Archive for the ‘savings’ Category

Kitchen Inventory

{photo above is not my pantry… but isn’t it pretty?}

As I mentioned in yesterday’s miscellaneous ramble, I’m not going to buy any groceries until I finish off my freezer/refrigerator/pantry. Well, I am giving myself $100 for groceries, but only if I buy something to pair with an item listed below. I spent waaaaaaaay too much on food in March, so this is my attempt to make up for it.

Originally posted 3/30/10
List updated 4/7/10
April Grocery Budget: $87.92 left


  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Chicken
  • Vegetable stir fry mix
  • French fries
  • Bacon
  • Fruit popsicles
  • Italian Ice
  • Turkey


  • Cacciatore sauce
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Blue cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Hummus
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Lettuce


  • Peanut butter
  • Cliff bar
  • 2 cans of chicken soup
  • Can of black beans
  • Can of chili beans
  • Can of corn
  • Pop tart
  • Bag of rice
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Salsa
  • Chips
  • Baking mix
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Pizza sauce
  • Wheat thins

There’s a few other little items I didn’t add like mustard, flour, dressings, etc., but that’s standard stuff I try to always have on hand. I’ll update on my meal plans and how this list stands in the weeks to come.

Anyone else want to join me in finishing off their kitchen inventory this April?

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The other day a reader emailed me this:

i would love for you to do a post on what you think about real estate – your blog seems to announce that you do not ever want to be in debt, and i was wondering what your future plans for renting/buying are!

That is an excellent question. Honestly I haven’t put too much thought into it because I probably won’t buy a house for years. My financial priorities go like this:

  1. Save $10,000 in an Emergency Fund (circa Dec 2010)
  2. Max out Retirement Accounts (2011 and on)
  3. Save for a Wedding (2011)
  4. Save for a New car (2011/2012)
  5. Save for a House Deposit (2012-??)

Man! That seems like a loooong time! :( Perhaps I can knock out the first goals faster than expected? Hmm. But back to the question at hand: While I am very much against debt, I do plan to take out a mortgage when I buy a house. I’d love to buy a home with cash only (can you imagine?!) but realistically that probably won’t happen unless I win the lottery or marry rich.

I’ve got a little time before I will be saving for the deposit, but here are my debt-free thoughts on mortgages for when that time comes.

1. Rent Cheap
A lot of people have the mentality that renting is wasting money because you are throwing away cash that could be put towards equity. Well, that is technically true, but it can be a dangerous mentality if it rushes you into buying a house you can’t afford. It is, however, a good motivator to save faster and the easiest way to save faster is to rent cheap. I think that monthly housing costs should be no more than 35% of your paycheck. My rent right now is 26% of my paycheck (33% if you count bills) and I hope to stay around that no matter where I live. You don’t have to live in the ghetto to rent cheap, but some ways to save on rent include splitting rent with a roommate, renting away from city life (make sure to factor transportation costs), and sacrificing amenities like washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc. That topic really could be a whole post in itself.

2. Save 20% Down Payment
Mortgage lenders vary on the amount of cash they require for down payments, but I plan to save for a 20% deposit when I buy.  It is so hard to imagine saving that much money! But like I said in an earlier post, buying a house really intimidates me, so I want to make sure I have enough money up front to cover house expenses as well as a good deposit. This amount depends on the location, but for example, if I buy a house that is $250,000, I plan to save $50,000 to put down. (Yowser!! That’s a ton of money! Hopefully by then I’ll have a husband to help me save.)

3. Buy a house with a 15-year mortgage
I am sure many may disagree with me, but I plan to buy a house with a 15-year mortgage rather than a 30-year. The amount of interest saved between those 15 years is huge! The payments each month may be significantly larger, but if I’m unable to afford them with a 15-year mortgage, then the house is either too expensive or I’m not ready to buy one. If I purchase a home at the age 30 then I could be 100% debt-free by the age of 45 as opposed to 60. Can you imagine not having any housing payments at the age of 45?! That would be AMAZING!

