Tag Archives: budget

Saving on Low Carb Diets

26 Sep

My husband is fat.

It’s blunt. And I put it out there. But it’s true. And he’s the first to say it.

My husband has been overweight since I met him many years ago. In fact, when he used to stand on his Wii Board to work out using Wii Fit, it would tell him he was technically considered obese. If you look at him, you probably wouldn’t guess that, but according to his BMI, he is obese. (Please don’t forget that BMI is not a good factor for everyone. He is a big dude.) When I first met my husband, he told me that he used to be over three hundred pounds! I could not believe it, except for the fact I caught a rare picture or two of him looking much bigger than he currently looked. He told me that he lost weight doing his own version of Atkin’s.

What Is Atkin’s?

I’m sure you have already heard of Atkin’s, which is a low carbohydrate diet that is supposed to induce rapid weight loss by reducing your intake of carbohydrates and stimulating ketosis. His intent was to merely use this as a launch pad to eventually transition into another phase of eating, which Atkin’s is supposed to let you do.

Why Atkin’s?

My husband eventually stopped losing weight and once he transitioned off of Atkin’s, put some of the weight he lost back on—approximately thirty pounds. After almost two years of struggling to lose LITERALLY a single pound, he decided to go back on Atkin’s as a lifestyle choice, not just a short-term diet. He decided to do this upon our return from vacation and he has already lost over five pounds, which makes us both very happy.

Here is the thing about my husband: he eats less than I do, he eats better than I do and he works out anywhere from three to four days a week. Here is the thing about me: I eat like crap, I eat all insane hours of the day/night and never work out. I’ve never been overweight. He has always been overweight. I have never, ever seen someone struggle as much as him to lose a single pound. It breaks my heart and almost seems a little unfair that I could sit down with a Slurpee and chips while he chomps on a salad and the end results stay the same.  He has an insane amount of self-control when it comes to eating, whereas I do not. It seems that for whatever reason, his body only responds to his version of Atkin’s. He has been restricting himself to 30 g of carbohydrates a day, which I could NEVER do.

Atkin’s – Not a Friend of Your Wallet

If you look up a list of foods that are low in carbohydrates, you will find that list incredibly small. Atkin’s severely limits what you can eat. In fact, I had to make a list of things that I could purchase from the store for my guy and that list was quite short. I have to look up recipes so that he can get some variety in his diet.

This means that your ability to shop sales is also quite limited. So what can you do?

1. Make an All-Encompassing List First

The first thing I did was list everything, within reason, that was low in carbohydrates that my husband could eat. Depending on the carbohydrate limit for the day and what foods you like, this can vary a bit. Generally, your list will include meat, fish, cheese, eggs and certain vegetables. My husband needs to still get in some carbs everyday, especially because he goes to the gym, so he limits himself to the lowest carbohydrate breads he can find. If you’re looking for a start, this list has a pretty good overview.

2. Find Your Sales & Stock Up

Once you know what you are looking for, start searching for your sales. Luckily, there were some decent meat sales this week and it’s even easier when the person on the low carb diet isn’t as picky of an eater as I am! Freeze as much as you can, especially if you know there won’t be another good sale for awhile.

3. Check Your Labels and Make Note for Next Time

You will find that all foods are not created equal. If you buy that fake cheese or fake hot dog crap, it is loaded with who knows what and tends to have carbs (or a bit more in carbs) than the regular stuff does. When you find something that is low in carbohydrates, such as a certain brand of bread or snacks, make note of the item so that you’ll be able to pick up the item again next time. I have seen nearly identical looking things vary greatly in carbs.

4. Make Meal Plans Wisely

In order to make the most of your food, you really need to look into low carbohydrate recipes. After awhile, if you just eat burgers wrapped in lettuce, you’re going to get tired of them.  If you have ground beef or turkey, try to find as many recipes as you can using those ingredients. Simply Google recipes and start writing them down!

 

Have you found changing your lifestyle and how you eat to be difficult on your wallet? Do costs prohibit you from eating the way that you want?

Shopping at the Outlet Malls

12 Sep

We are back from our camping vacation. We actually cut it short a bit and stayed in a motel one night but overall, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go on the hot air balloon ride due to the weather but that saved us some money and allowed us to go do some much needed shopping.

