Top 10 Thrifty Wins: March

This is a particularly exciting Top 10 Thrifty Wins post for a couple of reasons:

First, we’re celebrating a year of budgeting! That’s right, we started our first serious budget in April 2018, and we’ve come a long way since. It was fun looking back on past budgets and comparing them to our March budget. We learned a lot over this last year, and I plan on posting more about that later!

Second, (and the reason why this post is obnoxiously late) Rick and I are expecting our first baby in October! We are thrilled, and I can’t believe we’re going to be parents! What an adventure this is going to be.

Baby Manthe Coming

 

On to the Thrifty Wins:

1. Tax return. We had a nice tax return this year, which went straight to the student loans.

2. Third paycheck. Just because of the way the days of the month fell, I had a third paycheck this month. Straight to the loans.

3. $6500 loan payment. Thanks to numbers 1 & 2!

leonie-wise-4301-unsplash.jpg4. Under budget in groceries and electric bill. Rick’s been the sole chef in our house and was in charge of meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing all of our meals as I’ve been quite under the weather. (First trimester kicked my butt!) I’m really proud of him for staying under budget!

5. Packed own food when traveling. We still ate out or ordered take-out on occasion, but packing our own food saved us some money!

6. Not doing much. A lot of my weekend plans included staying home, resting and just low-key stuff, which saved us quite a bit on entertainment costs.

7. $5 Target gift card for stocking up on toiletries. I think it was a “spend $20, get a $5 giftcard” deal. It’s always nice to have a Target giftcard.Screenshot_20190413-150119

8. Earned $15 from Receipt Hog. This cashback app is pretty easy to use, and I scan all of my receipts into it to earn points, which go toward giftcards for Amazon, Visa or you can use Paypal.

9. Cashed in on credit card points and earned $50.

10. Found a new apartment! And we’ll be paying less than we anticipated. Of course we had to make some sacrifices, but I think it was the right decision. It’s smaller than we wanted, but I’ve been youtubing ideas for making the most of your living space, and I’m excited to organize it!

 

What an exciting month, actually, year of budgeting and wins! We worked hard this year, learned a lot and made some smart financial choices (some not so smart ones, too). But I think what made the biggest impact on paying off $58,570.62 of our student loans in a year, was our budget. If you want to save money for any reason or just want to have more control over your finances, start a budget! Even just tracking expenses for a month can be eye-opening! There are lots of different ways to do it, and if you’d like some guidance, you can see how we started our first budget.

 

Advertisements

Top 10 Thrifty Wins: February

Here’s what we won in February!

1. Free mini vacation. For Rick’s office holiday party we went out of town and stayed at a hotel across from where the Green Bay Packers play. It was a nice little February getaway, and I had a really fun time meeting Rick’s coworkers. We did an escape room and then had drinks and dinner.

IMG_20190126_144840501#12. Goodwill finds. Sometimes I don’t know why I shop anywhere else. When we went to Green Bay for Rick’s holiday party, we stopped at my favorite Goodwill. Our total was about $23 which bought each of us some nice shirts. Gotta love those 50% off tags!

3. Snow/cold kept us from doing things. Trying to look on the bright side of things, the nasty weather did save us some money. We traveled less and our eating out/entertainment budget was low. I really enjoyed the days where Rick worked from home with me!

4. Lowest gas bill to date. We didn’t have to fuel up the car as much this month due to sticking around home with all this silly weather. We also combined partially used gift cards to pay for a fill-up.

5. Phone reimbursement. Rick and I have both been getting phone bill reimbursements from work. Just a really nice perk!

6. No spend girls weekend. Some friends and I got together one weekend, and we really didn’t spend much money. We made our own meals, and one friend so generously paid for our entertainment when we went out.

IMG_20190131_163946190.jpg
Winter Workouts

7. A few recurring thrifty wins:
-We’re still using just one car.
-We still pay cheap rent (at least for three more months).
-Gave plasma.
-Free workouts.

8. Used a gift card for Valentine’s Day dinner. We enjoyed a nice, romantic Subway sandwich dinner. We’re fancy.

9. We continue to try to stretch what we have. It’d be nice to get a new tv stand, a new car, more clothes, fun makeup, etc. And we will. We’re just trying to use what we have and not buy any extras. We’ll also be moving again in a few months, so that kind of motivates me to refrain from buying stuff because we’ll just have to move it.

