Monday, October 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.31.2011

Happy Halloween! I took an unplanned blog break last week, but I'm at it again this week. We picked up a 40 pound order of chicken from Zaycon Foods, so we are up to our ears in chicken over here. I found a couple of new recipes that sounded yummy, so I'll let you know how they turn out. Here's what we have planned.

Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Melted Mozzarella
Baked Potato Bar
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili
Buttermilk Chicken Strips

Find more delicious menus here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rewarding Reseach

Credit card art image from here
For most of our expenses, my husband and I both use an airlines reward credit card. Now, there was a time when we could barely make the minimum payments on our credit cards. So it's a little hard to believe that we now use a credit card every month for our expenses. The difference is, we now pay it off in full each month! We totally learned our lesson the hard way, but we've found that we're now very disciplined about paying it off, because we never want to end up back where we were before.

There are two main benefits for us by handling our expenses this way:
(1) We can keep track of everything we're spending in one place rather than having to consult a bunch of receipts in order to enter our expenses into our budget tracker.
(2) We're awarded one mile for every dollar spent.

In the past, this worked great for us and we've used these rewards to go on several trips. But since we've had a baby, our plane trips have definitely decreased. I've been thinking about switching our main credit card to a cash back card, since we may see more benefit from that now than from getting miles.

In my research I came across this site, which lets you compare credit card rewards programs based on your own needs. I'm having trouble deciding whether to go with a cash back card, or with this card, which will deposit the rewards directly into a 529 plan for our daughter. For now, I'm still researching, but I'll check back when I decide.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.17.2011

Here's what we have planned for this week. Some weeks I'm really glad I've somehow planned ahead and gotten a few things I can pull out of my freezer for dinner.

PW Chicken Spaghetti I'll be grabbing this from the freezer since I made a double batch last time.
Chicken and Cheese Sliders This recipe is so delicious and easy. And I think it would be tasty even without the chipotle pepper if you didn't have that on hand.
Grilled Garlic and Lime Chicken
Pasta and Meat Sauce I'll be using some ground beef I browned last week along with some onions and garlic, so most of the cooking is done!

For more delicious ideas, check out the menu plans here! Have a great week!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Goals...even though the year is almost over!

Image from here
I've posted before about our monthly goals, but we also have long term goals we like to set each year. I keep these goals written on the bottom of my budget spreadsheet, so I'm constantly reminded of them.

These are our goals for 2011. Some have already been completed. And some may not be completed by the end of the year, but we're shooting for it!
1. Eliminate furniture store card. Complete. We bought a mattress two years ago with a 0% interest store card. But I got sick of having that debt on our spreadsheets, so we went ahead and paid it off ahead of schedule.
2. 10K in savings by the end of July. Complete. Since we had concentrated on eliminating debt, and then went to just one income, it left us with savings that were a little low. We're on the way to building that back up, and we completed this earlier this year.
3. Build Emergency Fund to 8 months. In progress. We're slowly making our way towards this one. We've set a goal to complete this by the end of next year.
4. Start a Roth IRA. Complete. See this post.
5. Come up with money for a new computer. In progress. We've had our computer for 6 years, and are trying to save enough to buy a new one before this one goes kaput. So any extra cash we get our hands on (like gifts or side income) goes in a drawer to go toward the new compute. We're about 3/4 of the way there.
6. Complete a Legacy Drawer. In progress. If you're wondering what a Legacy Drawer is, here's the explanation. I actually just added this to the list of goals recently, but I am wanting to finish before the end of the year.

So, there they are!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Five Under $5: Gone to the Dogs

Why should us people have all the fun? Pooches like a little surprise every now and then too! This iteration of Five Under $5 was put together in honor of man's best friend.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, October 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.10.2011

Image from here
Whoa! It's set to be another busy week this week, and we'll only be eating at home 3 nights this week. Here's what I'm planning on cooking up:

Zucchini Parmesan
Baked Potato Bar
Smothered Green Chile Chicken

For more delicious ideas, check out the menu plans here!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Finance Fridays: Welcome Decisions

My husband just found out he’ll be getting a 3% raise at work, and that leaves us trying to figure out what we should do with the extra money. We currently contribute 6% to his 401K, which is matched 100% by the company up to 4%. Side note – We used to just contribute up to the match, but instead of taking last year’s Payroll Tax Holiday and putting it into the economy like we were supposed to, we upped our contribution to the 401K.

So, we have several options for this extra money that I can see:
-    Increase our 401K contribution another 3%
-    Add to our Roth IRA contribution
-    Beef up our cash savings
-    Pay down our mortgage quicker
-    Blow the money on Starbucks and new clothes!

Although the last option sounds pretty tempting, I’m thinking it would probably be best to beef up our cash savings until we meet our 8-month emergency fund goal, then start adding more to the Roth. Which reminds me – I know I've posted here before about our monthly goals, but I haven't ever posted on our long term goals. Next week! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monthly Goal Update: September

Image from here
I wanted to post an update on the little goal I set last month to stick to our $300 grocery budget. I not only accomplished the goal – I also had $37.95 left over for the month! As a little background on our grocery shopping – I do most of my grocery shopping at Tom Thumb and Whole Foods. Last month, there was a livingsocial deal for $10 for $20 of groceries at WF. I used two of those in my shopping (saving $20 right there), and also saved a total of $69.34 at Tom Thumb by shopping sales and using coupons.

Now for the month of October, our goal is to stick to our eating out budget, which is also $300 a month. We usually go over by a lot, so we’re hoping the focus will help us stick to our number. I’ll let you know how we do!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.3.2011

Hi, sorry I'm late for Menu Plan Monday Tuesday. It's already been a busy week and it just started! Here's what we're having the rest of the week:

Baked Tilapia and Veggies
Chicken Spaghetti I'll make a big batch so we have leftovers for one night.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Grilled cheese sandwiches

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Net Worth Update: September 2011

Well, it's the end of another month, which means it's time to update my net worth. Which isn't a whole lot of fun when your net worth continues to go down.

Savings: –$257.88 We bought a new chair for our living room, and took some of the money out of savings for this, so our total went down.
Retirement Accounts: –$6585.45 Ouch.

Mortgage: –$243.43 I need to figure out why our mortgage principal goes down more some months than others. You'd think the smaller the principal owed the more it would go down, but it went down $200 more last month than this month. I'm confused about that. Maybe it has to do with payment dates?

Total Change in Net Worth: –$6609.10 Yuck. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to update this! Hopefully next month the stock market will treat us a little better.