Browsing Tag

saving money

Family

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

Uncategorized

Budgeting Post-Baby: Grocery Shopping and Saving

June 12, 2015

photo (89)

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one area of our spending that was a little out of control was our grocery and food budget. Grocery shopping is somewhat of a hobby for me when I have the free time and I love testing and trying out new products, so although we had a budget, I rarely stuck with it each month.

We’ve waffled between various different grocery stores over the years: Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods, etc. My husband had been trying to convince me to check out Aldi ever since he shopped there in college, but I was always more than a little hesitant.

When we re-examined our budget, we decided that spending around $300/month on groceries was a reasonable amount to spend, cutting back from the $400/month we were budgeting previously. To some that may seem high and others that may seem low, but for us it was a pretty comfortable number. We take all our lunches from home and rarely do take-out during the week, so that’s a lot of meals for $300. Side note: Dining out and entertainment are a separate item in our budget.

When my grocery budget got cut, I knew I needed to get creative. I’m not a good coupon-clipper, especially now that time is precious with a little one around the house. So a few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and made the trek to Aldi with my hubby and baby in tow.

First Impressions 
I was really shocked by the prices. Like, seriously in awe of how cheap some of the food was. I had a few experiences with Aldi while in college, but I was blown away by how much less everything costs. One of my prior assumptions about Aldi was that everything was really poor quality, but the way they keep their prices down (like bringing food in on pallets, not hiring people to stock the shelves, making you return your own cart and bag your own groceries) is passed along in cost-savings to the consumer. It’s not a “fun” grocery shopping experience, but it certainly does make for a cheaper bill!

After browsing the store, I was also surprised by the number of healthy, high-quality products they had available. There were plenty of items branded under their “Simply Nature” line that were organic, gluten-free, non GMO, etc. Not really what I expected from a store like Aldi. Additionally, the produce was, for the most part, really great.

Things We Love at Aldi
-Veggies/Produce
-Dark chocolate
-Cereal
-Tortilla chips and crackers (especially the black bean and corn variety)
-Plan and flavored Greek yogurt (their house brand tastes just like some major national brands)
-Milk and shredded cheese
-Grains and Bread (quinoa/rice blends, bread, sandwich thins and wraps, oats)
-Baking staples like brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, etc.
-Nuts and trail mix (their walnuts and almonds are great!)
-Sparkling water (they frequently have LaCroix, my favorite)
-Canned items like beans, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes

Things We Buy Elsewhere
-Chocolate chips (I was not impressed with the quality of their chocolate chips at all)
-Fresh berries (their fresh berries have never looked great when we’ve been there)
-Meat (we don’t buy much meat because we get beef free from Joe’s parents, but we buy our chicken, deli turkey and the like at other stores)
-Peanut butter (I prefer brands that are made with just peanuts and salt, nothing else)
-Salad dressing (Aldi only has a limited selection of basics, like ranch and honey mustard)

Things We Buy in Bulk (Costco)
-Diapers and formula
-Toilet paper
-Olive oil
-Baby wipes
-Keurig pods
-Frozen salmon and chicken breasts

Thus far, it’s been entirely possible to shop at Aldi for a majority of our grocery needs and save a bunch of money in the process. Our weekly grocery trip runs between $60 and $75 dollars each week, and any money that we don’t spend for the month can go toward fun things (like coffee!) or saving for something else.

Other Tips for Saving
-When I do go to other stores like Target for groceries, I make sure to check out my Ibotta app to see if there are any items I can get cash back on. It’s a quick and easy way to get a little more cash in your pocket.
-I also check sites like Coupons.com for any printable coupons and Target’s online coupons as well. I don’t clip a ton of coupons, but I check a couple sites that are easy to navigate.
-Meal planning is an absolute necessity in order to eat well on a budget. I find that if I don’t plan ahead I end up spending so much more at the grocery store because I just toss things in the cart without a plan.
-Make some of your snacks! My husband snacks a lot, so to save money I have been making snacks and treats for the week on Sunday afternoons. I’ll make a batch of whole wheat banana muffins, protein bites (with oats, PB, honey and protein powder), and chop up some veggies for dipping in hummus.
-Every now and again, make it a practice to eat down your freezer. If you’re anything like us, you probably have a ton of food sitting around in your freezer just waiting to be used at mealtime. Although some of our freezer meals are less than glamorous, I feel good knowing I’m not letting food go to waste and I’m saving money in the process.

