Kids can really suprise you sometimes

November 10, 2007

My daughter is in honor strings this year, one of 30 picked from the entire 6th grade class in the district.  This post isn’t really about that but gives a bit of background.  She goes to a special practice session every Monday from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, while my wife figures out what to do with the other three since I work until 8pm that day.

 This past Monday my wife decided to hang around at the school, doing exactly what I’m not sure.  Catching the kids off guard she decided to get sodas from the convenience store, this really surprised the kids since we’ve done this I think none after beginning our debt reduction.  My wife does home interiors as a side job, not as much with her teaching preschool this year, and happened to have a few extra dollars in her purse. This was used to get the sodas, not affecting our budget at all, but again not what the story is about.

My 10 yr old son offers a quarter (that he found on the playground at school) to his mother to help pay for the sodas.  He could have kept this money for himself, saving to buy something that he wants but instead doesn’t think anything about giving it away to her.  Upon hearing this our 7 yr old and 5 yr old ask mom to go home so that they can get some of their own money to give to help pay for the sodas.

When they do things like that it just makes me want to pay off debt even faster and keeps me motivated.  We have such awesome kids!

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Making mistakes and learning

November 8, 2007

Sometimes to learn you have to make mistakes.  This is a reflection post.

We’ve been doing very well on our spending plan for the first two months, not perfect but much better than I thought we would.  The only problem was getting receipts from my wife to enter into the spreadsheet; this was both of our faults.  Here it is the middle of August and I’m getting very frustrated with this and our combined lack of planning our meals, very well…if at all.

I’m frustrated about that one night and something else has made me pissed off so I just say we’re going to McDonalds.  Of course the kids are VERY excited about this, we had probably eaten there only once in two months after it being almost a weekly occurrence.  Off we went, wife protested a little bit but nothing horrible because I think she was fine with not dealing with dinner.  To make matters worse I don’t remember that we used cash; instead put it on our debit card.  That isn’t so bad just making one mistake.  Or is it?

Communication could have and should have fixed the problem of being upset with each other, but it didn’t.  We didn’t talk about what was going on and it turned into a problem over the next few days.  We ended up eating out probably 3 out of 4 nights during the week, racking up around $190 worth of dining out.  The end of the week came around and I finally entered the amounts into the budget to find this total, WOW!  I didn’t bring this amount up to the wife; she instead started talking to me about getting back on our plan and not eating out.

We paid a stupid tax (as Dave Ramsey says) to the tune of $190 just because we let our communication go away.  This was used as not only a learning tool for us but for our kids, talking to them about how eating out a few days would be enough to feed us for a couple weeks.  That was an eye opener to them, and us.  In the almost 3 months since that week we’ve probably eaten out a combined three times.  As a result we’ve been paying our debt off much faster and are communicating very well.

We stumbled but in the end we learned from it.  Mistakes will happen for everyone, trying to minimize them is what we’re striving for.


Examing the cable bill

November 7, 2007

We’ve been trying to examine some of our expenses.  I started looking at the cable bill several months ago but didn’t really get to into it because I could tell at the time our price plan was the best for us.

Since then it’s become very obvious that our VOIP wasn’t going to be reliable. The problem was the quality of the call mainly but it just got worse until enough was enough.  This helped me become refocused on looking around to see what kind of “deals” I could get.  I believe you need to examine several options before deciding on the one that works best for you.  For us of course cost was going to be taken into account but looking long term was very important.  Since we’ve got four kids then we needed a phone at home but the internet and cable didn’t really matter.  Some will argue that getting rid of the tv would be the best thing, I really can’t argue that, but for now we’ll probably be keeping some form of it.

Phone:
ATT – The most basic cheap plan was $20, but $10 in taxes kind of killed this deal. It didn’t include any long distance.
  – Next package including some long distance was $30, but also had $10 in taxes.
Comcast – On our current program it was $33 and I didn’t check into what it would be just for it since I knew what our total bundle cost is.
T-Mobile HotSpot – This is $20, but we also had a $10 month additional charge for a third number. In the end we went with this plan because it gave us flexibility to use the phone at home and also take as a cell phone. It shares our family plan minutes but when connected to the wifi in our home (any wife it can connect to) then it had unlimited minutes that didn’t go against our family plan. After a few months I’ll write a review of how it’s working for us.
T-Mobile cell – We could do this option for only $10 a month, adding it to our current plan. It would share our current plan minutes but wouldn’t give us a phone that could function separate from our minutes to be used more a “normal” land line. Initially this was what we were going to get.

