They Joys of a No Spend Month!

I was inspired to try a no spend month by several different bloggers. The advice was to try a week before you jump to a month, but I am a frugal person so a week just seemed too easy. I got my husband to agree to a no spend month relatively easily since he love to save money more than I do! This 10 step plan laid out by CentisblyRich was my Bible. Give her some love and go read it from her, the expert on this whole No Spend Month idea! 

Hubbies first hang up was what about the bills?!?! Obviously, we paid all of the bills and necessary line items, BUT we didn’t buy anything else. To plan for this month, we sat down together and looked at the calendar. The idea of a no spend month is to save not to miss out. We had to plan for a bridal shower and my dad’s birthday. I planned to spend $20 on dad’s birthday, he never wants gifts so I got a little something and spent the day with him, and $30 for the bridal shower gift. I also wanted to make sure that we still ate healthy, so I set aside $10 a week for free vegetables and fruits, $40 total. The goal was to make that $90, so that it was truly a NO SPEND MONTH. We did have friends over to hang out when they asked if we wanted to go out. They loved the idea that it was a no spend month and totally supported us staying in and saving, and we still got to see them!

Making Cash From Junk

I recognize that all people might not have the stuff lying around that we did, but I’m guessing everyone could find some stuff to sell. We started in our storage areas upstairs in the barn, extra closets, and the laundry room. We scrounged up the following:

  • Bookshelf
  • fan – $15
  • microwave – $15
  • office chair – $15

We listed those items on Craigslist and sold the fan, microwave, and office chair. Our strategy is always to start high and bring the item down five to ten dollars each week it doesn’t sell, so these started out higher but didn’t sell.

On top of that we decided on two different Saturdays to drive around and pick up a few free things on Craigslist to sell. We scored the following:

  • Couch and Love Seat Set – $80
  • dog kennel – $35
  • end table – $20
  • desk

We sold the couch set, dog kennel, and end table, but I decided to paint the desk so we just listed that item, but I am hoping to make a great profit on the free desk!

Clearly, we made more money than we really needed to, and I’ll be honest, more than anything this was a fun challenge. I got the total bargain saver high each time we sold an item. Not only were we not spending, we were making money!!! The plan is to spend all extra profits on fun activities when we visit Hawaii over the summer!

If you weren’t keen on driving around picking up stuff, you could also look at your clothing. Places like ThreadUp and Plato’s closet will pay you for your gently used, stylish clothing!

Unusual Circumstances

There were a few things that made our no spend month crazy successful that I don’t anticipate experiencing in the future.

  1. My old Subaru Forester was having an engine misfire and the mechanic told me it was totaled. I had to tow it home because exploding was inevitable… We looked at junk yards who offered $350, but we put it on Craigslist (with disclaimers about its condition) and got $650. The guy who bought it was excited because he fixes things like that. He was going to drop in a new engine and sell it for major profit. Win for him and us!!!!
  2. My husband inherited some old tools from his dad which included suction cups for moving glass. Those retail at $80 each. We sold the pair for $80.

The Breakdown

We earned:

  • fan – $15
  • microwave – $15
  • office chair – $15
  • Couch and Love Seat Set – $80
  • dog kennel – $35
  • end table – $20
  • Suction cups $80
  • Subaru Forester $650

Total $910!

We will definitely do a No Spend month again!

Money Advice from an Expert (Not me)

We call him Dave

“Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge. What to do isn’t the problem; doing it is. Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it.”

Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

This is such a powerful statement. There are so many of us who feel that our real problem is not having enough money. My husband and I have found, though lots of effort, that knowing what to do and doing it, are, as Ramsey says, essential.

My husband is an avid Dave Ramsey follower; he listens to his podcast, and has read all of his books. When he comes home with new financial AHA’s, I usually ask if “Dave” talked about this on the radio. I like to call him Dave because it seems every other day he is the topic of our dinner conversation. He is almost the third member of my family. Good Ol’ Dave!

It is these powerful short bits of advice that make Dave a great motivator. I love this quote about just doing it because that is how my husband and I live. We are always on the move, always starting new projects, and always striving to improve our finances.

Especially this year as we transition from my teaching salary of $40,000 a year to my para hourly rate of $15.23, we have had to buckle down and look at what really matters. I have been teaching for four years, so paring down the budget was really difficult. We had gotten used to having a bit to play with, and now most of that fun money, “blow” money as Dave calls it, was no longer there.

We aren’t new to saving, but it has been a while. The year before we got married I paid off $10,000 of student loans on a $32,000 salary, before taxes. It was tough and we looked for free festivals and restaurant coupons all of the time, but it paid off! When we got married, the only debt between us was the mortgage on a house my husband owned!

