Home > Archive: September, 2023

Archive for September, 2023

No Spend September Update

September 29th, 2023 at 05:26 pm

This was a mostly successful No Spend September. I did save money. I did decrease debt. And I think I have a grip on my Amazon habit. The amount of charges on our credit card is drastically reduced as before this challenge most of them were Amazon charges.

I became addicted to the convenience.  Instead of putting things on a list, and then maybe changing our mind, I just bought whatever came to my fancy. Not to mention, these were credit card purchases because you can’t use cash on the internet. I even had cash in our envelopes, but somehow the money never got moved around. Amazon has definitely been my weakness the last few months and I hope I will have more discipline after my No Spend September.  As of this blog post, the only Amazon charge on our credit card is parts for the brakes for The Husband’s car, which was a planned and saved for expense!

As far as money goes, some tracking got wonky. We went to visit our son over the past weekend and we did buy some fast food while traveling and we made a couple grocery store runs.  I think we spent about $60, of which $20 was at the grocery store. My husband spent more at Costco than I had anticipated and instead of close to $300, we are close to $400. With the $20 from this past weekend we are right around $420. We will probably do one more grocery store run this weekend and will most likely exceed my goal of $500.  We need a lot from Costco: eggs, milk, yogurt, tortillas, almond butter, tuna, canned chicken, and fresh fruits and vegetables. We will probably be closer to $600 than $500. After we shop I will do one final update on how much we spent on groceries for the month of September.

I will challenge myself again next September, but I will keep better track of our food budget and know exactly how much I spent on groceries instead of estimating. But, overall, I still feel like No-Spend September was a win and that we made some good strides!

Unusual Spending for October

September 28th, 2023 at 03:44 pm

Every month we usually have some unusual spending. I don’t call it unexpected spending because it’s not unexpected. It is just random expenses that don’t occur monthly but always occur. I used to track them each month so that I could budget for them and somehow, I got out of the habit of doing that.

In another effort to improve our financial footing I’m going to start doing that again and writing a blog post each month detailing any unusual spending that I can think of. In years past it has been things like soccer sign-ups, school pictures, or costume fees for dance. Going forward it will probably be things more related to birthdays, car registrations, and the like.

For October some unusual spending I have thought of is our daughter’s international trip starting on 10/6, a wedding we are attending on 10/7, and Halloween. More might pop up, but this is what I am planning for so far.

Our daughter is taking an international trip with her best friend’s family, and we are helping her. We are paying for half, and she is paying for half. We have already purchased and paid for her airfare. We will pay for half of her entrances to different attractions, but she has to pay for all her own food and any souvenirs or gifts she purchases on the trip. We have paid $1600 so far (of which she owes us $800) and I anticipate paying another $1000 (our contribution).*

The day after our daughter leaves, we will be attending a wedding about an hour and 15 minutes from where we live. We will drive home after the wedding even though most of our friends are staying in a hotel. We do need to budget for a wedding gift, however.

Lastly, Halloween. We always forget to budget for Halloween. Not this year. We will add $75 to our food budget so we can buy candy to give out to the kids who come through our neighborhood.

*I know this isn’t a very good use of our money and the money spent on her trip could help to replenish our emergency fund or be used towards debt, but we did budget and save for it. That’s why it is called personal finance.

Frugal-ish Wins

September 26th, 2023 at 05:01 pm

I am not especially frugal. I’m not a spendthrift (though I used to lean that way), but I’m not super good at saving money either… I fall somewhere in the middle, but I want to start trying to celebrate my frugal wins. Every so often I will write a post about ways I saved money, or maybe just ways I didn’t waste money. I think the more mindful I am of some frugal wins, maybe the more I will see.

I have 29 nieces and nephews and there is nothing frugal about that, but I do look for ways to cut costs. One of my nieces, whom I am very close to is pregnant. I wanted to get her a nice shower gift without having to pay too much for it. I went to her registry and picked out what I wanted to get her and put it in my Amazon cart – to the tune of $90! Eek! Before checkout, I realized I had points (from our insurance) that could be redeemed. We always redeem our points for Amazon gift cards. We had (more than) enough points to cover the entire cost of the gift! I know I still paid $90, but it wasn’t $90 out of my budget. To us it was “free” money.

