Thursday, February 28, 2008

A week of freebies

I so wanted to blog about this week's happenings, but its been a truly crazy week. I have been almost flooded with work in the office, and things at home that needed immediate attention. It didn't help that the BEB was equally busy, though he did his best to shoulder responsibilities. Rants apart, this has also been a week of freebies.

It all started with a coupon that I noticed in the Saturday's newspaper. Office Depot offered a $5 off $5 coupon. And I wanted to buy a file with multiple pockets for a long while. So we went and bought one on Sunday, with the coupon it cost us 2$.

In the evening we went to a nearby Indian store for grocery shopping. While BEB was checking out I thought of checking out their small DVD library. I found a dvd that I had wanted to watch for a long time. So I asked them how much it would cost me to rent it. Surprise Surprise!! It was free because our bill was more than $20.

Wednesday, I get a mail that a bank which had affiliation with my company had a promotion under which they were giving $100 gas cards for opening a new account with them. I always wanted to open an account with them, so I went ahead and signed up, and got the card. When hubby came to pick me up, we noticed that his car's tank was almost empty, so we went to the gas station and filled up the tank with the card. While we were about to drive off, I noticed that they were offering a free cleaning cloth if we filled more than 10 gallon. Since we had bought more than that, hubby asked and got the cleaning cloth. He didn't give it to me though, kept it for his car. hmmm!!!

Same day, I just thought of checking out my office mail box. I usually don't get anything in office mail because all my correspondence comes at home. But there it was! a vial of perfume sitting in my mailbox. I ordered it for free during a promotion and completely forgot about it.

Today, we again went to the same Indian grocery store and our bill was again barely over 20, but we got the free DVD. So now we have a free maid in our house "Maid in Manhattan" that is.

Also, did I mention that I got my first compensation for partcipating in a survey. So yeah! Life's good. Even with all the boatloads of work coming my way. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

YAY!!! My first coupon savings

Today I took the baby step towards the savings that other frugal shoppers live off. I used my first coupons to actually buy something. Yes!!! my very first coupons :-). I used them for to buy a bottle of canola oil (1$) and a pack of baby spinach(75 cents). So I am one happy girl today.

Update on down payment for house

As promised I am putting up this post to update you on my progress towards putting together a down payment (10%) for our dream home. So we had 3% when I posted about it last time.
We got our paychecks last week and now we are at 5+%. But we have to plan for payment to the lawyers and then I need to set aside some money for our inevitable trip to India. (Gosh! its been more than an year!). So we're looking at 4% down payment as of today. Its not a big leap and we still can't think of buying a house for another couple of months. The good news, however, is that the house that I had my eyes on for quite sometime now is up for rent. So most likely we'll rent it from next month. That will also give us sometime to think and collect down payment before we go for buying a house.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Menu Plan for half a week

I never fail to get impressed by how other women are making menu for the whole week and follow it to the T. I am not sure I will be able to do that, because me and BEB love food. The side effect is that we most of the times cook on a whim, and it is more like that on weekends, when we have time as well. But anyway, I will just give it a try, rather, half a try...I have planned menu for the coming three days. I have even bought the groceries accordingly. I'll update you on how well I did.
Since we are Indians, all the dishes that I list below are Indian, and may not be know to you, however, if you want the recipe of any of those, I'll be glad to share them with you.

So here's my plan for the comming three days:


Milk-broken wheat pudding
vegetable juice

potato cabbage and chapati

potato parantha

Cream of rice porridge (Upma)
Orange Beet juice

Curd - chickpea flour curry (Kadhi)

okra - chapati


chikpea flour (besan) - veggie - chapati (cheele)
Banana - mango smoothie

spinach - chickpea flour dumplings (gatte- palak)

Vegetable -rice (pulao)

My Frugal Ideas

  1. Make our own organic fertilizer. This year, I have resolved to reduce my kitchen waste by 10%. To do that, I have started storing the tea leaves after we have made our tea. I keep them in a closed yoghurt can. I also store the pulp that is left after we make fruit juice. Once every week I empty the can in the fertilizer maker. That keeps my plants happy and kitchen produces lesser waste.
  2. I use newspaper ads to line my shelves. I never buy any special paper from market.
  3. My husband drops and picks me up at the office. My office is on his route so we dont have to think of another vehicle.
  4. I prepare juices and smoothies at home. I dont know whether it saves me money or not, but I do know that its the purest and freshest form of juice we can have.
  5. We either have our meals at home, or take lunch bags to our offices. This saves a bunch of money, and suits the health-conscious lifestyle we follow.
  6. We both bike or jog on a trail around our place, instead of going to a gym.
  7. We are vegetarian by religion. I never bothered to calculate, but I guess its a big moneysaver too.
  8. We never use paper plates or any other disposable utensils.
  9. We watch most of the movies at home, online. I paid about 20$ within the last year on online movie subscriptions. We have just gone to the theatre once, and it cost us 18$.
  10. I use cloth towels in the kitchen instead of paper ones. About 7-10 of them get dirty per week. I just toss them into the laundary and they are ready to use.

