Monday, February 28, 2011

What I Learned from the No-Spend Challenge

Today marks the end of the No-spend Challenge!  I ended up with 6% or my food money and 18% of my household money left over; my toy budget was blown at 49% over.  I consider it a success because I was able to pay for all the car inspections and maintenance without drawing down any of my savings.

Things I Learned From the No-Spend Challenge:

(1) Murphy is always waiting just around the corner; a financial cushion makes this an annoyance rather than a disaster.  Yeah, I knew this already, but being extra money-conscious this month definitely reinforced the message.  No sooner had I decided to spend no money from my toy budget, then my computer blew up.  Now, if I had to, I could live without a computer and do all my internet from the library.  A working computer is not a necessity like food and shelter.  But it sure was nice to have the extra cushion to just make a new computer happen painlessly.

(2) Freezers are only frugal if properly utilized.  There is way more stuff in my freezer than I had realized.  We didn't even really make a dent in the freezer this month, even though our food budget was halved.  I'm considering reworking my food budget to continue to require myself to eat from the freezer at least a couple of nights a week.  I'm really good at putting stuff up, but it's not frugal if you put it up and then it spoils before you use it.

(3) Obsessively chasing online deals is not frugal.  I buy a lot of stuff online, so I am on a ton of mailing lists.  Most of them send me an offer every day.  Before this month, I've had a list of what needs to be purchased, and every day I check the deals offered by any stores that have the items on my list until there is a really good deal on what I need.  This month, since I was buying only essentials, I deleted all of those emails without reading them and added 20 minutes of productive time to my day.  It's easy to get a good deal online; getting an excellent one is a challenge.  Spending 20 minutes a day for a week on a $1K item to save 10% might make sense; spending the same time for 10% off a $10 item does not.  I'm unsubscribing from all those deal lists and just shopping for small dollar items as I need them from now on.

Right before I started this challenge, Debt Ninja posted his belief that "[No-Spend Challenges] are just an excuse for people to pat themselves on the back."  This is the first no-spend challenge that I've ever participated in, so I didn't have an opinion at the time, but I resolved to come back to his post after this challenge was over.  I certainly didn't expect to learn anything from the challenge; I thought I'd just end up with more money at the end of the month.  This No-Spend Challenge helped me pinpoint leaks of both time and money that make my lifestyle less than optimally frugal, and I saved some money, so I'd say they can be worthwhile.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Want to be my Accountability Buddy?

Hard to believe that February is almost over!  Only 2 days left of the no-spend challenge, and, barring anything unforeseen, I should clear my food and household goals with no problem (the toy budget was blown a long time ago).  I've got 9 days left on the shape up for march challenge, but that will barely last me into March.  It's been great doing these challenges; somehow reading about other people doing the same thing makes it easier to keep myself on track.

Looking at my 2011 goals, I am doing well on all fronts except (a) practicing with carry firearm  (b) doing Flylady routines (c) connecting with my friend and (d) working on piano.

If any of these match up with something you've been thinking about getting serious about, I'd love to have an accountability blogging buddy.  Let me know if you're be interested.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Having too Much Fun to Spend Money

Today I:

Went to the library and discovered that I had 4 ILLs in ...

Read one of them on the stationary bike at the gym ...

Castrated, vaccinated, and tagged some calves, and set the rest up to finish first thing tomorrow ...

Discussed purchasing a house in the neighborhood as a rent house with my parents ...

Made it to Judo only 15 minutes late ...

Came home and ate one of the pizzas that I made Saturday ...

And am now heading happily off to dreamland!

Hope your day was great too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Challenges of Spousal Money Management

I woke up this morning to discover that Mr. Goat had made a midnight run for some "necessities."  What really steamed me is that he had asked me to get cat food the night before, I bought some, and he didn't see it, so he bought more.  He also bought kitty litter and dishwasher detergent from Wal-Mart, which is much more expensive than Dollar General.  As we weren't out of either, I was planning on getting them on Saturday with a $5 off $25 coupon.  So he spent about half of my remaining monthly budget, and didn't actually get anything that was urgently necessary enough to pay Wal-Mart prices.

