America Saves Week will be here in just over one month! This is the week where financial professionals, educators, policy makers, researchers, bankers…you get the point…this is the week…
Source: America Saves Week
Source: America Saves Week
This year? This year we’re not having turkey. Nope.
Last year, my oh so brilliant husband (actually he is, but kind of not really…) decided that a 20 lb. turkey (for two adults, a 7 year old and a 2 year old) was appropriate.
Now, lest you think I was horrified–which I was–solely for the size of the turkey–which I kind of was–it was more that I had to think about cleaning up after it was cooked. I’m a great cook, but Slade handles the turkey every year. That man makes DAMN. EXCELLENT. TURKEY. Well, usually.
Last year, he set the oven on fire.
Every year (except last, of course) we pride ourselves on using the stainless steel roaster Slade brought home from Germany 15 years ago. It keeps the heat even, the turkey is never dry, the clean-up is really quite easy. Also, we save the cost of buying a new aluminum roaster (yes, just a couple of bucks, but every dollar adds up and this is, after all, a money blog ;)). The 20 lb. fowl monstrosity (pun intended) was too big for our roaster. For the record, **whispering** The fire was caused by the turkey juices spilling over out of an aluminum roaster that was also too small…even though he swears it should’ve been big enough. Uh huh.
For the record, baking soda puts out grease fires quite well and assists in the clean-up of the grease when the oven has cooled.
This year, we’re going with Chicken Nuggets. Yes, Tyson breaded chicken nuggets–deliciousness in nugget form, will be our protein for Thanksgiving dinner.
To make sure we cover the appropriate financial focus of this blog…we saved at least $10 on the turkey by not opting for the traditional bird this year. (I frequently combine coupons to get $$ off the turkey…the two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, though the lines are a little extra insane, are sooooo worth the effort for the cost savings.) This is also a great time to cross-check your coupon stash for spices/seasoning, flour, and believe it or not, I’ve found great prices on chocolate chips at this time. Baking season is upon us, so if you find them discounted, it might be a good time to stock up!
Now that we have the business out of the way…
I want to say that I am THANKFUL for YOU!
There are thousands, hundreds of thousands probably, of blogs out there, and right now you’re reading mine. Thank you.
I am also thankful for my supportive husband, for my beautiful and amazing children, my part psychotic dog, my parents and brother and sister, all my nieces and nephews, my friends, my classmates, my professors, my students, and so many others. I am thankful for the ability to read, write, color (I can’t draw), and express my creativity in baking. I am thankful for social medias that not only allow me to keep in touch with friends, but that also allow me to make new friends and professional contacts. I am thankful for running water, electricity, heat, my smartphone, my computer, and online classes. I am thankful for my injuries, which allow me to put into perspective just how well I’ve done over the past year–and to really appreciate my athletic/exercise efforts even if they’ve had to temporarily come to a standstill. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to dream–because my husband defends our freedoms as a United States Army Soldier–but also that I have the opportunity to not achieve everything I want to, because it reminds me that I have a Father who is watching out for me and guiding my every move. I am thankful that while I am no longer gainfully employed, as I was last year, I am out of a miserable job. I am thankful that while we currently do not have renters in our Texas house, we can still afford to pay the mortgage. I am thankful that while we’ve lost $3200 (net)/month we can still make ends meet and put a few dollars (literally some months) in savings. I am thankful that I can look back at the money we’re now doing without and not beat myself senseless for not having more to show for it. I am thankful for coupons, sales, and knowing that just because the neighbor, friend, guy down the street has it, doesn’t mean that I have to have it too.
The list, of course, could go on and on and on and on…you get my point.
One last thankful thought…I am thankful that (my) money (or lack thereof) does not define me.
Please, as we enter into one of the most “spend-focused” seasons, I encourage you to look at what you DO have, to look at the needs that you are meeting, even if the wants sometimes don’t get to happen. I encourage you to give what you can, when you can, but not to the detriment of yourself, your family, your savings, or your budget.
I hope you have the Happiest of Thanksgivings and would love to hear what you are particularly thankful for this year.
P.S. I am thankful that there is no turkey to set the oven on fire this year…because, yes, of course it was the turkey’s fault.
You have to understand…this started with $50 two years ago…
Kaden and I have always done the shopping for the school food bank drive together. It’s become a tradition. At 3, he got $20, the same at 4 and 5. At 6, he asked for $50. Then he set a goal. Kind of the beginning of the end…and yet we’re no where near the end yet. Last year, at age 7, he raised $435. Now he’s 8…
He inspired his sister last year (then 2) to help too. She’s 3 now and her shopping partner is Daddy.
