Daily Dinner Dilemma | Menu Plan #2 and My Online Grocery Shopping Experience

LOATHE THAT LATE AFTERNOON QUESTION OF  “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”

Want to feed your family healthier foods and less drive through but struggle with busy evenings and a complete lack of inspiration for dinner ideas? Need healthy and easy dinner options?

SO Do I.

FOR ME HEALTHY MEANS:

  • little to no processed foods
  • lots of veggies
  • more whole grains and less white starches
  • no drive thru!

FOR ME EASIER MEANS:

  • I can have a healthy, delicious meal on the table for my family every night
  • minimal nightly prep, aka less dirty dishes
  • less trips to the store for last minute ingredients
  • I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner

I have another installment of my Simplify the Daily Dinner Dilemma (DDD) Menu Plan but with a twist this time. And an exciting one at that!!

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For the first time ever I ordered my groceries online at Walmart and picked them up at the store. I purchased a weeks worth of groceries without setting foot inside a store. The process was super easy and you want to know a secret….It’s FREE! 

People, this is huge! I don’t know about you but I HATE (and yes, it is a strong word) going grocery shopping because like most of us I only have my evenings or weekends to do it. Evenings are way too busy for us so it’s usually Saturday morning or afternoon (so I have an excuse not to clean the house). But that’s the problem, everyone else is getting groceries at that same time!

I had thought about this option

owever has been sort of overshadowed by how much I loved my online grocery shopping experience at Walmart. Who wants to go wander through a dozen grocery aisles now? I just got back over an hour of my time!

Here is how the TRIP stacked up:

WALMART – $73.09 / Time – 45 mins

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You can even add in your receipt TC# into your Savings Catcher on the Walmart app and save even more!

From the time I left my house to the time I sat back down at my computer to type this up it was just under an hour. Granted if I had scheduled this to be picked up on the way back from running errands it probably would have been even quicker. That hour includes schlepping them inside (no kids around to help), unpacking and putting them away. If I had gone there to pick them up myself it would have added a good hour to an hour and a half to my time. And I got to avoid the craziness of the stores on a Saturday.

I honestly don’t think I will ever buy groceries again in a store. Ok, that may be a little dramatic but this was so easy! And there will always be the occasional gallon of milk or bag of cat food that we run out of here and there, but this is wonderful for those big shopping trips when you want to save time and money.

Grab your Meal Plan, Recipes and Grocery List by clicking the image below…

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I can now say I have my own personal grocery shopper! I just had to show up to pick them up. I saved 1 hour and 45 minutes!!! That is some hard core super savings of time in my book!

Part Five – Let’s Build a Snowman

This is Part Five of my five-part, eight-week series on The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting

To build a snowman you must first start with a snowball. You can then start rolling that snowball in the snow to create a much bigger snowball as more and more snow collects. Well, the same goes for money you put towards paying off your debt.

Most snowball theorists will tell you to focus on the smallest debts (easiest targets) first when looking at what debt to pay off. While that might be the fastest towards a feeling of self gratification and a sense of accomplishment I prefer rather focusing on the biggest bully in the bunch.

To me watching that huge number (however so slowly) dwindle every month actually motivates me to find MORE money in our budget to hit it with.

Even if you are one that prefers to take out the smallest debts first however you go about it you are getting ahead!

Our goal with this step is to trim our budget even further and find more income to put towards our debt!

Debt pay down plan:

  1. List out all your debts totals | Decide which one you want to target first.
  2. Find extra money | This is where you re-adjust your spreadsheets and maybe trim out some FLUFF and trim back on some FMEs to create more money that can be earmarked for that bill every month.
  3. Cut up those credit cards | You need to commit to not using them. If you can’t bring yourself to take a scissors to them just yet try freezing them in a baggie of water. And clear out your cookies on your computer!! No auto-filling  your credit card numbers into online shopping carts.
  4. Put any and all extra money towards your debt | Commit to putting that birthday cash, that 2% raise this year or giving up your mani/pedis for awhile and lopping off your debt. I can guarantee it will feel so much better to not be bound to your debtors than a shiny new coat of nail polish on your little piggies.
  5. Snowball your money into the next debt | When you have paid off a debt (regardless of how large or small) put that extra cash now towards the next one on the list and continue to do that as your debts are paid off and the amount going towards the next one gets bigger and bigger.

