2016 in Review and What’s to Come for 2017

2016 in Review

There are quite a few things that this year has brought me. 2016 has been pretty good to me. I have been able to accomplish quite a bit, and I am still continuing to work on those things moving into 2017. Here is 2016 in review…

This will be the last post of 2016 and in order to welcome in the new year, I will give you the highlights of this year, the last few things I was able to accomplish in December, and finally what new things will come in 2017.

What happened in 2016?

Let’s start at the beginning. January 1, 2016. I started the new year in New Jersey and rang in the new year at my best friend’s house. It was my last traveling opportunity of 2015 and I made sure to make the most of my holiday break from work.

We spent a few days between Christmas and New Year walking around New York City and heading into Hoboken. I got to cross off two of the states on my list. Overall I had such a great trip.

And later on that same day, I was back home in California.

What else happened?

In April I finally made the decision to begin my blog. Bay Area Budgeter was born and I started writing. It felt so wonderful to be able to share my knowledge with people. I have made friends through blogging and I have been able to host a #BABnospend which is a No Spend Weekend.

(This year, I will be hosting quite a few more of those! I have quite a big savings goal for this year which I’ll tell you about later.)

Being able to encourage others to put away the cash and enjoy the weekend is something I have really enjoyed.

If you consider that the weekend consists of 2 days, and there are about 4-5 weekends a month, that is about 8-10 days without spending. This can be about 30% of the month where you are not spending money. That’s such a great thing. Some people may decide to do a no spend month, but for my family and I, it’s not very realistic. I feel that the goals that are the most realistic are those that are easiest to accomplish.

Anything else?

June 25, 2016. I got married! I know I posted about that with the Wedding Series posts and some pictures after. Let me tell you though, one of the last things I did for this year (because I completed the project today!) was to make my wedding photo frame. This will be displayed in our home for everyone to see as they come in. I am absolutely in love with it! I had seen some ideas on Pinterest, but I was able to transform it into my own project and create the wedding photo of my dreams.

Wedding Photo Guest Book Shadow Box

After 9 years together, we finally got married. I am so happy. Let me tell you the biggest surprise of all… being married isn’t any different, you know, except for the name change! Now we had the opportunity to bring our families together, and that was such a great day. Other than that, not much else has changed. That’s really the best part of all!

There’s more?

Yes, there’s more. I know you all haven’t heard from me in quite a few months. I had mentioned that I was going to be starting school. And I did. In August 2016 I started working on my Associate’s degree again. I had gone to college directly after high school and had received a promotion at work. Because I had moved up in the company, I was unable to dedicate as much time to school. And with all of the opportunities I had in the work force, I’m actually glad I made that decision. Without a degree I make almost $50k a year. The biggest issue being that I’m stuck in my position now. I don’t have a way to move up anymore.

(Although, after my review in November, it sounds like they may be creating a new position for me. We’ll see what happens… without anything in writing, it’s never guaranteed!)

So I started going back to school for the Fall semester, and I completed my classes with straight A’s. I have a 4.0 and I am on track to graduating with my Associate’s degree in the Summer of 2017 thanks to my previous credits from years and years ago.

Another traveling story:

I like to make it a point to travel at least once per year. If I can cross off at least one state from my list, I feel good. I was able to cross off 3 of them in 2015, and for this last year I was able to cross off one. I traveled to Seattle, Washington. Another friend of mine just recently moved to the Seattle area with his girlfriend within this past year. To celebrate our birthdays, I flew out to visit him and his girlfriend! The end of October, we went into Seattle to Pike’s Place Market, did some Zombie Paintballing in an old cornfield, and went thrifting.

Pike Place Market

The Zombie Paintballing, because I know you all are curious, was a bunch of paintball guns mounted to a trailer being pulled by a tractor and there were high school kids in very thick padding running around in the corn fields for a fundraiser. It was so much fun. It was also really dark so I don’t have many good pictures. Still have to post what I can though!

Zombie Paintballing in Washington

Ok, one last thing…

#17before2017

I had seen this hashtag on Instagram. @bayareabudgeter if you want to follow me on there! I did not create the hashtag, but I saw one of my Instagram buddies post their list of 17 things they would like to accomplish before 2017. Of course that meant that I had to make one too!

Here is a picture of the list:

#17Before2017

 

I have 3 things I was not able to cross off the list, but honestly, I feel ok about that. I accomplished 14 things this month that I really wanted to get done.

A few highlights from the list:

I registered for the next two sessions at school to get most of my units completed. Also had to buy the textbooks. That’s all done too. And I wanted to pass the Fall semester classes with straight A’s… Nailed it!

Because it was December it was also the season of giving. I combined some of the donation items on the same line, but I prepared clothing, toys, and hygiene products for donation. The clothing went to the thrift stores. The toys went to two different programs. One donates to low income families, and the other donates to children in hospitals.

Toy Donation 1

Toy Donation 2

And finally I donated hygiene products to the church to help the homeless.

Hygiene Product Donation for the Homeless

I do wish that there were more donation drives throughout the rest of the year. The homeless need these items all year round, not just in December.

And to continue on with the donations, I donated blood.

That same day I donated blood, I also applied for my passport. I have signed up for a Study Abroad program to Costa Rica. So long as there are enough sign ups I will be able to go to Costa Rica for a week in March. I’m really excited about that trip.

The furthest I’ve been out of the country is to Mexico, and it wasn’t even that far into Mexico. I may need to check this off for my traveling for this year instead of checking off a state. We’ll see!

I was able to pay down my credit cards. They had low balances. I’m not 100% on board with Dave Ramsey. I love his ideas of saving for emergency funds and 3 months living expenses and paying down your debt. But at the same time, I don’t own my own home, and my savings is not enough to purchase an $850k house.

I have some information in my About Me page that explains more about my goals for saving and housing, but at the same time, my credit score is important.

My credit card balances were only $140 and were only used because my debit card wasn’t working and that is linked to the same accounts anyway. I just paid it off right away. No harm, no foul. And I don’t make it a habit of doing that either.

