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


Monthly Food Costs – Update #4

After another full month of tracking our food and grocery expenses I feel that we are finding a good system that works for us.  Are we still spending more than the average family?  Maybe.  But we are saving a ton of money compared to our 2015 food costs and still eating healthy.

I am still doing meal planning on Sundays and find that this is the key to making this work.  I usually only plan meals through Wednesday and then do a mid-week plan for the rest of the week.  Although this is not my favorite part of the day on Sunday I do find that there is a lot less stress mid-week when it comes to food so it has been worth it.  Here is my meal plan from last week. Continue reading “Monthly Food Costs – Update #4”

Monthly Food Costs – Update #3

Um, wow!  This past month we made incredible progress towards reducing our food costs.  Woot, woot!  

Part of the reason that our expenses were a little lower this month is I did some stocking up last month at Costco buying enough nuts to last a couple of months as well as some meat that we are still using.  So I guess it kinda evens out in the end, but still I love seeing a lower number even if it is skewed a little. Continue reading “Monthly Food Costs – Update #3”

Monthly Food Costs – Update

This week marked the second month of tracking all food and grocery store purchases.  After a surprising first month we buckled down and made some changes to our eating habits in an attempt to reduce our obscenely high food costs.  I have found that this takes more time and planning but overall we did reduce our expenses.

Continue reading “Monthly Food Costs – Update”

Monthly Food Analysis

Have you ever had analysis paralysis?  Well after Mr. SFF and I sat down and reviewed our 2015 total expenses we were shocked at how much we spent on food.  At the start of this journey we decided we still wanted to eat well but these numbers were just too high for my liking so we decided to take action.  Starting on Jan 8th we started to track every single food and grocery store purchase. This will help to determine how much of the grocery store totals were for things like toilet paper and cleaning products but also to hopefully help us narrow down the actual problem so we can make changes.  We didn’t really make any conscious efforts to make any changes to our eating habits over the past month but I am sure they unconsciously happened since we were tracking everything.

We collected every receipt and I logged things in a spreadsheet.  I had the numbers break down into three broad categories and then 12 more detailed categories.  Here is what we came up with:

Category Totals Purpose
Food $787.27 Breakfast $98.64
Groceries $85.45 Lunch $74.31
Alcohol $48.93 Dinner $332.14
Snacks $111.12
Ingredients $103.18
Entertaining $31.93
General household $45.21
Cleaning $2.99
Personal care $16.26
Rental Properties $20.99
Alcohol $40.94
Beverages $43.94

Continue reading “Monthly Food Analysis”

When Your Best Intentions Backfire

I have been taking allergy medication since 2008.  I take Cetirizine which is the generic version of Zyrtec for seasonal and other allergies.  Sometimes I also use a nasal spray when pollen is bad or I know I am going to be around dogs but I am going to focus on the general allergy meds today.  Since this is an over the counter medication I have not been able to utilize my Heath Savings Account to pay for it.  During my recent physical at my doctors office she wrote me a prescription for the Cetirizine which would mean I could use my HSA for payment.  Seems silly but that’s how the system works.

When I dropped the prescription at the pharmacy at first they were confused as it is an over the counter medication but when I explained that I wanted to use my HSA to pay for it they understood my reasoning.  I picked up the prescription the following day and was a little surprised by the Continue reading “When Your Best Intentions Backfire”

Weddings are Expensive, for Everyone

Mr. SFF and I just spent a fabulous weekend down in NJ for a family wedding.  This was the first black tie wedding I have been to and will probably go in the books as the most beautiful and lavish as well.  The bride was stunning and both of them were beaming of love all day.  I am so happy for the two of them!

As were are family we were invited to the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening.  I left work early for the drive down so that we could attend.  We were able to wear clothes we already owned so the only expense we had on Friday was filling up the gas tank.

For Saturday we were on our own for breakfast and lunch.  We found an absolutely amazing restaurant that served gluten free food so I was in heaven with Continue reading “Weddings are Expensive, for Everyone”

Frustrations and Progress

Both last month and now into June I have been having trouble keeping my expenses low.  I know things always come up but it still can be frustrating when you have a goal set but you just can’t make it work.  I am certainly still saving money but just not as much as I would like.

The great news is that Mr. SFF has finally added some money to our joint savings account.  I have been asking him to help contribute for a few months but as he is super laid back he just hadn’t gotten around to it.  He has just been accumulating money in his checking and has finally moved it over.  This method seems to work well for him but can be frustrating Continue reading “Frustrations and Progress”