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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Tuesday
Dec012009

Fumbling Around For Something

Just popping in to tell you I'M SIIIIICK. So sick. Do you think you could come over and make me tea and rub my feet? I came home from work Friday night and Violet was screaming - refused to be consoled - and I ended up rocking her to sleep for much of the night. Every time I put her in her crib she'd instantly pop awake and cry miserably, flinging herself all over the place. The weekend was spent in much the same fashion as Friday night. And oh my God, dealing with a sick child must be some motherhood rite of passage that no one told me about because holy shit what a nightmare. Then she turns around and gets better on me and now I'm sick.

So there has been major suckage of life round these parts these past few days. Work is also a source of great frustration for me as of late. I seem to keep getting continually screwed by certain bureaucratic bullshit that is seemingly beyond anyone's control. Most recently I wanted to change a tiny part of my medical insurance for 2010 but was denied because THE DEADLINE HAS PASSED.
But it's not 2010 yet and I just need to change this one thing.
That's what open enrollment was for.
But that was only, like, two weeks ago and I didn't know I needed to change the thing then.
Too bad.

I understand the need for deadlines or else there would apparently be medical mayhem with folks changing up their health benefits every damn day and then what? MADNESS I TELL YOU! MEDICAL MADNESS! It seemed like such a small thing to ask. Bad timing, I suppose. The past three years of my career have been case after case of bad timing. Pay raises lost due to the bad economy. A few months after I got pregnant the company was sold. Then they changed the health insurance so I had to change doctors mid-pregnancy. Months before I gave birth they reduced their maternity leave coverage from 100% to 60% and required women to use all sick/vacation days for maternity leave. Do you know what a motherfucker THAT is when you give birth in January? I've been struggling through this entire year with no vacation and no sick days. I'm home from work today and will not get paid. So I guess that last health benefits thing sent me over the edge. Which leads me to my efforts to pay off my debt. Because I have no sick days, not working today will pretty much eliminate any extra cash I might have this month to pay down the debt.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that I'm at work all day long and we're basically still living paycheck to paycheck. Yeah, yeah, welcome to the world, Monica. At least you have a job. But when it feels like we're trying so hard to save money yet still coming up empty I just get so mad. What am I doing wrong? I guess I'm still spending money on alcohol every week. Couple bottles of wine and some beer. That adds up to $50 a week which is $200 a month. That's a lot.

I've got to stop drinking for so many reasons. $200 a month! That blows my mind. How stupid of me. What kind of Money Makeover is this if I'm still dropping $200 a month on alcohol?

Oh! Oh! Check this out. So I've paid about a thousand bucks toward my credit card over the past couple months. For the last five years my balance has hovered near my limit, which was $2,000. Back in my reckless spending days I'd called the company to ask for a limit increase several times. I was always denied. THANK GOD. But the other day I logged on to my account to check my balance owed. It was still somewhere around $800. But my limit? $6,000! Which, who cares I cut it up already, but it just goes to show how evil those fuckers are. I'm finally paying the card down and they respond by shooting the limit sky high, a $4,000 increase right before Christmas. Ah well. The card is dead. The only thing that new balance will do is help my credit rating.

I'm just frustrated that the getting out of debt thing is going so slowly. But even in writing here I see my mistakes. No more alcohol, for me anyway. Serge can make a bottle of red last a week and I can't take that away from him. Poor dude is already suffering without cable.

Here is what I want to know from you. What are you doing to save money? Also, any ideas to make extra money? I really want to shift this Money Makeover into high gear.

Reader Comments (57)

When I'm complaing about bills and lack of funds my husband always gives me the same answer...make internet porn. He swears this will solve all our money woes:)

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen W.

Do you have a budget for groceries? We have a reasonable amount to spend per week and don't go over that amount no matter what. It really helps to curb frivolous spending in the grocery store... and maybe you can sock away a little bit extra that way? Good luck! :)

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryarngeek

The thing that helped me more than anything was taking out a personal loan from my credit union in the amount of the credit card debt; paying off the credit card with that loan and then paying off the bank loan at a lower interest rate over a set number of months. I was in significantly more debt than you guys and will still be out in a fraction (no, a FRACTION) of the time it would have taken me to get unburied by the heaps of interest credit cards add to your principal every second of every day (literally). I believe the personal loan from the bank calculates interest differently so it is not nearly as compounded. I was a sad, stressed person with credit card debt, even after my own getting rid of cable, etc. The personal loan, at least for me, was the way to go. Good luck! (BTW, I think it's so great that you're open about all of this; it must make lots of readers feel much better about how to manage their own debt/finances.)

