June wrap up

June ended up being a great month for our Money Game. I love comparing percent growth with other months. Our account grew over 15% in June and many investors would be overjoyed to see 15% for a year. (I realize our growth didn’t result from “investing” but the money is still there.)

We got to level up 3 times in June. That’s a big deal at these levels and I’m excited. June also brought some new opportunities. For example, the approximately $16,500 would be a 20% down payment on an $82,000 property. My social security check could make the monthly mortgage payment. If it was a property we could rent with a positive cash flow, you can see it’s a possibility we couldn’t have considered a year ago.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet (I doubt $82,000 would buy a home that people would actually want to rent) but it’s just one example of things that can start to open up as you deliberately start to grow your money. Here’s the chart I put up at the end of each month.

Monthly Deposits Beginning Gain Ending % Growth
July, 2016 0 $509.86 $509.86 N/A
August, 2016 $509.86 $1,214.77 $1,724.63 238.26%
September, 2016 $1,724.63 $1,422.87 $3,147.50 82.50%
October, 2016 $3,147.50 $1,493.36 $4,640.86 47.45%
November, 2016 $4,640.86 $1,119.90 $5,760.76 24.13%
December, 2016 $5,760.76 $1,502.69 $7,263.45 26.08%
January, 2017 $7,263.45 $473.73 $7,737.18 6.52%
February, 2017 $7,737.18 $979.77 $8,716.95 12.66%
March, 2017 $8,716.95 $3,795.91 $12,512.86 43.55%
April, 2017 $12,512.86 $896.85 $13,409.71 7.17%
May, 2017 $13,409.71 $937.35 $14,347.06 6.99%
June, 2017 $14,347.06 $2,170.43 $16,517.49 15.13%

How was your month? Have you found a way to make the money earn more money?

Also in keeping with tracking colds/illness with respect to avoiding sugar, I’m happy to report that neither one of us got sick this month. It’s such a blessing to be able to report that and I don’t take it lightly.  I guess I should start tracking it so I can show how many months it’s been without a cold, flu or other illness.

Eating right is no guarantee. I know either one of could get a diagnosis of cancer or something. But I feel better knowing we are doing what we can and I think not getting common illnesses is a good sign.

I wrote earlier that we haven’t had any illness since I started blogging (actually longer than that but this is when I started tracking it).  It’s a nice milestone knowing we’re about to hit one year.



Dinner insurance Part 2

Dinner Insurance (Part 1)

Costco has been selling frozen grassfed beef burgers. George pan sears these 4-5 minutes on each side. We make hamburger salad (and we always keep lettuce, onion and tomato in the house). They are amazing. They have a really good char broiled flavor even though we usually don’t grill them outside (this is dinner insurance remember?)

Seriously these have saved us from having to just run out and grab something to eat. Dinner is on the table in 10 minutes flat.

Today’s post comes with a small power up (I love these and I’m not complaining.) We had to go out-of-town to attend a family birthday party. The venue was 2 hours away so we spent a bit more on gasoline this week. We still came in under $6.64.

Level Completed: 166 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $2,177.07
Total Balance: $16,524.13
Our Money Game fund has increased 15.2% so far this month.

$757.43 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Level 166: Does your gift budget leak money?

Some of us have an overdeveloped need to give nice gifts. For me, one on one sentimental words are hard to express. It’s easier to give nice gifts. It can be really expensive too.

If that’s you, try to start a running list of frugal gift ideas. Remember, frugal here means to spend less but give more.

Here is an idea to start you off.

This is not an affiliate link (I wish it could be) but I’ve used Tiny Prints and this notebook was a hit. I don’t know of any other gift that seems to touch people as much for about $20.

Be warned, this gift takes a little thought and planning ahead. You’ll need to find the right photo and you’ll need to order ahead of time. One year, I got several of my sister’s favorite photos from a Disney trip she took with her husband and daughter. I used an option Tiny Prints had to make a photo collage on a personalized notebook for her. She raved about it!

Any time a gift can say something special about the person, it’s going to be a home run! When it can also evoke joy and happiness, it will be unforgettable!

Today we’re making our regular $125 end of month savings deposit. It completes Level 166! We have 84 more levels to complete.

Level Completed: 166 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $2,120.43
Total Balance: $16,467.49
Our Money Game fund has increased 14.8% so far this month.

$814.07 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

ADD and home chores Part 2

The first time I wrote about this, I talked about running the dishwasher every night, putting away the clean dishes every morning and knowing the dishwasher was available for dirty dishes throughout the day.

