Works 4 Me Wednesday â€“ Preparing for the Store
So, by now you know I am a huge advocate for couponing and matching those coupons with sales. You also know I make a list for each store I plan to visit that week on my weekly grocery run. But, what else goes into my preparation before I leave my home for the store? Well, here's my personal plan of attack for getting ready to leave for the store and stock up on deals.
I check out the grocery guides for the stores I plan to visit.
Each store gets its own separate list of deals I plan to pick up.
I categorize each list by aisles in the store. (So for example, if I am going to hit Giant I put all the produce items together on the list. I will put all the canned items together on the list, and etc.)
I put a star next to all the items I have a coupon for.
I pull the coupons I plan on using.
I stick the list and the coupons in an envelope labeled for that store.
I plan out my driving route. I hit the farthest store first and work my way back to my house from there.
When I enter each store I usually take in my whole coupon box and stick it in the cart in case I see a great buy, but I pull just my envelope for that store (with list and coupons) and have it handy in my hand.
And there you have it. Does it take some time to prepare these lists and pull the necessary coupons before I ever leave the house? You betcha! But does it save me a lot of time and frustration once I get to the store? OH YEAH! I have learned that when shopping with little ones you must be prepared. This is what works 4 me! What works for you when preparing for the store? I'd love to know! Leave me a message on facebook or shoot me an email at Melanie@dearlydomestic.com.
Works 4 Me Wednesday - Creating and Sticking to a Budget (PART 1)
I have received NUMEROUS emails asking about our family's budgeting procedures and how to go about getting started with a budget. It's funny, because as my husband and I approach our 6 year wedding anniversary we have probably re-done the way we do our physical budgeting as many times as years that we've been married. However, we have always had some sort of system to keep us in check financially. I think doing so is essential and for us has been very helpful and has helped us to pay off loans early and stay out of debt all of our married life (except for a mortgage). And so, I've decided over the next few days to do a series of blog posts on how my family has set up our budget. Remember, as with all of my works 4 me postings this is only the system that we have in place. It may not suit your family's needs. You will need to adjust or tweak it for your personal needs.
With that being said:
When I was little we used to have these books called "Choose your Adventure" books. I liked them because as you read them they allowed for the reader to make choices about what would happen to the main character. For example, the narrator would narrate the story up until a certain point. And then at that point the reader would be asked to choose which way the story would go. If you chose option A then you turned to page XYZ. If you chose option B then you turned to a different page. Depending on the reader's choice the story would end differently for each option. In this series of posts on creating a budget it will work similarly. It is designed to be interactive and your choices will impact the outcome of what your budget design looks like
(To be continued tomorrow with Part 2)
Creating and Sticking to a Budget - Part 2
Start at the very beginning - a very good place to start
*GRAB A PEN and PAPER!
1) The very first thing you need to do to set up a budgeting system is to choose a date to start your budget and end your budget each month. We start ours on the first of the month and it ends on the last day of each month. Our weekly cash/spending money goes from Monday to Sunday. We have set ours up based on when paychecks come in.
2) Once you have decided on dates, you have to calculate your monthly take home income. This does not include miscellaneous income. For example, I am not receiving a regular paycheck this year while at home on child-rearing leave with my daughter. So, our family's monthly income only includes my husband's paychecks which are direct deposited. It does not include any revenue from this website, any extra income my husband may bring in from side jobs, or any other form of un-reliable and un-predictable income that may come our way.
3) Now comes the fun part! You will need to list any and all static monthly bills your family has. (I include yearly bills here as well, divded by 12). These may include (but are not limited to):
Mortgage (We also include an additional amount we pay towards our principal each month here!)
Insurance (life, health, car, renters, etc.)
Taxes (we pay quarterly taxes so these are included in our budget. You may not need this category.)
*You might notice that I put savings on the static list. This is one of those choose your own adventure scenarios. We have a static number we put into savings each month because having a cushioned savings account is important to us. You may feel otherwise.
4) Total up these static bills and subtract that amount from your monthly take home income.
