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Track Your Spending Challenge

Track your spending challenge

Ever wonder where all your money goes? You get paid one day and it’s gone a few days later. You paid some bills and grab something to eat and ran to Target…. where did it go??

Does this sound familiar to you? It sounds familiar to me and my family. We get paid one day and then poof it’s gone but you don’t know where it all went. What I failed to realize that those cups of Dunkin coffee and donuts or stops at Burger King all add up! Do you know what you spend your money on?

Yes, it is easy to say oh this is only a $1 or $2 so what’s the big deal. Well after 5 of those its only $1 adds up to $5 which enough to buy milk and bread for the week in my house. The coffee I love to grab with a bagel and donut on Saturday mornings… $8! If I bought coffee, bagels and cream cheese at the grocery store and brought them with me the break down would be about $2 for my breakfast. (I totally don’t need the donut and its an impulse buy every single week lol) I could use that other $6 towards groceries, gas or savings.

For one month, I am taking a little notebook that I bought a while ago (yes we have a collection of those that I wasted money on) and tracking where my spending goes every day. This will help me see, on paper, where the money goes and where I can cut back on spending.

I am breaking it down into 5 categories:

Household/Groceries (g)

House Bills (b)

Transportation/Gas (t)

Misc Spending (m)

Saving (s)

In my notebook, I will record day by day what I spend money on and use my codes to keep the categories straight. This way at the end of the week and month, I can easily track where the money is spent. At the end of the money, I will be putting this into a spreadsheet on my computer so that I can lay out my budget plans for next month. My goal is to add more into our savings for incidentals and vacations.

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Check out my facebook page which will be updated on Sundays with my tracking numbers and watch where I am spening my money: Kaella Facebook Page

Are you ready to start tracking your spending and see where your money goes?

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Gardening Essentials to Buy at the Dollar Store

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When you are living on a budget but want to expand your garden, then you need to go to the Dollar Store! Over the past couple of years, I have seen the Dollar Store expand their garden supplies from tiny pots and watering cans to decent sized pots, watering cans with the longer spout, seeds, tools, gloves and even small bags of soil! This is where I needed to be shopping to get my garden going for this year.

The must have that I picked up first was the watering can with the narrow spout. I prefer this kind of spout for my small indoor pots because I can control the water flow. To buy this type at Walmart or Lowe’s will run you at least $10.

Next, I picked up some pots for my seedlings. The ones I picked up are 6″ pots which after I am done with transplanting my seedlings to bigger pots, I will use these pots to transplant my herbs. There were bigger pots that I plan on picking up this week once I have my garden plans set. At Home Depot, a 6″ pot starts at $2  so you can basically get one free at the Dollar Store.

Then, I found a hanging basket and liner which will be great for the wild flower seeds that I purchased as well. I love the look of a hanging baskets on porches to bring out the colors of a house. What I don’t like is the price at Walmart starting at $8 for a small one. I can’t wait to watch my flowers bloom in my new hanging basket!

Other things that you can find to get your garden started is gardening tools like a shovel and rake, gardening gloves and kneeling pads. I have all of these from previous years of gardening so I didn’t need to buy them this year but it is a great resource for someone just starting on their green thumb journey or someone needing to replace their tools.

Last week, I talked about the variety of seeds that you can buy at the dollar store. Out of convenience, I picked up seed packets for carrots and lettuce at Walmart which were $1.49 and $1.69 each so I could have picked up a third packet if I bought them at the Dollar Store! If you want to read my post about starting from seeds here is the post: Plant Seeds to Save The Earth

The only thing that I did not purchase at the Dollar Store was my soil. Since I will be doing my gardening from pots, I prefer to use Miracle Grow potting soil because it has the added nutrients my plants will need.

I can’t wait to continue to journal my garden as the season continues! Fill me in on some of your gardening tips below!

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Plant Seeds to Save Earth and Money

25 Poppasome Tokens of Appreciation

Its Earth Day and what better way to celebrate than by starting a garden! An added bonus to starting a garden is the money you save by growing your own herbs, vegetables and fruits.

For most of my life, I have loved flowers and gardens but was plagued with a black thumb. Any living plant I tried to grow, failed and died pretty quickly. Either, I forgot to water or I over watered and killed the plants.Even with the consistent failing at growing plants, I kept on trying over and over again.

Through much perseverance, I have turned my black thumb into a green thumb. Last year, I planted cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, Bok choy, beans and squash. Also, I planted so many beautiful flowers. The cucumbers, some of the peppers, bok choy and squash were bought and planted as seedling plants. The tomatoes, rest of the peppers, lettuce and beans were started as seeds.

