The Debt is dropping!

This week we paid off the remainder of my car loan! I am still in shock that I will no longer have to go pay it at the end of the month.  We had already paid off two credit cards so far this year too.  We just have to keep this momentum going!  A big part of our dedicating a year to living project was getting out of debt.  I honestly didn’t think we could make such a huge impact so fast.  We know that it will be easier to work on our long-term goals and dreams without the debt monkey on our backs.  Our long-term goals involve travel and a move to a warmer climate, possibly Florida or Texas.  This has been a dream of mine for a few years.  Our oldest does not want to move until after she graduates so we are looking at 3 more years.  If we continue at this rate we will be in great financial standing by then.

One of our other goals for the year was to spend more time together.  We have been spending more time at home lately.  That also helped with our goal of paying off debts because we have been spending less.  We spent a weekend evening having a taco and game night that turned out to be a ton of fun!  We played one of the board games our middle daughter received as a gift so we only spent money on taco supplies.  We have had a couple of movie nights this year.  They were redbox rentals.  We had popcorn and M&Ms for snacks.  The whole night cost us less than $10 each time.  We had a day outing on one of the girls off days and went to a book store. Each girl picked out one book.  This came in under $20 and it encourages reading.  The big girls spent the evening reading their books.  We have spent some evenings doing crafts with supplies we already had, coloring, cooking together, and playing.  We have had a lot of fun spending so much time together.  We basically have been doing all those things that we had picked up supplies for and never had the time to do.  This year has been all about spending time doing all the things we had been putting off.

I’ll update again soon on where this crazy project leads us next.

Saving/Making Money with Apps & Websites??

I hear of these rumors of people saving and/or making money with apps and websites. I always wonder if there is any truth to these claims and how much effort does it take. I have decided to try out a few for myself and post the results here. I have included a few different types to see how they work.

1.) Shopkick – This is an app that I downloaded for free on my iphone. It was simple to download and easy to set-up. The basic idea here is that you collect kicks to redeem for awards such as gift cards. You earn the kick points by checking in daily, turning on the app right before you walk into certain stores, scanning certain items in stores, and looking through mini catalogs. Also if you are invited you may start with a 50 kick bonus and if you invite people who join you get a bonus for the kicks they earn for a limited time. At this point I have only checked in, invited 1 person, and looked through a few of their look-books (mini catalogs). These were easy enough. I will write a post with updates about checking into stores, scanning items, and especially redeeming kicks for gift cards.

2.) Kroger – This is a store app for Kroger. I have been using this for quite some time. You put in your store reward card number or phone number if you lost your card years ago like I did. You can add ecoupons straight to your card! This is great because you do not have to remember your coupons. I have found this helpful for those quick stops and for when my husband goes shopping. All you have to do at check-out time to redeem your coupons is scan your reward card or enter your phone number. Other features of this app include the weekly ads, rewards, a shopping list, Rx refills, and a store finder. When looking at the weekly ads you can click on wanted items to add them to the shopping list. This is a nice time saving feature and reminder when you are in the store that you wanted to pick up a sale item. I highly suggest this free app to all Kroger shoppers looking to easily save some money.

3.) UPromise.com – This is a website where you can sign up to save money for your kids college fund or pay back your student loans. This was easy to sign up for and completely free. There are a few different options on this site. You can link it to shopper reward cards from Kroger, CVS, and Remke/Biggs. You can also link it to your credit cards to take advantage of the dining option where you earn money for eating at certain restaurants. You can also earn on your online shopping. I chose to only link my store reward cards. This seemed like a safe option to start with.

4.) Checkout 51 – This is a free app that works somewhat like a rebate. After you sign up, you will receive a list of rebate offers for the week. If you buy any of those items than you can get back the listed amount. To get money back on this app you submit a photo of your receipt with a redeemable item on it. This entire process was easy to do. It says that you can cash out when your account balance is over $20 and that you will receive a check in the mail. I will write a post on how the cashing out process works when I get enough in my account to do so. I currently only have $2 in my account.