Finally, I was able to declutter a little bit in the house. There is so much junk in the house. It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate.

And for what?

In my case, I accumulate stuff so I can throw it away the next week. Odd concept, right? So I was able to go through my clothes hamper and donate quite a few pieces of clothing. I actually found about 5 articles of clothing that still had tags on them. That added up to about $100 worth of clothing that didn’t fit the way I thought it would, or didn’t work properly with the rest of the outfit as I imagined it from the mannequin, or clothes that no longer fit me. So what did I do? I donated them. No use holding onto them. I don’t plan on getting any bigger, and I don’t torture myself with my weight loss goals by keeping clothes that are 2 sizes too small. You know, just in case… It’s not healthy.

That means I decluttered. I was able to remove 24 articles of clothing to donate, 10 more to throw out because they were not in good enough condition to donate (We actually held onto some extra shirts to tear up for cleaning rags too.). And after going through a few stacks of paper, and I stopped counting after 194 pieces, I threw out 250+ paper items like receipts and junk mail. And the sad part is, my house is still cluttered!

Sometimes I look around the house and think, how is it even possible? It’s even more depressing to think that someone, usually myself, spent money on every single thing I’m looking at right now. I am surrounded by tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff. And all I want to do is throw it all out. I guess that’s a story for another day though.

And now comes 2017!

Yes! Now that you know what I have been up to for 2016, let me share with you my 3 biggest goals of 2017.

1- Save $15,000 total

After all bills are accounted for, and we cut out some spending in other categories, we have enough money to save $15,000 for the whole year. This is our big savings goal. I don’t want to spend money. I want to SAVE it! We have spent time paying off credit cards, and paying for school, and wasting it on junk I don’t need. Now that the debts are paid, it’s time to start saving. I have the customary 3-6 months of expenses in my savings, but now… NOW I want to increase the savings.

I had to dip into our savings during Christmas. Not because of gifts! Because we had to call the plumber. We actually waited two days to call the plumber because the kitchen sink was completely clogged on Christmas Eve. We didn’t call that evening or the next day because we knew the cost would be too high, and we had leftovers, paper plates, and plastic utensils. You better believe we didn’t make any more dishes! When we called the plumber, the final cost was $350. Talk about a big hit right after Christmas.

But, my husband and I are on the same page that if we want to start working toward all of the things we want in a house, we need to start saving bigger than we have been. And that’s what this big goal will help us to accomplish.

2- Get my weight down to 150 pounds.

My weight has been something that I have struggled with for quite a few years. My husband and I have been talking about how unhappy I am with the way my clothes fit, and how I want to be healthier. These are conversations we have had for years. This year, I’m convinced I will make it happen.

I just recently saw a video of a girl who went to the gym 100 days in a row. I’m not someone who will spend money to get a gym membership, especially at this time of the year when it will be packed with New Year’s Resolution people. But I do have ways that I can incorporate exercise into my day.

30 minutes to an hour a day, depending on the weather outside. I have exercises I can complete outside and others I can finish in the living room. No excuses. I also bought myself a fitness planner so I can keep track of my eating and my workouts. It will also track my progress month-to-month. And to top it all off, it was on sale for 60% off at Michaels so I got it for $14. Not too bad considering the price was originally $35. I also bought an insert for it that has budget tracking too. My planner is extremely thick but it has everything I need to be successful this year.

3- Completing my Associate’s Degree

I started going to college 9 years ago. Right after high school I started at the community college and as I mentioned earlier, I got promoted at work and started working hard to move up within the companies I have worked at. Recently one of my coworkers had mentioned that he wanted to go back to school. He was in the same boat as me. He’s only two years older. I told him that I would go back to school with him so I could help motivate him through his program. After registering for my classes and getting myself set up for the Fall 2016 semester, I come to find that he never registered. I was a little bummed out, but I went anyway. Though he didn’t start right away, I was inspired to complete my degree.

The first degree is my Associate’s Degree. I had completed most of my general education requirements years ago. I was able to get them transferred over to my degree properly, and completed my general education requirements at the end of the Fall semester. Now I only need a few more classes to finish. I will be finishing my Associate’s Degree by the end of the Summer 2017 semester.

The second part of this last goal is to also begin my Bachelor’s Degree in the Fall of 2017. Years later I have finally found the degree I want to pursue. This was always something I was unsure of, and I think taking all of this time off from school was a great option for me. I needed to save the money to pay for it without student loans, and I needed to know what I actually wanted to study. I will be pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics. The degree will have the most similarities to what I do already at work, and it will also help me to improve and streamline some of the processes we have.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

It’s only a few more hours until the ball drops for 2017. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavours and I look forward to what 2017 will bring!

Happy New Year!

-Emily

My $105 Grocery Haul

My $105 Grocery Haul

Wow! It’s been over a week since I last posted! There has been quite a lot that has been going on over here at the house. I think I should start back up with another grocery haul for you!

Let me give you a peek into all the fun things that are going on:

1- I will be starting school tomorrow!

It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been in school. Right out of high school I had taken a few semesters of college classes, but instead of continuing, I got promoted at work and kept getting promoted. Now I find myself wanting to go back to school and finish what I had once started.

2- Updating my goal board for the month of September!

Of course I can’t show you everything I’ve been working on for that yet, but just know that a new goal board is coming. My goal board had a few things I was able to check off, and that was such a wonderful feeling. If only I could check off everything on my list! Slow and steady wins the race. I just need to remember that.

3- It’s busy time at work.

Some of the biggest deadlines have come up at work. Every year around this time, we scramble with finalizing all of our numbers for the year, and begin working on strategy for next years numbers. With one year coming to an end, and another year coming up, it means that reviews are coming and I am waiting to hear good things.

But enough about all of that. Just know that there are regular posts to follow.

Like the weekly grocery haul!

My $105 Grocery Haul! There were a few big items on this list like the $7 almond butter!