A few months ago, I posted a picture of Kaden from his shopping trip last year. He has grown, in height, maturity, and heart.
This year we did a lot of comparison shopping and used a notebook to keep track of coupons and the comparison shopping list so we knew how to shop for the best bang for his buck.
It was a little hard to see him.
But, he was able to make enough room to buckle and wave!
My water bottle felt so squashed by the mountains of bags.
Kaden and I unloaded the food from the commissary in front of the fireplace. (Yes, there’s a fireplace behind all those bags.) And while Kaden and I were unloading his first trip…
This year Slaeda saved and received donations totaling $103 to take with her on her shopping adventure. She and Slade had a grand old time going to Wal-Mart and choosing food together. She also wanted to buy bananas for the food bank, but those are perishable, darn it! Slade said it was all he could do not to laugh when she walked right up to a can of SPICY Beef Ravioli and said, “Daddy, I like these!”
Slaeda purchased more than 80 lbs of food! She worked really hard and put a lot of thought into the purchases she wanted to make!
After we were done at the commissary, and Slade and Slaeda were off on a different adventure, Kaden and I grabbed a bite to eat and headed off to Sam’s Club. This year Kaden’s school is collecting food for the Salvation Army food pantry and kitchen. Every day the Augusta Salvation Army food kitchen feeds over 250 men, women, and children. The purchases made at the commissary were made for the purpose of filling food baskets; these purchases will go towards feeding the homeless and hungry of Augusta, GA.
Light stuff up front.
Heavy stuff in the back. Kaden purchased 200 lbs. of rice and 100 lbs. of beans.
A little celebration once almost all of it was loaded…
Slade and I got the car unloaded and everything organized so that we could see what all had been purchased.
The kids really had a good time sitting on the cans!
I thought it would be a good idea to know how much food (in pounds) had been purchased.
Slade worked really hard sorting and counting.
Fortunately, the spreadsheet Kaden and I had created for comparison shopping had some of the numbers on it, so we were able to keep a SMILE on Slade’s face as he worked.
He came out alive, I promise!
Kaden and Slaeda both worked hard this year to make this project a reality. Kaden sets such an amazing example for Slaeda. She wants to put money in her food bank jar to save up because she sees her big brother doing it. At three, she is learning how to save! Kaden took 5 hours a few Saturdays ago to do comparison shopping at 4 different stores so we’d make sure we knew where to get the best bang for our buck (since Slade is in the Army, the commissary was the best place to shop, though WalMart did have a better price on canned fruit.) They both saved Christmas and birthday money, allowance, and received donations from friends and family for their efforts.
Kaden’s fundraising efforts were significantly more intense than Slaeda’s (of course) and in addition to the dollars donated through Go Fund Me from friends online, the private donations he received, and the change he picked up here and there, he also raised more than $300 in his yard sale! Kaden has learned how to comparison shop, is starting to understand how interest works, and sees how he can use money to positively impact others.
Oh…and I suppose you want the totals???
The kids got a GRAND TOTAL of 985 items purchased for $1521.95 with a total weight of 1,544.16375 lbs. That’s more than 3/4 of a ton of food!!
I love social media. It’ll likely be the death of me, it’s true, but I love it. Facebook and Twitter keep me thinking forward–mostly because of random comments that friends make and I think “Oh, Shiz-nit! I need to be tracking on that too!”–and today is one of those days…sort of. This is more about what I did RIGHT than what I need to be remembering! Meagan, this is for you, and again, thanks for the props!
‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la, ‘Tis the season to be spending….
Christmas is coming. All the joy, the family, the Birth, the time together…the music!! Oh, it does my heart good.
Christmas is coming. All of the money, the presents, the stress, the money (yes, I know I already mentioned this part)…the music!! Oh, it drives me crazy!
You may fall in a combination of those camps. You may fall in one or the other. Whatever your current relationship with the upcoming Christmas season, I want it to be as stress-free and financially sound as possible.
It’s not even Halloween! I know. The big sales aren’t in place yet. I know that too. I have small children who like to get into things. Um, see the picture above.
