Why we are not buying toys for a year

 

NOT BUYING TOYS

I wanted to share with you all that we have no plans to buy our daughter toys for a whole year.  She was born in the fall and we brought her home hoping that we could handle being new parents.  I tried to hold off on purchasing small things, knowing that we would get gifts from our friends and family.  My husband and I discussed not purchasing toys for our daughter until she was older.  We figured that we would be just adding to the clutter while feeding our own consumerism itch.  We have stuck to this plan for the most part only caving and purchasing a small toy to use up the balance of a gift card.  Before you call me a monster for neglecting my child – think about this; how many toys does your child get from grandparents, friends and relatives?  If it’s anything like my family, you will get more than enough.  My daughter is 9 months old and has 7 toys, some are soft and some play music and she has played with all of them.  At this rate by the time she is 5 years old and wants specific things she’ll probably have over 60 toys.

OK the first image is a bit dramatic - my daughter loves her toys
OK the first image is a bit dramatic – my daughter loves her toys

My plan for toy management:

I’m not a heartless ice queen and know that having something to play with is extremely important for a child.  I was a kid once and have fond memories of playing with marbles and stuffed animals.  Keep in mind that I am a minimalist.  This isn’t some journey or life changing step by step program that I’m taking – it is simply who I am.  Less is more: less things = less time spent cleaning = more time for leisure.  I get rid of the things that I do not use.  I plan on doing the same thing for all of my child’s possessions.  Of course I’m not going to go straight from ‘you haven’t touched this doll in months’ to ‘time to donate all of your toys.’

My plan for keeping the toys under control is to keep 10 toys readily available for play.  The rest will be tucked away in small storage bins ready to be rotated in when a toy that is in use becomes disregarded.  When my daughter gets bored of a toy I’ll put it away and pull out one that she hasn’t seen for a while or once she is able to communicate what she wants to play with she will have her choice of what to keep out and what to put away.  

This toy sings "open up your wallet" etc, etc, I tease my husband that pretty soon our daughter will be batting her eyelashes and asking daddy for money :)
This toy sings “open up your wallet” etc, etc, I tease my husband that pretty soon our daughter will be batting her eyelashes and asking daddy for money 🙂

At the moment there are a few places around my house that toys are kept.  We keep one toy in the parent (our) bedroom – this is because we will hangout in this room as I get ready for work, a few toys are kept in the living room since this is where we spend most of our leisure time, a few toys are kept in the nursery (calling it a nursery makes me feel a little bit like Mary Poppins) these are mostly to entertain during the mornings where I have to run around like a crazy person and feel guilty popping the baby in the crib for 5-10 minutes, so I give her 4 toys to play with – what’s funny is she usually opts to chew on her blanket instead of playing with the stuffed animals or plastic books.  I did keep a toy or two in the kitchen but she really likes playing with measuring cups and plastic container so I moved the toys away and have been rotating Tupperware and other utensils that are baby safe.

Of course my baby is still a baby and doesn’t really care how many toys she has, as long as she is entertained.  As she gets older we will see how my practices work.  I’m striving to keep it minimal as opposed to keeping it organized.  Less toys means that it is easy for my daughter to pick them up every night – complicated organization means that mommy gets to spend time sorting and organizing children’s toys.  And I can definitely think of better ways to spend my time.  Not to downplay the importance of a great organization system but keeping the house clean should be easy or it won’t happen, at least for me.  If I had to take my dirty clothes down stairs every time I was done wearing something, then my floor would be covered in dirty clothing.  Instead I keep a laundry basket and our dirty clothes (mostly) live there until it is time for laundry.  Some people have the willpower to spend the extra time every night doing chores but I am not one of them.  I spend my predetermined amount of time on household chores and if things don’t get done in that X amount of minutes then I leave it alone and then think about ways to make chores more efficient.  No one should need to spend an hour ever night to keep their house in order – if you do then you need to spend a little time revamping your system.

