Finances Pre-Kids

We started off the weekend by going over several “money honey” items. We discussed our budget for Denmark and we’re on track for saving another $4k for the trip, although we hope not to spend that much! Despite our ability to save for the trip, Hubby was still aghast at our credit card bills. But after I showed him that almost all our regular bills are on the miles card now, and how they are paid off monthly, he stopped panicking a bit. I also paid a couple of health related bills, and per our  family goal we compared our health care plans. We decided will be opting to go on my plan come the new FY, since the deductible is less and we can get more preventive and naturopathic care.

Over the weekend I also did some much needed filing and I happened upon a notebook where we tracked our expenses when we first moved in together back in July 2000.  It’s hard to believe now, but we literally used less than a half page to track our monthly budget!

We were both insistent on splitting our expenses 50/50. So we tracked our receipts with initials next to who paid and noted who had paid more, which was then rolled over the credit/deficit to the next month’s expenses.

In our first month, we went to the grocery store four times for a total of $154.85. Our phone bill was $46.43. Insurance $38.00. Car oil $4.95. We each paid $122 for everything! In subsequent months our expenses increased slightly: $13.79 newspaper, $36 electricity, $50 for new sheets, $151 car fixed. Our most expensive grocery trip was for $103.85 in December, and I’m certain that it was for hosting our very first julefrokostThe funniest was a note for $2.69 for pancake mix!

Our rent was $900, and we had a sweet converted garage right on Ladd’s Circle: one bay for our bed/bath, two bays for dining/living. It was very cozy, but we loved it. One bonus was that it was so small we didn’t need to buy much furniture, we had a card table and folding chairs. Most of our household supplies were bought at garage sales. I bought a futon once I managed to save up the $600 – we still have it on our back porch with a recovered outdoor cover.

We didn’t go dutch for meals though, and we alternated who would treat and they got to choose the location (or at least the price range 😉 This worked well for us. Notably, we also split cooking/cleaning duties 50/50, and whoever cooked got off from dishes and vice versa. This only really lasted for the first year though…now I do more cooking and he does more cleaning. Thankfully there still is a balance, even though our finances are finally fully merged

Back when we were dating, we really were intentional about tracking our finances. Neither of us were making much, so it was truly important. But the bigger goal was that we wanted a relationship where we could communicate openly about our finances It is nice to know that we are back to talking about our finances/goals regularly. 

Our finances certainly aren’t as cheap these days. But this reflection does give me hope that we’ll continue to be successful setting financial goals and simply enjoying life together along the way.

What were your “family” finances like before kids?

Sustainable Family Finances  
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Groupon and Living Social Hiatus

I’ve raved before about the great deals I’ve found on Groupon and Living Social, but since the new year I’ve been taking an intentional hiatus from online deals.

Sometimes the bargains seemed too good to pass up, and I got caught up “saving” money…all the while spending too much!  Thankfully, I can truly say that the majority of the deals were at local places where we already enjoy going, and I think that we saved some money eating out. 

But Groupons/Living Social deals are tricky for budgeting because you spend the money sometimes long before you ever use the service.

Then there’s also the issue of expiration dates, which has been the biggest hassle for me. I find myself strategically planning our weekend around where we need to use a Groupon. It’s certainly not a stress I need in my life.

In full disclosure, I felt the need to tally/share all the Groupons I’ve bought in the past year. Like I suspected, the expense really does add up. It shows how easily a well meaning budget conscious person can spend a lot to save a little. 

Current Groupons:

  • $40 Soluna Grill – paid $20
  • $80 Fish Window Cleaning – paid $40
  • $25 Pistils Nursery – paid $10
  • $60 Pixie Project – paid $30
  • $25 Hash Restaurant – paid $12 –                                                  Subtotal=$112

Past year – used already:

  • $50 Nordstrom rack – paid $25
  • 3 Santa photos – paid $10
  • Pumpkin patch Oregon Maize – paid $7
  • $10 SuperDog – paid $5
  • $15 Pizza a go go – paid $7
  • $15 Habibi Lebanese – paid $7
  • $25 Ukiyoe Japanese Restaurant – paid $12
  • $15 x2 Elephant’s Delicatessen – paid $15
  • $8 x2 Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots – paid $8
  • $25 Concordia Ale House – paid $12
  • $13 Posies Cafe – paid $6
  • $10 Cafe Brioso – paid $5
  • $45 Strut Salon – paid $20
  • $35 x2 Chameleon Restaurant – paid $30
  • $15 x2 Bella Faccia – paid $14
  • $25 Pizza Fino – paid $12
  • $50 Spud – paid $25                                                                   Subtotal =$220

Living Social current unused:

  • $30 – Cup and Saucer – paid $15
  • $20 – Homebrew exchange – paid $10
  • $35 – One hour massage at Ruby Violet
  • $25 – Brow shape – paid $12.50                                                  Subtotal=$72.50

Already enjoyed:

  • Skamania Lodge – $169
  • Hot Stone massage at Written on the Body – $30                         Subtotal=$199

GRAND TOTAL=  $603.50

As you can see, it really adds up over the course of a year. I’m not planning to abandon these deals altogether. I just need to use more discipline. So I’ve developed a set of criteria for purchasing any online deals:
  1. Must be in our neighborhood or a favorite place of ours.
  2. Must have/make plans to use within the next month – not just by the expiration.
  3. Must truly save us money on something we would regularly buy.
  4. If in question, check with Hubby – he’ll almost always tell me not to buy it…unless it’s someplace he can’t resist either…

Lastly, while I’m little scared to sign up for it, the site Mind. Body. Green is supposed to be the new Groupon for Greenies…

Have you become addicted to Groupons?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Clear Choice

Monthly internet bills are one of those fixed expenses that we seemingly can’t live without these days…how else would you buy an Ecoist bag, watch the Story of Stuff, and give a micro-loan to a subsistence farmer from the comfort of your home? 

At our old house we were fortunate enough to have free internet for three years ( especially since I was working part-time as a grad student!) Comcast service cost around $50 at the time, and the same month we were moving there was a Willamette Week article about a group trying to provide free internet to Portlanders (through this new thing called wi-fi!). Serendipitously, one of the board members lived three houses away and provided free service the adjacent park from his rooftop. He graciously helped me set things up for the cost a $50 buck router, and we proceeded to get free internet for the next three years. I also gave them a $100 donation when I moved as a thank you for saving us over $1500! Check out the Personal Telco node map to see if you frequent any of their hot spots…there are plenty of parks in Portland with free wi-fi from them.

Alas, when we moved two years ago there weren’t any free hot spots in our neighborhood…still none. So we reluctantly set about buying monthly internet service. I wan’t to avoid Comcast if at all possible, mostly because they are focused on providing expensive cable packages, and that’s not really our thing.

Clear was just hitting the Portland market and had tons of advertising, so we decided to check them out. Thankfully have strong coverage in our neighborhood, and they’ll check with you right in the store to see if they cover your home. We opted for the mid-range speed at a cost of $34.99 a month. After two years of service, we’ve been really satisfied with Clear. The whole point is that you don’t want to think about where you’re getting internet service, because there are plenty of better things to do with your time online 😉

Notably…right now Clear has a deal for a free month and free set-up if you book service online!

On a side note…I think our kids will truly wonder why we couldn’t save the world quicker with the pace they’ll know by the time they are in charge 😉

Who provides your internet service? 
What’s your monthly cost?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Neti pot investment

I became “neti pot curious” a few years ago, when my Twin Sis’ friend was advised to use a neti pot for chronic sinus issues

What is Neti Pot? For those still wondering what this is, the basic explanation is that you fill with warm water with a pinch of salt, and then pour into one nostril and out the other side.  If you are stuffed up, it might take a moment to drain, but you will feel immediate relief!

Thankfully, I’ve never had really painful sinus issues, but I was perpetually plagued with an on/off snuffy nose during the winter, and allergies in the spring. I had learned to live with it, but it was an annoying nuisance. So, I took the plunge and bought a ceramic neti pot at New Season’s for about $10 (or available on Amazon) My sis has an enviable cute blue one, (it is prettier than the picture!).  I also know others who have found a cute small Asian tea pot, but it would have to be the right design.

I’m happy to say, that in the past two years, minus a couple flu bugs, I’ve been able to breath clearly all winter with regular use on my neti pot. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the small time investment always pays back. I swear employers should give out neti pots as part of health benefits 😉

Even after two years, Hubby doesn’t quite get the whole neti pot idea (oddly since lately he’s been battling a true sinus infection and refuses to try it!) For the most part I try to do it while he’s walking the dog or already in bed, but when he does “catch” dripping salt water out my nose, he can’t help but give me a funny sideways look. But I refuse to let his taunting get interfere with my health…I don’t care how funny I look!

I do plan on teaching the kids to use the neti pot once they are big enough, and hopefully it will help them stay healthy for more of the year and avoid some of the childhood bugs.

EnviroMom covered this topic a few years back, and the reader comments reminded me that I use my neti pot in the spring to clean out pollen and prevent allergies.

Before trying my neti pot, I wanted a demonstration. So, I found this fun video of a furry guy with ginormous nostrils. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure you won’t look as funny as this dude using your neti pot 🙂

PS The last ten seconds shows a non-family friendly example of what you “shouldn’t attempt at home!”

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.