On the menu for this week:

Tacos
Chicken Dinner
Cheese Burgers
Beef Broccoli
Pork Chops
Pot Roast
Shake & Bake

We were able to use what we had on hand in the freezer and pantry to put together some of the dinners on the list this week:

Chicken Dinner– Potatoes, corn, and chicken thighs
Pork Chops– Macaroni and cheese, corn, and pork chops
Shake & Bake– Green beans, shake & bake seasoning, and chicken breasts.

For the other meals and for the kids to have snacks and food for lunches:

Case of water- $3.33
Banquet TV Dinners- 4 at $1.00- $4.00
Bagel Bites- $3.97
Kid Cuisine- 2 at $2.00- $4.00
Honeycomb cereal- $3.12
Taco Shells- $1.00
Fruit Snacks- $2.00
Rice a roni- $0.97
Almond Butter- $6.98
Canned corn- 2 at $0.68- $1.36
Pot Roast bag and seasoning- $2.18
Beef Broccoli seasoning- $0.78
Taco seasoning- $0.67
Tuna Creations- 4 at $1.00- $4.00
Pizza Rolls- $6.72
Shredded cheese- $2.22
Hershey’s chocolate and almonds- $1.34
White rice- $0.66
Gluten Free tortillas- $2.39
Oreos- $3.56
Broccoli- 2.21 lb at $0.78 per pound- $1.72
Mango- 2 at $0.98 each- $1.96
Peaches- 1.62 lb at $1.48 per pound- $2.40
Caesar Salad Kit- $3.74
Carrots- $1.84
Rice Cakes- $2.24
Bananas- 2.51 lb at $0.52 per pound- $1.31
Blueberries- $2.68
Potato Chips- 3 at $2 each- $6.00
Ground Beef- 2.25 lbs- $7.54
Beef Roast- $10.59
Milk- $1.98
Root Beer- 2 at $1.00 each- $2.00
Tampico- $1.50

Total for all groceries listed above- $104.99

There are quite a few snack foods on that list! The kids have been lazy with preparing their snacks so they asked for easier meals.

We also needed to rush out of the house this morning so I didn’t have the chance to look for coupons for our groceries. I’m sure I could’ve found coupons for some of the items. Especially the cereal.

What’s coming up:

You will see a few posts coming up over the next week about my new goals for September, my school work, what classes I’m taking, and some other plans I have for the blog!

I want to start posting more of my recipes. The lighting in my house is so poor that I can never get a good picture though! Hopefully I can get a few good ones so I can give you all a better idea of what it looks like at my house for meal time.

Keep your eye out for the latest updates!

-Emily

My $101 Grocery Haul

My $101 Grocery Haul

My $101 Grocery Haul- Getting the kids ready for Back to School

This weekend I hosted a no-spend weekend on Instagram. I had such a great time seeing my Instagram friends spending time with family, with friends, and enjoying things that don’t cost money to enjoy. Because we ran the No-Spend Weekend we didn’t have the chance to go grocery shopping like we normally do. That’s why this week’s Grocery Haul is being posted today.

As per usual, we went to Walmart

Michael and I were having such a hard time trying to figure out what to make for the week. The kids will be going back to school tomorrow (on a Wednesday? Schools are weird with their scheduling now). They didn’t know what they would want to eat for breakfast, or what they want to bring for a snack at school. Remember, they’re in high school so actually eating a “lunch” isn’t cool. Kids.

Finally after going back and forth for quite some time, we decided to cook through whatever was left in our freezer. Sometimes it’s easier to decide what you’ll eat by just cooking what’s on hand. In the spirit of the no-spend weekend we were thinking that we would do alright by shopping this way. Just a few ingredients here and there, and no need to buy meat.

Well- even without buying meat, we found ourselves spending our regular budget money. The kids finally came up with ideas of what they would like to eat while we were at the grocery store, so we had added in the extra items to our list.

Here is what’s on the menu for this week:

Kids Breakfast:
Apples
Granola
Oatmeal
Blueberries
Bananas

Kids Lunch:
Carrots
Apples
Chips

Dinners for the week:
Breakfast for Dinner
Chicken Bites
Philly Cheese Steaks
Chicken Salad
Chicken Dinner
Beef Broccoli

And here is what we purchased:

Bananas- 2.32lbs at $0.52/lb- $1.21
Bottled Water- $3.33
Baby Carrots- $1.84
Apples- $4.94 (This was labeled as $3.54) Oops
Peaches- 2.12lbs at $1.28/lb- $2.71
Broccoli- 1.65lbs at $1.54/lb- $2.54
Green Bell Peppers- 2x $0.78- $1.56
Cucumber- 2x $0.38- $0.76
Green Onion- $0.94
Zucchini- 1.39lbs at $1.28/lb- $1.78
Spinach- $2.94
Jicama- 1.63lbs at $0.98/lb- $1.60
Onion- 1.30lbs at $0.98/lb- $1.27
Pecan Halves 1lb- $11.42
Gluten Free Pasta- $3.12
Arby’s Seasoned Curly Fries- $2.78
Blueberries- $1.98
Bear Naked Fit Vanilla Granola- $3.48
Walnut Halves 6oz- $3.34
Beef Broccoli Seasoning- $0.78
Frozen TV Dinner- $1.00
Frozen TV Dinner- $1.00
Kid Cuisine Frozen Dinner- $2.00
Kid Cuisine Frozen Dinner- $2.00
Fruit Roll Ups, Gushers- $3.94
Oatmeal- $2.98
Mac & Cheese- $0.98
Garlic Salt- $3.44
Vegetable Oil- $2.38
Aloe Drink- $2.28
Root Beer- $1.00
Milk- $1.98
Apple Juice- $2.48
Flat Iron Steak- $7.50
Chips- $5.98
18 eggs- $3.46

Total- $100.77

You will see on our grocery list there are TV dinners. Michael likes to eat these as a snack during the day. I needed to refill my containers of walnuts and pecans- so about $15 was used to refill those. Also ran out of garlic salt- another $3.50 there. And finally the gluten free pasta is not something we normally eat but because I’m wanting a little taste of pasta, and I’m not eating corn either, the cheaper gluten free alternatives were out. This was a one time purchase. I’m sure I will have this for a few weeks. And we hadn’t had to purchase the chips and fruit snacks all summer so that has saved us about $10 a week.

