Grocery Shopping 8/17/14

Monday, August 18, 2014
In order to keep my grocery budget in check I'm going to start posting them here again. Boring for you to read? Yes. Maybe keep me accountable? Yes.

The local food pantry was hosting a food drive outside Walmart when I went. I always buy some canned food items to donate when they are hosting these. I'm going to bold the donated items so I can keep track. Kroger had chicken on sale for $1.99/lb. I bought 4 packages and split them up to freeze when I got home.

 Great Value egg noodles - $1.50
 Sub Sandwich Rolls -        $2.74
 Tomato Sauce/No Salt      $0.88 X 2
 Cream of Mushroom         $1.00
 Ranch Dressing                 $3.92
 Red Grapes                      $1.94
 Bananas                           $1.50
 Great Value oatmeal         $1.62
 Chicken Ravioli                $0.98 x 2
 Spaghettios                      $0.54 x 4
 Total = $21.72

Kale                                $0.99
Baby Spinach                  $2.49
Carrots                            $0.89
Toffee Ice Cream            $1.67
Boars Head Provolone    $3.25
Boars Head Honey Ham  $7.99
Feminine Products           $1.89
Granny Smith Apples       $4.00
Hot Sauce                       $1.19
Mushrooms                     $0.89
2 bell peppers                 $1.78
Watermelon                    $3.49
Perdue Chicken              $8.94

Flour Tortillas                $1.19
Cantaloupe                    $0.99
Onions                          $1.89
Gold Potatoes               $2.99
Mozzarella                    $1.99 x 2
Skim Milk                     $2.89
Wheat Bread                $1.29
Butter                           $2.99
Celery                          $1.29
Sour Cream                  $1.29
Bacon                           $3.99
Total= $26.70

Grand total (with donated items)=$91.21
Grand Total (without donated items) = $85.47

Budgeted amounts was $80.00 but I stocked up on chicken. Not terribly shabby!    

Money Making Apps

Sunday, August 17, 2014
 I've read about a lot of different apps and websites that can be used to earn points toward gift cards for different retailers. I'm going to discuss a couple of them today. Some I have used and some I haven't but I encourage you to give them a shot!

 I've used swagbucks for several years. You complete surveys and watch videos to earn points. Once you have earned a certain number of points you can cash it in for a gift card. You can get a $5 amazon card for 450 points. There are tons of websites online to optimize your time spent on swagbucks.

 Today I downloaded the Perk TV app on my tablet. There are quite a few ladies on the forums I frequent who use this app. It runs ads and trailers on your device and gives you points while it's working. I've heard it works the best when you aren't planning to use your device and you can just let it run. I plan to try that for awhile at night to see how well it works.

 Walmart recently introduced the new Savings Catcher app. Today after going grocery shopping I decided to download it on my tablet. There are other apps out there to help you save money while grocery shopping but most require a smart phone. This one does not. All you have to do is create an account and type in the TC# from your receipt. If a lower price is found you'll receive the difference on a Walmart eGift Card. I'm not sure how well this will actually work for us because I rarely buy name brand items. Here is a list of FAQ's about the program.

 There is another app that I want to put on Phillip's phone. The ibotta app gives you points toward gift cards for completing different tasks. I've heard good reviews but haven't tried it yet.

 Do you have any favorite apps or websites you use to earn gift cards or points? If you're interested in trying either the Perk TV or SwagBucks programs please use my referral codes listed below. We'll both get points!

Swagbucks Referral
Perk Referral

Emotions and Getting Off Track

Recently I haven't been paying too much attention to our spending. We have been mostly adhering to our budget but not really strictly following it. I think it's mostly because I feel like we're never going to make any progress so why bother. I'm just tired of it, I want our student loans to just be gone.

 I know the real reason I'm feeling like this is because I'm still pretty depressed from the loss of our baby. I don't feel like I'm going to be able to really start healing until the due date passes. We were also hoping to be pregnant again by the time our due date gets here but as of now that hasn't happened yet.

 So because I'm feeling depressed if I feel like something will make me feel better then I will go ahead and buy it. New foundation? Maybe that will make me feel better. No? What about these jeans? Still not working? Maybe if I do this I'll feel better.

 So far the only thing that has really reduced my stress and made me feel actually happy was going on vacation. We spent most of our days snorkeling and it was so relaxing. Too bad I can't do that every day!

 We've still been making more than our minimum payments on our loans but we definitely aren't putting as much toward them as we could be.

 I feel like if our debt free date was closer I would have more motivation. I'm just tired of not getting anywhere. I'm angry that without student loans we would be able to save about $20,000/year. It's just all very frustrating.