I noticed if I did it every day, I had less work. George helped a lot because he didn’t have to wonder if the dishes were clean or dirty. They always go in the dishwasher.

Seeing that a regular routine made less work, I started looking for other ways to reduce housework.

Making the bed as soon as I got out of it was one. George always gets up before me so if I climbed out of bed at the same time, he’d gladly help. Two people can smooth the sheets and comforter in about 30 seconds flat. The room looks more than half clean because the bed takes up so much space and is a focal point. It felt like a ton of work got done and that really put the wind in my sails.

Thinking back to my single mom days and knowing what I know now, I’d get a kid to help me make my bed and then I’d help them make theirs. Those kinds of time savings multiply.

I love recognizing anything that reduces work giving the same or better result. With any recurring chore, I’m always asking myself what I can do to make it easier and/or faster next time. Doing it as a routine really helps. It takes away the having to wander around in a fog figuring out what to do or where to start.

If you aren’t ADD, please understand that these struggles are real. This is what it’s like. Some days are worse than others but I still have days where the fog is like pea soup and I’m severely pulled in so many directions it’s painful. If your child or spouse has ADD, simple encouragement helps so much. Acknowledge anything they accomplish. Offer to listen if they want to talk it out (sometimes talking out what I need to do helps me process the work load and see how to organize it). DH’s hugs and hearimg him tell me he loves me helps me so much. He believes in me, so I believe in me too.

Do what you know to do; more will come

That’s been the theme of the last 11 months since I came up with the Money Game and started playing in earnest.

Dave Ramsey said something very similar at a live event we attended in Nashville. That’s probably where I got it so I’ll just credit him.

Take care of what you have. Get it together. Dave Ramsey said God rushes in like a good father and starts to help you with your efforts.  We’re trying to keep it front and center that He blesses us so we can help others. I struggle sometimes wondering if I should share those times too – the times we give as much as the times we get? I know we’re not supposed to give in order to blow our own horns so I hold back. But that’s the whole reason why. The more we  have, the more we can give. Often it’s really fun to give. Other times it feels weird. I wonder if I’ll offend. I wonder if it’s enough to help. Times that we help street people we wonder if we’re really helping.

We decide to err on the side of giving anyway. We’ll probably mess it up sometimes and we learn as we keep trying.  I’m mentioning because I want to make it clear that every single extra penny that comes our way doesn’t land in the Money Game.  We deliberately budget to give and sometimes we just know we’re supposed to dig a bit deeper. It always works out.

The utility bill hit our mail box today. It was super low again – only $125.05. That leaves $174.95 to power up with.

 Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,995.43
Total Balance: $16,342.49
Our Money Game fund has increased 13.9% so far this month.

$116.14 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Dovetailing Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and the Money Game

Can you play the Money Game while working through Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps? Absolutely!

Baby Step 1 is to save $1,000. That’s the perfect place to start.

If you’re now on Baby Step 2, I think paying off debt has first priority. You can play the Money Game at the same time. Here’s how I would approach it:

Leave your $1,000 BEF alone. That money is sacred and is only to be spent in case of an extreme emergency (it’s to keep you from having to use credit cards).

Your snowball goes for paying off debt just as Dave Ramsey teaches.

Meanwhile, it’s advised that you have a small amount of money each month for personal spending even during Baby Step 2. Get your first $5 from your personal allowance and grow it from some type of sales. This is where you buy something undervalued from a yard sale (yard sales get easier all the time thanks to Facebook) and sell it at a higher price.

There are apps available to scan book bar codes for their market value. That’s one way to find an undervalued item. You could bake some 5 minute artisan bread and sell a loaf for pennies on the dollar. My chiropractor’s daughter knows how to scope out insane deals on high end clothing and resell using an app called LetGo. Use ibotta rebates if you were going to buy that item anyway.

So let that $5 come from your own personal spending and then make that $5 work for you. You’ll be at an advantage. By the time you finish Baby Step 2 you’ll KNOW how to make your money make money. You will go nuts with Baby Step 3 (saving 3-6 months of income for your fully funded emergency fund).

I found another power-up today by spending time reading government web sites on social security earnings and taxes. I withheld too much. I’m taking $50 out of that category and moving it to the money game. I still think I’m withholding too much as it seems only half the amount will actually be taxed but I know George will want to err on the conservative side.

Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,870.48
Total Balance: $16,217.54
Our Money Game fund has increased 13% so far this month.

$241.09 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Most of us have a profitable tax-free part-time job available

You could go out, get another part-time job and make more money. Chances are you’ll make minimum wage, it will be taxed and you’ll spend even more on eating out if you do.

