Becoming Debt Free in 2009

February 11, 2009

Big Announcement!!!

Filed under: Budget,Food,Frugal,Shopping — ambercouric @ 10:17 am
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I can’t really make the announcement until tomorrow but I just wanted everyone to get prepared for it.

Now a question for all of you.  How do you balance saving money (shopping at the cheapest places) vs supporting your community (shopping at locally owned usually more expensive places)?

I try to shop locally.  But lately I have considered doing mail order for prescriptions and contacts.  I could shop at a chain pet store and a cheaper grocery store and the list goes on.   So how do you balance the whole shop locally thing?  In all, I’m talking about saving $150 – $200 a month without shopping Wal-Mart.  If I shopped Wal-Mart that number would increase another couple hundred dollars.  I will say I’m not willing to shop at Wal-Mart.  In this economy a couple hundred dollars is a lot of money and I would like to find a balance.

Do you shop the cheapest stores?  Shop mostly local? Or a combination of the two?

January 28, 2009

Cheap Food and A Bonus

Filed under: Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 10:23 am
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Last night I had to run into Food Lion to pick up some candy for Kennedy.  While there I decided to pick up a loaf of rice bread.  I can only eat rice or tapioca bread because of severe allergies and at $5.89 a loaf  I don’t eat a lot of it.  But while in Food Lion I noticed they had a ton of stuff in their organic section reduced to less than a dollar.  I was able to get nearly $100 worth of bread, pasta, snack bars, egg replacer, and potato starch all for less than $10.  All of the items had dates of Oct. 2009 or later so I bought enough for a long time.  This was a huge find because it is RARE that I find a deal on allergy free items.

My SAT student stopped by yesterday with a gift.  She was thrilled with her score increase and wanted to do something special for me.  She gave me a bag filled with $200 worth of giftcards to various places.  This will be such a treat since several of the cards are to places like Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, Chilli’s and a local speciality store. 

It was so nice to have a day that just seemed to all go right.  Especially, since January has been such a hard month.

January 26, 2009

Weekly Budget Cut #1

Filed under: Budget,Debt,Food,Goals,Weekly Budget Cuts — ambercouric @ 10:19 am
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In an effort to make $400 worth of cuts to our monthly budget, we have decided to find one item each week to cut.  We have only one rule – if for some reason the “cut” doesn’t work we can replace it with another cut for the week.  We do have to have at least one cut each week that will stick.

So now for the cut of the week.  Sara Lee bread.  We normally go through 2 loaves of bread each week.  We only buy Sara Lee bread because that is all my older son would eat as a child.  He thinks bread has a smell and Sara Lee didn’t.  So, this cut was replacing Sara Lee bread with store brand.  With the total savings per month being about $12.  I will say this was Kennedy’s idea.  Well, it didn’t work.  Half way through the first loaf of store brand bread DH and Kennedy both said they just couldn’t eat it.  It had a funny taste and the ends were hard.  For the record, I am allergic to wheat so I can’t eat it so I can’t speak for the taste. 

So, how did we make up for the failed budget cut?  We changed what we put on the bread.  I normally spend at $12 – $15 on deli lunch meat each week.  I buy turkey, salami and roast beef.  We have decided to buy only one lunch meat per week and buy no more than $6 (usually a pound of one of the items on sale).  Once the meat is gone the rest of the week will result in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We expect to save $24 per month with this change.

We decided to be very specific with each cut.  Instead of cutting the grocery budget, we have to list exactly what we will cut and how it will affect the budget. 

Only $376 more to cut.

January 2, 2009

I Saved A Ton Of Money On…

Filed under: Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 1:40 pm
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Wasn’t there a commercial a long time ago that said “I saved a ton of money on my ….”?  I can’t remember what the commercial was advertising but this was the only title I could think of.

Back in November, I asked about shopping at Wal-Mart.  Up until this point I really didn’t have a need or desire to shop any Wal-Mart.  But since the new Wal-Mart is only about a mile from Harris Teeter (my normal grocery store) I decided I would give them a try.  I had heard from several neighbors that shopped how much lower the prices were.   I have severe food allergies and shop brand specific at least 95% of the time. 

I went in with my $100 (my budget for the week) and vowed not to spend a penny more.  I also had no intentions of “checking out the store”.  I needed groceries and that was all I planned to purchase.  I had a list and although I didn’t keep to it completely I was pretty close.  I was SHOCKED at the prices.  SHOCKED!!!   My rice milk was $1 less for double the size, rice noodles were $2.23 less, coffee was $2.89 less. Most items were only 50 cents to one dollar less but still that is a huge savings.  The only item that I bought that was more was Jimmy Dean sausage.  It was 38 cents more than Harris Teeter.   My total bill was $40.83.    I didn’t use coupons.  Most of the items I buy don’t have coupons.  I added up what the bill would have been at HT and it would have been around $79.

