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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 308684  
Subject: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 5:05 PM
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I'm trying to trim our budget to see if it's possible to live on one salary. We are both engineers and I cannot believe we have gotten into such a consumptive life that we can't live on one salary at this point (very depressing and frustrating). I don't NEED to live on one, but it would be nice to be able to and pocket the 2nd salary for savings.

Below is my current budget. Future Budget is what I am aiming for, but I want to be able to spend $3500/month total and the numbers don't work. If there's a number in the Current Budget column, that's what I'm currently spending.

In particular, I am not sure how to cut my food budget. I've recently cut my TV, insurance and cell phone bills. So I feel like those are as low as can be but am still open to suggestions. I plan to ditch my car payment pretty soon by getting a cheaper car and paying cash. I've got two kids in daycare and one still in diapers so those bills will be gone within a year or so. The infamous "shopping" category is my Amazon.com habit (I hate stores, I'd rather just buy online but that leads to impulse buying) which I am definitely going to reduce. Even cutting all that, the numbers don't really work, though.

Can you guys help me find any glaringly obvious categories that are out of whack? I would like to get my budget to $3500/month or less (I refuse to believe this isn't possible...).


Category Future Budget Current Budget


Auto & Transport:Auto Insurance 103.70
Auto & Transport:Auto Payment 0.00 524.1
Auto & Transport:Gas & Fuel 251.49
Bills & Utilities:Mobile Phone 25.00
Bills & Utilities:Television 7.99
Bills & Utilities:Utilities: Electric 250.00
Other Bills & Utilities: Water 25.00
Entertainment:Movies & DVDs 7.99
Entertainment:Internet 62.99
Financial:Disability Insurance 111.22
Financial:Life Insurance 221.49
Food & Dining:Fast Food 85.23
Food & Dining:Groceries 767.86
Food & Dining:Restaurants 232.97
Gifts & Donations 50.00
Health & Fitness:Doctor 35.00
Health & Fitness:Pharmacy 10.00
Home:HomeServices: Cleaning/Alarm 23.99 193.99
Home:Mortgage 1677.18
Kids:Baby Supplies 0.00 75
Kids: Daycare 0.00 1160.9
Kids:Kids Activities 80.00
Kids:Kids Clothing 50.00
Personal Care 85.60
Shopping 150.00
Shopping:Books 25.00 50
Shopping:Clothing 25.00 50
Other Shopping 100.00 350
OVERALL TOTAL 4314.70
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Author: cstrohm Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308049 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 7:01 PM
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You sound somewhat young. $221 per month for life insurance seems high for a young couple, unless you're insuring each other for a lot of money. Are your life insurance policies whole life or term? What size are they?

Chuck.

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308050 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 7:26 PM
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We're both 32 but we're fat. They are term policies, each of us has one $500k policy and one $250k policy. I have thought a bunch about life insurance, but the thing is if we both die our kids go to my sis who lives in DC. Its incredibly expensive up there to live and she doesn't even have a house right now. I also don't really want to have either of us change our lifestyle if the other one kicks the bucket.

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Author: JimKredux Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308051 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:07 PM
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It seems to me that $3500 is unrealistic with mortgage at 1677 and total

food at 1085. That leaves 950 for everything else. Food for 5 at 1085

seems really high. We are a family of four and spend in the area

of 5-600 monthly. Cooking from scratch with almost no prepared foods

helps. 60 to 70% vegetables helps and it's healthier too. Is it possible

to try to cook more at home from scratch? Just some thoughts that may

trim the food budget by 20 to 30%

Hope these suggestions help



Jim K

p.s pen fed has 2.875 adjustable mortgages that adjust every 5 yrs. just a thought.

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308052 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:17 PM
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It's definitely possible to fix the food budget. The problem is I don't know what to cook. I'm pretty tired at the end of the day, and don't usually have the energy to cook, hence the convenience foods, hence the big grocery budget.

What do you cook during the week?

Also, my current mortgage is 15 year @ 3%. I'll look into refinancing, but I think closing costs will negate any savings unless rates are lower than I remember.

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308053 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:19 PM
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I find your grocery budget to be really high. I'm feeding a family of 3 adults now for less than half of what you are spending, and we eat really well. Do you cook from scratch, or buy a lot of prepared foods? That would make a difference. What about where you are shopping? Are you shopping at the least expensive grocery store in your area? I can make about a 30% decrease in my grocery budget by shopping at the least expensive grocery store in my area vs. one of the chains, so that alone could give you some significant savings. I cannot imagine spending that much money on a family of 5, particularly where you have 3 small children.

As far as the rest of your budget, why do you have a category for shopping? Shopping is not a category. The things you are buying belong in categories such as household, groceries, auto maintenance if you're buying things like oil and filters, etc., but shopping by itself is not a category. Perhaps if you stop thinking of it as its own activity and focus on what you are buying and if you need those things, that will help.

What could your kids possibly be doing for activities that cost $80 per month? You have one still in diapers, so it must be the other 2, so is there a way you can find a less expensive alternate to those activities?

Are these all your expenses? If not, you might try tracking everything in writing for a month to see if you have any leaks. That could help you understand if there are other places you might be able to cut.

I don't see how all your daycare costs can go away in a year or so if you still have one in diapers. Won't that child need daycare? I would also suggest that you take the diaper and daycare money when those expenses stop and put them towards college savings.

I don't see any savings categories. Do you have an efund? Are you contributing to a 401k? And when you buy that car for cash, I would suggest keeping that car payment and putting it into savings for the next vehicle.

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308054 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:25 PM
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It's definitely possible to fix the food budget. The problem is I don't know what to cook. I'm pretty tired at the end of the day, and don't usually have the energy to cook, hence the convenience foods, hence the big grocery budget.

Have you considered cooking lots of meals on the weekend, and then just reheating during the week? For the year when my kids were 2 1/2 til 3 1/2, DH would leave the house on Monday morning, return for a late dinner on Wednesday night, leave on Thursday morning, and come home on Friday night, so I had the kids pretty much all week on my own. My solution was to cook a big meal on Sundays, and we'd eat it on Sunday night and have the leftovers for dinner on Monday. After dinner on Monday, I would cook Tuesday's dinner and put it in the fridge, then I'd just reheat it when we got home on Tuesday. I did that all week so that I was reheating for dinner, and then making the next night's dinner so that it would be ready when we got home.

It's like always eating leftovers, but it is fast, and it keeps you from having to use all those convenience foods.

You can also try making fast dinners during the week. We cook on the gas grill all year, and it doesn't take much to cook a couple of potatoes in the microwave, cut them up, add seasonings and butter or oil, wrap in foil, and finish on the grill with the meat. Add a frozen veggie or fresh salad (I make a huge salad on Sunday, and we eat it all week) and dinner is on the table in about 30 minutes.

