Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Deals!

Good morning everyone! Hope you all had a great week! It's definitely a welcome weekend for me! Here are some deals! Enoy!

*80% off a $25 gift card (that's 2 bucks!) at when you enter the code BONUS.

*Philosophy has 15% off all fragrance products online (enter code FRAGRANCE at checkout). This ends today so hurry if you need some smell goods!

*Take an extra 40% off clearance items at Express!

*If you haven't gotten it already, the 2010 Entertainment Books are 35% off! This is a great deal for all of the coupons to restaurants, events, and more!

*30% off in-store purchases this weekend (Friday and Saturday) at Old Navy!

*And one more - although it's not a specific Friday Deal, I am a huge fan of buying my coffee at Cost Plus World Market. Not only is it pretty cheap ($6/pound), you get a coffee punch card - buy 6 bags, get one FREE! On Wednesdays, they do double punches! I purchased 3 bags and already have a free one when I want it!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No-Spend January Review

Even though I have 4 days left, I figured it was a good time to take a look back at the month that was No-Spend January. How'd I do?

*First off, I kept all of my necessary spending in check. I came in under budget by $10 at the grocery store and under budget by $35 for gas. I think I was more deliberate about my spending this month even in categories that I excluded from No-Spend January. My more budget-minded mentality must have rubbed off on all of my spending. Woo hoo!

*Besides being under budget in essentials, I had another happy surprise - I lost 4 pounds! Maybe cooking more at home/packing my lunch, taking long walks to keep me occupied and not going to bars every weekend helped my health!

*Did No-Spend January add to my savings account? Well duh! I didn't spend money for a month! But how much did I save? I averaged my spending for 12 months on clothes, coffee, entertainment and other non-essentials. I saved...


Did I feel like I was scraping by? Did my quality of life go down to save nearly $500 in a month? No, and maybe my quality of life improved. I feel like I put more of an emphasis on spending time with people instead of spending money with them.

I also think this month taught me a lot about my spending habits. I think when my husband and I had nothing to do, we'd shop without a purpose. I'm credit card debt free and I pay my balance in full every month, but I have no room in my closet and I'd keep buying clothes I didn't need. As we get ready to move, I'm looking around at all this crap I have to pack in boxes and think "Why did I buy that?" As my husband and I embark on the new road of homeownership and starting a family (later, later), No-Spend January definitely helped more than just my savings account.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not Going Broke 9-5

Work is a major money suck for me. When you think about how much time you spend at work, it's no surprise - eating at least one meal, maybe some snacks or after-work definitely all starts to add up. I've gotten better more recently, but I used to go out for lunch at least twice a week, and I'd get a latte almost every single morning. I probably spent at least $30 extra dollars a week, or $120 a month! That's half my car payment on stuff that I could probably do for much cheaper. Here are some things I'm starting to incorporate in my routine to stop bleeding money instead of making it:

*I use snack time as a quick break for me, and nothing feels more luxurious than going for a quick walk or drive (or maybe down some stairs if you are lucky enough to have a cafe on site) to get a coffee. The soothing music, the change of scenary, the wasted $15 every week...oh wait! Bring your coffee from home and pack your shoes to go for a walk instead on your breaks. That will rejuvenate you so much more than sitting in a stuffed chair drinking your latte. It's also better for you and your budget!

*Keep snacks on hand - when you're hungry, it's easy to run and raid the vending machine, and most likely, it would not be something good for you (I'm totally guilty of getting two packages of Reese's Cups - the peanut butter has protein, duh!) and you'll probably pay a premium for them. Try shopping the bulk bins in your grocery store for oatmeal, nuts, or dried fruit. These are great and easy things to keep in your desk that don't require refrigeration, are easy to eat and are healthy!

*Eat popcorn. Popcorn is a great snack that's quick and somewhat portable. If you don't put loads of butter and salt on it, it can also be quite healthy. You can get a box of microwavable popcorn for a couple of bucks, or you can make your own in a lunch sack! Here's a great recipe from Alton Brown at Food Network that would be super cheap and easy to make. You could also find an air popper and put it on your desk if you wanted to make your office mates envious. You can find them reasonably priced ($15-$20 at Target) or scope out Craig's List.

*Pencil in snacking - the more you snack and keep the stomach grumbling at bay, the more likely you will be to eat a normal-sized lunch and avoid dialing your favorite Thai takeout and getting the extra large Phad Thai (not that I've done that before or anything...). I don't know about you but I usually make irrational decisions when I'm famished which could be bad for my budget, waistline, AND my job! No bueno.


