Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Goals

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Such a cliched statement, but it's very true of me today as the final loan payment comes out and I will have paid off the nasty debt in our life! We still have our car loan that we're working on (just got the car in October), but this other debt was stupid spending from my early/mid-20s. Now, we can have a fresh start - be smarter about our spending, save more money, and set more realistic goals. With that in mind, I wanted to outline my 2012 goals. I did an earlier post on my '12 goals, but this expands on that.

  1. Save $15,000 for a down payment.
  2. Build up emergency fund to $2,500.
  3. Implement the electronic jar system.
  4. Start a baby fund (see #4 in Personal/Health goals).
  1. Work out 3 to 4x a week.
  2. Start doing pilates again.
  3. Stop drinking Diet Pepsi.
  4. Get pregnant. (I know this isn't something I can necessarily control, but hopefully this works out in 2012!)
  1. Finish my certificate in management.
  2. Build up freelance.
  3. Network more.
  4. Gain some management experience.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Electronic jar system

I love credit cards. I know that in the PF blogging world, cash is often king, but I think if used responsibly, credit cards can offer many more advantages. My personal reason for using card versus cash is to get Air Miles. If I can get a free flight because I've used a credit card to buy things I would have purchased anyway, why not! So what that means is I never have/use cash.

But, I also love what Gail Vax-Oxlade advocates - the jar system, which uses cash. For anyone who doesn't know what this is, basically Gail tells you to have jars for each variable budget category - groceries, entertainment, transportation, clothing/gifts and misc. You put your budgeted cash in each jar and then whatever is left over at the end of the week/month, carries over to the next.

So what I think I'm going to do from here on out is to use something like the jar system, but an electronic one. Right now, if we have $250 budgeted for groceries, but only spend $195, that $55 sits in the chequing account and usually gets spent here and here without even realizing it. So then a week later when we want to go stock up on milk, fruit and bread, we are scrambling to find money. So, instead, I'm going to transfer that $55 into a separate account. And that way, in the future, if we run over budget for groceries, we will have that extra money sitting there waiting.

I'm going to do this for groceries, gas, entertainment, clothing/gifts and misc. I'm not sure what we'll do with the money if it hits a certain point. Like if we are under budget on a continual basis, we'll obviously wind up having a nice chunk of money sitting there. When it comes to clothing/gifts, entertainment and misc, I think we will have some money build up and then we spend it when birthdays come up, we want to do a big date night or one of us needs new clothes.

But our groceries and gas will build up over time and never need to be used because we'll never need to stock up on THAT much on food or gas. So I'm not sure what we'll do with it... something to think about. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I did it!

I've been hemming and hawing over what to do with our savings/personal loan. We had the money to pay the loan off in full, but I've been uncertain over what to do. I love seeing that money in the savings account, but I know that whatever little bit of interest I get from it is not enough to make up the interest on the loan (as low as that is).

Well finally today, I gave myself an early Christmas present and I put a big chunk of money on the personal loan! The balance previously was $3100 and I put $2685 on it. That means the next payment, which comes out on December 29th, will be it! Only $415 to go. Now that it's done, I feel sooooo good about it! That frees up $850 a month, so now we can start 2012 debt-free (other than the car loan) and we can begin to put money aside for a down payment. We will put that loan payment towards savings, increase the car loan payment to get it paid down faster, and just relax a bit and enjoy ourselves more. Leading up to the wedding, we weren't spending much on ourselves at all, so this will be a nice change.

I can't believe that in just over a week that loan will be gone! That means no more debt from school and stupid spending!

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Spend Challenge - December 10 - 18

I think we did pretty well with the no spend challenge this past week and a bit. 4 out of 9 days were no spend. Not quite half, but with Christmas right around the corner and my mom's birthday on Saturday, some things were a must. Others (re: muffins) were not. I really have to get a handle on that! No only for the wallet, but it's just not healthy!

I couldn't put the total dollar figures though, as husband put my Christmas present on the Mastercard and the minute I look at the online statement, I'll probably be able to guess what it is. So I promised him I wouldn't log on to it from now until Christmas. It's tough as I always always check the balance at least once a day (okay, sometimes 2 or 3), but there's less than a week to go!

December 10

Christmas shopping

December 11th

No spend!

