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Author: agg97 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 5082  
Subject: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 8/22/2006 1:52 PM
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Saw this on another board and thought it would be appropriate over here as well. Original post at http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=24494143.

An article in the August 2006 Journal issue caught my interest. I know there is some interest here about getting to retirement from some of my previous posts, so here are some of my thoughts as they related to this article.

Here is the opening paragraph of the article:


Analyzing Your Financial Health Using Personal Financial Ratios
By Charles J. Farrell

Investors commonly use stock ratios such as price to earnings, price to book, and dividend yield to assess the financial health of a company. The reasons the ratios are so widely used are because they convey a great deal of information in a concise format and allow investors to benchmark a company's financial status. When it comes to assessing the financial health of individuals, however, there are no comparable ratios that would allow investors to conduct a similar analysis of their personal financial circumstances. This article establishes a set of personal financial ratios that individuals can use to analyze their financial standing.

I would think that this is a fee-based link and not sure you will be able to see it, but here is the link:

http://www.aaii.com/includes/DisplayArticle.cfm?Article_Id=2933

In summary, the article uses three ratios—Savings-to-income, Debt-to-income, and Saving-rate-to-income—and benchmarks them at different ages. The assumptions are: 5% real return and 5% withdrawal rate. The author goes into a lot of detail on how to compute the ratios and why the assumptions hold on average. Most of it is believable. The saving number does not include your home unless you plan to move and downsize so you have the money to live on. Debt includes all your debt including any auto lease obligations. Here is the ratio table by age:


Table 1. Personal Financial Ratios (Reasonable Assumptions)
(Assumptions: 5% Real Return, 5% Withdrawals)

Age Savings to Debt to Savings
Income Income Rate to
Income

30 0.1 1.7 12%
35 0.9 1.5 12%
40 1.7 1.25 12%
45 3 1 12%
50 4.5 0.75 12%
55 6.5 0.5 12%
60 8.8 0.2 12%
65 12 0 12%

This exercise is design to give you 12 times your salary at age 65 and with a withdrawal rate of 5% this gives you about 60% of your pre-retirement income. Adding social security benefits of about $20K and assuming a pre-retirement income of $100K, you are at an 80% pre-retirement income rate.

-----------------------------------------------

How do you calculate your ratio?

Here are the definitions I used to determine the ratios:

Savings
Savings include the current value of your investments, such as a 401(k), profit sharing, individual retirement accounts and brokerage accounts, the fair market value of investment real estate, and the value of any private business interests.

The home is excluded as an investment (for retirement purposes) because people need a place to live. Moreover, few people downsize in price during their retirement years; consequently the equity in one's home is not generally available for retirement income.

Debt
Debt comprises all debt, including mortgage, student loans, car, and consumer debt. The financial obligations under any auto leases also are included as debt.

For example, if you lease a $25,000 car for three years and the payments are $350 a month, the lease is a $12,600 obligation.

Savings Rate
This refers to the percentage of pretax income you are saving each year out of your total income. Savings include any amount contributed to a 401(k), IRA, or other investment account, plus the value of any vested employer contribution into your retirement account.

For example, if you contribute 8% of pay to a 401(k) and receive a 4% company match, your savings rate would be 12%.

The savings rate does not include dividends, interest, or capital gains on current investment holdings. The gains on investment holdings are incorporated into the account growth assumptions discussed later……


I'm 31, savings ratio of 1.2, debt ratio of 1.67, savings rate of 16.5%. That's quite a bit ahead of the curve on savings, pretty much on the mark on debt, and ahead on the rate. All of which is to be expected if my goal is to Retire Early rather than at 65. Looks like I'm ahead of the curve at this point!

I question the 5% SWR, but still a rather good article.

-Agg97
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Author: workwayless Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3863 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 8/27/2006 5:00 PM
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I'm 31, savings ratio of 1.2, debt ratio of 1.67, savings rate of 16.5%. That's quite a bit ahead of the curve on savings, pretty much on the mark on debt, and ahead on the rate. All of which is to be expected if my goal is to Retire Early rather than at 65. Looks like I'm ahead of the curve at this point!