 We threw an $1,100 snowball at SallieMae today. That felt nice.

Off to write a happier post. I'm really not as miserable as this is making me sound, I'm just really frustrated right now.

Guest Post: Ashley from The Nerdy Blogger

Friday, June 27, 2014

   Today I'm posting my very first guest post! I asked my friend Ashley from The Nerdy Blogger to share her story about reaching debt freedom and financial peace. To learn more about Ashley you can go to her blog The Nerdy Blogger.   You can also check her out on Facebook.

   Here we go!

I’m an odd duck.

I always have been, but one of the things that makes me a particularly odd duck is invisible on the outside. My husband, Ryan, and I are debt free. No, we’re not billionaires. No, we aren’t trust fund babies with cash coming out our ears. We’re a young married couple in our late twenties. I’m a self-employed writer, a part-time graduate student, and I have 2 side jobs. Ryan works as a pizza delivery driver and is a part-time student as well. How did we get there? Well, it’s an interesting and convoluted story. We aren’t debt free because we’re crazy brilliant and have always made the best decisions. We are debt free because we have chosen to maintain that lifestyle from the beginning.


Our journey to being debt-free began when I started driving in high school. I had inherited my mom’s ’95 Camry, that had a non-functional tape deck, no CD player, and this was before the advent of the mp3 player, but it did have a radio. I tuned in to my local Christian station, which played Dave Ramsey Money Minutes about the time I’d drive to class in the morning. I began learning about how to be organized with money. I quickly became convinced that debt was not something I wanted to have in my life. I started college shortly after that. My mom worked at the college I attended, largely so I could attend college debt free. My mom’s tuition benefits didn’t cover my textbooks, but I got a scholarship and I worked two part-time jobs to help cover that expense. I met my husband later in college. His school was funded by scholarships and generous family members. We both left that school debt free. A few years after graduation, we got married, and moved to Charlotte to start our lives together.

Marriage and Money

One of the best ways to start your marriage is with some solid premarital counseling. We chose to take Financial Peace University (FPU). Ryan and I both had a fair handle on money. We never spent money we didn’t have. We tried not to buy things beyond what we really needed with the exception of the occasional splurge. However, even with this great start to our marriage, FPU really helped put hands and feet on our good habits to really rev up our savings and helped us to be mindful of our spending. Having this good foundation has made all the difference. We seldom argue about money and when we do, we play fair.

Rough Spots in the Road

A little over a year into our marriage, I found myself in dire need of a job change. I was making more money than I’d ever had in my life and I was completely miserable. My degree was in English, not retail management, which is where I found myself. I was running 3 bookstores, had no time for family or relaxation, and was plagued with constant anxiety. The job was attacking my mental, spiritual, and especially my physical health. After much prayer, counsel, and reading some great books on career (Quitter by Jon Acuff and 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller), Ryan and I decided the best thing I could do was quit. However, this decision was not made lightly. Here are the main reasons we decided that we could do this.
  1. We have no kids.
  2. We have no debt.
  3. We had a fully funded emergency fund of 6 months’ worth of expenses.

Had any of these 3 factors been different, I would have toughed it out while finding something of comparable income. But because we had those 3 factors in place, I was able to quit and do something a little more daring, something I’d desired to do for a long time—I became a writer. I started writing freelance and gradually began to build up a steady writing business. Being debt free allows you options. I am so grateful that we had these options.

Stupid Tax and Potholes

While building my writing business, as with any new business, I was underemployed. We also had done some miscalculation on Ryan’s anticipated income, so our budget was incorrect. This meant we had to dip into our emergency fund to cover expenses. I also made the mistake of keeping my regular health insurance through COBRA after quitting my job. We only asked around at one place to comparison shop—mistake number one. We were told that we had the best deal available—mistake number two. This, my friends, is called stupid tax. I had COBRA from October 2012 through June 2013, a mistake that probably cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $2700 of our emergency savings. We finally woke up in June and realized how unsustainable this was and visited a Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider for health insurance. Our broker helped us choose the best plan for me, saving us around $300 a month!

Once we could finally breathe on that front, we realized that if I couldn’t find more writing work soon, I would have to pick up a part-time job outside of my writing. I was living in a little bit of a fantasy world, and just knew that I would never have to do that, despite the dwindling numbers in our emergency fund staring me in the face.

I was wrong.