I noticed that the clothes department in my own apartment was rather lacking. The clothing that I do own has been starting to look ratty. I do not buy clothing very often—in fact, it’s a pretty rare event. My sister even commented on how awful my socks were looking—socks! (To be fair, I don’t think I’ve bought a pair of socks in years.) The thing is, I am cheap and I don’t like spending money on clothing. On top of that, I find clothes shopping incredibly difficult. I am tall, so I often need long jeans, as regulars can be too short—but then the long jeans fit awkwardly in certain areas. Of course, that applies to shirts too—shirts look too short on you or you need to buy a larger size that is too big in some areas but not others. As you can tell, I love shopping. (Not in this lifetime!)

But over the years, I have found that buying “cheap crap” is exactly that. Clothes end up with holes very easily. The clothes get all stretched out and weird. The second hand stores around here are absolute garbage. Funnily enough, I have been to some nice stores with amazing clothing; unfortunately, none of these stores have been anyway near me. I decided to do the next best thing for me: visit the outlet malls.

I really had no idea what I was looking for when I got there but I decided that I could have used ANY type of clothing. I ended up buying four pairs of pants from the DKNY outlet that were $20.00 each. I bought a pair of jeans from GAP for $25. I bought a few other things but the pants were a definite win for me. Outlet malls can be fun but they’re easy to get sucked into and there are definitely ways to avoid overspending.

How Can I Avoid Overspending?

(1) Make a budget before you go. I did not do this because I had a general spending limit in mind but if you are really looking to buy things from the outlet mall without breaking the bank, you really need to make a budget first. If you need to, stick to cash and keep the credit cards away.

(2) Decide what you are looking for and where you want to go before you get there. It’s easy to find things you love once you get to the mall and just buy them immediately. In order to avoid that, try to narrow down what your focus is for the day. If you’re looking for pants and sneakers, avoid checking out shirts and dresses. Additionally, most outlet malls have tons of stores—the one we went to had over one hundred of them. Unless you plan on staying there all day, you should really decide what stores you want to check out. If you’re not looking for kitchenware, don’t waltz into the store “just because” — you’re just looking to spend money then!

(3) When you know what you are looking for, shop around first—go back and buy the items later. My husband was actually looking for a new pair of hiking sneakers since his boots, which have lasted for many years, are starting to fall apart and feel uncomfortable. We visited a few different stores that had these types of shoes and ultimately, he went back to the one with the best price for what he wanted. Don’t necessarily settle on the first thing you see or fall in love with—since you’re in one central place, it’s easy to walk back to the other stores if you don’t find anything better.

Do you like going to outlets? Why or why not? Any tips?

Getting Ready for Our “Frugal” Vacation

12 Aug

My husband and I have been looking at co-ops for quite some time and have gone back and forth in terms of what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. This meant that although we are dying to travel somewhere awesome, we aren’t ready to spend the money for a trip with that kind of price tag. This also means that we will be embarking on our budget-friendly vacation pretty soon—an incredible camping trip throughout an area of our state that we rarely venture to. I have already discussed a few things about making a trip affordable by:

  • Discussing a variety of ways to make your overall trip cheaper here
  • General campsite costs and how to make them cheaper here and here

Now with a few weeks left to go, we are going to start putting our general itinerary together and have a lot of different things to consider. Again, as I’ve discussed previously, you can definitely make camping trips even cheaper than we’re making ours, but these tips are still applicable to you.

Start off with a Budget

We love the outdoors. One might think the outdoors is frugal friendly but the cost of everything you may or may not need adds up really fast! If you’ve never spent any time outdoors before, you might not have any of the equipment that is necessary and that can cost a pretty penny. Budgets will vary quite a bit depending on a a number of factors such as:

  • Cost to travel (i.e. gas, tolls)
  • Cost of food (i.e. eating out and on the road vs. cooking)
  • Cost of campsite rentals (depends upon where you stay, when, for how long, with how many people, etc)
  • Activities you will participate in that cost money (i.e. rowing)
  • Purchases that may be required (i.e. tent(s), supplies)

Unfortunately, my cheaper vacation is adding up very quickly! This actually has to do with a major activity I want to participate in that is very costly but it is what it is. Remember, our trip is nine nights so it’s quite long and involves two people.

Budget: $1300.00

Take Care of Big Ticket Items First

Of course, my budget of $1300 might seem outrageous for a camping trip but remember:

  • There are only two of us splitting various campsite rentals over a period of nine nights. I discussed how to keep this cost down in my other posts. Cost: $209.00 ($23.22/night—extremely cheap if you look at it that way!)
  • Since we are driving quite a bit, we will be using quite a bit of money in terms of gas and tolls. Cost allotted: $300.00 (Though I sure hope it’s less than that!)
  • I have decided to do this because I really want to and I do not want my miserly ways to get in the way of an awesome thing—the hot air balloon ride for $235.00 a person or $470.00

As you can see, there isn’t much money leftover for anything else. This already totals $979.00, meaning I only have $321.00 left to spend!