But if you want to retire early, then you would need 12 times your salary at the age you want to retire--not 65. So you could re-calculate with this in mind to see if you would still be ahead of the curve.

However, I don't totally agree with the logic of this article.

I see one problem with the article's Savings-to-income ratio: it doesn't accurately reflect the status of folks who have have high incomes and save a high percentage of that income. Since they save a lot and spend little then they likely will not require a high percentage of their pre-retirement income.

For someone in this situation, I believe that a Savings-to expense ratio would be a far better gauge to analyze their financial health.

I'll give an example to illustrate. Let's say that a 55 y/o earns $100,000 per year, has annual expenses of $25,000 and has savings of $500,000.

Their Savings-to-income ratio would be 5, which is lower than they should have for that age. However, their Savings-to expense ratio is a very respectable 20.


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Author: ziggy29 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: 3864 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 8/28/2006 9:38 AM
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Interesting. My "statistics" are temporarily skewed until we can sell a house we just moved out of.

I'm 40. Right now savings-to-income is about 4.1, debt-to-income is about 1.6 and the savings rate is about 4%.

Once we sell the house? Savings-to-income about 4.4, debt-to-income ZERO and savings rate of about 22%.

See why we want to get this house sold so badly?

#29

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Author: yttire Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3865 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 8/28/2006 10:42 AM
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Here are my estimates - age 38

Savings to income 2.7
Debt to income 0.7

I am thinking seriously of taking some of that savings and getting rid of the debt altogether, since my job future holds some real uncertainty. Savings rate of around 30%.. although if you include payments going towards principal on the mortgage perhaps it is a bit higher.

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Author: stardustangel Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3866 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/12/2006 3:57 PM
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I hate these articles. I never feel like I get the information I need to know when I can retire. 33 years old, my income now is 50k. It will get higher once I finish residency in two years. I know how much I need to live now. I have no idea how much I will need to live in five years, ten years, or even thirty years. But here goes, according to the article, my savings to income ratio is 1.7 (403b, IRA, savings) - didn't include equity from rental property- should I?. If so, then it goes up to 3. My debt to income is 6. - rental property mortgage plus 65k in student loans. Savings rate is 38% of both salary and rental income of 22k/year.

Still shooting for FIRE whatever the amount will be and whenever that will be.



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Author: OldOne Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3867 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/17/2006 4:57 AM
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Well, I am not going to pay the fee to see the article, but how do they handle pensions & such.

For instance, DW & I are very close to retirement. We have annual pensions of $55k (inflation adjusted) and $40k (non-adjusted) plus presumed SS payments of $32k (inflation adjusted). These are all from very stable, safe sources. (I am going to presume that SS is reasonably safe, despite all the debate.)

If I capitalize the inflation adjusted pensions @ 5% and the non-adjusted ones @ 6% this is the equivalent of over $2.4M.

Clearly our savings/income ratio is going to be drastically effected by whether this number is included or not.

The argument for not including it is obvious -- it isn't our money.

The argument for including it is that our retirement lifestyle will be substantially improved by this income.

There are other specific issues with the methodology. For instance, if a person/couple has a savings rate of 12% of gross income, they can maintain their lifestyle with 88% of their pre-retirement income. Savings is no longer required. Similarly, they will no longer pay SS or medicare taxes. For a one-earner $100k income, this will be on the order of a $6.5k savings.

Lastly, even a 30 year mortgage ends at some point in time. A paid-off house represents a substantial reduction in expenses, even without moving. Don't even try to pretend that a renter with $1M in savings is in the same position as a homeowner with $1M in savings and a paid-off house.

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Author: yttire Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3868 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/17/2006 1:42 PM
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I would count your pension at 20 to 25 times your annual income from the pension. That definitely counts as savings. It is not savings in the sense you can pass it on to heirs- but here we are calculating the needs for retirement, not inheritance.

The modern worker I think does not understand the incredible financial loss of not having a pension, that is to say, the decline of the pension as a benefit represents a real drop of wages.