Murphy knocked on our door in September—pothole number one. As I mentioned before, we don’t have any children, but we do have two cats. Luna and Oliver, while furry, are like children to us. Oliver, our baby boy, got really sick about 10:30pm on a Saturday night in late September 2013. With our regular vet closed, I had to take him to the Emergency Animal Hospital. If he had gotten sick on a weekday, it probably would have been half the cost. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. In fact, if I had waited until first thing Monday morning to take Oliver to the vet, he very likely could have died. Oliver had a blocked bladder, something that can be fatal if left untreated for more than 24-48 hours. The procedure saved our baby boy, but came very close to emptying our emergency fund. The total came up to around $850. We got Oliver home on Monday morning and noticed after a few hours that he just didn’t seem right. We took the precaution of calling our regular vet and they said to bring him by so he could be observed for the day. We did and later that day, they recommended that they keep him overnight. Long story short, Oliver ended up spending the rest of week in the vet’s office because his bladder became blocked again—pothole number two. The projected amount for his stay and treatment was greater than the remaining amount in our emergency fund. I knew my parents had an account set up for me back home that they had continued to put money into, though I had long left the nest. I had to do a pride-shattering thing.

I called my dad.

My parents graciously wired the money to my bank account. Thankfully, the actual cost of Oliver’s stay at the vet was much less than they originally projected because he recovered so quickly. The total was around $650. However, even with the lower amount due, I knew we had to quickly get our emergency fund back in place because now I realized we were not immune to emergencies.

Even through rough times, God’s hand has never ceased to provide, though it’s not always in a way that I would imagine or prefer. The day we took Oliver back to our regular vet, Ryan’s best friend Zak called me and asked if I needed a part-time job. Zak had no idea that Oliver, his fur nephew, had even been sick. I was able to start the job the next week. The best part was that I was making more money an hour at this job than I did as a manager. The Lord will provide.

Despite getting the great new job, we knew we had to go a step further to help fix our emergency fund. The job would only help to solve our income problem. Earlier in 2013, we had purchased tickets to attend a conference that had changed our lives over the past two years—Hutchmoot. Total cost on tickets for the both of us was around $579. We ended up selling those tickets in order to give our emergency savings a boost. This was a wise decision. About a week after that, we got another visit from Murphy—pothole number three.

As I stated previously, Ryan works as a pizza delivery driver. Thanks to the help of a car savvy friend, we realized that Ryan was in desperate need of 2 more tires for his car. We were able to replace those, but it ended up costing us around $350. Thankfully, we had the money in savings to cover it, but still, a smaller number in the emergency fund is a scary thing. We worked hard and kept putting money back in savings, regardless of how small.

About 2 weeks after that in late October, I was getting back in my car after a trip to the grocery store and realized to my horror that the steel was starting to show through on one of my tires. I went to the shop and learned that I had to get 3 tires. This trip to the tire shop cost nearly $400 and emptied out the rest of our emergency savings—pothole number four. Remember what I said about God providing? A friend in the bookstore business called me and asked if I could use a part-time job. Ryan and I had been praying for more work for me—didn’t God know that I meant writing work? However, when God provides, it is not always what we might imagine. I took the job and it proved to be a blessing. I hustled and worked my way through November, bringing in more money to help boost up our savings again and completely solved our income deficit. 

Then in December, we got hit with potholes five and six. Ryan’s car had previously been in his mother’s name. We had done the paperwork to have the car transferred to his name, but didn’t realize it would cost us nearly $250 to title it in our county. No problem, we had the cash to do it. Then 2 days after that, Ryan’s car started making a horrendous noise. We took it to our mechanic and discovered he needed new front brakes immediately—pothole number five. We sold a few things to get the cash to pay for his brake job. I found out that I needed rear brakes shortly after that—pothole six. No big deal, right? I was about to be paid from one of my part-time jobs. I had my check set up on direct deposit so it would be right in my bank account. I go the next day to look at my account. It’s not there. I emailed my employer and she didn’t know anything about it either. Later that day a company wide e-mail was sent out, explaining that there was a delay with direct deposits and I would be paid on the 12th of the month, rather than the 10th, as usual. Because of the delay, I ended up having to take time off from work to get my brakes done, rather than have them done on my day off, so I had to absorb some opportunity cost.

Despite all these potholes, we were able to persevere. Even when we had to empty out our emergency fund, we never borrowed money. We were able to work out our problems by selling things, working extra, and waiting. Could the expense be put off, even for just one more day? If the answer was yes, it got delayed. Sometimes this meant we stretched things out a little longer than we should have. We got creative with dinner and made unusual dishes with what we had on hand. (If I had my own restaurant, it would be called the Second Chance Buffet. Or maybe a cooking show called Luxury Leftovers). We sold things on eBay, traded them in at our local used book/movie/music shop, and bought nothing extra. We gathered up every bit of spare change we found in the couch and dropped it off at the coin counter at our bank. It did get a little scary at times, but we held on to God and to each other. He got us through each time and it built up our relationship, knowing we can weather the storms of life together.

