Learning how to live off what you can afford is part of growing up!

Today was hubby's day off from the cell phone store and I decided to help him gather up and take out the trash since he now has to take over my chore of cleaning out the kitty litter box (cuz I'm preggers and there's something in cat urine/feces that is horrible for pregnant women and babies to be exposed to).

http://almightydad.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/throwing-away-money1.bmpAnyways, I had bought some bananas and strawberries when we went grocery shopping a little over a week ago as I had read that banana strawberry shakes and smoothies are great for pregnant women and I found a simple recipe online for it and thought I'd give it a try. Well... I made one and it didn't taste too great. I like fruit flavored drinks but when it comes to straight up eating fruit, I've never really been a fan of most types, strawberries being one of them (I hate the texture) and bananas it really depends on my mood. Since the smoothies tasted gross I had no desire to make anymore (at least not with the receipe and all the others called for ingredients we didn't have) and of course I didn't eat the fruit for the previously mentioned reasons.

Cleaning out the bad, spoiled food out of the fridge while hubby took care of the litter box it was quite clear that the bananas had gone bad, as they were completely brown, and while some of the strawberries had shriveled up, there were others I was unsure of so I asked hubby what he thought.

He said they were all bad and wasn't too happy, grumbling about how I wasted money on food I didn't eat (I did point out that I know he eats strawberries so it's not like he couldn't have helped himself to them).

http://api.ning.com/files/G4pCztZsSY9bLt-kDupAv-8S1LK6vIz*9xuYLXH4Tk*LdzRMLr*Yw33c5VjwSS0VCuYOK9c1JmfZzGoVijVWpqmthv9GaFLt/20sb_member.pngThat got me thinking briefly about our spending and the 20sb.net Blogger Carnival, in which this time around it is being sponsored by Charles Schwab and the topic is "Friends and Money."

I went to the Schawb MoneyWise site and took their Financially Fit quiz - I scored a 52 which was average, but I don't know... I think we do pretty well, all things considered.

To be honest, I've never been one to keep to a strict budget - I write out what I need to pay each month and when and don't really pay attention to where the rest of the money goes.

Yes, this is bad, but hubby is almost anal when it comes to making budgets and sticking to them, so I guess his anal-ness about budgeting balances out my spending as it makes me more conscious about what I spend out of our joint account. Especially now that my hours at my job got cut in half and I'm only bringing in $500/mo.

We have our joint account where all our bills come out of, as well as food and entertainment. Then we each have our own sort of "allowance" if you will - I take $50 out of my paycheck and put it into my personal account which covers gas and lunch for myself and the rest I can save. When I was doing Mary Kay, I also used this account for that and I pay off the MK Visa I opened for my inventory out of this account as well. Hubby was donating plasma twice weekly and was using that $50/wk as his "allowance" to pay for gas, food and anything else he wanted to save up for, but since he hasn't done that lately, he takes a certain amount out of his dayjob paycheck. He also puts a certain amount of each check into our savings account too.

We've never really had a whole lot of debt - we each have a car loan, I have Mac loan still and my MK Visa which will be paid off very soon. We also pay our cable/internet bill, electric bill, rent, cell phones, Netflix, WoW accounts (when we subscribe), cat food, groceries, car insurance and health insurance (which automatically gets deducted from hubby's paycheck, as it's part of his UPS benefits).

When it comes to spending the rest of our money we try to be thrifty.

