Budget Busters and my Plans

Kauai 2012

Kauai 2012

Budget busters, we all have them. There are a lot of things that I want to do with my money, and they tend to ruin my planned budgets.

Last month, Daisy made a post on things she wants to do as well. I’ve had this post in draft mode for quite some time, but once I noticed that Daisy posted hers, I finally had the push to finish it.

Also, over at Savvy Financial Latina, she talked about how they are spending money because they are young and want to enjoy themselves. Budget busters are everywhere!

This is kind of how we’ve been feeling as well and there are just so many things that we want to spend our money on. We are young NOW, so I want to enjoy it now as long as it is all truly affordable.

Writing (or typing) things out is really helpful for me. I can realistically see how much I plan on spending and therefore how much I also need to save.

Recently, I made a post of my $38,000 student loan payoff plan, and while I have figured out that most of my money next year will be dedicated towards this, there are a ton of other things that I want to do with my money next year and the year after as well.

1. Student Loans

I’ve already talked about this in my recent post, but this is a big one and just wanted to give it some more lovin’! This is definitely a budget buster and a lot of our income will be going towards this in the beginning of next year.

2. Go on vacations

Yes, that is vacations with an “s.” I want to go on at least one with the Boy of course (I feel like I should give him a fake name soon, what do you all think? I think saying “the Boy” is getting rather annoying. I’ll start calling him W from now on).

And I also already have one vacation planned for my friend’s bachelorette party on Beale Street (we’re excited for this trip!) Anyone else been there?

Me and W also both need passports, so we need to pay for this as well. Mine expired when I was 16 (or 18? Not sure), so I definitely need a new one. We really want to go out of the country to places such as Spain, Italy, Thailand, South Africa and everywhere else. Our list is endless!

Vacations are expensive, but they are definitely something that I value.

3. Buy a new house

Yes, you all can kill me. We will beginning saving for a down payment for our next house once my student loans are completely gone.

Why do we want a new house? Well, we bought our current house at the age of 20 years old and we are just outgrowing it. While we still really do LOVE our house, and it is nice for us, we just want something bigger with some land. We know exactly what we want (see the picture above as an example of my DREAM house), which is a log type home on at least 10 acres. Of course the picture above is of a house that is most likely millions of dollars, but you get the idea :)

I plan on making a post further on this soon, and I LOVE talking about buying homes and plans for that, so be prepared for a scary long one.

Do you think we are crazy? We don’t plan on buying a new house until 2014, and aren’t positive whether we want to rent our current one out once we move or just sell it. What would you do?

4. Wedding

Even though we are not engaged, we have of course talked about getting married. Yes, it’s not romantic but I really do not care since I am someone who believes that marriage doesn’t truly change anything. That’s what happens when you’ve been with someone for over 6 years, lived together for over 5, have a mortgage and fur-children who you love.

We’ve always known that we would get married, but it was mainly bad timing because of family problems. I DO know that I want a big wedding and I would really love to reconnect with my dad’s side of the family. I haven’t talked to them much since he passed away, and this is definitely something that has been holding back the wedding because I want to have a closer relationship with my grandfather and everyone else, it is just hard to talk to his side of the family without crying! But it is something that I am working on.

We have talked about getting married next summer as well, and have budgeted for this and plan on saving for it as well. We already know where we want to get married (which is actually the place where the first picture in my Extra Income and Life Update post was taken).

We have an idea of how much we want to spend and it is definitely possible, but we do realize that we will have over 300-400 people at the wedding and the planning will be crazy, so that will have to be thought about as well.

How much did you spend on your wedding? I promise my blog won’t turn into a wedding blog!  :)

What are your budget busters?

Any big purchases that you are planning?

Stay Frugal This Winter

Winter is not one of my favourite seasons. I live in Canada and here, winter is a long, dark, cold season. The snow hits in December, and stays until April. Temperatures can go down to -35C (-31F) and stay there for weeks, and we measure the snow on the ground by feet, not inches or centimetres.

I’ve never really been an outdoor sports kind of girl, and winter is no exception. Since I don’t ski, snowboard, snowmobile, skate, or play hockey, a lot of the great nordic past times are lost on me.

