Sunday, January 18, 2015

Steps Toward Financial Fitness (Including Last Weeks Frugal Accomplishments) Volume One

During the year of 2014 I (relatively) routinely documented my favorite frugal accomplishments.  This year I am intending on expanding the scope of my documentation to include my progress on my other financial goals - debt repayment, savings progress, home improvement progress so as to prepare to put it on the market if necessary.

     I have not yet completed the inventory of all of our debt and expenditures.  I so believe that I need to be honest with myself - what do I really owe?  Only then I can make more concrete goals.  I vow to complete it during this next week.
      I have spent considerable time thinking about and listing the various home improvement projects that I would like to see done.  There are those that without a doubt need done i.e. repairing the garage door.  There are those that are more cosmetic but are highly desirable projects to complete whether we stay in this house or not.  And there are those that I will enjoy doing but are really, if I am being utterly honest, prompted mostly by the thought that I will have to stage the house for viewings.  They are projects that make me giggle with delight and will be greatly enjoyed if we don't move but I may have made do without them forever, i.e. replacing and repositioning the mailbox.  Speaking of mailboxes, I looked at the wall mount mailboxes on Wayfair for some inspiration and thought that I had found what I wanted.  It was going to cost $52.  Then I woke up one morning remembering some metal containers at Hobby Lobby in my color palette and began to wonder if one of them could work as a wall mounted mailbox.  I went to see and, lo and behold, there was one (and I do mean only one) that would work and the metal containers were discounted 50%.  I got a new mailbox for $12.  I am very satisfied.  I will take pictures after I have it mounted which I am waiting to do after I have installed new light fixtures on the porch.  (Another one of those not necessary but will improve curb appeal kinds of projects).  Also on the home improvement front, I selected paint for the stairwell, master bedroom and upstairs bathroom.  I purchased the stairwell and bedroom paint and have begun painting.  I also purchased some of those reproduction pressed tin ceiling tiles (actually made from some sort of plastic) and used them to cover a "hole" in the kitchen (a must-do project) and covered the door of the dishwasher (a strictly fun project).  The accompanying frugal accomplishment is that I remembered to use my military id to get a discount at Lowe's when purchasing these home improvement supplies.

      I had a small victory while at Lowe's.  While in the check-out lane I was perusing a magazine full of ideas of decorating with a vintage flair.  There were so many really fun and beautiful ideas.  Enough ideas to make me say, "I want it."  But I reminded myself that I didn't need it.  I have plenty of inspiration online and I would have to purge magazines for a move anyway.  I walked out of the store without it and with the $9 that it would have cost me safely tucked away in my purse.

      Christian had left a textbook for me to mail as a part of a buyback program.  All I have to do is get the book in a box and affix the mailing label and drop it at UPS.  It costs me nothing and, for this particular book, I will receive a check for just over $40 in return.  I almost forgot to mail it.  But yesterday I remembered and dropped it off at the UPS at Staples.  When I receive that check I will apply it towards home improvements!
      I had no intention of purchasing anything while at Staples but when I entered the door they had a cart sitting there with highly discounted items.  There were really nice pens that were originally $7 that had been marked down to $1.  I grabbed one for each of the kiddos.  They will be nice in their Easter baskets or in Christmas stockings.  There were a host of .50 items that I originally resisted.  Then I remembered the shoeboxes that we hope to assemble for Operation Christmas Child.  I returned to the cart and picked up about 8 rolls of decorative scotch tape and a roll of Washi tape all for .50 a piece.  I also grabbed a few more pens.  At Lowe's I picked up some purse-sized kleenex in beautiful decorative packaging.  They were .49 each but I did apply my military discount to this purchase which knocked the price down by a couple of pennies.  Every little bit counts, right?
      Probably my favorite purchase of the week would be a sweater from Kohl's.  I had $20 in rewards that needed to be used prior to the end of the month.  I decided that I would go in to Kohl's, resist all temptations, and only come out having spent that $20 (give or take a tad).  I perused the store looking at all the possibilities wanting to find something meaningful - this could help with my decorating of the master bathroom, the downstairs bath needs a new rug, this purple tie would look nice on Maceo at Easter, these kitchen towels would be fun in an Easter basket for Keegan, this kitchen tool would be appreciated by Bishop, and, oh, those are my favorite pants and they are on sale.  So, what did I end up with?  Maceo loves the cardigan that he got for Christmas so I purchased him another one.  They had the original price marked as being $80 (I never would have paid more than $40) but had it on the clearance rack and reduced to $24.  I used a 15% off coupon and applied the $20 reward and ended up paying a mere $3.66.  He was thrilled and it was so worth the extra time I took to peruse and ponder at the store.  It also leaves $96.34 in my clothing budget for the month of January.  Cool, right?