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308055 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:35 PM
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Hi 2gifts,

It's worse than you think, I've only got two kids. They go to dance once a week. Hadn't thought about cutting that, but will look for free activities in our area. The thing is, we're pretty rural so we'd have to drive to get to a lot of the free stuff (about 30 miles). I'll talk to some other parents in my area and see what they do.

This month Shopping was things like an oil filter for the lawn mower, a rice cooker to replace the one that broke, shoes for a kid, a letter "e" for the laptop (still don't know what the toddler did with the old one), etc. But its all stuff that we don't really "need" but will end up buying. Shopping is not a category, but "random junk from Amazon" is really what's in there and none of it is really a necessity. So even if I separated it out, it is still superfluous stuff. In an emergency, that category could go away completely.

We're already saving in 401k's and and out of my net. This is my budget without the savings because I want to focus on getting this part down.

I am open to suggestions for the food budget, I don't need help with what to buy but rather what to cook. I am typically exhausted at the end of the work day and so we eat a lot of convenience food. The only quick from scratch meal I know how to cook is stir fry and coconut curry. Again, in a rural area I'm stuck with big chain grocery stores, but I make use of a close by Aldi's once a month for shelf stable stuff.

I am open to suggestions, but I've got to learn how to cook (or rather, what to cook) to make changes....what do you eat on week nights?

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308056 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:38 PM
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We cook on the gas grill all year

Oh that's a great idea! I had completely forgotten about our grill. It was a hand me down and needs a good cleaning, so that's why it has sat unused.

What types of things did you cook on the weekends to reheat later? I feel like the last two years (my youngest is 2) have been the hardest ever and I see no end in sight to the constant lack of energy from chasing two toddlers around...

I feel bad, because I used to have a 1200/month food budget and just recently got it down under 1000...

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Author: JimKredux Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308057 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 8:42 PM
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Dear yddeyma,

I buy about 10 lbs of fresh veggies per week. A lot of Kale and

zucchini and yellow squash, broccoli etc. I make homemade soups a lot.

Salad and soup are mostly work lunches. Much of the prep work is on

Sunday. I also don't have little children to watch, which will sap

anyones energy. If you can chop and prep veggies all at once they can

be sauteed quickly on a weekday. Two hours on a sunday will prep

for the week, Start soaking beans or peas for soup; the night before.

Rinse and simmer on sunday adding veggies and ham base flavoring. While

the soup is simmering a meatloaf can be put together and cooked. Alarge

whole chicken as well. You are copping veggies in between for salad

additions or to saute with boneless chicken breast for a quick stir fry.

Sounds like a lot, but trying one or two ideas per week or month will

change habits over time. As the kids get older they can help with simple

tasks. There are numerous web helpers available. Try 5 ingeredient

meals or 20 minute dinners. Yellow squash and red pepper is one of my

favorites sauteed lightly with olive oil. The red pepper sweetens the

squash with no need for other ingredients,


jk

I know too scrolly, sorry love to cook

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Author: aj485 Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308058 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 11:12 PM
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Also, my current mortgage is 15 year @ 3%. I'll look into refinancing, but I think closing costs will negate any savings unless rates are lower than I remember.

Au contraire. It depends what you refinance into. Is there a specific reason you want to have the house paid off in 15 years?

It appears, since you don't list any property taxes or homeowner's insurance, that your mortgage payment includes escrow for that item, so it's difficult to come up with specifics. However, for comparison purposes, the monthly P&I payment on a 30 year 4.25% mortgage (current rates) is $983.88. The P&I payment on a 15 year 3.00% mortgage (your loan rate) is $1,381.16 By choosing a 30 year mortgage over a 15 year mortgage, even at a higher rate, you would need $397.28/month less in cash flow/month, or $4,767.36 less per year. Closing costs would easily be paid out of the savings in less than a year.

And if you go for one of the PenFed adjustable mortgage products (the 5/5 at 2.875% or the 15/15 for 3.875%, your savings would be even more.

So - I would say that you are significantly limiting your opportunity to live on one salary by having chosen the mortgage that you are in. If you truly want to be able to live on one salary, you need to look at refinancing into a longer term mortgage. If you have a specific reason for wanting the house paid off in 15 years, and want to consider that you are living off of one salary and saving the other, then I would suggest looking at the additional $400/month or so that the shorter amortization period forces you to make on the mortgage payment as coming out of the 'savings/investment' salary, because you have chosen to put the money into paying off debt secured by an illiquid asset.

AJ

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Author: aj485 Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308059 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/28/2014 11:15 PM
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Sorry, the principal balance on the mortgages I compared was $200k. A shot in the dark, since I don't know your principal balance.

AJ

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Author: Barry122 Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308063 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 5:53 AM
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I think you are starting to find out that it may not be as easily done as you might have hoped. That being said, I think buying in bulk (food wise) may be one of your best bets. A small investment in Tupperware and a large freezer is going to provide major returns. Especially if you keep in mind that you will not have to be worried about being tired after work, just heating it up.

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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308064 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 9:55 AM
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About the life insurance- remember that your other assets can help if one or both of you die. Have you put together a net worth spreadsheet to see the total of your assets ? Since you don't plan for the children to stay in the house, include the equity you would have after it sold.

Also, if term life is available through work, it might be cheaper.

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Author: BKtoBXL One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308065 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 10:38 AM
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What types of things did you cook on the weekends to reheat later?

Take a look at this thread over on the Chowhound forums called "Cook on Sunday - eat all week?" The question was asked by someone in your similar predicament.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/966166

Also, head over to the LBYM board and just do a search for great ideas. Go back a few years to when the board was really active.

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Author: tconi Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308066 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 10:41 AM
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sometimes kid activities cost money- I won't question that.

As for cooking- I think there have been past threads on the parenting board for that...

I second the idea to cut up vegetables all at once, then they are so much easier to just throw in a pan to stir fry, into a salad, whatever...

for example:
Google for directions on Roasting Chicken.
That is something that is quick, you can do 2 at once, and then use that meat as a base for many meals
(for example)
*pot pies (saute vegetables of choice until tender- I use carrot/celery/potato /onion/frozen peas, add broth & stir in 1-2Tablespoons flour, cut up cooked chicken, pour into frozen piecrust, add top crust and bake)
once baked you can stick it in the fridge for reheating or serve it
*burritos - refried beans, which can be microwaved, (some of the above chicken if you wish), lettuce, tomato, onions, grated cheese ...(olives & jalapenos if you want)
*Caesar salad/Salad - lettuce & desired veggies, top w/ chicken, dressing of choice - done
*Buffalo Chicken salad - lettuce, cabbage (purple makes it pretty), saute chicken w/ wing sauce, blue cheese crumbled into salad- top w/chicken
*Pasta- diced & tossed w/chicken & vegetable and sauce of choice (from a jar or homemade)

If you cook pasta ahead of time, you can rinse it and refrigerate it- then when you want it, it can be reheated by dunking it in boiling water for just a couple minutes, so that can well be done ahead, too.
I know Pasta is easy with kids.


peace & a few suggestions
t

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Author: alstroemeria Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308067 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 12:02 PM
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A few comments…

Bills & Utilities:Utilities: Electric 250.00

Seems high. My house is all-electric save the gas range top, and our average is more like $150. We don't use much heat in winter--I heat to 60-65. Unless your children are sickly, it's fine for them--just dress them warmly (e.g., hoodies in the house). Warm pjs & covers do it for us at night. We also have an electric mattress pad for extra heat when going to bed.