It is my goal this year to chronicle some of the things we do to save money. I want to be more aware of the little things we DO that have helped us to stay on top of our finances.

Now, as I pay for graduate courses on my new hourly rate, it is time to save again. Saving was part of my motivation for canning as many grapes as I did! (See Am I Losing my Marbles…Grapes to learn how many pounds). This also impacted our decision to paint the barn ourselves. (See This is How We do it!). These things were all about DOING.

To save money you have to DO it. It is easy to say we will limit eating out, but then when work is over and you are tired it takes effort to hold to that. We set an exact budget, based on Dave’s suggestions, for how much we should spend in each area groceries, entertainment, eating out, etc. It helps that we sit down and talk about it together, so we can help each other be strong and save money!

We love DOING it! We DIY home projects, I cook most nights, and we talk about the budget all of the time! Thanks to Dave, we are DOING it, and loving life.

Capitalizing on Craigslist

How I Maximize Craigslist

Craigslist is one of my favorite tools for making a little extra money on the side. I know that it has its dangers, but if you are smart it can make lots of extra income. I capitalize on Craigslist by doing a few simple things.

 

  1. Don’t keep it secret.

 

I have had friends and family members pass off old items that they don’t need, they let me sell them. Sometimes they ask for a cut of the profit, and sometimes they just want it out of the house so they are happy that I will take it.

      2. Pickup free stuff on the road.

 

Yep its that simple. My husband and I have made some serious cash from selling things we found next to dumpsters or trash cans. If you don’t pay anything for it, its 100% profit folks! Just in case you were wondering, I don’t drive around searching for stuff we just make sure we stop if we notice something.

  1. Sell stuff instead of throwing it away, or donating it.

This may seem like a no brainer, but frequently people just want the furniture out of the way. If you don’t have space for your new and old couch, list the old one the week before you are getting your new one. That gives you time to find someone to take the old one and give you cash before the new one arrives.

Our 2016 Profits

Here is a breakdown of our Craigslist profit from this last year. We had lots of success, and only a few pieces left that never sold. I will admit that having a barn makes this process a lot easier. Without the barn I don’t know where we would put anything!

Things that others gave us for free to sell: TOTAL $630

  • Daybed with Trundle – $150
  • Dining Room Table with 6 Chairs – $400
  • Welder Platinum Home Gym – $60
  • Couch with two Recliners – $20

Found on the Side of the Road: TOTAL $50

  • Brown Chest of Drawers – $50

Stuff we would have donated, or we didn’t need anymore: Total $357

  • Metal CD shelves – $10
  • White Wicker Patio Set – $250
  • Outdoor Fireplace – $50
  • Panasonic Plasma TV (Broken) – $15
  • Metal Filing Cabinet (2) – $32

Grand Total from Craigslist 2016 (I’ll add if we sell anymore!) $1,037

The other thing that I plan to try in the future is buying things cheap at garage sales, and selling it for profit on Craigslist.

Also: I highly recommend meeting buyers in public places, and don’t go alone. My husband and I make sure that we don’t give anyone our address. We just load the items into our truck, and meet them at a store near our house. Be cautious, and smart!

Shopping with Rebates: Take 2

I downloaded Checkout 51 two weeks ago, and I see that it has benefits. Checkout 51 updates their rebates every Thursday. Their list of products is fairly diverse, but it isn’t extremely long. Check it out here https://www.checkout51.com/

In two weeks, I have made $5.30. I will admit that I don’t like to buy anything just because I have a coupon. If you are someone, who eats lots of prepared foods this might work better for you. There were several boxed foods that looked great, but I cook from scratch.

I have not found tons of items that I wanted, but what I did find was great. One awesome find was Bush’s Beans. These were on sale for $1 a can, and Checkout 51 gave me $1 for purchasing 2 cans of beans. That makes them 50 cents each, which is cheaper than the store brand beans! A great deal!

Overall, the app is easy to use:

  1. Star the items you are interested in.
  2. Check your starred list at the grocery store, and buy those starred items.
  3. Take a picture of your receipt with the app.
  4. Wait for them to put money in your account.

I will admit I have not made it to the pay out, but other reviews mention that it is easy. Checkout 51 sends you a check when you hit $20. Cash money! I don’t know about you, but even if it takes a few months to get there that is worth it. I will definitely update this as soon as I have received my first check.

Checkout my review of Ibotta if you want to use a grocery app. At this point, I would say it will make you more money. I have used it all the way to a cash out as well, so I can say with 100% confidence it works!

