Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flabbergasted- Money Stuff Part 2

First time I've ever used the word flabbergasted here on TOTP, but I was a few days ago, flabbergasted that is, as I read this article in the newspaper.
Some observations and propositions....
Observation:  It seemed that the assumption of the writer was that divorce is so normal that people should prepare for it throughout their marriage.
Proposition:  If divorce is an option on the table from the day a couple says I do.  It is more likely that someday they will opt for that option.

Observation:  The advice was to put time and effort into preparing your finances while things are stable so that when you eventually split the sheets you will be prepared.
Proposition:  If you put the same time and effort into serving your spouse and communicating together about your finances, perhaps she would still love you when you're 64.  (another t-shirt the song and artist)
Observation:  Ms. Rodgers saved $2000 in her tampon box preparing to leave her husband.
Proposition:  If she had spent half of that money good marriage counseling and the other half paying for a massage, a makeover, and a long weekend vacation seducing her husband perhaps she might still be married. 

Observation:  The article is about getting in shape financially for a divorce.
Proposition:  Divorce is far less likely if you are in shape financially prior to saying "I do" and continue to work on your financial health throughout the marriage.

Disclaimer:  I understand that everyone reading this knows people who have been through a divorce and whose suffering was compounded because they were not financially prepared.  I take issue with and grieve over the state of our culture, where financial problems are the leading cause of divorce and failed marriages are so commonplace that this sort of article has a place in the daily paper.

“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"
 -Jesus the Christ, Gospel of Luke ch. 14

Scott Meyer is in the middle of a series of messages on marriage.  Check them out here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grocery Shopping

This is a different sort of post for me.  I'd thought about writing it for a while and never did because I didn't think everyone who looks in here at TOTP would be interested.  After talking about it with my wife I've decided to go ahead.  No, it's not about anything controversial.  It's about grocery shopping and how we've learned to reduce the amount of money we spend on food.
If you cringe at words like budget and you think Dave Ramsey is a moron then you probably don't want to read this.  This may be the first in a series of posts about money.  Jesus talked about it a lot so I will too.  I've discovered over the last couple of years that, in a lost world suffering through "economic crisis", discussions that start with talk about money have lead to more opportunities for me to witness for Jesus than anything else.
Like me you've probably read plenty of other articles or seen fluffy consumer reporting on how to save money on groceries.  They usually boil down to the same things: use coupons, use a list, buy in bulk, etc, but I've discovered that those same things that can save you money can also cause your grocery bill to go up.

Coupons and "It was on sale."
Saving money can cost you more.  There is a difference in saving money and sticking to a budget.  A budget is not what you spent, it is the predetermined amount you will spend on groceries for a given time period before you go to the store. Coupons can save you money, but they can also inflate your grocery bill.  Yes, it's weird, but let me explain.  If you use a coupon for $1 off of a $5 jar of pickled pigs feet, you save 20% on your purchase, but you also spend $4 that you wouldn't have otherwise spent if your family doesn't like pork or pickles.  If you are shopping on a budget, then beware of buying something just because it is on sale.  You need to ask yourself if your family will eat it and if there is room enough in that trip's budget to buy it.  Remember, the point is not just to save money on individual items or to get a good deal, the primary goal is to lower your grocery bill so that you can stick to your predetermined grocery budget.
I use them, but I don't spend much time or worry on coupons.  I don't subscribe to any coupon service or print them online. I buy a big city Sunday paper when I can and get my coupons from there. 

Lists, Menus, and Recipes
Shopping with a list can lower your grocery bill.  Basing that list off of a projected menu might allow you to keep things under control, but is unlikely to lower your total at the register.  Basing that list off of recipes will likely increase your grocery bill.  So how do you make a list without thinking about a menu or recipes???
When making your list, base it on things you need and things you have a coupon for.  As you shop and find out what else is on sale, you can begin planning your menu based on the things you are purchasing.  If you have picky eaters in your house, you'll need to let them know that being picky is a privilege reserved for rich folks.
Begin your "rough draft" list by limiting it to staples, those things that  our household consumes every week. If you are a new at shopping with a budget, estimate the cost as well. 