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteremilyo

My weekly grocery budget is $150. Which may seem a bit high, but it includes formula at$25 a pop and diapers which are usually $20 a week. That DOESN'T include alcohol, however. What is your grocery budget? If you dare...

December 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

I love the energy of this post - it's frantic and fired up, which is what I am trying to get to conquer my own debt. Most of my debt is attributable to a penchant for fine things ... although I do love to blame it on my divorce and take heed in the fact that on average it takes divorcee's 10 years to financially recover. As a master procrastinator, that means I have another 4 years to live it up before I really have to buckle down. When it comes to money, there is no shortage of ways to rationalize overspending. I wouldn't cut out all alcohol, but maybe cut that budget in half. Friends of mine had great success with the same Dave Ramsay tactic you're using, and they also went completely cashless (I can't recall if you've done so). You've inspired me to hold myself to a greater level of accountability on that front! So I can't really offer much meaningful advice, but I can say - thanks for being candid about an area that not enough people talk about. Oh and - that health care thing blows - thank God I live in Canada.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNJ

I managed to sock away 6000 into savings and what did we decide to do? Fly to Amsterdam over Christmas Break. So while the savings will be whittled, at least we're getting something fun out of it! Then it'll be back to trying to save, but it's harder now because my student loans have kicked in and they total a mortgage payment every month. Plus my mortgage. And the husband only works part-time. So I doubt there will be much saving going on.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

The biggest overhaul to our budget came from the grocery budget. We got it down from $150 a week to about $50 a week. There are some pretty good blogs about couponing and meal planning. I especially like the blogs that detail how to get stuff for free! Since 2007, I have spent little to nothing on shampoo, deoodorant, razors, etc etc. Check out iheartcvs.com and afullcup.com I feel a little nerdy walking into a store with a fistful of coupons, but I get over it pretty quick when i walk out with $40 or $50 in free stuff.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole

also, check with your pedi, but we switched our kids from formula to whole milk around 11 months, and that saved a ton too.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole

I hear oyu. Just this month i thought we would get ahead. We started planning a vacation, budgeted to set aside $ for it....then our hot water heater died. There goes the money budgeted. FUCK

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

Okay Nicole. You can't post that your weekly budget is $50 and walk away like a one night stand! Dish it, sister! How many are in your family, what do you spend most of your grocery budget on? Is it all meal planning and couponing? What's a weekly meal plan in your home like? Out with it!

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

but I like to leave with a lttle mystery...

Ok, ok, our $50 feeds a family of 5. It's mostly due to meal planning. I used to coupon ALOT more, but I went back to school this month, so that's kinda gone out the window. The main thing is making a meal plan and sticking to it. I figured out that I spent soooo much money by going to the grocery store without a list or a plan. I would try to pick up stuff for meals on the fly and either 1). get too much and have it go to waste, or 2). I'd wind up taking several more trips to the store during the week to pick up the things I didn't think of the first time around.

Soooo, my advice is, make a plan for all the meals you want to eat for the week, check your pantry, then make a list of the things you need to make those meals. And don't buy anything else. Seriously. I've even gotten to the point where, if I forget something, we just make do without it that week. There have been weeks where everyone bitched all week because I forgot to get, say, cereal. But, I made oatmeal, they survived, and I remembered the cereal the next week.

Here is what we are eating this week:
Monday- Spaghetti w meat sauce and salad
Tues- Taco soup
Weds- roast w/ carrots and potatoes
Thurs- chicken spaghetti
Fri- homemade pizza
Sat- lasagna
Sun- leftovers

Definitely check out the couponing sites because if you can get shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and the likes for free, why pay for it?

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole

 we are a family of 6 and a teenage boy everyother weekend, our grocery budget is also 50 a week. I really liked the book Miserly Moms. Direct approach and good tips. Good luck!