I was given 2 large shopping bags of figs, which I love. But there was no way I could eat them before they went bad. We kept a few aside to eat, used 32 cups of figs to make fig preserves, and we dehydrated the rest. We now have 6-pint size jars and 9 half-pint size jars of fig preserves and a quart sized baggie of dried figs! They turned out really well and taste so good! I will be giving a couple jars to the woman who gave me her figs!

For Christmas this year, I am giving all the males in my family homemade wood butter, a wooden spoon, and a buffing rag to go with it.  I have several candle jars that I have been rinsing out and keeping and they are the perfect size! I don’t have nearly enough to exclusively use candle jars so I will put the rest in mason jars, but it is a good reuse of an item that would otherwise be thrown away and I won’t need to buy as many mason jars to fill.

We had to put our dog down about 2 months ago, but we still had all his stuff. Recently, our neighbor got a chicken and they needed a home for it. We offered them our dog crate. We were happy to pass the crate on to a new home and they were grateful for an immediate answer to their needs. It was a win-win, and we were glad it found a good home.

Every year we have a huge Christmas party open house. Planning ahead, I just ordered the invitations. My credit card had a special deal that if I ordered from I would get 10% back in the form of a credit on my credit card, so that is a savings of $5.40. There was another deal for Autozone of 1% cash back. My husband just bought some of the parts to replace his breaks from there so we will get another .60 back. (I know that’s not much, but when you are on a debt payoff journey, every little bit helps!)

Those are all I can think of right now, but I’m going to try to notice my frugal wins!

Some Extra Money

September 25th, 2023 at 04:32 pm

I bought something for someone a few months ago and haven’t see them in a while. My daughter actually delivered it to them last month but forgot to get the money. I finally saw them this past weekend and they paid us back…with a little interest. They owed us $237 and gave us $250. Because it is money already spent, for us it’s not earmarked anywhere, so it will go straight to the credit card! YAY! Payday is Friday and I will go to the bank and take out the money we need for our envelopes for this pay period less $250 and then I will schedule the payment.

Then, when we got home from our weekend trip and were going through the mail, my husband walked up to me and handed me something we had received in the mail: a refund check for $190. We overpaid for some medical appointments for our daughter way back in April. We knew we had overpaid and they told us we would get a refund, but we had forgotten all about it. I was super excited and deposited the check right away and scheduled a payment for $200 to go towards our credit card.

That is a $450 swing in one day! I’m super excited!

Emergency Fund

September 21st, 2023 at 03:19 pm

My current emergency fund is very small. I have more than the $1000 baby emergency fund suggested by Dave Ramsey, but not by much. I’m starting to feel very anxious about it. We do have a little more money, but it is all earmarked for certain things like our daughters schooling and a tax bill do in early October. Our actual emergency fun is only about $2000.

Our daughter wants to be a personal trainer. She has decided not to attend college and to take a nationally accepted certificate program to become a trainer. As our contribution to her, we paid for her course.  We finally purchased it over Labor Day. (It has been a planned expense and we have been funding our “kids” and “education” envelopes until she was ready to begin the course. All along we had planned to use money from our savings account to pay the difference. We had $600 in cash and needed to use $1000 from savings.  (The $2000 we still have in the bank is independent from the money to pay for her course.)

Luckily September is a three-paycheck month, so we are splitting the third paycheck between savings and debt. After September we should have about $2700 in savings, but that still doesn’t make me feel comfortable. $2700 could cover most true emergencies but being a parent and a homeowner means the next emergency is always around the corner. I like to have a minimum of $5000 in our savings. We are trying to work back to that while continuing to pay down debt.

We could quickly replenish our savings account back up to $5000 in just a couple of months if we slowed our debt payoff. However, we are finally making some progress, so we don’t really want to do that.

We do have an entire regular month’s worth of cash at home that could be stretched into two months of bare bones expenses (that includes our sinking funds and some other cash we have on hand) if needed.

I’m very anxious over the small size of our emergency fund right now because I feel like we are just starting to get real traction in our debt payoff.  I will continue to stay the course and hope that the money we currently do have in our emergency fund will be enough for any future emergencies. We will also continue to add a little bit each month to our savings account. Right now, we are adding about $400 a month to savings. Hopefully we can get our savings built back up and pay off debt at the same time.

