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Level 163: Thanking God for the rain

and the cooler temps that gave us another unusually lower utility bill. We budget $300 and the bill was $126.36. Holy cow that’s low.

Today’s deposit is 173.64. With that we finish Level 163 and have 89 levels left to complete.

Level Completed: 163 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $898.19
Total Balance: $14,307.90
Our Money Game fund has increased 6.7% so far this month.

$620.56 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Gleaning – end of month power ups

I realize these posts are boring. I’m glad I take the time to journal them though. Our one big deposit (the tax refund) was only 23% of our total. All of these little boring power ups have carried the load. They really add up.

Because someone asked – I actually make these deposits into the savings account we designated for the Money Game. Online banking is a modern miracle.

I went through YNAB again and $2.74 left in the spending category for getting my hair cut and colored. I have better use for that money!

Today’s deposit: $2.74

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $724.55
Total Balance: $14,134.26
Our Money Game fund has increased 5.4% so far this month.

$83.32 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Living richly

counter fern
(photo by George)

Today, it meant finishing the job. I had washed the dishes and tidied up the kitchen and frankly I was done. I just wanted to check out.

I glanced down and the counter on the island was dirty. George was on his way home and I wanted things to look nice for him. I got out some spray and wiped them down.

It was a simple chore and didn’t take an extra two minutes. It just struck me how that extra step made the kitchen sparkle and yea, he noticed and commented when he came in.

It also struck me that sparkling felt rich. And it didn’t cost any extra money. I had to let it sink in that what feels rich isn’t always what one might think. When I was an older kid, I remember how luxurious my bedroom felt if all my clothes were picked up and the bed was made. We were dirt poor by the way.

It’s funny that simple act made me feel “richer” than the MG balance. It was a change you could feel. I need to remember that. It really drives home the fact that money is just an idea. If you sat in one corner with your pile and I sat in my corner with my pile, we’d just be two people in opposite corners holding piles. It’s what we do with what we have that makes a difference.

I’m still doing end of the month power ups. I haven’t needed much and have over $60 left in my personal spending category. I moved it to the Money Game. The percent growth for the month is now over 5% and that makes me really happy. The utility bill should give us a power up and I have a few more up my sleeve. The month isn’t over yet.

Today’s deposit: $62.52

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $721.81
Total Balance: $14,131.52
Our Money Game fund has increased 5.4% so far this month.

$86.06 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Powering up with our regular monthly deposit

We deposit $125 a month into the Money Game near the end of each month. Today’s the day and it’s always a nice boost. Nice enough to get us over the $14,000 line. It’s a great way to end the month but I think I can still find a few more power ups.

While we keep saving enough to make our real estate move, George pointed out that we could buy and sell the cars we drive if we take time to find great cars at good prices and just flip them. I asked him if that’s a sneaky way to get the Money Game to start funding our car purchases? It’s a thought though. Since I’m not working, I can be flexible and go without a car if a buyer emerges before we’ve found our next one.

Anyone want to buy a 2002 Lexus SC430 with 190,000 miles? I promise – it’s a sweet ride and it’s been well maintained! $10,500

Today’s deposit: $125.00

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $661.29
Total Balance: $14,071.00
Our Money Game fund has increased 4.9% so far this month.

$146.58 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Powering up as I organize

BMBDecember2014
(photo of the Gulf of Mexico by George)

I found some super fatted homemade soaps I had tucked away while organizing the linen closet. I also found some decent skin cream. My (admittedly expensive) skin care stuff has a budget but these soaps will work for the one product I’m out of. The budget handed over $32.91. (I know I’m not the only woman who budgets for skin care products.)

We are zeroing in on a vacation rental property we want to buy. I’ve been watching this area for over a year and checking the rental rates on VRBO. This info tells me they are cash flow positive. They stay booked and I can see what they rent for. This has lit a fire under my resolve to work harder to make this fund grow.

Meanwhile, I keep gathering data on what these properties (it’s a condo development) sell for and how much they bring in. It makes the waiting easier. I feel like I’m at least doing something when it feels like I’m watching paint dry!