Entertainment:Internet 62.99

Seems high. We have high-speed internet via cable for $35/month.

Financial:Disability Insurance 111.22

Kudos for this.

Food & Dining:Fast Food 85.23

Why do you have such a category? It's not good for you or your children. If you tend to go for fast food while running errands--stop! Run errands between meals and carry snacks such as cheese & crackers, homemade trail mix, quartered PBJ, plus a thermos of water for each person. If you go for fast food for workday lunches--stop. Bring a sandwich/wrap sandwich, leftovers, tub of hummus and veggie sticks, even a microwavable frozen entree is likely to be better for you than fast food.

Food & Dining:Groceries 767.86

Do you eat a lot of meat or prepared food? Buy expensive children's foods? Lots of us can provide budget menus.

When the hubster and I worked long hours in the software biz, I normally cooked enough for Saturday and SUnday dinners to provide leftovers for MOnday and Tuesday. Cooked again on Wednesday, usually with leftovers for Thursday. Friday was traditionally Mommy's night off…so things like frozen ravioli & a frozen vegetable, hotdogs & beans, pizza, Daddy's grill night. If either of you are energetic enough in the morning to start dinner in the slow cooker, that's great (we never were-).

I find it helps to have an overall weekly dinner menu structure; e.g., red meat once a week, chicken once or twice, fish/shellfish once, vegetarian twice, vegan once or twice.

Health & Fitness:Doctor 35.00

Seems low for a family of 5. Are checkups free?

Health & Fitness:Pharmacy 10.00<i/>

Also seems low. I include OTC drugs, devices, first aid, sunblock, in the same category, and ours is $25 just for 2.

Personal Care 85.60

What does this represent? Hair cuts--get them less often or less expensively (can even DIY--I do). Dry cleaners? Buy clothing that does;t need dry cleaning. Try washing dry cleanables on gentle and drying on fluff cycle, a rack in the bathtub, or on a clothesline. Massage? Facials? Not affordable on your desired budget.

Shopping 150.00
Other Shopping 100.00 350


Categorize to get a better handle on it.


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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308068 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 12:26 PM
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I plan to ditch my car payment pretty soon by getting a cheaper car and paying cash.

Make sure you aren't being pennywise and pound foolish on this one. A Cheaper car, if used, may also need maintenance sooner. OTOH, you can also look at keeping your current car and check with the insurance agent about having lower mileage and perhaps a lower insurance bill.

If you don't have a loan, you may have less insurance required but be sure you can handle any risk for which you do not have insurance.

The whole thing sounds like you want to quit working at some point. Day to day expenses are not the only things that should be considered in the decision. You may want to also look at the long term impact of being out of the work force for whatever length of time you are considering.

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Author: alstroemeria Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308069 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 12:30 PM
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Possible missing categories…

Maintenance Fund (home and car maintenance, computer repair…home maintenance can be quite expensive. We just had our once-every-seven-years termite treatment for $900, last year we dealt with rats in the attic for around $600 including repairs to the eaves, we'll be facing a new heat pump over the next few years for $5000+…)

New & Replacement Items Fund (major and minor appliances, electronics, bed & bath linens, pillows, luggage, hobby gear, housewares (heh…somehow that turned up as housewives ;-)

Travel (I realize you're perhaps not so much in the pleasure travel phase with wee ones, but weddings/funerals/visiting your parents/siblings/close friends? I was working poor in my 20s with babies, but even so I went camping and visiting.)

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Author: Windowseat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308070 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 1:10 PM
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In regard to the cooking, track down a copy of Peg Bracken's "I Hate to Cook." The recipes are fairly simple (since they were used by people who didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen when they could be doing something else) and she also keeps an eye on costs.

There was a time when it was unavailable, but it seems to be available on Amazon, so chances are good for locating it.

Nancy

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308071 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 4:52 PM
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Thanks everybody

Not really willing to refinance into a longer term mortgage. Doesn't make sense to me to pay more long term interest for smaller monthly costs since its not a necessity right now.

For the many who pointed out maintenance and other one time costs, I've already got savings for those. It's not included in this budget because if I hit the $3500/month, we should be able to save $500/month for all that other stuff that comes once a year (auto registration, car maintenance, home maintenance, etc.).

I'm also going to read some of the Fool articles on insurance and see if I have the cuts to cut some coverage there (if appropriate). I'm pretty sure we are over insured, but it's that "sleep well at night" factor, you know?

It's good to know that only the one category seems really out of whack. Based on the feedback I'm definitely going to tackle the Food budget and try to make some cuts there.

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Author: reallyalldone Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308072 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 5:43 PM
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With one income, would you still have the ability to refinance at an attractive rate ?

If you think only one category merits attention, that was some pretty selective reading.

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Author: NoIDAtAll Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308073 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 7:02 PM
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What types of things did you cook on the weekends to reheat later?

Stews, pot roasts, soups, baked potatoes - twice baked on the reheat, ham and beans, coleslaw, cabbage/sauerkraut, smoked pork butt/pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, smoked chicken, smoked pork ribs, drunken chicken, stewed tomatoes, dehydrated veggies and fruits, apple sauce, cherry and apple pie, pasta, meatballs can be formed ahead of time, frozen and cooked later, as can Asian dumplings, frozen shrimp and crab legs come to mind, along with lobster tails - just need to steam or boil in salt water a short time - usually under 15 minutes.

Grocery stores, here, frequently run sales on frozen packaged meals at 10 meals for $10, which is an option. OTOH, anything they can pre-cook, package and freeze, to be reheated in a microwave oven in under 15 minutes, can be made from scratch, frozen and reheated.

All of these require little active prep time or active attendance, except maybe the pies. Engage your children to help. I enjoyed helping Mom and Dad and leaning how to cook in grade school.

If you're a novice, watch FoodTV, and visit their website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/

http://allrecipes.com/ is another good site.

