We are not super strict on our grocery budget. We have come a long way since we started and with the opening of Aldi in our town, we are spending less than ever. That being said, we are not that firm about cutting here. Even without really trying that hard, we keep spending less and less. We are loosely keeping to around $100/week and most weeks we are under budget.
How is this possible?
1. We are utilizing everything possible from our garden. This year I actually succeeded with a bumper crop of zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onions and more. What we aren’t using, I am actually freezing. Or I was, until I ran out of freezer space.
2. We are eating all our leftovers, religiously. They either come to work with us as lunch the next day, or we have a leftover night for dinner.
3. We are planning our meals in advance and planning meals that are cost effective.
4. We are paying attention to what’s on sale!
None of this is really challenging. Sure, there are days where we get crazy and get home late and are tired, but we can plan for that! On those nights, we pop in our frozen pizza from Aldi or just do leftovers. It’s better for us and cheaper than the old days where we might order a pizza or just run for Chinese food on those nights. It is amazing what just a little pre-planning and paying attention has done for our finances surrounding our grocery bills.
Last week Mr. PoniesandFIRE was on vacation. I went to a horse show for a couple days with a client and then took a couple days off to help with home projects. Our plan was to get through a bunch of stuff and then reassess where we were at mentally with our home at the end of the week.
We ended up jumping into a kitchen renovation. Our kitchen was terrible when we bought the home. We tore out an oven in the wall that didn’t work and smelled of dead mouse when we moved in. We had an old electric cooktop in one of the counters and used just that for years.
Finally, my dad put in a new stove/oven for us last year and the cooktop became just a dirty waste of countertop. We knew this was something we needed to get rid of because it was both gross and doing nothing for our home value. The countertops themselves were an old chipped white laminate.
Now, my dream would be to hire a professional to redo EVERYTHING floor to ceiling in that kitchen, but we are cash-flowing this folks. So we went to Lowes and checked out counters. I wanted butcher block, but that was going to be over $6k installed by them, so that was a hard pass. Second choice of quartz or granite were also both a little above where we wanted to be. We decided on a solid stone surface that will be around $3k installed.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our home is a 100 year old farmhouse, so we spent the weekend removing the old countertop, sink and super gross cooktop, and quickly came to the realization that NOTHING IS LEVEL. Nothing is level and therefore, our easy countertop project has become bigger. We need to make everything level before the countertop people will template and then install.
A quick trip back to Lowes and we are ready to go with plywood and shims and we have until Thursday to get these things level.
Current Kitchen Reno costs:
1. Countertops from Lowes - $3,000 (we are adding a row of cabinets, so the surface area is larger)
2. Plywood, shims, nails, level, wood glue, misc., - $150
3. Three new base model cabinets for the new row - $285
4. New sink and faucets - $400
I also plan to do the following, if we don’t go over budget:
1. Chalk paint kitchen cabinets
2. Redo backsplash
3. New light fixture
5. Add shelves on one empty wall
6. Redo floor somehow…?
The plan is to do everything ourselves, with the exception of installing the countertops. Neither of us is particularly handy, but we’re trying our best. Every skill learned is money saved! :)
Whether we are selling or staying, once again, nothing is decided.
A few months ago I posted about a small house for sale that we could almost purchase from our equity if we sold our house and downsized. We felt like it was a good plan, but the amount of work required to list our house was overwhelming. The house was also around 800 square feet and while I love the idea of downsizing, that felt extreme. I just wasn’t sure it was what we wanted. That house sold and we went back to status quo, with just a little headway on the decluttering process.
Each month that ticks by gets us a little more equity and a little closer to an easy transition to sell our house and downsize. Here we are in September and a major fixer upper has been listed for a sale a few days ago. It’s in our ideal area and same school district and has more reasonable square footage. It is majorly affordable, as it is a DUMP, but the land is nice and it has potential.
