The holidays were a wonderful mixture of work, relaxation, gratefulness, family time, frugality and indulgence. It was GREAT and I am both thankful it has wound down and also that the next time is only 363 days away. Can’t wait!
This year, my cousin had a Christmas Eve cocktails and appetizer reception at her home so that we could all be together to celebrate. The usual family and friends that would ordinarily get together at my house on Christmas Day were otherwise engaged with travel, personal projects and so on this year.
I used coupons and sale shopping to buy some of the presents and food for the holidays. Target Cartwheel, coupons.com, JC Penney coupons, an Ollie’s Army coupon and Aldi grand reopening coupon rounded out the discounts.
Mirror Image made out on Christmas big time…as usual. This girl…she likes STUFF. Her haul included VR goggles, clothes, money, Lindor Truffels (when did that become a Christmas wish? She was begging for those for weeks), jewelry and more.
Christmas lunch was fabulous, too. The good folks at Aldi one again provided a luxurious feast – broiled lobster tails, roasted duck, salad, roasted brussel sprouts, standing rib roast, dinner rolls. Thank goodness I can get this stuff from Aldi or this kind of menu would not be affordable.
Here is a giggle – one of my presents was a Fit Board from my cousin. This is timely considering the menu that I mentioned above. I need it and am looking forward to using at the start of the new year in relation to my weight management goals!
More importantly than the STUFF though, is the LOVE. I am so blessed. Overall good health, a family that loves me and let’s me cook for them and all the other blessings that would take too long to write.
Next step post holidays, my trip to Seattle to see my sister get married (we leave tomorrow); sign up for some life enrichment classes at the local community college; The Great Water Challenge of January 2017.
We may not have gotten all of the April showers that I am use to having here on the east coast but, I am looking forward to those May flowers. It is time for a fresh start.
The end of March and all of April were filled with tests and trials of the financial and non-financial type. I am looking forward to getting back on task and taking back control.
In March, during Spring Break, we visited the grandparents in the Seattle/Tacoma area. It was a great visit but I always get a little out of control in relation to food when I leave my “home” zip codes. For instance, we ate lovely Dungeness crabs at Pike’s Fish Market. The experience was about $70 for 3 of them. Yikes! Still, I wouldn’t have given back one bite because it was awesome!
In April, thanks to the generosity of her grandparents and as a reward for her great grades, Thrifty Image, Jr. was able to get a new fancy schmancy phone. We continued to use FreedomPop, just upgraded her device to AWESOME. We took advantage of all of these department store Friends & Family sales to outfit Junior for Summer camp – t-shirts and shorts and undies, oh my!
I also indulged in buying A LOT of product for my hair this month. I have naturally curly (and dry) hair and I have decided to grow it out. Healthy hair requires a commitment and some of that is in dollars and cents as well as time. So, I have purchased many, many, many conditioners, leave-ins and styling creams to help in my journey. My plan is to spend a little more on products healthy hair from home rather than spending A LOT more for healthy hair from the salon.
And the snacks. I have over indulged in everything from Oreo’s and DeMet’s Turtles to the new Frosted Coffees from Chick Fila. OMG has anyone else fallen in love with those? I am hooked on those the same way I used to be hooked on McDonald’s Sweet Tea. Oh no, now I want some Sweet Tea! Spring came and my self-control seemed to have fled. What is interesting is that I have been busier than ever so I am not even sure how I had the time to devote to so much snacking but apparently, where there is a (lack of) will (power), there is a way.
Beginning May 1 – 30 day water challenge drinking one gallon per day. I found when I did this in January, not only did I get the benefits of the additional hydration, I had less desire for processed sugar.
Join a gym – There is a new You Fit in my neighborhood and it would just be un-neighborly to ignore it. I am going to have Junior join with me. Soon, school will be out and I need her too tired to think up mischief or to use the word “bored”. Did I mention we are going to Jamaica later in the Summer using my Rapid Rewards points? I have a couple of months to get beach body ready. More on how I scored a practically FREE vacation with points in another post.
Yard Sale – A May yard sale would be a make up sale for the one that was rained out last Saturday. Even with the rain we made $12 because buyers knocked on our door. So I think that next time, we should do well if the sun shines upon us.
