food costs challenge – june 2019 report

It’s time for the first full month report for our Food Costs Challenge! June was just about spot on for our target restaurant/fast food spend!

Our goal was $350, and so at $352.40, we were right there! You can also see that our frequency was one of the lowest of the previous year.

So how did it feel? With the exception of being tired a couple nights when we cooked (where we would have previously gone out to eat at a restaurant), it felt pretty okay. We had just a couple of additional conversations where we were deciding when to go out to eat and when to stay home. It didn’t feel hard to me really, probably because…

…we spent significantly more on groceries. We spent $906.48 on groceries, which is so absolutely insane for 3 adults and a child! Our total food costs for the month of June was $1,298.88. So. Much.

I know that we are going to need to address our food costs as a whole. We tent to buy bulk, so I’m hoping that our monthly average goes down over time. We have also had some conversations about making larger quantity, lower cost meals. With an Instant Pot, crockpot, and someone here in the day to start something if we need it, we really shouldn’t have any problems making 2-3 large meals (with 8-10 servings) throughout the week.

I’d love to be between $750-$850 per month for food costs for our family. I think that is a really reasonable goal to aim for. And wow, that’s $500 less than this month. Imagine what we could be doing with the additional $500/month! It’s time to reign it in!

So tell me reader, how was your June? What amazing meal did you eat? What do you think of our June report?

Cheers!
Mel

food costs challenge – june 2019 check in

Hi reader!

Welcome to our June 2019 check in! One of our main goals right now is to reduce our restaurant (including fast food) costs. Over the course of the past year, we averaged approximately $520 per month on restaurant costs. Insane. Our first food challenge goal (of hopefully many) is to keep our restaurant costs to $350 or less per month.

For the first half of the month, we are at $166.16! Just under half, so not bad! We had some family in town from out-of-state that bought a big meal for us, and we bought some additional food to accommodate them as well. What we have found this first month, is that we’re spending a lot more on expensive groceries. I know we’ll tackle the general grocery costs at some point, because those are exorbitant as well.

Reader, let’s hear about your food goals! Do you have any expenses that you are following closely? Or maybe it’s all of your expenses… drop me a line in the comments and let me know!

Cheers!
Mel

the non-FIRE-friendly car

Hi reader,

This has proven to be a painful post to write, because it’s very authentic to the internal struggles I’ve had about a recent purchase. Until recently, Al and I each had a compact car (two of basically the same car in different brands). My husband had his car since 2009, and I had mine since early 2011. They were both paid off in or before 2012. We also inherited a somewhat unreliable work truck from Al’s dad when he passed away.

Initially, I wanted to buy a new car before Bo was born. We had Bear dog already, and our cars were so small. We started the conversations, but held off. Then Al’s mom moved in with her own compact car. We then had 3 compact cars and a truck. Al is 6’6″ and his mom is 6’1″. I am 5’8″, the car seat is… huge, and the dog is a chunk.

The breaking point was when we all decided to go our favorite trail spot, about 10 minutes from our house, and my MIL’s knees were in the dash, my knees were digging into the back of the seat, and the dog was on my lap. It was officially time to car shop, so I sold my low-mileage 2008 car for a price I was happy with: $4,500. We also made the plan to sell the truck toward the end of the summer, when we’re done using it for some backyard projects.

The week that we went car shopping was the week that I first heard about FIRE.

But, sometimes these things take time to sink in, time to wrap my head around. We had saved enough to buy a 3rd row SUV, and that’s what we did. We purchased a brand new Subaru Ascent for the whopping total of around $45k (including registration and taxes), in cash.

Thar she is. Or he. The car’s gender is still up in the air.

I have such mixed feelings about this car. On one hand, we could clearly afford it, at least on some level. We had the money in cash! On the other, there’s so much else we could have done with the money. With three (tall) adults, a dog, and a massive car seat, the space is not taken for granted. This car is 100% not FIRE-approved, and I definitely have some buyer’s remorse about the price. Just kidding, it’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. But only about the price, the car is frickin’ awesome. I do realize that we could have gotten something a lot more modest, for a much lower price. There’s no justifying that price when you think about the path to FIRE.