The amount that you tallied and subtracted should NOT exceed your take home income. If it does or you are noticing that that amount is VERY close to your take home income then it is time to make some changes. You will need to analyze this list and see if there is any place you could make cuts. Perhaps you could eliminate cell phones, cable tv, lower your premiums for insurance, etc. See my other works 4 me Wednesday postings for some ideas on ways to save in these areas.
Creating and Sticking to a Budget- Part 3
Spending Money - So Many ways!
So, if you have read the previous posts for how to create and stick to a budget then you have already totaled your monthly income and subtracted from it all of your static bills. What you are left with is to be known as your spending money for the month. And this is where things get complicated and will vary by individual. There are several ways that you can attack and make a plan of action for this money.
Decide what categories this spending money will now have to cover. Below is an example of what items may be included in this list.
Going out to Eat
Gas (for vehicles)
Household Wants/Needs (home improvement, etc..)
Entertainment (movies, bowling, etc)
Decide how you will keep track of the money that is spent in each of these categories. This is no easy task. It takes discipline and organization no matter how you look at it.
So, here are my suggestions and different ways we have tried as a family...
Taking the above categories divide your spending money into envelopes marked with the categories. You will need to carry this with you daily. As you make a purchase pay for it directly from the appropriate envelope. Once you are out of money in that envelope you may not spend any more in that category. I have found this method to be very effective but it does not lend itself to earning rewards money on a credit card or tracking spending as easily.
*Budgeting in Excel
In this method you use a spreadsheet (Excel would be a great example.) You place into that spreadsheet all of your categories (including static and spending). You have two columns for each category; the estimated cost and the actual cost. For your static you need only to put in the amount at the end of the month. For spending, you visit that spreadsheet daily or weekly (your choice) and enter the amounts you have spent in each category. We have found this method to be effective for our family because we can just use our credit card for all of our purchases, thereby earning the cashback rewards. We then collect the receipts (or make our own if it is a cash purchase we have made) in a basket located centrally on our hutch. At the end of the week we tally our receipts and enter the amounts into the appropriate categories in excel. We then know where we stand weekly in our budget. Again, you must be organized enough to keep ahold of all receipts and all family members must be committed to doing so also.
*Pen and Paper
Oh how simple! In this method, you take the spending money you have allotted your family and divide it based on weekly/daily/ or monthly intervals. At the top of the page in a notebook you write that amount. As you make a purchase you write what it was and how much it was. You subtract it from the total at the top and in this way keep a running record of spending. This method is very similar to a checkbook! Once the money is all for the allotted amount of time, that is it! No more spending on anything.
Creating and Sticking to a Budget Part 4
What to do with the leftovers or left-unders????
No matter which method you follow you will have months where you go over your spending amount (for whatever reason) or under and have money left over. What you do with that money at the end of the month is totally up to you!
For our family we leave that money in checking as a cushion. Just in case there is another month where we go over a bit. And since weâ€™ve already put money into savings in our static expenses, we feel we can do this.
However, for others you may take that money and move it into another savings fund. Or perhaps a vacation or fun money fund. It is really up to you!
Good luck with all of your budgeting! Please let me know of any questions you come across or any systems that you have found to be effective for your family. You can leave me a note at Melanie@dearlydomestic.com (Id love to hear from you) or post a comment on my facebook page!
Works 4 Me Wednesday â€“ Saving for College
Now that we have our own little one and another little guy on the way (I canâ€™t believe heâ€™ll be here in only 4 short months) weâ€™ve really had to begin to think long-term goals. One of those financial goals weâ€™ve set is to have a college savings account set up for each of our children. There are many ways to do this and I am only now just beginning to learn of the many options. Recently, we found one way to do so that is very easy and earns money for our little ones by doing the normal everyday shopping we already would do. A friend introduced us to something called Upromise.
Upromise works by linking an on-line savings account to your credit card and/or your shopping rewards cards. As you make purchases a percentage of those purchases are then transferred into this account. You can then request a check once youâ€™ve reached a milestone and transfer that money to a brick and mortar bank or move it elsewhere.