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKLabmom

$50!!! You people are blowing my mind! I read Miserly Moms, actually. And this other one called 1/2 Price Living by Ellie Kay, which I really liked. I s'pose I've been a lazy ass about grocery shopping etc...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

have you tried coupons? apparently there is a whole cult following with that & it significantly helps cut down the cost at the grocery store. you stockpile certain items -- i know that the drugstore CVS is a big one with it's "Extra Care Bucks" (not sure if you have CVS in UT). also, if you have a trader joe's, the $3 bottle of wine is tolerable -- you can get a case for $36!
also, a REALLY easy way to save money is to make your own laundry detergent. (it's great for babies as well, i used it for my hypo-allergenic son). i used this recipe with great success: http://www.recipezaar.com/Homemade-Laundry-Detergent-70088
it's literally pennies per/load, compared to any name brand variety and one "vat" will last ages.
if you haven't already, you should keep track of all of your expenditures for a month or so, to really *see* where your money is going (a notebook is fine, quicken would be super fancy).
good luck! we're all in the same boat, to one degree or another.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterafc

I can sympathise - i've spent the last 9 months paying down my assorted bills and debts and i had it all set to pay off the last non-mortgage related debt on December 31st. I was racing to the line, taking shampoos from hotels (I travel alot for work) and we both booked extra work trips so our expenses would be covered for that week.....but bloody interest rates keep going up (i'm in Australia - rising interest rates is the downside of having missed out on a recession) and now it looks like i am going into the new year with a bit of residual debt...not a lot, probably only a few hundred dollars, but making that last payment on December 31st was what was keeping me going and i'm going to be so disappointed going into the new year with even a dollar of debt. And there's nothing left to flog on ebay so i'll literally have to beg on the streets to meet that target.

What have i given up? well i haven't had my hair or nails done in a year. A YEAR - you have no idea what my hair looks like. The Man loves it (what man doesn't like long hair) but it just looks - ratty. And as for my nails...*sigh*....the hands are OK but my feet are vile. And its summer. And I feel so self conscious wearing sandals.

We grow a lot of our own veggies now its summer, have local farmers we get some stuff from (tomatoes, avocados, papaya) and buy the rest at markets so our grocery bill is pretty good. And for us food and alcohol are our entertainment...and you need to have that to maintain your sanity. You'll note that i have avoided giving a number on the alcohol budget. Its bad. Though much comes in duty free from his work trips overseas.

But I don't think giving up alcohol is the answer - $50 a week between the two of you is not a lot and you do need *something* as your escape/pleasure.

I think my weakness is having cash in my purse...buying coffees and magazines. If there is cash in my purse I WILL SPEND IT. Some how in my brain, cash in my purse is free. Weird I know. I've started leaving my purse at home or just not taking cash out which does help. I think.

I agree with the above poster in that you need to write down where your money goes, look at your bank statements and try to identify where the leaks are. And there may not be any...you may well have reached your maximum repayment threshold. And i'd warn you against being too obsessive over it....money is the greatest source of marital misery.....carrying a bit of debt is not worth causing tension between you and Serge.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

As far as ways to make extra money, in my town we have a Dr. that does allergy research studies and my husband and I get paid to take their drug and report back our symptoms. Sometimes it's really good money, the last study lasted 6 months, had 1 visit every month (each visit lasts about 1.5 hours) and it paid $900. If you have allergies or asthma you could look into seeing if there is a Dr. near you that does this.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShari

becca, our water heater totally died this past weekend too! what a kick in the shorts that was all said and done...we've cut our grocery bill down by planning out all our meals for the week and sticking only to the grocery list...that has helped...i've also started making my own laundry soap which we go through a lot of at our house...you can make a 5 gallon bucket of soap for around $10 in ingredients and it lasts months! it's just the little things like that which add up :) you're doing great though monica, so don't be discouraged...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkaren c

Here's an idea I am going to try next payday. OK so here's your paycheck. Pay the tithe 10% to the poor orphans and widows. Then take whats left split it in half, put the one half away in a savings account. NOT CHECKING ACCOUNT, and live ( bills food gas clothes etc) off the other half. Let you know how it goes.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I seriously DO NOT understand American health care. Seriously don't. Healthcare is the #1 reason I've decided to stay in Canada and freeze my arse off during the winter. I'm much rather live some place where winter doesn't exist, but I can't bring myself to imagine the horror if, say, I ended up with cancer and then had to re-mortgage my house or file for bankruptcy or something just to pay the freaking bills.

