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Cheap Date Night

Paint and Pints @ Whole Foods

PaintAndPints

These pictures are a bit … ahem … amateur but this was our first watercolor class and our second art lesson ever. We’re both math/science nerds so please cut as a little slack. I wish I had thought to snap a picture at the event. There were many smiling faces of people having a good time. We were having so much fun I didn’t even think about it.

We might get a “D” for finished art but we get an “A” for a fun cheap date night. George found our Whole Foods was offering a “Paint and Pint” night for $10 a person. That fee covered a full pint of craft beer along with an art teacher and all the supplies needed to complete a simple first project.

We had a blast! It was well attended and we made a few new friends. Now I’m wondering what else is out there as it’s been a while since we looked.

Today’s deposit is our regular $125 deposit that we make at the end of each month. It’s a planned budget item we decided on early in on the Money Game.

Today’s Deposit: $125.00
Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,343.16
Total Balance: $17,860.65
Our Money Game fund has increased 8.1% so far this month.

$284.99 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Easily distracted bill paying

If I had the checkbook, I didn’t have a stamp. Or a pen.

Now that I pay online, I still forget to actually hit submit.

But if you want the Money Game to grow, you have, have, have to get your finances organized. If you’ve been reading here regularly, you know that means having software to make your checkbook function like electronic envelopes.

It also means paying your bills when they come due. No bank is going to pay you enough interest worth getting hit with a late fee. So aim for paying it the day it hits your inbox (or mailbox for some of them).

Use YNAB to set enough aside each pay period so that you can just pay it when the bill comes.

If you still pay some bills by snail mail, keep stamps in your checkbook and don’t move them for anything. Always keep an extra set of stamps. As soon as you start on the new set, add “buy stamps” to list of things to do.

This probably sounds like overkill but I also keep a pen in my checkbook.

Keeping this part of your life under control will save you some serious money and improve your credit rating. There’s also something freeing about paying a bill the day it comes to you. You don’t walk around with that weight and constant mental nagging of knowing there’s something you are supposed to do.

George asked me to stick part of any extra fuel money in vacation. We came way under again this week. $4.06 went into the vacation category and $40 is going in our Money Game.

Today’s Deposit: $40.00
Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,218.16
Total Balance: $17,735.65
Our Money Game fund has increased 7.4% so far this month.

$409.99 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

What I really want

Don’t waste your time tracking every single penny you spend to see where money is leaking out.

Instead find something else you want more. Then make it a game to pile up money in that bucket – your Money Game fund, that new toy you really want, the down payment for your first house, etc.

It’s more productive to just go after what you want instead of yelling at everyone for wasting money. If you have a vision and can share it, I think the battle is at least 90% won.

Dave Ramsey says discipline is just remembering what you really want. I think if you keep your dreams front and center, you don’t even need discipline.

I really want an alternate way of supporting myself. I still need and want our 401K but I don’t want to worry about the stock market’s performance in retirement. I have a vision for what we can do for ourselves as well by perhaps buying and selling property. That’s going to take capital. It’s what I really want.

That’s why the $2.44 left in the phone category after paying the bill is going to our Money Game today.

Today’s Deposit: $2.44
Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,178.16
Total Balance: $17,695.65
Our Money Game fund has increased 7.1% so far this month.

$449.99 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

A July power up and the best omelet I ever had

George and I love to cook together. Making and even growing great food and eating meals together is something that has made life rich and full. It’s actually put more money in our account as we rarely eat out now.

We had a crazy day last week with no time to cook. We did have some leftover unsauced pulled pork BBQ in the fridge that he got at Whole Foods. Sometimes he has to travel to Chattanooga for work related events. Last week was one of those times so he swung by for lunch.

That night, he sliced an onion and tossed it in a skiller with the pork and a little extra virgin olive oil. After the onions were cooked, all of that came out and he made two omelets using the cooked pork/onion mixture as the filling.

The smokey flavor of the pork came through and the onions were perfect with it. It was the best omelet I’ve ever eaten and I’m still thinking about it days later.

