Archive for the ‘finances’ Category

1) Cutting Back on Wal-mart. While there are great savings to be had at Wal-mart, there is also a great potential for abusing your wallet.  We used to visit Wal-mart three or more times a week, and it seemed like every time we visited Wally Mart my wallet vomited money (not a pretty picture..but just be glad I didn’t go with the diarrhea analogy).    So many cheap things that only cost $1 here or $3 dollars there, add it all up and it amounted to spending anywhere from $45 to $225 per trip.   Between implementing shopping lists and recognizing that I am the impulsive buyer in the family (and taking steps to address that weakness) we have significantly lowered what we spend at Wal-mart each month.

  • Previous Spending = $600
  • New Spending = $275
  • Savings = $325 ($3900 annual savings)

2) Cutting the Cable Cord.  Between and Netflix, there is no reason to hang on to cable anymore.

  • Previous Spending – $26
  • New Spending = $0
  • Savings = $26 ($312 annual savings)

3) Eating IN.  We were spending so much money on eating out it was ridiculous.  Even the local pizza place cost $22 for three people to eat a large pizza, three sodas, and a small side of garlic knots.  Some months our dining out habit cost us $200/month.  But usually we spend about $125 between local pizza places, McDonald’s, etc.

  • Previous Spending = $125
  • New Spending = $20
  • Savings = $105 ($1260 annual savings)

4) No More Phone Bills.  Well we do get phone bills, but we cut our long distance service on our land line and we only use MagicJack for long distance calls.

  • Previous Spending = $49
  • New Spending = $21
  • Savings = $28 ($336 annual savings)

5) Staying at the Pump. One of the biggest surprises in reviewing our spending habits was discovering how much money we wasted at gas station convenience stores.   Buying a pack a soda and a small package of beef jerky might only cost $3.50 each time, but added up over a month it totals about $30.   So pay by credit card, stay at the pump, pack your travel snacks- and store a few non-perishable extras in the glove compartment for when you forget to pack a snack one day.

  • Previous Spending = $30
  • New Spending = $0
  • Savings = $30 ($360 annual savings)

…The Results…

  • Wal-mart   $325
  • TV                 $  26
  • Eating In    $105
  • Phone         $28
  • Convenience Store Spending  $30
  • TOTAL SAVINGS/MONTH = $514 ($6,168 annual savings)

Some of these budget cuts won’t work for you, and that is fine.  We each have different spending habits and our budgets hemorrhage cash depending on our own impulses, weaknesses, tastes, etc.   When you review you spending habits (write down EVERYTHING you spend even a penny on for a month and review your bank statements from the past) you will see the areas where you’re spending beyond your means or wasting funds.  It’s not as hard as you might think and making these changes isn’t all that painful either.  Please feel free to post additional ideas on cutting budget or your own success stories when it comes to budget cutting in the comments section.

    So here comes a new year.  So many chances to embrace constructive change.  If only I had more control over some of the things I wanted to change, like, I resolve not to catch either a cold or the flu this year.  But those type of things aside I’ve embraced the following resolutions:

    We will maintain budgetary discipline.  How?

    • We will use cash only to make purchases.
    • We will leave our debit cards in the car wherever we go. (accessible for emergencies but inaccessible for impulse buys)
    • Only one dinner out per month.
    • Make and live by a budget.
    • Allison will be in charge of meal planning and grocery shopping (we found that too many chefs in the store led to too much waste in the refrigerator).

    I will reestablish physical and nutritional discipline.  How?

    • Back to a high protein, low carb lifestyle.
    • Make my high water intake more consistent.
    • Get back to my tires and sandbag.
    • Get on Freecycle and find more outdoor equipment (I am thinking of an old barbell and some old weight plates).
    • Aside from Jan. 1st, I will cut back on sleeping in and late bed times.  Not to mention 7 hours of sleep a night.
    • Be more consistent with recording my nutritional intake and exercise.  I am much better at journaling workouts than I am nutrition.  Could be because writing down reps is a good way to get rest between sets, I usually don’t have to rest between bites- if I did that would mean I was disturbingly out of shape.

    Goals to achieve by December 31st, 2010

    • Publish article
    • Get 1/2 way through my dissertation
    • 100 consecutive push-ups/sit-ups
    • 55lb Turkish get-up (@10 reps)/50 burpees/12 chin-ups (or 1 one-arm chin-up)
    • Design or build at least 3 new workout toys in the backyard (Keg full of sand is my next project plus replacing my broken slosh bar)
    • Weigh in at between 159 and 165lbs
    • 31 inch waist or less
    • Lower cholesterol
    • Run a 6 minute mile
    • Not essential, but it would be nice: rediscover my six-pack mid-section.