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Starting the plants as seeds was a first time thing for me and I didn’t realize how fast and how many of seedlings grow from these tiny seeds. I ended up with SOOOOOO many tomato and pepper plants that we couldn’t keep up with all of them. Danyella was in her glory to be able to go pick and eat her tomatoes whenever she wanted all summer long.

I did have some failures like my bok choy and squash. I didn’t know that squash needed some help with their fruition in order to grow. Plus, I didn’t know that bok choy would bolt so quickly and I couldn’t keep up with it.

This year, thanks to Target, Walmart and the Dollar store, I have expanded my list of plants which I am starting all from seeds. At Walmart and Target, I found herbs in little tins that come with the seeds and starter pellets. The great thing about these kits is that the herbs can continue to grow indoors in these tins, all year-long. Now, I can cook with fresh herbs like Thyme, Basil, Cilantro, Oregano and Sage!

I bought seeds like tomato, snap peas, and beans plus the seed starting trays at the dollar store. These are great because you only need them for a short period of time. I bought the seed starter pellets for $4 at Walmart and have lots of seedlings already started. I have leftover seeds from last year and need to buy a few more types of seeds for this year.

Instead of buying tons of trays, I am recycling egg cartons, milk containers and things to start my seeds or make into pots. This not only saves me money but saves the Earth from more trash to be collected in a trash dump.

My challenge this year is going to be to make my garden grow all in pots. I am fearful of planting a garden in the yard because we share it with the unruly neighbors whose kids don’t have any respect for other people’s property. Living on the second floor, I have lots of outdoor steps leading up to our door to utilize with pots. I plan on using every space possible to grow my garden and save money this summer with our fresh veggies and trying a strawberry plant for the first time this year!

Total for seeds, pellets and eventually soil for my pots will still cost less than going to the store and buying these fruits and veggies at the store.

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Are you ready to start a garden today?

 

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Everyone loves or loathes Spring cleaning their house but how many of you Spring clean your finances? This is something that will help keep you on track toward your financial goals whether its saving for your family vacation or saving for your first house.

So what goes into Spring cleaning your finances? It’s taking a deep look into your budget, spending, income and where you can clean some stuff up with your finances. It’s looking at whether you need that donut when you buy your coffee (I am guilty of this) or do you need to eat out once a week or can every other week work into your lifestyle?

For most people, your income is a set amount every week or every other week because that’s when they receive their paycheck. For my family, the hubby gets a paycheck every other week for his night job. Then, our income fluctuates because we own businesses that rely on other people either hiring Doug for a service or for myself someone purchasing my products. We have adjusted our budget to accommodate the way our income is paid to us but for most people you know how much you will be getting and when which makes budgeting and analyzing your spending so easy.

Do you fit into the 50/20/30 rule? One of the hardest part of the rule to stay in is the 30% for your lifestyle because it’s easy to add those extras into your spending. I am so guilty of this especially eating out. When I am to tired to cook because I was up all night with the baby or we were out with the dance or something else going on, eating out is the easiest physical solution. Afterwards, I kick myself because financially I shouldn’t have spent that money because it could have gone towards the family Disney trip we are savings towards.

As a new series, I want to break down ways to cut down on the lifestyle spending through the Spring season. Each Sunday, I will focus on a different way to Spring clean your lifestyle spending in a fun way. Let’s Spring clean our finances while having fun!

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Cutting the Cable Wire

Cut the Cable out

For the past year and half my family has lived without cable which to some people seems crazy but for our family it was an unnecessary added bill. When I was looking at ways to cut costs in our budget, the cable bill just killed me because we paid over $130 for internet and cable. We didn’t watch a 1/4 of the channels! Oh and our Internet was at the slowest speed so we went through constant buffering and delays.

We live in a day and age where you can’t live without internet. I need internet for blogging and business and Danyella’s homeschooling is half done through an online program. Plus, we stream Netflix and Hulu to fulfill our desire to watch something on TV. Which before we cut the cable, we were mainly streaming our shows on an app instead of watching live tv.

Paying over $130 for cable we barely watch and Internet that moved at snail speed just was not ok for me and for our budget. So me being me, I set out and did research with LOTS of notes. I looked at how much it costs for different scenarios to keep our internet and streaming services.

Since our area is limited (due to a stupid 15 year or some outrageous number contract with a specific company) to only one cable and internet company, our options were meek but doable. To go with just the internet package from our cable company, they offer 4 plans starting with the craptastic $45 Plan that is recommended for less than 3 devices in the home. Then, there are 2 middle plans for $55 and $70. Last is the Queen of the plans at $90 a month for the ultimate gaming experience. We don’t need the gaming experience so we went with the $55 plan that is good for 5 devices at once which is about right between streaming, laptops and phones going at once.

