Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eating Down the Apocalypse Supplies

Our cup, pantry and freezer overfloweth.

Because of this borderline hording mentality I seem to have developed, we are well stocked in the dry-goods, staples and frozen meat departments. Heck I've got enough toilet paper stocked to wipe all the asses in DC, and enough toothpaste to brush out their lying mouths. Living in the DC area I'm not sure how I will know if the Zombie Apocalypse has actually happened or if it's just business as usual in DC.

We have accumulated a lot of rice, pasta, cake mixes, chicken and ground beef...we have enough chicken and ground beef for McDonald's to serve a few more million. We also have half-a-dozen jars of jalapenos, I don't know why.

So for the month of September we are gonna "eat what we have" and not buy a lot of groceries. The obvious exceptions being milk, eggs, bread and fresh fruit and veggies.

Besides making some room in the pantry and freezers, I'm curious to see how much less than normal we spend out of our monthly food budget.

Will post an update on October 1st on how it worked out.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Weekly Web Roundup

Financial articles from around the web.

From Money Talk News:
10 Ways to Say No to Your Kids, and Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad When You Do

When I was growing up, my parents had two rules for shopping: Don’t ask for something that isn’t on sale, and no candy from the checkout aisle. If I wanted candy or full-priced cookies, I had to pay for it myself out of the measly pittance they called an “allowance.”
At the time it seemed unfair. Why do they keep saying no? How can anyone survive on $20 a week? But now I know not to waste money and I have no problem saving up for what I really want. Looking back, I’m grateful, but it couldn’t have been easy for them...

From Daily Finance:
3 Retirement Planning Tactics to Adopt Before You Hit 50

Well over half of Americans now in their 40s are at risk of experiencing a decline in their standard of living after they retire, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. But adopting the right retirement planning strategies at this phase of your life will help you avoid financial disaster in your golden years.
Here are three retirement strategies to deploy before blowing out your 50 birthday candles...

From Money Crashers:
8 Financial Tips for College Students to Save and Manage Money Better

If your child is one of the millions of college freshmen headed off to school, your August might be packed with shopping, gathering textbooks, and packing up entire rooms. And while picking out the perfect dorm decor might seem important, don’t neglect the deeper subjects. Now is the time to talk to your child about personal finance. As a parent, you have the opportunity and obligation to prep your freshman on budgeting and smart spending strategies before he or she hits campus... 

From Wise Bread:
3 Ways to Save Hundreds (or Even Thousands) of Dollars Without Thinking

Looking for simple ways to save more money that don't take a lot of work? Here are three ways to put more money in your pocket each month without having to dramatically change your behavior...

From Free Money Finance:
Why I Invest in Index Funds 

have a good portion of my assets in index funds of various kinds (US stocks, international stocks, small cap, etc.) Today I would like to give the reasons I have used index funds as my primary investment vehicle for 15 years or so... 

From Wall St. Cheat Sheet
Planning for Retirement? Social Security Will Cramp Your Style

There’s a lot to be said about the aggregate retirement situation in America right now. According to a report published last year by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Americans are running a collective retirement income deficit — the difference between what people have save and what they should have saved — of $6.6 trillion.

Half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings, according to the report, and a full 92 percent believe that there is a growing retirement crisis. (Savings estimates tend to vary wildly.) By and large, the data supports the pessimistic theory that there is a retirement crisis brewing. The personal savings rate in the United States right now is about 4.5 percent, nearly half the rate recommended for those with 40 years left until retirement...

Tip of the Day

Marry someone frugal. It's much easier (and cheaper) than trying to change a person. Find someone with great self-worth, who doesn't need "stuff" to make their life "complete". Avoid people with "mommy or daddy issues". If you have just started dating someone, and they are horrible with finances, dump them now! Before you get in too deep.

If you are already hitched, and if your spouse is not on-board with living a frugal life, your finances will always be second-rate. Both people have to want this for it to work. If your spouse is not with the program, gently keep working on him/her. It may be, that like an alcoholic, they have to hit rock bottom (lose the house, car repo, job loss).

I hit the jackpot in this area. Thanks sweetie for making all this possible.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Friday, August 30, 2013

Beware Getting too Much Financial Help from Granny

Grandparents spending too much on your kids (with or without your ok)? Do grandma and grandpa spoil the kids too much for your tastes? Are they always buying the kids’ stuff, taking them places, bringing them treats (donuts and other junk food), getting them the latest electronics?

Sure some of those things are great in small doses; needed clothes, the occasional treat or special outing. But it needs to be special not a regular occurrence. Otherwise the kids are gonna grow-up spoiled and with a sense of entitlement.

