Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celebrating 4$/Gallon gas - One less round trip a day

Crystal at Money Saving Mom, has asked readers for reasons to celebrate 4$/gallon gas price. It may sound strange, but rising fuel costs are motivating people to reconsider their choices in transportation and commute, and more and more people are modifying their lifestyle to use less of gas and more of other environment friendly options. Which IS a reason to celebrate.
So what's my change?
I work pretty close to my home (about half a mile) and my husband works within 2 miles of our home. Of late we picked up a strange habit. We started going home for tea ( or Chai as it is known in India) in the afternoons. Both of us love tea as it is prepared in India, and we usually don't like the version we can get in our offices. I don't know how we made a habit of it, but it started with me sometimes feeling sleepy during office hours and asking my husband to take me home for a tea, which he gladly obliged. It felt nice to have a 15 minutes break during the largely monotonous office hours, but the cost was much higher then we could understand initially.
A round trip home would mean a 4 mile extra trip everyday. It also stole some time from our life, because we will stay longer in the office to compensate the half hour, which we spent while going out for tea. Soon, it started showing up as the difference it made to our monthly gas expense.
So from last week I have decided to be firm and say no to this urge of going home for tea. I'm happy to report that I haven't gone home(in the afternoon) all of last week and this monday. It also helped me cut down my overall intake of tea by half. Since I was firm on saying no, my husband has also stopped going.
Yay! for myself and hubby.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nice safeway deals

Safeway is offering its best deals on some items that we routinely use:

FreshExpress spinach and other salads (18 oz pack) - 1/$1. I use spinach to prepare tens of recipes so I always stock up whenever these are on deal.
Eating Right baby carrots - 1lbs/$1. These make a great office snack in our household. We definitely load up on these, specially because the carrots last long in the fridge.
Cantaloupe - These absolutely delicious summer treats are also 1/$1.

All these deals are good through Tuesday June 24, 2008. These are going on in Northern California, not sure about whether its the same all over.

I have kept checking price for these things for an year now, this is as good as it gets ( unless you've some coupons, which, I have hardly seen anywhere). So what are you waiting for, pack some vitamin and iron, get those goodies!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Perseverence Giveth, Impulse taketh away

BEB was having laptop blues lately. His laptop charger was not working ever since we came back from India. He tried to fix the problem himself, some careful investigation told that the jack of the charger which connects it to the laptop was dead. I asked him to get a new charger for his laptop so that he can surf happily again. He replied that he wasn't willing to spend 30$ on something that was fully functional but for a 2-3 $ part. So he searched and searched for a right sized jack, on my laptop of course :( He could find some in the online stores but then he sould have to pay shipping, which he didn't want to pay. He searched in his office if he could find a jack lying around somewhere, which was not useful for the owner, no luck!! Finally he found it in the nearby Fry's store, where he had to practically convince the salespersons that they do have it in their stock...:D

So he came back with the jack and tried to connect it himself, oops...didn't work. As always he had a backup plan, he took the jack, charger and laptop to his office and requested his lab technician to solder it, which she happily did.

In the middle of the day I get a call from hubby, the laptop is back to life and the charger is good to go. His resourcefulness and perseverence paid off, even when all his friends told him that it won't work. He saved us a pretty penny ( 30$ vs. 95c ) and got the satisfaction of proving himself.

On the other hand one impulsive purchase and we were out of 30 $ of our hard earned money. Last weekend we went to Sears to snag that nice Dockers deal that everyone seems to be talking about ($75 gas card on purchase of $100). We wanted some tshirts for BEB and thought this would be a good chance to save money. It sure was a popular deal, 'coz they didn't have even a single Dockers tshirt that would fit him. While returning we just thought of taking a look at the food processors they had available in their appliance section. The 'look' ended up costing us 208$, but that wasn't the end of the story. After we bought it from Sears we found that pretty much every other store was selling it for at least 30$ less. Had we waited a bit and did our research properly, we would have saved at least 30$ on it. Because of Sears' weird price match policy we found it difficult to get price matched to other stores.