Once again, I run the numbers and it’s tight, but possible, to own it outright from our equity. We could then spend the next year cash flowing renovations. We could potentially be in a fully paid off home, renovated to our liking by this time next year! WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THAT?!?
To make it remotely possible though, we need to start taking action. I feel paralyzed by how much needs to be done from decluttering to repainting to minor remodels to maximize what we can get for our current house. I worry that by the time we accomplish those things, this house we’re considering will be sold and then what?
Well, then we will have a slightly updated home that is ready to sell the NEXT TIME the “perfect” (aka, major project) house comes along. We need to start taking action, even if we don’t know how it’s going to turn out or what choices we will end up making with our home.
Next week Mr. PoniesandFIRE is on vacation and he has a list of projects that all need to be done if we want to sell, starting with cleaning out the garage. I thought I was going to be away at a horse show with students all week, but turns out I will be back Thursday afternoon, so I am making my own list of things and using the time I already took off to get stuff done.
We are planning to go crazy for the next 9 days to see what we can accomplish and then sit down and talk about what we do next, if we are ready to talk to a real estate agent or we want to wait. Wish us luck!
In the last ten days, I have sold $44.05 worth of stuff (my cut) on Poshmark. Our year to date total on stuff we’ve sold is $329.05! It feels great to get things out of the house that we are not using (mostly outgrown by PoniesandFIREjr) and have the money hit our account.
It has me really fired up to sell more. I listed another four things last night. I have a couple bags of baby clothes that I was hanging onto for the “but what if…” factor, but I think I am ready to list all that stuff too. I think we are done with having our own kids and we’ve agreed we won’t move forward with talking about the possibility of fostering to adopt until we’ve paid off the truck and made some big progress on the mortgage. I’d rather be rid of the baby clothes and be that much closer to paying off the debt than hold on to them but put off fostering to adopt, if that makes sense?
I have some majorly crazy long and short term goals floating around in my head and selling more stuff makes them slightly less crazy.
1. I want to pay off the truck loan ($20,742 currently) by the end of January 2019.
2. I want to take the months of July and August off from my full time job to spend time with PoniesandFIREjr next year before he starts kindergarten next year.
3. I want to pay off our mortgage by the time PoniesandFIREjr finishes 1st grade ($131,795 currently)
Now, these are good goals in the sense that they have a time frame and are measurable, all the things goals should be. They’re bad goals because they are absolutely insane. $20k in 5 months, when we have a vacation, Christmas, and probably a million other things coming up in that timeframe? It sounds impossible.
But so what? Say it is impossible. Say we go insane, work extra, cut the budget, sell everything we can, and don’t hit the goal in time. If we only pay off $16k or $17k by then, we are not failures! We are still making awesome progress and we just adjust the time frame. Nothing is lost by making our goals stretch and challenge us.
I have very little extra to send to the truck in September, so I’m going to create it. Every dollar I make from selling stuff in September is going directly to the truck loan.
I will freely admit that we are not great at being consistent about trying to reduce our electric bill. I have really good intentions to ONLY LINE DRY and keep everything unplugged, but then life happens and I need dry pants and am days behind on laundry and forget to unplug PoniesandFIREjr's nightlight in a rush to get out the door in the mornings. Le sigh.
That being said, I received an email from our electric company today on our quarterly energy usage and they included a cool chart that shows our usage over June, July and August of 2017 versus the same months in 2018. We are actually down about 20%!
I am actually shocked by this. I know we are doing slightly better, but I really would not have guessed that much better. How is this possible?
1. We replaced four windows. Our house is mad old and some of the windows are just old and terrible. While we still have a ton of windows left to replace, these four windows were the worst of the worse and I think they are actually doing something to improve our home's efficiency.
2. With the new windows, we are only using 1 window AC unit this summer, versus 2 last year.
3. While I am not exactly killing the unplugging game, the times I do remember must be helping.
4. We switched out a light fixture to a new one with efficient bulbs.
5. I am trying to air dry our laundry, but I really do still have a long way to go on this front.
These small changes are snowballing into a good sized improvement. Over the course of years, a 20% savings is not insignificant. I'm proud of us! We aren't perfect, but we're improving!
