Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SHUT UP!!

A few months ago at my neighborhood ladies bible study, we learned some shocking news.  One of our didn't realized that you really could check books out of the public library for free. Crazy, right?

It all happened while we were discussing a book that one of us had read.  M, our tech savvy, youngest member of the group who reads the Bible off her i-pad, piped up that the book was only $8.78 at Costco right now.  I replied that since I'm notoriously cheap, I'd rather check it out from the library, where it's free.  The rest of the conversation went something like this:

M:  Shut up!  The library is still around?!

me:  Uh ...   yes.

M:  SHUT UP!!!   And it's free?!?!

me:  Uh ...     yes. 

M:  Shut up!  I've seen them on tv and stuff, but I didn't realize they were still around!

me:  You can reserve books online now and even check out more than one book at a time.

M:  Shut up!  So it's like Netflix ...  for books ... only free?  WHAT??

We spent the next several minutes laughing hysterically and explaining the intricacies of the library system to her.  We heard the phrase "Shut up!" (used in the Stacy & Clinton tense) numerous times.  One of us almost convinced her that there was a $5 monthly fee that she could collect and pay on her behalf, but we didn't let her fall for it. 
I am a voracious reader.  If I find a book I like, and have the time to spend reading it, I can knock out a rather long book in one afternoon.  I used to buy a lot of books (and sometimes I still do, but that will be covered in a later post).  But lots of books quickly take up lots of space and are heavy and expensive to move (something we've done A LOT).  When we moved to Wake County, I started taking advantage of the local library system.

The Wake County Library System is awesome.  They have an extensive collection, with just about any title you could ever want.  And if they don't have it, they'll borrow it from another county's library.  They offer audio books and even e-books for your Kindle or Nook.  I can request a book online or through a FREE app on my smartphone and they'll e-mail me when it's ready.  We regularly attend the free Storytime, where they often have puppet shows and crafts for the kids.  The one we like to visit is located in the same building as the local cultural center, where they host tons of great free family events, like concerts, puppet shows, and movies for mom's with small children (AKA: it's ok to bring your noisy, wiggly preschooler to this showing of these movies).  For a very reasonable price, they have all sorts other events like comedy shows and plays.  They also offer classes for all ages on topics like cooking and dance and pottery.  Seriously, it's awesome.

You can save some serious entertainment moola by checking up on what you're local library/cultural center has to offer.  It's usually way more than you every realized.  We visit there so much that my kids act like seeing the storytime lady is spotting a celebrity.  (I'm always surprised they don't ask for Miss Megan's autograph).   

I honestly was shocked that my friend didn't know what all the library had to offer.  But that's par for the course with her, just the other day, she told me I'd changed her life by introducing her to crockpot liners. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Spent My 401K at the Olive Garden

I LUV going out to eat. 

I love to eat a delicious, leisurely meal, prepared by someone else, and then (most importantly) leave the mess for someone else to clean up.  It would probably be close to the top of my list of favorite hobbies.  Before we had kids, going out to eat on a daily basis was just a part of life.  Both of us were working, and going out to lunch every day just seemed to be "the thing to do."  We would think nothing of dropping $8 to $10 a day each at some random fast food joint, just on lunch.  Most weeks included dinner out at a place like Chili's or Ruby Tuesday's together at least 3 times a week.  I'd say we'd spend about $25 to $30 a dinner when we'd go out to eat together. 

Here's the breakdown on what we were spending (I'm estimating on the low end here):

Lunches:
$8 a meal   x  2 adults  x  5 lunches out during the work week  x  52 weeks a year = $4,160 annually

Dinners:
$25 a meal (for the both of us)  x  3 dinners out during a week  x  52 weeks a year =  $3,900 annually

Total:  $8,060

Let's face it, that's a LOT of money, and we weren't even having to feed children yet!   On average, I'd say the meals I make at home (lunch or dinner) cost about $3 per serving.  It's probably a lot less than that, but for the sake of argument, I'll go with $3.  Let's do the math on the same number of meals:

Lunches:
$3 a meal   x  2 adults  x  5 lunches a week  x  52 weeks a year = $1,560 annually

Dinners:
$6 a meal (feeding both of us)  x  3 dinners a week  x  52 weeks a year =  $936 annually

Total:  $2,496

That's a yearly savings of $5,564.  (and that's just what we save during the week, not including weekends!!)