All that to say - we get one year (yes, 12 months) of maternity leave, paid at 67% of your income and you can't be fired/laid off during that time.

I suck at saving money. So my husband and I started our own business, made it successful and now pay him a crap-ton of money so we can pay off our credit cards (hovering around the $14,000 mark - NO I'm NOT kidding) and then use the money we were using to pay off the CC's to put into savings afterwards. But I have NO idea what we would do should our business nose-drive.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Dude. Don't get me started on health care. Particularly maternity leave in America. Absolute bullshit.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

I have been debt free for a total of 15 days! It is wonderful! I managed to build up an impressive credit card debt which I then rolled in with my car loan into a much larger debt and then pretty much ignored it other than the monthly repayments. When I realised that I want to grow up a bit and buy a house I also realised the debt had to go! So, my monthly salary got paid out as follows: 1. Rent, 2. Money for food & living (tried to keep this to an absolute minimum), 3. Pay off any credit card costs from the month before, 4. Small amounts into accounts to cover unexpected or planned for costs (I have one for car services, another for emergencies etc. and I usually put $50 - $100 a month), 5. the rest went on the loan. I managed to pay off 85% of the loan in the last 8 months and now I am free! And I'm maintaining my money system except now the money is going aside to save a house deposit.

I have a couple of things in my favour living in Australia though, I don't have to pay for student loans as university is paid for using a confusing and complex system of money loaned from the government which you repay only once you are earning over a certain amount, it accrues interest only to cover inflation and it comes out of your salary pre-tax. Also, we have medicare (government rebates to cover doctors visits and ongoing medical care), and I'm in Queensland where the public hospitals are all free...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

We spend $90 per week on groceries for two people. $50 for five is so awesome! I've couponed, too, but it can be pretty time-intensive. Looking for ways to increase your income MIGHT get you a better return on your hours. What about photography? You take beautiful photos.

I'm a TV news producer, too, so ... Yeah, the money. :) We did the Dave Ramsey thing and it worked really well. Debt-free, full emergency fund, and we just bought a house. Three years ago we were paycheck-to-paycheck folks with credit card balances and student loans. It sounds like you're already doing the budget; that part was huge for us ... Being able to sit down and prioritize ahead of time, here's what we really WANT to spend on this or that. Then if you run out, like Nicole said, just make do without it.

Unfortunately, that goes for booze, too ... WAH.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersquandra

Ugh...this post and the responses is making me so fucking depressed. The only thing I've done to start living on a serious budget is to bookmark that Ramsey book you recommended...I didn't even buy it yet.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

I do the thing financial advisors always tell you to do: I pay myself first. Meaning I take money out of every single paycheck and sock it away before I pay my bills. No, I don't make very much money (next to nothing, really). And no, it's not easy. At all. But I save roughly $5k a year doing this. (This year will be less, but I used a chunk of my savings to pay off my credit card.) And trust me: If I can do this on my very limited means, anyone can. Any extra income I get goes into savings. And I have a budget and I live and die by it. I also found that mint.com (once I figured my way around it and spent some time customizing it for myself) is extremely helpful in both budgeting and adhering to said budget. And it's free free free. Can't beat that.

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR

Time to start home brewing...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercoskibum

I tried mint.com and rapidly became overwhelmed. Still, I wonder if I stick with it I'll like it...

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

Have you seen the "You need a budget" site? http://www.youneedabudget.com/ I'm not promoting it, just saying that the same principles worked for us just by muddling through. We found the site after figuring what worked for us. Family of four, live on cash (jars) or virtual cash (categories strictly monitored on a spreadsheet). Hang in there, it's not easy but it's worth it!

