It will drive you bats, literally

Ash and I have had a great month so far with our budgeting and meal prepping, etc. So our plan yesterday was to go Costco to do some shopping when I got a wild hair to clean the chimney. We bought our house a few years ago and the chimney has been blocked the entire time and in front of the chimney sits an old metal cover pictured below. So we noticed an unpleasant smell coming from the fireplace so I decided to take the cover off and see what was going on. Well the previous owner in all of his wisdom decided to block the chimney with some comforters, plastic rolls, cardboard boxes and a couple of 2×4’s that served no purpose at all. So I had to pull them all of that crap out along with some bat poop that was at the top of that heap. After that we had to go into super clean mode and sanitize everything in the living room, wearing me out and ruining our day.

Our metal cover, looks cool but we’re getting a gas fireplace insert installed so we’ll see how it works this winter as far as it directs heat, etc.

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After that and a shower all I wanted was a beer so we went to our local watering hole and had one beer and some food before I just wanted to go home. My stomach was jacked from 4 cups of coffee and very little for breakfast. Needless to say our day was ruined and I was in bed by 9:30 Saturday night after watching some Star Wars on TV.

So Sunday we planned to do our food preps for the week that included chicken marinated in some chili spices with a side of black beans, spicy Mexican rice, and some grilled peppers and onions. Breakfast was my usual eggs with hash browns. The funny thing with that is everyone loves the smell of the hash browns when I walk back to my desk after I zap my breakfast.

The lunches…delicious and only $3.00 per serving for me and half of that for her since she does half of the rice and chicken.

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Sunday we took the dogs around the corner to a fest that was going on and they loved it. Poor Charlie wore himself out though trying to pull me through the crowd and having the kids pet him. They had a lot of water stations set up for dogs but he was still wiped out. At one point he laid down underneath a bush to chill. After that we took him home and filled up the kiddie pool so he could cool off there.

I’ve found a couple of websites where I’ve seen some families of 4 make all of their meals for the week for $30 which is great but we’re still nowhere close to that. I think since we’re trying to figure out what meals we want to do and what recipes work for meal prepping it will be a little while before we get there.This week was good though we did it fairly cheap.

The month isn’t over yet but we cut our going out for dinner money quite a bit. I spent about $600 less this month than last month and I know she saved even more. I think between us we spent easily $1,000 less than last month on going out. I paid off my Homeowner’s association dues so that $158 a month will go to my snowball and I that will give me $650 a month towards a bill; that should be paid off by December.

I negotiated with AT&T this morning on our cable and internet bill. I had actually signed up for Sling TV and was using the 7 day free trial when we decided we were going to cancel our TV with AT&T when they miraculously dropped our bill by $70 a month for the next year. This works out great because as willing as I was to go to Sling I was really going to miss some of my news channels. I hope in the next year Sling picks up the live news channels, Fox news, MSNBC, etc. Other than that I thought they had a great package selection and we were ready to do it.

Ash was kind of reluctant in the beginning with me watching the money as close as I do. Last night when I figured out what meals were for the week she laughed but when I told her she was paying about 80%-90% less for her lunches she gave a quick acknowledgment. I don’t want us to make sure every penny is accounted for, I just want to make sure we have enough to do the things we want.

So food, bat poop, and a paid off bill. There were highs and lows this month for sure and we still have a few days to go but the wife and I both put $250 each towards principal on the house and I put over $2,000 towards debt this month which accounted for 37% of where my money went. Cool thing is we spend more time together doing more family oriented things now since we cook together, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

The Society

So tomorrow is the last day to renew my local brewery beer Society membership…and chances are I won’t be doing it. The Society releases a series of barrel-aged beers throughout the year. Last year was the inaugural year and I was able to join; current members have priority when the new year comes up for renewing their membership, but at $300 it’s pretty hard to justify it right now. I told the wife that I have the money but it would leave me kind of short for the rest of the month and that is exactly what I’m trying to get away from. Right now I have around $800 left to budget for the month but I’m putting an extra $300 towards my HOA to pay that off. Once that is gone I’ll have an additional $158 monthly snowball. I’ve been to every release of these beers in the past and there have been plenty of options to buy and taste them so I wouldn’t be missing out too much. It’s just hard to tell the wife that she needs to put more money away when I’m pissing mine away on beer. I would rather get to the point where I have an assload of money available to spend on beer or whatever else I want and not have to worry about paying bills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bills

So I didn’t know if I would post this but I just looked at another site and they posted the amounts on their bills so I figured I would do the same. I also think it will help me keep everything going if I have constant reminders that the amount of debt is going down as well.

