Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Challenge - Week #1 Status

I made it to the end of my first week of the challenge and actually learned a great deal about myself and my spending habits, which was probably the goal (for me). If you don't know what the challenge is about, go here to read it and catch up.

1) First of all the credit card. If you remember from last week, the balance was.....$3,249.29. I made a payment on payday of $600. Since I have had that card (6 years or so), I have never made a payment that big on my card. Now I'm focused and making that payment was a big tremendous feeling for me. I felt like I could really pay this thing off in the six month challenge. Maybe I will be able to and maybe I won't, but the point is that I am focused and making a dent. This is the first time since I have had the card that it has been under $3,000. Yippee. Now I would have paid $700, but as the devil would have it, an unexpected expense reared its ugly head. I had to replace the car window in the car. Now I could have taken it to the dealership which would have cost me almost $400. But I chose to take it to the local Michel's Tire's shop. The one we go to is great. The service personnel are great and will take the time to explain to you what is going on with your vehicle. And being the female that I am, I always have lots of questions (have to keep them on their toes) and they always take the time to explain and show me what they are talking about. So by taking the car to them versus the dealership to have the window replaced (broke out of the tract), I save $300 or 75%. Works for me....and yes I am counting that in my savings.

2) Groceries - this area I failed a little bit. I was doing great but then we decided to stay in for the New Year instead of going out to dinner and the hubby wanted finger foods so I had to get a few things from the store. Remember that I was allotted $50/week for groceries for the hubby and myself. Some of you say that's no problem to feed you and your other half for that amount, but I know couples who are spending anywhere from $500 to $800 a month on groceries just for the two of them and no they don't have a chef fixing their food. I felt because of the stockpile that I could do it for $35/week. I went over a bit and ended up spending $36.68. Now if I had agreed to the $50/week I would have been able to claim a $13.32 savings. Instead I have to claim $1.68 overage which I will try to see if I can't shave off of this weeks grocery bill which started today. Even though I went over, what I didn't tell you was that the value of the groceries I purchased was $68.38 so I had almost a 50% savings. Not very good. The reason, I forgot to keep my coupon binder in my car and made a couple of stops on the way home without the binder. I can't stress enough how important it is to keep the binder in your vehicle. If you don't have it with you, you won't use it and the savings would be lost.

3) Dog Food and Treats - I had allotted $50 a month for the dog food supplies for the pooches. They eat both wet and dry and we give them daily treats because they are just tooooo cute. Anyway. If you read my post about my recent Target run, you know that I purchased $14.61 worth of Purina Beggin Strips for $3.72. That's a $10.88 savings I get to claim. Woo Hoo.

4) Surveys, PayPal, Points, Swagbucks - Last week I had 103.71 in cash rolling with various survey company, $96.02 in PayPal to use for coupons, $28 in SwagBucks and $8.83 in my Amazon account. As of last night I now have $133.07 in survey cash rolling, 92.15 in PayPal (purchased Purina Beggin Strips coupons and Makeup coupons for this weekend's deal at Walgreens), 46 Swagbucks and $13.83. As you can see I earned $29.36 doing surveys this week (only did a couple actually), earned 18 Swagbucks and earned $5 in Amazon Gift Certificate from a networking site. I'm almost to the 49 swagbucks mark (should be by end of Sunday) which will give me another $5 Amazon Gift Certificate. Remember, I have recently started applying the Amazon Gift Certificates to grocery items that we use to cut down cost that way as well. I don't see the money so it never comes out of my pocket. Transfer from one place to another and it doesn't touch your hands or your checking account.

5) Eating out - Now to be fair on this one, I had to go back through the check register to see how much I was spending weekly on eating out (lunches at work and the occasional pizza or Chinese take out). Sadly I was spending a huge amount. I took four weeks, added up the cost, divided and averaged. The shocker to me was that I was spending on average $50/week eating out. Wow. I talked to my co-workers that I normally ate lunch with and we decided no more. So we went out one last time to our favorite spot (Montoyas), had one extra bag of chips mind you to bid farewell to lunchtime eating out and vowed that the only time we would eat out would be on birthdays. April is a long way off. I spent $13.02 at Montoyas (my turn to by the cheese dip). So by eating out only the one time that week and not ordering any takeout I was able t save $36.98. In case you want the big picture, by not eating out each week and no take out I save $50 times 52 weeks = $2,600. Roughly the balance on the credit card. So if I hadn't eaten out last year, I would already have had my card paid off. WOW!