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

There are still tons of things to think about when you’re camping such as:

Food: We eat a lot and I am a picky eater. Ideally, I would love to cook every day and night but I think there will be days when we want breaks from that. Budgeted: $150.00-$200.00

Additional Purchases and Activities: $121.00-$171.00.

We are extremely lucky that we either have or can borrow most of the things that we need for our trip. Remember: If you plan on going camping regularly, many of the items you may need or plan to use will probably end up being purchases that will last you for many years.  Keep in mind the following items that you may or may not take with you:

  • Tent(s) — make sure it has a rain shield and that you have a tarp for the ground
  • Sleeping bag(s) and pad(s) — you might want something softer to sleep on if you plan on staying long
  • Cooking supplies, food and something to store it in to prevent animals from getting to it
  • First aid and personal hygiene supplies

You can find a simple list here.

If you know you are going camping, it is easier to buy things over time than have to buy them all at once. If you do this, you can also look for sales, especially during the off seasons or holidays, that might allow you to pick-up some great deals. More importantly, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t be afraid to ask around! You may be able to borrow almost everything you need for your camping trip from friends and family.

It’ll Be Here Soon

Our camping trip will be here soon and I am so excited to go on vacation since I haven’t had off in nearly a year!

Have you undertaken a huge camping trip before? What are some ways you saved money on your trip?

Long-Term & Short-Term Goals – Where Am I?

8 Jun

As of June 7, 2012:

FINANCIALS – WHERE I AM AT AND MY GOALS

High-Yield Savings Account: $72,546.45

  • Nearly all of my paychecks are put into this account
  • Rate has fallen from 0.65% to 0.55% so now we currently earn about $31.00-$32.00 in interest monthly
  • Must maintain a daily balance of $10,000.00 in order to avoid fees
  • Money is kept here instead of another entity because I need fast access to it

Checking Account: $3,920.75

  • Husband’s paychecks are directly deposited into the account
  • Account is for paying bills and in order to secure the use of a particular feature, a $2500.00 minimum daily balance is needed; once the checking account exceeds $4,000, money is moved into the savings account

Total: $76,467.20

Short-Term Goal: Save an additional $2,000-$2,500 this month.

Long-Term Goal: The purpose of this money is to…

  • Purchase a home for no more than $340,000-$345,000  including closing costs
  • Put down approximately 20% as required by a co-operative unit and to avoid PMI; $66,000-$68,000 will be the approximate down payment
  • Have at least $10,000 remaining in savings before moving into our first place in order to rebuild savings, have money as an emergency fund and begin any desired work on our home
Student Loan:
  • Very mild student loan in which $50/month is deducted from my bank account
  • Current balance is listed at $2,480.42
  • Our household income is below the cut-off so I can deduct the minor interest on my taxes; no additional interest is added onto my loan so pay-off is not a concern

RETIREMENT  – WHERE I AM AT AND MY GOALS

My Situation:

  • Currently part of a union that offers a pension plan
  • Was previously part of a union that offers a pension plan
  • I am not vested in either of these plans as of yet and I’m not sure that I will ever be at this rate

Husband’s Situation:

  • His company began offering a 401K and as of last month he finally set it up
  • Has it so that 5% is deducted from every check; the company matches 4%; his contribution will increase by 1% each year until it hits 10%
  • Believes he has a 401K with a previous job; must find out information in order to roll it into his current account

Short-Term Goal: Goal is reluctantly put on hold until purchase of a home is complete; now my long-term goal

Long-Term Goal:

  • Once we are settled in the house and feel okay with our money, I will open up a Vanguard STAR account
  • It only requires $1,000 to start; from there on I will make contributions of $50-$100 every month

PERSONAL LIFE – WHERE I AM AT AND MY GOALS

This part is not as structured for me because I am insane and live inside my own head. I have a lot of things I want to do and possible options so here they are:

  • Husband & I continue to look for part-time or per diem work
  • Enroll in courses at the local CC; union will reimburse me for six credits per semester
  • Continue working on and improving upon my crossword puzzle skills
  • Resume my interest in plant identification
  • Start reading books again
  • Continue volunteering in some capacity
  • Continue flossing my teeth which I am usually bad about

How are your goals looking?