So we have it broken down by revolving debt plus my homeowners association. Next would be my vehicle and finally the house. This is just my debt and doesn’t include the house with the obvious exception of the house. She has her own debt which I told her I wouldn’t harp on her about paying her stuff down until I made some real headway with my own. Her car is paid off and I think she only has a couple thousand in revolving debt. She makes more than me but with the raise I’ll hopefully be getting in November/December.

The cool thing is that we are both putting $250 a month towards principal on the house. Just by doing that we knock 11 years off of the mortgage but I’ll be snowballing the bills so one year from now I’ll have a huge amount going to the mortgage. I’ll show the amount at the end of the month/after the first off the month.

So here they are, the bills.

Revolving Debt: $7,214.93

Vehicle: $13,578.77

House: $190,908.72

Total: $211,703.42

I have $1200 a month going to revolving debt and my truck and that will get bumped up to $1750 a month in December (hopefully). I am also using Dave Ramsey’s Everydollar app/website and have quite a bit of money left that needs to be budgeted. I plan to save some amount monthly for emergency savings and then put the rest or as much as I feel comfortable with towards my bills.

Crazy to think I could have this paid off in 6-7 years but I’m going to do my best. Since I started this quest last month I really need to see how I’m doing after a full month of working towards the goal. I think one of the big things is that we’ve definitely limited the number of times we’ve gone out to eat or to grab drinks. I’ve spent some more money buying alcohol for the house but it’s nothing compared to what we would spend going out. We’ve also done great this month with food as far as not letting anything go to waste. It seems like a lot of the time we have extras from meals that actually sit in the fridge until they go bad. For instance, we made tacos the other day with flour tortillas and when it was all said and done I had 2 tortillas left that would’ve sat in the fridge for a while. This morning when I made our breakfast I put my eggs and potatoes in the tortillas and had some breakfast tacos that tasted amazing. I have leftover hash browns and those will go get thrown in with my breakfasts for this week or at least the first day or two.

We shopped yesterday for our food and our menu this week includes pork tenderloin for a couple of nights and thai red curry turkey meatballs. A friend that does paleo made these and they looked amazing and since we have a lot of ground turkey we thought it would be cool to do these. For tonight and tomorrow we are doing a grilled chicken that I have brining right now. She likes the white meat and I like the dark so it works out perfect for us. I’ll throw it on the grill later on tonight but I did a lemon pepper brine with garlic, onions and thyme also thrown in.

I really think that is it for this week, quite a bit I know but still working through what I want to put down on here.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful weekend

So this weekend was pretty chill for us. On Friday when I got home and tried to relax but Ash insisted we walk the dogs before we did anything else. So I changed and we walked the dogs around Lafayette Square, which is close to our house. I think the route we take them on is around 1.5-1.75 miles. The dogs love the park and Lafayette Square is really beautiful with a few monuments scattered around.

I think the rest of our Friday night was pretty chill and we just had drinks at the house while we watch some TV and ate some pierogies we had picked up in Chicago and had sitting in the freezer. They were awesome and I was kind of bummed out we hadn’t eaten them earlier. They were filled with potato and cheese and we ate them with a huge 12 oz pork chop we had. Pierogies, in case you don’t know, are polish dumplings filled with any combination of meat, cheese, potato, veggies, etc. We picked up about 8 packs of 12 last time we were in the Ukrainian village up in Chicago and put them in our chest freezer in the basement.

Saturday morning we got up early thanks to the dogs and after eating some breakfast and coffee we made a trip to the St Louis Art Museum. The museum is free except for certain exhibits but we joined a few months ago so it was free for us and we really enjoyed going there. Afterwards Ash was feeling a little hungry so we went to a place call Mission Taco and had some really awesome street tacos. Since it ended up being a late lunch we were actually stuffed for dinner. Around 8:00 we started getting hungry so I made some spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino, which is nothing more than pasta with garlic, oil and red pepper flake. It’s the Italian version of dude-food where you have nothing in your cupboard or you’re too lazy to make something real but…it still taste amazing. The first time I made it for Ash she thought I was making the recipe up and I had to show her in my Italian cookbook that it was real.