It’s funny how going back to school makes the kids eat more. I guess because they’re up so much earlier, there are more daylight hours for them to fill with snacks and meals. They’ve been getting up at around 12pm the whole summer, so they’ve skipped breakfast and sometimes skip over lunch too. They’re not starving though! The kids eat snacks and then have dinner and want a full meal for dessert too, but not much additional food.

My Grocery Hauls will be a little fuller over the next few months. Hopefully we don’t go over budget. I don’t think we will though. I think we’ve built such a good understanding of what we need that we shouldn’t even hit our old budget of $125 per week.

Let me know how your grocery hauls are going!

-Emily

My No-Spend Weekend

My No-Spend Weekend

My No-Spend Weekend

I had read previously about a blogger who does “No-Spend Months.” When I can find the blogger again, I will be sure to tag her so you can all read about her month of being as frugal as possible! For me, this was a little unrealistic. I say that because our cupboards are fairly empty, and the refrigerator is getting there too. The main point of her “No-Spend Month” was to be resourceful, use what was already on hand, and to save as much as possible. This is something that I think we should all strive for.

Because an entire month isn’t something I’m able to do, I figured why not make it a No-Spend Weekend.

This weekend Michael and I made the conscious effort to keep away from the bank accounts. We didn’t want to spend any money. A few weeks ago we had a “frugal weekend” but that was more out of necessity. We had broken our budget and instead of spending the weekend at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, we stayed home. This allowed us to focus on some projects around the house that we had been neglecting. We saved quite a bit of money by not attending the festival.

I figure that even if we aren’t able to commit to a “No-Spend Month” at least we could do as many “No-Spend Weekends” as possible. If you take into account there are usually about 4 weekends a month, that would give us 8 days of spending $0. That’s a little over a week! Some days when I’m at work late, it’s another opportunity for us to save rather than spend because we don’t have time to go out.

These are the types of months we are striving toward.

I had a few participants in my #BABnospend on Instagram

You can follow along with their progress below in the pictures!

Here is what happened on my No-Spend Weekend

9:00 AM Saturday, August 13, 2016
My No-Spend Weekend begins!

My No-Spend Weekend Reading list

I made a plan to read. This is a no-cost way to pass the time on the weekend! These are books I already owned. Some I had read through already, others I hadn’t yet cracked the spine.

I was able to read through 1 book and get half way through another. The rest of this book I will read on my lunches at work.

Trip to the pet store

My No Spend Weekend- Trip to the pet store

Heading to the pet store is a money-friendly way to see some animals. Instead of spending $20-$30 per person to get in at the zoo, you can head to the pet store and take a look around. The Petsmart by my house has a long row of fish, some reptiles, a small section of rodents, and finally the birds. They just reopened the adoption center too! Its a bitter sweet feeling walking by. You wish they didn’t NEED to have an adoption center, but it is nice to see pets going to good homes.

House Party

 

My House Party Pack arrived in the mail. Perfect timing. I qualified for a Party Pack from Morning Star Farms (They are one of the first companies to bring you a veggie burger option)! About a year and a half ago I signed up for House Party and had never qualified to host a brand sharing party. I forgot about the website for quite some time and just recently looked into it again. In this case I qualified to host my first one! Here are the goodies they gave me to spread the word about the company and their products!

My No Spend Weekend- House Party Pack from Morning Star Farms

An apron, reusable tote bags, pens, a flash drive, recipe books with a coupon off Morning Star products, and free Morning Star product coupons to be able to host the party!

Eating from the pantry

Just because we aren’t spending money for the weekend, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to eat at all! I cooked myself some gluten free pancakes using ingredients from the pantry! This recipe is especially easy since it only has 2 ingredients.

My No Spend Weekend- 2 Ingredient Gluten Free Pancakes

Great recipe!

1 mashed banana
2 eggs
Stir, Stir, Stir
Heat on a pan like you would regular pancakes!

The first one will have a lot more egg in it, but the ones that follow end up tasting sweet because of the bananas.

Laundry Time

No Spend Weekend- Laundry Time

During the weekend we always find ourselves with a few loads of laundry. I popped these in the wash, and that ended my day!

9:00 AM Sunday, August 14, 2016

Another day! No money spent!

Updating my Goal Board

My No Spend Weekend- My weight loss thermometer on my goal board is maxed out! Need to update my goals!

My No Spend Weekend- My lowest weight yet! I'm at 168! No Spend Weekend- My weight loss journey continues. Finally in the 160's!

I maxed out on my weight loss thermometer on my goal board! It’s such a great feeling. Weight Loss has always been such a hard thing for me. I have been tracking for a month and a half and I have just now gotten to the 8 pound weight loss mark.

Change Machines

The twins had wanted to go to the mall for some last minute school shopping. After mentioning to them again that we are on a No-Spend Weekend, they knew they weren’t getting any money out of us. We told them that if they wanted to spend money, they had to find the money on their own. And that’s just what they did.

My No Spend Weekend- The kids had to find their own way to pay for their trip to the mall. We weren't opening our wallets. They found over $100 in change around the house!!!

Do you know how much change you have laying around your house?

I’ll tell you how much we had: $104.20.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? That’s groceries for two weeks if we are really careful. That’s the internet bill and then some. This also covers a credit card payment. Or it could be half of our water bill for 3 months. I couldn’t believe it. Now, keep in mind that the twins had their own change jars. When they ask for snack money, instead of pulling their own cash, they come to us asking for a dollar here, a dollar there. It allowed them to save for quite some time.

They also looked all around the house. Change was buried in the couch, under the couch, another few cents on the floor in the bathroom, change in the laundry room that gets forgotten in pockets.