I agree with your assesment of the paid of house situation.

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Author: OnwardBound Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3869 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/17/2006 6:26 PM
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I think the author's statement is correct. He includes mortgages and rent as Debt/expenses. Once the house is paid off, your expenses are far less than the renter because you are no longer paying that mortgage. The arguement is not to include your house as an asset because it produces no income. You cannot readily get distributions from it. (Other than a reverse mortgage or selling which isn't often done) You have to live somewhere. Including the house would probably give many a false sense of security.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3870 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/17/2006 8:01 PM
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<<I would count your pension at 20 to 25 times your annual income from the pension. That definitely counts as savings. It is not savings in the sense you can pass it on to heirs- but here we are calculating the needs for retirement, not inheritance.

The modern worker I think does not understand the incredible financial loss of not having a pension, that is to say, the decline of the pension as a benefit represents a real drop of wages.

I agree with your assesment of the paid of house situation. >>


Ummmm. The usual concept of a 4% withdrawal rate is based on having stock investments mixed with a bond ladder to even out market variations when stocks are sold.

Stocks have a history of appreciating in price, earnings and dividends over time.


Most pensions are not indexed to inflation and thus aren't going to increase in income or asset value the way stocks are expected to do. Using the same multiplier to equate pensions with returns that can be expected from a stock portfolio is therefore likely to be a mistake.


You did hedge this by suggestig "20 to 25" times the pension income, but whether that is enough to compensate for the risk of loss of purchasing power I don't know.

<<The modern worker I think does not understand the incredible financial loss of not having a pension, that is to say, the decline of the pension as a benefit represents a real drop of wages.>>


In my view, pensions were oversold as benefits, and that has become more apparent as pension plans fail or are discarded by companies. The people who got pensions promised to them a scant few years before they retired often made out like bandits, but now we have the reverse situation where people who have been a part of retirement plans for decades run significant risk of not getting the payouts they were expecting.

I think you exagerate the benefits of a world dominated by pension plans for workers.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: OldOne Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3871 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/17/2006 11:51 PM
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SP:

Most pensions are not indexed to inflation and thus aren't going to increase in income or asset value the way stocks are expected to do. Using the same multiplier to equate pensions with returns that can be expected from a stock portfolio is therefore likely to be a mistake.

I am on the same wavelength as you. That is why I suggest a multiplier of 20 for inflation adjusted pensions, and only 16.67 for non-adjusted.

In my view, pensions were oversold as benefits, and that has become more apparent as pension plans fail or are discarded by companies.

Even a non-adjusted pension is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. One of the more rational ways to use it is to "balance" a non-adjusted pension with a fixed-rate mortgage note. If one is intending to stay put in a house for years, this is a great way to inflation-proof a big chunk of housing costs.

DW and I are fortunate in that her pension is from the state government -- bankruptcy unlikely. Mine is private, but is lower and is less than the USPBGC maximum. If we can keep those boys from going bankrupt things should be good.

Of course, I agree with you that the future lies with 401(k) programs. Way back in the days when I was "YoungOne" and just starting out, there was a lot of talk about "portable pensions", which would move from one employer to the next. Well, that is exactly what the 401(k) is.

My employer has terminated pensions for all new hires, but has offered a "capital accumulation plan" which offers and additional 3% 401(k) contribution for 5 years, 4% for the next 5, and 5% after that. Not quite as good, but certainly better than nothing.

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Author: yttire Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3872 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/18/2006 8:56 AM
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In my view, pensions were oversold as benefits, and that has become more apparent as pension plans fail or are discarded by companies. The people who got pensions promised to them a scant few years before they retired often made out like bandits, but now we have the reverse situation where people who have been a part of retirement plans for decades run significant risk of not getting the payouts they were expecting.

I agree with both your sentiment that pensions should not be worth the full 20*income stream if it is not inflation indexed. I was assuming this as an implicit assumption (as all those who I know who get a pension have an inflation indexed pension, although this certainly is not available to all).