This is our meal plan this week:
Sunday dinner – Whole chicken in crockpot ($4.50 at Aldi), green beans (FREE), corn (FREE), zucchini bread ($1 or less in baking supplies)
Monday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Monday dinner – Mac & Cheese ($1.39) and hot dogs ($2)
Tuesday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Tuesday dinner – Tacos (about $7)
Wednesday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Wednesday dinner – Egg wraps/breakfast for dinner ($2.50)
Thursday lunch – Rice ($1.39) and Beans ($0.69)
Thursday dinner – Pasta ($1.09), meatballs ($3.49) and veggies from garden (FREE)
Friday lunch – Leftover pasta for me, Mr. PoniesandFIRE is getting lunch provided by work this day
Friday dinner – Frozen pizza ($3)
Saturday lunch – Egg wraps ($2.50)
Saturday dinner – Go out to dinner ($35)
This week we are killing it on the meal plan for two reasons. The first is that our garden and our neighbor’s garden are going crazy right now, so that means we’re buying next to nothing for produce. The second is that whole chickens were on sale and that has turned into FOUR meals for us!
We used ALL the chicken and I even made my first batch of chicken stock from the bones. I’ve also been freezing a bunch of quartered tomatoes to use in pasta sauce and chili this fall and winter.
My first attempt at zucchini bread came out fantastic and was way easier than I expected. I think I’ll do another few batches Sunday, since I have about eleventy billion zucchini left from the garden and a few more still growing. The apples on our trees are close to ready. I think I am about a week away from starting to bake some pies!
I was inspired by debtfreeplusbabies on Instagram to give Poshmark a try. I’ve listed a few of PoniesandFIREjr’s outgrown clothes and then added a couple kid’s toys. I was feeling like nothing would ever sell, but I finally got a bundle offer yesterday on two toys. They offered $10, I counteroffered at $15 and they accepted. I’ve printed my label and will put it in the mail tonight. Go me!
I have no idea how I get paid or how long the process takes, but so far this has been pretty straightforward, so I assume the payment process will be as well.
This weekend Mr. PoniesandFIRE is out of town, so I am planning to spend a bunch of time Saturday night listing items on Poshmark. I think I have another 15 items I could get listed. We have some big expenses coming up (propane, wood pellets, new tires, etc), which we have budgeted for, but will be a little tight, so any extra I can get in will bring us some peace and breathing room.
I also set a personal goal of getting the truck down to $16,000 by the end of the year, which is a reduction of $4,742 from where we are today on it. My plan is to send $1,200 for the next payment in September. Truck loan, we are coming for you…
Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I are not surrounded by a plethora of frugal individuals. I have one co-worker who is pretty financially savvy and we both casually joke about our 5 year retirement plans, but we don’t talk too many details. Other than that, sometimes it feels like us against the consumer driven world.
It gets tiring to say no to spending all the time when surrounded by people saying yes. Sometimes, I feel jealous of their carefree attitudes. More often, I feel anxiety for their futures.
It is amazingly helpful for me to feel connected to the #debtfreecommunity and the Mr. Moustache forums to help keep the focus. I am on my PoniesandFIRE Instagram account more than my “real life” account at this point. Between all these online communities and writing in this blog, I feel encouraged and more content in our choices. It feels like we aren’t so weird to focus so heavily on creating a solid financial foundation over buying the latest gadgets and gear.
It is more than the frugal tips and new ideas I am gathering by reading and seeing all these posts. I find myself becoming caught up in other people’s journeys. I am excited for their wins and successes. I feel disappointed for people when they are struggling. A simple like or comment on a post gives me a boost on a hard day.
If you are new to trying to improve your finances, I strongly suggest diving in deep to the online communities and being an active instagrammer during your journey. In the crazy and sometimes cruel world of the internet, the #debtfreecommunity and Mr. Money Moustache forums are amazingly filled with good people ready to give some honest support as you change your life for the better.
