How To Slash Your Bills and Get Your Expenses Under Control

money1

In January, many people are looking to take care of their new year resolutions, be it losing weight, eating well and saving money. I have goals that I want to achieve in 2013, I have given up making resolutions as I have failed in a few months to keep those up. So I create mini goals that I break down from a one big goals so it makes it easier to me to achieve it and stay focused.

One of the thing I am passionate about or should I say, I am forced upon is to save money. When I decided to not go back to my six figure salary work and be home with kids, something had to give so I started reading and learning new ways to cut down on expenses. Some of my early favorite personal finance blogs were Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly and Zen Habits. Trent from Simple Dollars still writes his money tips with passion after so many years so do check out his blog. J D Roth has sold his “Get Rich Slowly” blog and I admit I do not read regularly anymore but there are some great articles out there still. Leo from Zen Habits has achieved his financial freedom so he does not write about money tips much but I still read his blog for changing habits and inspiration.

I have done No Spend Money experiment and written about saving money tips before, as 2013 is starting, I am looking back to find more ways to save money so that I can continue to follow my passion of being home, work at home part time and homeschooling mom to my kids.

One of the most expense that people now a days have is phone related that is to say, phone, cable, cell phones and internet bills that keeps growing. Ten years ago or so family needed only single land line phone and television was simple choice enough choosing whatever came in local handful channels that came mostly free. But now there are thousands of channels and programs for television are there. For phone there are multiple lines, data plan, test plans, apps, ringtones and what not. I am not even sure I am all updated with what is available technology wise currently.

If you add this for spouse and kids, bill can run higher and higher. Although, television program says “Must See TV”, there is no such a thing as I and many others have given up or reduced watching Television for good. If you still decide to watch it, you can let go of many overlapping services to save money on bills.

How To Slash Your Phone Bills:

There are a few ways to slash your phone bills and most of these tips will not cause to feel deprived either.

  1. Reconsider Land Line Phone: For long time, we kept up our land line phone just in case there was internet or cell phone outage, mostly in case for emergency. We have given up land line phone for using Vonage service (internet based) for 7 months and could not complain about it. Monthly savings can be $30-$75 depending on services you were using, not bad for saving $360 to $ 900 savings for year.
  2. Drop Extra Services: This tip seems so simple and obvious however, many of us are having so many overlapping services with cell phone and land line phone combine. This also works if you want to keep your land line phone service without costing you big in monthly spending. Example of these extra services can be, You can let go of voice mail and buy answering machine phone, you can let go of your long distance services and use cell phone for calling long distance instead.
  3. Talk Free Via Computer: I am not tech savvy, despite having an electrical engineering but Zenguy is master geek and tech guy so we save money through talking to relatives and friends far away via Skype, Google chat. These services are free and can be downloaded free to your computer. What I like about this plan is it is free, you can chat and also use video chat so grandparents or friends can kids and vice versa. Also, thing to note is that grandparent or any person you call does not need to have Skype or Google chat program, you can call cell phone, land lines on other side.
  4. Buy For Busy Talk Month: I learned this the hard way, as phone carriers have hefty fees and charge if you go over minutes. It might be better to pay some extra every month to cover your busiest talk month to not get these charges during high usage month. If you do not plan this, just be careful to stay within your allowed minutes to not get charge ridiculous amount of fees.
  5. Shop around: I like being loyal to my family, friends but I have learned hard way to remain loyal to a company. I used AT&T for 8 years as I really liked them and what they did for that loyalty? They charged me crazy amount, so reluctantly I left, only to be offered same deal that I was asking them while being a customer.  Since that incidents, I always shop around to see best deals and choose phone company that works for my budget and customer services.
  6. Ignore Texting: In US texting is not free, unlike a few Asian countries. A relative from India sent us text messages and only to read those it ended up costing us $35. So, if you have teenagers or relatives who get free texting, be careful and avoid these texting charges either by ignoring those or reading text messages through some free reading services.
  7. Be careful for Roaming Charges: If you travel out of town or country, be very very careful of using your cell phone. It is almost always a good idea to get local cell phone or have roaming service plan added (if you travel a lot). Otherwise you will be billed $1-$5 per minutes, I have once read a news regarding someone getting a roaming charges for $12,100. (I am unable to find that news link now, but I am sure you may see those once in awhile too) So don’t be one of those statistics and save money by using local phone services instead.

Slash Your Cable and Movies Bills:

I love watching movies and a few Television series such as from BBC, A&E and Master Piece Theater. So, one does not have to give up watching their favorite TV shows or movies just to cut down on expenses. There are many ways to save and cut the bill in half or even more.