All in all they found over $100.

If only they spent as much time and effort on cleaning their rooms! They’d be spotless!

Community

My No Spend Week- "You are never too rich, nor too poor to lend a helping hand"

This picture shows what it’s like to have a strong community. A truck broke down in the middle of the street. They tried turning into a nearby parking lot, but instead the truck stopped sideways in the turn. What I love about our neighborhood is that there were four different people that got out to help push the lady’s truck into the parking lot.

My take-away:

My No Spend Weekend- "You're never too rich nor too poor to lend a helping hand"

You are neither too rich, nor too poor to lend a helping hand

Though we can’t pay their tow bill, or their car repairs- we can do a little bit to help ease the stress they are feeling by helping them out of the street.

Eating from the Pantry

Yes- the title of this picture comes up again. We made another meal from our pantry.

My No Spend Weekend- Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

No recipe on this one. It was a soup mix we got from Target that’s been in our cupboard for a while, and all we needed to add was 1 lb of chicken breast. We pulled out two spare chicken breasts from the freezer, and voila! Dinner is served! Well, it will be. It’s still cooking right now!

I wasn’t the only one doing the No-Spend Weekend!

There were a few friends on Instagram who joined in on the challenge too.

Joyce posted pictures of her family game night! It’s so wonderful to see another person with a ton of board games! And family time is always such a wonderful thing.

My No Spend Weekend- Family Game Night!

Kate from Making Cents Matter also joined me in my No-Spend Weekend challenge. Here is an example of what she did to pass the time:

My No Spend Weekend- Canning for days!

Canning for days! Green beans, pickles, pizza sauce, and corn & peach salsa! I’m sure we’d all love to see the recipe for that salsa!

Then we had CeeCee who spent the day with family and friends at the park. Its great spending time outdoors, and a park can be enough “outdoors” for some people… Like me.

My No Spend Weekend- More instagram friends joining in on the fun!

And finally Lisa posted a picture of her husband washing the car! It can be much more cost efficient to wash your own car than to take it to a car wash!

My No Spend Weekend- Car Wash at home!

I will be hosting another No-Spend weekend coming up over the next few weeks. Let me know what ideas you have for passing the time without spending any money. All of us can work toward a no-spend month! If you have any No-Spend days, please tag them with #BABnospend

-Emily

My $68 Grocery Haul

My $68 Grocery Haul

Michael and I went out this morning pretty early to start some of our errands. What we didn’t anticipate was stopping in for our groceries. We usually make a list and run through our pantry to be sure we have a plan.

You can see more about our process in my 7 tips to lower your grocery budget post.

Because we didn’t have a plan in place for what we would be buying, we went a little off track. Luckily we didn’t go so far off that we blew our budget. However, I will point out one thing: we forgot ingredients. I had also written another post about why you should never shop without a list. I should have taken my own advice.

What advice?

You should always make a list. Because we had been out already, we decided to stop for groceries on the way home. No list was made. We racked our brains for foods we may or may not have in our pantry. We chose all of the meals listed below, but you’ll see that Cheese Burgers was originally supposed to be Tacos. If you don’t have a list- you forget ingredients. We forgot the taco shells and taco seasoning. Also, looking through our pantry after we got home, there were no tortillas to make shells. So we had to improvise. We have a loaf of white bread and some kraft singles in the fridge. Yay for backup pantry items. Another meal is born! Cheese burgers!

The meals for this week:

Shake and Bake
Buffalo Chicken Bites
Cheese Burgers (was originally tacos)
Breakfast for Dinner
Homemade Pizza

You’ll also notice another change in what we purchased for the week. There are quite a few frozen dinners on the list. The kids have been ESPECIALLY picky the last few weeks. Instead of buying $2.00 per serving meat, and $1.00 per serving sides that they wont eat, we bought them quick meals. I hate frozen meals. There is never enough in the portions for me to eat. The flavors are never as good. But if the kids will eat it, I guess I will cave.

Here is what we bought:

Banquet Mac & Cheese Dinner- 2 at $1.00 each- $2.00
Banquet Chicken Strips Meal- 2 at $1.00 each- $2.00
Kelloggs Eggo Waffles- $2.00
Bagel Bites- $2.24
Kid Cuisine Chicken Nugget Meal- 2 @ $2.00 each- $4.00
Canned Corn- 4 at $0.68 each- $2.72
Hormel No Bean Chili- $1.98
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese- $0.98
Totino’s pizza rolls- $3.00
Oreos- $3.56
Lamb Chops- $5.31
Ground Beef- 1lb- $3.27
Paper Plates- $4.97
Baby Carrots- $1.18
Shredded Colby Jack Cheese- $2.22
Blueberries- 1 pint- $2.64
Green Bell Pepper- 2 at $0.78 each- $1.56
Bananas- 1.87lb at $0.52 per pound- $0.97
Peaches- 1.27lb at $1.28 per pound- $1.63
Apricots- 0.63lb at $2.48 per pound- $1.56
Apple Juice- $2.48
Toilet Paper- $6.47
White cheddar popcorn small bags- $5.98
Mug Root Beer- 2 at $1.00 each- $2.00

Total Spent- $68.59

If we had the chance to plan a little better, we probably would’ve asked the kids what they wanted to eat this week. They may have had opinions which would cause us to drop all of the frozen food, and aim for more that we can cook at home.

Convenience is a tricky thing.

How are your grocery hauls going this week?

-Emily

 

Why You Should Never Shop Without a List

Why you should never shop without a list!
Never Shop Without a List!

A few years ago, Target opened up a new store right by our house. Let me tell you, I love Target. I much prefer the bright aisles and all of the red décor from Target than going into the darker, warehouse feel of Walmart. On that cold October day, we walked into the new Target for the first time. We went up and down every single aisle and started looking at all the things that we used to have to drive 20 minutes to get to.

Now everything was so close, so convenient.