Creating & Assessing a Budget

6 Jun

Toward the end of last year, I decided to make a budget for our tiny household.

You see, my husband and I were always decent with money. We have both worked since we have graduated from college and managed to somehow save money even when we weren’t paying attention to our finances. However, once we had to pay for our wedding in its entirety, I started to think we should draw-up a budget.

Budget

My budget, for the most part, is somewhat flexible and somewhat rigid. I am going to share my budget here with you and include the analysis I did via my six-month mark:

Regular Expenses – Regular expenses are those that are generally a fixed amount every month.

  • Rent: $1300.00
  • Phone Bill: $130.50 (+/- $1.00)
  • Auto Insurance: $91.42 (This has occasionally gone up or down but seems set for now.)
  • Internet: $39.95
  • Student Loan Deduction: $50.00
  • Netflix: $8.00
  • Gym: $10.00

Variable Expenses – These are expenses I have budgeted for every month but are in no way fixed.

  • Home Care: $50.00 – Current six-month analysis says my average spending in this category is between $20-$25/month, including some months in which the amount is zero.
  • Groceries: $300.00 – Only had one month where we went over budget; otherwise, a six-month analysis puts our average spending at approximately $222/month.
  • Dining Out: $250.00 – I am the first one to admit that eating out is a money pit and this is the only place I lack restraint. The thing is, I rarely spend my money on things I enjoy and this just happens to be something I love. This includes any fast food, coffee stops, etc. I have gone over budget three out of the six months and my average spending is approximately $238/month. Ouch.
  • Car Gas: $125.00 – I actually had this at $100/month but I changed my budget around because I realized I hadn’t budgeted enough for gasoline. This especially holds true if we are taking day trips and considering the constant increases in gas prices. Six-month analysis has us spending a little over $100.00/month but I know that will increase.
  • Haircuts: $20.00 – In actuality, my husband only gets his hair cut about once every two months and I almost never get my haircut because I grow it out and donate it. Thus our average spending has us at slightly under $5/month. I also do not do anything to my hair—no dyes, no treatments—and I’m lucky to have nice hair.
  • Electric+Gas: $125.00 – This is actually an overstatement for most months. Considering we use very little in terms of electricity when it is not summer, our current average is around $71.00. When we are running the air conditioner, however, it is incredibly easy to go over the $125.00 mark so that is why I budgeted for so much.
  • Misc: $200.00 – This is for anything we want to buy that is extraneous, such as a new video game, a park pass, etc. I cannot really analyze this area except to say it can be easy for us to stay under it; however, we have made some very large purchases that I put into here (such as a $3500.00 couch) which completely throw off the numbers.
  • Transit Card: $25.00 – I actually had this at around $50.00 for when I was trying to take a class but then I took over $25.00 and moved it to the gasoline. I actually haven’t purchased anything for mass transit in months because I no longer take the class and I am lucky enough to walk to work most days.
  • Clothes: $50.00 – We actually don’t shop very often so we have averaged out at around $30.91 per month for clothing purchases. This may change in the future though because my husband has recently ripped a ton of clothing.

Irregular Expenses – These are expenses I have listed in my budget but vary so much that I have them in a separate category. I do have a budget set-up for them and hope not to exceed it.

  • Car Maintenance: So far I have really only had to buy new brakes this year. Note: I am incredibly lucky in this category because my dad is a mechanic so I don’t pay for labor or oil changes.
  • Medical Costs: This year I have obtained incredible insurance which allows me office visits, generic prescriptions, etc at no cost. My husband has not-so-great insurance and pays $25 for PCP visits and $40 for specialty visits.
  • Medicine: Generics cost him $15 and he has two-ongoing prescriptions for things. I used to pay $15/month for my prescription but not anymore!
  • Gifts: This one gets pretty crazy depending on the month. December is a hot mess because of Christmas and we end up spending well-over $500 for gifts because there are so many people we have to buy gifts for so I’m not a fan of December. Certain months are also killers for us — May included three birthdays and Mother’s Day!

Overall, I think the budget has been all right. Considering that we made a large purchase this year (the couch), we have saved a good amount of money. I think if I could change one thing it would be the eating out portion of it but I love food too much. 🙂 Does anyone else have a budget? Do you think mine is crazy in some areas?

Why I Don’t Pay for Magazines (Anymore)

21 May

I used to subscribe to various magazines throughout my lifetime.