I call it my base list and it might look something like this...
$6 milk x 2 gal
$6 cheese
$2 eggs
$2 bread
$2 tortillas
$6 fruit
$6 vegetables
$3 coffee
$5 cereal/oatmeal
$1 dry frijoles
$1 rice
If you are shopping with a set budgeted amount (you should), subtract this total from your budget.  Your mission will be to get as much as you can with what is left.
Below the base list, make a list based on the rest of your coupons.  Then add whatever items your family has requested.  Remember that just because it's on the list doesn't mean you have to get it.  My kids know that they can add something they want to the list, but that if I don't have a coupon or it's not on sale I won't buy it.
I go shopping with three envelopes.  (Yes, I confess that I'm a grocery nerd.) One with my coupons, one with my grocery budget cash, and an empty one. After my rough draft list is complete, I rewrite it on the empty envelope reorganizing it based on where things are in the store.  Frozen, dairy, canned, produce, etc.  As I shop I move my coupons from the coupon envelope to the list envelope.

Shop At The Grocery Store For Groceries 
Crazy concept, huh?  I think there are too many non-grocery distractions at places like Wal-Mart , they rarely have in-store sales, and often have limited selections that will limit your coupon use.  I don't have anything against Wal-Mart, but you will spend more on groceries there than you will with a purposeful trip to HEB. 
*We usually get the meal deal at HEB, but remember if your family won't eat it, then don't buy it.  
If the item you have to buy to get the free stuff is prepackaged meat, be sure to sort through the bin and check the price marked on the packagesFor example, last month if you bought pre-packaged fajita beef or chicken you could get frijoles, tortillas, cheese, Big Red, and salad for free.  The beef packages were priced from $18-$25 and the chicken packages were $9-$15.  I could get the same free stuff whether I spent $25 on beef or $9 on chicken, so I sorted through the bin to find the least expensive package of chicken that I could.
*You should never pay for salad dressing, mustard, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and soda pop.  Those items are on the meal deal or a combo-loco often enough that you should stay stocked up without ever having to pay for them.
*You should never pay full-price for bread, salsa, pre-packaged salads, cereal, or ice cream.  There are usually in-store coupons for those items.  You may not get to buy the same brand every time, but you will save money.
*You should never pay more than $1 per pound for chicken.  HEB regularly runs whole chickens on sale for 87 cents/lb, breasts for $1/lb, and drumsticks for $1/lb.  If chicken is not on sale, don't buy it.

Maybe you are one of those who think that eating all organic all the time is going to save the planet and keep you from dying.  That's fine, I enjoy growing my own vegetables and shooting my own protein, but if you insist on buying all-organic at the grocery store you need to understand that you're going to spend more on your groceries and you will still die someday.  Ask a starving kid in Tererzikistan if he would reject food because it wasn't certified as "organic" by some government agency he would look at you like you were crazy.  If  the celebrity that you trust most to give you life advice says that he only eats "orgainc" understand that he can probably afford to buy the whole store.  Understand that worrying about and shopping for good organic is a rich people problem.  If you aren't rich people, you can't afford to worry about it.  Non-organic won't kill you and perhaps you could make being "organic" one of your financial goals.

Additional Tips
*Get to know your store.  Become familiar with where things are, what "normal" prices are, where they put the sale items.
*Clean out your pantry and refrigerator before you go shopping.  It will help you see what you do and don't need to buy and will make unloading your haul less stressful.
*Don't go shopping in a hurry.  Allow yourself enough time to make smart choices.  
*Potatoes have gotten bad press in the "carbs are evil" era, but they are versatile, full of vitamins, and cheap.  The same can be said of beans, rice, carrots, and pastas.
*Mixing grocery and non-grocery shopping will cost you more money.  Don't do it!
*We get paid twice a month, so we budget twice a month.  I usually do a big grocery trip every two weeks and spend about two-thirds of our budgeted grocery cash .  When I get home, I give the remaining cash to Leslie and she uses that until the next budget cycle to buy things that might run out like milk, fruit, and bread or things that come up like Sonic cravings or something to contribute to our home group meal.

Grocery shopping alone isn't going to make or break your finances, but it can be a small victory that will help spur you on to winning with money.  When you win enough small victories in your household budget it can be like getting a raise.  So get after it and PUNCH IT IN THE FACE!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Annie and Preschool

Annie has been waiting for preschool for, at least, the past six months. The day finally came! She was extremely excited. I surprised her with a donut date before school. No problem getting up or getting ready. No crying. And No tallies or color change. She had a wonderful day and tonight by bedtime she had her lunch packed and her clothes picked out for Thursday. This evening I received this email from her teacher : I just wanted to let you know that Annie had a great day today. She is quite the mature conversationalist! :) At the end of the day, she helped me pick up the cubbies and put the nap mats on the shelf. I really enjoyed having her! Mindy.
Visit InfoServe for blogger backgrounds.