Today’s power up is $4.14 leftover after paying for our internet/cable service. I know I say this over and over but these power ups are the back bone of our MG account’s growth. Without these, we wouldn’t even have the big deposits. Before we figured out how to gameify this, the big windfalls went to make up the shortfalls we constantly made. Because everything was getting made up eventually, we thought we were good money managers.

Stay on top of it. It’s a lot easier to say no to small things than to face saying no to a something like a rent or mortgage payment. Keep bossing your money around with as much gusto as you boss your character around in your favorite game.
Today’s Deposit: $4.14
Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,175.72
Total Balance: $17,693.21
Our Money Game fund has increased 7.1% so far this month.

$452.43 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Retirement count down clock

I don’t care for these articles.
Clark Howard – Retirement count down clock

To me, they all say the same thing. Stop going to Starbucks and save $4 or $5 a day.

What chaps me is I don’t see a specific plan of what to do with that money. We had an extended family member who was great at finding sales. She had so much stuff! Her home was so crammed full of stuff she bought that I think she liked to shop so she oould be in a place that looked nice. She died in poverty with no assets but significant credit card debt. She had to depend on her kids to care for her in her old age. They didn’t mind; they loved her. But is that how you want to spend your retirement?

If you’re a regular reader here, you know of a plan! And I did actually make a thermos of coffee, drive several hours out of town, come home and pay an extra $5 off our mortgage. Our home has been paid off for a while now. If I did it today, I’d put it in the Money Game.

One thing I did that I found helpful was calculate how many paychecks we had until retirement. That put the fear of God into me! Let’s say you are 45 and you’d like to retire at the age of 60. To keep the math easy, let’s say you are paid monthly. That means you have 15 years left which is 180 paychecks. Doing that helped me see that income from wages wasn’t going to be endless. It helped me see stopping a 401K contribution wasn’t an option. It also made me want to do more.

Our fuel costs have been insanely low since I sold my car. We have $29.70 left over for today’s power up. We’re slowly starting to feel the inconvenience. I need to start crunching numbers to see if renting one once a month makes more sense than buying one.

Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,171.58
Total Balance: $17,689.07
Our Money Game fund has increased 7.1% so far this month.

$456.57 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

ADD meets a new timer

I have absolutely no awareness of time. I know I need to and I try but my own efforts at “trying” fall flat (as in face plant).

I got our master bath organized and got on top of a cleaning routine. Every day I quickly put away my makeup, pick up the towels and give the toilet a quick once over. When I walk out after getting dressed, it looks neat. It took a while to get to this point. I tackled one fixture at a time and kept it clean. Eventually I added another. When I do my “deep” clean once a week, I take everything out of the shower and off the vanity. I take the bath mat and the scale out. Every time I did it, I asked myself what would make the job faster and easier next time? The answer was “Do I really use that product?” I used them up and started streamlining what I actually use each day. Now there’s less to deal with.

I still dread the job each week even though the room is pleasant. I never have the TV on but today I thought I’d try starting at the top of the hour, turning it on and race a half hour program. The results surprised me. I thought it took an hour to clear the vanities and the shower, clean the large mirror over the double vanity, clean the vanity, fixtures and the two sinks, do the shower, toilet and mop the floor. It barely took 15 minutes. Granted I still need to put everything in it’s place once the floor is dry but that’s a pleasant task that takes a few minutes. I never dread that part of it.

The TV was helpful because I couldn’t hear the exact words but I could tell when a segment went off and commercials came on. That was better for me than just setting a timer where nothing happens until it buzzes. This gave me an awareness of passing time and kept me pushing forward.

Consider keeping a squirt bottle of glass cleaner, paper towels, your Swiffer mop refill pads and a can of Scrubbing Bubbles under a sink. Spot clean any time you notice something, keep everything picked up and wipe down the toilet once a day. When your weekly day rolls around, you’ll be surprised how quickly it will go. If the bathroom you’re addressing has gotten really out of hand, just tackle one thing once a week and keep doing the daily once over. You’ll get there.

If you have kids, get them to do their own daily wipe down. Baby wipes are great cleaners. They can grab a wipe and wipe up any toothpaste mishaps and even wipe the rim of the toilet. If they are a bit older, they can pour a little vinegar into the bowl and clean it with a brush. Kids can clean to use wipes and vinegar safely and their bathroom will sparkle too. When I did this with my grandsons, I kept telling them how easy it was to clean a clean bathroom (I cleaned it for them first the first time I taught them).

