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Showing posts with label Budgeting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Budgeting. Show all posts

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Going Frugal: Gifts for Graduations and Weddings

Evelyn, who posted a comment today, had this great question within her comment:

This is an expensive month for me. I have lots of graduation and weddings. How much is reasonable to spend? I have 10 invitations sitting on my table now. I guess the people in the blog sphere are young and have not run into this problem. Everyone gives money. So how do you be frugal?

May and June are busy months for weddings, graduations, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

I wish I had an easy answer for you on this, Evelyn, but we've run into this issue ourselves over the years.

You have to decide which events you can feasibly attend. Ten invitations means ten events to fit into your busy schedule, a difficult task unto itself. And with rising costs of for gasoline, which affects both travel by car and air, you need to factor in your travel cost for attending, too.

First, you need to decide which events you absolutely must attend and which you can politely decline.

Then, you need to be honest with yourself about how much you can afford to give as gifts. And, as callous as this might sound, you need to create a gifting hierarchy; for example, a gift for your daughter on her wedding day is likely to be far more expensive than a gift for your co-worker Susie's son's graduation.

Don't feel guilty about making such discernments; and if you feel you received an invitation to an event just for whatever gift you might bring, absolutely do not feel guilty about deciding to send a congratulatory card with no gift.

Once you know which events you'll attend, who will receive gifts and who will receive cards, and just how you want to allocate whatever money you have in your budget for gifts, you'll have a clearer picture of what you can realistically do.

Whatever you do, don't let all those invitations create a weight of guilt on your shoulders, making you feel "obligated" to gift beyond your financial capacity.

The people who love you best, you family and friends, know that your presence at those important life moments is the real gift you bring to the party.

Kind Readers: how do you deal with our over-gifting society? Does guilt win out, or do you stand your frugal ground and find creative ways to gift without breaking the bank? Comment and share your stories and strategies.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My April Savings Totals: Kroger, WalMart, CVS, Walgreens

I'm linking up over at MoneySavingMom's Super Savings Saturday; be sure to visit the linkage for all sorts of inspiring deals!


Rather than a photo of my best deal for the week, I've calculated my savings totals for April now that I've had a few minutes to sit down with my piles of receipts.

I began April challenging myself to spend only $400 for the month on groceries and household/personal items for our family of five.

My actual total spent cash (via debit card) was $500.33, a 25% budget overage.

But for that $500.33 cash spent, I bought a total of $1276.57 of goodies using sales, coupons, ECBs at CVS, RRs and Easy Saver Rebate Gift Card $$ at Walgreens.

That's a total savings of 61%! Not too shabby!

Or, to look at it another way, I multiplied the buying power of each $1.00 by a little over 2.5.

Imagine if every $10 you spent bought you an actual $25 in goodies - that's how far my dollars stretched in April.

Here's the breakdown:


Spent: $440.31

Total Value of Goods Purchased: $878.93

Saved: $438.62, or 49%

Wal-Mart (I try not to shop here; if you've read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, you may feel the same way)

Spent: $17.16

Total Value of Goods Purchased: $18.06

Saved: $0.90, or 0.05%


Spent: $25.54

Total Value of Goods Purchased: $294.48

Saved: $268.94, or 91%

(and earned numerous ECBs which I rolled into new deals!)


Spent: $17.35

Total Value of Goods Purchased: $85.10

Saved: $67.75, or 80%

(Much like CVS, I earned RRs to use and also had my Easy Saver Rebate Gift Card to use)

One quick note - I've done the math six ways to Sunday and I still have $0.03 in my final total of $1276.57 that disappears when I add up the individual store totals and savings. I'm willing to let is slide if you are!


While it's always disappointing to fall short (way short!) of your budget goal, I'm really not too upset about missing the amount I set for my challenge.

One, I went shopping for this current week (which is an April/May week) on Monday, meaning my budget for May will benefit from my overage in April

And two, it's always good to challenge yourself financially, set a goal, and track your progress. In some ways, that's the most important success of all - actually knowing where each dollar goes and how far it stretched.

Finally, we decreased our spending overall in this category so our household budget experienced a net benefit.

I'm setting a more realistic budget for May of $450 total with the hopes that I can come under by at least a few dollars. May is an event-filled month of fun in our family; I'm hoping that my creativity will help me keep our costs low as the good times roll.

I'm also considering going on a Cash-Only Diet for this category of our budget, something recommended by Dave Ramsey; read how it worked in real life here for my fellow BBJ Blogger, Andrea.

I still plan on growing my cash using Kroger's Tax Stimulus offer of 10% bonus on gift card purchases detailed here.

Do you use a Cash-Only Diet for your groceries? Do you plan on using any retailers offers of 5-10% bonuses if you buy a Gift Card for their store? And with Mother's Day, end-of-school, Memorial Day Weekend, and other events, is May a spendy month for you, too?