The really frustrating thing is that he doesn't even understand why I am upset.  In his world, if it's in the bank account, it's OK to spend.  He sees that we still have money in the budget to cover it, so he thinks it's all good.  Before we married, when he used to run out of money at the end of the month, he'd just eat beans and rice and buy his smokes with money from his change jar.  He wants to buy whatever tickles his fancy until the money is gone, then tighten his belt until the next paycheck.  I want to divide the money into four reasonably equal amounts and have an even standard of living throughout the month.  Normally I have enough flex in my budget to accommodate these midnight runs (he makes them two or three times a month), but since I am doing a no-spend challenge this month, these last few days are going to be pretty tight.

Luckily, we still have plenty of stuff in the freezer, so I think that, as long as I don't have to buy gas between now and next Monday, I should still come under budget.  Considering his proclivities in the financial department, he does pretty well accommodating to my very different financial style.  And I'll be repeating this mantra to myself until I've calmed down enough to be rational about this.

Do you and your spouse/partner have different financial styles?  How to you create a blend?  Even if your blend works pretty well, do you ever want to smack him or her over the head when they make monetary choices that seem utterly bizarre to you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Chickens Have Come Home to Roost!

Since the farm manager quit, and my parents aren't living in the country, the chickens are back at my house.  Here you can see them giving their seal of approval to my new construction.  It's fun to have the chickens in my backyard; instead of saving food scraps in my "chicken bucket" I just toss them out the back door.

Here you can see what happens when you are absent-minded and leave the chicken feed on the ground where the chickens can get at it. For a while, she was one happy chicken!

I made it to Judo tonight, but not to the gym.  I need to go on Thursday to have 17 check-ins this month.  It might or might not happen, as I am scheduled to castrate that day.  Castrating is a pretty messy business, though, so maybe I'll go shower at the gym and call that a "check-in."

OK, I'd never do it, but I crack myself up thinking about the horror that would greet my mud and blood-splattered self if I showed up at the gym after castrating all afternoon.  I think this must be the famous "farm humor" that you're always hearing about.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shape Up for March Weekly Update

My weight today was 160.8 lbs.  I did a bit better than last week on Sunday; I ate only 62 WW points (also within weekly point totals) and got 6 hours of sleep.  Next week I am going to get 8 hours for sure, in hopes of continuing this weight loss trend - I am down 2.4 lbs and need only 1.8 lbs over the next two weeks to make my goal!

I missed Judo on Thursday because I had a cow with a breech birth.  We saved the cow but lost the calf.  Aside from that, I am still 100% on Judo and gym, 3/8 and 12/17 respectively.  I realized that, to make 17 gym visits, I will need to go to the gym on one of my Judo days.  I think I'll go tomorrow and do something light like a stationary bicycle.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday Shopping and Challenge Updates

Another week, another grocery run.  Mr. Goat made a midweek run which skewed my budget a bit.  Between his run and this one we've now spent 78% of our food budget.  I generally shop every Saturday, so I plan to shop next Saturday for the whole week, even though most of the week is in March.  So the food budget will be a bit tight, but I think do-able.

I've spent 50% of my non-household food expense for the month; a tank of gas for each car, and $4 for Turtle Bug and Tar Spray (excellent at removing both) to detail Mr. Goats car for Valentine's Day.  (His present was having his oil changed, inspection sticker updated, and a detailing by me.)

 I've also done the two oil changes, two inspection stickers, and the rear brake pads for my car that were the motivation for cutting the budget this month.

My toy budget spending remains over by 49%.  Luckily for me, Infiniti is running a special where you get $20 off every $100 you spend on maintenance, so my brake pads did not cost as much as estimated, and I did not have to dip into savings even a little to pay for it.  So far the no-spend challenge is a success - we'll see if I can make it work all the way to the end of the month.

On the Shape Up for March challenge, I have been moderately sucessful.  I missed Judo on Thursday tring to save a calf, but aside from that I am 100% in both Judo and gym.  That puts me at 3/8 for Judo and 11/17 for gym.

