Saturday, April 4, 2015

Stay-at-Home Readiness

I have four months left before my official last day at work, and we are continuing to gear up towards making a smooth transition financially.

When we made the decision a month ago, I printed out this free expense tracker, so I can keep an even tighter focus on what is going out. We are frugal, but I do know that because we have a very comfortable income, we don't think twice if we have to run to the store mid-week for something, or order takeout for a family visit instead of planning ahead.

If there are small leaks in this ship, the time to plug them is now.

Last month, I kept track of everything that I paid for, and my husband transferred that amount into the savings from his salary. I did not include the expenses we will no longer have once I leave my job, child care and the twice monthly cleaning service. I paid attention to my grocery and entertainment expenses more than usual. I was happy to see that even including the once-per year expenses (life insurance I pay for my father, a yearly 1 Fit Widow membership that will probably not be renewed next year, and a donation to a friend's cancer treatment fund), my total expenses were $1225, which is exactly the high end of where I would want to be. We even have 2 days of eating out in there that I don't plan on repeating.

Of course, I am planning on starting grad school in August, and we would like to pay out of pocket and remain loan and debt free for the two years it will take to complete it. I would like to decrease it to the absolute minimum possible.

Ultimately, I would like to keep my usual expenses, including clothing for the whole family, food, internet, medical copays and expenses, gas for my van, household needs, entertainment, and children's activities to between $900-1000/month on average. There are a few areas my husband has always paid for that I could work on reducing, namely the electric bill, cell phone bill, insurance, and his lunches out. I am going to focus on 1-2 things at a time and chip away as best I can.

I'm going to work on:

1) Work lunches for the mister. He eats a ton for lunch, and likes to go to buffets. I'm going to work on packing hefty lunches that are satisfying and don't cost $10/day. I will probably start by making huge subs out of those $0.25 loaves of bread I make (he can eat one loaf in a sitting).

2) Medical costs. There is nothing I can do about the many medical appointments we have in a month, and we easily spend $50-150 in office copays every month. I plan on seeing how we can reduce the cost of our monthly prescriptions by using the mail order pharmacy, or seeing if Sam's or Costco has any of our regular prescriptions available as $4 generics.

3) Decreasing monthly charities. I donate $57 monthly to three different charities. I will probably reduce that, or choose to make a smaller yearly gift, until I am at least done with grad school.

4) Decreasing the electric bill. I have arthritis, and I know better than to try a "freeze your buns off challenge" again, as cold makes my arthritis much worse. I can, however, tolerate heat more, and will try to keep my a/c use to a minimum this year. I will also try to find any energy hogs in the house, and nix them as best I can.

5) Gas. I will be driving less, as my son will take the bus to school, and my 4 year old will hopefully only be at the preschool that is close enough to walk back and forth, as is our YMCA. I would like to go to the Y every day for an exercise class, and barring bad weather, we should be able to walk there and to the neighborhood playground.

6) Entertainment. We are foodies, and will go on one date night a month, hiring a babysitter when we do so. This can easily cost $200. We plan on using free babysitting from family, on a Saturday afternoon, for example, and either doing a free date like hiking, or using a deeply discounted Groupon or local deal, gift card, or see a discount movie. We still want the occasional indulgence at our favorite local foodie joints, but are saving those for once or twice a year.

This year, we may skip the Renaissance Festival. We will renew the Zoo membership, but plan to really get our money's worth. There are plenty of local parks/sprinkler parks to explore.

Also, no more buying books/movies on Amazon. We will be using the library only or watching things on Prime/Netflix, or using a free Redbox coupon code. A friend can let me tag along with her to see free plays, and I might do a couple this year.

We don't have cable, but have a Roku,  Amazon Prime, Kindle Free Time, and Netflix streaming only plan.

7) Clothes. My kids are pretty much taken care of this year, and my girls have several years of hand me downs stored away. My son will need a few things, and I plan on not spending more than $50 for them this year. I hope to sell enough of his old things to break even and have no additional out of pocket. I am losing weight, and only have 1 pair of jeans in my size, and live in yoga pants. I will continue to do so.

8) Phone: We own our android smart phones and pay $100 month for both of our data plans. We don't have a contract, and I want to see if there are any options to keep adequate data and be a "free agent". We don't have a landline.

9) Food: We have been given the go-ahead to trial milk with the baby by the allergist, and she seems to be OK, so we are able to buy cheaper whole milk, and I have the opportunity to make my own yogurt again. I hope to spend $500 or less a month on groceries (we are doing that now), and will try to push it as close to $400 as possible. Upcoming challenges will be my son's birthday party and my mother's retirement party.

10) Cleaning, personal care needs. I have a hefty stockpile, but need to do a thorough inventory and plan for the year, to maximize couponing trips.

It's a lot- but I love a challenge!

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