So those are my very high-level thoughts on real estate. Dave Ramsey is my go-to man for most of my real estate questions and advice, so I encourage anyone looking to buy a house to check out his website. I don’t agree 100% with everything he says, but I did follow his example for this one. :)

What about you? What are your thoughts on buying a house?
If any of you are saving for a house, do you have a different strategy? If any of you have bought a house, would you recommend a different approach? Suggestions welcome!

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What’s Next?

A few of you asked what I plan to do now that I am debt free (yay!), and that’s a good question since my focus has been primarily on whacking away debt since starting this blog. Well, first things first, I need to get through March! My monies are slowly dwindling and it’s only the 11th. But after Surviving March, my mission is going to be save, save, save, save, SAVE!

Save for something pretty
I have a “Me Fund” where I am saving for a piece of jewelry at Tiffany’s to remember my journey towards becoming debt free. I’ll let you guys vote on what you think I should buy. :)

Operation: Save for Emergencies!
My next big milestone will be reaching $10,000 in my Emergency Fund. If I save $650 a month, I can reach $10,000 by January 2011. (So exciting!!!)

Save for Car Repairs
I have been slowly adding earned money this month to my Car Repair Fund to help the costs of replacing my car’s clutch a few weeks ago. After it’s back to a normal $500-700 amount, I’ll continue to add $25 a month.

Save for Gifts
I created a Gift Fund, which is just last year’s Christmas fund. I find myself slightly stressed when I hear someone is getting married because I know that month will be expensive, so I am going to give $50 minimum each month to the Gift Fund to have a pool of money to use for birthdays, weddings, and Christmas.

Save for Retirement
know I should be giving more than $100 a month to my Roth and 4% of my salary to my 401k… but after a hard internal battle I decided I will feel more comfortable with $10,000 in liquid savings than a really large retirement fund.

Save for a Wedding
I want to pay for my own wedding but this is on pause until I have a fully-funded E-fund.

The Post-Debt Budget

The last few budget items don’t have an amount listed because each month varies so I just make sure to stay with the leftover money in my account.

Any questions? If you were me, would you do something differently? Suggestions welcome!

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I just got a comment from a reader and thought I would turn my answers into a post in case anyone else has the same questions. Thanks to all the readers out there! It still amazes me all who have joined me on this journey. Also, I started a formspring page if anyone else has any other questions for me.

Question #1:

Do you keep your funds in bank accounts, high-interest accounts, or just in envelopes at home?

I hardly ever use cash because I lose track of the receipts. Usually I just use my debit card. I will occasionally put large purchases on my credit card, but that is only to gain points and I always pay it off the next few days.

As for where I keep my funds, I’m a bit of a bank account slut and tend to have an account open for each of my savings goals. Dividing up my goals within accounts gets tricky for me. Here’s how they’re divided:

Bank #1: Bank of America
-Regular checking account
-Car Repair Fund savings account
-Credit Card

Bank #2: Credit Union (because it has great rates)
-Gift Fund – regular checking
-Emergency Fund – money market account
-Wedding/Future Fund – money market account

Other Institutions:
-401(k) – invested
-Roth IRA – invested

Question #2:

I am trying to get out of debt in this year, and I need to get some ideas. Do you think that is OK to build an emergency fund while paying debt or paying debt first and then build your emergency fund?

First off, it is definitely okay to build an emergency fund while paying debt. In fact, I recommend having a small E-Fund before you start paying debt so that if emergencies happen, you’ll have some money to cover it instead of credit cards (aka: instead of going further into debt).

After you gain a small savings (recommend at least $500-1,000), then I would decide which you are going to focus your efforts on: paying debt or building your savings. Ideally, you would be doing both at the same time with more aggression towards one… and that really depends on your situation. If you have a really high interest rate on your debt, I’d pay that first. However, if you have a mortgage and kids, then you may want to beef up your savings before tackling your debt.

I chose to focus my efforts on my debt, but that is because the majority of it is to my parents, so I wanted to get that paid off ASAP. However, that didn’t stop me from saving extra money during the process. I’m about to pay off my debt (!) and have about $4,500 in liquid assets. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but since I am single, newly out of college, and have minimal living expenses, this plan worked best for me.