Prior to the FIRE discovery, our motto was (more or less): Buy less stuff, but the stuff we buy and that’s important to us can be really nice. We usually hold out for a long time for new things, and then get really quality (and sometimes indulgent) items. This can be a good and bad philosophy: on one hand, we buy fewer items than our peers, and the items tend to last a long time. On the other hand, we tend to spend too much on the things we do buy. This car is case in point.

This car could (literally) last us 20 years, as we carpool to work and only had a combined total of ~130,000 miles on both of our old cars, prior to me selling mine. And we also know that this will likely be the most expensive car we ever own. It will be the car Bo grows up in, we go camping in, etc. When Al’s car dies, we intend to replace it with a moderately inexpensive electric car, and probably commute in that car. Hopefully we have a few more years before that happens. We’ve also talked about only sharing a single car between the two of us, since we carpool (and could use my MIL’s car in a pinch).

However, if this car no longer serves a solid purpose in our lives, we will sell it. I can’t fathom doing that right now, since we’ve fully utilized it multiple times per week since we’ve gotten it. However, my (new) FIRE mindset is starting to allow me to be open to alternatives in my life that I wouldn’t have considered before. And so, reader, I will be more open with this purchase, and future purchases, to make better decisions when the opportunity arises. And this has been a big, giant, expensive, luxurious lesson in life and on the path to FIRE.

What do you think about our future car plans? Go electric? Share a car? How have you handled a large purchase for which you have buyer’s remorse?

Cheers,
Mel

food costs challenge – end of may (mini report)

Check out the first post in the food cost challenge.

Well, reader, May is over. Remember how I said that I intended to be authentic in talking about the good and the bad in this blog? I also said I was going to start these reports with a check-in around mid-June, but I decided to go ahead and post for May.

I am pretty horrified, but not surprised, at the amount we spent on food this month. We travelled the most we ever have with (and without) Bo, which was for approximately half the month. And on those trips, we never stayed in a single location for more than 4 nights, so we ate at restaurants (including fast food) a whole lot in May. And we spent the most that we’ve spent on restaurants in the last 12 months.

We went to 29 restaurants/fast food establishments for a grand total of $810.21.

We did not establish our restaurant goal until later in the month, which is to spend no more than $350/month on restaurants. Our previous average over the last 12 months was around $520/month. As you can see, we have a lot of lifestyle decisions to make going forward.

Here are a few things I’ve thought about in regard to this food costs challenge:

  • What can we do with the difference (~$170) between our typical restaurant spending and our goal? Invest in our retirement? Contribute to Bo’s newly-opened 529? Save for home improvement projects?
  • Restaurants no longer feel like a novelty to me. But, when I was a kid my family went out to fast food no more than once/week, and if we ate at a restaurant in addition to that, it was very inexpensive. It always felt like a treat because every other meal was eaten at home.
  • I don’t want Bo to have restaurants as her baseline for nutritional and “ease of access” expectations. Luckily, right now she is so picky that she eats very little food from restaurants. But when she’s older, I want her to expect that we’ll cook and eat at home with healthy ingredients. My intuition tells me that is right for our family… and sometimes you’ve gotta’ listen to your gut (pun intended).
  • Goodness knows what’s in most restaurant food, but we cook relatively healthy at home. And this year (since January 4, 2019), by tracking our calories on the Lose It app, my husband and I have lost a combined total of 30lbs! I’d love to keep on our healthy trajectory. I’m feeling quite inspired by our garden right now, which will hopefully yield us a ton of veggies by the end of the summer!

So, reader, what would you do with an “extra” $170 per month? Do you budget for your restaurant (or other food) spending? How tight of a grip do you have on your food costs? Have any tips you’d like to share?

Cheers,
Mel

money in the attic

Reader, guess how much money I had sitting in my attic for 2+ years? $140!