Michael and I found ourselves with excuses of just needing one thing from the store, and we would run to Target to pick it up. Then we found ourselves with another excuse to pick up a new movie on Tuesday, and we would run to Target to pick it up. Finally we found ourselves with the excuse of not having anything to eat.

They always tell you “it’s cheaper to buy food at the grocery store to cook yourself than it is to get fast food every night.”

Well, Yes and No.

It’s definitely cheaper when you find yourself spending $25-$30 at Carl’s Jr every night. Only to get everyone chili cheese fries and big burgers. And it definitely can be much cheaper to go into the grocery store if you figure that’s $150 just on dinners getting fast food.

What’s not cheaper?

Going into a store for a can of corn and coming out with $60 worth of nonsense, and forgetting the can of corn. This is what happened to us at Target. Every stop we made to pick something up, it always cost us $60. That’s the magic number at that store. That is the most expensive can of corn I’ve ever bought, without actually getting the can of corn. And then we’d have to run in again to pick up the forgotten can of corn. This time we remembered to get it, but another $60 spent on more nonsense.

How many times has this happened for you?

I can tell you that when it comes to shopping, Michael and I are great at finding things to buy. We can go up every aisle in the store and pick out at least one item from each aisle!

Professional Shoppers over here!

But what about the countless times we went in to shop for something for dinner and ended up with $60 worth of nothing? And a missing ingredient for the dinner? This happened to us just about every time.

The biggest reason this happened?

Because we didn’t shop with a grocery list

The easiest way to hold yourself accountable is to make a list. This same method can be used anywhere else, too! I go thrift store shopping a lot, and there are always extra items I find on the shelf that I really don’t need. But what I do now is make a list. If I’m looking specifically for a black sweater, I write down on my list- “Black Sweater.” Rocket science, huh? If I’m looking for a crystal vase, I write down “Crystal Vase.” It’s almost guaranteed that I will spend less money because I’m sticking only to what’s on my list.

In some cases you may find that you get everything on your list and then add a few more things that you didn’t need.

Does that mean this method doesn’t work for you?

No! It means that you still got everything on your list so you wont need to make an impromptu stop at the store. You’ll run the risk of spending even more in the process by making that second trip!

Want advice on how to put together a grocery list?

I wrote a whole post of 7 tips for lowering your grocery budget which helps us to stay in line with our groceries. The best tip I have for you on this post: always keep a pen and paper handy. When you need to replenish something, start your list as soon as something is missing. Don’t find yourself trying to remember what you’re out of at the last minute. Chances are you wont remember it.

-Emily

7 Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Budget

7 Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Budget

Here are a few tips I have for lowering your grocery budget:

1- I only shop once a week

There are some shoppers out there who only shop once a month. This can be fine, in theory, especially because we eat a lot of the same meals every week, but everything that I eat is kept fresh. I’m the one that eats all the fruits and vegetables in the house. If I run out at the end of the week and need to shop more, I find that I end up thinking of other things that the kids may want while I’m at the store or something different than what’s already planned. Makes me spend more money! I’ve found my happy medium though. Shopping everyday wasn’t the answer, and shopping once a month wasn’t the answer. Shopping once a week- perfect time frame for my family.

2- I take inventory of what we have first.

This isn’t one of those “I have a stockpile” kind of blogs. Everyone has a few extra cans of food in their pantry though, or a few extra boxes of pasta. Everyone. And if you don’t- then that means you’ve learned how to shop properly for your family. In the other extreme, it may be that you need to stretch your budget to make those groceries last. I do understand that there are people out there who live on a rice and beans budget in the Silicon Valley. I can appreciate that as I was in that same situation when I was growing up.

Though I will tell you that it makes me appreciate things a whole lot more once I’ve been able to put them into perspective. Except for us, instead of rice and beans, it was ketchup and mayonnaise sandwiches. Ever had one? Different flavor, but it works when you’ve only got the money for a loaf of bread and have a few condiments in the fridge. You can be creative in the kitchen if that’s your only resort.

For those that are able to stretch it a little further- take that creativity and use what you already have in your pantry.

3- Create a list of the meals you already have

Similar to the second tip, this is the next step in our grocery list creation. We write down the meals we can make using what we already have on hand. An example for this week- we had bacon in the freezer, and some pancake mix left over. Voila! Breakfast for dinner already taken care of and we didn’t need to buy anything extra.

4- Now that you have a meal or two already taken care of, poll the kids!

What does that mean? It means ask the kids what they want to eat. We use this method every week. If you are like my husband and I, you like to eat good food. But making good meals for us means we spend extra to make separate meals for the kids. Instead of doing all of that, you can just ask the kids what they want to eat. That will ensure the kids will eat what you cook and not demand fast food.

5- Make meals with similar ingredients.

While you’re cooking the same amount of food for the kids, improvise a little on your own meal. They want chicken strips? Make macaroni and cheese as a side, and buy one extra bag of salad for yourself to eat a chicken salad. You’re eating healthy, the kids get what they want, and you only spent an extra dollar or two on the bag of salad as opposed to buying a whole separate meal for the kids.

This can also be applied if you stretch your meat a little further. We use the same ground beef to make spaghetti and tacos during the week. Two meals with one chunk of ground beef. We usually find that there is extra ground beef left over when we make spaghetti, so why not separate out the portions or even cut down on the amount of meat you use in the first place.

6- Now it’s time to shop- Make your list of what’s left over and don’t stray from the list!

This can be the most difficult tip to put into action. Most people are great at the planning phase, but not the execution. You can say “I’ll only get what’s on the list” But if you go to the grocery store hungry, that bag of chips may look really tempting… Extra money. That new shirt on the rack at the store may look nice, but now you need pants, and new shoes to go with it… Extra money. Avoid it if you can.

Discipline is key. When we go to Walmart, we don’t venture into the rest of the store. We stay specifically in the grocery section, and then head straight to the checkout lines after. This is the only way we can ensure we don’t buy things we don’t need. Target has strategically placed their grocery section in the middle of the store so you have to walk by either the electronics or the crafting supplies.