 

More and more savings on groceries (July)

In July we spent a whopping $153.53 on groceries for 2 adults and our 8 month old. Our grocery budget is $400 per month which I’m sticking with for the rest of the year since this level of savings is new to me. We were spending on average $500 per month for 2 adults. Its crazy how much we are saving and we don’t feel deprived at all, we even eat steak once a week.  What made the biggest impact on our grocery bill was we stopped buying drinks (like soda, bottled juice or milk), we started cooking everything from scratch and that means that we don’t even have a frozen pizza in our freezer, we started aggressively tracking the price of meat and make our choice of grocery store for the week based on the sales.  I dabbled in couponing this month and I’m still tweaking my method to maximize my dollar saved and minimizing my time spent messing with coupons.  One thing I definitely need to address this month is a better filing system for the coupons.  They are kind of all over the place right now since I don’t like keeping extra stuff in my purse.

monthly grocery totals

It’s the start of a new month and I’m excited to do my monthly stock up shop. My freezer is getting a little bit low, so I’ll be buying a few things that I can cook in bulk and freeze for later. The goal is to have enough pre-made food in the freezer so that we only need to cook 3 nights each week and those nights will be quick food on the grill or tacos so a max of 30 minutes from prep to table.

I assume that for each adult in our household I need ¼ lb of meat for dinner so that’s 15 lbs of meat for the month. For lunch we do chicken salads so I need ¼ of chicken breast for each salad which is 2.5 lbs of chicken breast per week for the both of us, which is about 12 lbs of chicken breast or 10 chicken breasts. This meat could come from packages of boneless skinless breasts or from 5 chickens.

I have the following in the freezer:
– 9 dinners of chicken taquitos
– 10 dinners of meatballs

I plan to add this month to the freezer:
– 15 dinners of pulled pork

Monday 8/1 shopping list

Geissler’s
5lbs potatoes – $2.00
48 oz Turkey Hill Icecream – $1.00 (with coupon)
3lbs green beans – $2.07
2lbs zucchini – $1.98
2lbs yellow squash – $1.98
2 pts grape tomatoes – $3.00
2 loaves day-old bread – $3.50

Total: $20.40

Pricerite
8 cans of olives – $7.92
1 celery stalk – $1.49
6 dozen eggs – $5.94
1 lb bacon – $3.00
1 lb sweet potato – $0.99
4 sour cream 8oz – $6.00
1 tortillas 10 ct – $2.99
5 bags frozen veggies – $4.95
2 yogurt chobani 4 packs – $5.98
2x 6 oz pepperoni – $5.98
8 chicken breast – $15.25
12 lbs pork loin – $22.00
3 lbs sweet italian sausage – $6.00
5 lbs shredded cheddar – $10.99
2 cucumbers – $1.18
1 lbs tomatoes – $0.99
hershey syrup – $1.99 (gotta have it to go with the icecream)
4 bell peppers – $4.39

Total: $108.03

Super Stock up total: $128.43

This leaves me $271.57 to use on our weekly trips for salad fixings, fresh produce and super deals on meat.  We only have 2 ribeyes left in the freezer (oh the horror) so I’m hoping to find another great deal on those.  I got about 8 ribeye steaks at $5.99 per lb where normal price for ribeyes can be between $12-$16 per lb.  If I see them that cheap again I’ll be buying a lot more than 8 steaks!  So this is a pricey week for me, what are you buying at the grocery store?

The Cost of Coffee

A large iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts costs $2.79, at Starbucks it’s $2.95.  If I were stop at Dunkin Donuts to buy coffee on my way to work every morning it would cost with sales tax  $14.85.  I need coffee on the weekends too since I’m addicted…so that bumps it up to $20.79.  You might say to me “Oh what’s $20?  That’s not much of a cost for you to enjoy something that you love.”  But add this up over time and that $20.79 becomes $1081.08 in a year.  If I got coffee every morning of my working adult life, let’s say that I work 40 years, that becomes $43,243.20  I don’t know about you, but I can think of better ways to spend that kind of money than on a tasty morning beverage.

