Home Insurance

At the beginning of May I got my home insurance billing notice. It’s a big number  but I’ve been socking away a bit each month for it.

Tiny problem: I under-saved.

Yep, completely did my math wrong and I’m now $180 short of what I need to pay up next month.

I was surprised at how upset I was by this hiccup. It wasn’t so long ago that I was forgetting that this would be due and putting the entire  amount on my credit card. An extra $180 is much more realistic! I can re-arrange my finances so that it won’t affect my budget numbers.

Next step: up my budget as of July in this budget line and remember that I have 11 months to save not 12!

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April Week 2

I was awesome this week! I only spent on two things:

  • Groceries
  • A package of markers for me

I did go slightly over board on groceries as I purchased deeply discounted steaks and a pork loin instead of picking one. I’m not regretting it as I’m once again building our pantry and we’re menu planning. This week we’re making Mexican Rice and shrimp pasta

The markers were a definite splurge but I couldn’t resist them as I have a few adult colouring books but most of my markers have dried up. I’m considering it a mental break cost and giving it to myself.

The rough part of this month is that when my internet/phone bill came in much lower than budgeted in March I didn’t clue in to the fact that this meant that costs had been pushed over to April. So that bill is $70 more than budgeted.

Where does this leave me? In a tight spot but it just means reminding myself of the difference between wants and needs.

How did your week go?

April Week 1

I tend to reconcile my budget weekly to ensure that I don’t forget why I was spending but once my finances got under control I stopped posting weekly. As I’m trying to be uber frugal I’ve decided to revisit this habit as it’s a great way to keep me on track.

The first week of April has been crazy!

I’ve spent a lot of money but I’ve also done a lot of things:

  • hosted sleepover
  • Went to a museum
  • Went to a play
  • Lunch with a friend
  • Breakfast with another
  • Celebrated 2 birthdays

I’m still on track to be on/under budget but I do need to pay special attention to:

  • eating out: I’ve got one more date and that’s going to have to be it
  • entertainment: nothing is planned but I’ve only got a a little bit left in this line
  • groceries: I’m on track but need to be cognizant of my spending so menu planning is key

How’s your week been?

Change and Rebirth

I recently returned to work full time. It is wonderful but exhausting and I realize I’m not the person I was before the concussion.

That woman couldn’t wait to have lunch with friends, enjoyed staying an extra thirty minutes to finish tasks, and was patient. The person I am now craves that hour alone to read or nap, is ready for the end of the day, and is much quicker to snap at any mild inconvenience.

Needless to say I’ve been in a foul mood for the last few weeks as I’m not me yet. Last night I had a bit of a revelation: that woman is gone. She needs to be mourned and acknowledged but I need to stop trying to be her. Instead I need to tune in to the current me.

This person has some great qualities, she:

  • enjoys long walks
  • doesn’t binge watch Netflix
  • Takes her time to cook
  • goes to be early
  • doesn’t drink nearly as much ( I didn’t drink a lot previously, under the recommended amount for women but I’m now a one glass of wine a week gal)
  • significantly cut sugar (no more dessert for lunch)
  • is not addicted to caffeine
  • Still reads like crazy

I haven’t blogged a lot since getting hit and I wondered if this was another interest I had lost, if my mind just was not letting me focus. I don’t think so. I think blogging is harder for me now as I no longer want to be near a screen as much.

While I haven’t been posting, I’ve been reading. It takes me longer to formulate my thoughts, which in turn make me feel like I’ve missed a window to jump into a conversation. I will return to blogging but I suspect I’ll make it a weekly post for a while as I slowly get my feet back under me.

The concussion was hard, not as bad as some but worse than others, and it definitely changed me. Some of that change was immediately good, while other pieces need to be accepted. This is how I feel:

giphy

Which is much more powerful than waiting to return to the person I was.

Photo from here.

 

 

Monthly Debrief: March 2017

I’m a bit late reviewing my month and though it spent like I was spending lots I feel I did pretty well.

 

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days : 16
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 6 uses in 2017): 0 – I suspect this will be pulled out in the summer
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 8
  • # activities with loved ones: 12
  • $ saved at Costco: $39.00
  • % over or under budget: 5% over budget

CELEBRATE:

  • We were very responsible with our first trip to Costco
  • We did really well on our pantry challenge

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • No savings were dipped in for this month

KEEP IN MIND

  • This was the first month on my new, tighter budget. So while I was over budget, I still spent  less than last month. This challenge is going to be a frugal reset for me and will hopefully result in me putting more money towards the kitchen reno.

OVERALL

Job well done, though I really need to bring that eating out line under control. Part of the cost is that ML and I are going out together more right now so I pay for both of us which inflates the amount spent. Since it’s something I enjoy doing with him, it means that I need to be selective about who I go out with and where we go if I want to have at least one nice meal out a month with him.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meal Planning Check In

Image result for lots of meals

I was really pleased with me for taking the time to find 11 recipes that I could make using my pantry items. Great idea but how did it go?

