February 07, 2011

No Spend Month - First Week & Frugal Ideas

I spent $55.93 on groceries last week while I only had a budget for $40.00.  This is due to my big find on hamburger at only 80 cents a lb.  It was worth it to go over budget even if it was a No Spend Month and I am trying to reduce expenses. 

Today I went to the grocery store to buy several items that were on sale and that I had coupons for.  Here is what I spent today:  After coupons I spent $8.58 for a 25 lb. bag of Tidy Cat Litter for $1.99, 3 boxes of Kleenex for only 38 cents each, 3 bags of New York Brand Texas Toast Croutons for 49 cents each, 3 pkgs. of Farmland Sausage links for 70 cents each and a ½ gallon of 1% Milk for $1.49. 

I spent a total of $64.51 on groceries in the first 7 days of the challenge.  Which means I have $95.41 for the rest of the month on groceries.  I know I can do it and if I hadn't taken advantage of the hamburger sale, I would be right on track.  Even so I have 21 more days in this month and $95.41 is a lot of money for produce and dairy.

BUT I saved about $25 in other areas.  So I am at least $25 towards my goal of saving $200.  I can do it - I know I can.

It all comes down to being focused on the goal.  I spent yesterday pondering my spending and how I am able to stay on track more often than getting off track. 

Number One.  Staying on track and spending less pleases my husband.  Okay perhaps that shouldn't be the Number one reason, but honestly, it is.  He sees how hard I work at staying on a budget and he knows I am working towards the same financial goals as he is.  We are a team.  He earns the money and he loves the way that I respect how long it takes him to earn it and how I am careful not to overspend. 

Number Two.  Staying on track and spending less means more money in savings and more money to debt repayment.  It is very gratifying to see one debt paid off after another.

Number Three.  Staying on track and spending less means that I am learning a skill.  I am learning to live with what I already have and saving up for what I would like to have. 

For two years I have wanted two new kitchen chairs.  The 1940's (original) dinette that I own was purchased at an antique store for $40 about 8 years ago.  One of the chairs broke 18 months ago and I keep trying to save up for new chairs, but that purchase keeps being put on the back burner.  I have learned that having to use a folding chair in place of the broken chair is okay for now.  I will be able to buy new chairs by the end of this year.  BTW - here is a picture of my dinette and here is a picture of the chairs I want to buy. 

Over the past several months I have been able to get name brand laundry soap on sale and with coupon at $1.50 for a 32 load size and $1.99 for a 48 load size jug.  I have continued to make my homemade laundry soap and I have been measuring 1 tablespoon of the name brand soap into the 1/3 measuring cup I use to measure out the homemade laundry soap.  Then I fill it with my homemade version.  I've been doing this for a while to give even more cleaning power to the homemade version while adding a slight fragrance.

Also I have noticed a big difference in how much warmer our house feels in the winter due to putting plastic on the windows.  We use budget billing each month for our electricity and natural gas and while these are going up, our bill hasn't gone up since we took the precautions and put the plastic up.

I'm trying to think of other ways to save money.  Sometimes it's hard to come up with something new.  Last week I purchased 15 lbs. of potatoes for $3.50.  I quit buying tater tots and french fries since I can get more "potato product" out of the raw potatoes.  For a tater tot casserole I don't use a cream soup but prefer to brown the hamburger, drain the fat and rinse the hamburger.  Then I take a pkg. of onion soup mix and add about 2 cups water to the hamburger.  Bring this to a boil and thicken as for gravy.  I put this in the bottom of the casserole and top it with frozen California Mix vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots) and then I would top it with the tater tots.  Not anymore.  Now when I make homemade mashed potatoes I make extra and freeze them.  Yep, I freeze mashed potatoes.  Then when I am making "Tater Tot Casserole" I thaw the potatoes and spread the mashed potatoes on top of the vegetable layer, dot with a little butter and bake in the oven til bubbly and browned.  Yeah, it ends up being more like a Shepherd's Pie, but my family loves it. 

Instead of fries I take the potatoes and dice them, toss with a little olive oil and then sprinkle Italian salad dressing mix or any other mixture of spices such as italian seasoning or chili powder with garlic powder and onion powder, and well, you get the picture.  I bake these or roast these in the oven at about 350 degrees, stirring about every 15 minutes until they are golden, crispy and browned.  

So does anyone else have any other frugal tips?  I'm open to any ideas.

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