Today’s deposit: $32.91

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $536.29
Total Balance: $13,946.00
Our Money Game fund has increased 4% so far this month.

$271.58 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

When frugal is better

organicLettuce
(I just snapped this picture of the romaine lettuce I’m growing and couldn’t resist pulling a small bit of dirt out – sure enough, a worm emerged on my first try.)

I’ve found so many of these … my first one is letting me level up today with fuel savings of $19.25.

  • When you lend your car to your daughter after hers breaks down. She doesn’t have to get a rental in order to meet her real estate buyers and I’m not driving around.
  • When you find some tiny sponges to use while camping and realize you can cut the regular kitchen sponges you buy into fourths. They fit your hand better and you don’t have to throw the entire big sponge away when it gets stinky.  Only 1/4 gets tossed and you grab the next small one.
  • When you figure out how to use something you already have instead of buying a new kitchen gadget. You save money and storage space. Our most recent example was learning how to use a fork as a lemon juicer.
  • When you bake a loaf of 5 minute artisan bread for less than a dollar and it elevates your simple meal of grilled chicken and salad to something better than you’d get at a local chain family restaurant.
  • When you invent a silly game like a worm digging contest to play with your grandchild and he still talks about it several years later.
  • When you plant some lettuce seeds and get to snip fresh organic greens and eat them literally one minute after harvest.

We have a ton of these. I’ll keep adding to the list over time.

Today’s deposit: $19.25

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $503.38
Total Balance: $13,913.09
Our Money Game fund has increased 3.75% so far this month.

$304.49 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game</a

When should a person start collecting social security benefits?

I’m getting older and have been trying to understand the best time to start collecting social security. My chiropractor said he’s read some great tips from Gary North’s website. This one came up with the title “What is the best age to start collecting social security? but when I read it, I found a gem at the bottom. He says the right question is what to do with those payments.

Have a look. It’s short and it’s golden.

My secret weapon – Costco rotisserie chickens

Costco has these down to a science. The chickens are juicy, cooked to perfection and seasoned well. I’ve been told the chickens themselves are antibiotic free and hormone free. They have a great flavor and texture.

Reuters: Costco working to end use of human antibiotics in chicken (published in 2015)

It’s just George and me so one chicken does 3 meals + bone broth. Here’s how I pull it off:

Meal 1 – While the chicken is still warm, I cut it in half and remove one breast. The wings come off (we both get one as an appetizer). I slice the breast and serve it with Paleo gravy and steamed veggies.

Meal 2 – the other breast gets cut into strips to go into a coconut curry (easy peasy – just stir fry some onions and broccoli (or any veggies you like), toss in the meat, a can of coconut milk and some curry paste)

Meal 3 – pick the dark meat off the thighs and drumsticks, shred it by hand or in your KA top with Paleo BBQ sauce

Bone broth is easy in our Instant Pot. If I don’t have a soup planned, we often just heat it and enjoy it either as broth or poured over fresh chopped veg and topped with sliced green onion. It adds a ton of flavor to our cooking too. When I make the broth, I use the carcass and also the drippings that are in the bottom of the container the chicken comes in.

I like to pull all the meat off the carcass while the chicken is still warm from the store. It’s just easier that way. Separate it into ziplock bags or your container of choice and promptly refrigerate. If I don’t have any other plans, I’ll make a chicken and vegetable soup and then freeze for emergency meals later. It may not sound glamerous, but when you come home late, they are a goldmine in the freezer. Just be sure to label and date the containers before sticking them in the freezer.

These chickens have been priced at $4.99 the entire time we’ve been Costco members (about 3 years). If you use at least one of these chickens a week, the savings over the price at a regular grocery store will pay for your Costco membership.

