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Archive for the ‘Budgeting’ Category

groceries

This is great! Simply register your TD Bank debit card, and you’ll get $10 back for every $100 you spend on groceries up to $50 cash back. This offer extends from Jan 17 all the way to March 6, 2010, so there’s plenty of time to spend (and get the best deals for your money while you’re at it).  Only signature-based purchases made after the Eligible Card is registered will be counted (hit credit), and purchases must be made at a grocery store–not a superstore, warehouse club, or discount store.

You can also play their “Daily Debit Cash” game for a chance to win $500.00.

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Since my husband and I are both “in the workforce” as they say, we often run into the buy/bring conundrum. We’ve tallied budgets, looked up costs, and done some pretty hefty research. What we’ve found? Everything in moderation.
Now, there is a difference between a $6.74 meal somewhere, and something from home, obviously, and sometimes you just want that mid-day break to get a nice meal out, but if 2 slices of pizza only run you about $3.00, that’s generally as cheap as some filling meal from home or the multitude of $2-3.99 frozen/boxed Trader Joe’s items.

So I was interested when I saw this Marie Claire article last month basically asserting that going out to eat for a $5.59 Subway Sub Combo meal was just as cheap as bringing food from home every day. Their made-at-home breakdown listed the following initial cost/cost-per sandwich as follows:

Arnold Whole Wheat Double Fiber Bread     $3.89/18 slices     $0.43/sandwich
Hellman’s Mayo                                                        $5.39/30 oz.          $0.08/1 serving (1 tablesp, 64 per serving)
Land O Lakes Sliced Swiss                                     $5.29/8 sl.             $1.32/2 slices
Sara Lee Turkey Pre-Sliced                                   $5.99/24 sl.          $1.00/4 slices
Organic Beefsteak Tomatoes                                $1.79 ea.                 $0.90/3 slices
Red Delicious Apple                                                 $0.69                       $0.69
6-pack Diet Coke Cans                                              $3.49                       $0.58/can
Glad Fold Sandwich Bags                                     $1.99/180-ct        $0.01/bag

…all of which totals $5.01, for a total savings of $0.58/day or $12.00 a month. Now, that might be enough for some of us, but I’m thinking the main problem is in their shopping. $5.00+ dollars a day can add up! Let’s see what they could get it for, if they would just shop on sale and with coupons:

Arnold Whole Wheat Bread 2/$4 (Market Basket 3.22.09)
$2.00/18 slices       $0.22/sandwich
Hellman’s Mayo 2/$6 – $1.00/2 coupon =2/$5 (Shaws 1.13.09)
$2.50/30 oz.            $0.03/sandwich
Sliced Swiss $5.99/lb. (Stop & Stop, 3.28.09)
$5.99/20 slices        $0.59/2 slices
Sliced Turkey $2.99/lb. (Willowbrook Farms, M. Basket 3.29.09)
$2.99/15 slices        $0.79/4 slices
Organic Beefsteak Tomatoes  (unadvertized so we’ll go with their price)
$1.79 ea.                    $0.90/3 slices
Red Delicious Apple $1.59/lb. (Stop & Shop, 3.28.09)
$1.59/lb (say 3)      $0.53/1 apple
12-pack Diet Coke (4/$12-4 $1/1=4/$8 coupons Shaws 3.28.09 )
$2.00/12 cans         $0.16/1 can
Fold Sandwich Bags ($0.99/120 @ Walgreens)
$0.99/120                 $0.008/1 bag

Total cost by switching brands, buying on-sale, and using coupons: $3.23.
THAT is a $2.36 savings per lunch, or $47.20 a month, $566.40 a year versus buying Subway meals every day.

I really find it kind of misleading…food budgets are the main area where a lot of us can and do save money through cutting back, and to run an article like that just to…what? Make us feel better about eating out? In this economy? Seems sort of irresponsible. I suppose it’s a good reminder to actually see that yes, all this work is worth it in the long run–and I’m glad it falls in line with our informally calculated $3.00-for-lunch-regardless rule!

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I wish I could have days like this about once a month…that would be just right. I went to the mall today, with all the joy of a normal shopping spree. I tripped along to the house music, smelled the ubiquitous cologne-counter smells, bumped into millions of slow-walking, hand-holding teenagers, even tried on clothes and a few pairs of shoes. And though I came home with stuff, I spent exactly $0.00. The thrill of a mall trip with none of the spending!