Some of the items I can get cheaper at HT when they are B1G1 but otherwise there is no comparison on the prices.   But most of my allergy specific items don’t go on sale or if they do it is usually on 20 cents off. 

I think this year while I’m on a cash only system and trying to reduce my debt I will shop more at Wal-Mart.  I will still buy meat at HT.  I just didn’t need any this week. 

The real key to saving money at Wal-Mart is not to venture over to all the departments.

December 8, 2008

Leftovers, Rainchecks, CVS

Filed under: Food,Frugal,Shopping — ambercouric @ 9:34 am
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Leftovers

As  I have said before, I’m not much of a leftover eater.  Neither are my boys.  My husband doesn’t  mind leftovers so what he doesn’t eat usually gets trashed.  Well, after looking in the fridge Friday, I decided I wasn’t going to cook until the leftovers were all gone.  So I have had a cook free weekend.  And after tonight there will be no more leftovers in the fridge.

Rainchecks

I am probably the only person who had never asked for a raincheck at the grocery store.  If they are out of something I want then I just think I’ll get back in before the sale is over.  Usually I don’t remember when I’m back in the store.  Saturday, I asked for a raincheck for Birdseye Viola Pasta.  They were buy one get one free and these are easy to make when it is just the boys.  When the cashier asked how many I wanted I said 10.  I think it shocked her but I thought why not get extra.  This raincheck will save me $25 when they have it in stock.  I think I am going to try to take advantage of rainchecks more often.

CVS

At the beginning of this year I did the CVS Extra Care thing.  I was able to get a lot of stuff for free or nearly free.  I stopped in the summer because I had enough stuff.  When I was buying, I tried to stock up for a year.  I realized over the weekend a couple of the items that I stocked up on are running out.  So I will starting up with CVS again.  One thing I will not do this time is buy tons of candy even if it is free or nearly free.  The boys only need so many bags of M&M’s.  I’ll limit the toothpaste – I still have a ton left and have donated several bags.  So I am going to start shopping CVS again but will limit to what is needed.  Once I reach my year stockpile – I’ll probably stop again for several months.

November 20, 2008

Do you shop at Wal-Mart?

Filed under: Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 10:59 am
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In the past I have steered clear of Wal-Mart. The main reasons being 1) customer service was awful- I know this isn’t the case everywhere but for our store it is 2) when they first came many smaller stores went out of business 3) it was on the other side of town 4) there have been several fights in the store between shoppers – physical fights where the police were called and people arrested.

Recently we have had a new store open on this side of town.  During the initial couple of months I wouldn’t attempt to go in because everyone else was there checking it out.  Now the dust has settled I could probably get in and out pretty quickly.

Yesterday, I received the new Wal-Mart grocery ad and the prices are cheap.  Very cheap compared to Harris Teeter.  I’m thinking maybe I should check it out.

I know lots of people have very strong opinions – pro and con – about Wal-Mart.  I would love to hear yours.

November 14, 2008

Grocery Budget – The Last Time (I Hope)

Filed under: Budget,Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 7:57 pm
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After reading the responses on my last post about my grocery budget, I think I may be a little unrealistic to think I can get by on $400 per month.  When talking to my husband he reminded me just how much the boys eat.  We’ve had this same budget for several years and two things have changed.  One is that both the boys have grown – although one isn’t here all the time since he is in college- he is home a lot and eats a lot and the other change is that grocery prices have really increased. 

So I have a new plan:

  1. Go to Aldi first – buy what I can there
  2. Go to the grocery store only once a week – I will buy several gallons of milk at a time so I don’t have to make a quick run
  3. Increase the budget to $125 /week or $500/month
  4. Learn to like leftovers
  5. Make a menu and buy according to the meal plan and sales

Hopefully, by the end of December I will have this whole grocery thing worked out so I can focus on another part of the budget.  There is no way I can implement more than one MAJOR change at a time.  I can do little things but I work in such detail that I would drive myself crazy trying to do more.

Good news is that  while sorting through the budget it looks like I will be able to pay more than I had originally thought on the car.  The total should decrease by $1100 instead of $900.

Have a great weekend.

November 13, 2008

Talking About the Grocery Budget – Again

Filed under: Budget,Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 10:02 am
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Saving Money 101 – I FAILED.  Budgeting 101 – I FAILED.  Reality Check 101 – FAILED AGAIN.

OK, so I sat down and calculated all the debits for October that were for the grocery store.   I also calculated the Target spending.

Remember each month I “budget” on paper $400 for groceries.  I also have a miscellaneous budget that would cover the Target items.

