money, shopping

April/May Financial Comparison

APRIL

I knew money would be tight, but I wasn’t really watching my spending. I still had a lot of items on my Amazon Subscribe & Save, I went out for fun a few times, and I reloaded my Starbucks card (for the last time/before I gave it up).

I spent just over $2100 in April. That seems astronomical to me. If you asked how much it takes me to live each month, I would have said $1600ish. I broke down all of my charges to get to the root of the issue. I spent $515 on one credit card, and $580 on the other. I do put bills and groceries on credit cards, so those aren’t just fun charges. I pay them off in full every month, but try to use them as much as possible because of the cash back rewards. (In fact, in May I was able to redeem some cashback rewards and it was… phenomenal. I hadn’t redeemed for maybe 3 years, so… yeah.)

Besides standard bills that are always the same – house, childcare, internet, cell phone (some of which are paid by check) – I spent $1000 on other stuff. A lot was my Amazon order, which I have since taken a lot off and will just pick up at the grocery store and hopefully use coupons on. I spent about $230 on groceries. I only spend $21 on gas.

A huge rare expense was signing my son up for summer session gymnastics. It was $240 but will go throughout the summer, so that was a one-time credit card expense. I also attended the Art Auction where my photography was on display, and I always buy something there. I love unique art and I love supporting local artists – plus it was a gift! But that is a rare expense, also.

I spent a lot of money via iTunes. I went to see a local musician play and realized I didn’t own all of his albums, and I wanted them. I think I need to try to listen to Pandora more, or figure out Spotify playlists or whatever the young whippersnappers are using now. I don’t mind buying music, but I spent $80! Buying an album here and a single or EP there adds up FAST. I need to keep an eye on iTunes.

MAY

I started my Year of Living Minimally and wanted to really focus on money. I mean, this whole blog, and a huge portion of my life, is dedicated to saving money, but I was going to buckle down and keep track of everything. And I did keep track, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I spent less…

My utility bill went down, which was nice because I actually had the A/C on! Maybe I’m showering less? Ha. I had to pay an insurance bill which is a rare expense, and it was a check so I didn’t include it in the round-up. I had other rare expenses like shipping charges for what I sold online (though of course I was reimbursed for it), a new water bottle for my kid, a visit to a cafe called “Dessert Therapy” (YES. It was therapy. And I will not divulge how much I spent. Yikes.).

I also ate out EIGHT TIMES. WHAT?!?!? Who is this person?!?!? It did not seem like that much. And I was (I thought…) being diligent about NOT eating out and saving money! So… wow. That will definitely change next month. Disclaimer: A lot of these food expenses were birthday lunches, brunches, and dinners. One was a lunch with coworkers that happens quarterly. Only the Chinese food and one other fast food visit were for just me and my kid to pig out on at home, so that’s… good. In the scheme of things.

BUT! Even with ALL of that, and all the birthdays in May that call for gifts and cards – I spent $1800. That is $300 less than April! Besides the standard bills I mentioned before (house, childcare, phone, and internet), I only spent $666 using credit cards. SERIOUSLY. That’s almost $350 less than last month. One credit card had ONLY bills on it this month, so I only spent about $495 on other things. That’s all those meals out, groceries twice, the post office visit, and gas.

One huge wrench in the works was getting my car worked on, but it was a necessary evil. It was actually really speedy and affordable compared to where I had been taking my car for service, and the place was so nice and friendly so I’m glad to have a new, trustworthy place to go.

So I ate out a lot this month, which isn’t great for my wallet OR my health, but I still managed to spend wisely. Next month will be a toss-up because I have a short trip planned, and my kid’s birthday party, but I think I’ll be pretty good with my financials.

money

Getting Gas

Gassing up my car used to be a huge to-do. I worked just 12 miles from home, but when you add in traffic and dropping my son at his school, the journey took about 45 minutes. I got gas almost every week, but sometimes I pushed it to two weeks. Working from home means I get gas once a month, which is such an amazing perk! My son’s new school is only 3 miles away, and all of our errands are pretty local. Sometimes we drive out to the suburbs to visit friends and family, but that’s rare (wow, I sound like the biggest hermit…). A bonus is that we have two restaurants and a small grocery store within walking distance, and my parents also live close enough to walk, so we get exercise when we visit or pick up a few items from the store. And, of course, save on gas!

This isn’t a sponsored post, but it will sound like it. (Sponsor me!) Kroger fuel points have been a huge help in saving gas money. We buy all our groceries at Kroger, save the random items we pick up at the nearby store as needed. I spend about $300 on food at Kroger every month, and that comes to be 30 cents off a gallon of gas when I fill up!

