Reader Question – Food Spending Rules of Thumb

On last month’s income statement, one reader noticed that we had a particularly inexpensive month when it came to eating, spending $302 on groceries, and $214 on eating out and wrote us.

Hi PoP Family!

So I know you don’t normally go this route with your posts, but how on EARTH do you keep your grocery and food bills so low? Hubby and I just got married, and so far groceries are costing us close to $550/month plus another $200 on restaurants. We’re in Georgia, so the cost of living is a little more than you guys in FL but not by much, so that can’t be all of it! Do you have any “rules of thumb” you usually live by?

Thanks!

-Ashley

While I jotted Ashley a quick reply in the comments (citing my vegetarianism and Mr PoP’s lazy omnivore-ism as quick partial explanations), her question really made me think because compared to many folks who post on the MMM forums, we’re downright gluttonous in our food spending.   But then again, I know we spend a ton less than other friends who live right near us, too.  Here are some of those thoughts and seven “rules of thumb” that we’ve come to live/eat by.

But first, a few quick things to keep in mind…

Continue reading Reader Question – Food Spending Rules of Thumb

How To Plan A Major DIY Renovation

A couple of months ago, while reflecting on some of our wants and needs, we mentioned that we had plans to make some major changes to our kitchen and dining area in 2015.  But doing a DIY renovation on this scale (while living in the house!) takes some major planning.  Here are the steps we are following when planning our next big project.

 

1.  Observe Your Life Annoyances

No house is perfect.  But sometimes you don’t know how much the imperfections in your home’s design will affect your everyday life until you live in it and experience these annoyances first hand.  Of course, there are differences in scale.  Focus on the major annoyances for the biggest bang for buck on your happiness ROI, but also keep a list of all the minor annoyances nearby so you can address as many as possible when completing your renovation.

Our major annoyances are going to drive the bulk of the renovation:

  • Ugly, worn, poorly installed tile
  • Aging pressboard cabinets in an inefficient layout
  • Not enough seating area for guests indoors
  • Low ceilings shrink the feel of the space in the kitchen
Ugly tile, inefficient and old cabinetry, very little seating, and low, low kitchen ceilings

The Major Annoyances: Ugly tile, inefficient and old cabinetry, very little seating, and low, low kitchen ceilings

Continue reading How To Plan A Major DIY Renovation

PoP Balance Sheet – July 2014

Welcome to our July 2014 Balance Sheet!

We use the structure of a monthly income statement and balance sheet in tandem to make sure we are keeping our expenses low and planting our pennies wisely. If you’re not already tracking your finances using these two methods, go to mint.com and get started today! If you have any questions about how we do this just post a comment and we’ll be sure to help!

On the evening on July 31, after seeing how Argentina’s default led to a market drop of 2%, and waiting for the prices on our mutual funds to update and our 401K shares to be purchased we both took a guess as to where our net worth would be for the month end.  Between the market drop and our high spending month buying Sunny, Mr PoP guessed it might be our first down month since recording these updates on the blog (it’s gotta happen eventually!), and I guessed that we’d be within $1,500 up or down of our June update.  Turned out we were both wrong and we squeaked out a little gain this month.  Not much, but we’ll take it.  So for the month of July:

  • Our total assets went up by $3.3K
  • Our total liabilities went down by $0.4K
  • Net worth rose by $3.7K
  • Total net worth as of the end of July is $763.9K, which represents a 0.5% increase this month.

And for the details… Continue reading PoP Balance Sheet – July 2014

PoP Income Statement – July 2014

Welcome to our July 2014 Income Statement!

sunny4blogMr. PoP and I put these income statements together for two reasons. First, we want to be transparent about our finances because we’re trying to be role models for other people who are trying to plant their own pennies (and end up with dollars someday!). Second, we do this to make sure we’re on track to meet our own long-term goals. If you’re not tracking your income statement and balance sheet, we highly recommend you start using a program like Mint to keep track of it all.

Overall, expenses were high.  But we can’t really be too surprised by that since we went out and bought a 41-year-old car.  =)

Sunny the yellow Benz is finally here (albeit a lot rustier than the last time we saw her).  It was a bit more expensive than we thought to get her here (car moving seems like a giant scam, BTW) and stored (and storage rental places seem ridiculously priced as well!).  But on the bright side, we think she is done costing us money until we decide to start fixing her up.  The fix-up won’t start for another 18-24 months at least as we’ve got some pretty big plans for working on the house first.

Other than Sunny, it would have been our lowest spend month in the history of the blog, so it’s good to know we can dial back without too much effort when we have an unusually large and unanticipated expenditure.  But there’s still a chance Sunny will put us over our planned budget for the year.  We were running right on schedule with a slight cushion built in for the first 6 months of the year, but now we’re behind and have to catch up ~$1.4K over the next 5 months.  It’s gonna be tight if we manage it.

The Bottom Line

  • Earnings before principal paydowns and savings allocations of $4,357.

And here are the details…

Continue reading PoP Income Statement – July 2014

Crazy Calculus and Credit Card Churning

WalletsTons of folks out there talk about their adventures and successes in credit card churning all the time – Holly at Club Thrifty and Brad at Richmond Savers, to name just a couple who have been around the block when it comes to credit card offers.

We had gotten into a very comfortable routine with our 3 cash back cards, but I was curious to see what bonuses we could accrue and how easily we could use them if we gave credit card churning a try for a year or so.

Halfway Through That Year I Want To Poke My Eyes Out!

Lose #1 – Fighting With Technology

With the exception of the Chase cards (these were just added to my existing Chase login and synced perfectly) that I added and churned through, adding new cards to mint has been absolutely terrible. I use a password manager, so each new account requires a plethora of new (fake) answers to a multitude of useless, socially engineer-able (I may have made that word up) questions. And entering and re-entering them multiple times. Then when a customer service agent asks you what street you grew up on and you tell them, “Wait, I need to unlock my database to tell you the answer to that…”, see if you can sense the moments when they try and decide if you are a criminal or not.

Continue reading Crazy Calculus and Credit Card Churning