Gently suggest alternatives. Just spending time with grandma without spending money, educational toys, presents the entire family can enjoy, subscriptions to magazines, back to school supplies, family passes to museum, savings bonds or savings accounts in the child's name.

Another consideration is that grandma/grandpa might not really be able to afford it. We don't want to be stressing them financially also. Don't let the geezers bankrupt themselves because they are helping you out.

Or maybe it’s the parent’s always bugging granny for money because the parents are slackers and over-spenders and can't manage their finances. In that case, you as a grandparent need to, in the word's of Barney Fife, Nip it in the Bud. Do not be an enabler for your overspending offspring. Trust me your grand-kids won't go hungry.

Oh and grandma, if you are helping out financially, don't blackmail your kids and think you get a say in how the grand-kids are raised. You don't. You had your chance when raising your own kids.

Obviously this applies to all family and friends, not just grandparents.

Don’t get me wrong, we have gotten plenty of help from the grandparents on both sides of our family and it has been extremely helpful. But it hasn’t been over the top. And my kids, and us, are very appreciative and don’t expect it. Just try and find a balance.

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Tip of the Day

My Cliff Note Retirement Savings Plan

1) Find the minimum expense to lead a happy life.  This is usually a lot lower than people think it is, but some people just need to spend more.  That's OK, work on it over time or work longer.

2) Live this minimum expense happy life while working.  Don't waste your money on things that don't truly improve your life.  Save a bunch.

3) Once you've saved 25-30 times your annual expenses, retire and continue living your minimum expense happy life indefinitely.

"it's simple, but not easy" Jack Bogle

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different*** 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tip of the Day

Skip the movie theater and hit up Redbox or the library. Do you really need to see the latest blockbuster right away? It will still be the same movie in 6 months.

Taking a family of 15 to the movies - $120 or more
Same movie 6 months later from Redbox - $1.20
Same movie in another 3 months from the library - Free

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different*** 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Journey to Coffee Paradise

While never one to waste money buying coffee at Dunking Donuts, Starbucks or other coffee joints, I am a coffee fiend. I drink way too much of the Black Liquid from Heaven. In my quest for better at-home coffee, I've gone from drip coffee to K-cup machine to French Press to Espresso machine. 

I switched because of taste, not price. The savings is an added bonus.

I work from home so making espresso, or any other style coffee, is not an issue. I’m in no hurry. When I did commute to an office, I made coffee in the morning with my French Press and then brought it to work in one of those metal-thermos' that construction workers use.

Here is what I found over the past 5 years or so of working at home.

  • Coffee shop coffee cost: $120-$180 per month (or more), $4-$6 per day

  • K-cup – Machine cost: $100 – K-Cup Coffee cost: $60 per month, $2 per day

  • French Press/Coffee Beans - French Press & Grinder cost: $50 – Coffee Bean cost: $52 per month $1.67 per day

  • Espresso – Machine cost: $60 – Italian Ground Espresso cost: $15.28 per month, 51 cents per day

Yearly savings using espresso vs. k-cups or French Press: $425-$520
Yearly savings using espresso machine vs. Starbucks/Dunkin: $1,236-$1,854

This is the machine I bought 2 years ago. It was $60 then, it's gone up to $84. It will still pay for itself quickly.

This is the espresso I get delivered every month through Amazon's subscribe and save service (extra 20% off for frequent buyers (5 or more items per month)). One $15.28 order lasts me a month.

Sure I could probably save a few dollars more a month by switching back to generic drip coffee (or heaven-forbid, quit), but lets get serious.  

We still have the K-Cup machine for when guests are over, for the college kids to use or a quickie cup when on the run. I've since found K-Cups from Amazon that are only 29 cents each. (San Fransisco Bay brand)

For those of you with a Starbucks addiction. Here are some recipes you can make at home.

Starbucks drink recipes 

Tip of the Day

Give yourself a weekly/monthly cash allowance to blow on things like: beer, coffee, treats, smokes, activities etc...

This assumes you have debt under control and can afford to.

Stick to this amount, don't go over. Give your spouse the same amount...or more.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tip of the Day

Give. Poor, rich or middle of the road. Keep giving to your church and/or favorite charities. I don't care if you are swimming in debt, give something. Stick a dollar bill in the collection basket. Throw a quarter into the poor box. Work your way up to giving more.

Don't just give money, also give of your time (I really need to work on this. It's tough for an introvert who doesn't like people).

***all posts applying to my family only - your results will be different***

Monday, August 26, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 Yes it has come to that, I am making our laundry detergent. After mocking others, hippies mostly, I started making detergent myself. We spend a fair amount each year on detergent and we don't even use the pricier brands like Tide.