But what can we do?  How else will we get our caffeine fix?  These are some very good questions.  What we are neglecting is a more frugal option that will give us the same amount of joy (or close to it) in making at home coffee.

Get a coffee Maker – You will need to make an initial investment in a drip or single serving coffee maker.  If you are a coffee novice and only making a cup or two for yourself you can purchase a small 4 cup machine like this one for around $20.  Or better yet, check your local second hand store and get it for less!  If you are more of a coffee snob, like me, you can invest in an espresso machine.  I bought mine on a Black Friday deal for $30.

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Coffee Central Control – Yes this is necessary
Get Coffee Grounds – Now this is where my inner coffee snob will start to show.  As a reformed Starbucks addict I have a taste for the stronger (better) coffee.  So I watch for sales on starbucks ground coffee and stock up when it is a good price.  For the sake of this comparison we will use the regular price of $13.49 for 12 oz.

Brew coffee, save money – There are about 5 Tbsp in 1 oz of coffee.  I brew my coffee at a ratio of 2 Tbsp to 10 oz of water.  So this means that for my $13.49 I will get 30 cups of coffee at around $0.45 a cup.  If I am diligent with my home brewed coffee this gives me a savings of $917.28 for the year!

Coffee preferences are specific to your tastes.  I created this coffee calculator that you can use to calculate your own savings by brewing at home!  Save a copy and update the blue cells.  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/173SGs_nKvKVw2Fx8WGxvRE-688UU5EvWYdwVMqnHPBM/edit?usp=sharing

You Need a Meal Plan – Getting Started

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If there was one habit that I picked up that has saved me the most it is using a Meal Plan. Every week I write out what we are going to cook at home and post it.  Use a piece of paper, a calendar or a white board to post your plan.  I use this magnetic whiteboard from amazon that I got for around $10.

Here is a picture of my current meal plan.  All of the meat for the next 2 weeks is in the freezer so that only leaves sides and snacks for my grocery list.  You can be as brief or as detailed as you want with your meal plan.  I list the proteins of the dish and then come home and throw together some sides which usually consist of a vegetable and a starch.  If you benefit from more organization, write out all components of your meal plan.  Do what works for you.

img_05911The area of our budget (which I keep on the other door of my fridge) that saw the most savings since we started meal planning has been in our restaurant/take out food.  We cut our spending in this area by 80%!

Freezer Inventory – I use my freezer a lot, so the first thing I do at the beginning of the month is I take inventory and write down everything that I have in the freezer.  I make special note of anything that is on the older side and make an effort to use it up.  Every day I look at my meal plan and pull anything out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw.  This was probably the biggest change to my cooking routine.  Prior to meal planning, I would get home, look in the freezer for meat to cook and then microwave it on defrost and inevitably end up partially cooking the meat and messing up my recipe.

Creating your plan – Everyone has their favorite recipes to cook.  Start with planning to make meals that you know.  Save the new adventures of a intricate recipe for a day that you don’t have a lot planned.  I try to make at least 3-4 of my meals during the week low maintenance.  This week it was; Nachos – used up the taco meat and beans from the previous week, Chili – which I prepared the night before to pop in the slow cooker, Pork – frozen pulled pork from last week, Pasta and Meatballs – frozen cooked meatballs from a couple weeks ago.

Prep what you can the night before – Every day take a look at you meal plan and think about what can do to save some time.  Move any meat from the freezer to fridge to thaw.  Are there any veggies that you can wash/peel/chop so that they are good to go for tomorrow?  Any crock pot meals that can be completely put together the night before and stuck in the fridge?

Finding Accountability – I post my meal plan on a forum that I’m active on in order to hold myself accountable.  You are more likely to stick with something when you already told others what you plan to do.

