Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, now that I’m rockin’ the stay-at-home-mommy gig. I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Today’s topic: Last time we chatted about budgeting but today’s topic is WAY less complicated than that. Like, it’s stupidly simple but I figured it was still worth a mention. You can decide if that’s actually true…

Remember way back, over two years ago, when I declared my cessation from buying craft supplies? Well, I’m still staying true to that promise. Admittedly, I’ve bought sheets of felt and a few cheap supplies for Christmas gifts (for this and this) but I have resisted the temptation to buy extraneous goodies for my bin. I’ve been very good! *pats back*

What does this have to do with saving money, outside of using stuff up? As you know, the only crafting I do is make cards. I never buy store bought ones even though I am a *serious* paper goods admirer. Instead, I whip up a bunch of handmade ones at a time to use throughout the year for birthdays, thank yous, etc. They are far from fancy:

Recently, I’ve been keeping track of the gifts we’ve received for Miss Amelie in a spreadsheet so I can stay organized. It was then I realized just how much I have to be thankful for. I’ve written 80 thank you cards between my showers and the gifts people have dropped off or shipped to us just in the last few months!

I KNOW. I’m so spoiled. That’s a lot of thank you cards.

By using what I have instead of buying packs of new cards, I figured I’ve saved a good hunk of cash. I recognize these cards weren’t free to make even though it feels like it now since I haven’t bought new supplies in over two years. But truthfully, it wouldn’t take that much money up front to get started on making your own cards if you wanted to do the same. Beware, this IS a hobby that could easily get expensive if you start collecting cutters, stamps, decals and the like. I try to keep my cards super simple, almost formulaic. I have even been known to recycle parts of cards I’ve received because it pains me to just toss adorable paper goods in the trash.

I did have to buy a 100-pack of white envelopes from Amazon but I believe it’s still saving me money in the long run. Hubs will even dive into the bin to make me cards for our special events like anniversaries, birthdays, Valentines, etc. Sweet, huh?

Best of all, making cards a pastime I really enjoy. So it’s a double win!

Any little things you’re doing to save money but still have a grand old time doing it?

Clothes The Front Door!

Clothes.  I love them.  And they frustrate me to NO END.  Let’s talk clothes therapy, shall we?

Here are my issues:

1. I LOVE clothes (and accessories and bags and shoes!) but I don’t like having lots of them.  It’s a “having too much stuff” issue for me and causes me more anxiety than you’d probably guess.  I consider it clutter.  I’d much rather have a super small wardrobe that has more turnover, than a closet full of tired choices that I am supposed to remix into something cute and fresh.

–By the way, there is an entire corner of blogland where ladies are *amazing* at remixing what they have.  I’m always so inspired!  Obviously, I super suck at it (we all regretfully remember my painful attempts with the Wore Zone series.  *shudder*)  The thing is, you need a fairly large “base closet” to work from for remixing to be successful.  Check out this blog and this one, if you want to inject new life into your closet by remixing. It’s seriously an awesome concept, just not for me!

2.  Back to me.  I’m cheap.  Like really, really cheap.  Being a bargain hunter should be a good thing, right?  Sometimes, though, I find myself buying lots of cheap stuff that I don’t like as much instead of investing in a few quality pieces.  Too often, my “great deals” get shipped off to Goodwill faster than you can believe and that incredible “score” was actually just money thrown down the toilet.  And now that I’m on a super tight budget, the struggle to find a good balance is even more difficult than before.  Those “mistakes” really hurt now.

3.  Along with being cheap, I shop mostly piecemeal with no further agenda in mind.  I’m always quick to buy the cute shirt on sale, but drag my feet when it comes to investing in a good pair of jeans, shoes, shorts, sweaters, etc.  You know, the expensive stuff!  I never shop for “outfits” and then I stand admist my hodgepodge collection of clothes and wonder why I have so much stuff but nothing to wear!

