Why I Might Need My Emergency Fund Soon

Emergency FundSo as awful as my foot surgery (and being out of commission for 21 weeks) was, I was incredibly grateful for having short term disability available. I was able to rest and heal without the worry of how I was going to pay all of my minimum bills and student loans. Unfortunately, just because I had a disability check saving me while I was healing, doesn’t mean that I can assume I can resume working as soon as I am ready.

How I Prepared To Return To Work

The rule of thumb if you are returning from a leave of absence is to give two weeks notice. I, being the over cautions type A personality, gave my HR 5 weeks of notice of my return to work date. I figured this was way more than enough notice for them to figure out what position I would be returning to.

Before my surgery, I was well aware of the fact that my exact position would not be protected because I would be out longer than 12 weeks. I gracefully accepted this fact (even though I had to give up my dream position) knowing that I would be working somewhere, just not the location I once had. I was considered a “ghost” employee, not really belonging anywhere, but received benefits.

What Really Happened

Well, today is the day that I was supposed to start working again. Today is also the day that my disability status is no longer in effect. I, at this time, do not know when or more importantly IF I will be returning to work. Turns out, I am more naive that I want to admit.

Things didn’t go as I expected them to. I am having to interview for each unit that I am “eligible” for, along with any other applicants for the position. I now have to wait for HR to contact me with offers from the directors I interviewed with.

How I’ll Survive

Its a damn good thing I have a decent emergency fund saved. At this rate, I have already waited 5 weeks for a new position, I have no idea when or if my employer will decide I can start working again. Until they do, no moolah will be flowing in for me.

Hopefully we won’t have to dip into our emergency fund though. My husband has a steady job and we have a bit of money we were ready to use to pay down some more of my student loans. Unfortunately, we won’t get to deploy this money to pay off my student loans until I’m working again.

Hopefully things will fall into place for me at my job this week and everything will be taken care of. I should be done with all of my interviews and hopefully have offers by the end of the week, but I might be being optimistic again!

Have you ever had an experience like this? Any words of advice?

photo by: 401(K) 2013

Saving Money At The Movies

He demands his own seat, popcorn and drink... And he's angry.Who doesn’t love going to the movies? Who loves paying $10-$15 per ticket to go see the latest flick? Not us and neither do the rest of you I’m sure! Is there a way to go get the theater experience without the theater price? There sure is!

Alternative Theater Options

I was first introduced to the “dollar” theater during my college days. I absolutely loved it! Every weekend, my school would play a box office hit movie for the students to enjoy for just a dollar. They generally would announce the movie line up for the entire semester ahead of time so we could plan which nights we wanted to go to.

It was really nice to be able to anticipate a particular movie that I wanted to go see, and knowing that it would only cost me one dollar made it easy to resist going to see it in the main stream theater. Another bonus was that we were allowed to bring in our own snacks without sneaking them in!

Not A College Student?

Even if you aren’t a college student, majority of colleges that offer campus movies allow the general public to attend for a little bit more. My college charged $2.50 for the general public per ticket, which is still a total bargain! If you live near a large college or university it is definitely worth checking out to see if they show campus movies.

The Discount Theater

I am originally from northern Virginia, and everything up there is expensive. However, when I moved down here to the Florida panhandle, it was a refreshing surprise to find the local discount theater. They generally show around 4-6 different movies at a time that have left the main stream theater, but haven’t been released on DVD yet. This particular theater charges $2 per ticket, and they also allow you to bring in a bottle of water. We really love having this option for an inexpensive date night!

Saving Money With Kids At The Movies

Taking the whole family to the movies can really add up fast, especially if you buy anything from the concession stand! One way to save quite a bit of money is to take your kids to the movies during the summer. Most main stream theaters offer a Kids Summer Movie program that includes a drink and popcorn for just a few dollars per kid. They are all kids movies that are shown generally before lunch. This can be a great option for those days you hear “I’m bored” endlessly.

Do you have any tips on saving money at the movies? What do you do for budget friendly entertainment?

photo by: betsyweber

Is The Hassle of Wal-Mart Worth The Savings?

Wal-Mart Supercenter, Miles CityGrowing up, Super Wal-Marts did not exist! *GASP*! It was not until my later teen years until I remember going to a Super Wal-Mart. My mom always shopped at the traditional local grocery store, or as my grandpa says, “the gettin’ place”. From what I can remember, the only thing my mom occasionally did buy from Wal-Mart were clothes for my brother and I.