This whole process will obviously be a work in progress and will need to be re-evaluted time and again as your income changes, debts change (hopefully go down) and life happens.

By having a great budget in place and committing to tackling your debt you will not only reduce your money worries but you will be the boss of your bank account.

Part Three – Tell Your Money Where to Go

This is Part Three of my five-part, eight-week series on The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting

Phew! Are you tired looking at all these numbers yet? Well, I hope not, but I do hope it’s at least making you REALLY aware of where your money is going. I bet you’ve never played with your money like this before?

Now that you’ve got the Big Picture of where all your money is going, it’s time to start budgeting, a.k.a. telling your money where to go. To me that is the essence of budgeting. Tell your money where to go or it’s going to tell you.

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With all those categories you’ve broken down into more specific ones these are forever now considered your “budgets”. There’s a grocery budget, an out to eat budget, housing budget, etc. The amounts don’t always stay the same. As life goes, so goes our budgets. Family size grows, kids move away, our incomes rise and fall. You will have new life events that come and go that create a need for a new category/budget over time.

In Part Three we are going to focus on all of our categories except the Fun Life purchases Under False Finances (FLUFF), Misc.,  and other-wise unmentionable categories that you really don’t want to think about right now (i.e. little Fido’s monthly spa treatment). Let’s look at our basic Fixed Monthly Expenses (FME): Groceries, out to eat, toiletries, entertainment, personal grooming and the like. We’ll look at the other ones in Step Four.

CREATING ENVELOPES:

Take a look at all your categories you’ve written down (or put on a spreadsheet). Within each of these ‘budgets’ you now need to decide if they will come out of your checking account or if you will be paying for items by cash. I will tell you from experience it is a whole lot easier to keep track of your budgets if you pay for things with cash. Because trying to reserve $40 in checking for coffee every pay period (and doing the subtraction in your head after purchase) can get messy.

This is where envelopes come into play for our family. We have turned each of those categories or mini budgets into an envelope, except for our monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, student loan, etc. – those are paid  by check or electronically) we use cash for everything else.

How you choose to manage these budgets is up to you. But the one item that we don’t pay cash for is gas. I don’t want to have to run into the store (leave my kids in the car) and pre-pay for my gas at the pump so we leave that “budgeted” amount in our checking and that is used for gas. We know that we spend approximately $40/week on gas so after each payday there is an extra $80 in checking to cover that.

1. Take out a box of envelopes (or buy one – it’s a good investment), tuck the flap inside and on the outside write the category.

One envelope for every category. See, nothing fancy. You can get cuter with your envelopes but for now let’s just focus on your money.

2. Write down the amount that will come out of each paycheck under the name.

This will be what you spent last month (or less!) and becomes your budgeted amount for that category for a time period (between paychecks).

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Figuring out the envelope amounts:

All those categories you’ve been tallying and adding up become your monthly, weekly or bi-weekly budgets (depending on when you get paid). Those categories hold the dollar amount that you spent on that category for a period of time.

Say you have calculated that you spent $950 last month on groceries and you know that is way more than you should be spending because your spending was well over what you earned. You need to trim that down but you’re not sure by how much or what is even an average amount. It all depends on how much you need to feed your family. There are some guidelines of what you should spend out there but we have budgeted $150/week to feed our family of 5. Some weeks we go over. But in comparison to those guidelines that is well below the thrifty weekly plan for a family of 5.

You can start with that to give you a ballpark of where you should be in food spending. The beauty of this is it can always be adjusted next paycheck if necessary. Again this is always a work in progress. Budgeting is not a destination it’s a journey. But set an amount and see if you can stick to it for a pay period.

So back to our grocery envelope, if you determine that you will need $200/week for your family grocery budget and you get paid once every two weeks you would write down $400 on the envelope. Come next payday you will take out that amount of cash and put it in this envelope.

Take this envelope with you, or take a certain amount out, every time you grocery shop and when the money is gone, it’s gone. No borrowing from other envelopes. This really makes you think twice about impulse items and is a great motivator to create meal plans and figure out other ways to stretch your grocery budget.