IMG_20190119_120812_0110. Finished up The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get From Broke to Badass in Record Time by Anna Newell Jones. This girl could no longer stand how much debt she was in and was tired of her spending habits. She decided to go on a spending fast for a year, and she ended up paying off about $24,000 in 15 months. It was really inspiring!

Motivation Monday: See Opportunities

I’m a planner, and I try to see the whole picture in a situation: both the positives and negatives. I look for the benefits as well as plan for any kinds of obstacles that might occur. Generally, I like this process, and it has served me well. But sometimes I get caught up in the obstacles and I struggle to see beyond them in order to move forward. That’s no good.

So I continue to try to shift my mindset to a more positive one. If you’re in a tricky situation, and you think the outlook is grim, tell yourself it will work out, and you WILL find the opportunities that will keep you moving forward.

10 Ways to Increase Your Veggie Intake

Holy nutrients! Vegetables are awesome. These tasty suckers have so many health benefits, make you feel good and might even cut down your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Some people don’t think vegetables taste too awesome or they take too long to prepare, so here’s a list of simple ways to increase your veggie intake:

cooking-cookware-cuisine-175754.jpg1. Try a stir-fry. Stir-fries are great because they can be so easy and flavorful! If you don’t feel like taking the time to cut up vegetables, you can even buy a bag of frozen stir-fry mixed vegetables that are ready to go. Add a little protein and a simple sauce, and voila, you have a tasty, nutritious meal!

2. Wash and cut up a bunch of vegetables ahead of time. It’s easy to snack on raw vegetables or add them to a salad if they’re ready to go.

3. Cook your vegetables in a new way. Try grilling zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus or peppers. How about roasting some cauliflower and broccoli? Play around with seasonings, too!

4. Try vegetable steamer packs. Pop them in the microwave for a few minutes and they’re ready. I do this when I’m running short on time, and sometimes I’ll season with a little salt and pepper.

5. Make soup. These are two of my favorites that use a decent amount of vegetables: Chicken Detox Soup and Italian Sausage and Orzo Soup. Another tip: making soup is a great way to use up vegetables that are about to spoil.

20180603_102326 (1).jpg6. Add vegetables to an omelet or a casserole. Try this Egg Bake recipe and load it up with veggies!

7. Order a side of steamed, grilled or raw vegetables or a side salad when eating out. Even if it’s not shown this way on the menu, try asking to substitute some vegetables for chips or fries.

8. Take a look at my Favorite Recipe FridaysI try to incorporate vegetables into most of my dishes.

allie-smith-1092451-unsplash.jpg9. When you can, buy seasonably. Visit a Farmers Market, grow your own or plan meals based on what you’ll find at the grocery story. In season vegetables are usually priced well and taste delicious!

10. Blend some veggies into a smoothie. Add a cup of spinach, and besides the color, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. Squash, cauliflower, kale, beets, cucumber and broccoli are a few others that work well, too!

 

Motivation Monday: Desire & Hustle

There have been certain times in my life where I wanted to be good at something but didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of natural talent in that area. I got good grades in school, I’ve been promoted, and I once ran 6 miles. I’m proud of all these accomplishments, and none of them came easy to me.

I remember working my butt off studying for exams when some of my classmates would get “A”s without even opening a book.

At one of my past jobs, I didn’t know what I was doing when I started out. There was a lot of trial and error and some tears, but eventually I figured out exactly what it took to succeed, I did it, and I got promoted.

The 6 mile thing– a LOT of training. It took me years to work up to that.

It starts with desire. If there’s something you truly desire, you can make it happen. Even if it’s something you’ve never done before and you think you’ll be really bad at it. Maybe you will be bad at it or fail at first, but if your desire is strong enough, keep hustling. You’ll learn from mistakes and eventually get it.

Figure out what you truly desire, make a plan, and hustle until you get it!

