Category Archives: Budget Conscious

A New Ride?

We had a little car trouble over Thanksgiving. We barely made it to OK Speed style and Ben’s parents graciously let us borrow a car for the next few weeks while ours hopefully gets fixed. We’ve been thinking that it’s time for a new one.
I have a confession to make. Ben and I are 31 year old “adults” and have never owned a car that wasn’t from family. For reals. This is something we’ve bragged about for years, but now we have no clue what we’re doing! I want something pretty and Ben wants something efficient. New or used? SUV or sedan? How much should we spend can we afford? Sunroof or no sunroof?

My first thought was that I need to get a full-time job. I am staying open to that idea, but we both decided that I shouldn’t give up the freedom of my time just so we can have a fancy new car. Instead, we plan on budgeting with what we’re making now and then if I found something we would just pay it off sooner.

I like this quote from Dave Ramsey, “When you are working, playing with your children or helping a friend, you are not thinking to yourself, “Man, I am so happy since I have a new car. Life is beautiful!” The key to happiness is not a new car, so don’t pay for it like it is!” He has some great car-buying tips on his site!

I agree with Dave, but being a 1-car family it’s important for us to have a dependable car that will get us where we need to go and that we can rely on for long trips to visit family. We keep going back and forth about it all. *sigh*

Any helpful car-buying tips out there? Are we crazy for having never had a car payment? Who loves the car they drive and why?

Image found here.

A Staycation in Memphis

When my brother and sis-in-law decided to come for a visit, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for us to do Memphisy things before our move. After endless home improvement projects, it was nice to relax for a change!
When I saw that the Goo Goo Dolls and Michelle Branch were playing at Live at the Garden the weekend they were coming, we knew we had to go! The concert was AMAZING until the GGDs were about 5 songs into their set list…
That’s when the wind picked up, it started lightning and we found ourselves in a torrential downpour! We ran about a quarter of a mile to the car and it took a couple of days for our cloth car seats to completely dry out.
Saturday afternoon we headed to Seize the Clay to paint some pottery. The boys choose coasters and the girls got vases. Everyone made fun of me for painting my piece all 1 color. What can I say, I’m a color-in-the-lines kind of girl!
After that it was time to head downtown for a Sun Studio tour. Yes, we have lived in Memphis for 7 yrs. without having taken this tour – crazy! I was happy to see my man, Tom Petty, has recorded there.
Bubby and I were stylin’ in our Elvis shades. The gift shop itself was pretty cool. You could even get homemade milkshakes and moonpies at the bar.
Have you ever seen a cuter couple?! We love these two and always have so much fun with them – they are a big reason we want to move back to OK!
After enjoying some sushi, we went to Beale Street which is one of the most fun places in the world to people watch! We were a little disappointed at the lack of Elvis impersonators since it was Elvis Week, but it was still a lot of fun.
Ben was wandering around as usual taking in the sites. Sunday we just kind of chilled out. We caught the new Pirates movie at the cheap theater, made this amazing Lemony Pesto Pasta at home and grabbed a Redbox movie.

We had a fantastic weekend with Michael and Ryan and can’t wait to live in the same city as them hopefully very soon! Who else has opted for a staycation? What fun things did you wait entirely too long to do in your city?

Target Shopping Secrets

I was at Target this week explaining the red clearance stickers to a friend and she asked me if I had blogged about this. I was taken back because I hadn’t even thought about it. My sis-in-law can make fun of me all she wants about being a Target addict, but what can I say – it’s my happy place!
I’ll begin by explaining this little guy like I did with Natalie. Most people probably just look at the prices, but the most important number on the sticker is in the top right hand corner – see that little ’50’? When Target puts merchandise on clearance, they will start by marking it down 30%, 50%, and finally 75% off (typically every 2 wks). So, if there is an abundance of a clearance item you want, there’s a good chance you can get it cheaper if you’re patient.
It’s also helpful to know what the markdown schedule is. Ask the employees at your local store when they mark down certain departments you’re interested in. Here’s a typical Target markdown schedule I found at mommysavers.com:

Monday Markdowns: Kids’ Clothing, Stationery, Electronics
Tuesday Markdowns: Women’s Clothing and Domestics
Wednesday Markdowns: Men’s Clothing, Toys, Health and Beauty
Thursday Markdowns: Lingerie, Shoes, Housewares
Friday Markdowns: Cosmetics, Housewares, Automotives

Shop the endcaps on the outside perimeters because that’s where they load most of the clearance items. I’m not a crazy coupon lady, but Target does accept manufacturer coupons and they can be used in conjunction with their store coupons as well. Last, but not least, BYOB (no, they didn’t start allowing open containers in Target – bring your own bag) to get 5 cents off your purchase.