*Clearly, you know bringing lunch to work is going to save you a ton over going out every afternoon (by most accounts at least $20/week) Check out our previous post on ways to spice up your lunch box if you're having trouble breaking out of the PBJ rut. Not that there's anything wrong with that....

*Hot pot it up! A hot pot was my go-to tool in my tiny dorm room. For those of you who don't know the joy of a hot pot, it's basically a kettle of sorts. They are electric (some are cordless) and you can heat just about any liquid up even faster than microwaves. It is a great option and makes bringing soup for lunch a little more desirable than just getting a can of Campbell's and nuking it. I like this Rival hot pot at Target - 32 oz, temperature controls, and under $15!
*If you're going out to dinner with your work buddies, try leaving a little early to score a nearby happy hour. Drinks and appetizers will be much cheaper, and if this is a work expense, your boss will be stoked for a smaller tab. To save even more, try checking out Groupon or other coupon sites and keep an eye out for restaurants or bars near your workplace.
How do you keep spending in check when you're working? I'd love to hear ideas of how you all keep your budget in check at work, especially when it comes to brown-bag ideas!

Monday, January 25, 2010

How Organizing Saves Money

In an act of full disclosure I am a very messy person. My shelves overflow, sometimes its difficult to see my bedroom floor, and umm we usually can't eat at the dinner table because so much stuff is piled on top. I thought that by the time I was 27, my organizational gene would just somehow kick in and my house would be spotless.

Alas I have realized this is definitely not the case. However, just because being organized doesn't come naturally it doesn't mean that it's an excuse. It's definitely something I need to work on. I promise, the how it saves money part is coming, but as we get there, I figure I might as well share some of my learnings on organizing as we go.

Once I came to this realization, I decided to become more organized. But what I quickly realized, was that this organizing not coming naturally thing, was also a result of a lack of function in my home. I have deep, tall shelving and cabinets. While this is great for say my Kitchen Aid mixer, not so great for all the small things like screws, extra shampoos, small tools, the dogs leashes, etc. etc.

My husband and I are now cleaning, purging and organizing one small section of the house each weekend. Otherwise it's just too overwhelming. And this allows us to really get things functional. This weekend was the shelves in the mudroom (picture is of new organized shelves). This is where all of our tools, some cleaning supplies, fishing supplies, flashlights and a host of other items are stored. We went through the following process:
  • Separate into major categories (tools, household items, etc.
  • Purge as you go

  • Move those items that really should be elsewhere (like the can of paint to the shed)

  • Sort your major categories into small categories (dog items, screws and nails, frequently used tools, etc.)
  • Put this smaller categories into each rubbermaid and label. Put back on shelf

Okay now is where we get to the saving money part. We found we were rebuying multiple things because we just couldn't find them. We had three half used cans of paint thinner, no fewer than four things of caulking, two jars of putty and several of the same tools. Had we just been better organized, we would have easily been able to find these things and not rebuy.

The key really is keeping like minded things together. I could have easily dumped everything in two boxes. Sure I would have saved a lot more space, but I still wouldn't have been able to easily located what I needed. I'm sure as we go through this process with our shed, under our sinks and our kitchen cabinets we'll have similar results. But it's good to know that in the future we can save ourselves from overbuying.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Deals!

Happy Friday everyone! It's Friday Deal time!

*Do you like Cream of Wheat? Maybe you would for FREE.

*30% off one item at Borders - they have coupons so often I'm starting to feel like a broken record.

*2 FREE samples when you order something online at Aveda (plus FREE shipping for orders over $80).

*DSW has a deal - $5 off 1 pair of shoes and $15 off two pairs. Online only and make sure to use code SAVENOW.

*My favorite deal of the week, courtesy of Fantabulously Frugal, FREE facials at Origins retail stores! You have to book an appointment in advance and it's through Sunday.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No-Spend January, Week 3

Just as I brag about how I'm starting to get the hang of things, Week 3 of No-Spend January comes and knocks me on my feet.

First off, Haiti happened. Regardless of the pact I made with myself and with you lovely readers, I honestly could not sit and not give. I sent $50 to Mercy Corps. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to do the same. It's definitely not too late, and later donations are even more important. Most people forget about these natural disasters weeks later, but it will take years to recover. The people of Haiti could still use your help! Make sure you are donating to a reputable charity - I suggest Mercy Corps or the American Red Cross, but there are lots of smaller, grassroots organizations that do good work. Here are ratings for agencies working in Haiti from Charity Watch.

Secondly, my lovely friend Lindsay got engaged and we needed to celebrate with champagne and delicious food! $20 to hear stories of love and share happiness with friends? Sounds like a bargain to me. Read about Cicchetti, the fabulous place where this party happened, in my friend Shelby's blog.