I came in the next day (they were kinders and still learning) and they didn’t remember. Instead of scolding them, I complimented them on how nice the bathroom looked. Then I had one grab a wipe and quickly wipe the sink (it needed it) and had the other pick up the towels. I pointed out that now it was perfect and that was all it took. They quickly got into a routine of picking up. It took me noticing (“inspect what you expect”) and lots of praise but that’s okay. As parents and grandparents, it’s our job to teach and coach. I made sure I took time to play with them right after these quick clean up sessions. I wanted the focus to be our fun times spent together not me obsessing about cleaning.

I was so glad to learn it doesn’t take as long as I thought. That leaves a lot more time for the fun stuff.

Chicken Fajita Salad

I’m going to set up an official Costco rotisserie chicken page because all of these ways to use them are so good and save so much money!

George came up with this one and it was a home run. We both wanted it in the standard rotation.

This recipe serves 2. One whole chicken and 3 or 4 onions would serve 6 – 8. We serve it over chopped lettuce. If you’d rather add a carb to your meal, you can serve it over beans and/or Mexican rice.

Start by making some fresh salad and dress it lightly with olive oil. We like lettuce and tomato but do yours any way you like as long as the flavors will meld with Mexican flavors.

Cut at least one onion (two are better) in half and slice all the halves. Cut a fresh pepper (or use the Costco jarred red peppers) into strips. Toss all the veggies in a skillet with some extra virgin olive oil and cook until they get tender (letting them carmelize adds even more flavor).

Meanwhile remove the meat from either one breast or the two leg quarters and slice it into strips about the same size as you sliced the veggies. Put the meat in a bowl and sesason well with chili powder and cumin. Just sprinkle it on and start tossing. You can taste the meat to get an idea of how seasoned it is. When we make it, we like to see spice on all of the meat. Just do it to your taste.

Toss the meat in the skillet, stir and continue cooking until it heats through. You may have to drizzle on more olive oil.

Spoon the hot fajita mixture over your salad greens (or your beans and/or rice). We like to serve homemade fresh salsa on the side. Other condiments you could add are the typical avocado, sour cream and shredded cheese.

I zeroed out fuel and last week we didn’t have to fill up at all. Having one car has it’s advantages. Today’s powerup is $80.

Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,141.88
Total Balance: $17,659.37
Our Money Game fund has increased 6.9% so far this month.

$486.27 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Levels 167: It’s been a year!

I love numbers. A year ago I played with a spreadsheet wondering what would happen if someone grew $5 5% at a time. It was fun to play around with. At each level, I could picture myself doing something with that sum to make more. I decided to go for it.  Each time it grew 5%, it felt like leveling up in a video game. I was off to the races.

I wrote here many times that it took on a life of its own. I thought I would spend my time trying to buy something undervalued to turn around and sell. Instead, I started finding money leftover at the end of each pay period in different budget categories. I became a better shopper and a better kitchen manager. I had no idea we were leaving so much on the (literal) table.

Now I’m sitting here a bit stunned and very proud of what we accomplished. I’m proud that we never got tempted to buy a new car or spend this money in other ways. I definitely want to keep growing it and use it as another way to earn money in retirement. The most logical way seems like buying real estate to either rent or resell. I don’t know yet. George has found undervalued properties several times before in great locations and it just seems like a good fit for us. At the same time, $17,500 + isn’t much in the world of real estate.

I have no idea what this second year will bring but I know I’ll be along for the ride.

My second social security check hit my bank account today and it’s fitting to add a final deposit of $800 (after giving away a portion and setting aside a chunk for taxes). I’ve been researching how to pay the quarterly taxes and learned that it won’t be as much as I initially thought. I also have an expense check to add bringing today’s deposit to $1045.79.

My mom used to say that money doesn’t mean anything if you lose your health. This marks a full year that we haven’t even had a cold. We’ll keep saving but we’ll also keep growing our veggies and eating a Paleo diet most of the time. The first time I went to a chiropractor, Dr. Sally Knox asked me if I had ever had headaches. I said “Just a couple of times a week – you know just normal.” She quietly said it wasn’t normal to have a headache and that she hadn’t had a Tylenol in over 10 years. She wasn’t bragging; it was just a quiet assertion. I never heard that until then.

