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Posted on Apr 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Digging a Little Deeper

Sure it can eat through mud and snow...and your wallet.

Sure it can eat through mud and snow…and your wallet.

Now that we’ve taken care of most of our “big-ticket” items to improve our savings, Dan and I are trying to tackle the smaller ways that we can find extra dollars in our budget. Not only is this important for increasing our savings to maximum levels but it also is helping to prepare us for living more frugally while cruising. If we want to have any kind of decent chance at living on $1000-$1500 a month than we have to get serious about knowing where each of our dollars goes and how to cut that down as much as possible.

The tracking part is made much easier by the online financial website that we use: Mint.com. We have all of our bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts tied in so they automatically update whenever you long in. We’ve used this program for a few years and we’re pretty happy with it, though it can be a lengthy process to set everything up and figure out what budgets you want to set for yourself. Once you have been using it for a couple of months, it can really help to show you where your money is going every month. For some time now, it has been giving us a pretty clear indication that we have been spending too much in the Food and Gas departments, so we’ve finally decided to get those under control.

Food was first and it was somewhat daunting to me to be honest. Not to play the martyr working mom bit, but it is really hard to provide home cooked meals during a working week. There’s just not enough time to be able to figure out what to make every day and go pick things up from the store so I had to find a different approach. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we have purchased a subscription to 5meals1hour.com for five dollars a month. Well, we’ve completed the first months’ worth of recipes and I can honestly say that we are way ahead of where we were last month, but I can’t give all the credit to the menus. We only used about 1/3 of the recipes on the menus, but we have still been eating at home on average of 5 days a week, which is a huge deal for us. I think just the change in mindset about grocery shopping every two weeks for actual planned meals has been the biggest positive change that 5dinners1hour has made for us. We can still improve a lot in this area, especially because I’m not a very experienced grocery shopper yet so I think we’re paying too much for our groceries, but we’re seeing a definite change in attitude and habits.

Gas spending is our other cash hog. Like a lot of people we know, it’s just something that we haven’t taken seriously before. But looking at our accounts, we have spent almost $1300 in gas alone since February 1! That’s averaging $18.50 per day, yikes! Here are a few strategies we are implementing to help us cut down this silent killer.

  1. Drive less…obviously. Eating meals at home isn’t just saving us money in the food department, it means less driving too.
  2. Walk and Ride Bikes, and not just for leisure riding. Dan has started riding his bike to work most days and we are planning to use our bikes for trips to the grocery store, library, and other close to home errands.
  3. Get rid of the gas guzzler in the driveway. We’re still working on this one, but the goal is to eliminate one of our 15 mpg SUV’s for a 30+ mpg compact car. Even if we have to spend some money over the sale of our Jeep, we should get most of it back in the end when we sell it in a year. This one has the potential to save us in the realm of $250/month!

Hopefully, we’ll find some good success using these strategies and find others to help us keep our everyday spending in check. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments!

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Posted on Mar 21, 2013 | 0 comments

A Fresh Start

Each one of those is about 21 seconds of cruising. Start counting!

Each one of those is about 21 seconds of cruising. Start counting!

I am a sucker for new beginnings. New Year’s, birthdays, and even Mondays can generally make me feel like this time is going to be different. True, I’m usually right back to my normal routine by Wednesday, but there’s always next week, right? My most recent enthusiasm for new beginnings has been brought about by finally moving into our new house this last weekend. I mean, I love Dan’s parents for sure and am super grateful that they’ve welcomed us into their home for the last 2 months, but there’s just something about having your own space.

We’re hoping that with a new house will come some new habits and a new budget to go along with them. We’ve developed some habits in the last few years that are hard to break and hard on the pocket book, namely eating out almost every day and constantly being out running around for entertainment. You wouldn’t think that the running around part would be that big of a deal, but with $3.50/gal gas prices mingled with the propensity to buy random stuff we don’t need when we’re walking the mall for fun and then the  added likelihood of eating out if we’re already out of the house, and maybe you can see how kicking that habit could add almost $1000/month to our cruising kitty.

So how do we plan to change our bad habit? Well, first we have to start by wanting to be at home and therefore having plenty of entertainment for ourselves, sans television preferably. If the only thing we have to do at home is chores, then we don’t exactly want to spend a lot of time there. That means games, books, and possibly a new garden in a nice spot in the backyard. Also, our new neighborhood has sidewalks (yay!) and is fairly close to a couple of different parks, so walks and bike rides are definitely in our future – assuming of course that the future is warmer than today. Thirty degrees in March is precisely why winter is on its way out of my vocabulary.

I’ve also found a new meal planning subscription that we are trying out called 5 dinners 1 hour. One of my biggest problems with cooking at home is planning what we are going to have before I want to make it to ensure that we actually have the food on hand. No one (in our family at least) wants to go grocery shopping after work and then still come home and make dinner. 5 dinners 1 hour is a subscription service that provides 5 dinner recipes a week with a full grocery list and advanced preparation instructions to have all five of your entrees ready to go in an hour over the weekend. Then all I have to do is heat it up and whip up a side dish during the week. There are even 3 separate menu types to choose from: classic, clean eating, and gluten free (we chose clean eating) so you can find the right plan for your family. We just started this week, so I’ll try to post an update in a couple of weeks on how we like using it.