How am I watching stuff on my tv without cable? I had previously purchased an Amazon Firestick for the living room tv Danyella’s room plus our bedroom had a roku smart tv so we have streaming devices. ($35 each for the sticks and the tv was $120 at Walmart) In the long run, this was an investment well worth the month. Total out-of-pocket so far is $55 a month and $210 lifetime

Now onto our streaming apps! Netflix is a must have in our lives because I have an obsession with watching Orange is the New Black and Danyella watches Fuller House. When I say obsession… the day either of those shows come out, we get up at 3am and binge ALL DAY until we have watched all the episodes at once. Only breaks are for potty and food. Cost of our obsession is $14 a month to watch on 4 screens (sometimes we are all watching something different and take up 3 screens). An added perk that I only recently discovered is you can download movies onto your tablet or phone for free and watch them without using internet for 2 weeks. New out-of-pocket expenses: monthly $69 lifetime $120

Hulu has become our new way to watch live tv because a little over a year without watching my live sports was killing me slowly. I needed to watch my Eagles on Sundays plus there were some tv shows that I wanted to watch live and not see all the spoilers on Facebook thanks to my friends. Hulu recently came out with a live streaming package with DVR and completely revamped their app which I love! We get all the major channels like ABC, CBS and NBC plus food network, kids channels and a bunch more we don’t watch but sometimes I’ll record movies to watch later. This was worth every penny to watch the recent Superbowl (Fly Eagles Fly) and the Winter Olympics. Oh and I needed to watch the new episodes of Grey’s live before Facebook told me what happened. Only downfall of the live streaming channels is that they don’t stream any of the Hallmark channels (sometimes a girl needs a little girly romance movie binge). The new Hulu live streaming service is $40 per month. The Latest totals: Monthly $109 Lifetime $210

With eliminating our cable, upgrading our internet and using streaming apps our new total a month is $109! This saves us $36 a month which is 2 weeks worth of gas for my car or more than half of my grocery shopping budget a week!! With the Hulu live streaming we can always pause our subscription if the $40 isn’t in our budget one month or we want to use that money towards something else. Saving $36 and upgrading to a better internet package makes the changes feel worth it because we aren’t wasting money or getting frustrated with the internet.

How many of you have cut the cable cord in your homes?

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Kid’s Nickel Weekly Savings with Printable Chart

Kids Weekly NickelSavings Challenge

Having a recent birthday, Danyella has wanted to spend every penny that she was given on anything and everything. She is the same way with any allowance we give her for doing her chores. Watching Danyella react to money this way to money was concerning because she needs to learn to save money along with spending her money in a smart way.

I am all for kids spending their money on something special that they want. Like, Danyella wants a bow of her own for archery plus new dance leotards. I am willing to help pay for things that she needs but when she wants something then she needs to learn to either earn the item or earn the money to purchase the item.

For years, I have seen the money challenges for adults. Usually saving $1 or $5 at week 1 and doubling that amount every week. That is too much for Danyella and she would get frustrated and give up. She has a new fascination with coins and would rather be given coins than bills.

This is why I came up with a Nickel challenge for Kids. A nickel increase a week is reasonable for a kid. Plus, a coin is so much more fun for a kid especially when they hear the clink of the coin going into the jar. The fun things is that you can start this anytime of the year. I did break it down for 52 weeks but left spaces to keep going. By the end of 52, a child will save $68.90! To Danyella, that is like a million dollars!

Photo Mar 04, 12 58 53 PM

I purchased a $3 clear jar with a lid from Target (LOVE LOVE LOVE Target’s dollar section!) so that Danyella can see her savings grow. The jar will be kept on our Dining Room hutch so that she won’t be touching and taking any of the money out without our permission and knowledge. My goal is to let her save this money to use for spending money on our next vacation because then she can buy what she wants within her budget.

 

To print the downloadable PDF click this link:  Kid’s Nickel Weekly Savings PDF

 

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Utilizing Rain Checks for Grocery Shopping

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Yesterday, for the first time, I went to customer service at my local grocery store and asked for a rain check. I have never done this and didn’t even know it was still a thing some stores do until someone talked about it in my couponing group. Rain checks are still a thing so how and when do I ask or use them?

Typically in my shopping adventures, if the store is out of something on sale then I won’t worry about it. This week was a different story because I went to Shoprite twice for my Creamate French Vanilla creamer and they were out. The creamer was on sale for $1.66 so I wanted to stock up on it because I go through creamer now that I am back to drinking coffee everyday.