7- Cook enough for your family to eat, and maybe one extra serving.

My family hates eating leftovers. They absolutely despise it. This is why we don’t make huge batches of food. It may cost a tiny bit more on the front end, but definitely makes it better for food waste. I’m the only one who will eat extra food. For dinner we make just enough for everyone to eat, and one extra serving. This way if someone wants seconds, its available. If not, then I have lunch already made for the next day, but don’t need to worry about eating the same mediocre meal every single day of the week. Less food gets thrown away too. Instead use that extra meat you would’ve used for your normal buffet sized meal, and cook something different with it. You may get two dinners out of the one you usually make.

Hopefully these tips help you save money on your grocery budget.

Take the time this weekend to map out a few go-to meals you have. What are some ways you can make it a little more frugal? I’m not going to suggest making a quinoa and lentil burger instead of a ground beef burger. That kind of advice doesn’t work for my family, so I wouldn’t necessary make the suggestion to you unless it’s something you’re willing to try. But if you can use half as much spaghetti sauce for your pasta dinner, that could give you enough to make that lasagna later on in the week, or a meatloaf if you have extra ground beef in the freezer.

Small changes, frugal choices, stretching ingredients, getting creative.

But most of all- stick to your grocery list!

-Emily

Weight Loss: Day 28

Day 28: My Final Weigh In

So it’s now the beginning of August. My July 2016 Weight Loss Journey has come to an end.

To summarize how the last 4 weeks went in one word:

Challenging

It was challenging because everyday I would be hoping for the biggest change in my appearance, but it didn’t happen. Challenging because I wanted to see dramatic results on my scale. And challenging because now that it’s over, I actually want to continue this journey going into August as well.

I hope you all will follow along.

The amount of posts will be different. I will create one post for every week of the month of August. I’m determined to make my way into the 160’s and hopefully I can hit my old plateau weight of 162.

We’ll see how that goes!

Day 28

I felt good about the previous day’s hard work. I was convinced I had eaten well, and exercised properly. Knowing I had avoided the right foods as it mentions in my “blood type diet” I’ve been following. Really, I felt good going into it.

What I should’ve felt was GREAT.

I did my final weigh in:

171.5!

Weight Loss: Day 28

My lowest weight of the whole month! It was such a wonderful feeling. Had there been a few extra days in the month, or had I started on the first day of the month- I’m convinced I would’ve been able to make it to 170. Or, if I was especially lucky, or trained especially hard, I could’ve made it right below that and into the 160s.

This is the biggest reason why I want to continue sharing my journey with you. Posting my food, my exercise, my calories, my struggles- Everything on here for you to read, has been the greatest sense of accountability. Something I had been missing before in my efforts to lose weight. It always helps to have someone looking into how you’re doing.

Having someone watching every bite, every step, every glass of water. All of these things are crucial to making the right choices toward a healthier You. But having a personal trainer stand there watching you while you’re at your office job sitting at your desk and reaching for a bag of chips instead of a carrot stick- extremely costly! Not to mention awkward! No personal trainers here.

All it takes is someone taking notice in what you’re doing. And that’s what I have here. So again, thank you for all of your help!

I also found my other workout DVD. I have the 21 Day Fix workouts and containers though I don’t use the containers and I couldn’t find the other DVD. Michael and I were doing more decluttering around the house and I managed to find the other workouts! It had been quite a few weeks of trying to switch up the exercises enough that my body didn’t get too used to them. Now that I have found the other DVD, I’m going to switch up the exercises a bit. You will see some new ones in the August Weight Loss Journey

This last month has been full of obstacles, but here are some things that I got right:

1- I fixed the way I ate

I had been eating smaller portions of the same foods that the kids ate. All this time I was trying to be mindful of portion sizes and getting the calories right. What I was missing out on was the nutrition. If only I could get the kids to start eating healthier again. For a little while at the beginning of this year they wanted to eat right. I tried giving them exercise tips, healthy eating tips, and really buying good food for the house. It worked for all of two weeks before they didn’t want to try anymore. I’m trying to set the example by eating healthy all the time.

It can be difficult when you have to cook your own meals separate from the rest of the house. It can be especially difficult when the chicken wings they’re eating smell so good, and I’m stuck with a kale salad! But my health means more to me than any chicken wing! I can honestly tell you that I feel much better after deciding to take care of the way I ate. It all starts with what you put in your body.

2- I started taking exercise seriously.

I am a great walker. Five mile walk? No problem! Want to make it 7 miles? Got it! But what about actually building muscle? After all, Muscle is what continues to burn extra calories all day. While cardio is great for getting your heart rate up and slimming you down a little bit, the muscle you gain is what creates the greatest performance in your body. I started adding in some strength training. Most of the time I use body weight exercises. I already know that I weigh more than I want to. Let me use that extra weight to my advantage for once!

Body weight exercises are a great way to get your body started with strength training. Build your muscles with what your body already comes with first. Then start adding in some extra weights. These will help to gradually increase your strength and hopefully help to prevent injury. You don’t need to be the hulk the first day you exercise! This was a hard concept for me to learn. Carrying 20 pound weights on your first day is not the answer. Working your way up to 10 pound weights, an even better process. You will surely get yourself the right form if you start small and build up.

3- I found myself an accountability partner.

That’s you… If you’re reading these posts, you’re my accountability partner. Maybe you just found this post for the first time and are now going back through the rest of my weight loss journey links, you’re my accountability partner. Maybe you’re following along as I do my own thing, and you’re trying to follow along at your own pace, you’re my accountability partner.

You see the trend there? It’s you.

Find a buddy, find a coworker, pick your spouse. Anyone who can help you make better decisions for yourself. This can even be someone who offers to eat the other half of your slice of cake at the office! But having someone there with you along the way, struggling the way that you are, pushing through it the way that you are, really helps to boost your motivation.

The worst thing about doing this alone is keeping up the motivation.

4- I made my dream board all about my fitness goals.