When I was a teenager, I probably subscribed to something like Seventeen or one of its relatives. When I was in my early twenties, which sounds awful considering I’m going to enter my late twenties this year, I subscribed to science magazines, such as Discover and Science News. I had entered a stage in my life, however, where I seemed to have completely stopped reading anything beyond a few hundred words. Thus, I didn’t want to find myself purchasing magazines.

Approximately a year ago I started to read blogs and decided to mostly stick to one in terms of freebies and deals called Money Saving Mom. I chose this one because it was easy to remember and because she seemed to list tons of deals via other bloggers as well. I began to notice that she even posted ways to get free magazine subscriptions as well.

If you’re looking to score some free subscriptions, keep the following in mind:

1. Beggars can’t be choosers: You will find that you cannot get every magazine for free. Some magazines will never offer free subscriptions while others only offer heavily discounted deals. Generally, I have found that very well-known magazines are more likely to offer free issues as opposed to very specific, smaller magazines. I have noticed that certain bloggers like Crystal at Money Saving Mom will post deals for these niche magazines that make a subscription substantially cheaper. Do not always expect to receive a subscription forever either—I have found that many of the issues I have received have been anywhere from 3-6 months, though they can be for up to 12 months.

2. Check on your deals regularly: If you’re following a blog or partaking in a forum, make sure to check on the deals you’re interested in regularly. Many of these free subscriptions are only available for a certain period of time or for a certain number of people.

3. Always check for terms: Generally, I have found that the frugal bloggers are pretty good about avoiding scams or things with specific terms and agreements. That being said, you should always double-check and see what you are signing up for when you find a free magazine subscription. Never provide a site with your credit card number or bank information. Generally, when a company has you do that, they will send you some issues for free and then bill you for an additional six months to a year. For all of the subscriptions I have received for free, I have never once provided anything other than my name and address.

What magazines have I received for free over the past six months?

  • Woman’s Day
  • Newsweek
  • Forbes
  • Bloomberg Business Week
  • Smart Money
  • Outdoor Life

You can easily ascertain that I’ve received quite the variety in terms of magazines!

Frugal Adventures in Camping – Making the Reservations

17 May

I am bubbling over with excitement because I have officially booked all of the days for our camping trip. Our trip will be rather long; in fact, it spans over the course of nine nights. Yes, I will be sleeping on the ground for nine nights straight and I seem to be okay with that—you know, until I reach that point where I cannot move my neck. We are actually heading to the opposite side of the state and then creeping back two hours closer but this trip will still entail a lot of driving. We will be staying at state parks for the entirety of our trip.

This is how things are looking right now:

  • Park One: 2 Nights @ $43.00
  • Park Two: 3 Nights @ $72.00
  • Park Three: 2 Nights @ $51.00
  • Park Four: 2 Nights @ $43.00

Thus, nine nights for two people will cost $209.00 or $23.22 per night. I think that’s pretty cost-effective in terms of sleeping arrangements.

Making Things Even Cheaper

If you are thinking about taking your family camping or if you plan on taking a trip with friends, you can have an even cheaper camping trip in terms of making reservations by doing the following:

1. Plan for weekdays and non-holidays: Generally, most campsites will have cheaper rates during the week and they bump up their prices for holidays and the rest of the holiday weekend. If you’re looking to save a few more dollars, this might be a good thing for you to look into.

2. The more the merrier: In my experience, campsites will allow up to six people per site. Just imagine for a second you took a trip with five of your friends—each of you would only be paying $34.83 for nine nights of rest or each person would be paying $3.87 a night to sleep. Now compare that to the cost of staying in a hotel and just be amazed at the price difference. If you’re a family staying at a hotel, you usually have to pay an extra amount for either an additional room, a bigger room, a bed with a roll-away or merely for having extra bodies. This might be a great way to save money.

3. Less park hopping means more savings: I have mentioned previously that we are making our way to four different parks. Even when making reservations at the same time, I was required to pay a transaction fee of $9.00 for every park. If I had just chosen to stay at one park I would have saved $27 dollars.

4. Location matters—sometimes: In my state, out-of-state residents are charged more than in-state residents. Thus, staying within your home state might be a cheaper option for you if it’s available. Also, do some research—is a state campsite more or less than a private campsite nearby? Evaluate the cost-benefit of the amenities that are available for your friends and/or family.

Do you have any additional tips in terms of making reservations even cheaper for your camping trip? I’d love to hear them!