Test new recipes – In an unusual move, I got caught up in fast food and restaurant eating way too much over the last 5 weeks. Well, enough of that. It is my least favorite expense when I look at my Mint account. I think it is because even when we eat out, it doesn’t correlate to my spending less time in the kitchen. There is no benefit because Junior and the dog are ALWAYS hungry. So yes I will cook more but, I will save more – both my money and my cholesterol levels. This is thanks to Aldi’s consistently low prices and bonus – now that they accepts credit cards, I can use my Chase Freedom card this quarter to get 5% cash back of grocery purchase up to $1,500.
Even with my wayward ways in April, I still maintained my savings levels and charitable commitments so no regrets there. However, Junior and I will be having a chat about potentially lowering our cable/internet plan soon. Expect to hear the sobs. Like me, she loves her television shows (her-Disney, me-National Geographic).
I have a chicken that I will roast tonight, a half bottle of white wine and some trash tv shows to get through between now and April 30 – tomorrow! Then, I am back in frugal mode because
I have been a Mint user for a little over a year now and I LOVE IT. I love it so much I wish, even now, that the moment I first heard Jean Chatzky mention it on an episode of Money Matters that I had gotten up off the sofa right then and created my account rather than waiting for as long as I did. I should have hopped up the moment she said it was FREE.
The love I have must be obvious because in one 2 minute conversation with my mom, I convinced her to try it and now, she LOVES IT, TOO. This is not to be taken lightly. My mom doesn’t really have a lot of patience for sitting at a computer, gathering ALL of the account numbers, passwords, secret questions and the like. Plus, she has a healthy distrust of the internet and its ongoing security issues that get played out on the evening news. Think Target, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, etc. But if you were to ask her, she would admit to those 2-3 hours of setting up her account as the best investment of time she can remember.
It has been a game changer for me.
Before Mint, I would check my accounts regularly at different websites plus kept a general spreadsheet of my income and expenses but never, had I had the ability and desire to gather ALL of my accounts in one place on my own. I think this largely had to do with not fully understanding the concept of net worth at the time.
With Mint, having almost all my accounts in one place takes allows me to know my net worth, my credit score, my due balances and most importantly, my financial trends. It is the TRENDS function that has me so excited right now.
I was playing around with the TRENDS function in a way I hadn’t before and was able to determine how I have been spending my money by category. I was particularly interested in the area of Food and Dining – specifically the Groceries sub-category. With Mint, I can compare trends over time. The options range among last seven days, last month 3 months, 12 months or the comparison can be customized for a particular investigating.
I beat myself up a lot because of the amount of money I spend on groceries each month. We are eaters in the Thrifty Image household. We like to eat, Mirror Image likes for me to cook and I take joy in our being able to come together over a delicious meal without the extra salt, fat or costs of eating out. But I really felt that the monthly costs were pretty high. So I took a look and compared my costs over the last 6 months with the previous six months then did the same with the year to date.
What a pleasant surprise!
I have spent approximately $1,000 less these last six months than I did in the previous six months on Groceries. And I know why. The Water Challenge in January and the current Meat Free March challenge. I have been perplexed by what has felt like excessive spending yet, the overall food category has gone done overall. Hurrah!
This is just one of the ways Mint helps me manage my money and gives me the tools to explore not just the money but better money management. With all of the information in one place, it is so much easier to manage the money and understand the nuances. With Mint I see:
Accounts can be added (say you get a new credit card or open up a Betterment account) or they can be closed or deleted (perhaps your credit card number was stolen or your car was totaled and it doesn’t exist as an asset anymore). The only account I cannot currently see is Mirror Image’s Private College 529. According to Mint, there needs to be a pent-up demand and I guess I am the only one with that account. Another reason to transfer that account over to my State College Savings Plan!
In early December, I read an article about a woman who drank 3 liters of water everyday for 30 days. She reported being aches and pains free, disappearing under eye circles, clear skin and uninterrupted sleep.
It sounded like she had found the fountain of youth. And I wanted in.
For years I have bemoaned the lack of sleep and aches and pains. (Nothing wrong with my skin, though. Smoother than a babies butt thank you very much. Seriously, I glow).