We are still working to recover our fully funded emergency fund, but we know that we will meet our goals through hard work and discipline. You can do it, too.

How do you get past unexpected problems with your money? Share your story of how you got through the tough times.


Reducto SallieMae! (Alternate Title: How Nerds Pay Off Debt)

Friday, May 9, 2014

 What, you don't try to blow up your student loans using spells from Harry Potter? Oh...I guess perhaps that isn't normal. We'll just pretend that didn't happen. On the other hand, normal is boring. Weird is awesome!

  I had an idea for a themed debt thermometer a few months ago and finally decided to put it into action. These pictures are pretty awful but you'll get the idea.

 First, take all of your debts and put them in order from largest to smallest. We used an excel spreadsheet for this. After you run out of names of Death Eaters you just head over to Google and find some more. This has been edited since the screenshot was taken. I somehow forgot Voldemort and after a bit of reading realized Ludo Bagman wasn't a Death Eater, he was just a jerk. Now Voldemort is our top loan and Fenrir Greyback has been moved to Bagmans place. 

Then you find your scrapbooking supplies and realize you're running low on paper. Your only options are green or purple. Green is a color for Slytherin so that will have to suffice. 

Choose your symbols. I decided that the Dark Mark will be used to measure how much we owe. Each Dark Mark is equal to 99 galleons, 5 sickles, and 5.5 knuts. After we submit a payment of that amount the Dark Mark is covered by the Deathly Hallows. As you can see we're currently working on Lucius Malfoy, he has a 9% interest rate. The rest have between a 3%-6% interest rate. 


When you're debt is paid just go all Avada Kadavra and finish them off. This part is pretty satisfying, I'm not going to lie about that.

So there ya go. It's now hanging on our fridge and will hopefully give us some motivation! 

Overcoming Obstacles

Monday, April 28, 2014
    Today I finally threw a big snowball. It's been awhile since we've done that. This morning as I was about to hit the 'confirm payment' button I thought back to why it's been so long.

    Here's a list of things we've encountered in the past 6-8 months that have slowed our pace dramatically.

  • Between gas and car rental it costs us around $350 for us to make a trip back to Missouri. We went back for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. 
  • We ended up needing a new to us car due to extensive rust, we saved up $3,000 for that. 
  • Phillip broke a tooth and it was about $400 for a crown and fillings.
  • My wisdom teeth were impacted and needed to be surgically removed - $800. This probably could have waited but it was causing a bit of pain so we thought it was best to go ahead and do it rather than waiting for them to get infected. 
   Those are just some of the smaller things. In February we had a little bit stashed in our savings account from saving for a car. We knew were hoping to start a family soon and wanted to get started on saving a little bit each month. We found out in early March that I was expecting. We started making more transfers to savings. Our goal was to have 4 months of income saved up by November to pay for medical bills and cover maternity leave.

  On March 31st my Dr. couldn't find a heartbeat. I had 2 options, have a D&C or take some medication. We chose the D&C, I got the bill on Monday for $500. We also did some emotional spending after we found out. After being home from work for a few days we got a little stir crazy so we got a hotel and went to Gatlinburg for a night. We also decided to travel home for Easter to see our families. We hadn't seen them since we lost our baby and sometimes you just need your mom no matter how old you are.

   This morning hitting send on that big payment was kind of a realization that life goes on, no matter what obstacles we face. We were saving that money for a crib, cute onesies, and lots of children's books. Instead it went to SallieMae and we are $4,000 closer to debt freedom.

  I didn't mean to turn this into a sap-fest but I guess I'm just feeling introspective tonight. My next post won't be nearly so sappy. I'm hoping to complete our new Harry Potter themed debt thermometer to post soon. I have a digital spreadsheet made, now I just have to do the crafty part.

  Good night for now!

Deactivating Facebook and Decluttering My Brain

Sunday, February 23, 2014
   Yesterday, during a PMS induced frustration, I decided to deactivate my Facebook. So if you're reading this and didn't find it via a link on my page, then that's awesome! I'm going to try it for 30 days, after some Google searches I have discovered that this is apparently a very hipster thing to do.

