug right now even though he is feeling better.

Once he was up and playing a little I tried to get a few things done. He was not happy if I went out of his sight, I kept within sight and got as much as I could done in the kitchen and living room. I went to toss his pajamas in the hamper in the basement and realized that we still had a pile up of laundry from earlier in the week that we had not gotten through. I went to shut the door thinking there was no way I could get to it, when I remembered something I have heard from several bloggers over the last few days, just do it. I picked up my little guy and headed downstairs, not the easiest to pull clothes and towels from a top load washer with a 1 year old in hand, so after I pulled a few handfuls out I set him down. The basement is not too big and he has never explored the area before so I didn’t think he would go to far. I quickly moved the rest of the laundry and closed up the dryer, loaded up the washer with all of the clothes on the floor (in preparation of completing) and set it all to run.

Back upstairs I tried the same method of thinking (not overthinking) and started to get a few more things checked off the list, cleaning a bit better in the kitchen and setting the dishwasher to run and wiped down the counters. My day was suddenly going great! I was so glad that I stopped over thinking things and just found my way to completing was needed to be done.

So I can easily make a list of all the things I was not able to get done, not able to check off the to do list, but it make so much more sense to focus on what was accomplished. First and foremost I was able to spend the time snuggling and playing with my little one. Secondly I was able to get the things that I needed for the day (my lunch was packed and the boys bags were ready). Did anything else really matter? Not this time, BUT I was able to get a few things done because I stopped trying to list out my to dos and I just started doing.