 

With my coffee, I am a creature of habit either French Vanilla or Pumpkin Spice (I could drink it all year long if they would make and sell it) or Peppermint Mocha (only in December before Christmas). If I wanted to drink coffee that tasted like Cookies and Cream or some other gross flavor (sorry if I offended anyone) , then I would have gone home with creamer. I just couldn’t do it.

 

After I was done checking out, I put on my big girl panties and went to customer service to ask for my rain check. For some reason, doing stuff like this makes me nervous and shy. So I stumbled over my words when I asked for a rain check and the girl needed to know exactly what I wanted it for. I didn’t realize she needed the exact flavor… whoops.

Eventually, I was able to find my big girl words and walked away with my rain check for my french vanilla creamer! A little more success for my shopping trip!

After some research, I found out that my local grocery stores will issue rain checks. As far as I know, Walmart and Target do not issue rain checks for any of their grocery products. I will now be using this knowledge to help in my future shopping trips to save money and you should too!

If you or your family have products that you love and they are out of stock when they are on sale, then I encourage you to ask for a rain check because it can help save you so much money especially if you end up getting a coupon for that product in the future! Double win!

This week’s trip was small because we are moving over the next 2 weeks and I don’t want to stock up on to much and have to move even more stuff. I spent $30.73 and saved $87! My only complaint is that my $2 digital coupon for diapers didn’t come off so I will be going to customer service this week to get it fixed. Diapers are expensive as it is so saving an extra $2 is helpful (it is enough to purchase my creamer with my rain check!). Instead of paying $3 for my diapers, I spent $5…

My free items this week were the detergent bottles, scent booster, stain fighter packs, bananas. Halos  were $2 (I bought a bag of these earlier in the week as well), Raisin Bran Crunch $.50, Kellogs and Frosted Flakes were $3 for both, pasta $1.50, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (not my fav chunky monkey sadly) $1.50, bacon $2, ground beef (3 pounds) for $6 and the water was 3 cases for $6.

I definitely missed stocking up on some stuff but still grabbed great deals. I plan on splitting the ground meat into 1 pound bags to freeze and use in the future for pasta meals. We plan on packing our kitchen over the next couple of days so we will be eating lots of easy stuff like cereal so thankfully the cereal was a great deal. Even though we won’t go through 3 cases of water before we move, I couldn’t pass up this deal because at Walmart you buy a case for over $3 a case for their brand.

Have you used rain checks? How was your shopping trip this week?

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Organize Your Shopping Trip to Save Money

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If you are anything like I was, you would mentally have a grocery shopping list but didn’t write anything down. If I had coupons, it would be a couple and not on sale items. I had no plan which ended up costing me three times the amount of money because I impulse shopped.

Impulse shopping is one of the worst things for a person/family living on a budget. You end up buying thing you THINK you need instead of buying what you KNOW you need. For over 15 years this is how I shopped but not anymore!

Going into the store with an organized game plan was a game changer for my spending habits and budget. I am going to show you my steps to Organizing My Shopping Trip to Save the Most Money….

1. Set aside a block of time to organize every week. Gather your coupons, coupon binder, flyers, meal plan and 2 sheets of paper to make your list.

2. Cut and organize your coupons into your binder. Don’t forget to throw out the expired coupons you have in your binder.

3. Time to make your grocery list!

  • With your meal plan and 1 piece of paper, go through the flyer and write down the items you need that are on sale.
  • Add to the list the items you need for your household
  • Now, with your coupon binder out compare your list and flyer to the coupons you have. One thing I have learned with my couponing is that the coupon inserts or coupons from coupons.com coincide with the weekly flyer so that you can maximize your savings.
  • This is where I get my 2nd sheet of paper out… In order to keep my shopping on track and stay on budget with my list, I reorganize my list to follow my way around the grocery store. Depending on what store I am going to depends on what section I start in. Shoprite (my go to grocery store) starts at the produce than bakery then meat, deli, dairy, frozen and so on. Walmart starts on the opposite side of grocery so once I get through the rest of the store, I start with household then dairy, meat, pantry, frozen etc.
    • Organizing my list by section has been super helpful in staying on track. Don’t get me wrong, I have still impulse shopped when I see a sale I might have missed in the flyer like the popcorn that was on clearance plus I had a coupon for so I got the box for $.70!
    • I prefer starting in the produce and meat sections because those are items that go by weight and if I need to skim my budget then I would rather take a pantry item off my list then a core item.
    • I organize my coupons by section as well so that I can easily pull them out and check the details of what I need to purchase for them.
    • I always have my binder and coupon binder with me in case they are out of something I need then I can get a rain check or chose something else and see if a coupon will work.
  • I always calculate what I am spending as I shop so that I am staying on track because with the weighed products, you can easily get off track. My most recent trip, I had calculated that I was going to spend $46 but when I got down checking out my total was only $38 because some items were a lower price then I had calculated. You can’t beat spending less than what you calculate and walking out with more money in my pocket!