Yes, I have a dream board! And yes, I use it! Find some fitness quotes that inspire you (there are tons of them!) Maybe you can search for that perfect dress that might not be ready for your body now, but may be perfect for you in a month down the line? What helps keep you motivated? Is it a jar with a few extra dollars in it for every time you work out? Use that money at the end of the month to buy yourself a new set of weights or a new workout outfit.

Maybe your motivation is your pre-pregnancy pants. While you may be tempted to throw them out, you can still work towards this goal again. It’s great to have goals! It’s also great to set up proper goals that are achievable, have some way to track it, and having a plan to create small wins along the way.

Here is what my dream board looks like:

Dream Board August 2016

Quotes, pictures, inspiration, new fitness gear, new fitness equipment, travel inspiration:

Weight Loss Inspiration on Dream Board August 2016

Hardest exercise on my workout DVD. Dream Board August 2016

Travel inspiration on my Dream Board August 2016

Budgeting and Weight Loss, My two biggest goals right now on my Dream Board August 2016

Fitsporation on my Dream Board August 2016

Weight Loss: Day 28- No Excuses picture on my Dream Board August 2016

 

And my goal meter!

Still working on my Weight Loss: Day 28- fitness goals. Dream Board August 2016

It’s happening every week this month so keep an eye out! You’ll see my weight loss journey updates and hopefully get a chance to see how crazy things are for me once school starts too!

Full time job + ¾ time school + Part time blog = What was I thinking?

-Emily

Weight Loss: Day 27

Day 27: The last day of July

So today is the last day of my Weight Loss Journey for July 2016. I would say that my progress isn’t quite what I wanted it to be, but I’m still happy with what I’ve learned about myself and what I’ve accomplished for the month.

I will go through how my day went today, and then finish it off tomorrow with my full final results. What went right, what went wrong, what I will change, and how I will continue on into the month of August and my next weight loss journey.

This morning I woke up at around 8am. Not too bad. Didn’t sleep in too late like I did yesterday. I think that’s what threw me off my schedule yesterday and had me forgetting about doing my workout. Because yesterday just so happened to turn itself into my rest day- it meant I absolutely had to do a workout today.

I weighed in this morning:

172.0 again!

Weight Loss: Day 27

I’m still loving seeing that number consistently. Would I like it to go lower? Of course. But it’s better than the 175.5 I was stuck at for so long! I couldn’t seem to break that plateau which was awful seeing as how I started at 176.

I woke up and started working on publishing the post for my frugal weekend. The project we started was to declutter our hallway closet which hadn’t been opened in 2 years. I know, sounds ridiculous to have not opened a closet in so long. No need to go in there if there is nothing of use in that closet!

Drank a whole bottle of water. I’ve been skipping on the water a little bit. Instead of drinking 8 glasses, I’ve been drinking only about 6. I was doing so well with this for so long, but for some reason it’s been a little bit harder again lately. Got back on it today though! I drank 8 glasses!

Then I made myself some breakfast.

Moved on through my day and did some grocery shopping and finally found the time to work out!

Here is what the menu looked like:

Breakfast
Ezekiel Flax Bread
Farmers Cheese

Snack
Mama Chia Granola

Lunch
Sweet Potato and Spinach Thing…

Snack
Frozen Fruit Smoothie

Dinner
Tortilla Pizza

Dessert
Marshmallows

My workout for the day:

21 Day Fix Pilates Fix

Total calories consumed today: 1227

Tomorrow will mark the final post for the July Weight Loss Journey. I will update you on final results!

-Emily

Weight Loss: Day 26

Day 26: I forgot to workout

I don’t know what it was today, but for some reason I just forgot to workout! That hasn’t happened this whole time I’ve been going through the Weight Loss Journey. I would say there are more times than you can count on your hands that I have been dreading my workouts and counting down the minutes until they were done.

Today I got up in the morning, tossed and turned a little bit, then fell back to sleep. We woke up at around 10:30! Rambo is usually waking us up at around 6:30am trying to get water and snacks. Either I was just too tired and slept right through it, or Rambo was so tired that he didn’t want to meow all morning for some cat treats!

Michael and I finally got up and started talking about what we would be doing for the day. Would we go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, or would we decide to save a little money? As it turned out, our budget was off for the month and this is where we decided to stay in and clean up the house instead.

Of course I couldn’t get through the day without weighing myself

I weighed in this morning

172.0 again!

Weight Loss: Day 26

Now back to cleaning…

You could say I’m a bit of a hoarder. I try hard to throw things away, but for some reason we just accumulate more and more stuff. Luckily I married a man who likes to throw things away. If he cleans without me knowing it, he throws things away that I don’t even remember I have and I realize yet again that I collect things I don’t need. At least we balance each other out.

This weekend he wanted to clean- and his wanting to clean is a little contagious until I start going through things that I own and try to justify why I need it. So I get motivated to start, and demotivated to continue. This is why I only contribute a little bit.

We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.

Then we got hungry. So we grabbed some food, and then headed back home. This is where the food coma started. After eating a pretty big meal, I started getting sleepy, and I napped for a few hours. By the time I woke up, it was too late for me to workout.

Our shower has a water pressure issue so it whistles really loud. I need to shower after my workout but we don’t run the shower after 9pm. So I found myself unable to workout. But I had completely forgotten about it. The rest of the week I had been dreading the workout so bad that it almost ate at me all day. Exercising in the morning allows me to get it done and be able to move on with my day. But I didn’t wake up early to get the day started off on the right foot this morning.

Crazy day it was- I guess I will call this my rest day?

Here is what the menu looked like:

Breakfast
Ezekiel Flax Bread
Farmers Cheese

Snack
Rice Cakes
Dried Fruit

Lunch
Happi House chicken teriyaki meal

Snack
Nothing

Dinner
Rice Cakes
Almond Butter
Blueberries

Dessert
Nothing

My workout for the day:

Nothing- calling this my rest day

Total calories consumed today: 1213

Right back on it tomorrow as I get closer and closer to the end of the Weight Loss Journey for July

-Emily