Loosening the Purse Strings

Since starting our journey to financial independence I have really tried to buckle down on non essential expenses.  I may have gone a little too extreme in some respects as I do of course still need to enjoy life.  A few weeks ago I posted on the Financial Independence boards of Reddit posing the question of what are others planning on retiring to.  I have this slight fear that I will be bored once I no longer have a full time job.  Some people found this question strange but being that I have a Type A personality who likes to have things neatly planned, this was an important question to me.

One of the things that I realized after reading all of the posts was that I had actually cut out some hobbies because they cost money.  One in particular is sewing.  I love being able to create things and sewing is one great outlet for this.  So this past month I decided I would loosen the purse strings a little and delve into some sewing projects.  I found a few free skirt patterns online that I liked as well as wanting to reuse a pattern for a dress I made 7 years ago.  With coupons in hand I headed over to Joann Fabrics to find some fabrics.  They had a few bins with fabrics up to 70% off so that is where I started.  I found two fabrics that would work well for two of the skirt patterns and on another sale rack I found two stretchy knit fabrics which were also on sale.    One I planned to make a colorful mini skirt and the other I planned for the dress pattern I have used before.

With a pile of fabric in hand I got to work.   Continue reading “Loosening the Purse Strings”

Fearing Older Car Repair Bills

I recently had a bit of a scare with my beloved 2007 Honda Fit.  First let me start off by saying I love my car.  I bought it when it was only a year old and never regretted it.  It has been so trustworthy and even though it has 128,000 miles on it I have had very few problems.  That was until we started to notice water INSIDE the car.  Yup, that is not supposed to happen.  And it has been a rainy spring.  So when we kept noticing water collecting in the rear passenger foot wells I called to make an appointment.

When it comes to water related issues, whether it is with a car or even a house, it can sometime be hard to diagnose.  This is due to the fact that water runs.  So you could have a problem in one spot but the water runs to a different place making it hard to find the actual culprit.

Initially we thought the water issue was due to the after market roof rack we had purchased which had damaged the seal at the top of the doors.  It turned out to be a good thing that I had to wait over a week for my appointment as one day when driving around Mr. SFF noticed a sloshing sound.  Low and behold after a little searching, he realized there was water the in rear, hiding in the compartment with the spare tire.  We then deduced that it was more likely a leak in the rear hatch and that water had sloshed into the rear passenger foot wells when going down a hill.  We removed the spare tire, tire iron and jack and pumped out this water and then had another week to evaluate.  I guess it was a good thing that it was rainy all week as we we able to note which side the water was at least running from.  We didn’t know exactly where it originated but we had at the very least narrowed things down a little.

A small puddle formed in the spare tire compartment after rain overnight.

Continue reading “Fearing Older Car Repair Bills”

2016 Savings Review

I will admit that I get excited about this post and, and more specifically the data it contains, every year.  This is the one time where I really get to look at all of our information, jointly as a couple, rather than just my income and savings.  As Mr. SFF and I keep separate checking accounts and credit cards so I don’t see the whole picture until I make him sit down and give me all of his data.   I try to get an update mid-year just to see now we are tracking but it is year end numbers that I like to see.  Yes, I know how much he has saved as he moves money periodically to the joint checking and then I move the money to our investment accounts, but I don’t how much he has made and if this is a large percentage of his take home income or not.  Since all of our benefits and 401(k) savings comes out of my paycheck Mr. SFF’s savings makes the biggest impact on our overall savings goal. Continue reading “2016 Savings Review”

My Clothing Ban Update

Towards the beginning of the year I decided to set a goal of not spending any money on clothing.  I didn’t set this goal on the first of the year so I did spend a whopping $3.49 on a new skirt in January but after that purchase I vowed not to purchase anything else.  I didn’t actual post about the goal until the middle of the year but I had the goal in my head.

Now to be clear, I have never been a huge spender on clothing but it can be surprising how one little purchase here and there can add up which is why I set the goal.  Plus, I have enough clothes so this goal has really shown me the true different between a “want” and a “need”.

