Tag Archives: Budgeting

Involuntary Simplicity?

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Mr. Saver Pays a Visit to the Food Truck

How would you feel about avocados being a rare seasonal treat?  Would your trip to Chipotle be complete without that glob of guac on top?  On my mind this week are thoughts about how changes in national (US) policy might affect my family.

Deportation of migrant workers, many of whom have falsified work papers (I didn’t know they were fake!), would immediately affect the prices of fresh food, most of which comes from California’s Central Valley.  Farmers hope their existing work force could be legalized, or that temporary work visas might be available to agricultural workers.  These low paying jobs are back-breaking and difficult to fill with US citizens, who can go work easier jobs for 10.00 an hour.  (For more background on this, read this article.). Crops need to be picked when they need to be picked and if labor is deported, millions of dollars of crops would be lost.

Rising fresh food prices could necessitate home gardens, canning, and buying local/seasonal.  Kind of a throwback to the ’40s  — before strawberries were available fresh year round.

The other piece of the food price puzzle is whether the government places trade restrictions and taxes on imported goods (say to pay for building a big wall), and importing fresh food like avocados and strawberries from places like Mexico quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.

Honestly, if the US sufficiently aggravates other countries, they may not buy goods from our farmers, who are barely hanging on as it is.  This could drive up subsidies which we pay for as taxpayers.

Changes in the cost of items can happen rapidly, as we have experienced occasionally with lettuce, citrus, and recently avocados due to things like weather and labor strikes.   What would your diet and budget look like if food prices increased?  Do you have a means to take advantage of food in season through canning or freezing?

Personally, I’m not ready to start stockpiling 5 pound cans of green beans, but it does get my mind turning about gardening and what we might grow that we will use and won’t be eaten by rabbits.  I have canned jam but never anything for food preservation; I do think this is a useful skill to have.

Do you think the scenarios above are possible?  Probable?   Canadian friends… where do you get your fresh produce from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budgets: When The Wheels Fall Off

It’s been quite the week.  We went to the grocery store EIGHT times!  The reason for the craziness has been illness.  It went something like: Kid gets a cold, Parent 1 then gets a cold; kid develops horrendous GI virus a few days later (middle of the night, of course) while Parent 1 now has painful cough.  Parent 2 then gets horrendous GI virus, but worse than Kid!

It’s been a week of buying Pedialyte, Kleenex — anywhere, any price —  and overpriced bottles of 7-Up at the check out because of fatigue.  It was too far to walk the whole store!

It’s rare for me to do laundry outside time-of-use-rates, but all bets are off this week.

noexif_IMG_4633_privateOne small victory, and I mean very small… I made rhubarb muffins from last year’s rhubarb.  I also won a really neat picnic bag and two pounds of Starbucks “limited edition” coffee during teacher appreciation week.

My other accomplishment this week was decluttering some of the English home magazines I tend to not want to let go of.  My mom is going to England soon so maybe a fresh supply will come my way.  It was a good feeling to take care of a pile while I was keeping sick people company on the couch.

I hope we are through our rough patch and next week will be easier.  I plan to come up with some mild, light dinners for the coming week to ease everyone back into eating, and our Flylady zone is the Kitchen for next week.  With a little luck, we can get our grocery shopping back to normal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reality Comes Calling

I’ve been off work for the past week.  Glorious time!  A mini family vacation, lots of play-time for DD, and cleaning up the house with a drop off at Goodwill to boot!  Satisfying.  I know I am headed into a super busy April but the promise of summer break is on the horizon.

Having just that sliver of free time has given me space to do some goal setting instead of just surviving.  On my mind today:

  • Switching out of vacation mode and into “making dinner” mode.  A busy week ahead means a meal plan must be dealt with.  Not my favorite chore, but not planning is 10X worse.
  • Continuing to edit our “stuff”… being on vacation always makes me appreciate how little you need to be happy.  Pat on the back for setting a rummage sale date this summer with my  mom.
  • Flylady’s habit for April is making the bed.  Talked to DD about adopting this routine along with me.  We are pretty good about making the bed, but hopefully the diligence in this area will spill over into picking up clothes off the chair!
  • We reconcile the weekly expenses every Saturday evening.  Now is a good time to make sure we have accounted for summer expenses, especially kid expenses, and fund any categories that still need money.
Vacation living - the food comes to you!

Vacation living – the food comes to you!

What’s on your mind at the start of April?

God Breeze

If you ever followed Flylady.net, you know that a ‘God breeze’ is  like a bit of Divine inspiration.  I have been thinking about how when I am blogging I am so much more accountable with meal planning, and today I had a blog comment from a reader wondering if all was OK because it has been SO long since I wrote.

God breeze.

I need to come back to this blog, for me if no one else!

In the coming weeks, I’ll bring you up to date on what is working for us on the personal finance front, and also what balls have been dropped and need to be reassessed.

Are there topics you particularly enjoy?  Let me know.  I frequently have written about kids and money, Dave Ramsey, being debt-free, couponing, meal planning and budgeting.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Moment… Back to School Budgeting

KIDS AND MONEYOur daughter is headed to 5th grade this year, and this summer has been a great opportunity to ratchet up her role in the back-to-school finances.

Currently our school budget category has about $ 450 in it.  We deposit $10-20.00 a week into the category whenever we have a chance.  This is an ongoing budget category because inevitably there are purchases that come up throughout the year.  This fund covers school fees (yes, public schools have them), clothes, shoes, and school supplies.