Most of the deposits we made to our Money Game fund came from watching how much we spend. We didn’t cut our lifestyle.  We took two vacations. We both got a raise in our personal spending money and clothing money. We also increased our grocery budget.

But we stopped wasting food. We started planning meals. I started cleaning the fridge daily to make sure we used food we actually stored. We started a garden and grew a lot of our own food last summer. We enjoyed our first tomato/cucumber salad last night that came straight from the garden.

I’ll try to make time to do a year’s end post itemizing where the deposits came from. But I’m guessing about $10,000 came just from coming under on different budget categories and depositing it in our MG account. Before, I was sloppy with the food budget and made it up from the other budget accounts. We would spentd less on fuel so I’d move it to food. The electric bill would be less than what we budgeted and so on.

It takes me about 5 minutes or less to go through the fridge and grab the leftovers for lunch. At the same time, I note what fresh produce we have so I make sure to cook those vegetables for dinner that night.

It takes another 30 minutes tops to plan a week’s worth of menus and make a shopping list. It uusally takes a lot less than that because every time I come up with a menu I save it to my “menus.txt” file. I have over 40 now and all I have to do is scan the list to see what looks good for the time of the year and what we’re doing that week. If we’re in the mood to look for new ideas and recipes, that’s always an option.

My cooking time is less now too. All the planning means I know what meals make great leftovers. When I’m cooking something that tastes even better the next day, I double or triple the recipe. I’ve learned to label all leftovers and meals for the freezer with the name and date. Now I only cook a main meal every other day or so.

Since I’ve gotten the food budget under control, I know I’m spending less total time than before. I rarely find moldy food in the fridge. I’m not having to run to the grocery store for forgotten items.

Here’s the breakdown of what I do now:
meal planning – 1/2 hour a week
Daily fridge cleaning – 1/2 a week (5 minutes a day or less)
Grocery shopping – 2 hours a week (20 minutes drive each way, 1 hour in the store and 20 minutes to put everything away)

I probably cook less than I used to but I’m not going to deduct that time.

So 3 hours a week has netted us thousands of tax-free dollars that have gone right back into our Money Game account. We’re over $16,000 with still a few weeks left to go for our first year of playing.

We didn’t have any of these savings before I made sure we quit wasting food. Let’s say you start paying attention and as a result, you start spending $50 a week less on food. We didn’t even eat out and I know we saved at least that much. That’s more than I could make at a minimum wage job for 3 hours of my time and it isn’t taxed. I also don’t have to drive to that job so I don’t lose the travel time, pay for gas, etc.

Minimum-wage.org reports that the minimum wage in Georgia is the same as the federal minimum wage and it’s currently $7.25 an hour. 3 hours would be $21.75 but again it will be taxed. Your take-home will be less.

If your food budget is leaking dollars, this is absolutely the place to start. If you eat out a lot, you have even more opportunity for savings.

I’m not against earning more money.  But it doesn’t make sense if it all gets wasted.

Consider seeing this as your side hustle. It could pay off in a big way (and keep paying after you get it working for you and can take on another paying job too).

Continuing with savings from selling the second car, I’m not going to need the $21 sitting in the category for car tags.  It’s getting moved to the MG as a power up!

Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,820.48
Total Balance: $16,167.54
Our Money Game fund has increased 12.7% so far this month.

$291.09 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Snowballing …

The Money Game started with $5 and I looked around grabbing every little bit I could add to it while thinking of ways to get this money to grow. My thoughts kept leading me to places where we could save money without sacrificing our lifestyle. It was fun and I kept playing.

Then bigger deposits came in here and there – a Costco rebate check for example. I kept at it thinking this part would dry up and I’d figure out something I could buy and sell.

But the savings kept coming in and I learned how to group several of them together at a time. I used ibotta and I used grocery sales. I used gift cards bought at a discount. I started shopping for gifts early in order to take advantage of good deals.

Our tax refund was a stunner and it went in. Then came the first Social Security check. I went from grabbing 20’s to 100’s and now there is nearly $1,000 going in each month on top of everything else I was already doing.

I never expected this. I did expect the fund to grow but I thought $300 a month just from watching our budget would be a big month (and I was okay with that). I hope you play along and I hope you find unexpected surprises along the way too.

I am dying to buy a place to rent out but it’s too soon. I would prefer to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice to buy investment property with cash. But if not, then I’d like to be able to put 20% down and use the social security check to cover the mortgage payment as a precaution. I was thinking today “it’s going to take too long!” That’s when I remembered how quickly this money piled up. I would have been thrilled to have $5,000 at this point and yet here we are looking at over three times that much.