December 12

Lunch out (I was at a seminar all day)

December 13
$3.05 - muffin (I must must must stop buying muffins for breakfast. Expensive and not healthy!)
$5.22 - Diet Pepsi (we ran out - it's a necessity in our house, so I picked up some from the store in our building)

December 14

$3.05 - muffin (seriously must be stopped... I should stop bringing my debit/credit cards to work)
Dinner at food court with hubby
Christmas shopping

December 15

No spend!

December 16

No spend!

December 17

$75 - dinner for my mom's birthday (husband and I paid for ourselves and we split my mom's meal with my sister)

December 18

No spend!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas goals

I thought with all the Christmas hoopla, it would be nice to set up some goals and see how I do after the holidays!

1. No eating out!
2. Wrap all gifts.
3. Clean out kitchen drawers.
4. Get Christmas baking done.
5. Enjoy the holidays!

I may add to these next week!


Friday, December 9, 2011

No spending challenge a no-go

So a few weeks ago I issued myself a no spending challenge. And.... well, it didn't go so well. So badly in fact that it's not even worth reporting the results. It seemed like every day we had to buy one thing or another. Well, not "had" to, but rather we just did. Most of it was on eating out, treats (there's a restaurant downstairs from my office that sells cupcakes - 'nuff said), and Christmas gifts.

But, I'm re-issuing the challenge. The only problem will be that I still have some Christmas shopping to do. We'll see how things go. Even if we don't do a stellar job at it, I'll feel better for keeping track. So here's how this past week panned out:

$1.85 - treat on coffee break during my evening class

$3.05 - muffin and milk for breakfast
$2.44 - bread

No spend

No spend

$1.95 - we got a Groupon deal for couch/chair cleaning that was purchased last week and today they came to do it. This is just the taxes that wasn't included with the deal.

TOTAL: $9.29

So 2 out of 5 days and under $10. Definitely not a great track record, but it could be worse. And this week is the starting point, so I'm just getting into this whole thing and can improve from here.

I'll start doing the tracking for weekends and Monday to Friday and post the results every Friday. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pantry Challenge

Since husband and I returned home from our honeymoon, we have been doing a pantry challenge. For those who don't know what that is, it's essentially a challenge to use up items in your pantry. Our movitations were to:
  1. clean out the pantry
  2. save money on groceries
  3. create some new meals
  4. eat less packaged foods and more fresh food 
Everyone can tweak the challenge to their own parameters, so when we began, we said we could:

- buy any amount of fresh food (most people do this with the pantry challenge, as otherwise your diet is not going to be healthy!). We included: fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt and milk.
- buy cereal (we both love cereal, so this was a must)
- if we finish something, we can replenish it (i.e. I ate all the canned tuna, so we bought more).

I wish I had taken pictures of our pantry before, but we've seen an incredibly difference. Before the challenge, we probably had more than half a dozen boxes of pasta. Now we're down to three. We had so many cans it was hard to find what we needed. Now we're working away at using those up and it's down to a reasonable amount. Our freezer was packed full of frozen dinners and meat and fruit (for baking). Now we have almost nothing in there! Only one frozen dinner, some fruit and a few meat items. It's so easy to find things. We still have lots to use up though.

The one issue I've found during this time has been that our eating out went up for a bit. I don't cook. Never have and probably never will. I can do the basics, but I hate it and it's not natural for me to think of that. I use the microwave and that's about it. So what typically happened was I would get home and there was nothing available for me to eat (if we were out of leftovers or if husband didn't make something). My go to has always been frozen food, so without those available, I would buy dinner out. After a few too many runs to Subway for dinner, we decided I could have a couple "emergency" frozen meals for those times when husband wasn't around to cook. I've been good though and I've only use one since we decided that about a month ago.

Most importantly, we have significantly lowered our grocery bills. We went from doing a major shop that cost us $250-$300 bi-weekly to now spending about $100 or so bi-weekly. Just today, husband went to the store and he spent $193, which was the biggest shop we have made since before the wedding. While I was shocked to see the receipt for this trip, I quickly reminded myself that it is dramatically lower than we used to spend. The reason it was so high is because we were completely out of cheese (he bought three kinds - mozza, cheddar and parm - almost $30), almost out of meat (he bought ground beef and chicken - about $25), and needed to replenish everything else (fruit, veggies, milk, bread, etc.). One of the big costs to the bill was also the cat food and litter (about $40).

I think I'm going to sit down and total our grocery bills for pre-challenge and during the challenge and see how we did. I'm pretty sure we do more frequent, but smaller runs now versus fewer, but bigger shops pre-challenge. It'll be interesting to see how much we have actually saved. I'll update as we go along and try to get some photos too!