On a completely unrelated note, halfdozendaily has some cute napkins up for sale on her website, and she is giving a set of four away free.  Head on over there and give her some comment love to be eligible to win.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pine Cone Research Looking for Peeps

Pine Cone is a marketing company that pays $3 a survey.  I usually get 1-2 a month, and they take 10-20 min to complete.  About twice a year I am selected to test a free sample of something, for which I am paid another $3. It's not much money, but it's not much time either.  They recruit new people occasionally, and they are recruting now.  Follow this link to register.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Few Days Late and Half a Pound Short

My official weigh-in in the Shape Up for March Challenge for Monday, February 14th was 162.6 pounds, down .6 pounds.  I now need to lose on average 1.2 pounds a week to meet my weight goal.  I attribute the slow loss to (1) eating almost 100 weight watchers points on Sunday (still within my points, but will give my weight a bounce the next day) and (2) getting only 4 hours of sleep on Sunday night (I always weigh heavier with no sleep.  I have no idea why).  If I'm not doing better next week, I'll worry about it then.  I'm also still 100% on gym and Judo.

As for the No Spend Challenge, I haven't done a great job of tracking this week, but I'm pretty sure that all we've spent money on is gas, so we should be good.  I'll get back on this tomorrow, as I have a cow in labor atm and (hopefully) Judo to go to after she delivers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rest Day

This is my rest day.  I didn't spend anything and I didn't work out.  I used almost all of my WW points this week, but didn't go over.  Tomorrow will tell if that was enough to cause me to lose this week:)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Shopping

Another run at the grocery store and 47% of my grocery budget is now gone.  More than one third of my money was spent on cheese alone, which is a real eye-opener.  I'd better not let it go to waste, because this stuff is expensive!  Fortunately, today that won't be a problem, as the majority of the cheese will go on this weeks half-dozen frozen pizzas (currently in the process of being made).  Twenty-one pizzas left to go to break even on the pans!

My computer is back up, but the damage to the no-spend challenge is significant.  49% of my toy budget is spent; the goal was zero.  And I used the toy budget again today to buy a raffle ticket from some kids outside the Wal-Mart.  Somehow it's like breaking a diet - once you're off in a big way, the little indulgences seem less significant.

Speaking of diet, the Shape Up For March Challenge is going great.  I've made it to the gym four times this week, and to judo twice, putting me at gym: 6/17 and Judo: 2/6.  Also, I have 70 weekly/activity Weight Watchers points remaining, and my week ends on Sunday night, so I'm confident that I can stay within my points for the week, even if there are sugary Valentine's day treats at church. (I'm torn between hoping there are and hoping there aren't.)  I also had a goat get out onto the highway today, and spent a good fifteen minutes running around after him, thus giving me extra, unplanned calorie burning.  Wasn't that nice of him?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

No-Spend, Computer Dead Edition

Good thing this was a no-spend month! I woke up this morning, turned on my computer, did about 5 mins or work, and then the screen went black. I tried to reboot, and it wouldn't acknowledge that I was pushing the reboot button - never a good sign. Cracked it open, all the fans were working, took out the hdd that had been giving me crap earlier and replaced it. Didn't fix problem. Listened to sound it was making, diagnosed motherboard. Husband agreed that it was motherboard, so now have a new one on the way, aa well as new memory that's compatible with it. So much for not spending the toy budget. I'm currently typing this on the very inadequate keyboard of an iPad (cool looking, great for streaming Netflix, not so good for any sort of real typing) but that won't really fly for the rest of the month. I haven't got the total on my damage; I'll have to update that tomorrow.

I did make it to the gym, so I am 4/17 days on that. Swimming doesn't feel like much of a workout, but it really takes it out of you a couple of hours later. It doesn't seem to melt off the pounds like jogging, but it's far more sustainable on the joints. So it's become my new favorite workout. What's yours?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Made it to Judo  1/6
Didn't spend anything today!
Going to zone out for a bit and then sleep.

Hope your day was great!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shape Up for March Challenge Begins Today!

