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Category: Money

No-Spend November

Happy First Monday in November! We’re running a challenge from our Hail Marry Hangout Facebook group this month designed to help you struggle less with the trappings of money in advance of Advent.

If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that we did something similar this past Lent.

What Is It?

A No-Spend month is exactly as it sounds, with a caveat. It isn’t talking about shirking all responsibility to pay bills. It’s about freezing all unnecessary and discretionary spending. 

Essentially, you will pay only your bills and what you decide is a line item for this month’s budget. I mentioned in Friday’s podcast that were moving, so we have some moving expenses as a line item. We’re already done Christmas shopping, so that isn’t on there for me, but it is for some of the ladies in the challenge group.

Why?

This looks different for everyone. We all have our reasons and shared them (as well as potential pitfalls) in our group.

We just started Week 2 today, so you can still join us if you’d like! We’d love to have you. You can join us here on Facebook.

If the timing is just terrible for you right now, being so close to the holidays, we get it. We anticipate running another No-Spend Lent challenge as well, if you want to plan ahead!

In the comments, let us know what your why for a spending freeze is or…head on over to the group and tell us there! 

FIAT: Faith in All Things…Family Budget

It’s been an insane few weeks! I can almost see a light at the tunnel, though!

In today’s podcast, we continue our podcast series on Building Your Family Culture. You can catch the other podcasts in this series here:

Today we discuss the family budget. We know that it might not seem related to your family culture, but it really is.

If the media player doesn’t load, you can stream the podcast from Libsyn here or you can listen and subscribe on iTunes.

We’ll catch you later!

Having a No-Spend Lent to Grow in Holiness

A Holy Ash Wednesday 2017 to you! As promised in Monday’s post, How We Lent, we’re here to explain our No-Spend Lent to you! Rachel has mentioned the concept of a No-Spend Month before (see her post entitled Yikes, It’s Budget Time Again!! for more information). This year, we’re really drawn to extend the challenge of a No-Spend Month into a No-Spend Lent. I think about this every year, but it’s my first time to do it. Rachel’s a No-Spend veteran by now, so she’s going to explain it.

 

Rachel Explains What No-Spend Means

A No-Spend Month is exactly what it sounds like: you don’t spend any extra money from your income. It can sound intense at the start, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Actually, it’s really easy to do if you get organized.

The first thing you do for this adventure is to write down all of your bills for that month. You pay all of your bills—everything—then you look at necessities like food, gas, and tithing. Budget out for those necessities (we take the cash out and put them in envelopes); then put away your debit card. If you only carry around cash, then you are more aware of what you are buying.

What do you do with the money not being spent on bills and necessities? Any extra money is up to your family to allocate. You could save for a home project, new car, vacation, paying off debt, building your savings…use that extra money for whatever helps build up your family and its goals.

 

Kristi’s No-Spend Why

I’m intrigued by the concept of freezing all discretionary spending. It’s actually brilliant. We sat down to budget into January this year, so we overspent slightly that month, as our limits and categories came into existence after the fact. Initially, I chose this option to “make up” what we’d overspent.

 

But as I began to think about this Lent, I decided that I wanted to simplify. I want less stuff in the house, a more open schedule, and a deeper faith life. A No-Spend Lent makes so much sense, then, because I’m not spending my money on stuff or experiences that cost time and money. I’m also not spending my money on things that ultimately distract me from the true life I’m called to as a Christian. The money that I’m saving can be applied to more tithing or helping those around me in need.

 

Rachel’s No-Spend Why

We are firm believers that we should be debt free; to us, owing money is a form of addiction. The Scientist and I believe that owing money is stopping us from truly living our life for God.

The more we spend paying down our debt, the closer we become. It brings us together as a team to win the goals and expectations that we set for our family. Being able to help those financially is something we really think is important; not only with our own family, but to strangers that are in need.

This strategy also teaches us how to strengthen ourselves against some of our bad habits of selfishness, materialism, and not exercising empathy towards others. When we are only focusing on ourselves by buying things we want and have to have, we are not looking up and around to those who need our help.