The total spent

Grocery store – $689.73

Target – $108.47 (I am estimating that about $40 of this was for grocery items)

Total for groceries for one month – $729.73 -WOW JUST WOW

I would have never guessed that we spent so much at the grocery store.  I knew we spent more than what I would budget but we almost doubled it.  I know this is the reason most personal finance people say keep a list of everything you spend for a month.  My husband often asked me to keep a list of the dollars spent on Diet Coke. Wow just wow.  I can’t believe it.  Can you tell I am shocked?

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who thinks that certain things don’t apply.  You know the kind that think they don’t need to keep up with every penny spent.  The person who thinks they do a good job of shopping and they don’t need a price book.  Wow, I’m just WRONG.

You know the sad thing is this is only food for four people.  I buy a special diet food for my dog that is not at the grocery store.  I have a ton of miscellaneous health and beauty aids, laundry detergent, etc. that were all purchased from CVS months ago so none of that stuff is included.  This also didn’t include the two pizza takeout orders.

Oh, the funny thing is – we actually eat beans and rice.

For November up to this point I have spent $203 and have plenty of food but will need to go on Sunday for more milk, bread, cereal and that sort of stuff.  My guess is I will spend at least $75.  At this point I am estimating my grocery bill for November to be between $350-$400.

Sorry, this post is rambling but I am still in SHOCK. 

I have two teenagers and DH.  DH and older son are both over 6 feet tall.  DH weighs about 190, DS is a runner and eats tons -he weighs 145, and my younger DS is 5’7 and about 100 pounds.  I know these are skinny people but they can EAT.  We don’t eat a lot of processed food because of my allergies.  The boys do like their frozen pizza, cheese sticks, and such.  I also have to buy a few things that are very expensive compared to the average family.  Rice milk $5 half gallon, Rice noodles $4 pound, rice flour and a few other things like that.  DH and the boys eat the regular stuff so the special food is only for me. 

I just can’t believe it.  Absolutely, can’t believe it.  No wonder I don’t balance the checkbook.  I would absolutely have a coronary every month.  Just think how fast I could be debt free if I would go through all my expenses like this. 

Now for your input.  How much do you spend on groceries?  Point me in the direction of lowering my food bill.  HELP.

November 10, 2008

Grocery Store Mistakes

Filed under: Budget,Food — ambercouric @ 5:53 pm
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I have cut down on my trips to the grocery store and sorta put a plan in motion for a grocery budget. I have done so well only going to the grocery store twice a week and not buying Diet Coke and chips.

However, today was different. Here are my grocery store mistakes today.

1) Took my teenage son with me – his orthodontist is just across the street.
2) Did not follow my list. I had a list that had every thing I needed to last until my next trip on Saturday or Sunday.  If I would have stuck to the list the total would have been $20.
3) Did not look at the sales before I went. Once I got there I realized that several items I usually purchase were buy-one-get-one-free. So of course I threw a couple of each in the cart.
4) I purchased one 2 Liter Diet Coke on sale for $1. I don’t feel so bad about this because I normally would have spent $15 on Diet Coke 12 packs.
5) Did not say no to son. He was hungry and wanted several junk type things.
6) Only had $63 cash. Total was $66 so instead of taking something out of the cart. Like the Starbucks coffee – I paid for the whole thing with the debit card. DS was panic stricken that I might actually put something back. OH the embarrassment he couldn’t of handled it.

Now the SILVER LINING in the all of this – a month ago I would never have even thought about what I was putting in the cart and the trip probably would have cost $100. BABY STEPS.

October 24, 2008

I Go To The Grocery Store EVERYDAY

Filed under: Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 8:40 am
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I have spent the last few days looking over my expenses. And I have found that I go to the grocery store every single day. Actually, sometimes I’m not the one physically walking in the there but someone from my house is going. It really doesn’t help that I live two miles from three grocery stores.

I found three trends in our shopping.

1) I make one big shop each week. Usually around $75 -$100.

2) If I go on a grocery run my bill is usually around $10-$12. Only snacks – usually I need more Diet Coke and I pick up chips or crackers.

3) My husband goes and he spends $33-$35. He is usually going to pick up more Diet Coke or milk. He always adds in anything that he may think he needs for work.

I really thought I was spending about $400 per month on groceries. I think it is closer to $600 – $700 and this is for four people.

SOLUTION:

1) I will only go to the grocery store ONCE a week. If we run out of something we will get by until the next shopping day.

2) I am going to keep track of how much Diet Coke we buy. Most of the extra runs would never happen if I didn’t “need” coke and chips.

3) Keep my wonderful husband out of the store. In his defensive he has told me this countless times. Sometimes, I’m just to lazy to go.

Now that I have convinced you all that I sit around and drink coke and eat chips all day, I should say that I am normal weight – I wear a size 8 jeans. Because of my allergies I don’t eat anything like ice cream, candy bars, etc. I have to buy the expensive chips so each bag is $4.99 on sale.

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