  • When we decided to get Droids, rather than pay the $199 after rebate or whatever despite hubby and bros working for Verizon, we decided to go to Best Buy and get them for around $100 each (which we saved up for). 
  • When hubby needs work pants/shirts/shoes or ties we tend to visit Walmart first. 
  • When I go clothes shopping or need shoes, I tend to shop at places like Kohl's, Target, Walmart, Old Navy and Gordman's where you can really stretch your money as they always have great sales on stuff and I use coupons when I can. 
  • We buy almost everything we can on sale
  • We may eat out quite a bit on the weekends, but we're smart about it - occasionally we go to places that have 2 for $20 deals (Chili's and Applebees) or sit down places that offer entrees for under $10 (TGI Fridays, Lino's, Gerry's and Denny's where hubby gets a UPS discount!); the rest of the time we go to fast food like Taco Bell, Sonic or Wendy's where we can both eat for around $10 or less. When we get pizza, it tends to be a $5 large pizza from Little Caesar's or we use coupons for Pizza Hut or Domino's (just the other day we got 2 large pizzas for $6 each!)
  • Ever since I stopped working at a movie theater and no longer get free movies, we've made a point that when we go to the theater we rarely pay full price for a ticket - when our local theater chain was Kerasotes, we usually waited til a movie was on the $5 Buck Club and now that it's AMC, we take full advantage of the $5 Weekday pass where all movies are $5 Monday-Thursday.
  • In college, I quickly learned it was much cheaper to buy whatever I wanted to drink from the liquor store and take it home than go out to the bars, sometimes pay a $5 cover and spend $3+ on a watered down drink. I think this is largely in part why I never got into going out to the bars.
  • I take full advantage of online activities where you get rewarded - I've taken enough market research surveys to where I can get $30 in Borders rewards credit or a $25 Gamestop giftcard; I've earned so many Amazon giftcards from my VH1 focus group that I was able to save them up and get us a Wii console set, an extra Wiimote, several games and accessories as well as exercise equipment, movies and books;  I cashed in the points I earned on my personal checking account for $70 in Best Buy giftcards.
  • When we have this baby in February, despite originally planning on just using formula (my mom didn't breastfeed me or my sister and my aunt didn't with my cousin), I'm actually starting to consider maybe pumping breastmilk instead, so we can save on the cost of formula. Also, we've been lucky enough to have my parents offer us the crib my sister and I used and a friend of hubby's has even offered one of their carseats to us - 2 less "bigger" baby items to spend money on! A good friend of mine who had their 2nd child was telling me about all the deals she got at the local Sharestuff stores and I'm planning on checking it out for clothes and other stuff once we know what we're having!

Growing up, my dad made good money working for Dean Foods. And while they could afford to send me and my sister to private school and afford the name brand clothing when I went through that phase in junior high and buy us a car for our 16th birthdays, we lived in a basic middle class neighborhood and while my parents weren't cheap, they were all for saving on the cost of things and buying things on sale. To be honest, a lot of people that know me had no clue to the kind of money my dad was making back then as my parents didn't flaunt it and spend it on luxuries that weren't needed - instead they saved what we didn't spend and even invested some and also made regular donations.  

Even when my dad got cut from Deans in their merger with Suisa Foods, we had his severance for a good year or so and after that and in the years to follow until he recently found a job that stuck we were still doing okay and there was very little change to our lifestyle because my parents had money in savings to help us out when my dad was inbetween jobs.

From the time I was little until I got a job I always got a weekly allowance if I was good and did all my chores that week - it started out when I was maybe 4 or 5 and increased $1 each year; by the time I got a job I think I was getting at least $10 a week. Starting in 6th grade, I also started mowing our next door neighbor's yard, and occasionally the yard on the other side of that one and made some from that. This combined with my allowance taught me about saving. I remember spending a good portion of that first summer (1996) saving up for a portable CD player. When I had enough for it, dad took me to Best Buy and not only was the one I wanted on sale (around $100), but it came with a travel pack of accessories and I think I had enough left over to buy a new CD too. This is the first thing I really remember working and saving up towards.

When it was time to go off to college, I didn't have to worry about student loans because from the time I was little my parents started saving up a college fund for me so there would be money to cover it - they didn't want me to graduate with a ton of debt right out of college. My college fund covered my tuition, room & board and textbooks/supplies so when I lived in the dorms the only things I needed to spend my own money on were entertainment, food outside the dining hall and anything else I might want (ie: clothes, shoes, CDs, movies...). I worked part-time as a page designer at my school's student newspaper and while it was minimum wage, it was enough for all that extra stuff.

Near the end of my sophomore year (Spring 2004) I was finishing up my basic art requirements for my Vis Com major and several of the other students were talking about getting their own Mac Powerbooks for the next semester, as with our Vis Com classes starting in the fall, it would be much more convienent to just be able to take a laptop to class and work on our projects that way then have to trek across campus outside class to work on them. It made sense and I looked into getting one myself - all the serious Vis Com students I knew had one of their own. They were a bit pricey, even with the student discount (roughly $2000!) but they did offer an Apple Loan for students. I called my mom, as it said I needed a co-signer (I had no previous credit) and she agreed to it, as the minimum payment was like $20 and I could easily cover that, plus it would help me build credit. Well, I learned the hard way that paying just the minimum balance is not good as you get nowhere thanks to interest rates! Up until about 2 years ago or so I hadn't made much headway, but I made it a point to pay at least $50 a month if not more when I could and I'll finally have this thing paid off in about a year or so if not sooner!