 

Kristi’s Theoretical No-Spend Survival Hopes

  • Library—there are computers with interactive games, actual toys, and some pretty sweet children’s activities. There are also new DVD releases available for check out and—of course—books. Little Miss has just discovered Nancy Drew (much to Rachel’s delight), so there’s plenty there to entertain us.
  • Parks and Church Events—we have a ton of parks in our city and its three very nearby border cities as well as a lake that provide a wonderful place to play and exercise as a family. Our parish hosts weekly Lenten talks and the Stations of the Cross that are wonderful, too.
  • Freezer & Pantry For the Win—we’ve got a lot of food in the freezer and the pantry from bulk buying when it’s on sale (see these posts on Shopping Smarter and Organization & Saving Money on Groceries for more information), so even though we’re spending money on groceries during this challenge, our grocery bill should see a significant drop as we conserve our monetary resources by consuming our edible, perishable ones.
  • Prayer—we’ll be spending extra time in prayer to grow as a family, remember those less fortunate than us, surround ourselves in God’s Word, grow closer to God, and to sustain us on this journey.

 

Rachel’s Tried & True No-Spend Survival Tips

  • Begin with the Goal—with the money that we save or any extra income that we make, we put it towards our debt. We are a one-income family, so we are budgeters, and we plan for everything. If we make it through the month with extra money in our budget, we put that money (and what we’ve saved) towards debt and start over again.
  • Plan for the Unplanned—life always seems to throw something in our way, so we just have a small budget set aside for a surprise. This challenge helps us build up that “surprise” fund.
  • Look for God—when we cut out all of our extra activities, we are spending time not only bringing our family together but focusing on our prayer life together. We are intently choosing our time to do more activities together. I’m really excited to learn what God has in store for us over these next 40 days.

 

That’s our No-Spend Lent challenge and we are definitely gonna need your prayers! Anyone willing to join us in this endeavor? Have you ever done a No-Spend Month? Join the conversation here by leaving a comment below or head over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest to hang out with us there. Remember to use #HowWeLent!

 

Kristi & Rachel

 

P.S. Hey! Thanks to you we’re growing a TON on social media. We’d love to get some feedback from you on how we’re doing so far, so if you don’t mind, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. It’s totally anonymous and only five questions but will help with future content. Thanks!

Valentine’s Day from the Heart

It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. As young marrieds, we try to conserve resources as we save up for things like buying our own home, buying a second car, expanding our family, etc. yet still fall prey to the temptation of the sales and marketing people that tell us we need to shower our husbands with things rather than affection. We’re here to tell you that you can have a Valentine’s Day from the heart that is easier on your budget and worth so much more.

Both Rachel and the Scientist and Kristi and Superman tend to value quality over quantity. The main thing that we both want in our marriages at all times is investment in the relationship. The more you invest in your relationship the stronger it is. Both of us agree that we’d rather spend our money on things that will be lasting memories. Who really wants that 10′ tall Teddy bear who “loves you beary much!” or $100.00 worth of beautiful-but-dying roses?

Rachel & the Scientist | Kristi & Superman

Those are our adorable valentines!

Here are our tips on how to do Valentine’s Day in a simple, memorable, and reasonable way.