In the name of full transparency, here is our current envelopes:

Our Monthly Envelopes

You can see I have them split into Household and Food. These are our fixed monthly expenses (FME). This is off to the side of a spreadsheet I use to track all our fixed monthly bills (FMB) every month that come out of our checking so I know I have enough left to cover the total envelope amount. There is two columns because each one is a payday in the month of January.

The grayed out rows are ones that we aren’t allocating any cash to currently. This changes depending on the circumstances.

You will do this for every category that you spent money on during Part One, that will not be coming out of your checking for bills.

If any of those budgets are pushing you over your actual income then that is when you have to start getting creative. You will need to find ways in each budget to trim out the fat, or FLUFF items if they are in your basic FME categories. or move them to their own category to deal with in Part Four. Maybe brown bag your lunch 3 days a week or start doing your own nails.

Especially if your monthly income is LESS than the total amount of expenses you will need to decide what you want to cut from each category until those numbers match – your income is at least MORE than your total expenses. Or figure out ways to make more money.

3. Take the cash out of the bank on payday and put it into the designated envelopes

This is you telling your money where to go! You go, you.

Envelopes

(you can see these are well loved)

You will get to know your bank teller and will eventually get over the weirdness of taking large sums of money out every other week.

So do not spend any more money outside of your budgets and take those credit cards and freeze them in a block of ice if you have to, but DO NOT USE THEM 

Come back next week for Part Four – The EX Factor. We’ll talk about those “fluffy” little life expected and unexpected things that seem to pop up constantly.

Part Two – The Big Picture

This is Part Two – of my five-part, eight-week series The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting.

Now that you have all those entries, receipts and statements that contain your entire expenses for one full month, what exactly do you do with them?

1. List out the categories you think you spend your money on along the top of a sheet of paper

First we are going to list out all the categories to give us a bigger picture. What categories, or labels did you spend your money on? This exercise is to get them onto paper if you didn’t already and if you have them on paper already it will help categorize even further.

What are some of the basic major categories that you spend your money on? Housing, utilities, food, car maintenance, toiletries, personal (grooming, clothes)…etc. Those are some of the basics that you can start with. As you come across purchases/expenses you don’t have accounted for add a new category for those as you go (and if you used my Monthly Bills & Expenses Worksheet from Part One you are already ahead of the game).

2. Enter your dollar amounts under the applicable column

3. If you can open a spreadsheet and let that do the work for you (I ♥ spreadsheets)

Here’s an abridged version of what it might look like:

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4. Don’t forget to make a Misc. column for those items that are hard to categorize (Like little Johnny’s piano lessons or your furry kid’s monthly spa treatment) we’ll figure those out later. We want every amount under a category

Once you’ve placed all your expenses under a categories take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You completed the second step in becoming more aware of your money. Now take a look at the columns. See any common themes? Is one column a little longer (heavier) than another? Is there a lot of items in your Misc column that you didn’t know exactly where to put? Do you see 45 <insert coffee shop name here> entries under your Food category or do you have a Caffeine category all it’s own? You are starting to see how you get a bigger picture overall on where your money is going.

5. Add up the totals for each category and then add up the total of the totals

Now comes the scary part, let’s add up the total of each of your categories and then the total for all the categories for the whole month. That amount, while it might be hard to swallow, is a real tell-tale sign of whether or not you are living within your means.

So from the example above:

Total Monthly Expenses

This is your total month’s worth of expenses. Pretty scary, huh? Probably a lot more than you think you would spend in one month and there are probably some exceptions in that total – car registration was due this month, Christmas snuck up on you or you suddenly needed brakes for the  car and if you weren’t prepared it probably went on a credit card. If you have any of these “life happens” amounts I would move them to their own category for now (don’t include it in your total) and in Part Three I’ll show you how to plan for those Expected and Unexpected Expense Exceptions (EUEE, or better yet, what I like to call the ‘Ex’ factor).

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6. Compare that total to your monthly income

Next to that total amount write down your monthly income (usually two paychecks if paid every other week). Now is your income total greater than your total expenses or vise versa?

If your income is larger than your expenses there is hope. If your expenses are larger than your income we can get you help.

And by help, I mean more spreadsheets 🙂 because I ♥ spreadsheets, remember.

