Budget Update

image courtesy of shopyourtv.com

So this past week I got to see a dress I own (and bought on sale) on a celebrity on tv! Yay! Totally not the highlight of my week, but I do recommend checking out Tracy Reese clothing. Considering the first lady has also been spotted wearing Tracy Reese, I imagine it is a popular brand right now. (By the way, the dress shown above is no longer available. You'll have to shop for it on ebay.)

On to the budget update...

Justin and I are on target this month in our budgeting! Hallelujah! (It seems like it's been several months since that has been the case with guests coming and all!). I'd really love to show you the actual numbers since I am so proud of it, but, since finances are personal, I will not.

Here's what we have done this month:

Food -- As a major expense of ours, we have managed to cut a bunch out by buying meat in bulk, freezing meals, and planning. I cannot say for certain but growing our own tomatoes may be helping our budget as well.

To give you a bit of an example:

Over the past two weeks, Justin and I have bought asparagus, 2 chickens, popsicles, vegetable oil, 5 cheese ravioli, strawberries, and limes in bulk. We also bought cartridges (200) to make sparkling water with our isi water (soda) siphon. (I never knew how much I liked sparkling water until I had an unlimited supply of it!) We may have bought more in bulk then that, but that is all I can think of at the moment. Then, we also have our 6 tomato plants producing tomatos at a slightly surprising yet reasonable rate of maybe 3-5 per week.

I think I've mentioned it before, but here is the break down of what we were able to make using our bulk groceries and some fillers:

fondue: chicken, asparagus, zucchini, potatoes with cheese
grilled chicken: asparagus, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes with cheese or rice
apple sausage ravioli: salad with homemade dressing
boeuf bourguignon: potatoes, carrots, asparagus
margherita pizza: salad with homemade dressing

Justin used the strawberries to make strawberry preserves, and the limes to make limeade. The popsicles make a delicious dessert on hot nights! We got Edy's Outshine brand from Costco which are made from real fruits (and fruit juices in the case of the lime), and they are low in calories without being low in flavor! Yay! Eventually it would be nice to make homemade ice creams and popsicles, but, for now, we will just stick with what's easy and works until we gain more control over our food budget.

I guess I should also mention that all of the above lasts for at least 2 or 3 meals for us. So when I say we made 5 (or so) different dinners from these things, I am not kidding. What we do will more than likely not work the same for everybody as I am the kind of person that shares meals when going out to eat and is quite happy with children's portion sizes in food. (I was only able to eat approximately 1/2 of what is pictured on the plate above!)

To make our food budget go even further, we bought an Entertainment book at half price late last month with tons of coupons for restaurants nearby. It's not usually all that helpful since the coupons typically require the purchase of 2 drinks and 2 meals, but occasionally it works out that we get more for our money for exactly the same price as we would have otherwise paid. (I imagine this works out super well if you get a meal to-go and eat it a day or so later rather than eating it at the restaurant!)

We also buy cleaning supplies with our food budget, and with Justin exercising more, there is more laundry to be done! Eek! So Justin found a homemade laundry detergent recipe that we are going to be trying. If it works, it will lower the amount we spend on laundry detergent significantly! Plus, I imagine homemade laundry detergent is better for us and the environment.

Gas -- Another major consumer of our income is car gas which is funny since my car gets pretty awesome gas mileage and ... I can't say much about Justin's truck. Nevertheless, we were able to cut our gas budget in half this month since Justin has started biking to work! I was able to cut $100 out of the budget!! Yes, that is pretty awesome! Plus, Justin gets to de-stress and exercise on his way home from work rather than taking out all of his work stresses out on me! Big plus!

Don't get me wrong though. Bikes are not always the cheapest form of transportation either. Rather than paying upkeep on a car, you are instead paying for upkeep on the bike. Plus, apparently there are clothing options that make riding a bike more bearable. Luckily for us, there is a program in the state of Georgia that encourages commuters to bike to work by providing giveaways and prizes. Of course if you don't have a program like that in your state, you can also use Gympact to get money for "working out". Keep in mind though that every day you say you will "work out" and you don't, you lose money!

And when biking is not an option, it turns out that this summer Wal Mart has a promotion where, if you use their credit card or gift cards to pay for your gas, you get $.10 off per gallon. So this past week while we were up in the mountains, when we spotted gas for $.20 cheaper at a Wal Mart than it is near where we live, you can be certain that we bought a Wal Mart gift card to fill up on gas for a $.30 per gallon difference!

Utilities/Internet -- Our internet bill just went up after a year of using a special offer provided by AT&T, so it was a huge surprise when a sales associate appeared at our front door last night offering to sell us internet with AT&T. When we explained our problem, he sat on our front stoop talking with us for an hour trying to see what he could do to help. He offered to reduce our current rate by $20 (lower than it was all of this past year) plus provide us with a $250 loyalty Visa credit. That credit would cover our internet bill for approximately 5 months!! While they weren't able to get anything set up last night, he promised to give Justin a call today while he was at his office at AT&T to try and work it out! Can we say free internet for 5 months?! Woot!

Of course, while we have not done it yet, we will also be looking to compare car insurance rates within the next month or so to see if we can get that reduced as well. I'm sure I will let you know when and if that happens. (It's always a good idea to check up on those rates any time you are renewing, because you never know when a better deal will pop up!)

Credit Card Payment/Student Loans -- Rather than keeping all of this extra money in our checking accounts where we are likely to spend it, we are putting it all towards paying down debt. As of last month, we increased the amount we were saving, but it was definitely awesome to be able to put more towards debt management as well. The sooner we can pay off all of our debt the better we will be financially.

I imagine I will be updating again in approximately 2 weeks when Justin gets paid for the second half of the month. In the mean time, I would love to hear how you are handling finances, budgeting, and debt! Do you have any suggestions for me?

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