    How about you?

    Sitting around the house gives you lots of time to think about things that otherwise would not cross your mind.  As I lay in bed this morning, tolerating the miserable coughing fits associated with this cold, I started reviewing our budget in my head.  On of the first things that jumped out at me is how much we spend on Cable T.V. each year.  Even our special no frills package from Time Warner costs $29.95 a month- $360 a year.  At first I considered getting something less expensive like Dish Network’s $19.99/month plan, but I was not too thrilled about the idea of being locked into yet another contract.  But even more troubling was when I reviewed our T.V. viewing habits for the last year or so.   Sure, we use our t.v. to watch the regular stuff most people do (Sponge Bob, House M.D., Lost), but as of late the only real use we’ve been getting out of it is the cartoons our daughter watches- and she has most of those on DVD.    Just in case you were curious (and b/c break has left me with too much free time on my hands) I created this nifty 3-D pie chart:

    See what I mean?  So it would be pretty foolish not to cut this from my budget.  Between Netflix and Hulu we can watch most things either through mail order rentals or direct play online.  We could also use 10-20% of the money saved to buy DVDs for our daughter- something permanent she can watch.  And lucky for us she isn’t picky with t.v. shows on DVD.  Her latest favorite is a show called Mona the Vampire which apparently is produced by and shown on Canadian Public Television.  DVDs of the show often end up in Walmart’s $5 DVD bin.   So even with $60 spent on DVDs we would save $300/year.

    Now if only we could get this foster to adoption process going I could get rid of the overpriced land line phone and use Magic Jack as our sole line we will save even more.   But until the adoption is finalized the foster care system requires you MUST have a land line phone.

    Although most of the big ticket items of the adoption process are being paid for by L.F.S. and grants from the state, we are still facing a significant amount of costs for various and sundry things ranging from a fire inspection to medical exams. After you read through this list, I ask that you please add the prayer requests (listed at the conclusion of this post) to your prayers for the next several days. (more…)

    For your enjoyment and benefit, the following is a brief reference guide to help you learn the importance of avoiding debt, how to save (regardless of your income), and and how to save painlessly (and for the masochists- painfully).  (more…)

    Well, what are my blogging plans for the next month or so (at least the highlights)…

    First, I will be writing three posts for  [Click on the link now and see a video a guy bending a wrench].  Most likely the posts will be entitled:

    “Eliminating the Lug Nuts: How to Find a Good Trainer.”

    “The Power of the Negative.”

    “Visualization: No Longer just for New Age Hippies.”

    Much to my wife’s chagrin over at Musings, Rants, and Monologues I will be posting on my recent quest to build the perfect minority.  Trust me, it will be both offensive, sophomoric, and politically incorrect to the 1,000 degree.

    And right here on this, my main blog, I will be posting on my recent struggles with food, our upcoming travels, getting a handle on credit card debt (our experience), and the kind of things you do to start a mental transformation that can keep pace with your physical transformation.  See you later!

    I’ve written about our family’s dream several times on here before.  For those of you who need to catch up, check out the links below.

    A Farm of Our Own

    Setting Our Goals

    Also Scroll down to the bottom to see a Brief Summary.

    Caught up?   Good.  So here is the idea.   Anyone who can afford to share a little just drops a bit in the donate button below.  Who should do this?  If you have some spare change laying around in your PayPal account (or in that jacket you haven’t worn for months) you would be a good candidate. It is all up to you.

    You see, I am very curious what could happen if the hundreds (possibly thousands) who have visited this sight over 52,000 times donated a dollar or two towards a fund to help us achieve this dream.  What do you think?  Maybe we could have a good part of our down payment ready to go.

    So you ask, what’s to keep me from blowing all the money on booze and comics?  Well, just my word.  I would hope that after almost ten months and tons of embarassing pictures, you guys would know how much a share without reservation.  If anything I am TOO truthful.

    If you don’t want to donate, no hard feelings.  Well, maybe a few.  But for those who do, thanks.  Let me know if this whole PayPal things works, I’ve never used it before.


    Warning: This donation is NOT tax deductible. 

    What will we be doing with the money?