Believe it or not, it is in no way, shape, or form too early to start Christmas shopping. I’m not saying that you should go out and buy the big things that are likely going to go on sale on Black Friday or the weeks immediately after. However, if you have some small things to pick up–Santa gifts, things for gift exchanges that will likely come up last minute, this is a great time to do that. Many smaller items hold their prices and don’t go on sale at all. Why? Because the stores know that people are going to run into last minute things they need to pick up and they can just hear the “cha-ching” allllllllll day/week/month/season long. Once or twice I’ve even seen mark-ups on music and movies the week before Christmas!
This is the time, before the humongous holiday rush, to do some research. Do a Google search for “Black Friday ads” for the past three years. Fat Wallet (http://www.fatwallet.com/black-friday/ads/) will get you started for last year…and you can see what went on sale. Look for things that ALWAYS go on sale the days immediately following Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas. If something on your list for this year…you do have your list written, right? If something on your list for this year is going to go on sale, wait. Buy it when it’s on sale. Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/08/best-time-to-buy-things/index.htm) lists the best time to buy things–THROUGHOUT THE YEAR!! (Keep this link handy, save it to your task bar!!)
Kids like to get into everything. I get that. Sometimes my closet is a safe zone, sometimes it’s not. My husband has God only knows what going on in the garage–everyone stays clear of there, so that’s a safe place for us to hide gifts until it’s time to get them wrapped and under the tree. (Did you buy wrapping paper the day/week after Christmas last year? If not, put it on your list to do so this year. The savings are ASTRONOMICAL!!) Other clever hiding places include inside luggage, the box of pregnancy clothes you haven’t gotten rid of yet–donate the clothes if you’re done getting pregnant and hide the gifts in there, borrow a friend’s house/garage/closet. Where else? If you’ve got a good hiding place to share, please let me know!!
Take advantage of secondhand stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army and places that have gently used merchandise for gifts that hold their shape and wear well. If you want to frame pictures for family Christmas gifts this year, the pictures themselves cost a significant amount, so look for nice frames at a secondhand store. Clothes–if you have a pretty princess in your household, get her those skirts and bows at the secondhand stores too! What are other good finds at secondhand stores?
Yes, Halloween, and all it’s wonderful associated ghoulishness is upon us, then Thanksgiving, and THEN Christmas. But, don’t frighten your wallet this Halloween season by ignoring the opportunity to spread out the costs of the coming Christmas holiday season.
Grocery shopping isn’t always fun. Frankly, it can be a chore. Not just the shopping and choosing and buying and loading and unloading the car…and hopefully putting everything away before the cucumbers get lost and sit in a plastic bag with the box of Velveeta you are supposed to use on Sunday for the church potluck and then they rot and leak and the Velveeta gets ruined…oh, sorry, got off track there for a minute.
Grocery shopping isn’t always fun. Frankly, it can be a chore. One whopper of a chore. It’s not just about choosing food off the shelves, but EFFECTIVELY choosing food off the shelves and combining those ingredients to make a meal (or more). But, even before we choose the food off the shelves, there is work to be done.
My eight-year old son, Kaden, has been working for the past year to save some of his birthday, Christmas and allowance money to go towards the purchase of food for the hungry. Not only has he saved his own money, he’s inspired others to cough up some of their money to help him reach his $1100 goal. He’s $18 shy of his goal and has his “Food Bank Yard Sale Fundraiser” this weekend–with a goal of $300 for the yard sale itself. That’s a total of $1400 this kid wants to come up with to feed others. What? Huh? He’s a kick–he spoke to my mentor, his honorary grandfather, a couple of weeks ago, when he found out he’d just crested the $1000 mark. “Nothing’s going to stop me now,” he excitedly exclaimed. He’s ready, willing, and able…and is putting in a lot of hard work too.
This past weekend we took 5 very, very long hours to go comparison shopping. We went to the commissary (love Army benefits, especially this one), Publix, Kroger, and WalMart. We had lunch about halfway through the trip and we spoke a little bit about his thoughts.
I asked him, “What do you think about this comparison shopping thing?”
“It’s great because I like walking around,” was his reply. Okay, clearly I need to work harder to draw some usable quotes from this kid. I reminded him that I was going to use this for my blog and we agreed to revisit the topic a little bit later when he’d had more time to think.
We finished our shopping trip and had completed comparison shopping on products commonly found on the “wish lists” for food pantries, especially for this time of year when they are getting ready to compile holiday food boxes. Spaghetti, canned sauce, canned meats, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, gravy, soups, rice, corn muffin mix, boxed cake mixes, cranberry sauce, dried beans, even salad dressing. By far, as Kaden says, “the commissary WINS”– in terms of the best prices for the most items.