I am constantly on the lookout for ideas that may save us more. And with the BIG purchase coming up next I could use every penny I can save. What are your ideas, what more do you think we can do to make that balancesheet look better. Do leave a comment for me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To buy or not to buy

So this is the ultimate question me and BEB are facing these days. Here's the deal, we want to move to a better apartment. The one we are living in is pretty...err..basic. We moved into it right after coming from India, when money was a big constraint, so was commute, 'coz we didn't have a car then. Now that we are settled here and can commute a bit, we want to move to a better 1 bedroom apartment. So I started looking for a rental apartment nearby. And I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the kind of rents they were asking for in this area. 1800+ bucks for a single bedroom...???
Then one day while discussing this with BEB, we thought of an alternative, maybe if we throw in some more money than the rent, and settle for a less fancier house, and be willing to move a tad bit farther from this area...then maybe....and its a big MAYBE...we would be able to Own it instead of renting it. "How about that?" BEB asked. "Sounds like a plan, I'm in."

So this is where it all begun. So we set a budget and I started looking for a house within that budget. And guess what, I did find a couple of them which I liked enough to live in and which were within reasonable distance from our workplaces. There was one that we went to take a look at and I found myself swooning all over it, I was sure that it was the dream house for me.

Now came the big question. Ok we find a house, we're able to secure a loan on it and suppose we buy it. And we can comfortably pay off the monthly installments as well. Then one day our visa might expire ( it has a 7 year limit) and we may find our selves packing bags for India. What do we do then. Sell it and pay up the bank dues? What if the real estate is still down and we cannot get back the amount we paid for it?
Another option: Rent it while moving back to India? Will we really be able to pay off mortgage installments just by the rent? And what about the rental agency charges.
Btw, just in case you are wondering, It is next to impossible to pay off the EMI from Indian salary, because even a well off Indian makes much less as compared to an average American, this is due to lower cost of living as well as currency conversion rates.
Yet another option: Take the mortgage now, and pay it off like crazy within the next 7 years.
This is not really impossible for us. But BEB doesn't think it is a good idea to put all our eggs in one basket. He wants us to diversify our investments a bit. If we try to pay off our mortgage in 5-6 years we may not able to have any savings and investments at all.

But with rents going up like crazy in this part of the world, buying a home sounds too good an option to rule out.
So there we are, going back and forth on this one. For now we have deferred the decision until end of march, by then we are hoping to come up with at least 10% down payment. Rights now we have about 3% in savings. With some big expenses coming up this goal is really stretched but I'll keep you posted on how well we do on this goal of ours.

Do you have any thoughts on what route we should take? Do you think its a risk worth taking? Do you think its a risk at all? Are there some factors that I am overlooking? Do share your thoughts and views on this one.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My Story

Looking back 2006 had been a big year for me. My brother got married in June, 2006. On July 16, I met my husband and we got married in November. Two new additions to the family within less than 6 months, who knew!!

Marriage gave me a whole new perspective on the world of finance. When I was single I had a lot of money to spend and very few expenses so I used to spend on a whim, and mismanaged the money at many occassions. Can you believe I didn't even claim a big component of my salary because I just didn't pay attention and it kept getting accmulated in some allowance, only after I got engaged and my finance savvy fiance looked at my payslip I came to know of its existence and claimed it. After wedding, I became aware of all the expenses that go into running a home and when the finances were tight in the initial few months I realized the importance of money management.

We married got settled in India and after 3 months we moved to US. Its been exactly an year, but I still remember everything distinctly. Before moving we rented an apartment here with the help of a friend. During the change of flight in Paris, Airlines lost one of our bags, then within another hop inside US, they lost other 3 bags. So there we were, at 6:00 pm at the airport, tired and hungry after 26 hours of journey ( we couldn't eat anything in the plane because there was nothing vegetarian to eat), sans luggage, except the backpacks, which had our important documents. I was scared like anything, I didn't know what to expect at the apartment we had rented. Will the manager still be there? Will we be able to get in ? Will it be warm enough? Will we freeze in this rainy night. Luckily everything turned out to be okay. Airlines sent our bags from the next flight and we got in the apartment and it was comfortable. Since then it had been a journey to get back on our feet and get going. I am really thankful to this great country and its citizen to let us stay and work here and realize our dreams. There's so much that we've got and learnt here that I am indebted forever...but I digress.
The blue Eyed Boy ( I named my hubby so because he gets a lot of compliments on his eyes, which are greenish brown) and I worked as a team to get past the milestones we had to cross to settle here and I think we have done well.
After moving to US, 2007 saw us moving again within the state, paying back the money that we borrowed while coming to US*, buying our first car, BEB getting a job, wedding of BEB's brother and a couple of fun trips in the US.
In 2008, we are now contemplating buying a home, which is a very big decision for us. I have always tried my best to avoid getting into debt, but I think I'll just have to bite the bullet on this one. I am just mustering enough courage to be able to sleep peacefully while I still owe somebody a couple of hundred thousand dollars. We are still a couple of months away from the final decision and I am keeping my fingers crossed that whatever happens would be the best for us. But first we need to save some bucks for the down payment. I came across this nice group of bloggers called 'frugal hacker' and got inspired especially by . Writing this blog to begin and track the journey towards owning a home in this world as well as keeping a check on my spending habits.

*1 US dollar = 40 Indian Rupees, so you actually need a lot of money in Indian currency if you want to survive in US. After wedding related expenses we were left with no money to bring to US.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Learning the ropes

Its been an year since I moved to US from India. Lots of things have changed, and I am not talking about culture and geography here. Getting married and moving to a new country within the same quarter of an year gave me a whole new perspective on life. I have changed in response, and am still changing. Here I am looking forward to documenting the journey and the milestones. For the first time in life, I have begun to take finances seriously, and I like my life more now. I'm still learning the ropes, but I think I am getting better by the day.