And, TMF has, at least, 2 or 3 good boards to help:

http://boards.fool.com/recipescooking-112912.aspx?mid=311874...

http://boards.fool.com/bbq-art-of-funky-the-115012.aspx?mid=...

http://boards.fool.com/the-gestalt-of-cooking-115253.aspx?mi...

Joy of Cooking is a decent book to have around - They also have a website: http://www.thejoykitchen.com/

You can also run a search on Julia Child recipes - She was very good, and pretty detailed in her presentations, no matter how simple the dish - By way of example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RThnq3-d6PY

There are many, many more available, but these should provide you a pretty decent start.

HTH,

Bob

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Author: ThyPeace Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308074 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 8:09 PM
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So, I'm still thinking about the goal to live on one salary, which is about $3500 a month? I think that's what I understood. At the same time, you're trying to pay off the mortgage fairly quickly -- an item that is clearly more about long-term financial smarts than short-term ease of living.

By trying to both, you may be over-constraining your problem and your life. It's a great goal to be able to live on just one salary. In the long term, it is also a great goal to be done with your mortgage in your 40s. As someone who is 46 and looking at at least 15 years of mortgage payments, my vote is that you get rid of the mortgage as quickly as possible -- and keep it gone.

So right now, you are definitely squeezed a bit. If you have gone from $1,200 to $1,000 a month on food, that's great! You're going in the right direction and discipline there will have many payoffs. Homemade food is generally better for you than prepared food, as well as being much less expensive. Another site you might want to look at is savingdinner.com. Go for the "regular" mailer, not the frugal one and not the low carb one. Sure, you may think the whole family needs to eat low carb. But first -- get the whole family used to eating real food even if it does involve a few carbs.

Another item you might want to consider for kids' activities is something obvious, but that will perhaps help everyone. Go outside and play for that time that they're in ballet. Walk -- and recognize that "walk" is not a steady speed for a little kid. It's RUN and then "oooo, a bug I will stop and look at it for three minutes" and then RUN. You can learn a lot on a walk. You can jump up and down. If there's a swing set or playground available, suddenly you have many more options.

You also mentioned a couple of times how exhausting it is to run around after two toddlers. I only had one and I was so darned tired all the time that I could barely move. I suggest two things. First, take a trip to your doctor and have your blood levels checked. Iron, Vitamin D, thyroid, and various other things can all make you utterly exhausted.

And even more than that, think about what's keeping you from going to bed when the kids go to bed, and whittle that away the same as you're whittling away your budget. Sleep loss messes with both physical and mental health, as I'm sure you know. Real food, enough sleep, and getting outside with the kids all combine to a pretty powerful boost to your health, which is a great way to boost the budget, too.

ThyPeace, hopes to eventually have two incomes to support the household, but that's a whole other story.

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308075 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 8:56 PM
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Well, in reality, one net income would be $4000/month. But I figure if I can get it down to $3500 that leaves room for unexpected things as well as some steady savings.

Real food, enough sleep, and getting outside with the kids all combine to a pretty powerful boost to your health, which is a great way to boost the budget, too.

I've noticed that, just as with food, I'm somewhat in a rut with respect to this. Because I'm tired, I buy easy food, which costs a lot, which isn't healthy, which makes me tired. I'm so busy/tired that when the kids finally go to bed I stay up late to get other things done or just have "me" time, which makes me tired.

I'll try to work on this. And, you know, I had not thought about getting bloodwork or anything. But low iron and thyroid disease run in my family. So it may be time to get it checked.

I got great suggestions for some make ahead meals and am going to start there tomorrow. Then, if I'm not cooking during the week, I should have an extra hour to play with the kids.

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Author: aj485 Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308076 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/29/2014 10:21 PM
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Not really willing to refinance into a longer term mortgage. Doesn't make sense to me to pay more long term interest for smaller monthly costs since its not a necessity right now.

Seems to me that your goal of paying interest for a shorter period of time is in direct conflict with your stated goal of being able to live on a single salary. The mortgage is 48% of the salary you are trying to live on. Even with significant cuts in other expenses, that's a pretty high hurdle to overcome. Since the limit for qualifying for a mortgage (along with any other debt) is 43%, you wouldn't qualify for your current mortgage using the single salary you have indicated.

You will need to determine which goal is more important, and how you will balance trying to meet both goals.

AJ

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Author: danbobtx Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308081 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/30/2014 11:29 PM
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A few comments:

If replacing the car, you'll want to look at improving your gas mileage and/or anything you can reasonably do to lower the insurance.

Next up, you are at a critical point in terms of taxes - the top 20-30% of your income is getting taxed in the 25% tax bracket. You are also phasing out of certain tax credits - Take a look at your taxes and see if you have ways to lower your AGI, and make sure you can get credits etc that are available -

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Author: Jennlee222 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308082 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 8:58 AM
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Couple thoughts - Yes, people get tired and don't want to cook. However, if you do some planning and don't do complex stuff, you could easily get used to cooking so it didn't feel like a huge chore. Part of it is really just laziness and habit.

I get up early in the morning and go to work early. I don't want to take the time to cook breakfast, but I do it, and once I had done it for the first week or two, it got to be old hat and it does not really feel like a big effort to do it. For breakfast on weekdays, I make steel cut oats. I wake up, get up, start them cooking, then I go and get ready. That gives them the 20 minutes they need to cook. I add a few mix-ins at the end (we like raisins, blueberries, cherries, etc) and then on my way out I scoop half out to take with me to work, and I leave the other half for my husband who gets to sleep in longer.

Make it a habit and being tired won't really matter that much. Make it simple most days. Cook a big meal and eat it at least two meals. Make sandwiches one night a week. Grill some burgers and have a bagged salad with it. Make breakfast for dinner - pancakes and sausages, omlettes, etc. Easy peasy. The crockpot is your friend - stew or roast ingredients prepared on Sunday, put it all in the pot Monday morning and set it cooking, voila - dinner on Monday evening (and possibly leftovers later or for lunches, etc).

I'll agree with some posters that your house payment is too big of a chunk to get you down to where you want to be, budget-wise. IMO you can't live on $3500 very easily if you're paying almost $1700 in mortgage.

I know you don't want to refi into a longer term. One thought is if you can scrape together a chunk of money, you can possibly recast your current mortgage, if your bank will let you (I think the fee is not too bad). Say you could come up with $50,000 (maybe you have some non-retirement investments?), you could possibly pay that on your mortgage and recast it, so that your payments for the remaining term were based on the remaining balance. Your payment might go from $1600 to $1100 (depends on how much equity you have built so far and what you can come up with for a big payment). Living on $3500/month is much easier with a payment of $1100 than it is with a payment of $1600. And you haven't had to refi.

