Category Archives: Saving Money

Items of Interest

I don’t have the time or energy to organize my thoughts so here we are. 

Marcus took this really good snap of me when we were at the cabin over Memorial Day weekend.


Goddess, I know. 

Last weekend I went to prenatal yoga for the first time in MONTHS. It nearly broke me, friends. I felt like every time we did an inversion all of the blood in my body was in my head, and while all of the stretching and  breathing felt good it did something terrible to my already hinky left glute (THANKS GLITTER). I could barely walk by the end of class. ANYWAY, I am going to give it another shot next week and then I think we’ll have a better idea of whether prenatal yoga is right for me. 

Unrelated: we have finally reached the TUMS Time part of pregnancy. #blessed

Greatest revelation of the weekend: ALDI now sells cold brew.  I have been keeping an eye out for this in the store for probably…six months?  At last, we are victorious!  It is $7.49 for a 32 oz jug and there is no price difference between french roast and regular (ahem Trader Joe’s).  I bought one of each so that I can try them and then decide which I prefer.  


As much as I really do love Trader Joe’s, if I could eliminate my trips for essentials there (cold brew, creamy salted peanut butter, 12 grain bread) so that we were only headed over for the odd case of two buck chuck and house liquor, I would not be mad.  It’s a 15 minute drive one way, so I just have other ways that I would rather spend my time.

Thanks to a hot tip from my mama group, I also scooped up a Step 2 brand water table (again, at ALDI) for $30.  Critter is delighted with it and we haven’t even put the water in.

Meanwhile we are continuing Critter’s transition to one nap (sob) and he continues to delight us as his proficiency in a variety of animal sounds (snake, owl, lion, butterfly, elephant) expands. He now barks when he sees dogs on walks and it is so cute that it hurts.  He says “blub” when he eats Goldfish. We are so excited to meet Glitter but also it is bittersweet that these 13 weeks are the last that it will ever just be Mama and Critter.  My tiny sidekick is getting an even tinier sidekick!

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The State of Our Financial Union: 2017 is Here

Since we talked about how 2016 went, I thought we should talk about what we see coming up in 2017.  When I interrogated Marcus about what budget changes he saw, he was pretty much like Eh it’s pretty boring this year.  Which is good!

Honestly, the thing that is keeping me up at night is the thought of purchasing a new home.  We have, of course, saved for years for a down payment that we hope will fall in the 20% range.  But right now our mortgage is so affordable and it keeps our cost of living so low.  This is obviously really nice and gives us a lot of freedom to do other things.  Like save.  I am really curious to see what will change with our budget as our lives change in this area.

We reduced our allowances.  By another $10 per week.  I also cancelled my online subscription to the New York Times because my Dad got a BOGO after the election and shared his free subscription with me!  That saved $180 annually so I cannot complain.

We increased our grocery spending.  By $60 per month.  SERIOUSLY IF YOU ARE NOT MEAL PLANNING AND SHOPPING AT ALDI YOU NEED TO DO IT.  It is such a game changer for how much we spend on our food.  And if you’re an organic person, they actually have a fairly decent selection of organic things.

In October, Laura and I were actually discussing grocery budgets because we realized that while we set ours based on what we were consuming, we weren’t really sure what was “normal.”

Marcus and I set out to do a little bit of research and what we found were the USDA Food Plans.  Super-handy because as the cost of food changes, you can see what the most current costs are.  This year, we have pretty much exactly budgeted for the “Low Cost” plan for a family of two.  Last year we fell in-between the “Thrifty” and “Low Cost” plans.  Y’all know that we eat well (and quite a bit), so I’m proud that we’ve been able to keep our grocery costs as low as they are.

We’re taking advantage of tax advantages.  And maxing out our HSA again this year.  There is a middling chance that a Littler Critter could come into our lives in late 2017, and a very high chance that it will happen in 2018.  Either way, with one boy baby and dematology habit, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be doing this.  Plus, since we built this into our budget last year, we won’t miss the money.