Publix and Kroger were within pennies of one another on most items. WalMart had some items that beat out Kroger and Publix by more than a few pennies. We recognized just how fortunate we are to have the commissary as a benefit. Kaden determined, “It costs more for them (civilians) to shop for groceries.” Yes, my son, yes it does. We talked about the difference between store brands and name brands and making sure that when we did the comparison shopping that we compared “apples to apples” i.e. same net weight to same net weight, same brand to same brand. He even thought to put the weight in ounces on a few of our items so that we priced the same size throughout the day.
We talked about the difference between buying for our family and buying for a food pantry where they will give the food to others. He took great care in looking at the price per item, the price per unit, and how many families we could feed if we bought two of the smaller boxes as opposed to one of the bigger boxes of cereal, pasta, etc. For our family we would buy the big box (lower price per unit/ounce). One large box of cereal may stretch farther within our family and be a better price per unit/ounce, but if two smaller boxes, even if more per unit/ounce, adds up to about the same in terms of overall cost, we’ve just fed two families instead of just one. We put on our “shopping by price tag” glasses, rather than our “shopping per unit/ounce for the family” glasses.
There were some items he wanted to compare store brand against brand name. Overall, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that…many times, as I explained, you can get more for your money and get a good quality by going with the store brand. However, I explained, there are some store brand things that just don’t taste the same, so you have to decide where you’re willing to take a taste difference to save on cost. This was brought up when comparing the blue box mac and cheese to the store brand…I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. (In these cases, we wrote down the cost of both so that we could determine if a store brand beat out the price at the commissary for the name brand item. Sometimes the store brand beat out the commissary price, sometimes it didn’t.) For the record, there are things that I will only buy name brand because of taste and overall product (Reynolds foil is one prime example…I have yet to find a store foil that is not completely inferior to Reynolds. We only buy Tyson chicken nuggets and Stove Top stuffing…there are a few tastes I just will not sacrifice. We’re fortunate that we can, for the most part, shop with our taste buds not just our pocketbooks.)
As we went into the different stores he looked for coupons, “Look, Mom! Coupons!” At one store they had coupons for refrigerated items, this did not thrill the boy, as they are unusable for his project.
At the end of our very long day I asked Kaden, again, what he thought about this comparison shopping trip.
“I’m going around seeing what the prices are and where I should spend. The prices tell me where to shop because if I shop at the commissary then I get a big bang for my buck, but if I shop somewhere else, I’d have to pay more,” he replied.
“What if you didn’t have the commissary to shop at? What if we were a civilian family like most of the rest of the people?”
“Then I’d have to spend more money to buy groceries.”
I’m working on dragging longer, more extensive, critical thinking quotes…but he’s 8…and I’m awfully damn proud of him for staying awake and excited through the whole process. 🙂
Grocery shopping CAN be a chore. Embrace the walking around. Embrace the opportunity to teach your children about effective shopping habits and how to get the best “bang for your buck”! Embrace the love that a child can have for feeding others.
I’d love to hear your about your effective grocery shopping trips–what best serves you, what advice do you have for others?
*If you’d like to help Kaden feed families in the Augusta, GA area, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/KadensFoodBank to make a donation.*
I love my son. I do. With total abandon, in fact. But, holy cow, that child eats like a professional linebacker! Yes, he’s a growing boy, yes, it’s to be expected, but Oh. Mah. Gaw. That kid eats more than me, his daddy, and his sister put together. Well, unless it’s chocolate and then I out-eat him every day of the week.
Anyway, I digress.
Feeding children isn’t cheap. Feeding children healthy food is even less cheap. The price of fresh fruits and vegetables can fluctuate based on season, weather, where you live, where you shop…so many different reasons. We (currently) live in the South. I don’t like the weather here, nor does it like me, therefore I don’t spend much time outside, unless it’s in the fall or the early spring. These two seasons, here in Georgia, are great for growing things. My folks live in Oregon. When we went to visit this summer, my son got to harvest strawberries, snap peas, lettuce, blueberries, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. He helped plant pumpkins! I need to plant some vegetables.