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Author: Lea77 Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308083 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 10:23 AM
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It's definitely possible to fix the food budget. The problem is I don't know what to cook. I'm pretty tired at the end of the day, and don't usually have the energy to cook, hence the convenience foods, hence the big grocery budget.

I don't have a large family or anything, but I find if I prep/cook on Sunday's when I have energy it works much better. I eat on leftovers most of the week, but you could easily prep a few weeknight dinners so they don't require much time/energy during the week. By prep I mean planning, cutting veggies, preping casseroles so they just have to be slipped into the oven, etc...You can pre cook ground beef and use it for multiple things, ditto chicken.

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Author: Windowseat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308084 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 1:34 PM
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It's definitely possible to fix the food budget. The problem is I don't know what to cook. I'm pretty tired at the end of the day, and don't usually have the energy to cook, hence the convenience foods, hence the big grocery budget.

Over on Living Below Your Means there has been a recent thread on cooking. You might pick up some idea there. Do you have a crockpot or slow cooker of some kind? You might be able to start cooking something in the morning and have it ready by the time you get home at night.

http://boards.fool.com/anyone-cooking-this-weekend-31187548....

Nancy

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Author: yeilBagheera Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308085 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 2:35 PM
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getting away from convenience foods

Choose one night during the week and cook. Maybe curried rice with yogurt and dill served with cut up vegetables to eat cold.

Do you end up with leftovers?

Can you start packaging your own snacks - cheerios you and the kids put in a a tiny container instead of an individual package of chips?

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Author: yeilBagheera Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308086 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 2:37 PM
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dinner ideas...
scrambled eggs?
baked potatoes?
homemade pizza - you can make dough easily or use English muffins if you've been to the store recently

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Author: ishtarastarte Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308087 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 2:54 PM
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you could easily get used to cooking so it didn't feel like a huge chore

I have never found this to be true.

For me it is and always will be a chore.

Ishtar
(not a cook)

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Author: impolite Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308088 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 3:56 PM
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I have never found this to be true.

For me it is and always will be a chore.

Ishtar
(not a cook)


It's definitely not one of my favorite activities, either, so I'll go against some of the other advice a little and say: have some convenience foods around for nights you just cannot do it.

Granted the longer I cooked on a budget, those "convenience" foods went from frozen pizza to "tortillas in the pantry and cheese from the freezer = quesadillas", but still. I've found having some really easy foods around makes it easier to avoid a drive thru.

I can get home from a late baseball game, throw some stuff in the oven while we all get cleaned up, then it's time to eat and I just dirtied some cookie sheets. Sure, it's not really nutritious, but if I had been faced with Cooking a Meal rather than just Throwing Something In The Oven, we would have had Mickey D's or Taco Bell instead.

Plus "freezer clean out" night means I might have chicken wings, corn dog nuggets and curly fries for dinner and seriously, that's awesome.

impolite

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308089 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 5:13 PM
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I'm definitely going to set some eat at home goals. Probably going to take it slow at first, or I might lose steam. I'm going to try to cook at least two nights during the week and then eat leftovers the other three weeknights. And weekends should be 100% at home.

Yesterday I made a big pot of chili so we can have some leftover nights. I also made sure I had stuff available to make quesadillas and we've got plenty of eggs for a "breakfast for dinner".

I've got a slow cooker, but I am afraid to leave it all day. Most of the recipes calls for 8 hours and we'd be gone from the house longer than that.

I do steel cut oats overnight in it, and they work great. Maybe I can do it during the day and we can have an "oatmeal" night, too!

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Author: Lea77 Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308090 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 5:38 PM
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My slow cooker is 30+ years old, so I mostly slow cook things on sundays! I don't entirely trust it...

If you are wanting to branch out on the things you eat and try new recipes (you may not be there yet), I often will decide I want to eat chicken or beef or pork chops or whatever veggies is on sale and then look online to get a good recipe. Pinterest, if you like that sort of thing, can also be your friend. I've found some fantastic veggie recipes there (I am in love with roasted cabbage!).

Sometimes you don't have to think too complicated on the cooking front. My mom is always talking about how she doesn't have recipies and you don't really need them, except for how long and what temp to put something in the oven. And pseudo convenient foods, if you actually don't like to cook, are pretty helpful. I am in love with all these flavoring packets, especially the frontier mexican stuff and I can't remember the brand but there is one that is a red wine and porchini sauce you use for a crock pot roast. Dead easy and lots of flavor.

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Author: ishtarastarte Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308091 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 5:41 PM
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Granted the longer I cooked on a budget, those "convenience" foods went from frozen pizza to "tortillas in the pantry and cheese from the freezer = quesadillas", but still. I've found having some really easy foods around makes it easier to avoid a drive thru.


When C was growing up, particularly in the middle and high school years, it was frozen taquitos. Or cereal. Cereal always works.

Ishtar

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Author: Windowseat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308095 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 3/31/2014 8:39 PM
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I've got a slow cooker, but I am afraid to leave it all day. Most of the recipes calls for 8 hours and we'd be gone from the house longer than that.

Okay, I can understand that part. But is it something you could use on weekends? You could make a meal in the slow cooker while cooking something else in the oven.

One of my standard meals would be some kind of grain (couscous, bulgar, pilaf, whatever) some sort of already cooked meat or chicken, and some vegetables. It doesn't take long to cook, and there are a lot of variations you can ring. You could also use various sauces when making things.

Nancy

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Author: TheEvilDrP Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308097 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/1/2014 5:11 PM
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Hey yddeyma,

I would look around for term insurance unless you all are morbidly obese (I see you referenced being fat.) When I was pregnant with TW, I was 170lbs and 34, and able to get $500k of term insurance for $250/yr which works out to about $21/mth. That's a fairly significant savings. My life insurance is with Protective...Progressive...heck, I don't remember but I'm sure I found them through one of those online multi-agency quoting websites like esurance.

As far as food goes, we love those frozen veg packets you can get that pop right into the microwave to steam veggies. I try to pick them up when they are on sale for $1/bag. Yes, it is probably more costly than fresh but it's EASIER (no prep, just pop in the microwave in the bag) guaranteeing they will be cooked and eaten as opposed to sitting in the fridge going bad while I order pizza.

http://www.birdseye.com/vegetable-products/birdseye-steamfre...

You can get coupons to bring that cost down even further but...that brings its own pain with it so...you know, YMMV. :-)

Your electric seems a bit high; is that the average thanks to the cold winter?

How are you planning to get rid of the daycare costs? Is that due to one of you staying home with the children? If not, and it looks like not due to the comment of saving the second salary, I would plan on childcare costs until your youngest turns 12 or 13. I know, some peeps might think that a bit old however, better safe than sorry and some kids just aren't mature enough to stay home by themselves even at twelve. Of course, the two of you could arrange your schedules to accommodate by one of you going in early enough to be the pickup parent and one going in late enough to be the dropoff parent. If you are planning on using aftercare, though, you will still have a significant expense.