Madison

Uncategorized

Budgeting Post-Baby: Saving at the Salon

June 4, 2015

11304400_10205798241333469_1791695065_nToday I’m continuing on with the budgeting post-baby series and talking about how to save money on your hair. Once upon a time in college I got into a habit of coloring my hair with boxed drugstore hair color. I think it was the worst my hair has ever looked, but it was so much cheaper than getting it done at a salon and my budget was tight.

Now that we’re re-evaluating our budget post-baby the money spent at the salon was another area where I knew there was major room to save. Although I loved my regular hair gal (who had a lot of experience and was on the higher end of the price range) I decided to switch to a more junior-level stylist who was half (?!) the price. She’s done a great job, and I still get to enjoy salon-quality color. 

I asked my friend and hair stylist, Tracy Rozeboom, to answer a few of my pressing questions on saving money without sacrificing great hair.

What should people ask for if they’re searching for great-looking, low maintenance color? Are there any styles that people should steer clear of?

When looking for a low maintenance color I would recommend asking your colorist to show you a swatch of what your natural color is.  Then I would ask to stay within 2 levels of that color. That way your grow out can last longer without you having to come in as often. If you want a more noticeable change ombre & boliage  techniques that are super trendy for summer!  This allows you to have something fun and different, yet remain low maintenance.

Also, if you want to be lighter for summer just ask for a few foils around your face.  Everyone is naturally a bit lighter around the face so by enhancing that you are brightening up the face and the grow-out isn’t as harsh. I would steer clear of a style that has a ‘wow’ factor.  Anything that isn’t close to your natural color is going to be work to keep up.

As a stylist, would you prefer your clients to mention that they’re trying to be budget-savvy on the front end? Would that impact the cut or color you steer clients to or away from?

YES.  If your hairstylist does not do a full consultation when you sit in the chair then please be sure to speak up!  Hopefully they will ask you a hand full of questions, but if not tell them about your lifestyle.  Include what your daily routine looks like, how much time you spend on your hair in the mornings, how often you’ll go to the salon, what products you are using, any life events, budget, etc.  By doing so the haircut and/or color can be based on what works best for you.

Then when you show them a picture of what you want, they can pin point what you like about that style/color for you, yet tweak it to match your lifestyle & budget!

Once you get home from the salon, what are some of the best ways to preserve your color and make it last longer? Are there any at-home products you would recommend to help extend your color?

The best way to preserve your color when getting home from the salon is to not wash it for 24 hours. There isn’t a rule about that, but I have attended professional classes that teach this to be true! In general, the less you wash your hair,the better. Washing your hair less will help preserve your color, balance your scalp’s pH with the natural oils of your skin, and make your products last longer. I recommend washing every other day.

As far as at home products go, I would stick to the recommendations of your stylist. The companies that make your hair color also make the product to work with your color. I know they cost more upfront, but they will save you money by making your color last longer! One money-saving tip I pass along to my clients? If you have blonde hair, you can use baby powder instead of dry shampoo!

Tip for the blondes: Ask your stylist about using a purple shampoo once every other week! It will brighten up your hair, save you some salon time and money and blow your mind!

What are the biggest mistakes, in your opinion, that people make when caring for their hair?

NUMBER 1 RULE: HEAT PROTECTANT. I think the biggest mistake that people make is to skip the products and fry their hair.  Beautiful hair begins with healthy hair.  You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a whole cupboard of products. The top two products I recommend to everyone that sits in my chair are a deep conditioner to be used twice a week and a heat protectant (with protein) to be used everyday.

Money-Saving Tip: You can swap a deep conditioner for a jar of coconut oil!