I was on antibiotics for an entire year when my nutrition journey started so it isn’t like I never got sick anyway. I was sick all the time. I want to add our voices to the growing chorus “getting sick isn’t normal”. If you gets colds or the flu, I hope this inspires you. Staying healthy not only puts more money in your pocket – it gives you the strength and energy to enjoy it!

Level Completed: 167 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $1,061.88
Total Balance: $17,579.37
Our Money Game fund has increased 6.4% so far this month.

$566.27 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Cleaning and ADD (one square foot at a time)

True confession time and it’s going to be embarrassing. I wasn’t taught how to clean growing up at home. When I moved out of my childhood home, you couldn’t see the floor in my bedroom.

What do you do when it’s that bad? Start conquering one square foot at a time. Pick a room (pick the one that’s causing you the most grief). Stand in the door you use most or just pick a spot. Turn to your left and mentally block out the first square foot against the wall. We’re going to do a first pass around this room where we just tidy. Pick up whatever you find and put it where it belongs. If you just don’t know and/or can’t deal with it then toss it to the other side of the room.

Brief pause here – if you toss something to other side, you need to start thinking about how you’re going to deal with it when you come to it again. Trust yourself – you’ll figure it out.

The only rule is you can’t mess up the square foot you just tidied.

The next time you clean – make sure your square foot is still clean. If not, tidy again and go to the next square foot.

You’ll quickly see it’s easier to clean something that’s clean. Stay on it. Conquering new territory is harder so that’s why you just “have” to do one new square foot each time.

Keep working around the room and then clean the floor again one square foot at a time if you have to. When you get to those last items that you kept tossing to the last corner, try to deal with them. If you still can’t, put them in the most logical room. By the time you get to the last room in your house, you’ll be a pro.

Now you can dust, vacuum, wipe down counters, clean the sink or whatever else is left in the room to clean. Again – don’t go crazy. If it’s a really dirty bathroom, start with one fixture. Clean it really well. The next time you clean, quickly tidy, clean the clean fixture and then clean one dirty one. Faster than you would have thought, you’ll have a sparkling bathroom that stays that way.

Today’s post comes with a power up. Fuel for last week was $4.49 under budget.

Why do I keep writing these boring updates? To prove how they add up.

Level Completed: 166 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $16.09
Total Balance: $16,533.58
Our Money Game fund has increased .1% so far this month.

$747.98 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

I’m so behind on updates here

** If you just found this site, ¬†please don’t look at my latest totals and think “Good for her but I can’t see myself coming with that much money in a year.” Go to the archives and read the first posts. I started with $5 and just made a game out of adding money to that. A few times I sold things too that made even more money.

Most of these deposits were small and they rolled over and over and over again. There were times they were so small it was boring to make them even though it was just a few clicks on our online account. It really makes a difference. Playing the game gets you to pay attention. You stop leaking money while you continue to spend on things you really want and need.

If you follow this blog, you’re going to start seeing this message a lot for the benefit of any body new who finds it. I apologize but it needs to be said. **

I’m still playing the Money Game and making a final push to the end of our first full year. That will be Wednesday, July 12.

Meanwhile the Pinnacle Point (that what I like to call our house) has been getting calls from the house doctor. The failed upstairs heat pump has been replaced along with several floors that were damaged from a water leak.

When the heat pump guys were here, I told them to feel free to use the powder room. That night I went to use it for the first time since everything was fixed and replaced. I discovered George still hadn’t replaced the door. Oh my – those poor guys. I didn’t follow them around so I have no idea if either them actually went in there. I feel like an idiot.

I’m behind on updates which I’ll start now. Meanwhile I also see the pending deposit for my second social security check. I’m very happy to be able to make that deposit before the year officially closes.

Here are the updates:
Interest 4.43
Coming in under on phone and fuel: 7.17

Level Completed: 166 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $11.60
Total Balance: $16,529.09
Our Money Game fund has increased .07% so far this month.

$752.47 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game