These two incidents within a week really put the results of impulsive shopping and buying after doing your homework in perspective. Perseverence giveth, Impulse taketh away.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Positive changes made recently

I have made many positive changes to my lifestyle recently. Just thought of documenting them so that I can keep them up, and after a while look back and smile.

  • Started running instead of biking. I just felt that since my body is so used to of biking, I needed to do something more intensive for the extra calories that I need to burn.
  • Started going to the gym in the morning. I found that those pounds came off real quick when I used to go to the gym. (Note to self : Start attending the free aerobics classes as well)
  • Trying to get back to preparing and having breakfast daily. I tripped on this one when we moved to the new place in April.
  • Do at least one extra thing for any part of my body. Yesterday it was massage for my hair.
  • Reduce the intake of "Chai". I discovered that I have become a tea addict when we went for an outing and I had a headache just because I didn't have my evening tea. Now I'm trying to knock off tea from my evening routine. Once I am done with this, I'll tackle the morning tea. Right now preparing tea is the first thing I do every morning....without fail.

Things that I need to start doing

  • Drink more water everyday
  • Start eating salads with every meal
  • Remember to carry the bag while going shopping. I used to do this earlier, now I tend to forget often.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June - Half month pulse check

Its past the half month mark for June and I dread doing the pulse check. June had been the month of unexpected expenses while we were still recovering from the splurge of India trip. Some of the expenses were voluntary, food processor anyone? some necessary but tripped us badly over the projected budget.
The major budget spoilers were - My shopping in India, this time I got some really nice formal shirts and trousers while I was in Bangalore. Since I have a really hard time getting my clothes in US, I thought it was ok to splurge on this one. I'm poorer by about $250 but I am all set for this year.
Grocery was another major budget breaker, though I didn't spend too much in buying real groceries but our two trips for cherry picking did show up badly on the budget, we bought and ate huge amount of cherries this year. I just want to cut myself some slack on this one. After all, we are not going to get any cherries after July, so better make most of the time we have.
Household goods - One food processor and the budget goes out of the window. As much as I love this gadget, I really regret impulse buying it.
Silver Lining in the cloud
Well, not everything went this bad after all, we tried and reduced out insurance bills, telecommunication bills. We haven't spent anything on eating out so far, and I'm hoping that we'll spend less than the allocated amount this month. We also tried t minimize our laundry expenses by rediscovering line drying. Lets hope that we will finish the month quite close to our targeted budget, if not matching it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Win win strategy

Rarely does one stumbles upon something thats good for the personal finance, earth and saves time too, I found one such thing today.

Yesterday, while hubby was ironing his shirts he complained about how wrinkled the clothes are and how difficult it was to iron them. That once again reminded me of my plan of line drying clothes instead of machine drying them. I remembered how we used to do that back in India, and the shirts were good to go with the minimum effort in ironing. I wanted to give it a spin here since we have a front yard now, but just never got around to actually doing it. I told BEB about my thoughts and he agreed that it sounded a good idea.

So today, we took all the bigger dirty clothes and washed them in the machine. Once they were done, we took them out and line dried them in our front yard. In a couple of hours all of them were dry, fresh and clean.

Since we live in an apartment where we pay per wash/ dry cycle. We saved some money( albeit small) by line drying. It was good for mother earth. Since we didn't need to wait for the dryer to finish drying, it saved us sometime too. So hubby was happy, I'm happy, our pocketbook is happy and hopefully mother earth is happy too.
Now thats what I call a win-win strategy !!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Power of writing it down