The Baby Budget. Last year, Critter got his own line for purchases like: baby yoga passes (seriously), clothing, sippy cups, toys, and the like.  Since we have no idea what to expect in his second ride around the sun, we thought it would be best to just maintain this and see where it takes us.  If we spend less, that’s great.

Cutting Cable.  We’re not doing it yet but you guys I am getting so close!  Marcus has agreed that once we move, we can probably do without for a few months while we settle into the place, enjoy the summer, etc. and then determine what we’re really missing.

What are your financial goals for 2017?  

The State of Our Financial Union: 2016 in Review

Hey hey ho ho 2016 has got to go!

Or it’s already gone.

I thought it would be interesting if I did a little walkthrough of this year in personal finances.  It’s good for us to reflect and if you’re looking for ideas/encouragement/are just bored and want to read something, here it is!

As you know, generally, I refrain from sharing very specific numbers.  I am sure we can all understand.  I think you can de-mystify money and talk about it openly without having to paste your income all over the internet.  While it works for some people (and I certainly love reading those blogs and listening to those podcasts!) it just doesn’t work for us.

How was 2016 for our finances?

Um, we spent all of our money.  Not really, but sort of.  We bought: a new furnace, a new water softener, a new washer and dryer, a new (used) car.  All of them except for the dryer (we felt like the set should match since we’re selling) were emergencies.  And we paid for them out of our hard earned savings and if I thought about what that dollar amount equaled, I would need to take to bed or breathe into a bag or something because OMG WHY DID 2016 HAVE TO KILL ALL OF OUR APPLIANCES?

Oh, and I almost forgot (how could I?).  WE HAD A BABY.  Also an expensive thing.

We saved a lot of money.  

  • We maxed out our HSA because that allowed us to lower our taxable income.  And because we knew that we were going to spend it all on Critter’s birth.  Marcus did some serious math at the end of 2015 to figure out what medical plan would make sense for us based on projected birth costs and deductibles, out of pocket maximums, premium payments, etc.  We ended up selecting a HDHP with an HSA because it was the lowest-cost for what we knew we would need.
  • We saved 10% in my Roth 401(k) and 11% in Marcus’ which continues to be the least gratifying activity of my entire life.
  • After all of the spending that took place as outlined above (again OMG), we still managed to save an additional 5% of our income.

We re-did part of our budget halfway through the year.  Realizing that we were spending TONS on groceries and not nearly as much going out with friends (or in general), we reallocated $40 per month towards groceries and took that out of our allowances.  This was a pretty painless change.  We also realized we were spending MUCH less on gas because I only drive to work three days per week and on the weekends, we just aren’t as far-ranging as we once were.  And that whole thing where gas prices were super low last year.

I stopped buying new clothes in August.  And I committed to purchasing only things to replace worn-out items.  I wrote about it here.  I will confess that in December, I purchased one more piece of employer-branded clothing to wear with jeans because I was wearing my pullover every single week and if being able to wear jeans to work when I want to hasn’t been one of the best life-improvements in my year, I just don’t know what is.  I will also give a shout-out to that third pair of yoga pants I bought in November.  It really has made my laundry-life SO MUCH BETTER.

Otherwise, where not purchasing new clothing is concerned, I will say this.  We have started going to our local mall from time to time so that we can walk with Critter in the late afternoon.  Whenever we go I am SO OVERWHELMED by the sheer amount of things that are being sold.  I have already removed two grocery bags of clothing from my closet and my shelves and drawers are still so full.  At the end of the year, I had managed to save an additional $130 from my allowance, that probably otherwise would have gone to…you guessed it…clothes.  Instead, it’s just not.  I still don’t know what the ultimate end result of this experiment is but it probably has to do with having less of everything.

We gave away $$$.  I know I have spoken about it before, but we do have a specific line item in our budget for charitable giving and it continues to be my favorite part of the budget.  We spent all of it.  Obviously.  There was also a point in the year where Marcus received some bonuses and I received a raise and we made another small gift because I truly believe that the Lord provisions us with what we need and when we are blessed, we need to bless others.

All in all, it was A Year.  Even though it didn’t turn out quite the way we had planned, I’m still (we’re still) proud of how it turned out.