"Shopping: Books" can go, though it pains me to say that. You probably have a library and if not, there are many free websites where you can read books. Heck, even Amazon has a Kindle app for computers.

You have "shopping" and "other shopping" which for me indicates a need to recategorize where you are spending those funds.

Try freecycle.org for kids' clothes and other stuff; I use it to give away stuff all the time. Also make friends with peeps whose kids are just slightly older and younger than yours, and start a hand-me-down trend. I mail TW's clothes to my cousin for her four boys and I "shop" in my nephew's closet for his next year or two whenever I visit my sister. Salvation Army has $1 frequently to get rid of stuff; my sister, who is also quite plump, finds lots of great clothes in her size there and buys a couple of years ahead for the kids whenever she sees something for $1 or less.

I hope that's helpful to you and perhaps sparks some more ideas. :-)

Minxie

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Author: TheEvilDrP Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308098 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/1/2014 5:21 PM
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I HIGHLY recommend this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Cooker-Cookbook-Hensperger-Kau...

That book has some really great recipes, such as a pork loin with ginger and apples that is super yummy and really easy. We use ours to poach whole chickens or cook four to six sweet potatoes (wash, sprinkle cinnamon and cook on low for about four to six hours).

If you are planning to be gone for more than eight hours, just put in a bit of extra liquid and cook it on low. Alternatively, what I did (and need to get back to doing) is run three slowcookers on Sunday making three separate meals for the week. Split the meals in appropriate sized dishes and reheat; a bag of steamer veggies for a hot side or a salad for a cold one.

Minxie

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308099 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/1/2014 9:10 PM
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Minxie....

12 or 13!!!!!

I have not thought that far ahead at all, but sheesh, that seems old. I remember coming home by myself when I was 11 and with my two years older sister as young as 8. Is that not allowed any more? I guess I never thought about it before (I'd be happy if we could just get potty trained) but it is scary to think about leaving them by themselves...

Electric bill is average. My windows are 20 years old and the cheap aluminum type, we're not good about caulking every year, but we do it every couple of years. We do have a programmable thermostat. But EVERYTHING is electric in this house (water heater, stove, etc.). So it adds up. Water heater is turned down already.

I think, in the back of my head, I want us both to be able to work fewer hours and be with the kids after school. Not 1/2 time, more like 3/4 time. So if I can get us steadily living on one salary with expenses, then if we do cut back we'll still have enough with both of us part time to manage to save some. If that doesn't work, we do plan to stagger schedules.

Thanks for the book rec and the dinner ideas. I got a lot and am going to try to set some goals for eating at home.

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308100 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 8:28 AM
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12 or 13!!!!!

I have not thought that far ahead at all, but sheesh, that seems old. I remember coming home by myself when I was 11 and with my two years older sister as young as 8. Is that not allowed any more? I guess I never thought about it before (I'd be happy if we could just get potty trained) but it is scary to think about leaving them by themselves...


It depends on the kids. Around here, the kids age out of after-school care at 6th grade, which is 12 years old. By that time, my kids were antsy to be on their own, and so when they were about 10 or 11, we started letting them come home on the bus 2 days a week, and going to after-school care the other 3 days. But by then we were also living in a neighborhood with lots of people home during the day, so there was a support system if something went wrong.

And from a kid's perspective, all kinds of things can go wrong. We had the power go out before the kids got home from school, so the garage door opener didn't work and they couldn't get in the house. They just went to a neighbor's house, and we put house keys on very long tethers in their backpacks so that the key stayed connected to the backpack while they used it. They need to know what to do if they break a glass, for instance. What happens if the toilet backs up? There are all sorts of normal, daily occurrences which are not typical for kids, and they need a back-up plan.

For the record, though, we were leaving the kids home alone by the time they were 8, but there were 2 of them, and DD was pretty mature, so it was doable.

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Author: TMFHunzi Big red star, 1000 posts Home Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308101 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 9:26 AM
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12 or 13!!!!!

I have not thought that far ahead at all, but sheesh, that seems old. I remember coming home by myself when I was 11 and with my two years older sister as young as 8. Is that not allowed any more? I guess I never thought about it before (I'd be happy if we could just get potty trained) but it is scary to think about leaving them by themselves


In my state, you are not to leave a child under 13 alone & unsupervised. If you have a child who is over 13, they can supervise a younger sibling. Check the laws in your state on when you can legally leave a child alone - and then evaluate if they are mature enough to handle all the situations that can come up.

I run an in home business, and I still used after school programs as needed, sleep away & day camps in the summers, and had a home day care provider I used on a drop in basis (She's still like a grandmother to my kids.)

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Author: tconi Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308102 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 10:09 AM
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i am digressing, here...

I remember coming home by myself when I was 11 and with my two years older sister as young as 8. Is that not allowed any more?

and i walked several blocks home, alone, for lunch very day when I was 6, but times have changed.

I see you are in Georgia. I live in CT- neither of these states has a hard & fast law about when kids are allowed to be left home alone.
What that does, however, is leave it wide open so when a 15 year old is left alone and something unforeseen happens, it can still be labeled "Neglectful" on the part of the parents.

Leaving kids alone is dependent on the individual child and his/her maturity - attitudes have changed significantly since we were that age.

peace & down the road
t

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Author: tconi Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308103 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 10:10 AM
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I wasnt quite done

from Georgia DCF
http://dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/take-precautions-when-leaving-ch...

Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time.
Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time.
Children 13 and older can generally be left as babysitters, with the exception of children in foster care. It is not recommended, however, that 13 year olds baby sit infants, small children and children that require special attention due to medical conditions.
Children 15 and older can be left home alone overnight, depending on the level of maturity of the child.
Other safety precautions to consider when leaving a child unaccompanied: Don’t leave the child responsible for food preparation that involves the stove; have a neighbor or relative check in regularly or have the child check in with an adult; make a safety plan that includes 911, and rehearse it with your child.


peace & guidelines
t

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Author: TheEvilDrP Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308104 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 2:10 PM
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http://www.amazon.com/Duck-281506-10-Window-Insulator-420-In...

This stuff is great for insulating the windows in the winter. It works really well and is a cheap fix. I used it in my house and the difference was amazing.

Also use the outlet insulation to keep the cold air from coming through your outlets:

http://www.amazon.com/Frost-King-OS6H-Outlet-Sealers/dp/B000...

Minxie

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Author: impolite Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308105 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 3:16 PM
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I've got a slow cooker, but I am afraid to leave it all day. Most of the recipes calls for 8 hours and we'd be gone from the house longer than that.

This one is easy: cook overnight.