There were times this year that I did want something new, including the last day of the year.   Continue reading “My Clothing Ban Update”

The Wonders of Gardening

Although winter is already in full force here, I figured I would do a little summary of our gardens this year and how we did.  We have a pretty small yard and only two raised beds measuring 2×6 and 2×8 so we are pretty limited on the garden real estate but we do try to make the most of it.  Over the past 5 years we have narrowed down our the vegetables that we grow to one that we have had success with and of course, ones that we enjoy.  This past summer we planted 3 varieties of kale, rainbow chard, carrots, green beans, and unsuccessful cauliflower and cucumbers. Continue reading “The Wonders of Gardening”

Monthly Food Update #8

Wow, I have been so busy and preoccupied with life that I am way behind on my post.  There is nothing really notable about this past month’s food budget other than going out socially a few times so our dining out costs were slightly higher but our general food costs were in control and within our normal range.

One thing we have started doing a couple of months ago was making our own pizzas instead of ordering out.  I am not talking all the way from scratch as that is too much work but at least putting our own together.  No matter which route we go with this it is not cheap as I am gluten free but I have found it is slightly less expensive if we make our own and we have decided we actually prefer our homemade ones.  There happens to a company, Against The Grain, that makes AMAZING gluten free items.  When we are in the mood for a pizza night I usually buy the three cheese pizza (in the freezer section) and then we put on our own toppings.  Our recent favorite is adding chorizo, red peppers, and some kale or Swiss chard from our garden.  Amazingly yummy and making my mouth water as I type this.  Last time I made one I itemized out the costs just to see how much it was saving us. Continue reading “Monthly Food Update #8”

Hello Mr. Tax Man!

Normally receiving a letter from the tax man, either the feds or the state, is not a good thing.  Did we file our taxes incorrectly?  Do we owe them money?  The list of questions as I opened that envelope were endless.  But as I read the letter from the state tax man it had great news: our property taxes were going down!  Woot, woot!  I know, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement!

Our little state has a homestead exemption where they offer tax relief for households making lower incomes.  When Mr. SFF was fully employed we didn’t qualify but part of the way through 2014 he was laid off and started working for himself making less money (but still plenty for our frugal household).  2015 was the first full year of his self-employment and so our total adjusted gross income was much less so low and behold, we now qualify!  We file the form every year and I usually don’t even think twice about it so when I received the letter from the state department of taxes I was pleasantly surprised.  We are certainly going to enjoy the $1,244 tax savings this year and likely just put this money towards our goals.

But with this came the bigger revelation, our income will be even lower when we reach FIRE and are only working part-time meaning this credit should be even larger.  This is huge news! Continue reading “Hello Mr. Tax Man!”

Mid-Year Savings Update

The SFF household has been busy so this post is slightly delayed but we finally had a chance to sit down and review our total income/expense numbers for the first half of the year.  I have been anxiously awaiting this info as we keep our individual income and expense money separate so I was a little in the dark as to how we were doing as a couple.  But I am happy to report that we have increased our savings rate from last year!

In 2015 we saved 28% of our joint net income.  This was a little lower than I had wanted but we have both made an effort to decrease our spending even more and Mr. SFF has been transferring money to our joint accounts more consistently resulting in a higher savings rate.  Based on my calculations we have saved approximately 46% of our net income so far this year.  Woohoo!  I am pretty psyched about this as it is a drastic increase from last year and we both still have buffers of extra money in our individual accounts which is not included in this number. Continue reading “Mid-Year Savings Update”

Monthly Food Update – #6

I know, another food update.  I promise I am working on some other topics but I just gotten distracted lately.  So this past month was a little brutal.  Our grocery store food costs were actually OK but a long weekend to CT completely blew our food budget with four meals eaten out.  We spent more money dining out in just those four days than we have probably spent all year.  Ouch!  Did we have a great time visiting friends?  Yes without a doubt.  But it certainly hurt the wallet.  The funny thing is that we used to dine out all the time but now it is just painful when I look at the numbers.

On a positive note, this past month I made a mini chalkboard to list our weekly meals.  I keep our weekly meal plan on a google spreadsheet but now we have a nice little visual right in the kitchen.  I already had the supplies to make the chalkboard, including the chalkboard paint, so this little project didn’t cost anything.  It’s not perfect but it seems to work pretty well.