Do you have any suggestions for us to try? Games or great books to read? A recipe that your family loves? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Posted on Feb 27, 2013 | 0 comments

Stop Being and Start Doing

I don't think that smile could be any bigger.

I don’t think that smile could be any bigger.

Our son Carter has had an obsession with toothbrushes since he was six months old. Not trucks, helicoptors, or trains…toothbrushes. He wants to hold them and brush his teeth, carry them around the house, and he knows exactly which brush belongs to which person. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “That kid is going to be a dentist someday.” Being a dentist would certainly not be a bad career path for my son to aspire to in the future, but my real hope would be not just that Carter would find a profession he wanted to be, but find something he loves to do. 

I believe that our culture is a little too stuck on this idea of being. I am a Mom, Engineer, Waitress, Police Officer. I want to be a Ballerina, Teacher, or Baseball Player. What if instead of aspiring to be someone, we aspire to do something instead? What do you want to do? Teach, scuba dive, sail, help people, save lives, play baseball, dance…you name it. Now, instead of trying to fit your actions into your label, just forget the label and do the actions. When you are doing what you love, who you are to other people becomes a lot less important all of the sudden.

That’s all nice and fluffy to think about, I know. What about food, and house payments, and my student loans to get that label, you say. Well, the beauty is that usually the people who are really loving what they do are the ones who are the most successful at it. And, unless what you want to do is own a fancy sports car and million dollar yacht, you probably need a lot less money than you think. So let me ask you, what do you want to do? Then go do it.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013 | 1 comment

Midweek Musings: Sacrifice

Is this worth it? We think so.

Is this worth it? We think so.

Between New Years resolutions (those that have survived this long) and the beginning of Lent, this is the time of year that everyone is trying to straighten up their act. Some people are giving things up, i.e. fast food and cigarettes, and some are adding something like a new exercise routine. Whether the change is meant to be permanent or temporary, it is always a struggle to change old habits and the way we think about them.

Most cruising and simple living literature on the market today have the same advice for people who are thinking about drastically changing their lifestyle: start small and work your way up. Can’t give up your fancy car? Start by making your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks every morning. Maybe you’ll find that you didn’t miss Starbucks after all, especially when you see how much extra money is in your pocket by the end of the week. Here are just a few of the items and activities we’ll have to relinquish when we move onto a boat:

  • Cars
  • TV
  • Frequent eating out
  • Easy internet
  • Steady income
  • Family nearby
  • And many more…

Some of these things will be easier to give up for us than others, like watching TV (we don’t). But others will have a major impact on us that will be felt more acutely. I’m sure when we are walking uphill to the grocery store, the eating out and lack of a car will burn a little more (mostly in our thighs!) and it might get frustrating if we can’t find good enough wifi signal to Skype with our parents on Christmas day. So, why would we go through all of this if we have to sacrifice so much? Because we think the reward will be worth it.

If you are thinking about cruising, and even if you’re not, I would encourage you to think long and hard about what you could give up that would produce a greater reward. Spend a whole weekend without your cell phone…yea I said it, give up the cell phone. Checking Facebook every five minutes really isn’t that crucial to your survival. Try turning off the TV for a week and go to the park, read a book, or learn something new about your spouse and kids. Ride your bike or the bus to work for a month, and save the money you would have spent on gas on a weekend away (yea, you probably spend that much on gas.) You might be amazed at how much you didn’t miss the things you thought would be a sacrifice.

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Posted on Jul 21, 2012 | 0 comments

What Do You Believe

Playing horse is just one of many great ways to spend some time!

If you listen closely enough throughout the course of your day, you will probably hear a mention of “spending time” more than once. “I spent some time going through that report…” or “I’m going to spend some time with my kids this weekend…”, you know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, I think that too many of us don’t actually realize the consequences of what spending our time actually means.

Americans, in general, are not well known for our ability to save money. We like to spend it as it comes. (Not exactly the most prudent choice, but we’re not talking about what’s advisable, just what is true.) However, it seems that the opposite mindset is true of our time. For some reason our society has decided that if we work like maniacs now, we will be able to retire when we are at some unknown “older” age… at which point we will have “earned” enough time to relax and enjoy life. We have, unfortunately, picked the wrong commodity to try and hold on to.

In a program called The Truth Project, a recurring question that is asked is this: “Do I really believe that what I believe is really real?” That question has plagued me ever since I first heard it. People say that time is our most precious asset, it’s the only thing that we can never have more of. But do we really believe that’s true? Because if we really believed that, wouldn’t we do everything that we could to cherish every second and be a little more judicious with them?

My son was born almost 20 months ago. They have truly been the fastest 20 months of my life, and I’m sure that the months are not going to start rolling by any slower in the future. It’s about time for us to start spending them a little more wisely. Dan and I are in the process of finding out what it really means to live what we believe. I hope you will find out for yourself.

Follow your Dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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