Shape Up for March:
My official starting weight: 163.2lbs
Goal Weight: 159 lbs
Target Weight Loss: 4.2 lbs
How I'm Going to Do It: I follow Weight Watchers
Workout Goals: Gym 4x a Week, Judo 2x a Week, 17x to Gym in Feb
Today: Went to Gym
Gym, 3/17; Judo 0/6

No Spend February:
Food: 75% remaining (no change)
Other: 100% remaining (no change)
Toy: 2% over (down 1%)

I had another toy spend; I realized that I had forgotten to send my Anysoldier package at the end of last month.  So I got it sent off today.  It mostly consisted of toiletries from the hotel I stayed at last month; I used my own shampoo and conditioner and stashed each day's mini-toiletries in my bag, thus getting new ones daily.  I realize that there is a split in the PF world on whether this is allowable, déclassé, or tantamount to stealing.  I'm willing to grant that it might be déclassé, but I figure that the hotel prices the rooms assuming I will use the toiletries, so I've paid for them.  When I lived in Dallas, I would donate them to the local homeless shelter; as soldiers are also concerned about the weight of their possessions, hopefully these will come in handy.  I also sent some magazines and granola bars.  I suppose I could have waited and sent it off next month, but then it would have sat in my house for a month, and in a 900 square foot house, even 1 square foot of box has a tendency to get in the way (also why I don't do the stockpiling thing). 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Shopping and a Question

Haul for the Week
I went grocery shopping for the week today, so it was a spendy, spendy day.  Hard to believe that that haul is 25% of my grocery budget for the month.  I did splurge a little - I bought some goat milk and some organic Greek yogurt.  I also had to replenish flour much faster than I had anticipated in my February meal plan; I needed both whole wheat and white flour today.
Tonight's Unplanned Dinner - Yum!

Pizza: This haul included ingredients for homemade pizza. (How To Cook Everything
 is so useful!)  They looked so yummy that we skipped tonight's dinner plan and just had one for supper.  Pizza ingredients were flour, water, yeast, salt, olive oil, Ragu sauce, mozzarella cheese, and turkey pepperoni.  For all pizzas, about 1.25 lbs flour, cost 50 cents; water, yeast, and salt negligible; 6 tbs olive oil about 10 cents; ragu $1.37 and I still have most of the jar left ; cheese $3.89 for fat free cheese for the 2 pizzas I plan to share and $6.79 for whole mozzarella for Mr. Goat's pizzas; and $3.42 for turkey pepperoni for a total of $16.07, or $2.68 a pizza.  DiGiornio is currently advertising $5 pizza, which is $5.28 after tax, so I saved $15.58 by making these.  I paid $14.14 per pan, so at these prices I will break even in 27 more pizzas.

Coupons - Is This Weird?
I've started leaving extra coupons at the store on the items they discount.  For instance, if I need toothpaste, I'll clip all the toothpaste coupons in the paper the week before, and use the one that gives me the best discount with whatever is on clearance.  So I'm left with two or three coupons for something that I'm not going to buy again until after they expire.

I used to just put them in the recycling bin when I got back from shopping, but last week someone had left a coupon in the facial moisturizer section on my brand that was better than the one I had brought.  This nice person saved me an extra dollar, so I used her coupon and left mine, thinking that it still beat having none.  Saving that extra dollar really made my day because it was a result of someone else's thoughtfulness. Since then, I've been leaving my extra coupons at the store.

Is this weird?  I realize that most of them won't get used, but I'd like to think I can make someone else's day by giving them an unexpected discount.  As far as I can see, it hurts neither the store, which gets reimbursed, nor the manufacturer, who may get an unplanned sale because of the coupon, or at any rate is no worse off than if I had used the coupon myself.  Have you ever done this?  If you found a coupon like this on an item you needed anyway, would you use it?  Am I just really, really weird?

Friday, February 4, 2011

More Ice, More No-Spend, Temptation Averted

Temptation visited me today in the form of this adorable video:

Not so much for the car, but I was thinking to myself "Why don't I have The Imperial March on my shuffle to swim with?"  And then I remembered - No Spend Month.  If I need it, I'll get it March 1, otherwise I just have find something decent in the 5603 items that I've already got stored in my iTunes collection. (100% legitimately purchased; every album my husband or I has ever bought since the advent of CDs; not all worth the disc space they're printed on.)

The gym was closed for weather, and the roads were icy, so I haven't left the house except to check on the cows and go jogging. I realized this afternoon that Shape Up for March doesn't begin until Monday, but I can't spend the weekend pigging out, because I already have my goal weight set.  You should totally sign up, though, and then pig out all weekend:)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No-Spend, Iced in Edition

The entire world is ice out here, so I basically spent the day at home.  $0 dollars spent.