What we ate:

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole I adjusted this to suit my timeline.This took us from March 10 -12th

Mexican Rice Casserole  After a heavy chicken and potato dish we went for something loaded with our veggies. This took us from the 12th – 14th

 Pasta with Vienna Sausages This turned out surprisingly well since I crushed the rigatone. I added vegetables that I thought may not make it to this one.

One pan Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Cheese The broccoli had turned by the time I got to this dish but we did a good job using what we had.

 Lentil sloppy joes These were as good as we remembered!

Meal #6 Chicken Tacos  We mixed in some of the lentil sloppy joe with the chicken for a fuller taco.

Meals we didn’t end up making:

 Chana Masala and rice

 Roast chicken with potatoes (and later sweet & spicy sweet potatoes)

Roasted duck with red beans and rice

 Mexican Rice Casserole

 Tuna patties

Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and bean salad

 

Eating Out

I’m guilty of eating out. I had eaten my lunch too early one day and got a second one, while another day I was the only one in the office who had brought lunch so we did a team lunch. My lunch became dinner that day.

ML had a craving which he fulfilled by purchasing fish cutlets from the grocery store and making our own filet o’fish sandwiches. His $8 was defintiely well spent!

We also invited some friends over, as I had canceled on them when I had my accident, but they don’t eat lamb or duck and we wanted something fancier than chicken. So we ended up making this great stuffed pork loin that not only fed our guests but kept us fed for an entire week.

Next Step

It was a great way to use what we had in the pantry and save money in the grocery but our pantry is looking quite bare.  We took our time last night and selected three meals and ML got our groceries for less than the anticipated $50.

I’m not sure when next I’ll indulge in a pantry clean out but it was definitely fun and informative.

Image from here

Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and I know it because that urge to tidy and clean up is strong right now. It may be more pronounced since an acquaintance recently put her home up for sale. Of course, being a slightly nosy person I went to the real estate website to check out how her home looked.

It looks fantastic!

It of course got me on a kick of checking out other homes that are for sale in the area. One of the things I noticed is that a lot of the homes seemed staged. I could be wrong maybe they live with perfect light, fresh flowers, and perfectly accented furniture all the time. If they do that’s fantastic and frankly how I want to live. There are loads of tips on how to but the most consistent tip was: make it look like you have lots of space by packing up as many of your belongings as possible.

The aim is to pack up your excess things so it looks like you have more space. Like this:

Image result for before and after staging photos closet

 

Since embracing the life-changing magic of tidying up and minimalism I’ve found my outlook on my space has changed. While I do wish we had more built in storage, this desire to have my home feel like a fantastic oasis has resulted in me attempting to make the staging goal of having 30% of cupboard space clear my reality.

This resulted in two boxes of household goods and clothing being delivered to a charity shop, a large garbage bag of items dumped, and a few things being gifted to friends and family members who were interested in them.

It’s amazing how much a good a decent scrub and tidy can do for our home. My hosting schedule has taken a hit as I don’t have the energy to have people over. Since the house is feeling more welcoming I’m wanting to invite people over even if it’s just for some snacks and conversation.

Has the spring cleaning bug gotten you yet for the year?

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Yesterday, I went public with my crazy goal for 2017/2018.

This had me reviewing my BHAG for 2017 as they’re definitely in need of an update now.

Here’s how they’ve been adjusted:

Goal 1: Save for new kitchen

2018 is going to be our 10th wedding anniversary.We’d still love to throw a big party. In fact that’s what got the kitchen ball rolling. When we looked into a what we wanted to do we realized it was going to cost us at least $10,000.

That money seemed better spent on a kitchen, we could then host 120 people in our home for an anniversary open house. We’re willing to forgo the vacation if we can get a fantastic kitchen that allows us to entertain and actually enjoy cooking together.

Goal 2: Home Improvement

This will be the year that we fix the sinking driveway and update our light fixtures. I feel that these are two realistic goals that can easily be achieved and will make our home seem much more welcoming. I’ll give myself until May before I think about the driveway properly since it’ll be either snow or rain covered until then. The light fixtures we can begin our search in the new year. There are at least 4 that must be replaced with a couple of others that would be nice to have done.

Other Goals

While I would still love to work on my emergency fund, I’m not going to throw all my additional money into it. The aim is to not use any of the money in it for the new kitchen.

 

 

Coming Soon(ish): New Kitchen

I’ve been wanting a new kitchen since we purchased this house but there’s always been something else that we wanted or needed to do. Frankly when faced with a big sum of money or a lot of little things it’s easier to spend on the little things. That’s meant going on short vacations, purchasing some furniture, fixing the washing machine, buying new mats for the bathroom. You get the idea.