So I decided to go for it. No more coffee filled with 5-6 flavored creamers. No more fruity drinks or wine with dinner. Just water. A LOT of water. For 30 days. I happened to mention this challenge to some folks at work at our holiday luncheon. For some reason, some of them were really interested although not everyone was super excited. In fact, they were confused. I heard feedback like:
Ok, I can do it as long as I can have a cup of coffee…Uh, no
I will do it as long as I can have my Super Big Gulp of Diet Mountain Dew in the morning….Really? No.
What? No wine? No…no wine
Can I have Vodka since it looks like water? NO!
Anyway, after somewhat agreeing to the rules, our merry band started drinking 1 gallon of water January 1st and the results, experience and conversations were pretty amazing:
First, I cheated on January 1 — How embarrassing since I was the one to start this thing. I had been diagnosed with a sinus infection at the Minute Clinic on New Year’s Eve eve that then blossomed into an upper respiratory infection and I was sick, sick, sick. I broke down and had hot drink of apple cider vinegar in hot water with honey the first 2 days along with my water. I don’t regret it. I was seeking relief anywhere I could get it.
Second, my merry band had cheaters, too — tea, coffee, accidental orange juice, vodka, wine and orange juice made its way into some cups.
Three, I lost seven pounds in one week — I think it was a combination of cut calories from not drinking so much sugar laden drinks, being sick and my body no longer having to starve for water.
Four, the body rewards you for taking care of it — members of the merry band reported more hydrated skin and less achy muscles.
Five, my mom is a rock star– She drank 3 liters of water and nothing else for 30 days. And thanked me for including her in the merry band.
Six, I can do anything — I have a pretty aggressive sweet tooth and somewhat stressful life. It is easy to comfort myself with food and drink. Taking this Challenge showed me I can control myself and reset my habits and patterns.
Seven, good habits spill into other areas of life — Without the daily start of sugary flavored coffees in the morning, I no longer pined for cinnamon buns and Swiss Rolls and cookies throughout the day. I either went without or reached for my bananas and oranges.
Eight, humor goes a long way when dealing with change — One of our merry band really wanted a diet coke and was close to giving in. I sent her this picture I found on clip art:
Nine, children are always watching/children don’t allow for nuances — Mirror Image was always quick to point out my “cheats”. She disapproved of my Green Smoothies, hot Theraflu and probiotic drinks. She did not agree with my explanations that a green smoothie was basically a salad and the others were medicine. To her, I committed to water only and those were the only liquids allowed.
Ten, there are budgetary benefits to the challenge — I did not eat fast food, restaurant food or purchase any wine or cocktails during the Challenge. My Mint budgets allow for $150 each month for those 3 categories combined. That is now $150 saved.
Eleven, challenges are challenging — when working with a group on a shared goal, listening and adjusting are hugely important . There was a minor rebellion early in the Challenge and I was asked to give feedback since I was in charge (wait, how did THAT happen?!?!?). The issue? Hot tea. They wanted it and would drop out of the merry band without it. Personally, I didn’t see this as defeat but as a compromise to reach the overall goal of drinking more water. So let them drink tea! I did put the kibosh on coffee, however.
Twelve, role models make me better — there were 2 members of the merry band that drank all the water and only water for all 30 days. No cheating! Their enthusiasm and commitment really motivated me.
Thirteen, it is OK to be different– According to one member of the merry band, when she chose not to drink wine with her wine drinking friends at a lunch/brunch, they were really shocked and a bit wary. She was strangely happy. Like she had won a contest (she did!)
This has been a great experience and I have decided to continue in February. From a self control perspective, this has been the best experience I have had since the Whole 30 Challenge in 2014 which I used to help reset my sugar addiction. And I am convinced challenges come to make me strong.
I will go into how this challenge compares to money management and budgeting in a future post. For now, here is how much a 30 day water challenge could cost:
Aldi — 30 gallons of filtered water @ .79 each = $23.70
Walmart — 30 gallons of distilled water @ .78 each = $23.40
Walmart — 30 gallons of Nursery Water @ $1.00 each = $30
Dollar Tree — 30 gallons of Spring water @$1.00 each = $30
Poland Spring — 30 gallon of Spring Water @ $2.83 each = $84.90
Home/Office — 30 gallons of tap or fountain water = FREE
I chose FREE, of course but did buy a gallon of the Aldi water for my neti pot that I was prescribed to use during my sinus infection.