I did manage to make it to the gym, to discover that the pool is closed and the entire place is closed tomorrow due to weather.  I didn't have real workout clothing, but I did thirty mins on the elliptical machine so that I would have something to show for my time.  Judo was too far for iced-over roads, though.  Since the challenge starts tomorrow, I guess I'll relive my time in Michigan and go for a jog in the cold.  (I'm not supposed to jog, but I can go a bit if I'm careful.)  As I recall, it's quite bracing, after the first five minutes.

You know it's the coldest day of the year because we had two calves born today:

Kali (taken through the fence; she's a protective mama)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This No-Spend Stuff is Harder than it Looks

I confess, it's the end of day 2 of Sharon's no-spend challenge, and I've already fallen off the wagon twice.  And yesterday, I had a migraine, making it the ultimate no-spend day.  So yes, that's twice in one day.

Mistake number 1:  At Woman's Club today, one of our members asked for small donations to The Smile Train.  She is involved through a friend who is super-involved; the friend has adopted four children from foreign orphanages who had such severe cleft palate that they needed multiple operations over multiple years.  Who could resist a story like that?  I immediately wrote a small cheque.  I was halfway down the road back home before I remembered that I wasn't supposed to spend any money from my toy budget this month.  Ooops!

Mistake Number 2: A family friend came into town, and my parents invited us out to dinner to visit with him.  It's about a 40 mile round trip, and we took my gas guzzler rather than my husband's economy car, thus using two gallons of premium gas instead of one gallon of regular gas.  In our defense, it's below freezing, and here in Southwest Louisiana, we consider that very cold.  And my gas guzzler has heated seats, and much better heating.  This was a smaller lapse in terms of percentage of budget, but I need to watch this sort of thing if I am going to cut my household expenses in half this month.  And once again, it wasn't a conscious decision, I just got in the comfier car without thinking about it.  Doh!

As of today:
Food Budget: 100% left
Household budget - 100% left
Toy Budget - 1% over

As for the Shape Up For March Challenge, well, let's just say it's a good thing that it doesn't officially start until Friday.  A migraine yesterday and dinner out today meant that I have now worked out zero times this month.  Tomorrow we are predicted to have freezing rain; if the driving conditions are as unsafe as the weatherman has indicated, I'm not going to the gym.  On the plus side, if I can't leave the house tomorrow either, I am practically guaranteed a no-spend day (unless Murphy visits and my pipes freeze and burst tonight).

It's not too late to sign up for the No-Spend or the Shape Up Challenge.  And I've very nicely gone and set the bar low already!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kicking off Challenges for Febuary

As I said yesterday, I'm way better at getting things done if it is part of a group activity.  Luckily for me, Sharon and Serendipity  are both leading challenges in areas that I want to work on.

Serendipity's challenge is Shaping up for March.  All participants are to choose a weight loss goal and, optionally, healthy habits, blogging about them to stay accountable, with a weekly check-in at her site.  The challenge runs from February 7 to March 7.  My goal is to lose four pounds, which would bring my BMI back down to 24.9.  I know I'll feel better about myself once the BMI calculator no longer lists me as overweight.  To do that, I will (1) eat within my Weight Watchers points every day and (2)exercise 6X per week, 2 days of Judo and 4 days of swimming, with one day of swimming and Judo so that I can make my 17X gym goal.  So, basically, I'm making myself accountable for my new years resolutions for the month, which will hopefully spur me to a more faithful execution of them.

Sharon is doing a No-Spend Challenge, which I have already begun by making a dinner menu plan for the month.  My non-fixed budgetary items are divided into Food (this covers both in-home and restaurant dining), Household (non-food items like gas, cleaning supplies, and other miscellaneous things that you need to run a household but that you don't eat), Utilities, Medical, and Toys(out of which I pay for my gym and dojo membership).  My goal is to cut spending in Food and Household by half, and to spend nothing in the Toy category besides membership fees.  I'll use the extra money to pay for some routine car maintenance for both of our vehicles, money which normally would have come out of savings, and thus increase my total savings.

Since these are both day-to-day challenges, I'll be posting daily updates, hopefully as addenda to other things, but in solitary splendor if necessary.  I'll start the money tracking from today and the weight tracking on Friday.  Off we go!