6) Coupons - Now as I explained, I didn't use my coupons a great deal this week because I failed to keep my binder in my car....BOO HISS BOO HISS. However, I did accomplish a couple of things on the side. I signed up at Carbonrally.com and ordered 10 $1/1 Coca Cola Product coupons. Haven't received them yet and if I haven't received by next Friday I will contact the site and ask them what is up. Signed up for the Home Made Simple $35 Coupon Booklet, signed up and printed 6 Free Bag Healthsome Treats from Halopets.com, received 4 coupons by mail from My Blog Spark good for 4 free boxes of General Mills Cereal. Haven't used them yet and they are good for 1 year so I will hang on to them until the cereal supply starts to diminish. Checked various sites for printables and printed a few that we use.

7) Air drying clothes. Now I had to do some serious research on this to make sure I was getting legitimate information for solid cost savings. All of the sites I found to be legitimate came up with the same rate of $.34 for a 45-minute load in a gas dryer. I do seven loads a week which would cost $2.38. Now for those of you who have been following along, I have been trying air drying due to an article I read while I was in the car shop last Saturday having the tires rotated and balanced. If you remember, I put my clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes to fluff and get a little bit of fabric softener on the clothes. So then I had to divide the $.34 by 9 (45 minute load) to get the cost for 5 minutes which is $.037. I did 7 loads so 7 x $.037 = $.259 or rounding $.26/week. So by air drying our clothes for the week I saved $2.12/week. And yes that gets added to the savings for the week.

8) Car tire rotation and balance. Now here's another one of those things that really needs to be done but you can get good savings on. I need to have the tires rotated and balanced on the car. I checked with the dealership an it cost $49.95 + tax (6%) = $52.94. I contacted Michel Tires's and it cost $29.70 for them to balance and rotate the tires and figure out what was wrong with the window (explained above). That's a savings of $23.24 which gets added to this weeks savings. I could have chosen to take the car to the dealership, but as I've stated, it's all about making choices to get the most bang for your buck.


So in summary, I saved the following:
$2.12 air drying clothes
$36.98 by not eating out
$10.88 dog treats using coupons
$23.24 tires rotation and balance

Savings for the week = $73.22
Add cash earned doing surveys = $29.36
Grand total = $102.58
If I accomplished that every week for 1 year (52 weeks) that would be $5,334.16. Now we know that I am not going to accomplish that every week because you don't need your tires rotated and balanced every week, but the point is to be frugal in ever aspect you can.

Are you starting to see the bigger picture here. Don't think in just the short term. By little things you start applying weekly, the savings really start to add up. Now I didn't include the $300 savings at the car shop because that was today which is technically part of week number 2. Now you can say that it's not fair to include that savings next week, but in my opinion it is. It's all about choices. Do I take it to a dealer because that is where I bought it or do I take it to the mom and pop shop around the corner that does just as good a job but costs less. Free will tells me to get the most for my money. It's a cost I wasn't expecting, but if I have to pay it, I might as well get the best for my money so I am counting it.

One of the ways that you really start saving the money is by not eating out so much and cooking at home. This past week I made waffles from scratch, french toast from scratch, home made mini pizzas, Cheesy Vegetable & Ham Chowder, round stake and we ate leftovers from each. The more you use coupons and the more you start cooking from scratch the less you will spend per serving on your food and it all gets counted in your savings. Another thing you need to do is start figuring out how much it costs to make your meals. If you know how to do a spreadsheet I would suggest setting it up in there. You simple put in the product, total cost, total ounces and cost per ounce. You may need to tweak things a bit (ounce versus 1/4 cup, etc.), but you can figure it out. When I put up recipes I will try to start doing that so you can see how much the cost is to make something from scratch.

$102.58 is a nice beginning. Let's see where it goes from here......bring on week two!



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