This will allow you to find out where this money miscommunication is coming from and determine exactly how to correct it!

7. Break it down

So let’s take it a step further and categorize, or shall we say, fine tune the categories a little more.

For example break down:

  • the Food category into Groceries, Out To Eat Evening, Out To Eat Lunches, Coffee, Work Treats, School Lunches.
  • Auto could be broken down into Car Payment, Car Maintenance, Gas…you get the point.

So your homework this next week is to take each of the basic categories that you started with and break them down even further. I have provided the printable spreadsheets below, of course, to help you do just that. Or use your own spreadsheets on your computer. Whatever route you choose this will allow you to differentiate between your financial ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and help you determine how bad you really want something.

You will have your ‘needs‘ – those Fixed Monthly Bills (FMB) that are due every month and your Fixed Monthly Expenses (FME) those things you need to purchase every month, you know, like food to eat and Kleenex to blow your nose with, that stuff. And then you will have your ‘wants‘ the things that I like to call FLUFF or better know as: Fun Life purchases Under False Finances – those impulse items, those things you don’t-really-need-because-you-really-can’t-afford-butreally-REALLY-want-so-it’s-going-on-the-credit-card, yeah, those things. they are FLUFF. And now you will also have the ‘Ex Factor’ items for those unexpected life events that seem to pop up randomly out of the blue or on schedule every year.

BGB Worksheet PackSo see you in a week, happy spreadsheet-ing!

Part One – Track Your Expenses

This is Part One of my five-part, eight-week series on The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting.

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If starting a budget seems overwhelming, let’s go old school for a moment, shall we.

1. Get out a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.

2. Now write down EVERY amount you spend as soon as you can after you spend it, for an entire month and what you spent it on. Every. Single. Penny.

That’s it. The first step towards budgeting your money is to track every cent that leaves your bank account/wallet.

You will have entries for your mortgage/housing, insurance, auto payment, etc. I call those Fixed Monthly Bills (FMB) those that are due every month like clockwork. And then you will also have entries for things you need to purchase every month, you know, like food to eat and Kleenex to blow your nose with, that stuff. Those are referred to as Fixed Monthly Expenses (FME).  And then if you are like me, you will have the things that I like to call FLUFF, better know as: Fun Life purchases Under False Finances – those impulse items, things you don’t-really-need-and-I-really-can’t-afford-them-but-I-really-want-it-and-it’s-going-on-the-credit-card-so-I-don’t-have-to-pay-until-later-anyway so you go ahead and buy them. Anyway. Yeah, those things.

It can be hard to change your lifestyle and habits in one week so this whole process is going to take place over a couple of  months. This one step will take a whole month. This will allow you examine where your money is going and what it is doing for a full month. This is a process and the first step is awareness. And you probably think December is a really bad time to start something like this but I actually think its the perfect time because that is when most of us overspend blissfully and gleefully unaware of where our money is going.

I’ve even created a worksheet for you to use (because I ♥ spreadsheets) so if you would like to keep everything organized and in one place here you go (hint: it will make Part Two a little easier).

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If you run out of room go ahead and print another one, they’re free!

But of course, if it is easier to just save up receipts in a folder or envelope then have at it. I just want you to keep track of every cent you spend for an entire month: on groceries, on coffee, at the gas pump, with your credit card, on gifts for others, on a pack of gum, that parking meter with the change in your pocket, on gifts for yourself, every bill you pay….EVERY. THING.

Meet you back here in a month with that list, or in between worksheet entries, you can keep checking back here for more fun things NOT finance related, like maybe food or house projects!

Next up – Part Two: The Big Picture

The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting – Series

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Ok, we are quickly approaching 2016 and it’s a good of time as any to start revisiting our financial resolutions from the beginning of this year. Or start working on those for next year. Never hurts to be ahead of the game.

Well, if you’ve fallen off the budgeting bandwagon this past year, let me see if I can help get you back on board or at least help you book another trip for this upcoming year.

Budgeting can be confusing and overwhelming and some might not even know where to begin when it comes to budgeting your money. This isn’t something that is taught in school (though I HIGHLY believe it should be!), nor is this something that comes naturally to many of us.