Debt Update

September 19th, 2023 at 03:10 pm

It took us a LONG time to truly get serious about debt payoff. At its highest point, our credit card debt was $24,905.68. Last month, our total credit card debt was $14,867.79.

Our credit card statement just closed and our current balance is $14,012.36. We decreased our credit card debt by $855.43. That is a total decrease of 6 percent.

I am excited by the decrease and am so happy to see continued progress, but I’m a little bummed that we didn’t make our goal of being under $14,000. We were so close. Having said that, we have already made our first payment of this billing cycle and are now under $14,000, but I really wanted our statement to show $13,something. We make payments on our credit card debt several times a month based on when we are paid and any time we have extra money come in.

We were paid on the 15th so scheduled a $200 payment to go on the 18th. We get paid again on the 29th. September is a three-paycheck month so a big chunk of that paycheck will go straight to our credit card, in addition to all our regular payments.

Overall, we have paid off nearly 44% of our total credit card debt from its highest point. More than anything, I want to see continued progress like decreasing debt and increasing our savings. Every move we make right now is improving our financial health!

No Spend September Update

September 14th, 2023 at 03:24 pm

I made another grocery shopping trip last night. I went to Winco and spent $126.68.  $20 of that was right outside the store to a man selling strawberries. They were the best-looking strawberries I’ve seen all year. (I tried them when I got home, and they are so good! Worth it!) I bought a lot of other fresh produce: lettuce, bell peppers, onions, cuties, and bananas. I bought 4 half gallons of almond milk, 7 boxes of chai tea latte mix*, 2 quarts of heavy cream, coffee creamer, mustard, peanut butter, 4 cans of tuna, sausages, one big can of canned peaches, and two cans of cannelloni beans.

It wasn’t a huge trip, but I picked up a lot of things that we have run out of and needed. Added to what we spent a couple of weeks ago, our grocery total for September is currently at $277.59. My husband is going to go to Costco tonight to pick up milk and bread, so we will likely be at $300. That is a little over where I would like to be right now, but we still might be able to swing $500 or less in total. It just depends on what we run out of in the next couple of weeks.

Other than milk and produce, I don’t think we will need much for the rest of the month, but time will tell.

(*It’s kind of pricey, but way less than Starbucks. Each drink ends up costing me about $1.43 which is much less than $4.95 at a coffee shop.)


Goal Check-In

September 12th, 2023 at 05:03 pm

Still doing pretty well on the No-Spend September front. We have had some necessary car repairs to make to the tune of $100, but those were necesarry and not in impulse purchase, so they don't bother me. I haven't been back to the grocery store but will make a trip this weekend and update my totals after. Last Saturday, my daughter asked me to go shopping with her and I did. She has an upcoming international trip and needed some things for that. I was proud that I only acted as her sounding board and didn't buy anything... even though I was tempted.

On to our 2023 goal check-in...

Our 2023 financial goals were pretty simple: decrease debt and increase savings.

So far, we have done really well on one front and not quite as well on the other. We have decreased our debt by more than I thought we would have by this point. Our goal was to have our credit card debt below $13,000 and right now we are on track to have our credit card below $11,000 by the end of the year! I am really hoping we can continue to decrease our debt as we are inching closer and closer to the most expensive parts of the year: holiday season.  I’m not unhappy with our progress and I definitely think we will make our goal!

As far as the other half of our 2023 goals go, savings, we have not saved as much as we would like. In fact, when I wrote our goals, our savings stood at $7500, now it is only $5000. We have, however, cash flowed a lot of unexpected or unusual expenses: putting our dog down, trip to Disneyland to watch our daughter dance down Main Street, all senior year and dance activities, and an exploratory trip to Tennessee (we are considering moving there) among other things. We are continuing to build our savings back up but realistically, I don’t think we will get our savings to $10,000 by the end of the year as I know we have some expenses coming up that will eat into our progress.

We will see where we stand in December.

Looking for Money

September 8th, 2023 at 11:50 pm

I'm trying to come up with $175 by Tuesday. Today, when I got home from work I rolled my change and I had $55. I will deposit it in the bank on Monday so I can send it to our credit card bill. 