If there are specific topics you want to hear more about (and if you don’t, it’s okay!), feel free to leave a comment.  Otherwise, if there are any financial celebrations you want to share, I’d love to hear about those too!

Reverb 16 | Prompt 26 | Boxing Day

Sarah and Kim have been sharing Reverb prompts and  Meredith and I are back in the saddle.  Because writing can be fun.  And we all have a lot to say.  Join us.

Boxing Day.  What does this holiday even mean?  I think Harry Potter does it.  But how do we unwind after the holiday?

Hey, happy Boxing Day.  How’s it going?

Once upon a time I would have told you that we spent the day watching movies, possibly making some time-intensive meal and fiddling with the presents that we received.  Maybe even some internet shopping just for the hell of it.  I hope that you enjoyed yours.  I really hope you did.

For us, that’s never happening ever again.

Last week, Marcus’ car decided that it was actually done with its time on this Earth.  We knew it would happen at some point but apparently mid-December was a bridge too far and so with the transmission repair worth more than the 10 year old sedan it was time to get a new (used) one.  Today he and Billy went off to observe their very first-ever Happy Honda Days and sourced the vehicle that they tentatively identified as The One last week.

We are of course so thankful to be able to get a car when we need it but that doesn’t make it any less of a fantastic hemorrhage of cash.

Meanwhile, on the home front we had to switch Critter to formula because mastitis completely killed my supply and there was no more milk in the freezer.  Seems pretty logical IMO.

After his first taste of formula, the little lad determined it was actually poison water and now he is terrified of his bottle, no matter what blend of formula or breast milk-formula or whole milk is contained therein.  So for the last 48 or so hours he has been on a quasi-hunger strike.  In an impressive feat he did manage to down 3/4 of an adult-sized bowl of chicken wild rice soup and an entire greek yogurt in one sitting but we are still BEGGING him to take literally any bottle. This is obviously very energizing because his patience level for anything is at zero and his righteous indignation about this life change is at 100%.

So this is me.  Unwinding.  We’ll give it another shot next year.

Capsule Closet Challenge – An Update

It’s now December and my personal challenge to avoid buying new clothing (excluding replacement garments) is still on.  How am I doing now that we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season?

Well, I’ve purged another two bags of clothing from my closet.  I don’t miss any of it.  There are a few more things I think I want to get rid of, but I just can’t bring myself to do it quite yet.

On Black Friday, I replaced the two pairs of pumps I wear to work.  They have been on life support since probably…September.  Taking advantage of the discounts and sales seemed like a great way to get what I needed while spending less than list price.

I bought a new pair of running/walking shoes (let’s be serious…they’re only walking shoes right now) because I had nearly worn through the soles of my current pair.  Also sourced on Black Friday.

And then I did add one thing – I bought another pair of yoga pants from Target.  I currently have two pairs in rotation right now and since every day they are getting baby cereal/spit-up/dog hair from the houses we are visiting all over them I am washing them CONSTANTLY.  I don’t need to do laundry every two days I think we can all agree.  Even though I was (obviously) hoping to go longer without buying ANYTHING, this is about as practical as you can get.

I will also note that with all of my online purchases I used Ebates!!!  Yes, that’s a referral link, but if you want to bypass it go to Ebates.com and sign yourself up.  I go to Ebates before I start shopping, select my store and then earn cash back on my purchases made through the referral link.  It’s incredible, really.

If you’re doing your own Capsule Closet Challenge, how is it going?

The State of Our Financial Union: Small Savings

I’m not a big believer in the “latte” theory, because ultimately, your overall cost of living (rent/mortgage, bills, etc.) are what will determine how or if you will be successful at being able to save money.  With that in mind, small savings can add up and over time, you bet it can make a big difference too.

What are we up to?