2016-07-08 07.37.39 copy
Last weeks menu as set on Sunday.

Continue reading “Monthly Food Update – #6”

Monthly Food Costs – Update #5

I am trying to decide if it is time to stop these monthly food updates.  I mean tracking it has been certainly helpful to me but I am torn as to if I should continue to share this info.  But alas, here is the last months update.

The month of May was brutal to my regular budget.  All sort of extra things were thrown in (Mother’s Day, Mr. SFF’s 40th b-day, and pre-paying for some travel costs) and I was only able to save the $400 per month that I automatically transfer over to our saving.  This was thoroughly depressing but thankfully even with this dismal amount, my average savings rate for the year is still at 42%.  Before starting this post I was pretty sure that our monthly food costs would also be high but I was pleasantly surprised as I entered the last of our receipts into my spreadsheet that we were actually close to our monthly food spending goal (which is pretty flexible/variable) of $500 per month even though I did buy some more organic food.

We had a couple of dining out costs, two which were lunches due to some issues with meal planning and one birthday dinner that went over our gift certificate.  But on the other hand we also had a few “free” meals over the past month.  My mother in law took us out for a birthday dinner celebration, we got a couple of free dinners through Mr. SFF’s work, and we also went out to celebrate 15 years together but this was fully covered by a gift certificate from a friend  so those nights probably helped a little with our monthly costs.

May 8 – June 7
Category Totals Purpose
Food $474.30 Breakfast $50.88
Groceries $71.18 Lunch $90.67
Alcohol $51.88 Dinner $202.24
Snacks $70.18
Ingredients $37.86
Entertaining $0.00
General household $3.19
Cleaning $12.99
Personal care $55.00
Rental Properties $0.00
Alcohol $51.88
Beverages $22.47

Lunches out: $19.58
Dinner out: $65.56

What my meal planning blunder really shows me is how much meal planning really does help.  The two lunches that Mr. SFF bought when I messed up planning were certainly not cheap, even though they were nothing fancy.  With an average of $9.79 per lunch, if he were to do this twice per week for 50 weeks out of the year that’s a total of $979 per year.  I think he used to buy lunch out pretty often but if I can prepare our lunch reliably with only the occasional schedule mess-up, even if the prepared lunches cost $2 each this should save $579 per year.  It’s amazing how fast the little things really do add up!

Two weeks ago I planted our little vegetable garden and although it will be a couple of months before we have anything to harvest, I am excited to see how this might affect our food costs.  I am going to try to keep track of the food that we harvest to see if it is possible to estimate our savings but I am just hoping that it will be evident when we look at the numbers.

Here are some of our meals over the past 31 days, including one lunch and breakfast this time.

2016-05-09 13.25.37 2016-05-12 19.13.54 2016-05-13 18.11.57 2016-05-15 19.04.28 2016-05-16 18.58.38 2016-05-17 19.52.07 2016-05-19 18.40.00 2016-05-20 18.37.44 2016-05-21 19.07.05 2016-05-24 18.46.07 2016-05-25 07.08.32 2016-05-25 18.55.14 2016-06-02 18.44.15 2016-06-06 18.33.15

5/9: (lunch) salad with grilled chicken, avocado, beets and sliced almonds
5/12: almond flour chicken, carrots and sweet potato fries
5/13: glazed salmon, green beans, rice
5/15: balsamic chicken, carrots, roasted cauliflower
5/16: pork tenderloin, carrots, wild rice
5/17: tofu stir fry with carrots, broccoli and snap peas over rice noodles
5/19: ham with pineapple glaze, broccoli, rice and GF roll
5/20: burger with avocado and goat cheese with salad
5/21: pork, wilted kale, potatoes
5/24: one pot chicken taco (GF) pasta dish
5/25: (breakfast) local eggs, GF toast and avocado – this was a break from the norm
5/25: glazed salmon, wilted kale with prosciutto
6/2: almond chicken, green beans and sweet potato fries (one of my new favorites but the almond flour is expensive)
6/6: grilled pork, wilted kale and beets