 Further down below is a recipe and a link to the site I got it from. This is a concentrated version; she also has a version that requires less of each ingredient. I used a 96 ounce jug to make this and each load of laundry uses 2 ounces of the liquid (HE machine, use more if you have a top-loader). So I am getting 48 loads per jug. Each jug costs me less than $2 to make. Around 5 cents per load. I haven’t bothered to figure out the exact amount. But it’s a lot cheaper than store-bought and only takes a few minutes to make. Oh and the stuff works. On the website is a non-concentrated version that is even cheaper to make.

How to make it:

Put the following into a jug, I used an old 96 ounce detergent jug. You could probably use up to a gallon jug.

1/2 cup of Borax
1/2 cup of Washing Soda
1/2 cup of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid - the blue grease fighting kind

Then add 4 cups of boiling water and shake the jug (behave people) to dissolve. Top off the jug with water. Shake the jug between uses to make sure it stays well mixed. That's it, simple.

Use ¼ cup for HE machine
Use ½ cup for top-loader

Stole this recipe from Here

You can get the Borax and Washing Soda at Amazon. I am told Wal-Mart has them for even less money, but I don’t do Wal-Mart. 

You might not think this saves a lot. But we do 30-35 loads of laundry per week. And even the cheapest detergent on sale ( ALL, Arm and Hammer etc...) costs 3 times as much as this home brew. 

Homemade detergent per year - $91
Cheap detergent (Cheer, All, Store brand) - $273
Tide and other high dollar stuff -  $310-$480

The non-concentrated version would be about $40 per year.

There are lots of detergent recipes out there, liquid and powder. If you've tried any that you like let me know about them.

For my very stinky running clothes, I still use regular store bought detergent. The homemade stuff doesn't get the Sardonic Stink out of them.

Not that I actually do the laundry myself, I mean I am married after all.

Tip of the Day

Make your Smart Phone work for you. Use it to compare prices when shopping in a Brick and Mortar store.

When shopping at Target, Walmart, Sears etc...use a smart phone app to compare prices online.

The 3 apps I use:
  • Amazon - with the Amazon app you can scan the bar code of an item or type it in.
  • eBay - I can also look-up items on my eBay app. They sell new stuff in addition to the used stuff.
  • The Find - you can scan a bar code, type in a product name or type in a UPC, It will then look for the best prices at numerous stores/sties.
Buying online, in addition to being cheaper most of the time, saves you on sales tax too. 6% in my area.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tip of the Day

When upgrading your cell phone checkout Amazon's prices. They are usually lower than what Verizon, AT&T and the others offer. And its no problem to do your upgrade through Amazon's website.

Better yet see if any of the "free" phones that your carrier offers will meet your needs. There are plenty of Droids and even the oldest iPhone for free out there. Do you really need the latest and greatest phone every few years?

Or, possibly even better, checkout some of the low-cost cell phone companies like Cricket or Republic and see if they will meet your needs. The phones and the service aren't as good as the big name companies, but they might work for you if you are a light user.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekly Web Round Up

Financial articles from around the web.

From Wise Bread 30 Signs That You Were Raised by Frugal Parents

1. You skip the headlines in the Sunday paper and head straight for the sales inserts.
2. You’ve washed (or seriously considered washing) tin foil to use it a second time.
3. You remember smuggling homemade snacks into the Saturday matinee.
4. You know how to buff your shoes to high shine by adding a bit of water or heat to the polish.
5. You’ll still stop to pick up a penny...

From Money Talk News The Worst and Best Ways to Destroy Debt
"Multiple credit card bills each month, with balances that are growing, not shrinking. Student loans. Plus a car payment. Do you feel buried by a mountain of debt?
There are smart ways to dig your way out. Pick the wrong way and you’ll make a bad situation much worse, adding years and thousands of dollars to your burden..."

From Daily Finance How to Start Saving for Retirement Now: 5 Tips for 20-Somethings
"If you're in your 20s, retirement can feel like it's a lifetime away. And it is -- but that's exactly why you should start thinking about it now: A long time frame is the greatest advantage you have as an investor. By getting a solid foundation in place early, you set yourself up to cruise to a far more comfortable retirement than anyone who waits until their 30s or later to start saving..."

From Money Crashers 8 Tips for Garage Sale Pricing – How to Price Garage Sale Items 
"Garage sales can be intimidating, especially if you’re not one for haggling or confrontation. But as a buyer or a seller, you can lose money if you don’t know how to approach the process..."

From Christian PF  When to Reach Out For Financial Help
"Accounts are delinquent...Bill collectors are calling..."