    1. Down payment on a piece of land- small to medium acreage (30-60 acres).  We are still locating the right piece of property and we are waiting to see where I end up in two to three years with my Ph.D.

    2. Run a small scale animal rescue (dogs/horses).

    3. Combine the animal rescue with a program for at-risk youth.  We are still learning lots about this, and it is very interesting stuff. Click here to read about one such pet training program currently employed in prisons.

    4. Run a fully operational ranch and/or farm (depends on the land) where we can sell a portion of our agricultural returns and donate the rest to local individuals in need as well as local charities.  Some ideas we have include orchards, crops, milk, and eggs.  There is a big learning curve on all this stuff and I spend much of my limited free time reviewing books on these subjects.

    5)  Care to make any suggestions to fill this space?  Anything I missed?  Drop a note in the comments section.

    God bless you whatever you give- including those of you who give nothing.

    BTW, for those of you skittish about PayPal, you can email me and drop a few small bills or a check in the mail.

    As we near out first pay check in over two months (times have been tough but God provided) we are set to implement some money saving procedures and a much improved budget.   What have we done?  Well I will share with you three tips today to shrink your expenses and saved lots of money

    First, perhaps the biggest change for us, we are limiting our grocery/all things Wal-Mart budget (excluding dog food) to $250 per month.  We are going to enforce this budget limit by taking out $250 cash at the beginning of the month and placing said cash in an envelope to be used each time we shop.  When the money runs out, no more groceries.  As an incentive to save more, 50% of the money left over at the end of the month can be used for ANYTHING we want.

    Estimated Savings: $200-400/month

    Second, we are going automatic.  We are signing up as many bills as possible for automatic bill pay.  We have been paying anywhere from $5 to $25 dollars in late fees each month.  The main offender is our water bill.  It is the only bill that comes without a return envelope and is therefore easy to forget about.  To make matters worse the local water department are known in our house as the water Nazi’s- if you are two weeks late with your bill they shut off the water and charge $20 bucks (plus late fee) to reconnect.  As if they weren’t selling the most abundant resource that only cost about $30 a month, and we were somehow going to run off without paying that hefty $35 dollar water bill….geesh.

    Estimated Savings: $5-$25 dollars

    Third, we will be paying down our lowest balance credit card in a month or two and using that card for gasoline- NOTHING else!  Well okay, emergencies, but only real emergencies.  The card will be paid off before the end of each month.  It will help us budget our gas money and allow for quick and easy gas purchases.  Tried buying gas without a credit card lately?  It isn’t fun.

    Estimated Savings$10-$25/month on interest

    OVERALL estimated servings:  $215-$450 dollars

    As I have a very full day before me- mostly involving me, my wife, my daughter and various forms of gymnastics- I will leave you with this short post.  Take time and enjoy these top ten posts.

    How Many Push-Ups Does it Take to get to the Center of an Awesome Body?

    I wrote this post in May, and ever since it has been one of my most viewed posts on a daily basis.  I thought it was a throw-away post at the time, guess I was wrong.

    Stop the Bleeding

    Need some inspiration to escape credit card debt? Start here.

    Also see Starting Your Total Financial Transformation.

    A Question for Christians- Is the World Comfortable with You?

    What’s your answer?

    Training for Ninja Warrior

    Yup, I really am.

    My Unconventional Workout Tools

    I can’t forget the boys that brung me, eh?  My wonderful and wacky workout tools.

    How to Break Pateaus.

    A few suggestions to help make all that hard work productive.

    Living the Deliberate Life

    A somewhat complete guide to beginning to live a thoughtful and purposeful life.

    Also see this rough outline.  I will get around to finish this sooner or later.  Promise.

    My Most Recent Before and After Pictures 

    The proof is in the pudding..I mean…the pictures.  But Pudding does sound good right about now.

    A Fireside Chat with the Adversary

    He is actually quite amiable in person.  A little too amiable.


    Wonder why everyone loves this post?  I just can’t figure it out.

    I would have posted earlier, but my wife didn’t want me to blog about these blessings until we watched them play out a bit more.  However, I can’t contain my joy any longer and after spilling the beans to Neil over at 4Simpsons a week ago, I am going to share God’s gracious actions in our life with all of you.

    As all of you who read this blog know, my wife and I have decided to pursue adoption.   Our choice (and our agreement) resulted from a rather miraculous experience- and I don’t mean simply the miracle of getting your wife to agree with you (you know what I mean husbands).