I’m sure that’s way more info. than you ever wanted to know about Target, but it’s a great place to shop for affordable home decor! What other shopping tips do y’all have to share?

Clearance sticker image found here and aisle image found here.

Top 10 Ways We Save Money

Between getting our house ready to sell and an upcoming move, I’ve had money on the brain lately – not to mention that I’m married to Ben Penny McPincherson. We aren’t Dave Ramsey addicts or those crazy coupon people that have their own show on TLC, but we do things that work for us:

10. Use the library/Kindle – Having a library card and utilizing the library is actually a fairly new concept to me. I love that you can put books on hold online and pick them up at the front counter – like fast food only with books. Ben has also saved a lot of money buying books on his Kindle (which we call Kindy).

9. No home phone/cable – Ditching your home phone isn’t that foreign of a concept these days with everybody having cell phones, but we kicked that unnecessary bill to the curb years ago. Besides a short 8 months lapse in judgement (I blame DVR for seducing us) we have lived without cable since we moved to Memphis 7 yrs. ago. We opted for an HD antennae instead.
8. 1-car family – this one has been tough and initially wasn’t by choice. Ben’s truck died a year and a half ago and we have yet to replace it. However, it’s saved hundreds on tags, car insurance and car maintenance.

7. Redbox/cheap theater/matinees – what can I say, we heart movies! We rent $1 movies from Redbox, go to the $2.50 theater or, if it’s something we really want to see at the real theater, we opt for a matinee (like the X-Men movie we’re going to see this afternoon).
6. No internet – this is another tough one which is all about convenience, especially since we both started blogging. Since we have a MacBook, an iPhone and internet access at work, we’ve learned to deal.

5. Do stuff ourselves – Ben wouldn’t ever consider actually paying someone to change the oil in our cars – he’s always done it himself like a true Thompson. We also mow our yard, wash our car and bathe our dog all by ourselves.

4. Split meals – whenever possible we always try to split meals when eating out which isn’t as bad as you’d think (especially since restaurants serve ginormous portions these days). If we get hungry later, we eat a snack at home.

3. Take stuff back – I am notorious about taking stuff back that we’ve bought that doesn’t work/fit/we don’t like after we get it home. I know this is tough for a lot of people and they end up having rooms full of unusable stuff.

2. All-Inclusive vacas – being an ex-travel agent, I know how expensive vacations can get, so going all-inclusive has definitely worked for us. We can actually budget exactly how much it will cost for airfare/hotel/food/drinks/activities and stay within that budget with the AI option.
1. Eat Frozen Yogurt – Ok, we are seriously addicted to froyo. Sweet CeCe’s has happy hour from 5-6 Mon-Thurs where it’s buy 1 get 1 free AND Tues is double stamp day. We actually have this as our dinner along with some steamed veggies when we get home to add some nutrition – ha!

Well, that’s the Thompson Financial Peace University. You can thank us when you too have become addicted to frozen yogurt dinners! What’s your most creative way of penny pinching these days? The first coat of Coastal Path is on the walls, so Monday will be the big reveal of our first staged room!

Redbox image found here.

The Value of a Second Opinion

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we recently had the home improvement blues which included a broken heater. This week hubby used his “one call solution” technique and had another company come out to take a look. How many problems or questions in our lives can be solved with one phone call? It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.The guy that showed up wasn’t nearly as dreamy looking as the guy above, but he sure knew his stuff. Keep in mind that repairman #1 doubled the quote he gave me after saying that the universal part wouldn’t work on our heater. Repairman #2 explained that they don’t even make the part specific to our heater anymore, so you have use the universal part – checkmate! At first the part didn’t work until he called tech support and found out that it had to be wired a little differently than the instructions said. That one call saved us $400!

That, my friends, is a deal! I refrained from hugging the repairman and proceeded to do my happy dance in our warm, toasty house. I don’t think the first company was out to get us or anything – they even had a good rating with the BBB. When it came down to it, guy #2 was willing to make the call that guy #1 didn’t make. That’s why a second opinion is a great idea for any kind of home repair/improvement situation.

