Begin Again ~ by Sam

Shane received his regular paycheck and deposited it on Friday.  We’re still waiting for a check for a recent side project to arrive int he mail, but bills are paid, and things are settling down.  Kids were fortunate to receive a gift from grandparents to help with back-to-school expenses, and that has helped tremendously.  In addition, grandmother handed down three seemingly brand new pairs of shoes to Hallie.  (Thank you so much! ~ they are adorable, they fit, and they feed the needs of a 13-year-old fashionista.)  One of Kaia’s best friends at school showed up with a bag of clothes she had outgrown.  Kaia will have to grow into them, but there are some great items, including a cute purple and zebra-print top with fringes and studs, that really suits the “rock-n-roll” style she likes to rock. 

This week begins my challenge to myself:  I will carry cash, spend only bills, and stash the coins I receive in change in a jar.  When Shane deposited his check, I had him take out $100 in cash.  We’ll see how far that gets me.  Years ago, this was how we always used to spend.  Credit cards were frozen in a block of ice and thawed out only for emergencies.  Debit cards were used solely for withdrawing cash.  I want to get back into that routine, because I find it is harder to spend cash than just run through a charge on my card.  The one exception I will make is buying gas.  I tend to use my Costco Amex for that, and pay it off as soon as I get home, so I can earn cash back.  We are trying to pay down that card right now, since it is one of the ones we ran up during the move, so I might use my debit card for gas purchases until we get that taken care of.  We’ll see.  Shane gets nervous about me using a card while we are trying to pay it off, but I keep explaining that, if I make an online payment equal to what I spent as soon as I get home, it’s just like using cash ~ except that I get to earn cash back.  Of course, I still have to remember to make the regular monthly payment, too, which I do.  Anyway, the way the cash spending plan works is that, at the end of each week, if I have any bills left over, they go in the jar with the coins.  At the end of the week, I will post an update, letting everyone know how much we have in our little jar.  That’s our “mad money.”  We can use it for little things that pop up (like the ice cream truck), or we can save it for a bigger treat (like a trip to san Francisco, or a new hammock).  

So far, this week (our financial week starts on Saturday, since that’s when the paycheck hits the bank), I have spent $4.98 on pasta, croissants and a couple of other things at fresh & easy.  Speaking of fresh & easy, I am keeping an eye on their “friends” deals, accumulating points to convert to cash on my card and checking their daily clearance items.  A couple of days ago, I scored a head of cauliflower for a dollar, my favourite chipotle salsa for $1.20, a bag of cubed butternut squash for $1.20 ~ and those croissants I bought yesterday were in a package of 4 for 75¢.  Items are usually placed in the clearance section on or very near their “sell by” date, so make sure you check that date, and that you buy stuff you will use right away.  Most grocery stores have a section like this somewhere (usually tucked away, where it might be hard to find).  Remember that bakery items can be frozen, so you can buy three packages of mini-muffins and not have to eat them all at once.  Just seal them up in freezer bags to keep them fresh, and be careful not to let them get all crushed in freezer.  I also recommend that, when using your store’s rewards program, you be careful not to get all starry eyed and go for all of the special deals, even if they aren’t things you would normally buy.  Each Friday, fresh & easy offers a “give-away” product.  This past Friday it was “buy a 6-pack of (a certain brand of) beer, get a frozen pizza for 1¢.”  Now, I don’t usually buy frozen pizza, but Hsane and the kids like it, and it is an easy thing for one of them to pop in the oven for a quick meal or after school snack; and, since we do drink beer, and are willing to try unfamiliar brands, I jumped at that deal.  On the other hand, if the deal is “buy this product you would never use and get this other product you would never use free,” I will skip it.  

Shane and I are trying to decide whether or not to buy a new sofa right now.  The one we have has been falling apart since the day we got it (springs keep breaking), but we didn’t keep the receipt, and, after many attempts to get the company to give us some kind of compensation, we have finally given up.  we need a new sofa, and we have had our eye on a particular one…which I recently found on a very good sale.  Nevertheless, it is a major purchase, and we always struggle with those.  About a year ago, I missed a similar deal on this very sofa (or one very like it), and we agreed then that, if the opportunity arose again, we would have to leap at it.  The fact is, we must have a sofa that doesn’t fall apart all the time.  We will have to buy one, so it seems silly to wait until later and buy it for full price, rather than buying it now for about half price.  But…ugh…I HATE spending money!  

Oh, and in other news, I am trying REALLY hard to completely avoid Starbucks.  Those who know me well will know what a struggle this is.  But, seriously, $5 for a cup of coffee?  That’s kind of crazy, when you’re trying to save money.  I am going to try to make it through the end of September without slipping up on this one.  If you see me out on the street, veering toward a Starbucks, please gently (or strongly…whatever works) redirect me.  I used to stop at Starbucks at least 4 times/week.  How crazy is that?   Now, I am there less than once a week, but even that is $15-20/month ~ and, if a kid happens to be with me, I will of course treat her, too.  It adds up quickly.  Besides, we make better coffee, cakes and sandwiches at home.  

hmm…well, I guess that’s it for now.  Just trying to get ourselves back on track after buying a whole entire house.  It’s a challenge, but I think we’re up to it.  

Oh, and, if you decide to take the cash-only spending challenge, please keep track and let us know in comments (here, or on our end-of-the-week update) how it works out for you.

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