  1. Get Creative. Rachel and the Scientist love to make cards for each other. It’s a big thing in their household, to outdo each other with homemade cards. They use things around their house to create these masterpieces: file folders, crayons, markers, newspaper clippings, quotes printed off the computer, etc. They schedule time in the evening to make our cards and turn it into a fun date night. This is a big thing to both of them, as they love to receive love letters from one another. Kristi and Superman have made cards as well (Superman is a fabulous sketch artist and Kristi likes to think she has a way with words). They save them to look back on as reminders for those days when marriage is hard and reminders are needed.
  2. The Stomach is the Way to the Heart. Both of us are foodie couples. We love to eat, love to cook, and love to do it with our spouses. We plan, shop, and cook our big Valentine’s dinner together. Honestly, that’s all that Kristi really wants for Valentine’s Day this year: a home-cooked meal that she and Superman prepared together. Rachel has a degree in culinary arts, so she and the Scientist love to make elaborate fancy meals for special occasions at home. We both feel that we can have a more meaningful and intimate time in our own home. Rachel and the Scientist usually start planning a couple weeks in advance what they would want for that night, then make a timeline for cooking and decorating our table. A couple of days or a week before, they buy the ingredients (usually things that are on sale and with coupons). Kristi and Superman like to have a basic outline (i.e., chicken and vegetables) and then be spontaneous in the kitchen that night. Sometimes they use a cookbook, but mostly, they wing it. Whichever way you choose to do it, cooking together brings us so close. We have great, quality time filled with laughter and conversation.
  3. Make it special. Rachel is also a master crafter, so they make their own decorations for our dinner table! She finds the more they invest in the nigh, the better it becomes. They usually do themes (“because they are dorky”) and save about $15.00 in our budget to buy things at the Dollar Tree to finish out our night because they truly love to make the night special. So it’s not like any other night, she tries to design the night so it will be a memory maker. Kristi is a decent crafter, too, but the way she interprets this is to add candles and Winking Owl, with music playing in the background.

But…what about presents?! Well…that depends on you and your husband.

Rachel—We have rings that reminds us of our covenant with God, so what we like to do is either save up money to go on a picnic or an experience later on. If we are in a no spend month, we like to make our own gifts. It could be a cute coupon books with things like massages, draw a nice relaxing bath, your turn to pick out the show on Netflix, etc. The Scientist’s hobby is actually making clay jewelry. I have gotten some amazing pieces over the years. I sometimes make him decorations for his work or for his office; something cute and fun.

Kristi—We actually decided against gifts for one another this year. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for it from those close to me, but I want to just enjoy the evening with my husband. We did, however, decide to give a small gift to Little Miss. We’ve arranged for a sitter and then we’ll eat our homemade meal, slow dance in our living room, and then enjoy some Netflix or Hulu magic.  Last year, I made a book filled with reasons why I love him. He sometimes draws me pictures. Those were sweet, too…just not what we’re picturing for us for this year.

We would love to hear from you, what are your ideas for a meaningful Valentines Day?

Shop Smarter to Save

Today I’m going to be sharing with you some ways that we keep it frugal in our house by shopping to save. Shopping is going to happen. It just is. It’s a necessity of life. So if you’re smart about HOW you do it, you’ll be on your way to savings in no time. We do use coupons in this house, but everyone knows that savings trick, so I’m not going to mention it.

Little Miss and I were pretty frugal when it was just the two of us. She’s loved and spoiled by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins alike, so she hardly ever needs new…anything. She also is the lucky recipient of awesome pre-loved clothes from cousins. She’s got my toys from my childhood (which she thinks is super cool) and plenty of her own. We’ve got Netflix, Hulu, and enough books to stock a classroom library. We’re also near several parks. There really isn’t a lot that we spend on entertainment because of those factors. None of that changed when I married Superman.

Little Miss eats like a bird, and I have a lot of food allergies/intolerances due to an autoimmune disease (which I treat by following the autoimmune protocol on the Paleo diet), so our grocery budget was a bit high, but very manageable. We also had leftovers all the time. Enter Superman. He’s never met a meal (or a food, for that matter) that he didn’t like. He’s also got a very high metabolism. I’m still adjusting to cooking a meal large enough to have leftovers for our newly-expanded family. This is definitely one of our largest budget categories, so I’ve had to slightly tweak my strategies.

Here are a few tricks I keep up my sleeves to keep our budget intact.

