Monthly Archives: December 2008

Planning, Financial Style

If you know me at all, you know that I am a planner. I love making lists and crossing things off and I am most at ease when there is a plan (preferably created by me). I try to be flexible and let the little things slide, but personal finance is a big area where planning really helps.

We started our marriage knowing each other for many years with lots of honesty and similar financial views, so that helps. Discussions about money are always regular conversations and we are usually on the same page, but until this fall, we did not have a devoted time to discuss our finances.

 I pay all the bills and manage the accounts and felt it was important to have a devoted time to include the hubs so he knew exactly what was going on. He trusted me and was never worried, but I wanted things to be team decisions and for him to feel like he really understood exactly where things stand. So I scheduled monthly “finance meetings”.

On the first Monday of the month, after dinner, we sit down and go through my spreadsheets:
1. Balances on all of our accounts (assets and debts)
2. Spending (actual compared to budget) for the previous month
3. Goals (I will do a separate post on goals)

I use Microsoft Money to track all of our spending and bank accounts, but I still find it easier to create my own Excel spreadsheet using information from Money reports. It took a little bit of work to design the spreadsheets, but now I just update them each month.

The first month’s meeting was pretty long as we walked through all of the information, but now we just briefly meet to review them and discuss any items on the “agenda”. Usually agenda items are finance/employment items that one of us is supposed to take care of/or look into and report back. This serves as a way to keep anything (like submitting transportation expenses for 2008) from being forgotten.

So far my husband loves these meetings and really enjoys all the information my spreadsheets provide. He also seems to enjoy having clear concrete goals set. Even though we always discussed things before, they are more clear now that they are documented with target dates and prioritized. This type of planning has really brought us both to a new level of stability and security with managing our money.

This is really working for us so far and it feels really rewarding to see our progress towards our concrete goals each month!

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Filed under Budgeting

Christmas Strategy Update

When I first blogged about my Christmas strategy, I set the lofty goal of being done with shopping by December 1st. Did I make it? Well, no. not entirely. I got 95% done though. Considering I was suffering with some major sickness for most of November, I call that close enough. ha!

I still have a few small things to pick up, but they are items that have been planned for many weeks so I just need to stop and purchase, no thinking involved. 

Overall, I think this plan worked well and I plan to do this again next year. I am so thankful not to be spending my December wandering around the stores looking for the perfect present to jump out at me. In hindsight, if I had stayed home and rested more while I was sick (instead of getting most of my shopping done), I may have recovered faster. Who am I kidding though? I would have surely found something else to do besides rest!

I will be spending the next couple of weeks with my family, soaking up the warmth of our fireplace, watching some cheesy Christmas movies, baking and wrapping presents.

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Filed under Organizing, Planning

Stockpiling

Stockpiling is a common frugal shopping technique. The idea is that you buy several of an item you use when its at the lowest price.  The goal of stockpiling is to never pay full price for anything. Here are the basic steps:

1. Keep track ( mentally or in a notepad) of the prices you see and pay for commonly-bought items.

2. When you see something on sale for a “rock-bottom” price, stock up. Usually you will find “rock-bottom” prices when you can combine a good sale or mark-down with coupons.

3. Menu-plan from your stockpile, only buying dairy products and fresh produce as needed on a weekly basis plus whatever is at stockpile worthy prices that you use. Shop from your stockpiled pantry when planning meals because you know all of those items were purchased for a bargain.

4. Don’t stockpile things you don’t already use! This will turn into waste and that is definitely not frugal.

For example, a can of organic Muir Glenn diced tomatoes ranges from $1.89 -2.79 at regular prices at several grocery stores I frequent. I use diced tomatoes in several of my go-to recipes so this is a good stockpile item for me. Once in a while, the store will have them on sale 4/$5 ($1.25 each). I also usually have several $1 off or $0.75 off coupons making these $0.25 -$0.50 each. That is the “rock-bottom” price to me.

I buy several cans of diced tomatoes when they are at a stockpile worthy price so that I never have to pay anything close to the full price.

As an alternative price-comparison, Costco sells another brand of organic diced tomatoes for approximately $0.87 each. These are always for sale at that price so I will buy a case of those when needed if I’m unable to find my “rock-bottom” price mentioned above at the normal grocery stores.

Stockpiling allows me to shop at several different stores, stocking up on certain things from each store that I like without going to every store each week. By menu-planning from my stockpile and just buying the perishables and fill-in items, I am free to menu-plan without worrying about finding the best deal on all the ingredients I need every week.

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Filed under Coupons, Deals, Menu-Planning

Menu Planning Monday

Well life has gotten the best of me once again. I have been sick for the last several weeks and in survival mode. We ate out of our stockpile and ate out more than I would have liked, but that’s life.

On with a new week! Here is our dinner menu for this week:

Monday – broiled salmon, baked sweet potatoes and broccoli

Tuesday – beef tenderloin and leek mashed potatoes

Wednesday – dinner event (both of us)

Thursday – pasta and frozen veggies

Friday – date night dinner

Saturday – attending a Christmas party (evening dinner)

Sunday – chicken enchiladas (Americas Test Kitchen Light recipe)

Tis the season and my cooking load is lightened with a few dinner events we are attending 🙂

Almost everything for the menu this week was from my stockpile. All I purchased from the grocery store was the leeks and cilantro and chiles for the enchiladas. I also bought milk, cottage cheese and some baking ingredients I needed.

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Filed under Menu-Planning