Thursday, July 7, 2016

Finances Update

Last December I wrote a post about how Fiancé and I had dug ourselves into a financial hole that was rapidly getting too deep. Digging us out of a hole

After half a year, I decided to see how we did. Law school is expensive in so many ways that don't include tuition and books and it only gets worse the farther along I go.

I had six goals and only about half were a complete success.

GOAL ONE: Stop Eating Out - This one was mostly a success. We had a few hiccups when I got stressed around due dates and finals but overall, we ate at home way more often. In general, I do most of the cooking because fiancé isn't very good at meal planning. However, he made it a point to have the ingredients for the couple meals he does well and if I didn't have time to cook, he made the time. I also found a few really frugal meal ideals that drastically stretched our food dollars. I will probably write about that later.

GOAL TWO: Batch Cook Easy Cheap Meals - Definitely a success. I get email alerts for the weekend sales at Winn Dixie and when they had chicken leg quarters on sale for 25 cents a pound, I bought 20 pounds of chicken! It sounds insane but I broke it down into about 12 different freezer bags and each one had a different sauce. I had BBQ, Italian, Teriyaki, Sweet and Sour and many others. Then all I had to do was throw it in the crockpot before class and make rice or noodles when I got home. The sauces were all inexpensive marinades bought on sale so dinner cost between 2 to 4 dollars total (depending on the vegetable) and we usually had two or three days worth of leftovers. We obviously didn't always eat chicken but I made a couple ground beef and pasta freezer meals as well and the whole freezer lasted us months.

GOAL THREE: Work More Hours - Well, this was an utter failure on my part but was a success for Fiancé. My job ended shortly after the new semester and due to my insane course load, I didn't really see how I could get a new one. Fiancé found a new, great paying job and kept his part time one on top of it. That was a fabulous financial decision because a couple months later, his department at the new job shut down and he was back looking for a job. Him keeping his part time job really saved us a lot of stress.

GOAL FOUR: Stop Being A Crutch For The Other - Success! So the last couple years, we had had so many family emergencies, surgeries, and long periods of unemployment that we had stopped budgeting and splitting the bills. Whoever had more money would pay the bill and then when they were broke, they'd look to the other person to save the day. We have stabilized quite a bit and so have not had to fall into that trap for quite a while. We split all bills 50/50 so we are more able to anticipate future bills and budgets. As a consequence, we don't end up flat broke quite so often.

GOAL FIVE: Keep Our Bills Low - Until last month, this was definitely a success. We cut out all sorts of unnecessary bills before the New Year and didn't add any of them back. Then, we got overconfident. Fiancé's job was going well, I was employed for the summer and we had lived in Florida for two years and had never gone to Disney World. Yup, we ended up signing up for the annual pass (which is paid for monthly). Four days later, we found out his department was getting shut down. Oops. So this got downgraded to better but not a success. We should have put that extra money on our credit cards but we got caught up with the Disney excitement. You live and learn.

GOAL SIX: Pay Off Credit Cards - Failure. Complete failure on both our parts. My balance is pretty much the same as it was last December and I think Fiancé's is a little higher. On my part, I tried to pay more than the minimum due but couldn't always manage it. Then I forgot about some annual bills that were linked to my credit card instead of my debit and that pretty much undid all the work I had done on it. Fiancé did really, really well on paying down his credit cards but then his mom came to visit for the first time since we moved out here. He wanted to show her all the things he loves about Florida and he put it all on his credit card. Sigh.

Overall, I'd say we did better that we had been but we still have so much to work on. We obviously need to focus on our credit cards and keeping within our budget for food and such. We also have a friend coming to visit us this summer so I hope we can budget for that instead of going crazy with expensive ideas.

One thing that wasn't exactly a goal but I am glad I started doing was finding small ways to bring in extra money. Not necessarily jobs but small things like getting paid for research studies (not medical or anything) or mail in surveys (pays better than online ones but aren't as easy to find) and saving gift cards for expenses instead of using them to splurge on things we didn't need. I even started getting small gift cards (think 5 dollar walmart ones) by switching from searching on Google to searching on smaller, less known search engines. After awhile, those five dollar gift cards add up.

I also make it a point to use coupons on the necessities that I tend to forget that I will need. Every couple weeks I cut out the coupons for makeup, paper towels, soap and the like. When I need to buy something, I look at my coupon pile first and then spend a few minutes trying to find a store coupon that matches. If I can find a store sale at the same time, so much the better. In the last week, I bought Pantene shampoo and conditioner at $1.67 a bottle because I had two coupons and a store deal. I also used my CVS extra care bucks and a coupon to buy paper towels where it actually put more money in my pocket than I spent. CVS had the big pack of Bounty paper towels for ten dollars and I used two five dollar extra care bucks plus a dollar off coupon. Because my savings were more than the cost, I got a couple cans of dog food. I paid a $1.54 but got 10 new extra care bucks to spend on whatever I want. Eggs, toilet paper, frozen pizza, whatever I need. Think about that for a second, I paid a little over a dollar and a half for a 12 pack of paper towels and dog food and got ten dollars to spend on anything (except alcohol) at CVS. If I had just waited until we were out of paper towels and picked some up without a plan, I would have paid ten dollars, wouldn't have had dog food, and wouldn't have ten extra care bucks to spend on next weeks random need. What a waste!


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