**My weekly trip takeaway: Total Spent $38.56

Big Savings: Razors $0, Chobani $0, Gogurt $0, 2 boxes of cereal $3.50, coffee $4, diapers $4, blueberries $1, hummus $1, eggs $1.70, 2 boxes of waffles $2, sausage $1, 2 packs of wipes $1, Ghiradhelli brownie mix $1.50, vegetable oil $3, popcorn $.70 and alot more savings. Total savings $65!

Photo Feb 03, 6 11 56 PM
Spent $38 Saved $65!
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Create your own Coupon Binder

It’s Savings Sunday and I am going to chat about my couponing best friend… my Coupon Binder! Through my research of extreme couponing, I learned that (after the coupons) a couponer needs to have a coupon binder to organize and keep track of their coupons. Each person has their own method to their couponing madness so I am going to share my Binder and madness with all of you!

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.

To create a simple coupon Binder you will need:

1 Binder (I am using a 1″ Binder but I know others that use wider binders)

Scotch tape that has a matte finish because the shiny finish will wipe the pen/marker off

Sharpie or pen (I prefer a sharpie because it’s easier to write)

Clear plastic sheet protectors (I have a set of 12 but could use more to break down my categories)

Coupons of course (yes I am being a total smart ass now)

Now my preference is to use full size sheet protectors because I print a lot of coupons from the internet which tend to be on the larger size. Alot of extreme couponers use baseball card protector sheets because you can group the multiple coupons together. I tried this way and didn’t like that the sleeves required me to fold the big coupons in odd ways to get them to fit.

I use the tape to create labels for my sheet protectors. My categories are household, beauty, medicine, beverages, breakfast, pantry, frozen, meat, dairy, produce, baby, and miscellaneous. Ideally, I will get another set of protectors and breakdown these categories even more for easier organization.

The inside binder pockets are used to store my new coupons before I get them cut, the store flyer (when I can find them because our town doesn’t have them delivered to us which is just stupid!) and my receipts (because I like to keep track of my savings).

I now keep my coupon binder in the diaper bag so it’s always with me in case I need to make an unexpected stop for something.

This week’s savings update: I made this week a small trip because I was given the heads up, in the couponing group I am in, that this coming week was going to have lots of coupons and our local store was going to have super coupons. Better to get what we need and save the money for next week. What did I get? My deals…. 2 Chobani yogurts for free (could have been 3 but I forgot to take the coupon off of the printer), Orange juice for $.99, 3 boxes of cereal for $4.50, 6 pack of flavored water for Danyella for $.88 and waffles for $1.19. In total, I bought 13 items for $15! I can’t complain about that at all!

I can’t wait to see what this coming weeks deals will be!!

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Couponing Terms with Printable List

8 foolproof ways to

As I have been researching and participating in groups on couponing, I found myself lost because I couldn’t understand the terms these couponers were using. OOP was the most common. Then there is stacking and catalina and frees. What in the heck are these people saying? I didn’t quite realize that couponing came with its own language which the 4 years of Spanish in High School will not help me here!

I decided to start a list and make it printable for all of my fellow newbie couponers to understand what other people are saying. I printed this list out so when I am reading an article or scanning through Facebook groups, I can look up the term without needing to google it. I hope this list will help you! If there is a term that I am missing please feel free to leave it in the comment so I can edit the printable list. Click here for the PDF free printable:  Couponing Terms to Know

For this week’s big savings: I was really proud of myself to watch what the extreme couponers in my area were doing and following suit, on a smaller scale. Our local grocery store had Arm & Hammer laundry detergent 3 for $1.77 each, a digital $3 off 3 coupon and a manufacture $3 off 3 coupon which made these FREE! Plus Schick razors were on sale for $5.99 with a $1 off digital coupon and $4 off manufacture coupon which made them $.99! Plus, Huggies diapers on sale for $6.99 with $2 digital coupon and $2 manufacture coupon which made them $2.99! There are a ton of other deals that I scored and wish I would have taken a picture but I will from now on. In total I spent $20.06 and saved over $75 between sale items, digital and manufacture coupons! Oh and I can shave my legs again now that I can see them after I had the baby so double score for me!!

Keep an eye out for next week’s DIY Coupon Binder to get us started with organizing all of these coupons!

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