I first picked up the Night Health Bedtime Balm at the Macy’s Origins counter–it’s tiny, but apparently contains 10 nights worth. And, amusingly enough, is really an aromatherapy cream that tries a bit too hard—not one with age-fighting, dermo-whatever qualities. The “acupressure technique” instruction card that came with it had some gems:

Step 1: “…apply to hollow at the base of the skull (The Wind Mansion point). Gently massage 3 circles forward, then 3 circles backward.” There are four steps, in which you’ll also learn that the crease between your palm and wrist in line with your little finger is The Spirit Gate. Too funny.

Then, I swung by Victoria’s Secret for the Free PINK Energizing Organic Body Lotion; it’s a nice, medium-weight cream with a citrus scent. I love the 1 oz size; perfect to use as a “purse cream!”

As I was walking past The Body Shop, I noticed a free sample center set up there as well…so of course, dropped by, and received a sample each of their Seaweed Cleanser and Seaweed Mask.

Walking into LUSH (in anticipation of next Saturday’s VIP party!), one of the employees gave me a free treatment right there in the store, using probably 5 different products. The Ocean Salt is definitely going on my short-list!

Finally, I went to my Clarins Free Facial appointment (I walked into Macy’s  first, got the appointment, then shopped)…and wow, that was SO worth it.

They have a whole little station set up behind a plastic advertisement/privacy wall…you lie down, and they go to work! She used a cleanser, toner, exfoliated, more toner, mask, more toner, and finished with an eye-cream application and SPF moisturizer. It felt sooo nice and relaxing (even in the middle of Macy’s!), and she was very helpful at explaining the benefits of the products without being overbearing.

But wait, there’s more! After that, I went to the MAC counter, where they also had stations set up…and I got a free makeover! The makeup artist matched me up with a foundation (which I HATE doing, so that was very helpful), as well as an eye-shadow color that had their signature “pop!” factor, but wasn’t overbearing on my skin tone. I had her write down both numbers so I can perhaps buy it with my next Swagbucks Gift Card. 😉

I did have to chant “I want to be a SAHM with a house. I want to be a SAHM with a house”  a few times, especially when trying on this Ann Taylor Loft Dress (retail $79.00)

or when encountering some similar J. Crew belts that had MATCHING HEADBANDS:

Sigh. But I’m glad I didn’t spend anything, and I suppose I have a few new sewing goals for before the summer comes. And by that time, all this scrimping will  have allowed us to pay down even more debt. It IS worth it!

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I know we’re mid-way through the month here, but it somehow feels wrong to post it right away. Just like I hate going to the gym in January. Doesn’t matter if I’ve been going the entire previous year, I still feel like a poseur or a soon-to-be-drop-out.

Anyways, last year we did very well in our finances until about August, when it all feel apart–not in a rapidly spiraling decline, just in sloppiness. Burger King here, H&M trips there=no more paying off debt. But the FIRST half of last year we paid off three credit cards, kept relatively on budget, and got a full year of travel in, including flying three times and taking multiple road trips.

This year, however, we want to be very serious; we want to keep the end goal in sight, saying no to temporal things in light of the larger picture of what we want our lives to be like–both now and in the future. We want to stay on-budget, and keep paying off our debt slowly but surely, working our way to complete financial freedom.

Thus, our goals for 2009:

  1. Pay off three pieces of debt by the end of the year.
  2. Keep in our food budget…our hugest budget-black-hole last year.

And that’s it! Simple, easy to track, hopefully easy to work on.

When tempted to spend, I know I’ll keep reminding myself of our financial long term goals, telling myself that when we have kids, I want to stay home, and that’ll pretty much take no debt. That it’s SO much more fun to shop when I know there’s no loan that the money should go towards. That we’ll be able to free up money to do BETTER, bigger things with (hello, trip to the UK), and that we’ll be able to start putting even more towards retirement and rainy day savings. That we want to buy a single-family house, with land, here in New England. That we want my husband to get his PhD.

But that will all take starting NOW, and keeping a sober-minded awareness of all those pennies, nickels, and dimes. Which is obviously what we hope to do; I’m hoping to post a monthly-or-so financial update tracking our progress, or at least some ray of light for the next month!

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We have not been good this week.

Dinners out. THREE random trips to the grocery store for non-pregnant people cravings…fresh mozzerella for a homemade margherita pizza, a box of cream puffs, and soda/milk/pumpkin pie/popcorn. The pizza would have turned out OK if I hadn’t made the crust WAY too thin, which resulted in us eating piles of baked cheese with basil and a sprinkling of dough. We forgot the popcorn. The cream puffs, however, we demolished in about 10 minutes.

Hopefully this week we’ll swing the other way…and with the bajillions of sales, we should!! I cannot wait…I love it when stuff is down to cents and major, major saleage. These are the weeks I long for half the time, so I shall most certainly be stocking up.

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