My mom always said…even to this day… she hates the crowds and the overall experience of the super sized big box store. I don’t remember the last time she stepped foot in one. As I get older, my opinion gets closer to siding with my mom, but yet Super Wal-Mart is still our main store of choice for pretty much everything.

Pros Of Shopping at Wal-Mart

Since Wal-Mart is basically the biggest super store that exists, they are able to offer very competitive prices on their merchandise. For the frugal person and family, this makes staying within budget much easier.

One of our favorite features of grocery shopping here are the big, bold, price per ounce tags. This information easily allows you to compare different brands, varieties and sizes of a product. This makes it ridiculously easy for us to find the most cost effective food choice.

A Simple Example

You need to buy a couple cans of tomato sauce. There are several different name brands, as well as the good ol’ Great Value (Wal-Mart) brand. On top of deciding on brand, you have different size cans. On initial thought, buying two of the big cans would be cheaper than buying 3 or 4 of the regular size cans.

However, if you look at the price per ounce tag, you see that the big can is 22 cents per ounce. For the regular size can it is 15 cents per ounce. So in reality, it actually cost more to buy two big cans of sauce versus 4 cans of the regular size.

My husband and I check the price per ounce tages for almost every grocery item we buy. This can be a bit of a hassle at first if you have never done it, but it can really save you a good chunk of change over time.

I very rarely shop for groceries anywhere but Wal-Mart, but I am pretty sure other grocery stores offer this same feature. The big difference is Wal-Mart makes it incredibly easy to see this feature, where as the other stores you have to get up close and squint to see it.

Cons Of Shopping at Wal-Mart

Line at WalMart on Christmas Eve - Edmond, OklahomaCrowds, crowds, crowds!!! No matter how hard I try, there is no such thing as a quick in and out stop. Most of the time you have to park in the back of the lot, then depending on what you need trek to the back of the store then find a sorta short line to check out. We generally use the self check out because I was a grocery cashier for 4 years back in high school. If we don’t self-check, I have horrible luck getting stuck behind a complicated transaction.

A newer problem at Wal-Mart is it seems that they are always out of stock of the item we want. It seems that our local Wal-Mart is always out of a couple of our regular weekly items, one of which is frozen broccoli florets. Broccoli is almost an every dinner staple in our house, and it really throws a kink in things when they are out.

Finally, Mom and Pop stores are losing business.  This has been a nationally recognized issue since the beginning of big box stores, and the only reason some people refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. The disappearing family businesses are something that really bothers me.

So Why Do We Shop Wal-Mart?

We still shop at Wal-Mart because we are very focused on maintaining frugality and getting ahead in our finances. At this point in our life, we can’t really afford to pay higher prices for the things we need, and Wal-Mart is a resource that allows us to easily stay within our defined budget. Later down the road, when we really get ahead financially, I see us shopping at the local store and not the big box store.

Are you a Wal-Mart shopper or do you boycott it all together? What are some other pros and cons that I missed?

A Dollar Here A Dollar There: Do They Add Up?

I’m sure you know how easy it is to justify spending a couple bucks here and there and not feel guilty about it… Right? Have you ever really given thought to how much all of those small purchases add up to be?

Food

McDonald's Restaurant, Miles CityI know I  fall victim to this type of thinking from time to time… It normally happens when I’m leaving the house to run errands right before lunch or dinner. You can certainly work up an appetite shopping or running errands. So what do you do? Grab a bite to eat at the closest drive through.

Nowadays a typical fast food meal costs close to $10, but the convenience is worth it right? In the moment thinking may leave you with a happy belly, but an emptier wallet before you know it!

Pampering

I just recently had artificial acrylic nails put on for my wedding. This is the first time I had this done and I figured for a little bit more money I could get my nails to last a lot longer than the traditional manicure. They sure did look nice and after a couple short weeks they needed to be touched up (filled in).

I was originally going to do this and keep them on for the honeymoon a month later, but after thinking about it, I decided not to. Sure it was only about $20 to have nice looking nails for the next 3-4 weeks, but I realized it could become a slippery slope. I’d be easy to become accustomed to having them and then decide I “needed” them on a more regular basis.