Our efforts truly are snowballing.

Along that line, I’ve been combing the budget every day as we near the end of this first year. I’m trying to find every dollar I can to boost our MG fund’s performance as this year winds down. Today, my car’s maintenance fund stood out. I just sold the car and hope to convince George that we can be a one car family. $348.62 is sitting there (we have a separate maintenance category for George’s vehicle). I don’t know how I missed this but I’m slamming it into the MG fund (and George agrees).

A word on agreeing as a couple – we budget a certain amount for recurring expenses. For example, $300 is budgeted for the electric/water/gas bill each month. After I pay the bill, whatever is left goes to the Money Game. We both know that so there’s no need for a discussion.

Money left in this car repair category felt a bit different. Car repairs can be unpredictable and tricky. If we decide to buy another car for me, we may need it right away. We always buy used cars and there’s usually something that needs attention. So I checked with George first. We agreed that we could start rebuilding the fund if we decide to go back to 2 cars. We also have emergency savings.

Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,798.48
Total Balance: $16,145.54
Our Money Game fund has increased 12.5% so far this month.

$313.09 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

ADD and managing finances

The last time I talked about ADD with respect to chores, I shared how much it helped me to start developing a regular routine of running the dishwasher every night and putting away the clean dishes each morning.

The next thing I decided to tackle was getting bills paid on time. It’s a lot easier now with online banking, etc. but we still have a bill or two that require a check.

If this is you, designate one place for stamps, envelopes and the checkbook. If you use a tool like YNAB, you’ll get to the point that the money is there when the bill hits your inbox. You don’t have to have a home office. A certain drawer or even a box will do it. Just stay consistent. The first couple of weeks I literally walked to the desk drawer that had everything and verified it was still there – checkbook, stamps, a pen. Something about physcially opening the drawer and seeing everything there helped me remember that it was there and that everything I needed was in one place. Now I don’t have to do that. As I’ve paid bills consistently, a lot of peace comes with knowing that everything will be in the same spot.

I used to try to time it to pay it at the last possible moment (our money is earning interest right?) Now I just pay it the day it comes. There isn’t enough interest to chance getting hit with a late fee and possibly dinging our credit rating. I also don’t have to carry around that nagging feeling that I have to remember to take care of that bill. It’s been a huge weight off my shoulders to just pay the bill and call it done.

If you struggle with this, following this advice will save you money and stress.

Today’s post comes with the weekly “we came under in fuel” power up. Today’s deposit is $34.69. When I write these up and compare totals from the last post, it doesn’t seem like much. I’m tempted to spend the money.

Two thoughts hit me straight up. First – most of these deposits have been power ups! Second – Anything I need that would cost thirty bucks is already built into the budget. If I spend all these power ups, our house would be overflowing with crap. Weekends would be tied up with decluttering and holding yard sales instead playing outside.

The truth sinks in and I happily make the deposit remembering what I really want – a fund big enough to buy an asset that will make more money.

Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,449.86
Total Balance: $15,796.92
Our Money Game fund has increased 10.1% so far this month.

$661.71 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Level 165: Downsizing to one car

Our daughter has become a red hot real estate agent and is opening her own office. So of course her car decided to bite the dust.

I love being in a position to help her avoid a long car loan. She bought my Lexus convertible and she’ll pay it off over the summer. Meanwhile I get to cancel my car insurance.

I’ve been trying to convince George that we only need one vehicle. He’s willing to try it out while DD pays for the Lexus. Once we have those funds, we’ll decide if we’ll continue this way. I think we’d be better off if I just rented a car for those occassional times that I take a day trip to Atlanta or Knoxville. I’m thankful he’s willing to try it out.

We’ve been doing this for about a month and so far it’s only added the chore of picking up and dropping off dry cleaning to his plate. In theory, I do the grocery shopping Wednesday mornings but in real life, we still love to do this together during the weekend. We both love to cook and when we dated, we usually just hung out at Kroger (that’s sounds pathetic but we had a lot of fun there as poor college students).

Today’s deposit is $308 (the amount sitting in my former car’s insurance category). I should also get a refund check at some point but it won’t be much as the semi annual bill will come due soon.

So this completes Level 165! 85 more levels to go as we race to a million!!

Level Completed: 165 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1415.17
Total Balance: $15,762.23
Our Money Game fund has increased 9.9% so far this month.

$696.40 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game