So, I am offering a five-part, eight-week series that starts tomorrow to help you take the steps to becoming more aware of your finances and more mindful of your money.

Disclaimers: Now, I am not a financial planner or money expert by any means…. I just know what works for us. It might not work for everyone but it will at least get you thinking and possibly taking a step in the right direction.

Part One (Week 1-4): Track Your Expenses

Part Two (Week 5): The Big Picture

Part Three (Week 6): Tell Your Money Where To Go

Part Four (Week 7): The EX Factor

Part Five (Week 8): Let’s Build A Snowman

So come on back for some budgeting fun!

How To Stretch Your Grocery Budget

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In an effort to get back on track budget-wise my first instinct is to reign in our food bill. It seems that besides our mortgage and car payments, the next largest amount of money we spend in our household is on food. We spend it on going out to eat, groceries, snacks at a gas fill-up stop, treats when we are out and about, grocery store run because we are out of milk but end up throwing another $20 worth of impulse items in the cart at 9pm at night. So after living in two different apartments in as many months, with our stuff in storage, while we waited for our house to be built, we really let our budget slip. It’s gotten WAY out of control.

Time to get back on track. Here are some tried and true methods I am going to re-implement in our grocery shopping to help us stay on budget that could work for you as well. For our family of 5 we have a $150/week budget. So first order of business is to just get back to that number.  (If you’re wondering how I came to that number or even what your grocery budget may be, stay tuned. I have a series coming up at the end of October that will help you figure that out.)

According to the USDA’s Cost of Food at Home, for a “liberal” spending family of 5 (4 adults – considers that my 12 & 14 yo eat like an adult – and one 10 yo) spends $387.70/week on food, while a thrifty family spends $197.30. Yikes, I guess you could call us thrifty.

1. Plan Ahead

First and foremost, the basis of any good strategy is a good plan. Then you have to stick to it. Planning out your meals means that there will be no brain-numbing, last minute panic attacks of what to have for dinner. It will already be decided and you will have all the ingredients you need. No need for a quick trip through the drive through.

I have been using GatheredTable.com and am in love. Their plans are versatile, they have great recipes to choose from, I can add my own if I want  to mix it up and once decided it compiles a grocery list for me that I can customize further depending on what is already in my cupboards! Can’t say enough about how much I love this site. And just heard a *rumor* that there will be an app coming very soon! GAH!

2. Shop the ads

This is a no brainer. When whole chickens are on sale for $0.99/lb, that is what we are having for dinner tonight, tomorrow night and maybe the next night too! And I’m hoarding then away in my freezer for a rainy day. You can plan your meals around what is on sale at the store or even swap out ingredients for what is on sale. Your favorite chicken enchiladas on the menu for tonight but ground beef is on sale, use ground beef instead. A recipe you were planning calls for salmon but talapia is on sale, swap it out, I guarantee you won’t notice the difference in taste but your wallet will in savings!

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3. Have a well stocked pantry

Stocking up on items when they are on sale allows you to purchase them for a lot less than buying one can of tomatoes as needed and you can build a nice supply at rock bottom prices and can save on the next weeks or even months grocery bill by already having them on hand. Hence the empty shelf in the photo above, I’m set for a good while on olive oil now. I bought them all!!

Stocking up on items when they are on sale will also allow you to substitute in a pinch. Don’t have taco seasoning – make your own. Don’t have a protein – use beans, lentils or quinoa. Don’t have the salsa you want – make your own. Extra company and need more pasta sauce – good thing you have jars of stewed and crushed tomatoes on hand!

4. “Shop” that Well Stocked pantry

Instead of instinctively running to the store when you think you have nothing to make a meal out of, look again. Use those pantry items and any produce or meat that needs to be used up to throw a meal together. You’ll be surprised what you can make.

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Making things from scratch is a great alternative to boxed mixes or frozen foods, remember how grandma used to do it? Biscuits that were hot out of the oven, piles of pancakes in the morning; it is cheaper and easier than you think to make these from scratch. Most of us have some sort of flour, baking powder, eggs and milk in our pantry or fridge. I like to make batches of pancakes or waffles and freeze them so the kids can pull out what they need (this also falls under #7 DIY-IT).