So $70 spent, but all for good things. Can I keep it together for the rest of the month? Stay tuned to find out!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cupboard Clean-Out

So it looks like next week's ingredients will be the same. My husband and I had a crazy busy week and ended up not really making any of the dinners we had on hand, but instead just sandwiches, soups and quesadillas. Not the healthiest, but we made it through. Thus I didn't need to menu plan for this week. Here is how I plan to incorporate the ingredients into next weeks meals:

Sundried tomatoes/Panko: Added them with a little mozzarella cheese, and some Italian seasoning to stuff chicken breast. Then breading the breast with the Panko bread crumbs and baking.

Cashews: Adding them to some canned chicken I have on hand (yay! for a bonus ingredient) along with some dried cranberries and mayo for chicken salad sandwiches.

Next week I'll post ingredients for the next challenge!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Your Birthday ROCKS

Clearly, you're aware that your birthday rocks. YOU were born! Don't you think that everyone should celebrate? Well, lots of people want to help you celebrate! Check out all the stuff you can get for FREE on your birthday!

*I scream, you scream, we all scream for FREE ice cream on our birthday! Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and Ben and Jerry's offer a free scoop on your birthday if you register online with their clubs.

*Register your Starbucks card and get a FREE drink.

*DSW offers $5 off a pair of shoes on your birthday when you join their Rewards program.

*Like beauty products? Sign up for Sephora's Beauty Insider program and you'll get something free on your birthday!

*Are you a movie buff? Hollywood Video gives you a free rental on your birthday! Check with a local theater to see if they offer you discounts or even free tickets (it's done differently in so many regions, so I can't confirm what chains offer birthday bonuses).

*There are loads of restaurants that do things for your birthday. Some of my favorites: Red Robin (free burger of your choice when you join their eclub), Qdoba (free entree when you buy a second one when you join their club) and BJ's (free PIZOOKIE when you join their club). Just in case you have never had one, a pizookie is a cookie pizza with a scoop of ice cream on top and it's ah-mazing. Nothing like putting on the pounds as your metabolism starts to slow down...

*Definitely check around your local area - some of your favorite restaurants may offer a deal. For example, Ray's Boathouse in Seattle offers free lunch on your birthday!

Make sure to check the fine print for each business. Some will give you the freebies on the DAY only while others have a two week window. Some are even good for the whole month of your birthday!
So cheers to you and your new year! Anyone else know of good things to get for free on your birthday?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Commenting Issue Resolved, We Think

Hi all, a few of you let us know that you were having an issue with the commenting. We think we have it resolved, but please let us know if you are still having difficulty.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Deals!

Happy Friday everyone! I'm definitely looking forward to my 3 day weekend! Here are some freebies and good deals!

*FREE Fresco Taco at Taco Bell. After seeing the commercials week after week of the so-called "Drive Thru Diet", I'm definitely equal parts intrigued and disgusted. But try one for yourself with this coupon.

*FREE Taster's Choice instant coffee 6 pack.

*FREE adult lift ticket when you purchase 10 gallons of fuel from participating Shell gas stations. Check here to see what ski resorts are participating and for more details. Good through April 16th or earlier if there's no snow.

*$1 oatmeal at Jamba Juice every Wednesday during January! Yum!

*50% off clearance items at DSW! It's online only and use code 50CLEAR. Now until January 18th.

*25% off everything in stores or online at Ann Taylor LOFT. If you're shopping online, use code SAVE25 at checkout. Oh, and free shipping for orders over $125.

*Reward yourself for going to the gym (if that was a New Year's Resolution) and get some new clothes at Lucy - take an additional 30% off sale merchandise. Cute tanks for $10! And I'm loving these pants for $30!

*J. Crew is also having excellent sales on their clearance - take an extra 20% plus free shipping for orders over $150 (basically, a shirt). If you're buying online, make sure to use code EXTRA20. I think this camisole is so pretty. Would I pay $50 for it? No. $40? Well, not in No-Spend January, but I can dream...

*If you're in the market for furniture, Cost Plus World Market is having their biggest sale of the season - up to 50% on select items. There's a cool 3-in-1 sofa, chaise, and bed for $299 (normally $400)!

*And courtesy of Fantabulously Frugal, is selling $25 gift cards to select restaurants for $2! Use the code INDULGE now through January 19th. There are some stipulations, so just check before you buy.

Have a great weekend! Cheers!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No-Spend January, Week 2

I'm nearly halfway done with No-Spend January! It's definitely been a learning experience and I really feel I'm starting to hit my stride now! However, when February 1st gets here, I'll be very excited.

