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finances

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I’m breaking up with Target.

November 11, 2015

photo-1445883791079-421522d11f18Photo via Unsplash

I’ve been thinking a lot about my new small town life lately. Needless to say, moving from Minneapolis to small town Iowa has been a big change. Sure, I grew up in this small town, but living in a community as a child vs. an adult is a totally different ball game.

I’ve phoned my mom a dozen times asking where to get/do certain things. Where do you drop off dry cleaning? (Answer: Joe’s TV and Appliance, and it will take a week to get back to you.) Where do you buy envelopes? (Answer: You should just go to the neighboring town’s Walmart 20 minutes away.) The paint store closes and noon on Saturday and nothing is open on Sunday, so if you don’t plan in advance, you’re just out of luck unless you want to drive an hour. The list goes on and on.

But this new life we’re living? I love it. No seriously! It’s slow and simple and free of many of the distractions that come with busy city living. It’s also free of Target. Most people shuddered, myself included, when I said that we were about 45 minutes from our nearest Target. “How will you survive?” they asked. “I could never live that far away from Target!” they exclaimed. Trust me, I thought the same thing. We lived in the mecca of Targets, smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis near the 3rd highest grossing Target in the nation. It. was. wonderful.

Since we’ve moved three months ago I’ve walked through the doors of Target only twice. Yes, twice! I can hardly believe it myself. But you guys? It’s been so good for my wallet and my heart. This sounds a little gross to admit, but in the past when I was having a bad day it wasn’t uncommon for me to pack up Ainsley and head to Target, browsing the isles and tossing things I didn’t need in my cart. I didn’t have a spending problem, but my behavior certainly wasn’t healthy and it didn’t actually fix whatever was bothering me, either.

While living in Minneapolis, I had a friend who told me she purposely chooses not to shop at Target because it’s such a spending black hole. Come in for a birthday card and a gallon of milk, leave with a picture frame, two candles, a new outfit for Ainsley and new shoes you don’t need. You know the feeling. I know the feeling. I hate thinking about how much money I’ve wasted over the years purchasing things I don’t actually need.

These days when I need big-box type items, like toothpaste and paper products, I go to Walmart. And no offense to Walmart but I have no desire to mindlessly wander the aisles of Walmart just for the fun of it. It’s an in-and-out type exchange and very few impluse purchases are made. I’m amazed at how Target, something that used to seem like such a necessity in my life, hasn’t really been missed at all!

Okay, so am I taking an absolute stance on no Target? No. After all, I didn’t say I was boycotting the store. It’s fun to pop in around Christmas time or grab a coffee and walk the aisles mindlessly without a baby on your hip, but I’m much better off when Target isn’t a part of my daily, weekly or even monthly routine.

Madison

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Money-Saving Grocery Shopping Tips

September 25, 2014

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I mentioned in my September goals that we’ve been taking a closer look at our budget and finding new ways to save. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to save money in our monthly budget is to save while grocery shopping. Since eating healthy is extremely important to our family, I’m not willing to buy cheap food just to save a few dollars, but when I can find ways to save without sacrificing on quality, I’m all in.

Lately I’ve implemented a new routine for grocery shopping and saving money. Each week Joe and I have a budget of $100 to spend on groceries; however, groceries are lumped into a larger category that includes eating out and entertainment, so if I can save money on groceries it leaves room for more fun date nights and trips to Starbucks. Oh, and saving, too!

We usually shop for most of our groceries at Target, since there is a large, nice Super Target near our house. I’ve really been impressed with the increased number of organic and natural items offered under the Target house label, and the produce is almost always good quality. Occasionally I make a trip to Costco (about 2x/month) or Whole Foods to shop from their bulk bins and buy certain cuts of meat or specialty items I can’t find elsewhere.

1. Before I grocery shop, I sit down and make a list of what we have going on for the week, this includes nights we have plans to eat out, when we’ll be home later than usual, etc.

2. After I’ve looked at our week, I will plan what meals we’re going to have. This includes browsing my Pinterest board for inspiration and digging into the archives for old favorites. Sometimes Joe has a specific request, but usually he’s fine with anything I make. I also leave room for one night I label “pantry raid” that means we’ll eat leftovers, eggs and toast, mac and cheese, etc.

3. Once I’ve nailed down what we’re going to eat, I make my grocery list. Then, I go to Target.com and search through their coupons to see if they have coupons for anything on my grocery list. They almost always have a coupon for eggs, milk and a few other staples. Lately they’ve also found coupons for money off fruit and vegetable purchases, which I love! Searching only one coupon site saves time, since I’m not keen to browse 5 or 6 different sites. I just don’t have that kind of time!