4.  I drool over fashion trends and think it’s important to feel stylish and put together.  I really admire fashionable people (hi, Emily!) and walk away from those encounters inspired to do better.  But, I finally admitted to myself that being fashionable is actually not a talent of mine.  I’m not good at it.  NAPPING, on the other hand, is something I do very very well.

5.  When shopping for clothes, I haven’t been good at recognizing my lifestyle needs.  When I worked in the office – I needed office appropriate attire that was also age appropriate, workout clothes, and casual weekend wear.  Due to issues #1-#3, I owned a sorely incomplete set of each and always felt frustrated and ill-prepared, no matter what the event!

So.  When I happened upon that garage sale in July – I went plumb crazy in that awkward closet of mine.  Anything I wasn’t sure what to do with or how to piece into an outfit, I priced to sell and oh boy, sell it did.  My (already small) closet dwindled to scraps!  It’s probably for the best, our closet is tiny anyway.  Mentally, it was a relief to have a fresh start.  I’m hoping that from here on out, I can work on building a closet that’s more mindful than before – all the while on tight budget.  Cross your fingers for me, because I don’t think this will be easy!

My “solutions” to Issues 1-5:

Sol1:  I realize that having a small wardrobe is a good thing – for my head, for my wallet and for our serious space limitation in this apartment.  I’m giving up on the idea of remixing and instead, concentrating on having an ultra efficient set of clothes.  I don’t mind wearing things often, as long as it’s a complete outfit that I feel comfortable in.  That’s what I’m going to *try* to do from here on out.

Sol2: This one is hard.  My budget is small.  I would *like* buy those beautiful boots that cost $250 (which  would probably end up being worth it in the end) but my annual budget would go up in smoke.  My goal is to have less stuff, but more quality pieces.  I’m going to do my best, but it’s going to be difficult to conquer my old mindset.  I’m not good at recognizing “investment pieces” versus ordinary pieces I could find somewhere else, for less money.  Have any rules-of-thumb that you go by that might help me out?

Sol3:  I have two solutions that I’m hoping will solve Issue #3.  One, I made a super specific list of basics that my closet is lacking at this moment (such as denim trousers, a 3/4 black blazer, a grey raceback tank, etc) and I’m focusing on filling those needs.  I tried to assess what items would really pull together the few pieces I have left in my closet.  And I’ve actually been sticking to this list since my budget rolled over in July!  Secondly, once the basics are filled, is to buy in OUTFITS.  The whole shebang.  I figure, it’d be way better to have only one complete outfit for each season than a mishmash of random items that don’t really work together.  Yep, you heard me.  Only ONE outfit per season!?!  You’ll see why in Sol5.

Sol4:  I’m trying to accept that, although I love the thought of skirts, blouses, heels and piles of accessories – I actually crave simplicity.  I crave flattering but comfortable layers.  I crave flats.  I crave warmth.  And I crave functionality.  If I were to characterize my style, I guess it’d be “sporty casual”.  I’m not a dress-up girl.  I’m going to try and remember that when I start mulling over that pair of mint skinny jeans, believing they are my ticket to Fashion Island.  It’s funny because my twin LOVES to get all dressed up for fancy occasions.  He would do it every day if he could!  I just find it stressful and a huge departure from my normal “style”.  And when I do have to put together an outfit, I’m going to copy someone else that knows what they are doing!

What I wish I was like:
What I actually wear:

Sol5: I run in the mornings, work from home and then head to practice each afternoon.  As for the weekends, Hubs and I do yoga, go on hikes, bike to restaurants and work in the garden.  Truth is, I spend a lot – no, a majority – of my time in workout clothes at this moment in my life.  It just doesn’t make much sense to throw on an outfit with accessories, just to peel them off a few hours later for practice or a bike ride.  In the winter, I’m less active but I just want to be cozy and warm.  I don’t go out much, get dressed up or head in to an office.  So, right now, my lifestyle needs are a more adequate set of workout clothes (especially when it comes to the winter season – I hardly have any cold weather gear) and at least ONE every day outfit (for each season) that I would wear to a casual dinner or a get together.  I know my life and wardrobe needs will probably change – but for now, this is what I am going to focus on.