I know there are plenty of women out there who religiously get their mani-pedi every two weeks. I’m sure that adds up to become a budget buster quick!

Redbox

One of the hubby and I’s favorite date night is a Redbox movie night. We tend to get 3-4 redbox movies per month. However, we rarely pay for a redbox movie. There are a ton of free night redbox rental codes out there and we ALWAYS make sure to return it the next day before 9pm.

They may not make any money off of us, but I am sure there are lots of people out there who will pay full price (less than $2) for a night, but then forget to return it the next day. So what starts out as cheap entertainment a few times a month could turn into quite a pricey habit.

How Do You Add Up These Small Expenses?

One of the easiest ways to keep track of mindless spending is to not use cash, and keep all of your receipts. I know for me, if I use cash, its very difficult to keep track of where I spend it. The hubby and I always use our credit card if we can, and then every couple of weeks enter every single one of our receipts into a program called Quicken.

This software is awesome because it allows you to categorize all of your expenses and then will generate reports based on your spending habits. This will more than call out your frivolous spending!

How do you keep track of the small frivolous spending? Are you guilty of a habit that adds up quick? What are some ways to prevent it?

photo by: dave_mcmt

Fighting Off The Decorating Bug

Wall Decal Quote Text Vinyl Sticker Home Decor Art Mural " Do what you love …" 22.8” x 24.8”So over the last few years I have been really struggling with something….the strong desire to properly decorate my space. Sure, it’s not so much of a problem if you know what you like and have plenty of money to do so, but most of us have other life needs that take all our money!

Growing up my parents always allowed my brother and I to decorate our rooms any way we wanted to (within reason of course). They let us choose our paint colors, lighting, bedding etc. This was all really great and I got accustomed to being able to express myself and make my space cozy.

Dorm Room Restrictions

Half of the excitement of starting college was moving out from my parents house and into my own dorm room on campus! I finally thought I would be able to get lots of cute stuff and really cozy up my room. Turned out my parents made me use my money for actual school stuff (I am now glad they did) instead of fun decorating stuff.

Having a roommate complicated things even more and then there are all those crazy restrictions to what you can have and put on the cinder block walls. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out that all my friends had super cute rooms, and mine was….well you know, hodgepodge.

College Apartment

Two years later and I move into my first apartment that I shared with two other roommates. I had big plans for how I was going to decorate my very own room in my new college apartment from drab to fab. Tenants were allow to paint, hang items from the walls, and of course have my own furniture! Sure enough, none of that happened.

Yes I hung pictures up on the wall, but it still didn’t feel like me, or like home. I lived with drabby hand me downs and mismatched stuff because it was practical and I already had to take out lots of student loans.

Graduation and Grown Up Job

Penske 12' & SnowAnother two years later, I find myself again moving. This time I moved from Virginia to Florida to be with my now hubby. He had rented an adorable four bedroom house and I finally had ALL of my personal belongings.

This time around I kinda figured what was going to happen. Lance and I would combine our hodgepodge college stuff  and I once again wouldn’t get to make it feel like home. Lance was right, I didn’t have a job lined up yet and we weren’t even engaged so we couldn’t afford to spend a ton of money making the house we were renting into our home.

Marriage and a House Purchase

A couple years after moving to Florida, we are now married and living in our second home we have purchased. We have really started to plant our roots here as we establish our family. This is finally the right time to really invest in nice decor items to make this home right? I am super thrifty and very creative, so I can definitely decorate on a reasonable budget.

How Much Should I Fight The Decorating Bug?

Now that Lance and I are married, and are financially stable with a decent amount of extra income each month, I am still not really able to make our new home ours. We are very very aggressively paying off my student loan debt which was a little over $80,000 when I graduated. Scary right?

I have done a great job paying off my debt so far and between Lance and I tackling it together we hope to have every cent paid off within 4 years of graduating. I know its practical to just wait it out for the debt to be gone and deal with all the mismatched stuff, but I SOOOOOO BADLY want to start making this our “grown up” home.

So, I have a couple of questions that hopefully you can help me out with. Let me know your opinion in the comments below.

How important is putting your personal touch in your home to you? Am I alone in having this deep desire to nest in this blank canvas house? What is a reasonable amount to spend on home decor/furniture/customization?