The rest of the weekend was extremely chill if that wasn’t a lazy enough weekend. We did our grocery shopping and then we did our food prep. Since we’re both getting burned out on our egg white muffins I decided I would just do bagels with cream cheese, and fruit for breakfast this week. She did bagel thins with egg white, cheese and Canadian bacon. I figured my costs for breakfast and it came out to about $1.50 a day for the 6 pack of bagels, tub of cream cheese and an apple a day.

For lunch I made red beans and rice with andouille sausage. I picked the sausage up a few weeks ago and pulled it from the freezer. I just used a Zatarains box of red beans and rice instead of making it from scratch this time. The good news with that is that once I portioned everything out my lunches only cost around $1.50 per meal as well. For dinner we pulled some chicken from the freezer and are making chicken tacos for 2 nights this week and then making gyros the other two nights. We picked up all the sides on Sunday such as tortillas and pitas, plus all of the other ingredients but the cost for both of us for the week was less than $100 for all meals or $50 a person.

I would say without a doubt that planning your meals is so important in helping to help realize cost savings. If we didn’t plan it out we would’ve gone to the store every night picking up extra crap that we really didn’t need. Instead we have everything at the house and I’ll grill the chicken for the tacos tonight and I’ll grill the chicken for the gyros on Wednesday.

We also found out we could order dog food through Amazon’s subscribe and save. I placed it on order along with my coffee. The good news is that we don’t have to go to the store anymore and I don’t have to lug the bags around. I put one bag on order and the wife puts one bag on order so the amount I actually had factored into the budget for dog food went down from $100 a month to $55 a month. When I set up the budget I was just taking a wag at what it would cost but after looking at servings per bag, etc it comes out to where we only need 2 bags a month between both dogs. It’s not a lot of savings overall but in the dog food department my budget dropped 45% so I was happy.

Anyways, long weekend coming up and I think our plan is to grill out and drink beer (and wine) and hopefully have some friends over. Probably won’t be a lot of saving this weekend but holidays are holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice surprise

So I checked the mail the other day and I had a check from my college waiting for me. I finished my M.A. a couple of years ago but used tuition assistance through the GI Bill program. A few months after I was done I was told by the VA that I owed them $1885 for one of my classes because they paid and there was no paperwork for the class. It surprised me but the VA is notorious for screwing things up. They ended up automatically deducting the $1885 out of my disability pay for the next couple of months. Those couple of months sucked but whatever, made it through it. So it was nice to get this check from school. I flipped open my phone and did a mobile deposit and the money was in my account yesterday. I decided to put that plus a little extra to make it an even $2000 towards my credit card before my 1st of the month payment. So this month I’ll end up putting $2500 towards one bill and knocking a few months off of my plan.

The wife and I did our food planning this last weekend so I went through the freezer and was able to pull out all of our proteins for our meals. For breakfasts we make little egg whites with sausage and cheese in a silicone muffin tin. We get cooked turkey sausage along with our egg whites at Costco and the cheese from the grocery store. For lunch I had made some mini meatloaves in those same tins a few weeks ago and just froze them. I take 2 loaves with me and then I just made some mashed potatoes that are about $1 a piece per package, and I get 3 days worth of potatoes from each package. We haven’t started doing the math because we’re still using items we had in our fridge our breakfast and lunch meals come out to maybe $5 a day for each of us so we’ll say $10 a day for two people for breakfast and lunch. Once we get our next receipt we’ll break the numbers down and see what they costs really is.

I can’t stress enough how cool Amazon Prime is for saving money. I think the price for it is $75 a year but anything with ‘Prime’ next to it ships for free. You will save your money over the course of a year in shipping prices alone. I use Prime paired with the subscribe and save on coffee, dog food and some other items and as long as you do your research you can and will save money using it. On top of the money savings you also get to watch movies and tv shows through the app that comes with Prime.

I would recommend signing up for ‘Smile’ on Amazon. It’s a service that allows you to donate money to your favorite charity just be buying items you would usually buy. I have mine setup to go to a local dog rescue and every time I buy an item that is eligible it says ‘thanks for donating to XXX rescue’. It doesn’t cost anything and your charity gets something when it would usually get nothing.