What I’m getting at, is that there ARE ways to make eating healthy more affordable. Yes, some of them take a little work, and some of them take a little up-front capital (containers, soil, seeds, stakes, etc.) and they definitely take time (watering, weeding, bug checks). The ROI (Return on Investment–I love financial terms I can use in different ways), however, YOUR ROI is healthy food, (inexpensive healthy food that in some cases will easily fertilize and spread to make more plants to grow more food), time with your children (would I make this suggestion if I had to do it all myself?!?!), and the opportunity to teach (and learn) about balancing meals, money–how much does it cost to start up and maintain and how much money is saved, and maybe even a little abut weather patterns. 🙂
Learn about where you live. When are the good growing seasons? When shouldn’t you attempt to grow things (think zucchini in July in Texas)? What are the costs of fresh fruits and vegetables in the store? What it will cost for you to take the time–with your family or by yourself–to commit to growing food, and see if you can’t find a way to affordably feed an adorable, eight-year old eats as much as a professional linebacker, little boy.
Please share your successes, failures, ideas, and comments! I’d love to hear from you!
I am now a PhD student at Kansas State University. I am working towards my PhD in Personal Financial Planning. I am more excited about this than I have been about anything in years…maybe just shy of how excited I was when my kids were born?! I have an immense amount of confidence in my abilities as a student, a student of money, how it’s used, and how to learn about it. Rarely do I feel as if I have lost my grip with reality, that I’m in too deep.
This week I am going to my first blogging convention. (Type-A, here I come!) I am in WAY over my head. I am mired in doubt, fear that I won’t build my blog audience, and having to balance so much more than I did when I signed up to attend the conference in the first place (I signed up in January, got accepted to the PhD program in February and stated in August.) I have decreased the amount that I blog due to the readjustment of my priorities–see the paragraph above. Not much makes me feel like I’m in over my head but this sure does…which got me to thinking…
Money makes many people feel like they are in over their heads. When I teach Financial Literacy classes to inmates who are transitioning from prison into a work release program we spend the first few minutes of class defining what “Money Is…” to them.
Some of the responses I hear are: “the root of all evil” “something to use to buy stuff” “a necessity” “cash” “something I don’t have enough of” “currency”…you get the idea.
We talk about how the utilization of money can be frustrating, stressful, how not being in control of that money can really make us feel out of control and in waaaaay over our heads. In the end, I make sure everyone knows that money is a TOOL. We’re not born with the knowledge of how to use a hammer. Most of us get to adulthood without knowing how to properly utilize a chain saw…most of us probably don’t need to use a chain saw either ;)…but these TOOLS require TRAINING. Proper use of money (another TOOL) requires TRAINING.
I tell my students, as I’m telling you now, there is ALWAYS more to learn about money. If you don’t know how to use it properly it will use you. I don’t want anyone feeling scared or intimidated or less than worthy because they don’t know the best way to use the funds they have available. I’m a professional in this field and I ask for more information. I’m a professional in this field and I’m always learning something new. Sometimes it’s “something I should’ve already known” (eep…but, I’m human!)…many times it’s a different perspective. But, let me tell you for sure…if all the answers to money were already out there, always easily put into place by consumers, they would NOT offer a PhD in Personal Financial Planning.
Financial literacy is a real “hot button” topic in my industry–and in some places in our society as well. What decisions do we make, how do we make them, how do we factor in the numerous monetary costs and considerations that go with them??? How do we teach others about money? DO people want to learn more about money and why or why not? How did we learn what we know about money? Why are some applications of money easy for some and terribly difficult for others? Why is credit an important part of our society? Should credit be a part of our society or should we go back to cash-only? Why can someone with the same income and general household expenses as me save more than I do?
What are your questions about money?
I’m not going to profess to have all the answers in my field of expertise…there are too many questions to have ALL the answers. I do, however, have answers for many questions in my field. If you have a budgeting question, a credit question, want some savings strategies or some ideas on how to decrease expenses, I’m the gal you want to talk to. (If you want to know something about financial literacy, underserved populations, financial crime–I’m going to be the one who is investigating and focusing my education on finding more answers–let me know!)
I’m not going to assert that any one blogger I meet this week at Type-A is going to have all the answers to the mysterious, ever-growing world of blogging. I am, however, going to say that ASKING questions and stepping out on faith, on hope, that I won’t be judged is worth the swim to the top. I’m going to use this opportunity to grow my knowledge, just like you can use me, or any number of other financial professionals, to grow YOUR knowledge about money, its uses, and other financial topics!!
You don’t have to feel like you are in over your head when it comes to money–remember, they offer PhDs in this stuff…all the answers are not set in concrete!!! As I develop my relationship with blogging, my blog, and the blogging community, as I develop myself as a writer, a PhD student, a researcher, a financial literacy instructor, a mom, a distance runner…I encourage you to develop yourself and your relationship with your money. Please let me know how I can help!