I also advise you to create a budget and spend the first three months tweaking it and trying different savings/debt goals and see what works best for you. Don’t be too aggressive or else you may give up altogether, but make sure that your goals are achievable and can be reached with a little bit of hard work and perseverance.

If any other PF bloggers want to chime in or link back a similar post to share their experiences, please feel free to leave a comment! If you have any other questions (PF related or not) please ask below or on the formspring page.

Thanks again for reading! I can’t promise that I have the best advice or experience, but I’ll definitely share if anyone has questions! :)

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…and THAT’S why I have a Car Repair Fund!

The total should be $602.79, which is convenient since I have $630 in my CR fund and there’s a $25 minimum balance in that saving’s account. Isn’t it funny how life happens that way sometimes?

Today I am thankful for:

  • Nice auto technicians I trust.
  • Interviews and the possibility of future decisions.
  • Sunny days that hint spring is coming soon.
  • Hard-core spin classes that kick my booty.
  • Paydays and savings. ‘Nuff said.

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{via Baltimore Sun}

This past Sunday was a gorgeous, so J and I took a spontaneous day trip to Annapolis, MD. We walked around the quaint little downtown and were overjoyed to find that it was Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants offered $15.99 three-course lunch menus. We went to Hell’s Point Seafood, a lovely restaurant by the water. It was there I ate the most delicious entree I’ve ever tasted: fried flounder topped with strips of ham and shrimp, served with potatoes and an artichoke heart covered with a sauce so delicious I cannot even describe it. Seriously, the flavor has been haunting me for days. We also shared yummy appetizers and desserts.

The meal set us back $55 including tip, but when we got home I discovered that our meal would have cost us around $115 had it not been Restaurant Week.

Has anyone else participated in a Restaurant Week? This was my second one I’ve been to (first in DC) and I highly recommend going if you have one in your town.

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It’s that time of the year again: Wedding Season! I arrived home from my vacation over Christmas to find out two of my friends are engaged. I am honored to be a bridesmaid in one of the weddings and am so excited about the fun festivities in the springtime!

However, as we all know, weddings are expensive–whether you’re the bride, in the wedding party or just attending. Here are some things I will probably need to buy in the next six months:

  • Bridesmaid dress ~$150
  • Shoes, makeup, etc. ~$50
  • Shower gifts ~$100
  • Planning showers ~$50
  • Travel costs ~$100
  • Lodging ~$100
  • Wedding gifts ~$130

Wow $680 is a lot of money! I was overestimating on some things, so perhaps I won’t have to spend that much, but I am sure all the little expenses will be at least $500 or so. The wedding I am in is in June and the other one is in September, so at least they aren’t too close together. At this point, I will figure out how I will pay for these things after February; aka: my debt is paid off and I know my tax refund amount.

While I’m on a role adding up future costs, here are some other pending expenses I’ll need soon:

  • Haircut: ~$70 including tip; it’s been way too long!
  • New phone ~$100; My two-year contract runs out this month and I desperately need a new phone. I’m debating to upgrade to a data package, but still am not sure if I want to pay the extra $10 a month.
  • Plane ticket to Atlanta ~$150; This could be part of the wedding costs, but we are probably going to have a bachlorette weekend in Atlanta this spring.

Is anyone else in a wedding party this year? Have you started planning for the costs?

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My Me Fund Choice….

Yesterday I asked what you would save for as a “debt-free celebration.” I already had in mind what I would choose, but I found the answers to be very interesting! A lot of you chose to take a trip. I love traveling and really like that idea, but I think that I’ll save that for once J is finished with his debt also so we can both enjoy it together (more on that later). The gift I plan to get myself will be just for me. :)

I’ll give you three hints about what I choose my “debt-free item” will be:

1. It sparkles.

2. It shines.

3. It arrives in a pretty teal box.

That’s right: I’d like this debt-free item to be jewelry.

Ann was actually dead on when she commented about jewelry being a keepsake forever. My grandmother was a very classy lady and taught me that nice jewelry tells stories. She would remark on each of her fine pieces, saying “This is the necklace your grandfather gave me on our 10th anniversary. This is the bracelet I bought when I traveled to Rome. This bracelet your mom and aunts gave me for a birthday one year.” When we were little, she told each of her granddaughters that she wanted to buy us a ring when we turned 13 to mark our teen years. It was so exciting to shop for a ring with her and pick out our favorite jewel. I still wear that ring to this day and it always makes me think of her and the legacy that she left our family.