5. Beans – the other white meat

Substituting beans for meat in your dishes help stretch your dollar also. You could consider having a meatless meal once a week that allows you to further your meals while still saving money. This is something you’ll definitely have to talk to your significant other about because most everyone I know was raised with the thinking that you had to have some sort of meat as your main dish for dinner. Every dinner. My husband was no exception and still struggles with this but is slowly coming around.

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6. waste not

Now after all that work of planning, shopping and cooking why would you want to throw the efforts of your labor (not to mention money) away!

Here’s some ideas to put into use so nothing goes in the trash:

Veggies getting a little limp? Saute those greens up and freeze them (ice cube trays work wonderfully) and then you can just toss them into soups or stews as needed.

I also keep an airtight container in the freezer and when I have any leftover veggies like corn or  green beans from a meal that just is not enough to save I throw them in the container and after about 3 weeks you’ll have a nice mix. This makes for a wonderful Everything But The Kitchen Sink Soup I make. It’s basically a free meal!!

Another way to also stretch your food dollars even further, like into the next day farther, is leftovers. What you don’t finish for dinner package up in individual portions so that you or anyone for that matter can grab them quickly in the morning and you have lunch for the day. Bringing leftovers for lunch is in again people, I swear!

We also have a Clean Out The Fridge meal at our house. We pull out any and all leftovers and either reinvent them into a new meal or reheat and it makes for an easy way to make room for the next shopping trip all-the-while letting nothing go to waste.

7. DIY-it

For the love of all that is just and good for pity’s sake! Make your own salad dressings. It is so easy and tastes so much better than the bottled stuff. Granted those little bottles are tempting with all their sugar and preservatives and it may take your taste buds a few salads to get over that longing but once you do the freshness is incomparable. And the possibilities are endless. We can get pretty creative with what we have on hand – see #3 Have A Well Stocked Pantry.

While we are on the subject of making it yourself this also falls into that category. Those packaged seasoning mixes that contain all sorts of weird “ingredients”.

Not only does making your own dressings and seasonings save you money but I am not sure why you would want to season your chicken with Monocalcium Phosphate or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate? We all have garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cumin in our cupboards, don’t we?

8. Think outside the grocery store organics box

Ok, I know we all want to eat better but most of us can’t afford an all-organic diet. There are some guidelines and common sense that come into play – at least where my veggies and fruit are concerned.

The Environmental Working Group has studied pesticide residuals in veggies and fruits and compiled a list of the Clean 15, those that are ok to purchase the conventionally grown way. The Dirty Dozen however are ones you do want to spend your grocery dollars on to purchase organic if you are able.

While the Clean 15 list still contains foods that are still produced with some pesticides, my rule of thumb is that if you are worried about chemicals and consume the skin of the fruit or veggie (and can budget for it) buy organic.

Get your produce from the source! Buy from local farmers markets where you can ask the farmer what pesticides and chemicals might have been used. We all want to eat more fruits and veggies and who knows them better than the grower. You’re also supporting local farmers.

You can also stretch your organic dollars by signing up for a local CSA or Bountiful Baskets. I can’t wait to try out either one out here. With a year round growing season, fresh organic veggies should not be far away. For $20 – $30/week they both offer an affordable way to get organic fresh fruits & veggies to your table.

Debt-Free Christmas Pledge

Now that the shopping madness is over, the gifts have all been torn into and the dust is settling on all the Christmas Frenzy and we look ahead with dread at putting ALL THIS CHRISTMAS STUFF AWAY, let’s make a pledge here and now to not go into debt next Christmas!

Part of those New Year’s Resolutions that I am re-affirming is to revisit my budgeting/spending/debt pay-down and a major one for me is Christmas. It is so easy to lose control of your finances during Christmastime and justify just about anything. “Oh, I’ll pay it off later.”

But I have a little secret for you… I already made that pledge, a year ago, and IT WORKED!

One year ago I saved all my receipts from my shopping endeavors and when it was all said and done I tallied it up (and after recovering from a small stroke) I vowed to never go into a Christmas season again without planning my budget out ahead of time.

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I wanted a way to be able to buy my family thoughtful gifts without using credit cards or breaking the bank and then spending the following 3-6 months guilt-ridden as I paid my monthly credit card bills.