            Trick #1: Where to Shop

Aldi—I love Aldi. It’s great for staples. Superman goes through milk for protein shakes and I consume eggs like they’re candy—okay, maybe not so much, but I do eat a lot of them. Little Miss has limited diary in her diet and I only eat grass-fed butter (Kerrygold is my favorite brand). The milk at Aldi is hormone-free (yay!) and while their eggs aren’t “free-range” or “cage-free,” I kind of see those labels as little more than labels unless you’re buying them directly from the farmer, and the price cannot be beat. Whenever we’ve got friends coming over or simply want a glass of wine with dinner, Aldi is our go-to. They’ve got a brand called Winking Owl that’s $2.99 per bottle. Their “spicy” mustard is the only mustard I can find without paprika (an allergen for me). We also typically buy our chips, nuts, and olives for entertaining (tortilla, potato, and sweet potato). Produce-wise, I love to keep onions, sweet potatoes, and avocadoes on hand and I can buy them cheaply and in bulk at Aldi. I’ve even converted my in-laws!

Target—In true Millennial style, I also adore Target. So much. They’ve got a great line of store brands. Their Market Pantry frozen vegetables are always $0.99 per bag, which is hard to beat. I can almost always find a sale or “manager pricing” on their Simply Balanced grass-fed ground beef, too. I am brand-loyal to my coconut milk. I use Goya, because they have absolutely no gums or stabilizers (although, they’ve recently begun to distribute one that does, so read the label!) and Target has the best price on this product consistently. The best part about this? All of the foods I’ve mentioned, plus the Archer Farms brand of maple syrup are consistently on Target’s savings app, Cartwheel. Cartwheel is amazing (more on that later!). Target is also a store that price-matches, although you’ve got to have the ads on your person.

Kroger—I am saddened that not everyone has a Kroger, because I love mine. They also have a fabulous brand called Simple Truth (which also has an organic line). They make a large rotisserie chicken that is made with only chicken, sea salt, and water. It’s delicious and feeds us for two meals. We use the leftovers to make a meal we call “Thank You Chicken” (recipe below). Kroger runs pretty decent sales and consistently has Larabars for $1.00 each, which are the cheapest I can find around here.  My favorite thing about Kroger, though, is the produce. I can always find manager’s specials on carrots, bagged salads, and mushrooms (sometimes as little as $0.25 per box!). They also have really good (and consistent) prices on cabbage (lower than Aldi!) and kale.

Click here for the Printable HailMarry Thank You Chicken Recipe ©2017

Trick #2: Apps to Save

Cartwheel—told you it was coming! I’m sure you’re aware of Cartwheel, but it. is. awesome. You’re given a small amount of deals that you can add. As you continue to use the app, add deals, and redeem them, you unlock more spaces for deals. We consistently save percentages—granted, they’re often small—on what we buy. Saving anything on something that you’re already going to buy is fantastic in my book. A lot of the times, they’ll have sale items on Cartwheel, too. It’s also a great way to save in general. Last week, Cartwheel featured a DC Superhero Girls Wonder Woman doll complete with the Invisible Jet. It was $39.99 but 60% off on Cartwheel. So what did we do? Bought Little Miss a birthday present and hid it away until the summer! That’s a win.

Kroger App—this is basically a digital Kroger Plus Card that works a lot like Cartwheel. It has digital coupons that you can add to your card. When you scan your actual card or enter your alternate ID number, the digital coupons are added in addition to the savings. The best part about this is that you can add extra fuel-boosting savings to your card through the app. This usually knocks off a small amount at the pump, but if you use it enough, you can increase that. Last summer I saved $0.35 per gallon at the pump. Yes, please.