So I think it fitting to have a nice piece of jewelry to remind me of my financial journey. And what is classier than Tiffany’s? (Answer: nothing). Sure you may be paying for the label, but that’s part of the fun, right? ;)

So there it is folks. Now I need to get my head out of the clouds, off the Tiffany’s website, and put my mind towards more productive things… like getting this dang debt paid off asap! Thanks again for all your votes and suggestions yesterday! You guys really are the best.

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A “Me” Fund

Last week I posed a question regarding what readers think my saving priorities should be in 2010. Well, I’m still mulling over those brilliant answers and figuring out what will be best for my situation… but Chelsea Bea from Pencil Skirt & Pearls had a great suggestion. She wrote:

I think that once you’re done paying off your debt, you should start a little fund called the “me” fund. Every month I think you should put in $25 – $50 in it. In six months or so, I think you should buy yourself something really nice to reward yourself for paying off all your debt. I’m think a new purse, a classic pair of shoes, a piece of jewelry, something to remind you, for years to come, of how hard you worked at paying off your debt. Obviously, this isn’t the most practical thing to do, but I think that people, if they’re in the right circumstances, should do it more often. Life is short, and I think doing things like this help to rejuvenate the soul.

I love the idea! She’s totally right: life is short and I think that I deserve a little something pretty once I’m debt free. I have an idea of what this purchase will be… but I am curious to see what the rest of you would choose. So please vote below and comment if you have any specifics. :)

If you were getting out of debt…

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Readers! PF Bloggers! I’m pretty terrible at making a decision by myself and I’d love your help and opinions. You all helped me decide whether to buy shoes and how to allocate raises, and even extra roommate rent. As I begin to make my 2010 goals, I’m faced with a few option for the Savings/Debt money I have each month. I will do my best to explain the status of it all.

Top Priority in 2010:

My #1 top priority for the year will be to pay off my debt, which should be done April 2010.

January to April 2010:

  • $700 to Debt
  • $25 to Car Repair Fund (I’ll probably continue this throughout the year)
  • $100 to Roth IRA
  • =$825 per month

Next Priorities:

After I pay off my debt, the focus changes a little bit. Here are the three things I’m debating about right now: Emergency Fund, Wedding Fund, or Max out the Roth IRA. Right now with $825 flexibility each month, I don’t have enough money to fund all three goals in addition to my debt.

Here’s the status of each:

  1. Emergency Fund at $6,000
    I’d have to add $3,600 to reach this goal since the account already has $2,400. That would mean approximately 5 months of $700 savings. If I start in May, then I could be done with that in September, or $450 each month until December.
  2. Roth IRA at $5,000
    I will continue with $100 per month January to April. If I want to max out the Roth next year, I’d have $400 and would have to contribute $575 each month for the rest of the year to reach my max.
  3. Future [Wedding] Fund at $5,000
    I want to have at least $5,000 to pay all (or most) of my wedding whenever the time comes. Read more about this account here. I already have $1,000 in this account and would need to save $4,000 in order to reach my goal in 2010. To be honest, I don’t expect to get engaged in 2010 but it certainly could happen if J moves here in the next few months. This may seem like a silly or premature goal, but it’s really important to me. Hmm perhaps I could reevaluate this once J and I live in the same town? I’m hoping that happens in 2010 also.

Other Factors to consider:
–Tax Refund: I got $1400 this year and that money could be used for some of these.

–Extra income: I could designate all extra income to go towards a specific goal in addition to what my top priorities are.

What do you guys think?
The Roth IRA is what is getting to me. I know I should max it out, but if I didn’t have that there, then I could easily save the entire amounts for the Emergency Fund and the Future Fund.

I know that in the scheme of things this is really not a big deal and I can always reevaluate things in the future, but I’d like to get my 2010 financial goals ironed out before the year so I can plan accordingly.

Pay debt, then…. Roth IRA, Emergency Fund, or Future Fund?

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