  1. Let Go of Premium Channels: Having premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, AMC can cost about $10-$15 each monthly. In most cases you can watch these movies through Netflix, or DVD rental. Now netflix gets DVD released movie much faster so you will still get to see it early.
  2. Track Your Watching: If you really note down how you or family tend to watch, such as which channels, how often you may cut down on other unwatched and UN-necessary channels from your services. Sometimes you may even find that you’re not watching as much cable as you thought, and in that case you can let go of cable services.
  3. Ask For Discounts: If you like to keep some favorite channels or services, ask the provider for discount or better offer. In some cases the company want to keep you as a customer and will negotiate a better deals and other case some stone- hearted company may ask you to cancel and in such case you can choose other provider or wait for a few months to really see before you sign up for new plan.
  4. Day has only 24 hours: Remember, having so many channels and movies choices may be futile as even if we watched one movie a day (2-3 hours each), we will not finish all movies produced and released and same thing with television series. So pick what you truly like that is best for your time. Watching TV and Movie all day no matter how much you like would not be a good thing for anyone.
  5. Buy HDMI Cable: I learned this from Zenguy as I would not know what it was. Thing is this HDMI cable costs like $5 or so and you can connect your computer to television. That allows us to watch free shows from network downloaded. Do not ask me how it works yet but I know it is time and big money saver for little cost. (I will update it once I find out how it works here)
  6. Skip Subscription Plans: Netflix, itunes and Amazon video on demand subscription plan varies and can be useful if you watch lot of movies or occasional movies here and there. In some cases, skipping the subscription plans and getting movies from red box or local store may be a better deal. If you do not mind getting new movies later, and somewhat less choices local library is also a good place to get movies and television series rentals.
  7. Watch it Free on Internet: There are many places such as you tube, hulu and other video sites where you can watch movies and television series for free. Remember, you tube have free and cost movie rental both. You can just view free movies there. The one problem I see is sometimes movies can be removed by copyright violation so it might be gone. I have watched a few movies on you tube movie section and I buy only movies that I like to see it again and again from amazon when deals comes in.

How to Save Money On Internet:

It has been said that over 70% of household have an internet access. That means many of us can find ways to slash our internet bills so we can still save money and still read best blogs, deals and news online.

  1. Group Services Together: Sometimes going with same company and grouping services can reduce your bills significantly. Many company nowadays offer bundle on land line, cell phone and internet services. In some cases doing individual service and billing may work however in most cases grouping services together works the best.
  2. Use library or free Wifi Cafe: Unless you’re buying unlimited internet data usage, you can save money by occasionally using library or free WiFI-cafe for internet for supplementing using internet.
  3. Get a Tablet: Many tablet users who use tablet and watch movies together, so why just use tablet for everything. There are so many apps for iphone and android that can help as free channel guide can be helpful. According to CNN post, replacing your cable with tablet can pay off in 7 months or so and with tablet one can do many things
  4. Know Competing Offers: In many cases most great offers are for new customers and not current customers, so know your offers from your internet providers as well as from competition every 6 months or so. Then call your provider and ask to match the deal, if they do great if not, switch to another company.
  5. Check for Overlap In services: If  you are using smart phone data plan and broadband internet services both, you have overlap in service plans. If you only play occasional games at home, 3G wireless service is not needed. Checking this overlap and how you use smart phone, internet and cell phone can save you $30 per month or more. That is over $240 a year savings on things you do not use anyways.

Enjoy using phones, internet and watching movies, Television series without breaking your wallet this year!

Why Our Grandkids Will Pay For Our Debt :Infographic

For one of my friend, she has 9 credit cards and I do not know how she juggles all the bills. Credit cards use without control make your life topsy turvy.There are so many dangers of unwisely using credit or credit card. I have one credit card that I use and I try to pay in full every time I can.

If you spend without thinking, that practice can be very costly, financially as well losing mental piece. Here is a nice info-graphic that show you, how you can keep paying the credit card debt, and it will keep increasing instead of going down, thanks to compounding interest rate. Check it out below, and judge for your self.

What is scary thought is, if you paid minimum required on your average debt (current national average number) $10, 679,  in 1000 years your remaining debt will be $212 million and you would have paid $5.1 billion dollars on your little over $10K debt. No wonder many of us keep paying debt and never see the light of the day. Danger of credit card debt is mind boggling and scary.

As no human has ever lived for 100 years, the debt can go in to next generation. Let’s be careful of what you buy today on Credit card, else our grand children and great great grandchildren might pay for our debt.

Source: via: Cracked

5 More Tips To Save Money

5 More tips to save money and be little bit richer

This is second in series of how to save money for daily expenses. As a stay at home mom for 2 kids, I have learned a few tricks that helps me keep within my budget and that too without feeling too much deprived. When I decided that I want to be home, leaving my cushy six figure job it was drastic change, one that I am happy to volunteer to leave my stressed job so I can be home with kids.

There are easy and simple ways we can save money for everyday savings. Once saving habits are ingrain in our mind, saving money or being frugal comes as easy as breathing and it will have so many benefits that your quality of life will be improved.

Start today, do not wait for special occasion or a new year to start a new habits. We can save money on everyday expenses such as phone services, insurance, groceries and travel and more. When we are starting, every penny will count. Do not think, what you will do with saving a few pennies here and there. Just imagine, saving a few pennies will make a dollar and few dollars savings will makes hundreds of dollar. Just imagine you putting this saving towards debt or in saving account, how much money you can save in interests.