Cut yourself some slack – It takes time to form a new habit.  You may on occasion ditch the meal plan and order a pizza.  That’s OK!  Don’t be discouraged.  If you find yourself wanting a low fuss day try to make that a day where you eat leftovers or use your slow cooker.  It’s less tempting to cheat when dinner is ready to go.

Share with me your meal plan, tips, tricks or success stories in the comments!

 

Simple Budget Template

I have always been able to pay my bills on time.  This is something I’m very proud of, even when I was living off of a part time retail wage and paying double my normal rent payment due to roommate troubles, I was still able to make those monthly payments.  After I got married my habits didn’t really change.  We always lived below our means.  We bought a house that we could afford on one salary and we started chipping away at our debt.  Our method was haphazard at best and included watching our bank account balance until we had a couple thousand above our ‘comfortable’ balance and would send a large principle payment.

Creating a budget changed my life.  I’m a goal oriented person and being able to see exactly when we would reach our financial goals was a huge motivator for me to start looking for ways to cut our expenses even more and get there faster!  One of our biggest goals is to move to a different area around the time that our daughter is starting school.  We have a lot of things on our wishlist and I know that the more we save, the more likely we will be able to afford buying a house with those things, or pay for renovations to add those things.  It makes the monumental task of saving thousands of dollars for a house an attainable goal with a timeline.

Here is my budget template.  We update it when ever there is a major change, like salary or set monthly bill changes.  Every six months or so we revisit our goals.  We keep this on our fridge to keep in mind that we are working towards our goals and there is an end in sight.

Using the Budget Template:

  • Income – This will be your take home pay.  When looking at your paystub this is called your Net Pay.
  • Payroll Deductions – This section is for reference only.  Payments going to your HSA and FSA account will cover your expenses in the future.  This also lets you keep in mind how much you are putting towards retirement and health insurance.
  • Monthly Spending – This should be an estimate of all of your reoccurring monthly bills.
  • Sinking Funds – This is for irregular purchases.  Car and home repairs don’t happen every month but that doesn’t mean we don’t plan for them.  They WILL happen, it’s just a question of when.  Having these sinking funds in place keeps you from having to dip into your emergency fund.
  • Debt – List out individual debts with monthly payment, total balance and the interest rate.  Use this information when deciding when to pay these off.

Budget Template:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BdyqvRXViNGxflmQ1T8os-R_O6TKroO6sQI1EjT3-4o/edit?usp=sharing

This budget will print on 1 page.  You should post it somewhere it can be viewed everyday.  The fridge is my preferred spot but if you would like to keep this information private you can post it in your bedroom.

Use these print options:

Print Settings

If you have any questions please ask in the comments.  I would love to chat about your budget.

 

The Price of a Pizza

On the meal plan for tonight was a family favorite. Pizza!  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who said that they don’t like pizza.  I like a whole variety of toppings on my pies but almost always in addition to pepperoni and black olives.  Tonight we used some of the ham that I got earlier in the week for $0.69 a pound.  So lets break down the ingredients.

Crust:

  • 4 cups of flour – $0.53
  • 1 packet of yeast – $0.67
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar – $0.02
  • 2 Tablespoons of oil – $0.03
  • 1 1/2 cup of water – less than $0.01
  • 2 teaspoons of salt – less than $0.01

Toppings:

  • 2 oz Pepperoni – $1.83
  • 2 oz Black Olives – $0.33
  • 2 oz Ham – $0.08
  • 4 oz Tomato Sauce – $0.25
  • 8 oz Mozzarella Cheese – $1.00

This yields 3 pizzas total with a medium thickness for the crust, so lots of left overs.  Total spent on 3 pizzas was $4.76.  So that’s $1.59 per pizza or about $0.26 per slice.

I buy frozen pizza on sale for $5 each and to order a pizza is about $12 after delivery, tax, and tip.

If we eat 1 pizza once a week for a year it would cost us $624 to order, $260 for pre-made frozen, or $82.68 to make from scratch. You save $541.32 over delivery or $177.32 over frozen.  Cha-ching!

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How is that for pizza math?