I'm really excited! I figured I'd have only $25... $55 is a good dent. I still need to come up with $120, but I'm a little bit closer now!

Our (Not so Good) History with Credit Cards

September 8th, 2023 at 03:38 pm

Our history with credit has not been particularly good.  Our credit score has always been very good, but our use of credit was almost always irresponsible. There have been times in our life when the use of credit was absolutely necessary to keep us afloat. There have been times that we used credit to live far above our means; and there have been times that we have been living just at our means. Currently, we are actually living “below” our means in that we are saving for both short and long term and decreasing our debt a little bit each month. However, while we are living “below” our means, we are still paying for all the times we lived above them.

When we bought our first house, we had a one year old and I was three months pregnant with our second child. I didn’t work much. I worked 2 days a week at a shoe store, making decent money and my husband was working in IT for Safeway. Once our second child was born, I took 6 full months off and then went back to working at the shoe store part time. At times, we had to charge groceries because we didn’t have enough money to cover all of our expenses. I wouldn’t even say we were living paycheck to paycheck because our paychecks weren’t cutting it. This is where our debt roller coaster really started.

Fast forward a couple of years and about $10,000 in credit card debt and I went to work full time and became a teacher. At this point, we could afford all our daily bills and then some. We could cover all of our monthly expenses, put some money aside for savings, and work on paying down our credit card debt. I said we COULD, not we DID. When I started receiving a paycheck, we used that as our excuse to spend even more money. We still lived paycheck to paycheck, and we started charging “stuff” and vacations we didn’t need and couldn’t afford. But we were paying cash for all our needs, and we could afford our minimum payments, so we just kept living that way.

That yo-yo went on for literally years. The lowest I remember our credit card every being was $8,000. However, it was at the end of this period (only 18 months ago) when we reached our highest credit card debt of almost $25,000. That was April of 2022. That was our wakeup call. We charged so much money that our credit card raised our credit limit because we had exceeded it. But, since they knew we were really good at making minimum payments, they were happy to allow us to dig our whole deeper. (To be clear, I don’t blame the credit card company for our debt. I’m just saying that we were their ideal customer, and they did appreciate that we always made our payments on time.)

April of 2022 our statement balance was $24,905.68. That was probably the scariest number I had ever seen! It finally gave us the kick in the pants we needed to work on truly decreasing our debt.

April of 2022 we finally started living “below” our means. We still contribute to our retirement accounts and put a small amount into savings, but our credit card bill is finally decreasing. We have decreased our credit card debt by $10,037.89… that’s 40% of our total. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we are finally getting it. In addition to these wins, we are also working hard to fully fund our sinking funds. As envelopes becomes fully funded, we will take that envelope’s monthly allowance and add it to what we send to debt each month. Our sinking funds are one more step towards financial freedom.

It's sad that it has taken us until our mid-40s to get our financial life together, but we are doing it. We are decreasing our debt, paying more than the minimum payments each month, paying all of our bills on-time and with cash, slowly building our emergency fund, and contributing 20% of our income towards retirement. Small steps add up to big change.

We are on the right path and we are making progress. Currently, I am on a mission to find $175 by Tuesday, so that when our credit card bill closes, and after interest we will owe less than $14,000. As it is, we’ve brought the balance down to $13,925, but that’s before interest is added. I’m working every angle I can right now and trying to figure out where I can scrounge some extra money up from! Wish us luck!

Birthday purchases

September 7th, 2023 at 03:37 pm

I make exceptions for No Spend September, one of those is gifts. Two co-workers have birthdays this week, one today and one tomorrow. I am closer to the one with a birthday tomorrow, but she won't be here, so I brought her gift today. I got her Starbucks, a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and a plant in a cute toadstool planter.  My other co-worker I just brought Starbucks.

I had $34 on my Starbucks app. (I rarely go there anymore!) I did get myself a drink as well because I had enough stars for a free drink, so I treated myself. The barista also let me know that I had enough stars left over to pay for the soy milk change for one of the birthday drinks. Total cost for three drinks: $10.60.