5.) Bing Rewards – This one is great because I can earn gift cards for doing exactly what I was already doing! I love using Bing to look things up! I’m a little too curious about things, all things, sometimes useless things. I am always Binging something. I honestly cannot believe I didn’t do this one earlier. It was so easy! If you sign up for a rewards account with them you can earn free gift cards while searching. It took about 5 minutes and required minimal information. Their gift cards are only for $5 a piece but free money is free money. I’m saving points for an amazon gift card.

These are the ones I am currently focusing on. I will write updates about the ease or difficulty involved in redeeming rewards as it comes up. Wish me luck 🙂

A Year Without Cable!

It’s officially been a year without cable! Wow, time really flies by! In all honesty we don’t miss it at all. We missed it for about a month and then it was like we never had it to begin with. It’s funny that we thought we would miss it but in reality I’m much happier without it. We spend more time together, reading, and outdoors. It’s amazing how distracted our lives truly were and it’s sad that we never realized it until the distraction was gone. This was also quite a financial gain as well. We used to spend around $80 a month on cable. In the last year we have saved $960! I also know my kids better, have learned a couple of new skills, and surprisingly it lowered the overall family stress level. Now I’m not saying that during finals I was not stressed but overall our home life is calmer.

5 Ways to Save on Groceries

1.)    Plan Ahead – If you plan your meals you are going to save a lot of money. You can plan around the sales and not have the last-minute worry of what you are going to feed your family.

2.)    Plan for late night emergency dinners – You know those nights that you are running way behind and you are completely exhausted. That’s the night that you reach for a pizza menu or pick-up fast food on the way home. If you have emergency dinners in your freezer you can avoid that panicked feeling and the high cost of delivery or take-out. My favorite last-minute meals are lasagna, soup, sandwiches, frozen pizza (half the price of delivery!), and stuffed baked potatoes.

3.)    Shop the Sales – The front and back of the grocery ad are the items that the store is losing the most money on. Always buy meat on sale!

4.)    Consider the last-minute mark downs. – If you shop on a weekly basis you can save a lot on the last-minute mark downs. Some of the things that you can save on are yogurt, meat, bread, bakery items, and cheese. Be careful to check your purchases over thoroughly. Unless you really know what you are doing be careful with fish. Fruits and vegetables can be tricky as well. Portobello mushrooms if cooked will be fine on their sell by date but salad mix might look gross. If you see meat that is on clearance, check the sell by date and the packaging. If the sell by date has not past and the package is in good condition then you consider the look of the meat. If the color is off than put it back. If it passes these tests then you consider the price. Is the price lower than a comparable cut that is on sale? Buy the one that is cheaper by the pound. This check-off method is the one I use for everything I buy on mark down.

5.)    Coupons – Last but not least, use grocery coupons for anything you are going to buy any way. Do not buy things simply because you have a coupon if you will not use the item. You save nothing by throwing things away! I personally make out my list, go through the sales, and then go through my coupons to find any that match.

What do you spend your money on?

A big challenge for most of our wallets is figuring out where the money actually goes. Everyone of us can ramble off a list of the basic bills we pay. It’s the little things that run our bank accounts dry and keep us from saving for the things we really want. The challenge is to start keeping track. This does not have to be a huge event. I went for the save your receipts policy. Every purchase I made I saved the receipt. At the end of the week I took them all out of my wallet and went through to see what I spent money on without thinking about it. Do you know what this little exercise taught me? It taught me to think about those little purchases because they were adding up big!

I already posted that I have started packing my lunch, drinks, and snacks. I also realized that we were spending too much on unintentional grocery purchases. The things we didn’t really need but bought on a whim. We now stick to a strict shopping list and bring an envelope of the coupons we intend to use. I bring the extra coupons in a separate envelope incase I stumble upon a great deal that was not advertised. Our stores do occasional markdowns that you do not know about until you get there.

The one thing that shocked me was how much we spend on late fees at the public library! We all think of the library as being free but those late fees can really nail you if you forget to renew or return things. We were spending at least $4 a month in late fees. Just by returning our books and things on time we will save $48 a year!

We occasionally stop for a quick dinner, buy a toy or clothing item, or go on an outing without considering our budget. We have now decided to make a budget section for these kind of things. That way we know we can do them from time to time but we have to consider them in regards to our budget because when that money is spent we are done for the month.

Please remember that your bank account is not an endless well (If yours is so large it feels that way then you don’t need my advice).