Put it all in the crockpot before you go to bed, in the morning it's done. Place in fridge.

Nuke on plates for dinner.

impolite

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Author: Jeanwa Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308106 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 3:49 PM
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This one is easy: cook overnight.
===============================

Oh I did this once or twice. One time I remember getting up in the middle of the night it smelled so good. It was just lentils & 1/2 USDA canned ham and a 1/2 jar of salsa. I was trying out foods for the local food bank.

When my kid got home from school the next day he called to see if he could have some or if I had to take it somewhere. I didn't. He ate 3 bowls, which for him was a lot.

Jean

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Author: yddeyma Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308107 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 5:21 PM
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Put it all in the crockpot before you go to bed, in the morning it's done. Place in fridge.

Great idea! I will definitely try that method.

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Author: TMFHunzi Big red star, 1000 posts Home Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308108 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/2/2014 6:53 PM
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I've got a slow cooker, but I am afraid to leave it all day. Most of the recipes calls for 8 hours and we'd be gone from the house longer than that.


Many slow cookers have a timer - it will cook for 8hrs (or whatever you set) and then switch to a hold/warm mode.

Always ;-)
Hunzi

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Author: LOTROQueen Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308111 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 7:49 AM
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I don't need help with what to buy but rather what to cook. I am typically exhausted at the end of the work day and so we eat a lot of convenience food.

Spaghetti is easy and cheap. Penne w/ vodka sauce (I use jarred sauce). Pork chops are pretty quick to make and for sides, a box of Goya beans and rice or Pillsbury Grands biscuits, vegetables (I use frozen - the taste better than canned and are easy to microwave). Do you know how to brown ground beef? If you can do that, it'll open up a lot of choices of what to make - you can put it in spaghetti sauce, taco filling, sloppy joes, casseroles, etc.

Again, in a rural area I'm stuck with big chain grocery stores,

Groceries don't have to come from a grocery store. Look at Target and Wal-Mart. They might not have everything a grocery store does, but what the do have might be a lot cheaper. Learn prices for stuff you buy often so you can judge if something is a good deal or not.

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Author: LOTROQueen Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308112 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 7:52 AM
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If you go for fast food for workday lunches--stop. Bring a sandwich/wrap sandwich, leftovers, tub of hummus and veggie sticks, even a microwavable frozen entree is likely to be better for you than fast food.

Sometimes it's important to go out to lunch with co-workers and friends for business/personal reasons.

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Author: LOTROQueen Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308113 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 7:58 AM
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I'm definitely going to set some eat at home goals. Probably going to take it slow at first, or I might lose steam. I'm going to try to cook at least two nights during the week and then eat leftovers the other three weeknights. And weekends should be 100% at home.

Yesterday I made a big pot of chili so we can have some leftover nights. I also made sure I had stuff available to make quesadillas and we've got plenty of eggs for a "breakfast for dinner".

I've got a slow cooker, but I am afraid to leave it all day. Most of the recipes calls for 8 hours and we'd be gone from the house longer than that.

I do steel cut oats overnight in it, and they work great. Maybe I can do it during the day and we can have an "oatmeal" night, too!


Have your spouse help with cooking, too. They're an adult. Even if all they do is chicken nuggets and fries in the oven and some veggies in the microwave once a week, it's one meal you don't have to cook and cheaper than eating out. If your spouse is like mine, you'll still be stuck making sure there's something around they can handle making (like the aforementioned nuggets and fries or frozen pizza) but it'll still help take some of the pressure off of you.

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308114 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 8:51 AM
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I am open to suggestions for the food budget, I don't need help with what to buy but rather what to cook. I am typically exhausted at the end of the work day and so we eat a lot of convenience food. The only quick from scratch meal I know how to cook is stir fry and coconut curry. Again, in a rural area I'm stuck with big chain grocery stores, but I make use of a close by Aldi's once a month for shelf stable stuff.

I see you have gotten a bunch of suggestions on things to cook. You might also try asking on the Recipes board http://boards.fool.com/recipescooking-112912.aspx?mid=311935... or even the Parenting board http://boards.fool.com/parents-and-expecting-parents-112914.... for more suggestions. You can always ignore the ones that don't work for you, but those folks might have some good ideas that you could use.

Do you have a separate freezer? I've always had a freezer, and I have to say that this has helped me quite a lot. I don't particularly care for grocery shopping, so I buy meat, frozen veggies, bread, butter, ice cream, etc. when it is on sale, and put it in the freezer. That way, I can decide in the morning or even the night before what we are having for dinner because I have never been successful at using menus, and this helps me because I have everything in stock. I also always froze my meat in single serving packages. That lets me take out whatever I need, and scales up and down. It also gives me the most flexibility in terms of what I decide to cook.

You can combine the freezer and the weekend cooking and make your own convenience foods for the freezer. For instance, I always make 2 lasagnas when I make those with one that we eat right away, and one for the freezer. You can cook a lasagna frozen, but it's not something you'd want to be doing during the week for that night's dinner (it does work later, though, as the kids get bigger and can throw it in the oven when they get home from school). But you can also cook the lasagna, eat dinner, and then cut what remains into individual pieces that you wrap and put in the freezer giving you a frozen lunch or dinner.

You can do that with lots of things, so you could be cooking all at once and freezing in individual portions giving you many choices of fast, home-cooked dinners during the week.

This will also help with your limited grocery shopping options because you can buy what's on sale at your local store and freeze it. And it limits your trips to the grocery store saving you time, which is also a hot commodity for you.

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Author: TheEvilDrP Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308116 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 2:17 PM
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For instance, I always make 2 lasagnas when I make those with one that we eat right away, and one for the freezer.

Also a great way to save on energy costs as you use all the oven instead of just half.

Minxie

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308117 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/3/2014 4:57 PM
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Also a great way to save on energy costs as you use all the oven instead of just half.

No, actually. With lasagna, you just have to get it all assembled, and then freeze. You don't cook the 2nd lasagna, but just put it in the freezer after assembly.

Also, I make the sauce really soupy, and so then I don't have to cook the noodles first. You just use them straight out of the package. This does a couple of things. It's a lot faster to put together that way, and since I don't use all the noodles in the package for an entire lasagna, I save the extras, and use those the next time. That saves on wasted food and expense.

When the lasagna fixings go on sale, I make them, so that also keeps the costs down.

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Author: TMFHunzi Big red star, 1000 posts Home Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308118 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/4/2014 12:16 AM
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No, actually. With lasagna, you just have to get it all assembled, and then freeze. You don't cook the 2nd lasagna, but just put it in the freezer after assembly.

Also, I make the sauce really soupy, and so then I don't have to cook the noodles first. You just use them straight out of the package. This does a couple of things. It's a lot faster to put together that way, and since I don't use all the noodles in the package for an entire lasagna, I save the extras, and use those the next time. That saves on wasted food and expense.