Does anyone have a second opinion story to share? Who else has dangled from their attic stairs while trying to pull them down in front of a repairman? For those of you wondering, our March Madness Budget was a success! I leave you with a sneak peak of a weekend project I have in the works.
Repairman image found here.

March Madness Budget

As I recently mentioned in this post, I have budgets on the brain. Perhaps it’s because we’re still fairly close to the New Year, or maybe it’s because our 6 month car insurance premium is due this month (ugh!). We should have been saving a certain amount each month, but like true Americans we haven’t. That accompanied with the fact that we have a decent amount on our credit card that we pay off each month has required that we put together a legen-wait for it-dary March Madness Budget!Feast your eyes on my favorite invention of the 21st century – the DVR! We prided ourselves with having either no cable or basic cable (around $20/month) the first 7 years of our marriage. Last summer we finally gave in to temptation and before we knew it we had another $70 monthly bill! In January we went on a 1-week TV fast, and since then we only watch a handful of our favorite shows. That’s what led to this budget decision…When I first saw our fancy new HD antenna, I had visions of The Terminator and it coming to life to destroy us someday. However, after seeing how clear our HD network channels came in, I welcomed our killer robot with open arms! This $35 investment will save us $70/month and $840/year, virtually knocking out our bi-annual car insurance premium with some to spare.

Next up on the agenda was putting together a zero-based budget for this month where every dollar is accounted for. I found a free Excel budgeting spreadsheet that was very helpful here. One fun tip I got from a good friend of mine is to round all the amounts in your budget up to the nearest $5 increment. For perfectionist types like myself, it makes it look a lot prettier cleaner.

Besides cutting out our cable bill completely, the biggest area we can save in is eating out. As a young married couple with no kids (although we do splurge for a semi-raw diet for our dog), it’s like our Mt. Everest learning how to cook for ourselves and eat at home. Leave it to my hubby to come up with a genius plan of doing take-out and splitting entrees. When you cut out drinks and a tip, we can easily afford to eat out more often within our daily food budget.

So let the March Madness games begin – bring it! What’s your favorite bill you have cut out or minimized? Anyone have any other budgeting tips or suggestions for us? What, doesn’t everyone take pics of their DVR before turning it back into the cable company?

Decorating On a Budget

If you’re anything like me (and aren’t independently wealthy), along with making our house a home comes the guilt of the money I spent doing it. Even though I have hawk eyes for sales and I use my creativity every chance I get to cut costs, money still doesn’t grow on trees. It’s frustrating that every time I dive into another project that it can possibly mean floating money on a credit card for awhile. So how do you budget for decorating?One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is to just say no. Last week hubby and I were at Target when we stumbled across this amazing find! This Thomas O’Brien sage green and cream rug practically begged us to take him home. Of course, the 75% off sign is what initially got our attention and it ended up being $32 rather than the original $130. We started brainstorming about which room to put him in and rationalizing why we couldn’t walk away from this deal.

We took a step away from the project (and giant red sale sign) and walked around the store thinking about whether we really needed rug. In the end, we decided that we did not. I did the next best thing and found him a good home with some friends of ours. This is the second rug I’ve gotten for them (I discovered this gem at Pottery Barn outlet for a mere $50), so they’ve started referring to me as the rug guru.Another thing I do is have an ongoing wish list of things for your home that you want and are beautiful to you (remember the advice in this post?). This can be a note on your iPhone or jotted down on a Post-it, but I believe it’s important to write it down. This list will help you prioritize and focus on what projects are most important to you. It also doesn’t hurt to have this written down so that when you find those items on sale, you know it’s something you really want and not just an impulse buy.

Another great idea is to specifically budget for decorating (if you’re one of those nutty smart Dave Ramsey peeps) and get creative! I found myself venting to hubby that if I only had X amount of money each week specifically for my design projects, then I could totally work within that budget. That could mean us eating out two less times a week or ditching cable (which we’re about to do btw). I love the idea of being purposeful with our money, rather than looking like a deer in headlights every time we look at our bank account wondering where it’s all going.

This was all fresh on my mind after finishing my recent curtain project. What’s the hardest sale item you’ve ever walked away from? Any other avid list makers out there? I know I have some hardcore budget conscious readers, so please share your tips!

Wish list image found here.