5 More Money Saving Ideas and Tips

If you have not read yet part 1 of this series, you can read it here: 5 Tips for saving money for everyone.Let is look at 5 more additional tips that save us money for everyday expenses which anyone can do and add to our savings account.

Tip 6: Do not carry too much debt:

I personally like to say no debt is always the best but it is not realistic for many of us. Buying a home or car without a loan is not possible for 80% people unless you are already rich, have rich parents or rich friends with benefits. If you are like me and majority of people, we carry some debt. But that does not mean we are doomed, we can be smart and pay off these loans faster by paying $10-$100 extra towards our loans and pay off credit card debt when bill comes.

The worse part of debt or any loan is excessive interest that we pay on each loan, so faster we pay off, better we will be. Use cash only for many small daily expenses and paying off debt faster is way to go. Make sure your debt to income ratio is reasonably manageable for your monthly income.

Tip 7: Save money for emergency:

Emergency expenses can happen to any of us, any time. Like Dave Ramsey says about Murphy’s law, expenses and problems comes when you are not expecting it. Until someone invents a 100% future predictions, best we can do is save money for it, just in case of such a emergency. If it happens you will be prepared for it, and if it does not happen you will be bit richer, either way it is a win-win situation.

Just make sure you do not count buying diamond for your girlfriend as an emergency.Best way to save some money without feeling deprived is to auto deduct from your paycheck or your checking account and in to your saving account that you can not touch.

Tip 8: Wise Buying Decisions:

What do I mean by wise buying decisions? I have done impulse buying based on emotions, hunger and sheer joy of showing off to someone and I bet some of you might have done it too. Simple thing is do is, do not go grocery shopping when hungry, the truth is I have bought more junk food when I have shopped when I have been famished. Don’t try to keep up with jones, they might have nice stuff but I bet some of them may have nice debt too. Be smart and do not compete with someone in buying cars, vacations and diamonds. Comparison shop, do bulk shopping to save money as mentioned in part 1 of this series.

Tip 9: Eat IN more often:

As a vegetarian person who loves to cook at home, this comes easier for me. Even if you are not like me, you can still cook a few simple things at home and eat out occasionally only. Check out tips to save money when eating out. Food outside is usually ten to twenty times more expensive than if you would have made it at home and sometimes you can have more healthier food when you make it yourself. Occasional eating is fine and keep you from feeling deprived, just do it sensibly so you can save money as well as your health.

Tip 10: Reduce, Recycle and Reuse:

In USA, where I live, we tend to throw away things and buy new in this consumerist society. Buying a new shoes or new Television is much cheaper compared to repairing it here so it makes sense to do so, but we are wasting resources and earth’s environment by dumping things in garbage. We can consume less, reduce our materialistic things, recycle whenever possible will save us money and live sustainable life.

We can make small changes such as using

  1. Little less soap when doing dishes
  2. Using less shampoo when washing hair,
  3. Putting on sweater before turning on heater
  4. Donating good used items and not throwing in trash
  5. If you have child, supplementing with cloth diapers
  6. Turn off light of Television or computer, when not in use

Conclusion:

If we saved money without feeling deprived, we will do it for long term. Only two ways to save money are earn more income and be frugal. We can do both and save our environment at the same time. Start today.

5 Money Savings Tips

Everyday Money Savings

Source: Free Digital Images

Right now with economy being down and jobs are far and few to find, life has been tough.  While economy seems to be improving, I see many good and hard working people are struggling and hard to keep paying bills for mortgages, medical treatment and worst of all credit card payments.

While we can not help some bills such as medical and emergency situation but we can take precautions to make sure we are never in this uncomfortable situation where we may have to lose a house or lose credit ratings. Saving money has been practiced since early days of our great great grandparents to our parents.

There are easy and simple ways we can save money for everyday savings. Once saving habits are ingrain in our mind, saving money or being frugal comes as easy as breathing and it will have so many benefits that your quality of life will be improved.

Start today, do not wait for special occasion or a new year to start a new habits on our personal finance. We can save money on everyday expenses such as phone services, insurance, groceries and travel and more. When we are starting, every penny will count. Do not think, what you will do with saving a few pennies here and there. Just imagine, saving a few pennies will make a dollar and few dollars savings will makes hundreds of dollar. Just imagine you putting this saving towards debt or in saving account, how much money you can save in interests.

Grocery tips for Saving Money

Good Money Savings Articles

11 Steps for Money Management

No Spend Month Money Challenge

How They Calculate Your Credit score

5 Tips to Save Money

Top 5 Money Saving Ideas and Tips

There are many ways to save money in our everyday life. Here are my to ways to save money for everyday expenses. Some tips may need getting used to in the beginning but, it is doable for any of us. Why wait, read on and start saving now.

1. Spend Less Then you Earn

Spend Less, period. This seems simple enough but sometimes hard to achieve, at first. This step is really important if you are serious about saving money for long term effect. Best way to do this is to write it down, each day what you spend money on; it could be gas for your car, or cookies from vending machine, a dollar for homeless guy, no matter what it is, write it down. Can you do without any of this expenses? When I looked at my expenses, I was spending on Latte a day, that saved me $4.50 a day and $135 a month when I stopped buying. And you know what is great about it? I had extra $1620 money which can be used towards traveling or paying off debt. See how every little things adds up?