Receipts often have a code at the bottom, and you can complete a short survey to get 50 extra fuel points. DO THIS! It is worth it. It’s short, mostly multiple choice, and pays off! You can do one survey every 7 days, so that helps me plan my grocery visits – I don’t want to go too often just because it adds up (and I hate grocery shopping…), so at least 7 days apart is a great goal for me.

During the summer, you get double fuel points at Kroger if you shop on the weekends. I’ve started going on Sunday mornings, when people are at church or sleeping in, and I can get in and out quickly with those double fuel points.

There are some gas stations that will give you a discount if you come inside and pay in cash. I am going to sound like the laziest person ever, but… I don’t do that. I treat gas stations like a drive thru – I stop at the pump and stay at the pump! That’s why I stick with Kroger gas – I know the discount is already on my card.

Other stations take Kroger cards too, so that’s worth checking in to – one of those might be closer to your home or work so it’s efficient to get to. My Kroger station is close enough, and I try to fill up after I get groceries, since I’m already there.

There are apps to scout great gas prices too, but my phone is basic and doesn’t have enough memory for stuff like that. There are also websites you can use online, and sometimes it’s worth a long drive to get cheap gas! If you use gas for your lawn mower, you can fill up your gas can at the same time and keep that discount going! My parents used to save up for a huge Kroger discount, then take both cars and fill one up after the other! So you can see I came by this “saving” mentality honestly!

fun, home life, money, shopping

Tax Refund!

Before we even did our taxes, my husband asked what I wanted to spend our tax refund on. He wanted a new grill, and probably some other things. I, of course, wanted to put it into savings. And probably still will. But it made me daydream about…

An upgraded camera body

A macro lens

A home studio setup

New books to read

A trip to somewhere relax

A camping trip

New tattoos

A fancy, delicious dinner out

A fun evening bowling, snacking, drinking, eating

 

Did you get a tax refund this year?

home life

Using What We Have

It seems like a simple solution, but it took awhile for me to think of it.

Use what we have.

I’ve always stocked up on things. Keep extra toilet paper in the cabinet. Extra toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, right next to the extra toothbrushes, because of course you can never buy just one toothbrush, right? (Oh trust me, we will talk about toothbrushes.)

When I lived in a 450 sq ft apartment, I stopped stocking up on everything. (Except toilet paper. ALWAYS have extra toilet paper.) I didn’t have much room for storage, so I started living smarter. I bought groceries weekly, because I didn’t have a standard fridge in my small kitchen. I kept just one of everything I needed on hand, and when I ran out, I added it to the list and picked it up on my weekly store visit.

It’s pretty easy to live this way when you’re single. You know what you use, what you need, and you can drop by the store on your way home from work to grab one thing.

When you have a family, though, it’s harder. You have multiple people using things, and you might not even get to it until it’s already rolled up with every drop squeezed out (I’m looking at you, toothpaste). At the risk of sounding like a martyr, it’s usually women who keep stock of household goods. Sometimes another member of the household will alert me that we’re low on something. “Add it to the list,” I say, because I don’t want to have to remember one more thing, even if I just need to remember it long enough to add to the list myself. If you notice it, say it out loud, fine – but it’s your responsibility to add it to the list.

The downside of this is that I am the one who buys the goods, and I am the one who puts them away, and I am the one who restocks them from our supply. It’s not that no one else knows where I store stuff – I show and tell them – it’s just that… I do it. So sometimes a product is added to the shopping list, when actually we have two more in the storage basket in the bathroom. Which means we just buy more at the store.

This most often happens in the kitchen, but that will have to be its own separate post. Our kitchen problem is one I’m already trying to solve, so I’ll have a lot to say on that.

The point is, we have stuff. We have plenty of stuff. And even though we’re technically out of toothpaste right now, we have those little travel tubes that work just fine. Yes, they were stored away for when we travel, but let’s be honest – that hasn’t happened in quite some time, so they next time we’re packing, we can just pick up some tubes if we need them. Better yet, we’ll just take our own big ol’ tube and save the hassle and the waste.

I have been using all my old shampoos and body sprays. When I was younger, I frequented Bath and Body Works and would always fall for the “Buy 2, Get 1” body sprays. So many scents, so much left over. It takes a long time to use a bottle of body spray. But I’m using them now, and it’s something I don’t have to buy, and it makes me feel productive to be using them up. We’re doing that all over the house with various products. It’s a small step, for sure, but it’s something we can do while we make big changes, too.