That said, I’ve got family here, so I really can’t see myself moving to a warmer climate anytime soon. So, I’ve come up with a bunch of fun, frugal winter activities that make passing this season a little easier, and a little more fun.

Fun, Frugal Winter Activities

Snow Man Building – After a fresh snowfall, nothing is more fun than building a snow man. The snow is usually best for building snowmen when the weather is warmer, the excess moisture makes the snow pack together well. As an adult, I find building snowmen creatively to be a lot of fun.

 A Winter Fire – I love campfires, and winter campfires are no exception. They help you stay warm during a day of fun outside, and there’s no worry about starting a forest fire like there is in the middle of summer. Just make sure not to get too close! Once when huddled around a fire in the winter, I melted the rubber sole of my shoe – I was just trying to get warm.

Admiring Christmas Lights – This used to be something that the older members of my family did, but in the last few years I’ve really come around to their way of thinking. (Maybe I’m just getting old?) Taking a stroll around the town to admire some of the festively decorated houses can be a lovely way to spend the evening.

Sledding – Parks, meadows, and school playgrounds are great venues for sledding. Ideally, there’s a hill involved, but make sure it’s not too long (long walk back) steep (too much speed) or near any roads (danger!) Also, avoid waxing your sledding aparatus, lest you end up like dear Clark.

Magic Tree in the Cold Winter Night with Dark Blue Sky

Hunkering Down – One of my favourite past times during a heavy snow fall (after I’ve ensured I don’t need to navigate the roads anytime soon) is to just hunker down in my little house and watch it come down. Add in a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a movie, and you’ve got yourself one of my ideal afternoons.

Now, a lot of these outdoor activities can end up pretty unpleasant. Cold feet, runny noses, chapped lips and too much ambition can make any of the activities above end up a lot less pleasant than you’d planned. So, follow some of these basic tips to help keep your frugal winter activities fun.

Warm Drinks - My drink of choice is hot apple cider (rum optional). I always make sure to bring a warm drink along on any trip in my mega-insulated mug. Whenever I start to get chilly, my warm beverage helps ward off the cold.

Lip Balm and Tissues – I run outside all winter long and these two items are always on my must have list. The cold, dry air chaps not just my lips, but the end of my nose and my cheeks. If there’s a breeze, my eyes run like crazy, streaming tears that are likely to freeze if I don’t wipe them away. The tissues also come in handy for my perpetually runny nose. (How’s that for a nice mental picture?) If I don’t have these two items during a winter excursion, I’ll definitely have less fun!

Appropriate Attire – Don’t be a tough guy/girl and skimp on winter gear if you want to have a fun day out in the white stuff. A wicking base layer is key to keeping any sweat your planning on working up from giving you a chill, and from there it’s all about insulation and wind breaking. Don’t forget to equip your feet, head and hands, as much as the rest of you.

Winter Doesn’t Have to Be a Drag

There are, undoubtedly, fewer frugal and fun winter activities than there are in the summer time. There are fewer festivals, flea markets, and open air events. But that doesn’t mean that we all need to reach into our wallets in order to have a good time in the winter. With a little creativity and preparation, there are lots of fun, frugal activities to do in the winter time.

What’s your favourite frugal winter activity?

My Food Challenge

My Food ChallengeThis isn’t a surprise, but I spend way too much on food. Yes, long gone are the days when we spend $1,500 to $2,000 on food a month. But right now between going out to eat, drinking and grocery shopping, we are spending around $1,000 a month.

And yes, I have been keeping that a secret from you.

Spending this much honestly makes me feel horrible. Because of course we still spend a lot on clothes, vacations, etc., and this is one area that I know I can control better. I don’t know why I have this thought in my head that restaurant food is a thousand times tastier than the food I cook at home.

We have been spending too much. There really is no other reason except pure laziness. My goal for the rest of June is to spend no more than $200 on food. This includes both eating out and groceries. This is most likely an easy task for most of you, but for us it just doesn’t seem to happen.