Cooking at home also helps spending less money. One way you can start doing is by starting no spend money challenge to set a budget and spend only within that budget for the month.

2. Create a Budget and Stick to it

Budget is dreaded word. At least it was for me a few years ago. Now, I have have a budget and I like to call it as a spending plan instead. It sounds better but it is actually budget plan so I know how much money I am spending in various categories such as phone services, groceries, eating out and more. Establishing a personal budget and sticking to has helped me and it can help you too, whether you are a single student or large family with kids.

Just think of this way, if you do not know where your money is going, how can you know if you enough money coming in and going out? In order to know your own finance on piece of paper or a software spreadsheet, it will be much easier to stay motivated and stay on course.

3. Shopping Habits for Savvy Shoppers:

Many times buying bulk saves us bunch of money. Think of buying groceries such as dry staple, soap, and other necessities of daily expenses. If you plan you meals in advance you can do bulk buying and buy necessary ingredients when in sale and not at last minute. Sometimes buying food item in season and freezing or canning them for later also helps. You can buy not only food items but other needed items in bulk to save money, for example, printer paper, soaps, dish washing and laundry detergent, shampoo, diapers and so on in bulk when using a coupons or when in sale. If you are buying gifts for friends and family in advance, it will help you look out for sales and discount and can make you save money and plan things, so you are not buying things at last minute at retail price.

4. Do research before buying:

Before you buy an item, do a research online, ask friends and family before making a purchase, specially if it is a large ticket item such as flat screen Television or camera. Make sure the sale price is really a sale before making any large expense that cost $100 or more. What do I mean by that? Some product may it is 40% off retail price, while that many sounds good, not many product companies pay retail price, so check to see where is the best price comparisons such as similar stores, ebay or other online shops to make sure you are getting a best deal on item you want to buy.

Many time, “Buy one get one free”, “50% off”, and “Huge Discount” will make you think you are saving money, double check to make sure it is really a huge discount as they say as it is our hard earned money we are spending.

5. Buy used or generic when possible:

I have made a rule except a few items, everything can be bought used. I personally am fan of used items as it saves me tons of money. I have 2 years old car that is running fine and has saved money. I just make sure with a mechanic to make sure there are no hidden repairs and check car fax report before buying it. Cars loses 33% of value in its 1st year so if you wait a couple of years you can save a lot. You can buy used and good quality furniture, toys and so on. Other than diapers, medicines, food items, many of us can buy quality items from garage sale, craigslist and ebay.
How do you save money?

How do you save money with Budgeting or Spending Plan?

See part 2 of the series: 5 more tips to save money

Top 10 Saving Money Tips: (How to Save When Buying)

Great depression happened during our grandparents time. Closet we came to seeing recession is 2001 and later in 2008, with jobs being lost, people losing houses and more economic downturn. In end of 2011, many people still feel the effect of it now, even things might be turning better for some but quite not for all.

I have been living somewhat simplified life since I decided to stay home with a child, years ago. For awhile, Zenguy was with zero to little income, so I learned more about how to save money more efficiently and without feeling deprived. Surviving without money is possible for rare few and is not for most of us.

I often get asked about saving money tips, I do not claim to be money expert but I know thing or two that has worked for us, which I wanted to share here again. It will help those in need and even if you are well off, you can save money for retirement, kid’s college or long waited vacation you may want to take.

See more related articles:

Easy ways to save Money

How to create a life that does not need an escape Part 1,

How to create a life that does not need an escape, Part 2

How to reuse Halloween Candies

Top Money Saving Tips For Everyone

Buying Tips:

1. Do not buy things that you can get for Free.

Use Local Library to  get Books (Including classic, new bestsellers, fiction, non fiction), DVDs (Kids, old, new), Music CDs, and sometimes even art pieces can be borrowed from it. Technically it is not free, if you are house owner, you are paying taxes for it anyways. Why not use it and buy it only books, movies that you really love to watch again and again.

2. Buy used when possible, new is not necessary.

Most things can be bought used with exception of a few items such as medicine, underclothes, food (dented can and boxes can be bought at reduced price), brush, diaper, tissue paper and so on.

Buying used is not only cheaper, and if you buy it from garage sale, or moving sale, you may not pay for the taxes on it. Many items such as car, house, furniture, laptop, computer, printer, textbooks, most clothes for kids and adult, shoes, art pieces, some kitchen appliances, washer and dryer can be and should be bought used. If you buy it used, make sure it is decent condition and pay fair price for it.

3. Buy things out of season.

Buying things right after Halloween, Christmas can save you tons of money, sometimes as much as 50% to 75% off, when you buy it right after the holidays. One of my friends always buy wrapping paper and Christmas decoration on Dec 27th for the next season. Same can be done for Valentine day, Buying Roses one day after Mother’s day or Father’s day can be lot cheaper.

4. Buy things locally.

Buy local produce, fruits and vegetable from local farmers. Buy and support local artist and designer, it will not only help the local community but also will help you pocket. One of my friend loves One specific designer shoes and she pays great money for it, because she has money and she loves the product. If you are not in debt, then go ahead, but if you are trying to save money and pay off bill like most of us, it is best to buy local products.