4. After I’ve found coupons on Target.com, I go to my Ibotta app. This is a new app that I can’t recommend enough. It gives you cash back via Paypal just for buying groceries! They also have a referral program, so when you refer a friend, you get more money in your account. When you download the free app, you can select your favorite stores and search for deals. For example, this week I got $3 back for buying bread (any brand) eggs (any brand) Justin’s nut butter and Greek yogurt. I appreciate that the products they have listed are often either non-brand specific or higher in quality, including many natural and organic items.

When I first heard about this app, I thought it was too good to be true, but it’s the real deal. Many times to “unlock” a deal, you simply answer a question about how often you eat or purchase a product, or learn a quick fact about the product for which the coupon is offered. I love it! To sign up, download the Ibotta app from the app store.

 

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5. Finally, I check my Target Cartwheel app, cross-referencing what’s already on my grocery list with what discounts are available on Cartwheel. The app gives small discounts for buying certain products (usually 5 to 10%) listed. It’s not a lot, but it’s quick and it adds up.

When I’m making my list I also note now much of a Cartwheel discount I’ll get on the product. That way when I’m at the store I can compare and make sure that buy that specific brand associated with the Cartwheel discount actually makes financial sense. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t! For example, last week there was a 20% discount for a particular brand of beans but even with the cartwheel discount it was still cheaper to buy the house brand without a discount.

I think that about sums up how I’ve been shopping and saving lately. It’s amazing how many little things add up to really big things, which I love. Plus, saving money feels like a game or challenge to me, which keeps it fun instead of cumbersome.

How do you save while grocery shopping? Anything I’m missing from this list? I would love to hear!
Madison

Uncategorized

September Goals

September 11, 2014

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Over the last couple months I’ve really let my monthly goal-setting fall to the wayside, haven’t I? First trimester took everything out of me and goal setting was last on my list of things to do, behind basic tasks like cooking, cleaning, going to work and washing my hair more than once a week! Now that I’m staying awake past 8 pm and functioning like a normal human being again, I’m feeling inspired to start back up with goal setting as we welcome in my favorite season.

FITNESS
Do the Tracy Anderson Pregnancy Project 3 to 4 times /week + Continue to Walk 5 to 6 times/week
These videos have been such a blessing to me! I’m only wishing I would have discovered them sooner. I’ve struggled a lot with knowing how much to push myself in pregnancy when it comes to fitness, especially given my history of miscarriage. Although I know many women can safely run throughout their pregnancies, pushing myself to that degree just hasn’t felt right to me, so I’ve been looking for other ways to stay fit. I was fearful that Tracy was going to be a drill sergeant in her videos (just a notion I had about her) but she is incredibly affirming in her approach to prenatal fitness and pregnancy in general.

FINANCES
Stick to Our Budget
Two months ago, Joe and I decided to switch to a cash envelope system for discretionary purchases (aka everything other than mortgage and our auto bill pays) because I was having a tough time sticking to the budget we created in Mint. It seemed I was always looking back on the month’s spending, rather than proactively monitoring our expenditures.

Since I’m a very tactile person, having to deal with cash has been super helpful in curbing any impulse purchases. Plus, it’s fun to see the end of the month roll around when all our envelopes still have a little cash left in them. We’re already putting money away into our 401k’s and into savings each month, but with a baby on the way, it’s nice to save a little extra.

PERSONAL
Spend Less Time on Technology
Gah. Does anyone else find themselves mindlessly scrolling on their phones as they wait in line, sit on the couch and wait for the elevator? I’m finding myself guilty of mindless consumption of technology more and more, and I hate that I always feel glued to my phone. The other night Joe and I were sitting on the couch watching something on TV and I noticed that we were both mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Instagram, Facebook and the like, but when it takes away from face-to-face conversations, it becomes a problem. I’m making it a goal to leave my phone at home more often and give more attention to friends and family when I’m with them.

Make Time to Rest
This seems like a cheater goal, doesn’t it? Our fall is already looking super busy and very scheduled. I’m flying once in September and Joe and I are flying once in October and November, plus we have a lot of other social commitments on the calendar. Although all of the things we’re doing are fun, I’m making it a goal to be more mindful of creating restful times during the week and saying “no” when I can so that we don’t end up sick and exhausted by the time the holiday season arrives.

What about you? Do you have any specific goals for September or this fall in general? I had a friend at church say how they felt September was the new January and I loved that idea! Here’s to making September all about fresh starts!

Madison