Back to the cause here…so after we rummaged through the freezer and pulled what we could we realized we only needed about $20 worth of sides and ingredients for our meals. I set up my food and she set up hers and amazingly I’ve only spent about $60 since last Thursday, and all of my meals for the week are made or we have the ingredients here for dinner, etc.

When it comes to packing our lunches we use these Fitpackers also found on Amazon. We ended up buying 2 16-packs since there were obviously two of us and we didn’t want to run short with some being in the dishwasher, etc. These things are great for food prep and they fit into both of our ‘lunch boxes’ and they stack pretty low in the fridge compared to other tupperware type containers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First blog post

This is it, a few weeks ago I decided I no longer wanted to live with a ton of debt so I made a decision to pay off everything including my house in the next 7 years. With any luck this will happen and with some really good luck we may be able to pay it off faster. I talked to my awesome and supportive wife and aside from some anxiety she is on-board with doing this.

So a little bit about us first, we’re a middle-aged married couple with no kids, living in the St. Louis area. We are both employed and have a fair amount of debt. We aren’t living beyond our means but we haven’t done the best when it comes to paying our debt down. My plan is to use a ‘snowball’ approach to paying my debt off and putting money towards principal on the house. When the bills are all paid off that snowball will all rollover to principal and with any luck 7 years from now we’ll own our house outright and have no bills.

For those that don’t know what a ‘snowball’ approach is, that is when you figure out what your monthly minimum payments are for your bills and based on highest percentage or lowest balance (there are excel spreadsheets online that will help you determine) you put an extra amount of money towards that bill to pay it off faster. Once you pay that bill off you take all the money you were using for it and put it towards your next bill. You keep doing this until you pay off all of your bills. In this case our house will be the last bill and we’ll be putting an extra $2,000 towards principal after my first 3 bills are paid off. We love St. Louis but we have no family here so if something else comes up for either one of us job wise we want to have the option to move and take a chance.

Life happens and 7 years is a long a time so there is a buffer in there for both time and money. I’ve actually plotted everything to be done in 6 years but we all know life doesn’t go the way we want it to sometimes. So we’ve both looked at all of our bills and accounted for things like food, gas, entertainment,etc and we still should have a decent amount left over between the both of us. Any extra money saved initially will go into a joint savings account and once we get to a point where we are happy with that any money that is left over will go to the snowball.

So applying extra money to a credit card is easier than most people think. All I had to do was look at my bank account to see where I was spending money. You have no idea how many times you get nickeled and dimed to death a month or how much money you spend on little things. The first thing I did was look to see what auto deductions I had coming out of my account, things like ‘spotify’, ‘netflix’ or ‘dollarbeardclub.com’ (I love my beard). So between these 3 that was $30 a month. We also had all of the pay channels through out cable to include HBO, Showtime, TMC, etc. We didn’t need all of them because we don’t watch movies every night or even every other night. We dropped out package down a level and only kept Showtime for ‘Ray Donovan’. When the season is over we’ll drop that and when Game of Thrones starts up again we’ll order HBO. So just by changing our cable and dropping some subscription services we’re saving $80 a month right there.

The next thing that we have, and the one that hits us the hardest is going out for food and drinks. We don’t go out every night but we go out more than most just because we don’t have kids. It doesn’t seem like a lot because we take turns buying dinner but when you look at it on paper it adds up quick and it is an ugly number. Two adults going out 2-3 times a week, even for something cheap is an extra $300-$400 a month easy. If we lived in a perfect world where we never had a drink then it would be different but 2 adults at 2 drinks a piece every time you go out is an extra $25 every meal easy and we usually do more damage than that.

So this blog is going to be about some money saving tips, some bill paying tips and pretty much regurgitate some of the same stuff you see out there from other folks. I guess the main difference with this blog is that we’re not saving because we need to but because we want to. We’re not going to sacrifice everything we enjoy doing but we’ll be cutting back and using our heads a little more when it comes to how we spend our money. Since this is Thursday you’ll probably see a post his weekend because we’ll be preparing our breakfast and lunch meals for the week and I’ll go ahead and say what we did and how much we spent.

This picture is staying here, it’s the default photo but we’re doing this because my dream is to have a sailboat when we move to Florida and the easiest way to make that happen is to have a house that we buy with cash when we get there.

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