Happy mid-August! This month is going well, but not perfectly. I found out I needed a crown at the dentist and the co-pay was $650. Ouch. We cash flowed that this week, but we are now in a strict no spend situation until we get paid again, as our mortgage also comes out this week.
I was feeling a little down about this, but how then I flipped my thinking. How amazing is it that we can cash flow a $650 co-pay?!? Pretty boss, if you ask me.
We have been under budget for the last two weeks on groceries AND I sold my flute from high school for $100. We put that money into our vacation fund. We are going to Disney after Thanksgiving and even though we are pre-paying for everything, we are going to need a little cash on hand so I’m psyched we have that money for that already.
Our latest payment on the truck cleared and we now owe $20,742. I am listing stuff like crazy on Poshmark and FB Marketplace and hoping that I can put together the money to get UNDER $20k ASAP on that.
We are also getting close to being in the $120s on our mortgage and I am going crazy keeping myself from sending extra from our emergency fund to that to make it happen. For some reason, that feels like such a big milestone. Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I agreed that we wouldn’t send extra to the mortgage until the end of 2018 and that paying off the truck would come first, so I have to keep it together. Jumping from goal to goal without completing the first one does us no good.
I fell down the personal finance rabbit hole after we bought our house and I looked at how long 30 years was! I panicked and found myself googling “how to get out of debt faster,” which brought me to the world of Dave Ramsey.
If you are new to trying to take control of your finances or looking for some new motivation, here are my 5 favorites!
1. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (www.amazon.com/Total-Money-Makeover-Classic-Financial/dp/1595555277/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533906756&sr=8-1&keywords=total+money+makeover)
This book started us on our journey and I loved it. We are not super religious, so we glossed over those references, but it really does have common sense suggestions. If you feel overwhelmed, read this and follow it. It is a great game plan to get started and feel the power of making progress. Commit to follow it for six months and see how much your life can change!
2. Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan (www.amazon.com/Retire-Inspired-Its-Financial-Number/dp/1937077810/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907192&sr=1-1&keywords=retire+inspired+chris+hogan)
Mr. Hogan is under the Dave Ramsey umbrella, so a good part of this book echoes the words of Dave Ramsey, but takes it to the why and what of retirement. I loved the sentiment that retirement is not related to age, but instead your financial position and this steered me towards looking not only at our current budget, but what our budget will look like in 10, 15, 20 years.
3. The Simple Path to Weath by JL Collins (www.amazon.com/Simple-Path-Wealth-financial-independence/dp/1533667926/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907254&sr=1-1&keywords=the+simple+path+to+wealth+by+j.l.+Collins)
After falling down the Dave Ramsey rabbit hole for a few years, I started to branch out and become interested in other ideas. This book was the KEY to creating a plan for our investing finances beyond “put 15% in your 401k.” I wanted more, I wanted to optimize and I wanted the security of financial independence and this book laid it out for me.
4. Mr. Money Moustache’s blog (www.mrmoneymustache.com/)
Not a book, but a blog with more information than I knew what to do with. I think if I hadn’t started with Dave Ramsey, I would have been overwhelmed and turned off by the extreme ideas there, but following the Dave Ramsey plan was a little extreme and I saw the success from that so taking it a step further seemed reasonable at this point. This blog truly helped me understand the 4% rule and get a handle on what our real “FI” number is.
5. The Frugalwoods blog (www.frugalwoods.com/)
Again, not a book, but a blog, but she also has a book which I also loved (Meet the Frugalwoods). Her story is inspiring and being the same age as me and the fact that she moved about 30 minutes from where I grew up, really is relatable for me. The message of frugality putting them in the position to choose what brings them joy in life and chase that, rather than materialistic goods is fantastic. It has helped me reframe my thoughts on when and how I spend money and what items I need in my house/life.