However, I wish to point out the huge advantage that a pension has over an individual savings. This advantage is that it distributes life expectancy risk between individuals.

Lets suppose you have five individuals, who live to the following ages:

60 (5 years income needed)
70 (15 years income needed)
80 (25 years income needed)
90 (35 years income needed)

If there is a pension, if they have reasonable actuary tables, they can charge all of these individuals for the average life expectancy of 20 years, and then pay each of them out correctly.

If there is not a pension, then each individual has to save for the full 35 years- because they do not know in advance which of the lifespans they belong to. Therefore, it doubles the savings required to get rid of distributed life expectancy risk. Now this may not seem difficult for a top 10% wage earner, but for the bottom 50% this represents a real, and possibly insurmountable, savings goal.

Annuities claim to perform the same magic, but typically get much lower payouts and are not competitive with the pension. Perhaps as time passes annuities will become more competitive as more and more individuals turn to them.



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Author: ziggy29 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: 3873 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/18/2006 11:02 AM
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>> Annuities claim to perform the same magic, but typically get much lower payouts and are not competitive with the pension. <<

This is partially because annuities don't overpromise and underdeliver.

Still, I would agree that a pension fund can be seen as "sharing" the risk by pooling people who die shortly after receiving the pension with those who live 40 years after retirement. The problem is that pensions are "pay as you go" entities to a large degree. And we know what that has done with Social Security in light of longer life expectancies and a shrinking worker-to-beneficiary ratio.

#29

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3874 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 9/18/2006 11:59 AM
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<<However, I wish to point out the huge advantage that a pension has over an individual savings. This advantage is that it distributes life expectancy risk between individuals.

Lets suppose you have five individuals, who live to the following ages:

60 (5 years income needed)
70 (15 years income needed)
80 (25 years income needed)
90 (35 years income needed)

If there is a pension, if they have reasonable actuary tables, they can charge all of these individuals for the average life expectancy of 20 years, and then pay each of them out correctly.

If there is not a pension, then each individual has to save for the full 35 years- because they do not know in advance which of the lifespans they belong to. Therefore, it doubles the savings required to get rid of distributed life expectancy risk. Now this may not seem difficult for a top 10% wage earner, but for the bottom 50% this represents a real, and possibly insurmountable, savings goal.

Annuities claim to perform the same magic, but typically get much lower payouts and are not competitive with the pension. Perhaps as time passes annuities will become more competitive as more and more individuals turn to them.
>>


As I understand it, lots of pensions simply purchase annuities when an eligible person retires, negating the advantages you suggest.

And of course, a retiree can purchase an annuity himself. The person who buys the annuity will have an income for life, with nothing left over regardless of when they die.

The person who manages their assets with index funds and bonds rather than buying an annuity has a significant likelihood that they will have large dollar assets left over upon their death.

I suppose a pension plan that is honestly managed with the intent of maximizing the benefits to employees might produce savings that would go to retirees, but most pension plans are managed to the benefit of corporations who are entitled to skim off excess funding and pay only the benefits promised to retirees.


I continue to suggest that you are overselling the advantages you suggest for pension plans, at least for the frugal and financially savvy person. For fools and spendthrifts, they probably offer a lot of advantages.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: 96hokies Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3880 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/5/2006 8:40 PM
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We like to think we are on our way to FIRE but we still eat up (literally) the cash 
that could get us there.  We spend as much on food as we do on car payments!

DH and I are 33/32, our numbers came out as follows: 
Savings to      Debt to         Savings
Income	        Income          Rate to
                                Income

1.92	        1.86	        18%

So, overall better than the curve listed in the article 
but still behind as I'd like to not work after ~50.

96hokies


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Author: vickifool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3891 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/14/2006 11:58 AM
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we still eat up (literally) the cash
that could get us there. We spend as much on food as we do on car payments!


Car payments? what are those? <grin>

The baking season is starting. I try to buy all the baking supplies (flour, sugar, spices, chocolate chips, etc.) I will need for the next year at the sales in the next two months to save money.