In your opinion, is it necessary to buy salon-quality hair products to have great hair? If you want to keep your hair healthy and can only splurge on one salon-quality product, what would it be?

I know salon products can cost a lot! The reason is the ingredients. Cheap products are full of wax that make you think your hair is soft and healthy when really it is coated and the hair strand isn’t absorbing any nutrients.  This can also lead to a wax build-up on your scalp.  Choose to splurge on a good shampoo and conditioner.  The shampoo will clean your scalp and hair without adding wax to the problem and the conditioner is like lotion full of moisture and nutrients.  By doing so you can get back to liking LOVING your hair!

Uncategorized

Budgeting Post-Baby: Cutting Cable

June 2, 2015

photo

Having a baby has a way of making you seriously re-examine your budget. You start to think about the little luxuries you enjoy every day and then realize the money spend on those luxuries could (and probably should!) be going toward more important things your child’s college fund. Although we felt we were in a position to have a baby, when we sat down to re-evaluate our budget post-baby, it was a big wake-up call to make some changes. We are no longer DINKS (you know, Dual Income No Kids?) and spending/living like we are is a thing of the past.

So, that said, I’m planning on doing a mini-series on the site in the coming months to examine how we’re adjusting our budget for baby and cutting costs while still managing to live well. Our first target for cost savings? Our pesky and over-priced cable bill.

Yes, we finally did it, we cut the cable cord! We’ve been talking about cutting DirecTV for a couple years, but the sticking point for us was always ESPN. But when we realized that we were spending $115 a month on cable, something needed to change. Our solution? We signed up for SlingTV (not the same as Sling Box) through Dish Network. Sling TV can be accessed through your internet TV or an internet TV stick, like a Roku, which we got free when we pre-paid for three months of Sling TV.

You plug in your Roku, download the SlingTV app and for just $20/month you get access to streaming of about 20 popular channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV and Food Network, to name a few. We’ve been SO impressed with the quality of the streaming and the ease of accessing our favorite channels. Plus, I love that you can by month-by-month with the option to add additional channel packages based on interests. In the fall, I anticipate that we’ll add the sports package (which includes SEC Network, ESPNU, etc.) for a couple months, which costs an additional $15/month. No matter the way you swing it, we’re saving over $1,000 over the course of the year just by making the switch.

Additionally, we share an extended-family Netflix account for streaming movies and TV shows and we pay for Hulu Plus as well, which costs $8/month. And access to the basic channels like ABC, NBC and CBS? Those are free with a digital tuner!

A few notes about cutting cable:
-You need to be 100% committed to cutting the cord. When we called to cancel, DirecTV offered to reduce our bill by a paltry $10/month. But, about an hour after cancel our service we got a call from DirecTV’s retention department offering to give us our current package for $60/month for 12 months, plus a $200 Visa gift card and NFL Sunday Ticket for free. Tempting, but we stuck to our guns and passed on the offer. (Hint, doing this might be a good option if you want to keep cable but are trying to reduce your budget!)

-Even with SlingTV, we’re going to have to do without some luxuries like being able to record the shows we want to watch at a later time. However, most of that can be remedied by going online to Hulu Plus or Netflix and finding the show we want to watch. Not nearly as convenient but costs savings frequently mean a trade-off in convenience.

-We’re hoping that by cutting cable we will spend less time watching mindless TV and more time reading, spending time with Ainsley and getting outside. We have said it’s not only an investment in cost-savings but an investment in another way of living, and I like the sounds of that.

Old Budget
DirecTV $115/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $123/month or $1476/year

New Budget
SlingTV: $20/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $28/month or $336/year

TOTAL COST SAVINGS: $1140/year

I’m excited to continue this series on budgeting over the next several weeks. I have a few awesome guest-contributors who are going to weigh in on things like hair and salon visits, food and groceries and events/activities!

Madison

Uncategorized

Money-Saving Grocery Shopping Tips

September 25, 2014

IMG_5044

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.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 8.28.44 AM

 

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