Also, I would like to aim for no more than $150 for the rest of the month, but a more realistic goal is $200. I’ve already gone grocery shopping a couple of days ago and bought a ton of food, so for the most part I should be good for at least 10 days.

Of course, I still want to treat myself as well. Food is something that I definitely enjoy, and something that I don’t hate spending money on. All work and no play is never good! Champagne can never be a bad choice :)

I asked some of you yesterday to give me any quick tips on saving money on groceries. Whitney and Money and Faith both gave me good tips and I wanted to post what they said.

What I plan on doing:
1. No eating out.I will fail this weekend, as my friend is coming in town. But I plan on keeping in cheap. Her and I both love using Restaurant.com gift certificates, so we will probably use one of these.

Other than this, I will try and vow not to eat unless I have a free coupon or something. It was recently my birthday and I still have a lot of free entree coupons leftover which don’t expire until exactly a month from my birthday. I will also try to sign up for dinner mystery shops. That will help as well.

2. Trying frozen meat instead of fresh meat. I’ve never bought frozen meat. But I have heard from plenty of people that they are a much better deal. Have you ever done this? I am looking forward to trying this though. If it truly does save me enough money, how could I say no?

I’m also thinking about freezing my vegetables and fruit after I buy them as well so that I don’t waste them as quickly. Does anyone else do this? I never have. Any tips?

3. No waste. I have so much food in my pantry, freezer and fridge that need to be eaten. We waste so much food in our house it is ridiculous. My goal is to eat everything that we have and find a use for it.

4. Creative meals. I am pretty boring with my meals, but I know that with this challenge, I will  be forcing myself to be more creative. If you have any frugal meals that you’d like to share, please go ahead and share!

5. Shop at Aldis. Aldis has REALLY good prices, but I usually don’t go because I have to drive slightly out of my way to go there (it’s only like 5 miles out of the way, but I am lazy so it seems like a lot). Aldis is also great for their fresh fruit and vegetables. I can usually find strawberries for only $1 at Aldis, but at normal grocery stores, they are between $3 and $4. Other fruits and vegetables are priced similarly as well.

6. Meal plan and STICK TO IT. I usually make meal plans, but I don’t usually stick to it. I need to make these more realistic with recipes that I can actually create.

Not only will this challenge save me money, but it will also help me be more healthy. I won’t have a ton on junk food around the house to eat. I look forward to the end of the month to see how I do. Who else wants to join my food challenge?

 

What tips do you have? 

How much do you usually spend on food in a month?

The Lifestyle Inflation Creep

The Lifestyle Inflation CreepLifestyle inflation can be a savings killer. And for us it has been. Long ago were the days when we lived in a SUPER cheap rental house ($350 a month from the BFs relative), driving junker cars, no flat screens, no unused rooms in the house and so and so on.

We also never took vacations, ate cheaply (hey we were poor kids out of high school!) and were frugal as we thought we could be.

We still spent a lot of money (we were not financial savvy at all) but our expenses were still very low. Probably below $1,000 a month for everything.

So it would seem logical to us that our spending would go up as our incomes went up. Our expenses are now up around $2,500 a month (see my last budget update here), it would be higher, but we used cash for a lot of things. We bought a brand new car, a used Jeep, another junky car, and a classic truck (that’s worth around $20K). This is all spending from the past couple of years that we didn’t have at first. Still though, that’s a big leap from our budget 5 years ago.

However, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to live like we did before. It worked for us then, but most likely not now. But I am happy with my life right now, so no creeping here please.

I typed in “Lifestyle Inflation” into Google to see what would pop up and how other people dealt with the possibility. The first thing that popped up was PDITF’s post about how it almost crept up on him, but instead he funneled that extra money to retirement. By sending an extra $75 each paycheck to retirement, in 40 years that would total around $765K after an 8% estimated rate. That’s a lot of money, especially for something that you won’t even miss every week!

My plan for the near future is to funnel any salary increases I get towards debt. So if my salary goes up 4%, then I would like to increase my debt payments by that exact same amount (plus more) every month. Then eventually I would apply this towards savings as well.