For Fall 2006, I ended up taking the semester off - I got sick for a good week or 2 at the beginning of the semester and missed those weeks of class and while it would have been excused, taking mostly studio classes all but 1 of my instructors said I was too far behind to be able to pass their class. I looked into it and if I dropped out by a certain date I could get a certain percentage of my tuition back, so rather than spend a full semester's tuition for just 1 class, I dropped them all and got that percentage back. My parents were too thrilled but since I only had a few semesters left, they told me I had to go back the next semester. Also, since I wasn't in school I was going to have to pay my own rent, food and utilities during this semester off (I was living in an apartment with 2 roommates by this point) since the college fund wasn't going to be able to cover that and an extra semester of school. This prompted me to talk to my boss, explain the situation, and get my hours increased. I spent a good 4-5 days a week working and it was actually pretty nice not having to worry about a job and school at the same time! By the time I went back the next semester, I was promoted to management at the theater and although I could have asked my parents to have the college fund cover my rent and stuff again, I continued to pay it on my own - it made me feel more grown up and independent.

Around this time, I also got my own cell phone plan. I had been on my parent's plan since I was 16 but their contract had recently expired and they were shopping around where they wanted to go, as US Cellular was a bit expensive when it came to nationwide coverage. Keeping with my "grown up independence" streak, I saw a deal for T-Mobile with a phone I really liked so I went for it (I ended up switching to Verizon a year later when my contract was up cuz T-Mobile's coverage sucks outside major cities).

http://afrocityblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/falling2-money.jpgIn the months after I graduated college, the only financial ties I still had to my parents were my car and health insurance. I was working nearly 40 hours a week, making about $10/hr and got nearly $1000 in my tax refund. After sitting down and crunching the numbers, I realized I could afford a newer car so long as my payments were around $200/mo with insurance being around $100/mo. I decided to go for it and bought my first car all by myself - no cosigner! It felt great!

Seeing how my parents lived and spent their money really taught me quite a bit about saving and living within your means, not spending money for the sake of spending it or blowing it on things you don't absolutely need - if you really want something, save up for it and if you still want it, then go get it. (On a side note, comparison shopping is awesome and with the internet, it makes it sooo much easier to do nowadays!) They also taught me about how to stretch a buck - while I mentioned, my parents weren't cheapskates, but why shop at the department and name brand stores for everyday clothes when you can find the same kind of stuff at discount stores for a fraction of the price? Why even pay full price when you could find something similar on sale or on clearance? (I love clearance racks - I've gotten suede boots for $20 and cute casual/dressy sandals for $10! All my cocktail dresses were $20 or less!). Same with food - in most cases, the store brands are just as good, if not better than the name brand stuff and cost a lot less.

I guess I should be more conscious though about buying food I most likely won't eat...

Disclaimer: This post is part of the 20SB Blog Carnival: Friends & Money, sponsored by Charles Schwab. Prizes may be awarded to selected posts. The information and opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the views or opinions of Charles Schwab. Details on the event, eligibility, and a complete list of participating bloggers can be found here.


  1. We've been saving a lot of money on produce this summer, as we prepaid our CSA share (remember I blogged about it earlier) and it came down to $20/week for more produce than we can eat in a week, but a lot of it is stable, so I can save/freeze it, which saves more money in the future on things like green beans. :)

    Also, TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Ross are our first stops when we go clothes/shoes shopping if we don't buy stuff online.

  2. Bananas always turn brown when left in the fridge (not sure why). They're usually fine to eat, unless of course you peel them and they look weird inside, or they're unusually squishy or something. I like both strawberries (as long as they're properly ripe) and bananas (especially if they're not quite ripe), though I don't understand the popularity of the strawberry-banana combination. I love banana smoothies, but they're especially good if you add chocolate and/or peanut butter or--my favorite--Nutella. Banana + Nutella = heaven.

    I'm pretty good about saving money by buying food on sale and eating out. One of my faults, though, is that working at Ann Taylor during my college summers raised my standards, so I can't shop for clothes at cheap places like Walmart. I got too spoiled, it's terrible.

    You sound like you're pretty good with your money, but I can't imagine what it would be like adding a baby to the picture. But I'm sure you'll figure it out!


What's your thoughts?