Ibotta—okay, y’all. This one is new for me. I’ve heard about this one for at least a year and was skeptical. I reluctantly signed up for it and OMG! The catch is that you have to be willing to give away some personal data (surveys and polls are part of the unlocking process).  For me, that’s okay. Facebook and Google are already mining my data, so at least I’m getting some money back this way! The way it works is that you unlock deals based on stores (through surveys, recipes, and videos). Then, you shop. You scan the barcode for the items you’ve unlocked and then scan your receipt to verify when, where, and that you purchased the item. You can also unlock bonuses each month, a welcome bonus, and referral bonuses to add to your savings total. It is a rebate app, though, and not a coupon app, so you’re making money back. To redeem it, you have to reach a total of $20.00. You can link a PayPal or Venmo account to the app and have the savings deposited into them or you can opt for the total to be loaded onto a giftcard (some require a $25 balance). You have about ten giftcard options (which would be perfect for our frugal dates…and make them even more frugal!). With two shopping trips and one welcome bonus, I’ve already gotten $18.25. Every little bit helps, right? You can also invite friends and start a team just for using the app. Here’s a link to sign up for Ibotta here (note: this is an affiliate link with a rewards code for my Ibotta account, where we’ll be teammates!).

Wal-Mart App—The Target-fan in me cringes a bit at the thought of going into a Wal-Mart, but I cannot deny that they price match and usually have lower prices on a lot. Therefore, if you shop at Wal-Mart, you should definitely get the app. Within the app you’ll find the ad, but also Savings Catcher. Savings Catcher has you scan your receipt into the app and then checks the ads of the stores in your area to see if there’s a lower advertised price on an item you purchased on that receipt. If so, Wal-Mart loads the difference in the advertised price and the price you paid onto a Wal-Mart giftcard. Another yes, please!

Trick #3: Clearance is Your Friend!

Sales are great, but clearance is even better. It’s pretty much how I buy for Christmas and birthdays. Target puts their toys on clearance twice a year (I’m pretty sure it’s in January or February and August). I find dolls, Lego sets, games, puzzles, cars, and even outdoor toys. Sometimes the prices are so low that I buy more and save them for our Toys for Tots donations at Christmas.

We also buy the “clearance” food. Kroger has unsightly, on-the-brink-of-going-bad produce bagged in red mesh bags for $0.99 each. If cooked or frozen very soon after purchase, there’s nothing wrong with this produce. They also have bins of nearing-expiration food (usually located near the health and beauty area). We’ve found protein shake powder for $10 and coconut flour for $3.50 before.

Trick #4: Resale and Consign

Whether it’s toy organization for Little Miss’s room, baby gear for godchildren (or future children) that may come along, shoes (especially shoes!), toys, or clothing, resale shops and consignment sales rock. This is the first place I go if I’m in need of any of the aforementioned items. I’ve gotten furniture like an art desk, a play vanity, and a toy organizer for under $20 each. I’ve gotten a travel system, a high chair, a baby swing, and a Pack and Play (for less than $35 each). I’ve also sold plenty of outgrown baby shoes, toys, and nearly all of what was originally purchased at the resale shops. We also have a lot of Half-Price Books stores around here and sell books that we’ve read and aren’t likely to read again. In both cases, it’s not a huge amount of cash in my pocket, but it is a nice way to add some money to a vacation fund or some other type of short-term savings. It’s also great because it’s eco-friendly.

Trick #5: Meal Plan, then Grocery Shop

I know that Rachel has already talked about this in her previous post on Organization and Saving Money, but planning our meals helps save my sanity and our money. How, you ask? I know exactly what we’re having for dinner each night and don’t have to worry about rushing to throw something together with enough time to get Little Miss ready for bed. It saves money because there are no last-minute runs to the store for a crucial ingredient that I need for that night’s dinner.

I plan based on what I have in my fridge and my pantry and based on what’s on sale. After planning, I make my grocery list and then go shopping. I stick to the list (because I’ve already taken the sales into account), use any and all applicable apps, loyalty cards, and/or manufacturer’s coupons. The shopping, feeding, cooking, and eating portion of my week is much more simplistic when I do this.

What are some ways that you keep things frugal in your house? We’d love to hear about it. Rachel and I are ALWAYS on the lookout for ways to shop, spend, and save smarter. Leave us a comment below with your tips and check out our Pinterest board on budget and finance for more inspiration.

Also, don’t forget to enter our giveaway with Catholic Etsy shop My Little Felt Friends (with a coupon code, too!) which ends tonight!!!

 

Kristi