Monday, February 13, 2012

Money Management

A few weeks ago, Aurie at Our Good Life wrote a post about how her family save and budget money, "It All Adds Up".  I have been thinking a lot about the ways in which we save and budget money ever since.

First of all, I never, ever budget my church offering/tithe.  Ever.  It always just works out and we have enough.  I am not sure how this works.  It gives me chills when I think of it.  This seems to hold true even when we donate to other causes.

Avoid "Impulse Buys" & Buy On Sale

  • Meat - I buy whole pork and beef loins when they are on sale, then Jason makes chops and steaks and roasts and we re-freeze in appropriate portion sizes for our family.  I buy chicken breasts and ground beef in big packages when on sale as well and re-freeze in smaller packages.  I buy fish when it's on sale.
  • Food - Our first house was 2.8 miles on top of a mountain and over 5 miles from the supermarket, I learned to stock up on the things we needed and used frequently so that I never "had" to run out.  I have done this ever since.  I buy the maximum allotted amount of the things we use when they are on sale and keep them in the pantry, even if we have some in stock.  

Use Credit Cards
  • We use credit cards for the points.  Chase Freedom has a great point system and you can use points to "buy" Amazon cards a $60 card for $45 in points is a better deal than the Amazon card.  I use these points to buy homeschool supplies, books and gifts.  
  • We account for our credit card purchases in our checkbook, deleting what we spend from the balance.  On Fridays we sit down and add up all of our credit card purchases and pay the bill online.  We have not had a credit card balance in over ten years.  
  • We had been saving for a really nice 40th birthday celebration vacation, but then found out we needed a new roof...we decided to use the vacation money rather than dipping into savings (as one of our friends said: welcome to being an adult!).  We paid for the roof with a credit card and then paid the balance immediately...we ended up with SEVERAL $60 Amazon gift cards to support my homeschool supply habit ;-)

Pay Yourself First
  • We take advantage of Jason's 401K by having pretax money taken out of his check each week.
  • We have direct deposit for our paychecks and have a certain amount automatically transferred to a savings account EVERY WEEK.
  • We have no idea how much our mortgage payment is!  We came up with a set amount that we pay every month automatically which covers the payment + additional principal.
  • We use our tax return to pay our auto insurance in full (saving money by not paying monthly).  We look at the rest as "forced savings" and put that money in our IRAs and/or the girls' college funds.  
  • Any money the girls get for gifts goes into their savings accounts. I know we are mean parents, but the girls have more than enough 'stuff'.
Coupons & Clearance
  • I never go to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Justice or Michaels without a coupon.  I check online before we go shopping for coupons for any of the stores we tend to frequent.
  • I always check the clearance rack or clearance section on the website.
  • When placing on-line orders, I always do a Google search for coupons and there are USUALLY codes for free shipping.  I LOVE J.Jill and I have their credit card and call their store to place the order, this is some wacky arrangement that gives me free shipping to my home.
  • I love The Gap and Banana Republic and I have a Gap credit card and I try to only go to those stores on Tuesdays because I save 10% on my TOTAL purchase with the card those days.
  • As one of my Twitter friends said, "handy husbands should be a Dave Ramsey suggestion!".  Jason is very handy and we never pay someone to do things we can do ourselves.  In fact, we have a very autodidactic approach to most household/auto repairs and improvements in that we look for youtube videos, articles and books that will teach us to do the repairs and improvements that we don't know how to do.  Jason installed a two-way lightswitch using a youtube video and also installed a new power window in has car using a youtube video.
  • This is new & tricky.  I have read where people SPEND more on groupons, purchasing groupons for things they would normally not purchase or, worst of all, letting groupons expire unused.
  • As a homeschool mom, I think the Groupon is a valuable resource.  We have purchased museum memberships, done glass blowing and attended workshops and seminars that we purchased on Groupon.  I keep a list of our groupons and their expiration dates on my fridge and I have passed up opportunities just because we had so many unused groupons that I wanted to get to first!
  • Like Aurie's family, we almost always bring our own lunch and water bottles.  Most day trip type places serve pretty junky food and I hate to pray the prices they charge for that crud.
  • Jason and I love to cook.  When the girls were little we didn't want to pay a babysitter or ingratiate ourselves on my parents AGAIN, so we started sharing a bottle of wine and cooking together, over the years we have become quite adept at gourmet fare.  When we go out to eat, we never order something we know we can prepare at home.  For this reason, we tend to save our money and really make it worth our while and go to really nice places to eat, where they serve unique and exotic inspirational food that make us go home and want to explore how to prepare something with that flare...  
What are your money management tips & tricks?