So, that’s my plan.  Let’s hope mapping it all out will give me some sense of direction?

Is this the most boring post you’ve ever laid eyes on or is this an issue you struggle with too?  Any tips that work for you?

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but let’s not waste your time.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Today’s topic: Last time we chatted about debt, but this go around is all about budgeting.  So super fun, right?!?

For the past two years, we’ve been tracking our spending, investments, savings, etc on Mint – an excellent (albeit, sometimes finicky) online tool. Admittedly, we’ve only been *tracking* our spending, not necessarily budgeting it per se.  Here’s the thing.  It’s difficult for us to put together a budget because we are still in the early stages of getting Hubs business up and running, which means we don’t have a reliable and continuous flow of dolla bills to build a budget from.  Plus, we told ourselves, we are savers!  We are frugal!  We share meals at restaurants!  We don’t need a budget, we already live well within our means!

Enough with the excuses.  Last year, we started small and tried budgeting our “discretionary spending”.  Hubs got a chunk of change to spend on his choosing, and I got a (considerably larger) chunk of change to do the same. This did *not* include groceries, eating out, gifts, entertainment, gas, basic toiletries, etc – even though those are all technically discretionary as well.  For example, my shampoo did not come out of my personal spending budget, unless it was a departure from our regular products or a splurge (like something from a salon).  Basically, any clothes, shoes, hair and makeup came out of my own personal spending budget.  We set my budget at $850 for the YEAR.  That’s about $70/month.  I don’t know about you, but I thought that would be reasonable since I don’t consider myself a big spender.  Turns out, I had a very, very, *very* difficult time.  In the end (our budget rolled over July 1st), I didn’t make it.  I went $13 over, which isn’t much but it goes against the principle of keeping a budget…you need to stick to it and I didn’t.  Not cool.

(For those of you that care, Hubs didn’t even come close to spending all of his budget…so the extra rolled over to this year.  In fact, he even DONATED some money to beef up our Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, because they were sad this year.  Can you believe it?)

Nonetheless this experiment, although somewhat painful, prevented me from spending A LOT more.  Like, maybe double, or triple more at least?  It’s hard to say.  So, we decided to do it again this year – but take it to the next level.

(Has anyone even bothered getting this far?  So sorry for being overly wordy and boring.)

When we bounced out to California in June for a conference, we also took that time to host our first anual family “Budget Summit”, where we hashed out our finances.  So sexy of us!

For the sake of TMI, here is what we came up with:

  • Candace’s personal: $900/yr
  • Hub’s personal: $400/yr
  • Groceries: $300/month
  • Eating out: $160/month
  • Entertainment: $600/yr
  • Gas: $160/month
  • Household supplies/toiletries: $80/month
  • Sports (ski passes, gear, league fees): $64/month
  • Gifts (including xmas and shipping): $100/month
  • Hair: $68/month

There are a lot of other expenses to take into account (like insurance, health expenses, rent, car maintenance, travelling, the unknowns), which we did when we made up the above discretionary budget.  We’ve been tracking all of our expenses since July 1st and are working hard to stay under budget.  So far, it’s been very difficult to maintain my personal spending (because I want stuff!), gifts, and our grocery budget.  We are barely sneaking by in those areas.  But other budgets, such as entertainment and eating out, we’ve been well under.  So, this should be a great exercise for us.  In our own nerdy way, we get super excited trying to stay within the budget.  So maybe there is a little fun buried in all of this?

Anyway, I’ve blabbed LONG ENOUGH.  Anyone else doing a similar exercise, or have you been faithfully budgeting all along?  Fill me in, I’m interested in how other folks figure this stuff out!

Thank goodness spending time in the mountains is good for the soul and easy on our pocket books.  I can’t believe the views from here are free!