We chose to link ours to our grocery rewards shopping cards for Giant, Weis, and Food Lion. Now, everytime we do our regularly grocery shopping we are also saving for our kiddos' futures. What a novel idea!
If you're interested in reading more about Upromise or starting your own account
You will notice at the top of dearlydomestics website is a tab for recipe guides. I have included this tab to help you in your weekly grocery planning and organizing and to hopefully save you some time in planning your meals and add to your recipe box. If you are wondering if I really stick to this menu each week the answer is usually YES! But why do I make a menu?
When my husband and I were first married I never made a menu. I would come home from work, scan the cupboards for something to make for dinner (which usually came from a box) and throw it together in 30 minutes. Or, option 2 (which happened more often than I would even like to admit) I would be tired and we would order take-out/eat in drive to the nearest restaurant. This was not only hard on our budget, but on our waistlines as well. After about 2 years of doing this as a young married couple, we wised up and realized how much money we were spending each month on these spur of the moment meal times. And so, we began our adventures in menu planning.
Menu planning allows me to plan ahead before ever hitting the grocery store. I scan my pantry and freezer first. I add to the menu any meals I can pull together with what I have. Next , I add to the menu any meals I can pull together by buying only 1 or 2 ingredients (adding the ingredients to my grocery list). Then, I scan the grocery flyers for good deals and pull together the rest of my meals that way. This is my reasoning for what we eat for the week.
Does this mean we can not go out to eat anymore? No way! We just try to schedule when we will go out. This way we are planning ahead for that time and we can look forward to it. I find we really enjoy doing that. In fact, you might even see me pencil it into that recipe guide tab. (smile)
One skill I have not yet attempted is freezing meals way ahead of time for the month. This month I plan on giving it a try. I will keep you posted as this pans out a bit more.
So, do you and your family menu plan? What works for you? I'd love to know! Email me at Melanie@dearlydomestic.com or find me on facebook at dearlydomestic.
So, I am still a fan of buying sliced sandwiched bread at the store. Especially when I can get it on sale and with a coupon. Sandwich bread even does well to be thrown into the freezer (just as it is) for a few weeks until you can use it if you can find a great deal on it. To defrost: just place in your fridge or on the counter.
But, nothing is better than a good homemade loaf of bread to eat with a good hearty soup or chowder. Or even to serve alongside a meal. So, thank you to my sister-in-law for introducing me to a wonderful book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day! This book has really been quite a wonderful little cookbook in our kitchen. You can tell the breads we like to make because the pages containing those recipes are well-worn and smudged. The premise behind the book is a simple and frugal one. By following a master recipe one time a week you can have fresh bread every day without mixing or making bread every day. Simply follow the main recipe and then store the dough in the fridge until you're ready for bread. Tear a hunk off and throw it in the oven and tada, fresh bread! The book also uses that first master recipe that you then build upon and change by one or two ingredients to make a whole new bread. So, what are we having for dinner tonight? Pork BBQ sandwiches on homemade rolls. Get the recipe here for the pork BBQ. And as for the rolls:
Here's the master recipe from Artisan Bread:
3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tbsp granulated yeast
1.5 Tbsp salt (I usually omit this or half it)
6.5 cups unsifted flour
And a handful of cornmeal for the baking stone to cook it on.
Warm the water slightly. Warm water will rise the dough correctly.
Add the yeast and salt into a 5 quart bowl or a resealable, lidded container.
Mix in the flour. Do not knead.
Allow it to rise for about 2 hours.
Shape a load and place onto a pizza peel or baking stone. Be careful to dust with cornmeal first so loaf won't stick.
Let loaf rest for about 30-40 min.
20 minutes before baking pre-heat the oven to 450 and place an empty broiler for holding water on another shelf.
Dust the loaf with flour and slash any decorative patterns into top.
Bake loaf for about 30 min.
Store any leftover dough in the fridge for up to 14 days.