(You can also use this link to go right ahead and sign up for Ibotta. https://ibotta.com/r/bxmlicv My referral code is bxmlicv. I get $5 for every person I refer, so THANK YOU!)

Bargain Shopping at its BEST!

This is the COOLEST thing EVER! I love a good bargain and I had heard rumors about shopping apps that gave you money or gift cards for taking pictures of your receipt. After doing lots of research, I downloaded the two that had the most positive reviews, and rewards I was looking for. Checkout 51 and Ibotta. Check out my experience with Checkout 51 if you are into shopping with rebates.

I downloaded Ibotta, and I have been loving it! This app is awesome. They have coupons on everything from groceries to clothing. I have successfully made $20 since I downloaded it two weeks ago!

The basic steps are:

  1. Look through the offers, and select things you would buy from the store you are headed to. You may have to answer a question or watch a quick video to “Unlock” the rebate, but it still takes seconds.
  2. Buy the items and scan the barcodes. (Hint: Scan the item in the store, so you know that you got the correct thing and the rebate will work.)
  3. Take a picture of the receipt.
  4. Wait for the money!

Here is my first few weeks money back break down!

$10 sign up bonus because I had a code (You can use mine here to get your $10! https://ibotta.com/r/bxmlicv My referral code is bxmlicv. I get 5$ for every person I refer, so thank you!)

The rest was a mixture of groceries and liquor purchases.

$9 at Costco

  • $1.50 Bibigo dumplings
  • $2.50 Budweiser
  • $5.00 Crown Royal Whisky (This was awesome because it is cheaper at Costco!)

$2 at Any Liquor Store (This is nice because you can use any liquor store as long as they itemize receipts.)

  • $2 off Guinness 6 or 4 pack

$1.75 at King Soopers

  • $0.50 any brand orange juice
  • $0.50 any brand of bread
  • $0.25 any brand of tomatoes
  • $0.25 any brand bananas
  • $0.25 any brand of onions

$1 bonus because I bought Crown Royal and Guinness.

TOTAL $23.75 You can cash out as soon as you have $20!

They also give you 5$ for every person you refer, so thank you for using my code! Since I wrote this, I have given this to some family members who are also LOVING IT! https://ibotta.com/r/bxmlicv bxmlicv

There is tons of products on their list and some are generic like .50 cents back on eggs; one dozen, any variety, any brand! I get the eggs I like at .50 cents off!

There is also some things I tried that I would not have had it not been for this app. They have great snacks, and staple foods like Bush’s beans, which were cheaper than the store brand with the $1 off in the app!  

The liquor, in my opinion, is the best part! Liquor stores have sales, but there are never coupons. So far I have bought Crown Royal and Guinness with rebates! The Crown Royal is way cheaper at Costco already, so it was a great deal!

I have also already cashed out my first 20$. It was really easy. I chose an AMAZON gift card, and they sent me the gift card electronically. I copied the code from the gift card into my amazon shopping cart, and got 20$ free!

I plan to use this for Christmas money!!!

WARNING! The only issue I have run into was one liquor store did not itemize receipts. Even though you scan the product and then take a picture of the receipt. Unless it says the product name, they won’t accept it.

Otherwise, happy shopping. This app is AMAZING!

Checkout my review of Checkout 51 to double up on your app rebates.

Nuts

Every time I visit Missouri I am amazed at how green it is. There is beautiful vegetation everywhere. It seems like gardening would be so much easier there! Living here in Colorado I am always battling dryness. I was so excited when I went to Missouri last week because it is nutting season. There were black walnuts in abundance!

I was so excited to be able to take advantage of this delicious treat! These things stain like crazy, and my relatives all warned me not to get the liquid on my clothes or it would never come out. My grandpa, mom and husband helped me collect several grocery bags full, and I flew home with them.

I did lots of research on methods for tackling these tough nuts. 🙂 The hull, the green fruit and black goo around the nut, has to be removed and it is really tough. Some websites suggested smashing the hull with your boots, but I stumbled across something that sounded more fun. DRIVING OVER THEM! I placed them on the edge of our barn driveway, and drove back and forth. Remember they stain, so I had to place them somewhere that was less noticeable.

Once I had driven over them, I peeled off the hull with big rubber gloves. It was actually relatively easy.

The tough, time-consuming part was using a steel brush to get the black goo off of the nuts. I put them all in the sink so that I could run water over them to wash away the goo as I scraped. It took 2-3 minutes per nut… Yep that is a lot! I did look, and this nut meat processed costs around $15 a pound, so its worth it! More than that though, it was so fun! It was a great way to bring in fall!