Top 10 Thrifty Wins: January

The new year started out with a ton of changes: new city, new apartment, new job, new thrifty wins! Here are our Top 10:

1. Cheap rent, actually no rent this month. Due to some miscommunication, we accidentally paid December’s rent twice back at the end of November. So, January’s rent had already been covered. Also, we got a good deal on a temporary lease, so it has allowed us to save some money through May.

2. Started my new job. Hooray for officially being employed! My new job allows me to work from home, so that’ll save on travel and car maintenance costs. It also comes with a few other monetary perks such as continuing education reimbursement, an office set up stipend, and some extra cash in my pocket for not taking their health insurance (we get it through Rick’s employer).

25319_446426934744_3886091_n
A throwback of me with Rock Step Rick

3. Continuous free workouts in lieu of a gym membership. I do miss having a gym membership, especially when the weather is unfavorable. Rick and I agreed that we’d like to get back to the gym once the loans are gone. The beginning and middle of January had decent weather for walking and running outside. I took advantage of this and also did some at-home workouts such as youtube yoga, pilates, a HIIT workout, and the occasional dance break with Rock Step Rick.

4. Gift card date. Rick got a gift card to a Madison steak house for Christmas. We don’t eat out a lot, so this date was a special treat!

5. New plasma donation place. I found a new place to donate plasma, and it’s within walking distance from our apartment! I get $50 per donation the first 5 times I donate.

IMG_20181231_173630_01_01.jpg6. Low-key New Years celebrations. Rick and I were pretty worn out from the holidays and moving, so we decided to stay home and hang out. We enjoyed some wine and watched movies. New Years Day was super lazy as well. We went to mass, then binge-watched Superstore, ate some nachos, and relaxed. It was just what we needed!

7. Gas budget decreased. Though we did a little traveling, the amount we spent on gas decreased significantly this month. It certainly helps that Rick and I are living in the same place now and that Rick’s commute has shortened a ton.
January: $117.59
December: $312.57
November: $436.62

8. Didn’t buy a car. As I described earlier this month, Rick’s car died, and we decided to hold off on buying another one. Since I’ve been working from home, we’ve really only needed one car. We’ve been doing a better job at planning our outings or walking to our destinations when we can.

9. Free Badger hockey game. We received some hockey tickets and got to sit in a fancy box with all kinds of fancy food. They had two meat carving stations, salads, at least 20 different types of cheeses to try, Thai coconut shrimp, scallop ceviche, a variety of other appetizers and a table full of dessert. We felt like royalty!

10. Extra money. We received some money back from our security deposit, most of January’s Wausau rent, and my PTO payout check. We knew we would get some of this money, but we weren’t really sure how much to expect. The total exceeded our expectations!

 

Motivation Monday: Trust the Timing

Sometimes I look at my life and think, shouldn’t I have this figured out by now?

I want everything to make sense at this moment. There are certain things I want for my life, and sometimes I wish I were closer to getting them. I’d like to have our debt paid off, enjoy traveling, have a house, be better at my job, and feel a little more settled. It’ll all fall into place when it is supposed to. I’ll get there—- I just have to have patience.

Whether you’re working toward a bachelor’s degree, a 20-lb weight loss goal, learning a new language, looking for love, paying off your student loans or what ever it might be, keep on truckin’. Enjoy where you are in life, and trust in God’s timing.

Organize Your Fridge to Reduce Waste & Save Money

Grocery shopping can be exhausting, and when I get home and haul everything to the kitchen to be unpacked, I’m pooped. I’m totally guilty of throwing everything in the fridge however it will fit.

But there’s actually a way to organize the fridge’s contents in order to optimally preserve your food. Check out these tips to coordinate your fridge to reduce waste and save money:

manki-kim-353734-unsplash.jpgTemperature is key. Door bins and upper shelves are the warmest spots, and the bottom of the fridge holds the coldest spots. The back of the fridge is also usually cooler than the front.