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job last summer.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but let’s not waste your time.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Today’s topic: DEBT. Eew.

Just a month or two back, we became completely debt free and that got me thinking about the journey we took to get here.  Fresh out of college, I bought a car and paid it off just before purchasing my house in 2004.  Then, shortly after getting married, Hubs and I paid off his car loan.  As you know, last summer we sold our house.  Thanks to  having renters early in my mortgage and throwing in a few extra payments, we were able to come out just *barely* above zero, even though we sold it for 20k less than I had bought it for.  But, above zero nonetheless.  My final debt was a small chunk of school loans that was so piddly, we decided to pull the trigger and pay it off a few months back, leaving us completely debt free.  Wow, it feels niiiice.

A few contributing factors to this new found debt freedom:

*We both bought used cars and they have been low cost to maintain (thankfully).  I bought my car in 2002 for 11k and was still able to sell it, 9 years later, for 4k!  It was a great little car and I’m hoping Hub’s car writes us a similar story.

*I bought a cheap house and rented it out.  Sure, I wanted a yard so I could plant a garden.  Sure, I wanted a few extra bedrooms so I could sleep overnight guests.  Sure, sharing your space with renters isn’t always a dream come true.  And SURE, I yearned to host a bridal or baby shower!!  My place was just was too small to do so.

*We both went to cheap colleges.  In fact, I spent my first two years at a community college, living at home (thanks, Mom) and sharing a car with my twin brother (a truly awful experience).  It was far from glamorous and you’d better believe I was incredibly jealous of all of my friends that went away to college and got to live in the dorms.  I felt like a complete lame wad.  But, it saved me a ton of money.  Then, I transferred to the University of Minnesota and thanks to some healthy internships and a few scholarships, I walked away with 8k in debt after 3 years, and even got to live on campus!  But, let’s be honest, my college experience was fairly low on the “fun” spectrum.  I was dead broke.  I had stupid clothes, couldn’t go out to eat and didn’t do much of anything, unless it was free.  Hubs, on the other hand, got a full ride.  I know.  So, when we got married, he didn’t come with any school debt – only good looks!  Go me!

Anyway.  My point is, being debt free feels good and has given us some leverage to take new risks but it came with sacrifices.  It came with some serious lack of fun.  And one day, we can only hope to afford a house again and we’ll be back on the debt wagon.  Until then, we’ll have to endure the annoyances of apartment living.  But for now though, we are trying to enjoy the ride and I’m trying to look back on each of these sacrifices with fondness, because it was part of the journey.

Does anyone want to talk about debt and what they are doing to pay theirs down?  Any sacrifices along the way?  Any mistakes, bumps in the road?  Anyone want me to just shut my trap already?

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job last summer.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but let’s not waste your time.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Last time we chatted I talked about using stuff up and as an update: I’ve already used up two lip products and the washer ate two of them (coincidentally ruining Hubs clothes in the process).  This is not helping us in the saving money department as much as I had hoped.  But, at least I’m whittling them down with persistent dedication/ineptness – so go me!

Today’s topic:  Dyeing my own hair

A confession:  I’m only a half-blonde.  You know the type.  The type that started off as a sweet and innocent blonde kid/young adult, but now her angry roots come in as a green/ash-y/cat-pukey brown color.  Once the sun has at it; it morphs back into something reminiscent of a sunny semi-pleasing blonde hue again.  But, it always looks dyed, even when it’s not.  As soon as the days grow shorter and the sun heads south of the equator, my roots stage a mutiny and take over my hair life.  I’m forced to highlight the heck out of it.  Have you any idea how expensive, in both time and money, highlights are – especially for fast growing long hair?  It costs a small fortune.  No wait, it actually costs a fortune.  I was super stingy about it before but now that I’m on a tight budget, I’m even more so.  In fact, I haven’t gotten highlights in almost a year.

Instead, I’ve taken to highlighting my own hair.  It’s DIY at it’s finest and I’ve been saving SO MUCH MONEY!!!!!