The nuts have to dry for 6-7 days, so I haven’t cracked any yet. I’m excited though because in reading I have learned that they are too strong to crack with a nutcracker. You have to wrap a towel around the nut and hit it with a hammer! Should be a fun evening activity!

Budget Getaway

Saving Money While Living Life

In everything I do I try to save money. Last weekend my husband and I spent two nights up in Grand Lake. There are several great restaurants in the area, and there are lots of activities you can pay for. My husband and I managed to pay only for our two nights at a home on a lake, and one meal out.

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Before we left I had quite a bit of prep to do, but it was all in the name of saving money. The biggest thing I had to prep was food. I really wanted to eat well, but it wasn’t in the budget to eat out more than once. I also don’t really want to cook on vacation. I would rather double up on cooking during the week.

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Here is all of the stuff we brought. It takes more bags to bring your food, but the savings is worth it!

Vacation Eats on a Budget

Friday

Dinner – Sandwiches on the road. Yep, that is it. Turkey sandwiches, and chips. Not too exciting, but when heading up into the mountains from Denver on a Friday traffic gets crazy! Even stopping for fast food can mean the difference of a few minutes which puts you on the highway with everyone getting off of work.

Saturday

Breakfastimg_0968 Thursday night before I made dinner I made quiche and put it in the oven. I followed this recipe for a crustless quiche, by http://mercyisnew.com/. The only thing I did slightly differently was cook it for 30 minutes at my house. I waited for it to cool, and covered it with foil. I then was able to heat it at the cabin. NO COOKING! I heated it with foil for 15 minutes, and took it off and heated it for an additional 15. This made it hot all of the way through. (If you were at a lower altitude, this amount of time might be too much.)

Lunch – We ate out at the Sagebrush. I love eating out for lunch. It is cheaper, and usually the portions are about the same. We were able to order the lunch special which was a pork sandwich with coleslaw, and an order of chili fries that could have fed an army. We split these items, and the bill including the tip was $22! A great deal for a delicious meal out.

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Dinner – I made lasagna on Wednesday before my husband and I left. I made a full batch, but put it in my glass 8×8 to eat that night, and a disposable aluminum 8×8 to take with us. I again cooked it most of the way at home, and just finished baking it when we got there. Any recipe or frozen lasagna would work!

Sunday

img_0970Breakfast – We heated the quiche one more time because we had a few pieces left. We finished that and had homemade cinnamon rolls that a friend made for us. Those were great, and you could bring the store bought tube too. So easy! We put the cinnamon rolls down on aluminum so that we didn’t have to clean a pan too. Cooking on vacation is all about doing as little as possible!!!

Free Activities are the Best

We also saved on our vacation activities. My favorite thing to do before visiting a new place, or even visiting an old favorite again, is to google free things to do! Some towns will even have a page or site dedicated to free activities.

This is pretty easy in Colorado because hiking is one of the most popular mountain activities. We were right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, so there were gorgeous hiking trails everywhere!

I do recommend paying for parks when you are near them because they are beautiful and should be supported. However, we have hiked in RMNP many times both being Colorado natives. We decided to save money and hiked a trail just outside the park where you usually see moose. No moose this time, but the trees were changing, and the colors were gorgeous.

We finished our hike by 11 and headed to the Grand Lake visitor center. I always hit these for the coupons and tips from locals! We were lucky we stopped because we learned about a hike to a waterfall, and a parade that was going to happen at 11:30.

When we parked the car, we saw a moose and her baby on main street! I guess we didn’t need to hike to see them! We then found a good curb to enjoy the parade from. Small town events like parades are always fun because you get to see the character of the town. The parade was to celebrate Constitution week, so there were lots of veterans in uniform. It was very cool!

We headed to lunch at the Sagebrush from the parade, and walked around the town a bit. We don’t usually buy anything in those mountain shops, as they frequently are tourist knick knacks that end up lost in drawers or artwork well outside of our budget. It is still fun to look though!

Once we had our fill of town we headed to Adam’s falls, a hike recommended at the visitor center. The hike is only .3 miles to the falls, so it was packed with tourists. The falls are beautiful and were well worth it though. We decided to hike an hour further which was fun, and still held gorgeous views with far less people.

We were back at the cabin around 4:30, so we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the afternoon. I put the lasagna in around 5, and we enjoyed a fire while it cooked.

We watched a movie until 8, and were able to pop into town for fireworks. What a spectacle! For a small town, they really know what they are doing.

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We did so many things, and spent so little money. I feel like we really got a feel for Grand Lake and only bought one meal!