December 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBaron

oh God...i didn't even think of home brewing...have you considered it? My father brews his own beer and not only does it taste like liquid gold...but it costs about 60c for what we down under refer to as a 'long neck'

just last weekend we started putting down the beer for christmas...stockpiling for the long hot summer.

as for healthcare - 2 Sarah's from Queensland - this could be confusing. I was just thinking how lucky we are to have our health system. Only a few weeks ago I was really not well on a Saturday, by Sunday i was miserable and facing the prospect of getting on a plane,sick, on the Monday morning...so I walked straight into the local hospital (no GPs open on weekends where we are) read a magazine, saw a doctor within 20 minutes, walked out with a script which cost me $14 to fill.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I like reading what yawl have to say........but that's all. You guys are so passionate about saving money! Love it. I am a single woman with no responsibilities. I only save for vacations! :)

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I found that buying a big box of diapers from Costco or Babies R Us saved me about $40 a month. And I am only buying one box a month. So, I'm only spending $40 but saving that much too from not buying them at the grocery store. Also, on Sunday night I take about 30 minutes to make a meal plan for each day of the week and do a grocery list from that. The amount of money I have saved by doing this is just ridiculous. My husband and I were running to the store every other day and spending twice what we do now with our meal plan/grocery list. When you aren't buying formula anymore that's like getting a pay raise!!! Something to look forward to.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy in Austin

gosh I thought our health system sucks but I see yours is even worst, I hate that bureaucratic bullshit, the worst part is we need to pay for that shit, and about debt and credit cards I agree with emilyo, I did the same the other day since then I'm not gonna trust this fucking credit cards' and debt's politics, and home brewing is not too bad I have some nice wine in my garage, made by us in 2007, and I made nice cherry liqueur last and this summer:) I can say it works to help home budget for sure [open one of your own made brand of wine is great satisfaction too :)], at my place we used to make some "winter food stock", and I still have this habit, last year I even invested in big freezer:) and put fresh fruits and vegetables there, I preserved some as well, it costs a bit work but I think it's worth and keep some money, you must know, I'm not a person who love spending time in kitchen:) and I guess making grocery list is a key, I like the idea you write about savings, you're doing so good, be patient and soon you'll see outcome in plus in your pocket.
I hope you get well today.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranajo

Maybe I'm paranoid, but aren't you worried about linking your bank account to the mint.com website?

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

I started meeting with a financial advisor and it has helped me sooo much!! My biggest expenses are clothes, eating out/ groceries and entertainment. Each paycheck I pull out $200 IN CASH for all of these 3 categories. Having that money in cash is geat because once it's gone it's gone. With a card you tend to "overspend" alot more. Also, several banks in SLC have what's called a dedicated savings account where each paycheck you can have whatever amount you would like withdrawn from your account and put into a savings account with a much higher interest than a regular savings account. It works kind of like a CD where you can't withdraw the money without being charged a penalty. It has worked wonders for me!!

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

I know you want to get rid of your credit card debt and that is awesome, but you are missing out on some real savings by not using a cash back credit card like the Chase Freedom Plan Card. Here's the website:
---------------------------------------------
http://www.chasecreditcards.com/reward-cards.asp

$50 Cash Back after your first purchase
3% bonus cash back offers in categories like gas, home improvement and department stores

Full 1% Cash Back on every purchase - no spending tiers or caps on how much you can earn
Up to an additional 20% cash back at select merchants when you shop online through Chase
0% Intro APR* and No Annual Fee * For additional rate, fee and cost information see pricing and terms.
----------------------------

You do, of course, have to be disciplined to use it only for things you would normally pay cash for, like gas and groceries. You'd be surprised, especially with the 1% on groceries, how quickly your reward amount add up. I usually get about $300-$400 per year between my husband and I. We both have cards. So, we give them NOTHING - ZERO - ZIP in terms of interest and they are paying us to use their card. That's how to play that game. You could be using your rewards on everyday purchases to help pay off the other credit card debt. You get to redeem your rewards every time it builds up to about $25. Good luck!

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann

To answer the question about mint.com, before I signed up, I did a lot—A LOT—of research about how secure it is, and came away satisfied with the answers I got. It's not like it's constantly hooked up to all your accounts. It updates—as in, accesses—your accounts when you login and tell it to do so, but that's pretty much it. I've been using it for awhile now, and have seen nothing suspicious crop up anywhere, so I feel okay about it. Truth is, it's probably more dangerous to order something from Amazon than it is to use mint, and we all order things off the internet without batting an eye these days.