  • Swapping freezer gallon ziploc bags for regular strength gallon ziploc bags.  In order to transport my pump parts, I throw a clean ziploc bag into a larger tupperware container.  Marcus realized that if we switched from the freezer ziploc bags to the cheaper, plain large ziploc bags, we would save some money.  He guesses that the overall savings is probably $5/year, but hey!  That’s something!
  • Swapping La Croix for Belle Vie.  Fizz water, as I call it, is for sure my most $$$ regular habit.  Not that it’s terribly expensive, but $4.99 for a 12 pack isn’t free.  When ALDI came out with their own fizz-water line (originally called La Vie) and they even had their own Grapefruit flavor, I was So Sold.  Then it disappeared from the shelves mysteriously for a few months, but now it is back.
  • Target RED Card.  Reader, I finally signed up for one.  This might seem super stupid but finally we were like…why are we not just saving 5% on Target purchases for no other reason than the fact that we are alive?  We’re going to keep track of the amount we save on purchases and move that directly into our savings.  Between trying to sell one house and wanting to buy another, I am sure that will be a nice little chunk of change.
  • Using our benefits.  We signed up for the legal plan through Marcus’ employer so that we can get our estate planning taken care of.  It covers the attorney we’re planning to use and it will make it MUCH cheaper than if we were to just pay for it straight out-of-pocket.
  • Ebates.  Yes, that’s a referral link, but if you are not Ebates-ing yet, you absolutely should be (and you can feel free to cut me out by going straight to ebates.com).  When you want to shop online, instead of going directly to the website you want, you go to Ebates and then click through using their link and as a result of this transaction, you are rewarded with cash back as a percentage of your purchase. Quarterly (or so), they send you a check (Seriously. A check.) for the amount you’ve referred/earned/saved by using their site.  Over the years I’ve gotten $162.62 in cash back so this is not a joke.

Capsule Closet Challenge

Amongst a certain set, it seems to be very trendy to create a “capsule” wardrobe.  Usually this involves discarding all of the clothing that one hates, and then purchasing a smaller volume of things that are “high quality” or “classic” pieces.  The person in question then proceeds to cast aspersions on clothing from retailers like Target and somewhere between $250 – $1000 later they have at least part of a new wardrobe.

I’m gonna be honest, y’all.  This is ridiculous nonsense and I am not buying it.

Partially because I don’t understand how people wake-up and suddenly hate Every.Single.Thing.They.Own and partially because I have owned many garments from Target that have survived (and in good quality) for more than one year and some for more than five.

For the past few months, you have seen that I’ve made it a goal to avoid purchasing clothing unless it is “essential.”  To that end, I’ve obtained three new white camisoles, and a branded pullover from my employer that allows me a free pass to wear jeans on any day of the week.  But that’s it.

I’m sort of finding myself at the point where I want to see if I can possibly stretch this goal out for another 10 months and make it a year.

Like the experiment I did…three years ago (?) where I only wore skirts and dresses to work for a summer and then I just stopped wearing dress pants to work altogether because I realized that I hated them.  Though I still have one pair JUST IN CASE there is some sort of emergency where I absolutely cannot wear pants.

But back to the No Clothing thing.

The reason I think this is do-able is because (1) I already have a very full closet (2) I really own all of the clothing that I NEED (3) If I don’t wear it in the next year, I should for sure be getting rid of it (4) I am hoping to be pregnant at some point after Critter’s first birthday and I have a fully outfitted maternity wardrobe as well, so really I have two full wardrobes.

So it can be time for this thing.

When I decided that my current closet-turned capsule wardrobe was going to be A Thing, I will be honest, I was suddenly struck with the urge to go out and shop for EVERYTHING. But I didn’t. So there’s that. 

I only have one caveat.  I swear it’s not supposed to be a loophole, but it’s there because I’m not a glutton for punishment.  In the next 10 months I can replace items.  So, new work shoes, new running shoes, new yoga pants, underwear etc. if I wear them out.

If I epically fail at this, I know you’ll understand since the whole idea is one part crazy to begin with.  I think even if I bought 10% less clothing in a year, that would be a win!  That being said, if this challenge is something that you’re interested in (even if only just for a month, or to get through to the Spring!), please leave me a comment and share your progress. A couple of my girlfriends have already comitted (one for the full year, two for the next quarter) and I am excited to see what we learn!

I have no idea how often I’ll check in on this one. Monthly?  Quarterly?  When something gets replaced?  If I conduct a closet purge?  We’ll see.