I also grabbed the peanut butter cups and plant. My original plan was to bring her flowers because she LOVES them. Then I realized she is not going to be at work tomorrow because shes going out of town. That means she wouldn't be able to enjoy the flowers for the first several days, and let's face it, flowers only last so long. Instead I chose a house plant in a super cute pot. The tag said $8.99. The peanut butter cups were on sale for $4.99. My father-in-law works for the same company so we get a small employee discount.  For some reason I got an additional $5.00 of my purchase. The receipt calls it a "basket discount". I've never seen that on a receipt before, but I will take it. The total for the plant and candy came to $9.27.

In total, I spent $19.87 and made a couple of ladies very happy! One couldn't stop thanking me and told me I literally made her day, which in turn, made my day. It feels good to do good things for other people and then to be appreciated on top of that is pretty awesome!

We do have a gift budget and today's purchase came out of that.

Otherwise, still chugging away at No-Spend September.  I haven't made any impulse purchases or bought anything from Amazon. It's only been a week, but I feel like that has got to be my longest streak since before summer, and the reason I'm doing the challenge!

Have a great day!

No Spend September: Shopping Trip 1

September 5th, 2023 at 06:02 pm

For my No Spend September, I will check in with my spend totals as the month goes on and I make purchases. In years past, No Spend September has been a great way to reset our spending habits and dig a little further out of debt.

My goals with this particular No Spend September are increased debt payoff and to slay the Amazon habit! I recently looked at how much we have been spending on Amazon and wowie was I surprised! And I am not talking about pre-planned expenses or even necessary unexpected expenses. I am talking about new clothes just because, or a new book, or new kitchen gadgets. I have been ordering from Amazon nonstop lately… and it NEEDS to stop! That is a place in our budget where we are bleeding money!

My husband has been ordering more from Amazon than he normally does, too. However, most of his items are needs, things needed for car repair or new work clothes. But either way, we have been spending way too much money on Amazon! I’m hoping this No Spend September will help reset my spending habits and make me think before I click “buy now”.

We did our first shop of the month on Saturday, September 2 and we spent $150.91. We shopped at Costco and only bought food items! I can’t recall the last time that actually happened. We mostly stuck to the list and only added one item that wasn’t on the list because we were low on them: eggs. All in all, it was a pretty good shop.

We got six gallons of milk, artichokes, bell peppers, a pineapple, a watermelon, apples, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, maple syrup, bacon, eggs, cheese, bread, and coffee beans.

We shouldn’t have to go to the grocery store for about a week. Hopefully we can stay within my $500 budget!

No Spend September

September 1st, 2023 at 05:57 pm

For many years, from 2013 to 2020, as a family we chose to do “No Spend September”. As we all know, 2020 was a crazy year that we still haven’t all quite recovered from. It changed the way we looked at life and money. And somehow, we fell out of the habit of No Spend Septembers after Covid. This year I suggested to my husband that we do another No Spend September and he really wasn’t on board. I’m okay with that. Like I said, we did it for 7 years and our kids saw our example of spending fasts. We also always told the kids why we were doing a no spend month and what our goals were to get out of it.

Even though my husband doesn’t want to participate in a No Spend September, I decided I still want to. For me, a no spend month resets the way I look at and treat money. Every family (or in my case, person) needs to determine what rules work for them. Obviously, I will continue to pay all my monthly bills: mortgage, utilities, water, credit card, etc. I just won’t be buying any extras. I will still buy gas as needed and, of course, food.  I won’t be buying new clothes/shoes, household décor, or cleaning products. I really try to stick to the basics and trim my budget as much as possible.

We both still need to get to work so we will buy fuel as needed, as well as any other necessities for the car. Our normal grocery budget runs about $700 a month. During the month of September, I will try to spend $500 or less on groceries. That might be a little harder than in previous years because my husband is not on board this year so when we grocery shop, he will probably still add in lots of “extras” and things not on the grocery list. In years past I have noticed I am never so good at sticking to the list as I am during No Spend September.

My one exception for No Spend September (that I already purchased) was eye cream. I ran out yesterday and planned to go grab some at Target, but I forgot my in-laws were coming over for dinner last night, so I didn’t have a chance to get some. I ordered it on Amazon this morning because they actually have it for a better price than anywhere else. I was able to order it with next day delivery for $15.40 including tax and the cheapest I could find it at a store in town was $21.99 plus tax.

Hoping for a good financial month!