It's hard not spending money, actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, particularly on the weekends. I met up with some girlfriends (including Frugal Femme) on Saturday, and it was so much fun! Frugal Femme hosted lunch while my friend Julia and I brought sides. I made a lemon poppyseed cake, so I had to get two extra things at the grocery store - ingredients costs me $3.18. We watched "New in Town" - predictable, but can you really turn down Harry Connick Jr.? On Sunday, I did something totally for free with my friend Kate and we went for a walk around the neighborhood. It was great catching up with her, we got in a workout and it was totally free!

Also on Sunday, I went to a mall to exchange some Christmas gifts (cue "Psycho" music) and it was TOUGH. Sales, promotions, new items that screamed "Take me home!" I caught myself a few times asking my husband to get me that really cute sweater (kidding, but not really). He didn't, and we both made it through without buying anything.

But isn't this sweater sooo cute?

This past week has made me come to two conclusions: one, pretty much every activity I do with my friends revolves around money. Going out for dinner, to a movie, even for coffee. It usually isn't expensive, but I had a hard time figuring out what to do for free. When you think about it, when was the last time you did something with your friends that costed absolutely nothing?

And then I got to thinking that I need a hobby. One of our readers David suggested this as a way to save money in one of his comments. And I totally agree. I feel that too many people (myself included) would count shopping as a hobby, and that could be a detriment to your bank account. Not that some hobbies don't get expensive (have you been inside a scrapbook store recently?), but I feel like I need a hobby that is time-consuming and not necessarily dollar-consuming.

I think that No-Spend January is really forcing me to take a good look at my spending habits, and while I like what I see for the most part, there is always room for improvement. Now, on to search for a hobby! Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Will the bus save you money? Maybe.

I take the bus everyday to work. My primary motivation is not to save money. It's simply that the bus is faster than if I were to drive everyday. Plus I hate just sitting in traffic. On the bus I can read at my leisure, respond to e-mails and even take a nap.
Just out of interest, I tried the transportation calculator to determine how much money I'm saving by taking the bus. And it's a lot. $1288 per year. So it's definitely a win-win for me.
However, the interesting part I found was that if I didn't have to pay for parking, I would actually lose money by taking the bus. It would cost me $823 more to ride the bus to and from work than if I were to drive.
So the morale of the story is, check out the commute calculators, here is a link to the Seattle Metro calculator.
Remember though, that riding the bus has benefits to the environment and is a much more relaxing experience. Also remember if people who ride public transit, hopefully we'll have a more extensive system and ultimately more cost effective pricing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paying off Mortgage Early?

My husband passed along an interesting article to me about paying your 30 year mortgage in 15 years. We're considering doing something similar to this, but it does require a refinance, and due to current house values we're not sure if that's something we're able to do at this time.
I do find the concept very intriguing. Although your house payments clearly go up, in the end you pay a lot less interest.
I think instead of trying to refinance at this time, there are some other options the article suggests that we're looking into.
  • Bi-weekly payments: Essentially you end up paying 13 months instead of 12 for each year. However, there is often a fee associated with this, so depending on terms it may not be the best option.
  • Send an additional payment equal to next month's principal. This way you can accelerate paying down the principal.

The article lays out good pros and cons for each approach. Has anyone tried any of these methods or have other suggestions?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cupboard Clean Out Challenge Take 2

So at the end of last year I proposed a regular post where I would try and clean out those random items from the cupboard. To be clear this is not an attempt to fully clean-out the cupboards, because have regular items on hand is always helpful.
As a reminder every Monday I will post items I'm going to use in the following week's menu plan. I'm looking to our wonderful readers for recipe suggestions. Preferably the recipes will be easy to prepare and not require expensive ingredients. On Friday I will post the recipes I will be trying in the upcoming week.
This week my challenge items are (some might look familiar from last time's challenge):

  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Cashews

Please leave your suggestions in the comments box or on own Facebook page!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Deals!

Happy first full week of January, friends! I hope 2010 has been good to you so far! Here are some deals for your weekend!

*33% off one item at Borders through January 11th and 75% off clearance items! Not good for my no-spend January...

*Interested in getting a new skin care routine for the new year? Save 25%-30% on skin care kits at Philosophy and get a free gift!

*20% off your purchase at through Sunday. This is only applied to regularly priced items. Enter code GAPNEW20. Through Sunday. PS - if you need a Gap fleece, they're on sale!

*Up to 50% off at Bath and Body Works!

*Who doesn't need some fresh tunes to jumpstart their routine? Go here to get a free download of 12 songs, courtesy of Biggest Loser and Subway!