What to put where
(according to consumerreports.org):

Door bins: butter, condiments, juice
Top shelf: jams, leftovers, hummus, yogurt, berries, deli meat, herbs, cheese
Lower shelf: eggs, milk, and raw meat, fish and poultry. Ideally, you want the raw meat to be the lowest so that it can’t contaminate anything under it. If that’s not really going to work for your fridge, make sure to put trays underneath the meat to catch any drippings. Some fridges have a meat drawer, or you can purchase a plastic bin to keep it in.
Crisper Drawers:
-Low humidity: to simplify, fruit
-High humidity: to simplify, vegetables

scott-webb-98682-unsplash.jpgFoods that should not go in the fridge: bananas, bread, coffee, unripened fruit, garlic, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes

A few other tips to reduce food waste:
– Shop your fridge first when you’re planning out your meals for the week. Take inventory of what you have and what needs to be used. Find recipes that will use up those ingredients.

– Post a list of your meals and snacks for the week on the outside of your fridge. Use a whiteboard, chalkboard, calendar, or a scrap piece of paper. You’ll know when you’re supposed to eat what and nothing goes to waste.

– What to do with foods that are about to spoil:

  • Vegetables: egg bake, soup, vegetable stock, stir fry
  • Fruit: cut up and freeze for smoothies, banana bread
  • Freeze stuff

So there ya have it— an organized fridge, longer lasting food, and some extra cash in your pocket.

Motivation Monday: Keep moving forward.

What an inspirational quote from Martin Luther King Jr. He said it at a rally to get young people to keep moving in the fight for justice.

What ever cause you’re fighting for, goals you’re setting, or personal battles you’re dealing with, persevere.

Fly, run, walk, or crawl. Keep at those goals— progress is progress no matter how small.

Also, take some time to remember and honor Martin Luther King Jr. today!

 

Ending the Pity Party and Counting My Blessings

This is part of a journal entry I wrote last Monday. It’s kind of dark and whiny, and I had no plans to post it. However, a friend encouraged me to share my experience because she thought it might resonate with other people, even if it’s not pretty:

The last two weeks have been rough. We moved into our tiny apartment that’s dark, dingy and old. It has a teeny kitchen with very little counter space and storage. I love cooking, but in this kitchen, it’s become a messy, frustrating juggling act (hence, no Favorite Recipe Fridays).

I start my new job next week, and I’ll have the privilege of working from this lovely home. My office will be our kitchen table that is currently in the middle of our living room, blocking the kitchen so it’s out of the way from our dripping ceiling. (It was raining, and we had a couple leaks in the roof.)

Also, Rick’s car died, and the repairs are too costly to justify.

mark-asthoff-20098-unsplash.jpgEmotionally, I’m riding a roller coaster. I’m getting over leaving my old job and our former apartment with the spacious kitchen and pantry. I miss being closer to family and feeling safe with familiar surroundings.

I’m getting ready to begin a new job, which I’m excited about and nervous. I have two weeks off between jobs, and though I appreciate some down time, I’m anxious without structure. It’s also that time of year when the winter blues are coming around, so that’s a whole different story.

I’m mad at our student loans and the fact that they’re taking so long to pay off and that I’m not living in a nice house with a huge kitchen in sunny, 80-degree weather.

So that was my obnoxious Monday pity party. I felt awful and couldn’t see all the good in my situation. It would have been nice to go buy something to make myself feel better or to just cry and watch TV all day. But, really, how would that have helped? I recognized my sour mood and decided to snap myself out of it.

original
weheartit

Though it didn’t feel good, allowing myself to wallow and cry for a short time helped. I was able to feel my feelings, and then gradually move past them. I journaled about how I was feeling, read it over, and realized how ridiculous I sounded. I did some yoga, went for a walk, prayed and drank some tea. I felt much more empowered and hopeful later.

Counting my blessings…

alexandru-tudorache-17852-unsplash.jpgI am lucky to have a job lined up so quickly after moving due to Rick’s job change. And two weeks off in-between! I’m so fortunate to have a roof over my head and a fridge full of food. Rick’s car picked the perfect time to poop-out as I’ll be working from home, and we can easily do without two cars. We have an emergency fund so we technically could afford a new used car if we needed one. We have our health and strong relationships with friends, family and each other. This mood, apartment and debt are all temporary.

I am way more fortunate than I could see in that dark moment on Monday, and I feel absolutely silly about it looking back now.

I guess we all struggle sometimes. What helps you leave your pity party and bring yourself back down to earth?