Can you imagine what we could have done with that money???  Taken a cruise, bought a cheap used car, saved up for college tuition!   And that was a conservative estimate.  I'm sure we spent much more than than during an average week when we were going out to eat a lot.  I'm CERTAIN that most of the meals I make cost less than $3 per serving. 

So now, I'm sure your question is how do you eat at home so cheaply?  It's a simple matter of planning.  I watch the sale flyers for my local grocery stores and try to plan my meals around what's on sale.  I also stock up if the price is good, utilizing my freezer (I have two stand alone freezers in addition to the one attached to my fridge)  I'm also a couponer.  I am shameless about utilizing coupons to save as much as I possibly can. 

There are also some GREAT websites out there to help you plan:

http://www.5dollardinners.com/
This site is great!  All the recipes are designed to be made for under $5.  Not $5 per person, but $5 total

http://e-mealz.com/
This site does charge you to use their services, but I've heard great things about it, and if you're not into meal planning, this does the work for you!  Even though you have to pay for it, it's still a money saver.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
I'm in love with my crockpot.  Apparently, so was this lady.  She spent a year cooking from her crockpot every day.  She has some really great, creative recipes.  Most of which can be made pretty inexpensively. 

I'm not saying we never go out to eat, but we've cut down on it drastically.  I'd say we go out about twice a week.  We usually go on Sunday's right after church, and on Wednesday nights to the fellowship dinner at our church.  We're very mindful of what we spend.  The Wednesday night dinner at church costs us $12 for the whole family, about the same as eating at home.  We use coupons and share meals at restaurants on Sundays, usually spending less than $30 for the entire family when we go to a "sit-down" restaurant, and less than $20 for the entire family when we hit up fast food.   My husband takes leftovers to work for his lunch almost every day, and the kids and I eat at home almost exclusively.  There is the occasional trip to Chick-Fil-A for a playdate or dinner out with my hubby, but on the whole, we don't spend a lot on eating at restaurants anymore.

Try evaluating your own numbers sometime.  You'd probably be surprised at how many waitresses you are putting through college, just by the amount of tips you pay out!

Welcome to Famously Frugal!

Hello.

My name is Louise, and I'm a spend-a-holic.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.  Well, my problem was that my husband was good at making money and I was good at spending it.  This situation worked pretty well for the first seven years of our marriage.  He worked incredibly hard while I worked in a low-paying career that I loved.  We made pretty good money, and we spent that pretty good money.  We traveled, we lived in exotic, expensive places, we bought houses, we sold houses, we made lots of frivolous purchases.  We had a lot of fun, but dropped a lot of hard-earned money in the process.

In 2007, that all changed.  We had our first child.  I gave-up my low-paying, rewarding job, where the salary would have barely paid for daycare costs, and decided to be a stay-at-home mom.  Seemed like a GREAT idea at the time, although we didn't fully think out the financial aspects of it all.  While my piddly salary didn't seem like much, it actually was the extra dough that was keeping our spend, spend, spend lifestyle afloat.  It didn't take long for me to realize that some drastic changes would have to be made.   We totally revamped our lifestyle and found new ways to have fun, but save money. 

In 2009, shortly before we added a second child to our family, we watched all of the videos from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  While we were already on the right track, this program got us totally committed to never repeating the bad financial habits we had practiced before we had kids.

Now with two adults and two preschoolers being supported by one moderate income, we are using some pretty great tips and tricks to keep our family budget in the black every month.  Whether you're a die-hard bargain hunter or in credit card debt up to your ears, hopefully, this blog will have some useful tips for you!