5. Buy Christmas items through out the year.

My brother always buy things on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and it seems to work well for him. But it is hectic, and crazy few days. If you are laid back like me, you may want to buy Christmas or even birthday gifts throughout the year.

If you are frugal, and creative, you can give an experience gifts to friends and family instead of buying little gadgets. You can also make some food, jams and cookie mix as gift, it will be more meaningful.

You can check out my post on how to have great Stress free thanksgiving and holiday and you can download my free ebook in pdf version meaningful celebrations for ideas.

5. Don’t buy groceries when you are famished.

This is universal truth for many of us, when we are hungry and doing grocery or any type of shopping, many of us will buy junk food, unhealthy snacks. Eat some fruit or snacks before going any type of shopping, specially buying groceries related trip.

6. Almost never lease or use “Rent to Own” product.

Leasing a car sound attractive on the surface, you pay some money, presumably reasonable monthly payment for 2 years and you get to return the car and get new lease. They may tell you that you may never have to pay for repairing a car, as you will be always driving a new car, but amount of money you end up spending is outrageous and in 99% cases not worth it.

Same things goes for “rent to own” products, you can buy used items much cheaper price or you might be better off saving money for it compared to amount you have to pay to get “rent to own” an any type of product, be it house, piano, laptop or computer. Buy used instead.

7. Buy Generic brand

Zenguy once checked the ingredient in generic headache medicine versus brand name headache medicine, he found 100% same ingredients on both medicine list. Only thing different was, generic brand did not have advertising budget like brand name. In many cases, we might be paying the extra cost of advertising and top model they use to sell the product.

Even when you have prescription to fill up, one can ask for generic brand of medicine from doctor which might be much cheaper. In most cases buying generic brand makes lot of sense over top and popular brand. If you are getting same thing, why spend extra?

8. Do Comparison Shopping

When you can not get the item for free (i.e. borrowing etc.) or buy used and you have to buy an item, you can save lot of money by comparing prices at different stores, online places before making a decision to buy it. You can get some best price or amazon or ebay, but watch out for shipping cost, as they can add up. Compare and know your option before buying anything new, specially if it over $100 priced product, you will save more money this way!

9. Before buying, sell or donate old item

I have made this rule which I try to follow. When I have to replace an item: for example a skirt, I sell or donate old skirt. This step has two benefits, first I make money if I sell it, even little bit counts, if I donate it I can use in tax break later at the tax time, again how little it may be, it helps. However I like the second benefit the most, which is that my closet won’t get cluttered. And living in clean, decluttered place is a mental bliss for me.

This tip works for almost any item, it could be old Television set, replacing bed, or furniture or car. It keeps your place clean and save you money, what is not to love?

10. No shame in haggling for price.

Many of us think that in US, we can not haggle for price, everything is fixed price and must be paid in full. While it is generally true but not complete truth. Still we  in US we can still haggle for best deal and best price. If you do not ask, you will certainly not get discounted price. Worst case people may say no, in best case, you will save some money so why not ask. Now, haggling does not mean to be so el-cheapo and be annoying, it simply means to ask politely and with respect for best price.

Some of the places in US you can negotiate the price or deal are

  • car buying (new and used),
  •  loan (lower rate),
  • credit card rates (lowering),
  • waving some bank fees,
  • cell phone contracts,
  • phone and internet contract,
  • cable contract, and so on.
  •  Lawn service,
  • kitchen, bathroom remodel,
  • a few car repairs,
  • buying a big furniture set,
  • buying big piece of art,
  • at flea market,
  •  garage sale and so on.

Always pay fair price and be respectable to seller when haggling the price to be fair.

Conclusion:

I am sure I can add many more ways to save money when we buy, but these are top 10 that are most important ones. One can keep his or his respect, save money and not feel deprived, yes all in one sentence. It can be true.

Your turn: How do you save money when you buy?

Zengirl

No Spend Month Challenge: Update and Take away from the experiment

Now that August is here, here is a recap of our No Spend Month Challenge with its final update and lessons and take away from this No Spend experiment:

This July we did No Spend Month experiment to see if our family of four, living in Northern California can survive with only $300: For groceries, eating out, cleaning, gardening supply, entertainment (books, movies, etc), Gas for cars, Any repairs, clothing and accessories and other items.

31 days

4 people

$300

To see recap on what is No Spend month and with Monday’s weekly updates on how we did, check out the posts below for more details.

No Spend Moth Challenge: Introduction $0
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 1 Money Spent 1st week: $104.73
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 2 Money Spent 2nd week: $33.72
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 3 Money spent 3rd week: $97.15
No Spend Month Challenge: Update 4 Money spent4th week: $18.50

Last week spending update:

Gas and Groceries only.
Total for last 5 days: $45.56

Here is total breakdown for the whole month to compare where did the money go?