The first budgeting opportunity was giving her the responsibility of looking at the school supply lists in July and combining all supplies required into one master list (if you take French, you need additional items; if you take Spanish, something else is required, and so on).  She did that at the start of July which allowed us to go to OfficeMax and get a bunch of supplies for .25 a piece when they started early-bird sales.  We focused only on the items with deep discounts and weren’t tempted by the full-priced items.  Still time for other sales!

A word on school supplies… or maybe more than a word.  When your kid is in Kindergarten if the teacher says you need a Bic pen in blue, by God, you will cross the earth to make sure you buy a Bic pen, lest your child’s blue pen be different than another kid’s pen.  By 5th grade, that is all out the window.  If the teacher wants Pink Pearl erasers, no way am I turning my back on Office Depot brand erasers for .01 as a loss leader.  Ditto on the markers.  If it is a reasonable-quality brand, we are going to live on the edge and get the ones on sale for .25.

Also, can we talk about #2 pencils?  How many #2 pencils do you think a 10 year old could use in roughly 9 months.  Now, about 1/2 the  school day consists of non-pencil using activities like lunch, band, PE, etc.  I would love for you to put your guess in the comments.  Is it anywhere near…. wait for it…. 79 pencils?!?!?!  We should have started sharpening these babies weeks ago! (Note for parents of small kids… start hoarding Ticonderoga pencils immediately)!

Another finance area for her to get involved was to see the amount we had budgeted for school needs and make some decisions about “optional” items like a new backpack and new lunch bag.  I supported her wish for something a little more grown-up and let her look through some catalogs.  She opted to get both items new for next year, knowing that choice may require some economizing down the road. Perhaps by being on top of the school supply sales we created more wiggle room for these “optional” items.

You may want to save on back to school because you have to… funds are tight and perhaps you are working Dave Ramsey’s steps.  On the other hand, you may not need to save on school supplies, but this could be a space to teach your kids about financial decision making in an area that concerns them directly.  My husband and I always say it’s important for kids to have some “skin in the game.”  Now is the time to have money experiences when the stakes are low.  Today’s backpack or Air Jordan decision is tomorrow’s decision about credit cards and college loans.  I’ll let you know how our purchases work out.  How is the back-to-school budgeting at your house?

Side note… if you are hoping to catch information on school supply sales I recommend the blog Hip2Save.

 

 

 

 

Working and Unconscious Spending

Free-Downloads-Vector-Vintage-Stove-GraphicsFairy-redWith summer comes a break from employment for me because I work in a school.  This past year I worked more hours, and I am thinking about how that affected my behavior with our money.

All along we have been staying debt-free and working a budget, but even within that I can see an increase in ‘buying to get through the week’ kind of behavior – unconscious spending.  I can tell I haven’t been as mindful with money when I am afraid to see what the grocery spending looks like when I run a report in Quicken.  I haven’t run one in a long time, but did so tonight.  It was better than I expected, but lots of room for improvement.  When I get lax with our shopping and meal planning, it generally costs us about an additional 100.00 a month.

It’s easy to get in the mindset of picking up convenience items at the store, and saying ‘yes’ to impulse purchases, when you are so busy.  Yet, that isn’t really how I want to spend the money I go to work to earn.  What I dislike even more than the expenditure, is the unconscious part of the spending.  Unconscious spending to me means those expenditures where I say, “Looks good, I’ll pick one up.  Why not.”  Conscious spending is when I might deviate from my plan, but I do so with intention and joy (and a definite plan to use the item soon).

If any persons think some of the maxims too rigidly economical, let them inquire how the largest fortunes among us have been made.  They will find thousands and millions have been accumulated by a scrupulous attention to sums ‘infinitely more minute than sixty cents.’

-The American Frugal Housewife, 1832

Meccas for unconscious spending:  Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market  All danger zones!  I don’t belong to Costco but I suspect that it also belongs on the list.

So, I am contemplating this summer how to find that balance come fall between minding the food expenses and not running around all weekend with coupons and grocery store flyers.  Your input is welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Prudent to Extravagant in 40 Minutes

Now, you know we plan ahead for kid expenses, whether it be school fees or summer activities, we are thinking and budgeting in advance.  .  . (most of the time).

Our daughter sure grew this year, and surprise! her bike is ridiculously small.  We tried to drum up a used bike from friends — no luck.  Thought about a bike from Target or Amazon, but we’re not real comfortable with assembling a bike with so many gears.  That brought us to the local bike shop.  Are you seeing dollar signs?  Wait, it gets worse!

My husband and I previewed the offerings at the bike shop alone to avoid possible kid disappointment.  We thought we could aim for an entry-level TREK 24″ wheel bike.  I brought her to the shop and the clerk was about the same height as our daughter.  Turns out she is ready for an adult-sized bike, and not even the smallest adult frame!  Dollar signs!

While she was testing the bikes out I was, of course, texting Mr. Saver: “Adult bike… $ 400-500, not 300. as we planned! ”  The upside is that this bike should work for her for a long time unless she hits 6 ft tall.  I advised her that she can buy her next bike because this one should last until she is 35!

mcdonalds-grimaceWe hone in on one model, only to find out the entry-level adult Trek comes in one color:  charcoal gray.  This is a moment where your parental resolve is tested.  Naturally, there is a purple bike, with better components, and it is teetering close to $500.  The clerk calls the bike “Grimace” purple.

So, for Mother’s Day, mom bought a $ 500 bike for daughter.  Quintessential parenting moment.  We have been out biking together every night when the weather cooperates.  Her bike is much nicer than mine and I may be a bit jealous of her slick looking Bontrager puncture resistant tires.  We paid in full for it… I would never finance a bike even if it were the last Grimace-purple bike in town!

Trek 7.2