I had always thought that making a budget was not a required activity for us, rather it was one of those "nice to have" things. I'm saying this because both me and hubby are very careful with our money. We spend money after careful consideration, we keep track of almost every dollar we spend by writing it into a worksheet, and at the end of the month we get a nice graph of what our monthly expenditure is looking like. So I thought making a budget was just like doing the opposite, making that graph at the start of the month rather than at the end. Last month we realized our big financial goal. Since we were saving everything towards it till now, accomplishing it left a huge gap in our savings plan. So this month we thought it would be a great idea to think about our next financial goals and how much we'll be setting aside for them each month. This required having an estimate of how we were going to spend in the coming months and that automatically led us to making a budget. Boy! Both of us were in for a big surprise.
When we came to the final figure of our monthly spending, we were really disappointed to see that it was a bit above 1 person's monthly income. BEB reacted to this by saying that there was something wrong with the budget and that we had allocated too much in the categories that don't need that much spending. My response was "Show me how!" So we prepared another budget with tighter bounds in many categories, since both of us thought that we could live with that kind of budget, we decided to keep both versions of the budget for a while. We named the second version "target budget." But this is not where it ended, when BEB saw how much we have been spending on categories like Phone, Insurance etc, he decided that he could do something about it. First of all he canceled a subscription of calling cards to India which was charging us 10$ per month just in the subscription fees. Then he helped setup skype both at my home and his home in India so that most of our communication costs to India come down. Next he took care of the auto insurance, that one is down by 30$ a month. He's also watching all the other expenses carefully for the fat that can be trimmed down.
Now, we knew that we are paying that stupid subscription fees for the India calls. We also knew that we could haggle our way to lesser insurance fees. We just never bothered enough to actually sit down and do something about them. Thats the power of budget, it shows you those low hanging fruits which can be picked with just a phone call. Whats more, hubby is super excited about all these changes we have made. After all $80 every month is something, right?

Frugal Fun: Cherry Picking Day

This weekend we carpooled with a cousin of BEB and went Cherry picking to Brentwood. It was about an hour long drive from our place. Since I am a huge fan of cherries, so much so that I wait the whole year for the red roundels to show up in the aisles. I have made it plain and clear to BEB that whatever happens we'll go cherry picking when the season comes. So despite having been jet-lagged from India trip, we still went ahead with this outing. Initial plan was to go after having breakfast and eating out on our way back. But thanks to the jet-lag I was up at 4:00 am and since BEB was in a super excited mode, he freed up a lot of time for me and I could fix decent lunch for the four of us. I guess we saved at least 20$ by getting our own lunch. Not to mention the convenience of having food at hand when we were hungry.

It was hot out there and at the end of the day it was exhausting. But with the cherries we ate there and the bucketful that we got for home it was well worth it. I have been eating cherries non-stop ever since. The best part was that we got so many cherries for such a discounted price. The cousin commented that we are buying too many to eat before they will turn bad, little did he know about the die hard cherry eater in this household. Its been about 3 days and the 15 lbs. box is already showing signs of running out very soon. So what I'm doing besides eating them lovelies? I'm trying to plan how soon can we go again to get one more of those boxes :D

Friday, June 6, 2008

Looking Good

This can be attributed as a good start for the month of June. We have finally sat down and made a monthly budget for ourselves, make that budgets. When we chalked out our first budget on the basis of our last year's spendings and projected expenses, BEB wasn't very happy with it. His argument was that if we plan for some extra expenses in our budget, we'll actually end up spending it. My argument was that if we plan for just the exact amount that we spend every month there will be no room to accommodate changes, and we'll end up dipping into the money that is allocated for various savings and investment options. Since both the arguments felt right, we resorted to making 2 budgets, the realistic budget and the targeted budget. BEB also came up with several creative ideas on how to lower our spending in some areas. The big surprise for me was that BEB got really excited about this whole budget thing and was ready to adjust the spendings to get to the targeted budget. One good thing that we came to know was that the budget turned out to be quite close to what we thought we were spending. Maintaining a detailed account of every expense does have some benefits apparently. Now, I can't wait to see how well we do with our targeted budget this month.