Our Total expenses for the No Spend month Details:

Gas for both cars: $158.79
Groceries: $82.70
Misc: Rest of the budget
Total for the month: $299.66

As you can see, we barely made with 44 cents left over from our $300. Phew!!
Edited to add: We did not pre-stock gas for the cars or groceries prior the the no spend month experiment. Also all expense from cash and little on credit card are included here (even though CC bill be due next month).

Highlights and Analysis of this month:

  1. Gas prices are highest in the nation in Northern California, cheapest unleaded gas price is around $3.20 per gallon here. Except for our long Yosemite drive, we did not drive much and walked. Gas we had to fill in every other week, our normal gas expenses are much higher. This was consciously done.
  2. We had once had guests over for dinner and once we had to bring a potluck meal for 40 people. Our groceries expense is under $100, because we mostly used up our pantry, frozen and canned food supply this month. We still have a few cans and little frozen food left but most of food supply is used up. We were also were able to donate some goods that otherwise would have expired before being used.
  3. We did not eat out except for coffee and snacks once.
  4. We did not spend any money on repairs, clothes, cleaning supply or diaper this month as we used vinegar and cleaning supply from home for it. Zenguy repaired one chair by himself. And we used gift card (from last Xmas) to buy some diapers and we supplemented with cloth diapers for little P.
  5. I did little splurging like buying used books ($1.50) or used high chair ($10, actually needed) as Little P was growing out of his bouncer which we used as a feeding chair till now. Although we did not spend much money this month, we still were able to manage life and have fun.
  6. Both kids have no idea that we were in no spend month last month or had any budget issues. They were happy as usual. Our life style is mostly simplified anyways.
  7. Knowing we did not have money to spend, we stayed out of malls, bookstores, clothing stores and un-necessary grocery trips. We visited library more often and read books and movies from our own collection.
  8. We cleaned up our yard, organized our Gazebo, took out weeds and planted some more plants and flowers in our yard. We went for walking to near by parks, caught up with neighbors, watched movies from our small collection for entertainment.
  9. My breakdown point came around day 25th of this No Spend Month. I was feeling down, blue and bit childish as I wanted freedom to spend and not count everything before we buy stuff. It is like food fasting, which is good for day or few days but if you keep doing it always, it is not good for your health. Money fasting is similar in a way, too long of it might would have created deprivation.
  10. I learned a lot about myself and my family and our strengths and weaknesses. My family always supported me, even though this was my decision, Zenguy also curbed his spending and motivated me when I was bit down last 5 days. I also kept busy with my guest posts and commenting there to keep my mind off from my budget and it worked well.
  11. I also re-learned that we do not need money to be happy, we had a lot of good times during this month as a family. I got to see my creative side to make new meals from left over food. I was able to complete the No Spend Month challenge despite giving up hope during last week.
  12. There are many people who made this happen for me. I could not have done this challenge without support of Zenguy and my kids. I learned this concept of No Spend month, from Rachel of small notebook and I was honored to be mentioned in her post about this challenge  along with others What to eat on beans and rice budget, besides beans and rice . Also I got to know other ladies who were also in same journey and Sharon mentioned my update on her post Diary of No spend Month: day 19 too. Thanks Rachel and Sharon for the shout outs and support.
  13. I am thankful to Betsy Bargain , Vaishali and Ali sharing their money savings tips during this month. And to all my readers despite coming from various background supporting my challenge and commenting on update posts, kept me going.
  14. This challenge was not about winning or losing, this challenge for me was to make a conscious spending decision. I always thought of my self very frugal but this month made me realize I have quite a way to go and things to learn. I am more appreciative of people who live on very little every month, not because of any challenge, but because they have to.
  15. I learned that simplifying life and spending less has enabled me to stay home with both the kids and survive even with zero salary as Zenguy is between projects right now. Money may give us illusion of (temporary) happiness but happiness comes always from within.

These are my take away, analysis and lessons learned for the whole No Spend month Challenge. I am glad I did this challenge openly despite being scared of failing in front of others.

Your turn: What did you think of this challenge? Do you spend money consciously, regardless of how much money you have?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No Spend Month Challenge: Update 4

This is our fourth week of update on No Spend Month Challenge that I am  sharing my spending on Heart and Mind Blog . Now there are 26 days down and 5 more days left to go in this challenge.

In this challenge, we have a budget for $300 for the whole month of July, that includes, groceries, eating out, entertainment, clothing and accessories, books, movies, gas for cars, cleaning supplies, gardening supply, any household items, and any repairs if necessary.

What is not included in this budget is rent/mortgage, utilities, phone bills, medical, insurances, donations/charity money, savings (if any) for retirement or emergency fund. We are family of 4, living in northern California where gas and groceries prices can be high.

If you would like to know more about it, check out my previous update No Spend Month challenge : Update 3

Where we are started last week:

We have spent $235.60 already from total of $300 budget. Can we make it?