This year we’ve dubbed the year of the house. Since the kitchen is a huge project we asked our favourite contractor to visit us with the aim of saving for to do it next year. He’ll be providing a detailed quote but he estimated somewhere between $15,000 – 20,000.

I must confess my heart clutched at that number. I’m determined to do the kitchen by next April. This means saving $1,600 per month in a year if I want to do this.

The only way to do this is if I slash my spending considerably and stop saving for everything else:

  • vacations: I need these, even if it’s $200 to go visit a friend or look around my neck of the woods.
  • Life Happens: giving this up would mean I’m just throwing myself into debt if something were to happen, like an appliance dying.
  • Car: this can be reduced but the whole point was to have a sizeable down payment if my 2007 vehicle is no longer feasible as well as to ensure that I’m maintaining her properly
  • Gifts: I give a lot of gifts because I have lots of people to treat. I shop frugally and put a great deal of thought into my gifts so this is not budging
  • House Insurance: this is non-negotiable
  • Medical – this is also non-negotiable it covers those needs that aren’t covered by insurance and since I have to wait for insurance to reimburse me it also helps me not go over budget.
  • Sky is Falling Account: I have two of these. One is liquid and the other can easily be liquidated. I treat one as a job loss account and the other as retirement savings.  My aim is to have 6 months savings in one so that if I were to lose my job I’d have breathing room.
  • Mortgage additional payments – I’ve got money being set aside so we can pay the mortgage sooner.
  • Leftover Fund: money that was budgeted but wasn’t used gets put here to be spent on fun extras.
  • Home Improvement: for any non-kitchen related upgrades we want this year.
  • Kitchen: I currently have ~$100 going into this. So you know, just $1,500 more needed per month…

My sky is falling Job Loss account  has a little less than 25% of my goal in it. To help my heart, I’m going to act as if the money currently in that account is being put towards the kitchen. This will allow me to not stress too much while still building the job loss account.

DECISION: I’m going to keep saving as I do with the knowledge that next April all my savings lines may be pressed into service. All extra money, ML’s side hustle or my staying below budget, will be siphoned into the kitchen fund.

REALITY: To save $20,000 in a year is definitely a stretch goal. I’m not sure it’s reasonable. So this year is every month is going to have to be uber-frugal month. ML is on board so I know I can count on his support. We’re going to aim for $20,000 and work with the contractor to get it in as close to $15,000 as possible. We don’t want to scrimp on the kitchen as it’s a large job and want to pay upfront for quality products.

We’re not going insane but as the room needs to be gutted and all appliances replaced it’s going to be a big job and we need to realistic about it.

 

 

Grocery Budget

Since 2105, I’ve consistently tracked my spending in an Excel spreadsheet. The other day I was looking at my grocery line and got curious.

In 2015 I was budgeting $300/month and my spending ranged from $170 – $350. In 2016 I budgeted $260/month and ranged from $270 – $140. In January of this year I lowered that again to $200 and in March I dropped it to $150.

It’s one of those shocking things as I would have expected that line to climb quite consistently in an effort to keep up with inflation.

Of course I then got curious about how I was doing it!

SWS Groceries definition: anything that can be found in a grocery store, whether or not you can eat it.

With that definition it quickly became apparent that we were able to cut out a lot simply by no longer buying certain products (paper towels is a big one) and buying others only when they’re on sale (toilet paper, toothpaste).

Other changes include:

  • We only buy our convenience food on sale, our closest store has Dollar Days every month or so and I stock up.
  • We tend to no longer get ‘fun’ stuff e.g. cereals, the array of snacks, ice cream, etc
    • If we do they’re discounted and they’re treats
  • We do weekly menu planning which means that we try to purchase things we know will be used
  • We stock up reasonably when things go on sale
    • I used to treat those signs that say Limit 6 per customer as though that meant I had to get 6 massive pizzas.
  • We plan when we have people coming over
    • Previously it would be treated as a surprise and we’d blow a bundle that weekend getting stuff. Now we purchase ahead of time and keep things so we always have something nice on hand
  • We have more meals with little or no meat; most of our meat is chicken
  • We rarely purchase bread (down from 2 loaves a week)
  • We try to only purchase fruits and vegetables we know we’ll use (food waste was a pretty big problem before)
  • I love the idea of yogurt! I rarely eat yogurt so I’ve stopped buying it in spite of the great flavours and deals that tempt me

I can feel the me from 2 years ago rising up and thinking, “My gosh! You’ve got no fun in your life! No snacks – those packaged cake things are only $2. Have some sugar!”

I’m in a bit of shock as typing this shows how far both ML & I have come not only in our grocery budget but in terms of our lifestyle. Though we would both benefit from more fruits and veggies in our day, we have significantly cut down our consumption of packaged goods and food waste.

It will be interesting to see if we can stick to the $150 grocery budget. I know we’ll go over in high entertainment months which is to be expected.

How do you keep you grocery budget in check?