When the lasagna fixings go on sale, I make them, so that also keeps the costs down.


Apparently you and I have the same Italian Godmother. I make my lasagna the exact same way. Just made three pans this weekend and put 2 in the freezer.


Always ;-)
Hunzi

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Author: dianakalt Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308122 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/4/2014 10:24 AM
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It's definitely possible to fix the food budget. The problem is I don't know what to cook. I'm pretty tired at the end of the day, and don't usually have the energy to cook, hence the convenience foods, hence the big grocery budget.

What do you cook during the week?


I don't cook during the week, period.
I cook on the weekend for the whole week, planning ahead for a couplefew meals out if I want them.

A long time ago, I figured out that if I spend about 2-3 hours hands-on shopping and cooking on the weekend, I could get healthy dinner into my belly faster than I could go through a drive through. It works.

d

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Author: dianakalt Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308123 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/4/2014 10:27 AM
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What types of things did you cook on the weekends to reheat later? I feel like the last two years (my youngest is 2) have been the hardest ever and I see no end in sight to the constant lack of energy from chasing two toddlers around...

My repertoire is very crockpot heavy....

Chili
Pot Roast
BBQ Pulled Pork
White Chili

I also will make several lasagnas and freeze them, or several chicken pot pies (large size - like a normal pie) and freeze them. For the pot pies and lasagna, you can make 6 of them in just a tiny bit more time than it takes to make 1.

d

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Author: Mcstuffins Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308125 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/4/2014 10:53 AM
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WIth regard to your electric bill, we have been able to get our electric bill down on our mostly electric house by doing the following:

1. opening up curtains and not turning the lights on during the day.
(this only works in certain rooms where there is more natural light than other) At night, the family tends to gather together in the family room so that is the only light that is on at night.

2. programmable thermostat is set to 68 in winter. from 10pm to 5am, when everyone is under the covers, its set to 62. we have a new house with 2 thermostats -one for upstairs and one for downstairs. from 7am to 4pm, the upstairs thermostat is turned down to 65.

3. we do not put light bulbs in every socket. For example, the bathroom sconce (is that what you call it) holds three bulbs, we just use one socket. This is a newer home with tons of pot lighting, and we only fill half with bulbs.

4. At night, we just turn on the light by the garage and side door. The front entrance is kept dark. The only exception is when my husband travels for work - then all the lights go on. I'm a scaredy cat so I want the bad guys to think someones home and not come in, if they do get near the house, I want potential witnesses to be able to see them.

5. Lastly we keep most things unplugged. Bedside lamps unplugged unless we are reading at night. Exercise equipment unplugged. Chargers off the wall unless in use. Small appliances, coffeemaker, toaster, blender - unplugged. we have two tv's in the house. one in the fam room and one in the basement. The basement one is kept unplugged unless we r hanging out there and using it. The family room tv is not used much during the week but getting behind it to unplug it as well as plugging and unplugging the cable, dvd, attachments is so annoying that we keep it plugged constantly. My husband wanted to unplug the washer/dryer when we r not using it, but talk about inconvenient so I put an end to that quickly.

6. We do laundry only once a week. Not easy with three boys. Heavily soiled stuff gets hand washed and scrubbed in the sink to prevent staining and then gets run thru the washer on laundry day. I try to hang dry as much as I can. I think if you follow some of the suggestions to cook most of your food over the weekend you will find that will impact your electric bill as well as you will not be using it as often.

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Author: MetroChick Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308134 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/4/2014 5:26 PM
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I am open to suggestions for the food budget, I don't need help with what to buy but rather what to cook. I am typically exhausted at the end of the work day and so we eat a lot of convenience food. The only quick from scratch meal I know how to cook is stir fry and coconut curry. Again, in a rural area I'm stuck with big chain grocery stores, but I make use of a close by Aldi's once a month for shelf stable stuff.

I am open to suggestions, but I've got to learn how to cook (or rather, what to cook) to make changes....what do you eat on week nights?


I've found it's about taking what you like to eat, and then finding recipes that reheat well if you make a large portion. Such as for pasta, I've found orzo reheats well and stays moist if it's got some kind of dressing (such as olive oil and lemon).

Another thing is weeknight meals don't have to be a traditional "dinner" - you could have a "sandwich" night (or soup and sandwich night) or a salad night. Maybe reserve 1 weeknight meal for carryout/restaurant meals. Right there 3 nights are done.

Last night my dinner was a mixed salad (spring greens and baby spinach mix, with baby carrots, calamata olives, and avocado with homemade balsamic vinegrette dressing) with a couple pan fried smelt that I lighted battered with flour/salt/pepper.

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Author: xtn Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308178 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/7/2014 9:58 AM
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What could your kids possibly be doing for activities that cost $80 per month?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay had to get that out of my system. I've got two boys, aged eleven and ten years.

Now certainly none of the following things are necessary, and could easily be cut out of a budget if so desired. But I spend about $80 per month JUST on hockey for ONE of my two boys. They both do it. Plus they're in scouts, wrestling, chess club, baseball, etc. Then there are summer camps, field trips, swimming/pool access, etc. My eleven year old has Aspergers; I don't know if tutors, therapists and the like could be grouped in with "kids' activities" or not, but I've got the spending regardless.

Granted, these are all frivolous choices we make. Well, not the therapists I suppose. (I haven't touched on the actual medical costs cuz I figure that's a different category.) My kids are spoiled. I know it. I'm just pointing out that if one wants to make such choices, the list of costly activities that kids could possibly be doing is rich and long.

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Author: 2gifts Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308179 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/7/2014 10:02 AM
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Okay had to get that out of my system. I've got two boys, aged eleven and ten years.

Except the kids in question seem to be 5 and younger. I cannot imagine spending that much per month on activities for kids who aren't even in school yet. And so that then makes me wonder how much will be spent when these kids are the same ages as your kids. It only gets more expensive as they get older and start playing some of the various sports.

But kids who are not even in school yet aren't doing the same level of activities as your much older children.

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Author: Lea77 Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308181 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/7/2014 10:18 AM
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Except the kids in question seem to be 5 and younger.

They could still easily be in dance, gymnastics, soccer, etc...I have cousins and nephews between 3 and 5 and they're all in something.

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Author: xtn Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 308184 of 308684
Subject: Re: Budget Help Date: 4/7/2014 11:36 AM
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But kids who are not even in school yet aren't doing the same level of activities as your much older children.

Yeah, that's generally true I suppose. My spending didn't start ramping up until my boys reached about seven or eight years of age. Wrestling and swimming lessons were all they had prior to that, presuming we aren't counting preschool expenses, or taking them to the zoo or the like, in this budget category.

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