And it is overwhelming at the beginning. I had to spend a goodly amount of time just trying to figure it out and then even more time configuring it for my personal financial situation, but once you get it dialed, it's sort of like a wee miracle. By making your financial picture crystal clear, every minute of every day and telling you when you're overspending and where, it practically saves the money for you. And no, I'm not some kind of crazed mint.com employee or anything. Just someone who can relate to Monica because I also got serious about saving money a few years ago and was stymied about where to go once I'd done the obvious things and I still wasn't rich, rich, rich from it. (I'm still not, for the record. But I also no longer live paycheck to paycheck, which was the goal.)

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR

I thought I'd chime in...

For people who hate dealing with coupons, I've heard there are a number of websites that can electronically tie coupons to store shopping cards. Living in podunk Wyoming with my parents doesn't allow me to use any of them, but I do have a friend who has her cards signed up (Albertson's, Smiths, Kroger, etc.). Check out www.pgesaver.com and www.shortcuts.com. Store websites also allow you to electronically tie coupons, so check out the stores where you do most of your shopping.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennyZ

I went from a total financial wreck with a pretty decent income to living on a tight and tiny budget. Some of the things I stopped doing that saved a lot of money- I stopped buying paper towels, saran wrap, aluminum foil, cotton balls, basically anything disposable. I use rags and old socks for cleaning and invested in a set of rubbermade thingys. You might not think that makes much of a difference, but it saves at least $30 per month. And I don't feel like an asshole for making so much trash. I only go to the grocery store if I have a list, otherwise I buy crap I don't need. I take out a certain amount of cash for each two week period between checks, then when I leave the house, I grab 5 or 10 bucks. And that's all I can spend per day. I cut way down on drinking. Saves more than $250 a month and I lost weight. I eat more veggies, cuz they're cheap. Ditto rice. Read magazines online, free. If I want something I don't need, like a fancy coffee drink, I raid the change jar. And pay in change. The humiliation usually keeps me from going through with the purchase.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShenoa

I know this sounds stupid since I don't know you, but don't worry so much. Everyone is giving you great advice, but seriously, life is short. The more you obsess about it, the more it magnifies. Try to save, try to think about better choices, but that can't just be the focus. Someone said to me the other day having more money just means having more expensive problems.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Drinking is the only legal escape from the madness.
Everything should be in moderation, but....
It's a big, bad, fucked-up world these days. Everything that you hope is true just might be false and vice-versa.
Don't deny yourself the "artist outlet." Just buy the 13.5% $5.99 bottle of Merlot and any beer over 6.5% ABV.
Some help I am?

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ

The best way to get your financial life in order is to start with reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. There are many steps in the book but the one I've found most important (helpful) is to write down every penny you spend. You have to be brutally honest, otherwise you have spending amnesia. It is surprising to find out where all the money goes, but if you know where it's going, then you know where to cut too. I highly recommend it.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeniseM

The magic of flour. Really, flour. Staff of life and all that nonsense. Learn how to bake. Look through your fridge and cabinets and see what is really just flour fancied up.Add up what you are spending on bread product. Flour can be found, in bulk, for less than a dollar a pound. Cookies? Flour. Crackers? Flour. Bread? Wheat tortilla? Bagels? Crossants? Pizza? Burger and dog buns? All four. Order a stack of baking and bread cook books from the library and experiment.
We stopped buying bagels, just bagels, and save over $40 a month by baking.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermiriam

this may be controversial but here goes..
Get some seeds, a light, and grow a small amount of homegrown bud. A few plants in the garage or basement can sure cut the beverage budget down.

December 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermiriam

Right? Man, oh man. If only I had the balls...

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

Bah...obviously these people don't have jobs that require copious amounts of alcohol. Coupons schmoupons! Here's what...go find the nearest Trader Joe's. You can get A CASE OF WINE (two buck chuck...it's really pretty decent) for $36.00. That holds me over for a whole month. That's $164.00 saved.