This is something that I definitely need to keep in mind, especially since I’m getting 3 raises this year. I’m getting the standard yearly raise, a raise for attaining my MBA, and another raise for me getting my financial certification. So there’s a HUGE possibility for lifestyle inflation to creep up on us.

Of course once I make more money, I will most likely start spending a little more. I hate to say it especially since I call myself a personal finance blogger, but spending money on the things that I love such as nice clothes, good vacations and experiences make me happy. I don’t want to go crazy and buy an M5 or an 18 bedroom house though (not like I’d have that much money anyways though!).

I am pretty happy with my life, so I don’t really expect monetary things to get in the way of me saving in the future. Or at least I say that now…

We don’t want lifestyle inflation to keep creeping on us. We need to save more and I would like our savings to go significantly larger than the proportion it is to our incomes right now.

You don’t want your lifestyle to exceed your salary, and that is possible with lifestyle inflation.

  • You should still be trying to cut expenses if your salary goes up (no need to be wasting money)
  • Keep enjoying the things that you love
  • Watch your spending!
  • Think about where you want to be in 5 years, and don’t let unnecessary spending get in the way.

Is lifestyle inflation creeping up on you? What do you do?

How we’re saving money this winter with our heat

rp_5069108088_cf45c1b666-300x225111.jpgI’ve talked about this a lot lately. The weather has been amazing this winter. I don’t like snow, cold, winter, driving in snow and all the other bad things that come with snow. The only thing I like about winter is cute clothes and boots (which has nothing to do with a heating bills, but oh well).

I’m sorry that I’m such a downer. I live for the summer, beaches and dresses.

Anyways, it’s been pretty warm, and I think it’s probably only dipped below freezing less than 5 times (if that even).  It’s usually really cold here starting in November, and we get blizzards and all of that other good stuff all throughout the winter season. However, it’s not like that right now. The other day I was able to go out in just pants and a short sleeve shirt because it was 72 degrees. That was just last week!

Our heat bills during the winter time can range from $150 (at the lowest) to sometimes $300. Right now it’s around$50 to $60, which is amazing! All of this extra money is going towards our vacations.

When the BF and I first moved in together, around 4 to 5 years ago, we first rented a small house (we’re talking like 500 square feet total).

At first, we never paid attention to the amount of heat that we would use, and our first (and second and third) bill was around $400 for a super tiny house. So obviously there are ways that you can save and watch your heat spending. Now we have a house around 2,500 square feet and our bill is extremely smaller, even when it is cold out.

There are numerous ways that we cut back on our heat bill:

  1. The weather definitely helps
  2. There are a lot of unused rooms in our house. We have a 4 bedroom house, and we really only use 1 (ours of course), so we usually close the vents in the 3 three other rooms to redirect the air. I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t close more than 15% to 20% of your vents or it’s bad, but I’m not sure if that’s true. Does anyone know?
  3. This is going to sound crazy, but we always make sure our back doors are completely closed when we let the dogs out. If we just let them out really quick and don’t shut the door, our little dog tends to open the door wide open to come back in, and most of the time we won’t notice for quite awhile, and this wastes a ton of heat
  4. I bundle up. I would say we, but the BF insists that he’s always hot. I like to be bundled regardless if it’s hot or warm, but when I’m at home I tend to wear pants, layered tank tops and a sweater
  5. Someone is usually always home, since the BF and I have completely different schedules. I start work at 8 am, and he starts work around 4pm. However, we do try and lower the heat when no one is home, not too low though, just to around 70
  6. We keep the temperature at 73 degrees. I’m not sure if this is low or high, but it seems to be perfect for us
  7. We have new windows in our house that don’t have a crazy cold draft. This helps a lot

What we need to do in order to help our heat bill lower even further:

  1. We could lower the temperature more, but right now since it’s a decent temperature out, we’re not too worried with saving a ton of money on the heat bill. What does everyone else set their thermostat at?
  2. Our doors have a horrible draft, we need something to block the draft underneath
  3. We could buy space heaters, but for some reason these scare me because I’m afraid of a house fire
  4. Could get special block out curtains. We’ve thought about this, but haven’t gotten around to it. How much do these usually cost?

What else could we do?Are there any other things that you’re doing to save money?