Every year our community has a garage sale. Which is awesome, because it draws out more people, and because I get to chat with my neighbors (which, admittedly, I don’t do often enough).

Clothes galore!

I don’t always have stuff to sell, but since Al and I decided for 99% sure that we are one & done on the children, it was time to get rid of Bo’s baby clothes. It wasn’t really easy for me, if I’m being honest. There were a lot of sentimental items in there.. a lot of really sweet times happened while she was wearing those clothes. But ultimately, it was time. Whereas I am not normally a very sentimental person with regards to tangibles, I did save just a few sentimentals (such as the first onesie and first shoes, but not much more than that).

Garage sales hit primarily on the “reuse” and “recycle” aspects of the 4R blog. I am so thrilled that people will use the (literally) hundred+ items we sold. We didn’t have many big ticket items (the most expensive was around $10), and most things sold for $0.50 or 3 for $1, so it’s a great feeling that these items that were sitting in my attic are going to be used by others… and people paid me money for these things!

These haven’t sold yet; look at the sheer quantity.

There are many items that didn’t sell (yet). My last ditch effort for these is listing them on Facebook Marketplace at a much more reduced price, in hopes that someone who needs them can use them. If they don’t sell there, they’re going to Goodwill. These clothes are in mostly great condition, used by (primarily) a single child in a clean, non-smoking home, who only spit up a handful of times. I even made a box that could clothe a single child (for a whole year!) from newborn to one year old and listed it for around $50. Imagine how much I would have saved if I didn’t buy a single item for her full first year outside of a $50 box of clothing! It would have been hundreds.

…and even more

There was one container of things that I took straight to Goodwill. Just a bunch of little odds & ends, not worth trying to sell. I also had a bunch of baby items that were not clothing… bottles, baby carriers/wraps, etc. Some sold, some didn’t. The things that didn’t got listed online.

I felt very productive with the sales that I made today. I’m planning on using the money that I got to go to a second-hand boutique to see what I can find that might fill some blank spots that are left in my wardrobe after I purged so many items. If anything’s left over, the remainder will be used towards hosting family that we have coming to town, or to cover other primary expenses.

Tell me, reader, what good deals have you come into? What items have you sold that have gotten a second life with another family?

Cheers,
Mel

challenge: reducing our food costs

Dear Reader, hold on to your pants. You’re about to see some big numbers!

Let’s start this post out with total honesty: We spend too much money on food. I could feel it in my soul. And with financial independence (FI) as an ultimate goal, I decided to dig in to the numbers. Though I have pretty much ignored it for years (problem numero uno), we have always had Mint.com. I logged in and started going through transactions. And our transactions can be summed up like this: Restaurant, restaurant, fast food, amazon, restaurant, restaurant, restaurant, restaurant….

I decided to go to only 2 food categories to try to help me see clearly where money is going in regards to food, and because I know eating out is more expensive than eating at home. Now we have Groceries and Restaurants (which includes fast food). Then, I looked at the bottom line for the Food category.

We spend about $1200/mo on food.

And the restaurant piece of that is ridiculous. Let’s take a look:

The two highest months are months that we traveled extensively, which makes sense to me. But that’s over 250 times in 11 months! That’s an average of over 20 times per month, and over $500/month of spending.

I talked to my husband about this. We’ve always been great about working towards a goal. Some might say that we are a bit too inflexible when we are working towards something, but I think that’s great for this type of thing. So, we’re challenging ourselves to spend no more than $350/month on restaurants. Whether or not we meet this mark, I’ll be documenting this journey on the blog. I will have a mid-month check-in and a post-month report post. Since May is pretty much a bust, I’ll start with my mid-June check-in.

And very soon, I will find out if this number is either painful or attainable. But heck, $150 of savings is a lot of money per month! And since I need to focus on one thing at a time, I’ll be tackling even more aspects of our food costs in the future.

So join me for this challenge by posting updates or links below, and I will follow along. I’d love to see how other people manage their food costs.

Cheers,
Mel