Our saving budget strategies

  1. Use food from our pantry, freezer first: We have been doing this, week before this one, I cook a potluck meal for 40 peoples from our food storage. This goes to show, we had too much food in our pantry.
  2. Use up canned food supply : We have been doing this quite well on.
  3. Use dried beans and rice staples : As an Indians we do tend to eat lot of rice and wheat based meals so having dried staple to help us is a great idea.
  4. Cook leftover in to another delicious meal: I learned this from my grandmother and my mom, making something new out of leftover food, a wonderful ways to eat same food in new way.
  5. Cook more at home, eat out less: I love cooking so it has been easy but I love eating out, so it has been a challenge a bit.
  6. Use garden vegetables if any available: This time our garden plants have eaten up by neighbor’s rabbit, and other reasons so we have barely a few tomatoes grown, not enough to make even salad.
  7. Eat Vegetarian diet: We are all vegetarian, including kids so this helps in our budget a lot, as vegetables tend to be cheaper compared to meat. We are also partial vegan and eat organic food as often so this becomes an added cost to our budget but so far we are managing.
  8. Do repairs by yourself: So far nothing major needed a repair but Zenguy fixed a chair and he does minor electric and gardening repairs by himself, learning as he goes in the process. That has helped a lot.
  9. No new Must “want” stuff of us: This usually means books and movies for me, new gadgets and computer parts for Zenguy and Toys for R. Little P is the most content, maybe because he is only one. So far, we have survived without must want buying.
  10. Drive less: We do have 2 cars, but to save gas and environment, we combined to errands together, shop near by, and generally drive less to not only save money but also an environment for future generation.

What did we do this week?

  • We cooked at home as usual more. Chef R loves to help and makes a huge mess but I guess that is part of life.
  • This time we moved on to MJ’s other songs as we failed miserably to “Billy Jean” and moon walking. Our current favorite dance song is “Macarena” and “Black and White”, a song DVD we already have in our collection. So we can see, listen and dance. Sorry no videos, I always forget as I am having too much fun.
  • We went for walk in neighbor hood, caught up and chatted with a few neighbors. That was great, it always good to talk to people and get to know them more
  • We all saw a few PBS shows, (only TV we watch), and selected DVD viewing. We went to park and played.
  • We also did imaginary trip and mission to Venus, as our bed in reality a secret rocket! Gosh our house has so many talents which I did not know until R (my preschooler) pointed out to me.

How much we spend last week?

Previous update we had about less than $65 left for 13 days, and I was getting worried. We have been cooking at home past week and emptying out freezer, dried grains and beans staples along with canned food. So we did not need any groceries or gas past week.

I was feeling bit down about breaking point, so to cheer myself up I bought a couple of used books from friends of library sale, which helped my mood and as well as library too. And I got 2 great used books for $1.50.

I have been not really able to sell anything on Craigslist but we gave it away a few stuff for free, that felt good even though we did not make money. Lately people have been flaking, not showing up when they said they would and wanting items for almost free. We also bought high chair for Little P from Craigslist for $10.

Total expense:
Groceries, used hih chair and books.

Total Spent last week: $18.50 (This is our one of the best spending amount so far)

Where are we on budget?

We are at $254.10 from about 26 days of spending. We have about 5 days more left before the month experiment is over. I think we may just make it! Next and final update will be on next Monday with an overview of whole month and what we learned from it.

Check out my previous money and sustainability posts, which might be useful.

12 ways to help your unemployed friends and family
Celebrating meaningful birthdays (without money)
Irony of recession

How are you all doing? Are you spending consciously?

Check out final update here No Spend Month Challenge: Final Take away .
Image Source: weblogs.jomc.unc.edu

No Spend Month Challenge: Update 3

R and Little P having fun playing with Sand at near by Park:

This is our third week of update on No Spend Month Challenge that I am openly doing and sharing my spending on Heart and Mind Blog . Now there are 18 days down and 13 days left to go in this challenge.

Check out my previous updates to see our progress so far, here No Spend month challenge: Update 2

I am not sure how I will do this month or even next day for the total budget of $300 for the whole month. I sometimes do not know how each day will bring the challenge for me. Some days are so easy and other days requires more conscious effort on my part.

When I told Zenguy about the whole challenge, he did not know much about it but agreed to be on budget with me right away. Without his support I would be not able to do this challenge. As far as kids are concerned nothing much has changed. they still gets to do usual stuff they normally do and so do we, up to a point!

We did not stock up on gas or groceries and bought things normally as we do generally. During summer I am not teaching and R is at home more along with little P. Zenguy is searching for a project and meanwhile, we are living frugally yet still managing a little fun life despite the lack of budget. Here are some of the challenges and fun we had past week;

Some of the challenges

We had to go to a retreat gathering where we had to bring a potluck dish to share for 40 people. This time determined to stay in budget, I got creative and looked within my freezer and pantry for inspiration and there were plenty. I used up some of frozen food and pantry food to make hearty dish to bring to a potluck and it was a great success and well liked by everyone, including us.

Our indoor grill that we got as a gift in June stopped working, so repairing was not easy and nor was replacement due to our no spend month challenge. But when we mentioned it to our relatives who bought the grill, they said they still receipt and warranty for it ( less than 30 days purchase), so we got a free replacement from the company and they took the defective one back. If we were not doing this challenge, we might have bought new one without exploring other ideas.

Things we did to entertain our selves

All these things were fun and cost us nothing but little time and lot of mess to clean up later. But, it was worth it.