Give up alcohol....sheesh!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole (the other one)

Give up the beer and wine no way never! You at least need one out when life gets too be to crazy.

I did switch all my kids to whole milk at about 11 months and they loved it then I would work in a sippy cup or two a day of water too. That is a big savings right there.

I try not to buy too many snack food becasue that's where all the extra stuff add up. We eat a lot of popocorn {the old fashion in the pan way} it's cheap and the kids love it.

I also have a bread maker and make bread for us....not only doe it taste great the kids love eating it.

OUe food bill is still crazy but we have gotten a lot better and are still trying to make changes and trying to save money too!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

WE found that if we try to hold off for "one more day" to go the grocery until we have literally used everything in the cupboard - we have saved a lot of money. We have made really creative dishes and discovered what our staples are so we don't have hundreds of dollars of food just sitting in our fridge or cupboard. If you come to our house, our fridge is usually nearly empty and the cupboards the same. My husband also made a spreadsheet to track what we were spending to determine what is the best price for items we use a lot.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

One up on miriam- get lots of seeds and 5 or 6 lights. Then forget the budget altogether, since you'll have a nice side income.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole (the first one)

Monica, I'm not sure if they sell wine at Target in Utah, but here we can get their large box of store-brand wine (which is equal to four bottles) for $18 ($16 on sale). Don't judge; it's pretty good, especially the reds.

Big ups to you for tackling your debt; you guys are really inspirational in that regard. Keep up the good work!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlala

Sign up for the email newsletters from http://www.thriftyfun.com (“Daily Thrifty Tips,” “Tip of the Day,“ and “ThriftyFun Recipes”). There are some real hard-core spendthrifts contributing ideas to this website. Some of the ideas are good, and others bring to mind visions of that TV show, “The Hoarders.” These folks find a re-use for everything! I have gotten a lot of good recipes over the years. Crockpot recipes’ are also very popular in this group. They have a section where people can ask for advice, and other people can post responses.

Anyway, they sure know how to “stretch a buck.” For example, the next time Serge breaks a lace on one of his workboots try this recent tip … (I’m trying to be funny here in case you miss the pun.)
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Electrical Wire for Shoe Laces
Find that store-bought shoelaces get utterly destroyed and dirty? Once you need new ones, try using old (insulated) electrical wiring. Just cut the connection off of either end and voila! Shoelace. If you don't have any spare cords that are thin enough, try Goodwill. I picked up an AV cable, which can be ripped apart into three "shoelaces," for $1. Comes in a variety of colors and keeps that stuff out of the landfill! For extra style points, wrap some electrical tape around the ends of the wire once it's laced. A drop of Super Glue will keep the tape from coming off.
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Nice extra style point there!!! And how about this timely idea for the holidays…

Use Maps as Wrapping Paper
Use outdated atlases and maps for colorful, cool-looking, and good quality wrapping paper. I use mostly for birthday gifts, but cut out a silhouette of Santa in his sleigh and/or reindeers and attach for Christmas gifts. If you like this idea but don't have any maps to use, pick up some free ones at travel and visitor's centers the next time you are traveling.
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And then they have this section which is just about the same as what some of you are posting here…

My Frugal Life - Submit Your Story
Celebrating 10 Years of Publishing!
For the past 10 years, ThriftyFun has published tips to help people save time and money. From our humble beginnings as the weekly Coupon Clipper newsletter, ThriftyFun has expanded to be a vibrant community. To help celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary we would like to publish some My Frugal Life essays about how you discovered ThriftyFun and how it has helped you live a more frugal life. Whether you are new to frugal living or have been doing it for years, you have a story to tell that may be useful to others. Feel free to include what money saving ideas have worked for you and what has not worked.

This is the most recent post
My Frugal Life: Learning from the Tightwad Gazette
http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf322291.tip.html

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann

I forgot to add this to my above post. You have a chance at winning money every week on the Thriftyfun.com website with their contests:

Tip Contest - Submit a Tip or Recipe!
Photo Contest - Submit a tip with photo!

The contests are weekly. They pick 2 tip winners, 2 photo winners (1 photo and 1 pet photo) and 1 recipe winner at the end of each week. Each winner will win $25!

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann

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