Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Friday--Thanks But No Thanks

This was a HUGE post, and Blogger LOST IT!

The highlights:
1. I am on budget for Christmas this year
2. We did not blow it on Black Friday
3. I redeemed $150 in gift cards and used them for Christmas gifts/shopping

Friday, November 20, 2009

Proud Mommy Moment

One thing that Dave really talks about over and over again is how as adults, we have the power to change our family tree and really impact our children by taking control of our finances and modeling to them.

Matt and I have really taken this seriously and have worked very hard to be consistent in what we say and do, especially around the kids. Nicholas and Lauren are still way to young to catch on to the brainwashing we're doing, but Nathan is definitely starting to sip the Kool-Aid.

When we embarked on our Total Money Makeover, we also brought Nathan on board with us and started working with him to understand money and give him a real education in this area and not let him grow up clueless.

The way things currently work is Nathan gets a base allowance of $5 every 2 weeks, which is consistent with the allowance Matt and I give ourselves for "blow" money. The most important thing we've taught Nathan is that before he spends any of his allowance, he needs to set aside 10% of it to give during the children's offering at church.

Prior to Dave, we would just hand Nathan $1 every week and send him off and that was that, but it's really teaching him more about his faith and being responsible if he gives from his own money than us giving him money just to give him money. It's been a little harder of a lesson to explain to him why he's giving less money than he was before, but when we walk into his class and he drops his $.25 in the box (10% of his $5 is $.50, or $.25 per week), I take that time to reaffirm to him that he's tithing from HIS money and I am very proud of him for doing so.

Now as a Christian parent, you can imagine how much my heart swells with love and joy when I can hear Nathan talk about this kind of stuff and especially that I know he really GETS it. But, I think that I have a very, very close second moment that ranks right on up as of last night.

Nathan was standing by me as I was doing dishes and told me he wants to open his own savings account! He's pretty good at saving money on his own for things that he wants like Nintendo DS games, or to buy books from the school book orders, but he recognizes that he wants to save for some bigger things (like Guitar Hero) and that a bank account could help him. So I am really going to try and find time in the next week to take him up to the credit union and do this with him.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas, Part 2

I don't know why, but I am really struggling this year to wrap my arms around Christmas. I know how much money I have to work with, I know who I need to buy for, but nothing is jumping out at me as something I need to cross off my list. Anyone who knows me well knows that I not only do I have lists, I have lists to organize my lists, so to not cross things off my lists is very nerve wracking to me.

I think that part of my struggle in getting this task done and over is that I am Christmas shopping with cash this year. It's so much easier to shop online and just order things and have them show up in that happy little box from Amazon (really, there is a smiley right on the box!) show up and I can toss it in the closet and be done with it. I keep thinking I am going to come across "the gift" for someone and it will be too late because I either don't have the money now, or I've already bought something for them.

I feel like I'm totally skipping over Thanksgiving this year because the stores went straight from Halloween decorations to Christmas, there is already a radio station playing nothing but Christmas music, and they picked Secret Santa already at work. Maybe what I need to do is just stick my fingers in my ears and scream "nah-nah-nah-nah" until the day after Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grocery Savings

This is the time in the year where it's time to stock up and start filling the pantry. Between November and the end of January is when you can find the BEST coupons out there and the most! Usually it's hard to come by coupons and good sales on staples, and with holiday baking creeping up on us, it's the time to start combing through your ads and matching coupons to sales.

While you are clipping and matching, take a minute to look and see what you can get for FREE or for a few pennies, and take those items and donate them to a local food pantry. The food pantry we choose to support is (Project Hope in Dorr, MI). Our church has a box right in the lobby where donations can be dropped off, which makes it so easy and convenient to do!

So what did I get for my $9.06?

3 3.5lb bags of Purina One cat food
2 Macaroni Grill dinners
3 Wanchai Ferry dinners
6 cans of Campbell's Gravy
2 4pk of Fiber One yogurt
1 4pk of YoPlus yogurt
2 cans of Campbell's cream of chicken soup

Received a coupon back for 1/2 gallon of OJ (Value of $2.50!)

Out of pocket: $9.06
Saved: $54.20

Before anyone jumps and tells me how unhealthy I shop, I do need to add the disclaimer that we don't eat boxed meals every single night of the week. I find it extremely handy to have a few in the pantry for those busy nights where everything falls apart and we all need to be somewhere and have the tendency to just go through the drive thru in order to get people fed. I would much rather throw together a quick chicken fettucini (ala box) and eat that instead of a Happy Meal with fries. Not only is it CHEAPER, it's still the healthier option because there are things we can do to the "box" to make it healthy. I can use skim milk, I can make sure it's not loaded down with butter and oil, I can make sure the chicken isnt' fried, and I can mix in plenty of veggies!

I do use a coupon "service" that helps me organize my shopping lists and gives me access to hundreds of printable coupons. Many people have heard of the Grocery Game, and while I haven't tried to "play the game", I have been blessed by Savings Angel! I love that I have full access to stores in my area and I don't have to pick and choose where to shop and I can search all my local stores and get the best of the best deals!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Christmas, Part 1

The holidays are so stressful every year, and when you factor in current economic conditions with the astronomical expectations of your kids and family, well it can be a recipe for disaster!

Aside from the small amount of cash we've budgeted for Christmas, we are also using some "found" money as well to fund our Christmas this year. Under no uncertain circumstances will a single penny of our Christmas spending go on credit, this is absolutely not an option.

I don't want to give away too much on the Christmas details, but I can give a good breakdown of how we are scrounging up stuff:

-Cashed in $100 worth of giftcards with MyPoints. I booked travel and did the email click throughs all year to scrounge up points towards this.

-I have 25,000 Speedway Rewards I am going to cash in towards a gift card, haven't decided what just yet.

-I have $25 in credit out there that I am using to purchase a gift for someone. I earned that doing Swagbucks searches.

-I've been watching clearance racks for interesting items for people all year long. I have a few stashed away for the kids. For example, my neice really wanted a Baby Alive doll, and for some reason, the local K-Mart had one on clearance for $11. SOLD!

-We cut a deal with quite a few family members that we strictly go "kids only" and even that within reason. Adults don't need more crap, and it's more fun to watch the kids open stuff!

-I am constantly watching the deal sites (GottaDeal, SlickDeals) for mega deals on things.

-Amazon does some good toy sales in the fall, keep an eye on SlickDeals/GottaDeal to see what's out there. Usually you can find a nice consolidated thread of all the ongoing things.

-I personally opt out of the secret Santa stuff and all those other misc gift exchanges. I just don't have the money in the budget for it and I usually don't end up with anything that I really want or need anyways.

-I have a chunk of Coke Rewards out there that I plan on cashing in towards something, not sure yet. You have to watch the site pretty close to snatch the good gift cards, so hopefully a few good ones will pop up again soon!

In our Financial Peace University class, quite a few of us are supporting each other and just letting family know that Christmas this year is scaled back. It's not an easy conversation to have, but I think it's a GOOD conversation. Every chance we have to shift our mindset from STUFF to the real reason for Christmas (Jesus and time with family), the stronger our family will be. Pop in a DVD, watch a movie together and drink hot chocolate and make memories because those are what are going to last way longer than the singing fish on a plastic plaque!

I am going to be blogging a LOT this holiday season because I know that I am going to need to reinforce this to myself over and over again. It's hard to resist the temptation and it's hard to stay focused and on plan. I am so happy to have my Financial Peace class running right now to help hold me accountable.