In addition saving SO MUCH MONEY!!!!!, I’ve been walking around looking like a complete dweeb because, turns out, highlighting my own hair is a talent I do not possess.  See?

I have random bright blonde SPOTS (that go 20 layers deep), and dirty roots playing right along side general orange-y hair drama.  You can’t really grasp the hideousness of it all, but it’s bad.  It looks far from decent, and I’m self conscious of it.

I told Hubs I can’t do it anymore.  I have to find some sort of compromise.  From here on out, I’m going to do a mix of getting it professionally done and doing it myself.  So, in essence, this is a Mad Money FAIL.  I tried to save the green but it just didn’t work out.

How about you – any Mad Money fails that you’d like to let your hair down and vent about?

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job last summer.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but let’s not waste your time.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Last time we chatted, I talked about going down to one car not only to save money, but also to pay for our very spendy move to Colorado.

Today’s topic:  Using stuff up

Deep, eh?  Although a seemingly indifferent undertaking, using stuff up has actually allowed me to save a tinkle of coin.  You see, the moment we decided to move, I started obsessing over our stuff.  I began sorting, donating, trashing, paring down and last but not least, using stuff up.  My main goal was to move a little as possible.  But, lets be real, I *still* moved expired food – wth is wrong with me?

Anyhoo, the three main categories this using-stuff-up applied to:

  • toiletries (fear not, I still restock toothpaste)
  • crafty goods/deliciousness
  • food (obviously I still buy staples like waffle mix)

For example, take a gander at my lip candy collection:

These products are all in various stages of being used up and although I’ve been oogling everything under the sun at Sephora, I’ve made a pact to use these *all* up before repurchasing anything new.  Same goes for lotions, body sprays, stickers, craft paper, etc.

Using stuff up is not really the key to my money saving strategy.  But, the process has changed my buying habits.  I no longer peruse the Victoria Secret semi-annual sales, Michael’s clearance racks, and Bath and Body clearance events to stock up on great deals on more stuff (most of which I didn’t even know I wanted).  For now, I’m holding off on buying anything until I am actually out of it.  It’s not rocket science and kinda aligns with my OCD tendencies, so I feel like this is a good exercise for me now.  Are y’all doing anything, rational or obsessively, to save money these days?

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job a few months ago.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst on you and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but we all know you’ve got better things to learn.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.  This is also a placeholder for me to improve and evolve, since I don’t have my crap together or my life figured out just yet.  Bare with me.

Today’s topic:  Our move

Moving is, generally speaking, expensive.  And ours was no different.  See, we sold our house for $20k less than I bought it in 2004 and didn’t make any money from the sale.  In fact, we consider ourselves extremely lucky that we didn’t have to PAY IN like so many folks have had to do.  Then, there was the cost of moving supplies, the gas guzzling cross country road trip, the going away parties, and lunches to say goodbye.  On top of all that, we moved to a substantially more expensive city as far as rent, groceries, and even clothes (they are taxed!) go.  Obviously, we got in the Colorado spirit of things by purchasing tabs and licenses and all of that really annoying fee-laden stuff.  In addition, we moved into our apartment and realized we needed to buy a microwave, shower curtain, desk and chair and other random apartment-y goodies.

Oh and the real kicker?  We now have to fork over at least 4 hundred bones any time we want to see our family.  Ouch.

So, this is how we are combating the money black hole that is Our Move:

Remember when we sold my car?  Thankfully, that put a shiny (oooh, I love shiny things) chunk of change in our quickly collapsing pockets.  It paid for our move and gave us a sizable buffer to work with once we transplanted ourselves in CO.  And now, we only have one car to insure, which is also adding a teeny tiny bits of green back into our lives.  It was a sacrifice we made to afford moving across the country and starting over.

Now, we just have to work on affording Life After The Move.  I’ll get to that.

Is money making you mad and how are you fighting back?