Other ways I use them:

  • fresh homemade chicken salad
  • any type of homemade chicken soup
  • chicken chili
  • chicken croquettes
  • chicken fajitas (slice the breasts, cut into strips, toss in seasoning and throw in a skillet after quickly cooking sliced onions and peppers)
  • chicken cacciatore
  • toss in a white cream sauce and serve over lightly steamed peas and carrots
  • jambalaya
  • shred and bake in a cornmeal dressing (this is a fall family favorite thanks to our beautiful daughter in law)
  • baked chicken casseroles
  • chicken enchilada casserole
  • chicken tacos

Doing the math – 1 chicken serves 2 adults 3 meals and we use 1 each week. I don’t know of any other protein source that can stretch to that many meals for $5.

With a  little  planning, these chickens can help you come in under your grocery budget! Remember – don’t just “save” money. Grab those savings and physically move them to your Money Game fund!

Today’s  post comes with a teensy power up of $4.14 leftover after paying the cable/internet bill.

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $484.13
Total Balance: $13,893.84
Our Money Game fund has increased 3.6% so far this month.

$323.74 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

How’s it going with that grocery budget?

You may have noticed I haven’t published any power ups by coming in under on food. I have dropped the ball.

Check your own records. If you tally groceries and eating out, you may discover you spend more on food than any other budget category. When I checked years ago, I was shocked when I found it was our second highest expense right under our mortgage.

It’s easy to slack off. Once you get organized, you reach a point where the pantry is full and the freezer is stocked. Menu planning gets a little boring or a new season of the year starts that can distract you.

I’m brushing myself off and getting back on the wagon. If you could use a tune up, here’s my checklist:

  • Clean out the fridge
  • Start using up the food in our freezer (I like to empty the bottom shelf, then move everything down one shelf. Top shelf is for anything new I’ve purchased. It keeps the contents rotating.)
  • Use up food in our pantry.
  • Get YNAB sorted with respect to the food budget (whack a mole). Notice that amount could have gone to your MG fund. Feel the pain and move on.
  • Make menus, post them on the fridge or somewhere and follow the plan.
  • Enforce grocery shopping day. It’s something that has to be done.
  • Stop shopping with George. It’s too much fun and we spend too much together. (Note to self – there are other things you can do on date night besides hang out in grocery stores.)
  • Start monitoring and grabbing those power ups again.

Something I’m trying to process

I think it’s safe to say that any investment making 12% or more a year is thought to be doing well.  12% seems to be a benchmark and maybe that came from the popularity of Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover. I really don’t know. (By the way, 1% a month is slightly more than 12% a year. I know you know that but I can’t resist underscoring that point.)

The Ted Talk I put up before resonated with me because it showed another way to make money.  I’m not saying that mutual funds or other mainstream investment vehicles are bad. I’m just trying to process why my own efforts are paying off more. It just amazed me that Joel (on the Ted Talk) was able to outperform a superstar like Apple stock.

I realize I may be eating crow two years down the road admitting that perhaps I can’t grow money on my own.  I honestly have no idea where this game is going to end up.  I’m thankful to be married to a sensible man who is grounded, works hard and continues to invest in his 401k.

I’m just starting to feel that the conventional wisdom to get a good job and invest in the stock market for the long haul may not be what it’s cracked up to be.

When we first started saving our former car payment (I guess that was our first iteration of the Money Game), I asked George how I could get 12% or better on those early deposits.  He quipped that it was easy pointing out I was still paying our former housekeeper $20 a week to iron his dress shirts.  I took over the ironing (our housekeeper was collecting social security by then and she was trying to cut her work load back anyway) and started banking the $20 each week along with the money that used to go to a car loan.  At that time, it was $125 a week.  Do you see how much extra that was in terms of percentage? That was 20% more right out of the gate!

With that, here’s another “boring” power up. When I write these up, I think they must be boring to read. I keep doing it though. One of my earlier posts said this would all level off and I’d have to find something else. It’s interesting that it hasn’t leveled off. These small power ups keep rolling over and the MG fund keeps getting fatter. If you are tracking with me, grab these same savings for yourself. Just start an account and do it!!

The cable bill came in. I budget $125 each month and the bill was 120.86. So today’s deposit is $4.14.

Level Completed: 162 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $484.13
Total Balance: $13,893.84
Our Money Game fund has increased 3.6% so far this month.

$323.74 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game