So, here’s my steps to a debt-free Christmas if you are willing to take the pledge with me:

1GatherYourReceipts

If you kept your reciepts gather them up or try to write them down from memory. You can also get each line item off of your bank statement/credit card statement that you spent on Christmas this year. Include family, neighbor and coworker gifts as well as wrapping paper and postage. I found a few items I had missed from last year so it is a great time to re-adjust my plan.

2AddUpTheTotal

Be brave, it take’s alot to face that number and realize how much you actually did spend but it’s good for us to do this. Instead of seeing $20 go here, $15 go there, we can see how much this really does add up to be in total. This is where my spreadsheet comes in handy. It helps me set an amount and as I purchase items I add them to the sheet and you can SEE wether or not you are on target.

3DivideBy26
Divide that total by 26 – the number of paychecks in a year.

4PutAwayEachPaycheck

That is how much you should put away each paycheck in an envelope or seperate savings account and you will have this IN CASH by next Christmas. Oh, the freedom!

Say you spent $910 on everything this year:   $910/26 = $35  That’s it!!

$35 a paycheck squirreled away and you will have $910 to spend on your loved ones next Christmas and the best thing is it is guilt free! You still have to reign yourself in and not go bonkers just because you have the cash-cushion. You still need to figure out a budget that you will spend on each family member or group and stick to it. This year now I know I have to readjust what I am putting away because there was some items that I didn’t have accounted for last year so I went a little over, but it is okay. As with all goals it is not necessary to focus on what didn’t work, but what DID work and learn from what didn’t.

And have some fun with it! If you use the envelope system get creative with your envelope and watch it grow every month. Then in a year you will have one less stress for the Holiday season and can spend more time living the true meaning of Christmas.

Here are some fun ideas for those that want to add the money to a Christmas Cash envelope:

Fun printable Christmas Cash envelope

For you sewers a fabric envelope

So get started today and here’s to a Happy Debt-Free Holidays and Happy Savings for years to come!!

A New Year A New You | Resolutions To Live By

HappyNewYear It’s that time of the year again when we make those new year’s resolutions; commit to living a better life and ultimately set ourselves up for failure. And, of course I am no different. I have big dreams of having a completely organized home where there is a place for everything and everything in it’s place, I dream of having all our debt paid off and never again having to use a credit card, I fantasize about being a size 10 8 again and effortlessly throwing on whatever cute ensemble that happens to be in my closet.

I also realize that those are really huge hurdles and kind of unrealistic goals for where I am at right now. This is life afterall.

So, I want to try and make more overall intentions that will happen slowly over time with small achievable goals. I also have some habits to improve on from last year and some to reaffirm (again) this year.

1. Live Healthier | The most important part of that to me is eating healthier. I don’t want to state that I will lose 50 pounds this new year (I’d really like to lose 65), I want to make a true lifestyle change and commit to eating healthy and ridding my house of those awful temptation foods. Once and for all.

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2. Get Back on Budget | Another intention I have for this new year is to reaffirm my budgeting goals. I think we did good last year but could have done better in some areas and I have learned a few things also along the way.

3. Be More Creative | I want to get back to creating things, just for the sake of being creative. I miss that and want to make time for it again.

4. Work On Home Projects | Not just the house renovations we’ve had going on but the scrapbooking and organizing projects on my to-do list.

Pantry Design Ideas-07-1 Kindesign

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As with all lifestyle changes it is an ebb and flow process. And it is not a one-size-fits-all either. Some paychecks are easier than others to stay on track, some mealtimes have to be grab and go, some (okay, all) of those photos on my camera need to be edited before I can print them off but who has the time. Intentions are not only about setting goals for yourself but also about giving yourself a hall pass so you don’t just throw in the towel altogether and quit because you feel so defeated.

So, I am going to make this year about making better choices overall in every aspect of my life. So what if we have to grab McDonald’s because we are in-between practices and that is all we have time for, they do have healthier choices. So what if the van needs new brakes, I will have a plan in place (car maintenance envelope) to cover it.

Good goals are also about having your own back, so make those intentions but as well make a backup plan (or two or three) for those times when you do veer off track and you’ll be more likely to swing back into the right lane again.