Internet:
There really isn’t an option for us here because we can’t get DSL and only have one cable provider. We actually talked about going back to dial up for about 10 seconds (ok ok 5) but in the end couldn’t get rid of high speed internet for it. I did find out they had a partial high speed internet plan, which was originally quoted to me as $24.95. I soon found out after the next months billing it is $43 without any other service.

Cable:
We cancelled this with other plans in place. They disconnected our internet and phone instead leaving our cable on, so I called and got my internet but for the time being the cable is still turned on. When I found out about the internet pricing being wrong the best deal they have is partial internet and basic cable for $43. Wow that just happens to be what my current bill is with them so for now this is being left alone.

Decision – Our original bill for all of this was $108 (with taxes); new bills will be roughly $70 for a savings of $35-$40 or $400 a year. The $10 for the additional line wasn’t included; we decided this was something we were going to get regardless. We did have to pay $50 for the hotspot phone but in the long run would save more than spent in the initial cost.  I’ll update this when I get the cable bill to where it should be each month without credits and such.

We continue to examine expenses to look for ways to cut down or make a better long term decision.


I’m on Festival of Frugality

November 6, 2007

I’m not sure if they take just anyone for these, it doesn’t matter to me since I made it.

Paid Twice is having a festival of frugality and my grocery store tips is on there under shopping.

While not being very good at writing, yet, I’m excited to participate in the festival.


You can learn a lesson from movies

November 4, 2007

A couple weeks ago I watched Meet The Robinsons, very good movie that adults can take a lesson from, not just kids. I didn’t really think too much about the main them;, don’t let fear keep us from moving forward, until I read Time to Budget’s post.  Here is part of what she wrote:

meettherobinsons.jpgI just watched the movie Meet the Robinsons with my kids and it is now on my favorite movie list. The movie had a message that rings true in the lives of many people. I believe the fear of failure is what keeps most from successfully reaching their dreams. This movie not only encouraged me to overcome this fear of failure but also to embrace the failures that do happen.”


Grocery Store Tips

November 3, 2007

Do you have any grocery store tips you can share? 

We have a grocery budget of $650 a month for a family of 6.  July was an awesome months at just under $500 and the worst was September, $675.  Our grocery allowance doesn’t include dining out, but we really try to limit that to only once a month.  I think we’ve done very well for a family our size.

Here are some tips that have helped keep our food budget down:

– Make a list prior to going shopping.  Ideally keeping a list on the fridge to write down items as you use them would be best but hasn’t always worked.  The list helps limit the I want items from the store.

– Clip coupons from the paper.  Go through these prior to leaving for shopping.  Take the coupon binder with you, just in case those must have items happen.

– Plan meals for the next week.  Use this to help determine the items needed from the store.  I’ll be honest that we are horrible at this but when accomplished it aides greatly in the shopping and list making.

– Understand you won’t be perfect during your shopping, want items will slip into the cart.  Try to limit these as much as possible, try to improve with each grocery trip.  If you can avoid these items making it into you cart please share your secret.

– Online coupons.  I actually made an online coupon document for helping us save additional money.  This was time consuming and took a lot of will power to accomplish.  I’ll try to check the online coupon sites each week and use some of the individual products regularly.

Above are some things we’ve done in the past to help save money.


Keeping food budget down with kids

November 2, 2007

What do you to keep grocery bills down?
Do you have any special circumstances that make it hard to cut costs?

We have four kids, two girls (12 and 7) and two boys (10 and 5).  As a result trying to keep the grocery spending, among other things, is a huge challenge for us.  Add in the fact that both of my girls have Celiac Disease is another challenge for us, but one we gladly accept and deal with.

With celiac disease the food that our girls can eat is different than the rest of the family.  Some things we all eat the gluten free food but on some things we make separate batches but we have to be careful for cross contamination.  Here are some examples of our challenges: These prices are a guide.

Bread – $4 vs. $1.15
Mac & Cheese – $2.25 vs. $0.49 (on sale)
Cake mix – $3.50 vs. $0.88
Pasta – $2.50 vs. $0.99 (actually I don’t know on these because we just use the gluten free when making something with pasta for everyone…..normally)

We do buy flour as well but have found the girls like the other bread much better, and in the end the price difference wasn’t big enough to worry about. Something that helps is our local grocery store does a 15% off whatever you can fit in a bag every so often.

Our children know that eating out is going to be few and far between.  They’ve also been told that certain things at the grocery store will no longer be bought; we do still buy snacks and stuff for school and dessert.  Our plan is to use coupons, watch ads and just overall try to watch what we’re spending on food.  Dave Ramsey is all over the beans and rice but our family isn’t going crazy with that but will be cutting some things out of the routine.  I don’t expect us to be perfect overnight, improving a little bit each and every month to reduce spending.