 As someone who lives 600 miles from their family I can attest that Facebook is a good way to keep in touch. It's also a huge time-suck and zaps my productivity. I found myself going on to check my notifications and then falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

  I found myself playing the comparison game. I've spent most of my life playing that game. You know the one. When you're young it's "she's so much prettier than me and that sucks." As an adult this becomes "They're more successful than us because they just bought a new car" or "Wow, their house is so beautiful. I wish we weren't renting." and my favorite: "I'm not a respectable adult yet because I don't have children." Ouch, that one stings.

 On the flip side it can lead to a sick sense of satisfaction "How many times has she been married? We're not even 30 yet."

 Those other people are probably putting up facades anyway. We want to appear perfect to outsiders but on the inside we are anything but. The couple with the new house might be struggling to pay their mortgage and having the fights that money struggles can bring. The couple with the new baby could be making one last effort to make their marriage work.

We're all broken. I know I don't share the negative aspects of myself online either but I do share them with the people who matter. If you know me pretty well you might know how much I struggle with anxiety. You may even be one of the lucky (and ever so patient) few who have talked me through a panic attack in the middle of the night.

 I'm done playing the game. I want to read more, learn more, and become healthier both mentally and physically. I don't want to spend my time comparing myself to other people. I want to focus on how I can be a better person and make a positive impact on others.

Craigslist Shopping for Cars

Saturday, February 1, 2014
    Wow, I've not updated in awhile. I have no excuse other than hibernating and being lazy. We started looking for a car around November and finally found on in January.

   I think the best decision we made in 2013 was moving closer to my work. There were a few cold mornings this winter that my Nissan decided it didn't want to start anymore. I was able to walk to work easily. It's also nice to get full nights of sleep without dancing elephants on the second floor.

  I was hesitant about buying on Craigslist at first, because dealers are supposed to be reputable. I learned through this experience that dealers are also pushy, smarmy, and really don't care to help you if you're not financing a fancy schmancy car.

 After looking online and visiting a couple of larger dealerships we quickly realized that wasn't the route for us. We changed our focus to looking at smaller "I have 20 cars in my backyard" places. It was there that I fell in love with an adorable lime green bug that was definitely in our price range. We took it to our mechanic to have it checked out and they said the transmission was about to go out. Please note that this is after the guy said "Oh yeah, that car runs great! No problems there!"

  This is when I got fed up and started obsessively stalking Craigslist for new listings every few hours. I e-mailed, sent texts, and hardly received any responses. Most things in our budget needed a lot of work or were gas guzzlers. With much patience and persistence I finally got what I wanted.

   It isn't pretty, new, or shiny, but it has been well maintained. The lady bought it new in 1999 for $19,000 and did regular maintenance on it. It's a Mazda with 114k miles, I have a huge stack of receipts for oil changes, labor, and the original bill of sale. We paid $3,000 for it and the only thing that we need to have done is to replace the right CV joint. 

   Because we had a plan in place we didn't make an impulse decision to go into debt for something new and shiny. We were able to save up pretty quickly and buy something outright. I think being on the Dave Ramsey plan has made us make more mature decisions with our money, if we didn't have that plan in place we might have made a decision based on emotions instead of making a well planned decision.

  My tips on buying a car are pretty basic but might be helpful, I'm not sure. Here they are anyway:

  1) Either be very specific or very open-minded. 
                It's easier to either have something very specific in mind or just go on value alone. There are about 20 new cars posted every 15 minutes on the Knoxville Craigslist site. This will help you weed out options you're not interested in and save time.

  2) Find a good deal? Now go to Kelly Blue Book or
                It's easy to find out the value of the car you want to purchase. You can input the individual properties of the vehicle or type in the VIN number.

   3) If you're buying from a dealer ask for a CarFax report. 
                 This will show you any maintenance associated with the vehicle, it also shows any accidents or damage the vehicle may have incurred. 

   4) Feel free to haggle, but be reasonable about it.
                  Haggling is just a part of buying on Craigslist, or even at a dealer. Only haggle after you've seen the car. We have the Nissan posted right now and people are making really low offers via text message. I've been just deleting those messages. Sorry, I'm not going to sell a running car for $200.00. Also if you are really interested in making the purchase take the cash with you. It shows the seller you're interested, good deals sell really fast on Craigslist. 

  5) Have it checked out
                 It only costs $20 at our mechanic to have a car checked out for major issues. That's nothing when you're looking at making a big purchase. I would rather spend $20 and find out a car needs tons of work and not buy the car rather than buy it and then realize I need to spend lots of money to fix it. 

 Those are my non professional tips on purchasing a car, it was an exhausting process. I'm not going to lie, I did break down and cry a time or two because it's just so much EASIER to finance a new car than find a good deal. I can say that I'm really glad we don't have a car payment though!