Also look for sales on canned vegetables right now and again in January(?)

I'm assuming that you eat at home whenever possible.

Vickifool

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Author: whyohwhyoh Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3892 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/14/2006 12:22 PM
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The baking season is starting. I try to buy all the baking supplies (flour, sugar, spices, chocolate chips, etc.) I will need for the next year at the sales in the next two months to save money.
<i/>

Food is one area our family struggles with the cost savings. We don't go out to eat, but we don't really cook either. I try to buy lower cost frozen meals at Trader Joes etc., but my wife is addicted to her French cheeses, cantaloupe, avocado, etc... and the organic whole milk for our toddler son etc. my micro brew beer. It's one area where we tend to splurge continuously.

--
whyohwhyoh

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Author: vickifool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3893 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/14/2006 6:59 PM
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Food is one area our family struggles with the cost savings. We don't go out to eat, but we don't really cook either. I try to buy lower cost frozen meals at Trader Joes etc., but my wife is addicted to her French cheeses, cantaloupe, avocado, etc... and the organic whole milk for our toddler son etc. my micro brew beer. It's one area where we tend to splurge continuously.

--
whyohwhyoh


Since you describe this as a "struggle," would you like some tips?

Do you know about eating in season? Vegetables go on sale when they are at their peak of flavor. It's a nice combo: cheaper and tastes better! Of course, now we can get produce from Chile and New Zealand so you can get fooled. Cantaloupe or avocados in season are reasonably priced. Out of season, they cost a pretty penny. (The french cheese is probably the same all the time, unless you find a sale.)

Here's a pretty list of seasonal produce:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/ck_cg_produce_guide/

And here's a list that links to sites that list seasonal produce by state, so you can eat local fresh food.
http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/eatseasonal/


I was looking at some old posts today, and you might find this to be useful. TMF fave fool Impolite gives tips on how to cook if you aren't used to it. It's written for one person, but you can double the quantities easily enough.
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=17674229

I can also recommend Menu-Mailer if you are willing to try cooking. It's not all that hard. And it includes a shopping list! If you can do the cooking, it's easy to save more money by buying the ingredients on sale.
Download a sample here to try it. (click on the menu that interests you and look over on the right for the free sample link.)
Oddly enough, I think Low-Carb is a good one to start with, if you substitute potatoes or rice for the cauliflower.
http://www.savingdinner.com/menu_mailer/subscribe_to_menu_mailer.html

Feel free to ask me for help if you need it--I've made a lot of Menu-Mailers.

Vickifool

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Author: whyohwhyoh Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3894 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/14/2006 8:04 PM
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I can also recommend Menu-Mailer if you are willing to try cooking. It's not all that hard. And it includes a shopping list! If you can do the cooking, it's easy to save more money by buying the ingredients on sale.


OK I am going to try it. Earlier this year I was searching the internet for a good online grocery/recipe management software. Something where I could assemble recipes and it would spit out a shopping list. But never found anything I liked.

This Menu-Mailer actually looks more practical as it actually picks the recipes and assembles a grocery list for you per season. I assume spice variation is minimized so you don't have to purchase 6 new exotic spices each week for example.

We purchased a crock pot a month ago to start cooking, although we have just been cooking the same recipe over and over. This should give us the variety we are looking for. "Cook/assemble" late in the evening, put the crock pot in the fridge. Then pull it out in the morning and start. I'm going to try the first week freebee after Thanksgiving.

--
whyohwhyoh


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Author: vickifool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 3901 of 5082
Subject: Re: Personal Finance Ratios Date: 11/20/2006 11:10 AM
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This Menu-Mailer actually looks more practical as it actually picks the recipes and assembles a grocery list for you per season. I assume spice variation is minimized so you don't have to purchase 6 new exotic spices each week for example.

You get a different set of recipes and a grocery list each week when you buy Menu-Mailer. After the first month, you'll have almost all of the spices she ever uses. Cumin is as exotic as she gets.

Vickifool
P.S. I can tell you where to buy cheaper spices, but I don't think you are ready for that yet.

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