Monday, February 9, 2009

frugal living & financial goals

As I read a friend's blog and began to respond, my response just got longer, and longer. So I decided to post my own take on the subject of living on a budget! I think a lot of people do little things to save a buck, things they may not be necissarily proud of! But I have no pride people! I'm the person in my family who manages all the finances! I see how much comes in and goes out, and over the years I can see that a few pennies here and there, a few hours here and there at a part time "job" really can add up to fun things for my family and more financial stability. For me, financial stability = security. I hate being tied down to credit card payments! Jeff might suggest that we charge a night out to eat or some little fun item, but I've learned through trial and error that this is a recipe for disaster!

When I was fresh out of high school, Jeff and I got our first apartment. I had a full time job as an office manager, but only made a measly 1100$ a month, paid only once a month right? Well, did you know that credit card companies will climb over one another for an opportunity to issue a credit card to someone so young with a regular source of income? YES! I racked up 6000$ on those credit cards in only a couple years with almost NOTHING to show for it! I was soon over my head in credit card payments I couldn't keep. Thank goodness for Consumer Credit Counseling Services! I know I sound like a commercial, but really, they saved my butt. I was able to pay it all off. For years we didn't carry a credit card at all.

NOW I've been trying my best -in spite of certain roadblocks- to pay off a credit card. We took out the debt for an addition and repairs to our home. I'm almost there! The end is in sight! Within a year we will have no extra debt (besides auto loans) IF I can just stay on track. But in the meantime, we still need to enjoy ourselves as a family, live comfortably, and yes-take the kids out once in a while!

My frugalness extends to such things as washing my car once or twice a year (or is that just being lazy?), buying much of my kids clothing at secondhand stores (although I'm pretty picky about the condition), rarely going out to eat, trading babysitting instead of hiring a babysitter, cutting and hemming old towels and tearing up my husbands old shirts for cleaning. Buying and selling things on Craigslist, buying much of my foods whole/raw instead of expensive processed foods. I'm sure I'm also wasteful in a million ways, but I'm always out for a way to make things stretch, save a dollar.

My latest attempt came from the realization that almost all of our tax return will go towards debt and our house taxes. But we still need a little vacation! It's been so long since we've really gotten away and done something fun as a family. I'm working at the athletic club, and also babysitting for extra money, which goes into our vacation fund. We found this place over the mountains, it's a little indoor water park/resort, and the prices seem affordable. Best yet, it's a short drive from Jeff's parent home. So this will be our vacation spot in March, and I'm saving up!

In the meantime, for financial goals this year, besides getting that blasted credit card paid off, I'd like to save a bit. I heard from a family friend that you can charge all your bills on one credit card & pay it off every month to earn points/gift certificates. I am, however, kind of chicken-hearted. After my previous experiences with credit cards I'm afraid something will go terribly wrong! I've also heard from a friend that you can round every purchase in your checkbook up to the next dollar, or a couple dollars up. Then you'd technically be saving money - but the problem is, how to find out exactly how much you have??

Please everyone, help me come up with some ideas! How do you exercise a measure of frugality in your home? Do you save money on an everyday basis, and how?


Melissa DeLeon said...

I like your money saving ideas -- you should have posted them on my blog! :)
CCCS... we too are clients. I enjoy seeing my monthly balances go down and feel a sense of relief that "if we can't afford it, we don't get it" because we can't charge it. Plus we don't have to worry about paying it off (with interest) later.

Becky said...

You know how I am about our budget . . . obsessive! We have had conversations - - so you know this subject is dear to my heart! Maybe I was the "family friend" who told you about using credit cards and paying it off every month. That is certainly what we do. I tell people, though, you have to be extremely vigilant- In my mind, keeping a balance is not even an option- like it is the end of the world to pay a finance charge (this is honestly how I feel!). The way I keep track is on our budget - each week (well, mostly every week) I record our purchases and check it against our budget. If I am getting too close to the limit for the month, I know to hold back on a purchase or two. As long as we are staying in our budget, using the credit card is fine, because I know I will be able to pay off the entire balance. I love getting free stuff! We have earned over the years things like Disneyworld Tickets (half of the cost for 7 days for our whole family!), several years of Halloween Costumes and other Disney items, countless books and movies from Amazon, and cash back. BUT I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't really good at sticking with a budget- AND keeping track- AND paying ON TIME. The internet is my best friend- I just look up recent charges and record them in Microsoft Money, and it automatically shows me where I am on my budget.

What I want to learn is how to coupon and ad shop. I know people can save so much money doing that, and I don't really know how to do it without spending too much time. I also hate going to more than one store, so end up at Wal Mart all the time (shudder).

Value Village is also my friend- they actually have really decent clothing for kids for cheap. We also drive dang old cars (wouldn't recommend THAT though), we don't eat out much, AND I don't buy expensive processed food either. So- I think you are doing great! Better than me in a lot of ways! I don't think I have much more advice!