Comment and share your knowledge about how you face these challenges! That's what this blog is all about - sharing information to help others!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Basic Household Budget Planning

The first step on the Frugal Journey is to create a Household Budget.

Relax - it won't hurt, I promise.

It will, however, show you where your money should be allocated and places where you can cut spending, a simple way to be frugal.

In order to effectively create a budget, you need to know where your money is spent. That information should be at your fingertips if you keep close tabs on your checkbook or your online banking. If, as you read through the expenses listed below, you find yourself unsure of what you're actually spending in each category, you'll need to track your spending for two to four weeks. Record every purchase and bill, saving statements and receipts. Then, with information in hand, sit down and run the numbers

A household budget will only work if both you and your spouse are in agreement of its necessity and aware of how your money will be spent. If only one of you is carrying the weight of bill-paying and day-to-day consumer decisions, you'll find that no amount of budgeting will help. Good communication is imperative, as is an agreed-to focus on sticking to the plan.

I would like to note that while money is a tool, one which helps you acheive your goals, it is an emotionally charged tool. The subject of money within families can evoke a wide range of differing emotional responses, especially when it comes time to discuss how money is spent. If you find that budget planning is difficult or impossible because of emotional clashes between you and your spouse on how your shared income(s) are spent, you should seriously consider the help of a professional third-party: a financial advisor; a therapist; or a religious pastor.

Basic Household Budget Planning

Net Monthly Income from ALL Sources: $_______

Housing (including Rent, Mortgage, Equity Loan, Escrow Funds): $_______

Electricity: $_______

Natural Gas: $_______

Water: $_______

Phone: $_______

Internet and/or Cable or Satellite: $_______

Cell Phone(s): Plan and Phones: $_______
Trash, Condo or Apartment or Homeowner's Association Fees: $_______

Car Payment(s): $_______

Auto Insurance: $_______

Groceries and Drug Store Items: $_______

Gas and Oil Changes: $_______

Savings, both Emergency and Investment: $_______

Life Insurance: Self; Spouse; Children: $_______

Health Insurance and Health Care Costs: $_______

Child Care, Education, Tuition: $_______

Credit Card Payments: $_______

Student Loan and/or Debt Consolidation Loan Payments: $_______

Charitable Giving: $_______

Clothing, Entertainment, and all MISC. Expenses: $_______

Total Monthly Expenses: $_______

Subtract the amount in RED from the amount in GREEN: $________

If your final dollar amount is zero or positive and you have no debt, great job!

If your dollar amount is zero or positive and you have some debt, you're on track; debt reduction and elimination will hopefully be your next focus.

If your dollar amount is negative, or your dollar amount is negative and you have some debt, it's time to tighten the belt to get your budget back to zero.


Items below are not covered on this budget worksheet but may apply to you (which is exactly why a detailed, personal budget is a must-do for each family); lump these in the Misc. Expenses category.

Pets: feeding, grooming, veterinary bills.

Home Improvement Fund: repairs, maintenance, landscaping, furniture and decor.

Restuarants: nights out with adults, and those quickie drive-thru meals, too.

Auto: license fees, annual registration fees, annual emissions testing fees, state taxes on vehicles.

Personal Care: dry cleaning, haircuts, salon visits, gym memberships

School Children Expenses: school supplies, field trips, lunch money, extracurricular activities such as sports, music lessons, dance classes, enrichment activities.

Alimony or Child Support.

Subscriptions to newspapers or magazines.

Memberships to professional organizations, unions, or social clubs.

Gift Fund for birthdays or Christmas/Hannukah/Seasonal Giving.

Vacation Savings Fund.

ATM Withdrawals and Fees and/or Cash in your pocket.

Lump any other monthly expenses not listed here under Misc. Expenses. Better yet, take the time to create your own budget worksheet that's tailored to your family's needs!


Using this, or any, budget worksheet should give you a better idea of where your money needs to go as opposed to where it actually is going.

Several of the items that fall under Misc. Expenses should bear close scrutiny for cutting or eliminating if you find yourself coming up short on your bottom line. Other areas you can look at first for decreasing are Groceries (are you buying whatever strikes your fancy or are you planning a list with coupons and sales?), Cell Phones (do you carry a basic plan or do you carry several lines with the latest cell phone gizmos and gadgets?), Cable and Internet (are you paying for premium channels or basic cable? Did you shop for the best bundled internet/cable/phone package deal from the providers in your area?), and Entertainment, Clothing, and Restuarants.

Remember, your Frugal Journey is yours alone; your budget will look different than everyone else's in reflection of that basic fact. And the expenses you decrease or eliminate will also reflect that difference. Tightening the budget belt is challenging, yes, but remember that the first principle of the frugal life is embracing the idea that less really can be more - more happiness, more contentment, more time, and ultimately, more money in your pocket.