  • We cleaned up our front and back yard that we neglected for some time
  • We played dress up with kids (early Halloween)
  • We saw a free animal related show at the library
  • We made food we generally eat at restaurant and Chef R helped a lot
  • We went to near by park and played with kids
  • We danced to old Micheal Jackson songs and tried to do moon walking unsuccessfully
  • We saw kids shows and movies from our collection and library
  • I am reading books from my own collection, I like to re-read some of my favorite ones
  • We tried to repair one broken chair, when I say we, I mean Zenguy did it 🙂 I am not handy at all
  • I tried to learn sewing by reading a book from library (I am still clueless)
  • We have tried to make a game to see if we can see back wall of freezer by finding and using food inside it.
  • We actually were able to find some unopened boxed food to donate as we would not able to use it before expiring date.
  • R and Zenguy created story combining characters from toy story and cars (R’s favorite movies)
  • We saw our neighbor’s rabbit inside our yard again last week and fun giving her carrots and trying to help her find her home right next door. R and Little P were so excited, despite rabbit eating some of our new plants.

How much did we spent last week?

We did pretty well, from Last Monday till Saturday, we did not spent anything and I was quite feeling happy about it. I could have stretched buying to Monday afternoon and we would have been $0 for this week expenses. However this challenge is NOT for for vanity or showing off, it is all about conscious spending in our life. So we spent lot of money on needed stuff, all on Sunday! Here is the recap.

It has been over 2 weeks since we bought any groceries or filled a gas in our Van so  it was much needed. We needed fresh fruits, bread, Juice and snacks for the kids.

Gas for Van, groceries and light meal is what we spent money on this week.

Total Spent this week:  $97.15

As you can see, major expense in California is gas for cars and it is expensive and we are generally not avid drivers. Even though we do have 2 cars, we drive often close by and choose errands on same time to save gas and time both.  I guess eating out was splurge this week, but we had very light meal, snacks, our first meal out so far in 18 days.

Grocery bill is less, not because it is cheaper here but because we bought ONLY the necessary stuff needed and trying to use up food from our pantry and freezer first. Although our diet is mostly wheat and rice based, we have tried to eat varied food, and also eaten home made pizza, quesedilla, nachos,and pasta this month.

So far total amount we spent from July 1st-July 19th (afternoon) is $235.60, leaving only $64.40 budget for the remaining 13 days. Can we make it? I can not say for sure, I am going to try my best to stay under the budget. If you see our expenses, most of it for the necessity but very little, if any on thoughtless spending.

Some the tips we are using to save money:

  • Zenguy and I do not need any new clothes right now, we have enough,. R has grown taller so he can use new pants but I am looking for a deals before buying some. Little P gets to reuse most of R’s old clothes to save money. All of us have also newer clothes too but at home we are much relaxed.
  • Zenguy cuts kids hair at home, saving money. He gets haircut from students, so the price is much reasonable yet professional enough. I cut my own hair and do not need much beauty care as I am in to natural products using what we have at home.
  • I love cooking, so I usually cook at home but I also love to eat out, so we are trying to be more conscious about it. Zenguy is also helps and when I am breaking point, he makes his special chai at home or something special to cheer me up.
  • R and little P have plenty of toys and we keep some extra in storage to rotate when new toy itch comes around. They both are very good kids, so that helps too. They like natural playing, park and riding on Zenguy’s back more.
  • Using up food from our pantry, canned food and freezer before buying any more groceries.
  • Using books, movies and library for reading, music and watching movies, shows from our own collection, from what we have, what we can borrow
  • Write down every expenses every day, including any cents to keep eye on budget. We have been doing this for a few years and it really has a huge impact on our life.
  • Some times, when we think we need some item, we stop and ask do we “NEED” it or “WANT” it before buying anything.
  • I am terrible at using coupons but that is another great idea for saving money on groceries.
  • I make baby food for little P at home and buy little of ready made Gerber stuff. Little P is moving quickly into table food anyways, making it much easier to cook for everyone
  • We supplement disposable diapers with cloth diapers
  • We stay away from commercial outings such as malls, kids stores and hang out more at parks, library and our back yard. Imagination is great with kids, our bed becomes a rocket to fly over a Jupiter or our backyard swing becomes a steam engine train when playing with kids.

What would I buy if money was not an issue?

  • I would buy a walking shoes for me, as I have none right now. My old ones are donated as they were not better fit for my feet.
  • We would buy a router as our current router is so antique and keeps breaking out internet connection often, not a good experience when I am on blog writing a draft.
  • I would buy some pants for P, as he has grown since January and his pants are becoming a Capri pants.

My struggles (or being human with desire):

I will admit, yes I some times it is harder to do all penny pinching and feel like splurging a bit, But those moments are very few and when I am feeling down I remind myself why I am doing this and having a support from Zenguy is huge blessing. Having a bigger purpose or goal sure helps me. I take one day at the time and take it slow.

Check out next update on following Monday here No Spend Month: Update 4

I am sure we all like to save money and/or make more money regardless of how rich or poor we might be. How do you save money? What are your tips, struggles?