*Buy one, get one FREE at Peet's Coffee and Tea!

Okay, happy Friday! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No-Spend January, Week 1

You may recall from this earlier post that I was inspired to go a month without spending. Okay, when I say "not spending", I don't mean not spending anything. I'm getting necessities - still paying bills, still buying groceries, and still filling up my car with gas. However, I'm not going out for lunch, I'm not shopping the great sales right now, and I'm not using my cash for kindling.

So how is my first week going? I'm not technically even a week in, and I'm $45 in the hole. Let me explain though: my husband and I got the best (but totally unexpected) Christmas gift of Rose Bowl tickets to watch our beloved Ducks take on THE Ohio State University Buckeyes (thanks Mom and Danny!!), so the first two days of January, I was on vacation and all that comes with it. I spent $8 on a margarita before the game, $4 on sad beer after the game (Ducks lost, in case you were wondering), $7 for a trolley ride, and $26 for lunch on Saturday. Not exactly going as I had anticipated...

But I'm regrouping and keeping the lid on non-essential spending. I'm now religiously bringing my coffee to work. I got a cute new travel mug for Christmas (thanks Liz!) and that helps. I'm also packing my lunch every night before I go to bed. Usually, I'm just too lazy and say I'll do it in the morning...well, that never happens and then I spend $8 on sushi or pho.

I can tell you that already this has drastically changed the way I approach planning things. I wanted to get together with some girlfriends this weekend to see a movie and then it occurred to me that I can't. spend. money. I'd love to hear some suggestions on what Frugal Femme and I could do for free that's indoors - any ideas?

Although it's challenging, I know the payoff will be that I'll add at least an extra $300 to my savings account this month. Besides that, I think this little experiment will give me a chance to evaluate what really is an "essential" (no, Target purses do not count - unless, of course, your bag falls apart and you have to get a new one). :)

Keeping my eyes on the prize. Until next week...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is Your Health Tied to Your Financial Wealth?

I don't know how many of you watch "The Biggest Loser" - I love that show and I'm excited for it to start up again TONIGHT! I am always impressed with how people completely change their lives and motivate those around them to do the same. But I never gave much thought about how being unhealthy and overweight can contribute to draining your bank accounts. Suze Orman was on an episode last season that still sticks with me months later, and she definitely had some food for thought:

- America spends $147 billion dollars annually on obesity-related illnesses compared to $90 billion on cancer.

- Obese employees earn $7,000 less every year than healthy employees - healthy people are up to 3 times more productive, less likely to get tired, spend less on health care and insurance, and they are less likely to miss work because of illnesses

- Obese people spend considerably more on life insurance ($500-$1,000 a year)

- Americans spend $4.4 billion dollars on gastric bypass surgeries (220,000 people a year get bypass surgery at a cost of approximately $20,000 per surgery)

- If you are at an ideal weight, you'll save approximately 1 MILLION DOLLARS over the course of 40 years.

These numbers were staggering, and some of them were, quite frankly, frightening to me. It does seem like staying healthy is expensive - healthy food, gym memberships, running shoes, fitness clothes... but compared to higher health care costs, lost wages, and more potential costs associated with obesity, it seems like an easy financial choice, not to mention a much healthier one.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Millionaire To-Do List

Happy New Year, folks! Hope you had a great time ringing in 2010!

So one of my fave PF bloggers (J. Money over at Budgets are Sexy) is aiming to have a million in the bank before he retires. With his Millionaire Club, he inspired me to make some goals as well. And seeing as we're still in resolution territory, I thought it would help steer me in the right direction for the new decade and hopefully inspire a few of you out there!

How I'm Going to Retire and Live Like Diddy (or something...)

1) Open a Roth IRA this year and max out on contributions annually (that's 5K a year)

2) Establish an emergency fund (around 12K) and put it in a high-yield savings account or a no-penalty CD - I'm getting there...

3) Remain credit card debt-free

4) Up my 403b contributions to 10% of my take home pay

5) Put any additional income (raises, bonuses, lottery winnings - ha!) into savings/retirement

6) Continue to monitor my spending and my budgets

7) Continue to live within (or below) my means and not spend impulsively

8) Talk with my husband at least once a month about our money so we're both on the same page

9) Start a "vacation fund" so I can have fun and not feel guilty about it - it can't be all work and no play!

I don't know exactly when I'll get to the cool one-mil figure in my account, but I think if I have a plan, I'll get there eventually! Thanks, J. Money!

Anyone else want to make a Millionaire To Do List? I'd love to hear how you are planning on saving money!