      I employed the library for some free entertainment/education.  I have been listening to college lectures on ecosystems and Shakespeare's comedies.  They are fascinating and free.  Well, free if I don't accrue late fees or lose them.  This week I remembered to renew items to avoid overdue fines - this is no small accomplishment for me.
      I did eat out some this week.  A couple of outings were intentional but others were merely for the sake of convenience because I had failed to plan.  I really want to reduce the odds that this will happen again.  I spent hours this week developing a strategy to help alleviate this issue.  It will be particularly helpful when Maceo enters the craziness of tech week for his current production which coincides with family from out-of-town coming for a visit.  I intend on doing a version of once-a-month cooking.  By the end of January I want to have the freezer stocked and some food items prepped for the pantry and the fridge.  I will outline this plan later and will gladly share my successes (and, quite possibly, failures) with you.  I also want to keep track of my spending on eating out so that I know in the future if my efforts have been worthwhile.
      I did, however, have some successes in the kitchen.  I got myself acquainted with the contents of my refrigerator.  When Herb is home he tends to take over the kitchen and I lose track of what is in there.  Unfortunately, there was some food waste.  Some meat that I was unaware of had gone bad but there were other meats that were perfectly fine.  I found a couple of useable boneless skinless chicken breasts that I fried after dredging in ranch dressing and flour and then used them in the making of little sandwiches.  I utilized the dinner rolls that were remaining from the holidays and a bit of pepper jack cheese that was floating around in the fridge.  I melted butter, added jalapeno dijon (that had been sitting in the fridge forever) and poppy seeds then brushed it on top of the sandwiches prior to baking them.  I served them with dip and chips that were given to me by a friend. (Always accept gifts of food is one of my mottos).  We even had a couple of leftover sandwiches that I wrapped in foil and then in a freezer bag for a future lunch.

      I also found some chicken breasts that had been cut into nuggets  I fried these up and served them with rice and salad (veggies found hidden in that there refrigerator).  I also set out some sauces - thai chili, sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce and an orange vinaigrette that my friend gifted me ( I must get the recipe).  Everybody served their food up in their own fashion.  Bishop made a rice and chicken bowl with the soy and sweet and sour sauces.  I made a salad with the salad, rice, chicken and orange vinaigrette.  Maceo snacked on some nuggets before heading out to have dinner with some friends.  I saw a ham steak in that fridge.  If it is good then I will be making ham and mac-n-cheese for dinner this evening.  Yum!

      My favorite savings of the week is not really an accomplishment of mine other then my willingness to be flexible.  Bishop has begun a pottery class.  We had signed him up for a homeschool pottery class and paid the fee for this 1 1/2 hour long class.  He attended last week but was the only student.  This week he was asked if he could join the Saturday adult class because it will be more time efficient for the instructor.  We agreed.  He now is in a 2 1/2 hour long class without having to pay anymore.  Score!

Christmas Jar of Change:  I am beginning with a balance of $12.92 and today I will add $5.45 for a new total of 18.37,

52 Week Savings Plan:  I have a total of $105 in this account.  This takes care of the 52, the 50, the 1 and the 2.  Last year I placed this money in a jar.  I know it wasn't earning any interest but I liked seeing the cash increase.   However, I found the cash too easy to utilize during a couple of rough patches which depleted the account.  This year the money goes into a bank account that is not readily accessible.  i am hoping this leads to success.

Home Emergency Fund:  As mentioned above the 52 Week Savings Plan jar got ransacked during a couple of unexpected events.  When I injured my back and was down for the count I had the boys use some of the money when the need arose.  Then when I left one boy at home while the rest of us traveled to a funeral I allowed him to access that money if he needed it.  I am grateful that the cash was available during those rough patches.  However, I do want to successfully complete the savings plan this year.  So as not to have a repeat of last year I have decided to set up a relatively small emergency fund that will reside in a jar here at home.  This is not the type of emergency fund that is intended to help ease things financially during a major transition or economic downturn.  This is simply to have cash available when something unexpected happens.  My goal is to set aside $40 a month into this jar.  I have not started this jar yet but I will during this next week.

I hope every week is as fruitful as this one!

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