The Hubs’ Change Jar

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single penny.” Unknown

More often than not, I’m in bed each night by 9pm. Recently there was a rare occasion where I stayed up past my bedtime talking to the Hubs about my need to think of something to write about. He said I should write about his change jar. Great idea, so here it is…

When the Hubs and I were first married he had a side job as a bartender at the all-ranks club on the base where we were stationed. Many a night the security police flight working the swing shift would make it worth his while to keep the club open past closing time, so they could unwind a bit after getting off their shift. One of my favorite memories of those days was sitting on the living room floor with him rolling his tips into coin wrappers. We lived in Belgium at the time, so the tip money would be both American and Belgian currency. It was amazing to me how much accumulated in a short period of time. A lot of the time, that money was my grocery money. These days I don’t need rolled tips for my grocery money, but the Hubs still sets aside his coins for fun money.

His change jar is nothing fancy. He took an empty jar that once had pretzels from Sam’s Club in it, cut a hole in the top, and put the lid back on. Every day when he comes home from work any change in his pockets, along with the occasional 1-dollar bill and the coins he finds lying on the ground that he CAN’T pass up,  goes into the jar. I can’t tell you how many times I thought he was going to be hit by a car because he couldn’t leave a stray penny lie… About once a quarter he’ll sit on the floor and roll the coins into change wrappers and count up the bills, so he knows how much he has. Sometimes he’ll take some of the dollar bills with him to a motorcycle swap meet or a gun show. It’s funny-his brother calls the dollar bills his “stripper money”. LOL!!

Back in the days pre-Older Wiser Money Miser, I would dip into the change jar (usually when we were on vacation) and hit the outlet mall. One of my personal favorites is the Dooney & Bourke outlet in Destin, FL. I’m glad those things hold up as well as they do because it’ll be a long time before I need to buy a new bag! The last trip we took the change jar money was our eating out money. We had vacation money set aside but the change jar money was a nice added extra that helped stretch our vacation funds.

Saving money this way is painless! It’s done slowly so you don’t miss it, and it really adds up. One thing the Hubs wanted me to tell y’all is to actually wrap the coins yourself. DON’T take them to the Coinstar machine and have the store take 7% (or more!) of your money! You can usually get coin wrappers for free from your bank or you can find them cheap at your local dollar store. Some banks require you to put your name on the wrapper just in case the count is wrong. If you receive pre-printed return address labels from charities soliciting donations those are perfect for slapping on a coin wrapper. Put the wrapped coins back in your change jar until you’re ready to spend them-it’s much easier to spend paper money than it is coins so you’re more likely to save the money for its intended purpose if you make it hard to spend!

So, do you have a change jar? I’d love to hear some of your strategies for saving a little fun money for yourself!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Special Friday Post-Christmas in July

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

“A deal is a deal, except for when it’s not…” Older Wiser Money Miser, July 2018

I’m posting a special Friday post to commemorate the upcoming “Christmas in July”, also known as AMAZON PRIME DAY!! For the uninitiated, Amazon Prime Day is a special day of deals that occurs once a year. You must be an Amazon Prime member in order to take advantage of the deals. The complete guide to how Amazon Prime Day works can be found here. Amazon has extended Prime Day to a day and a half-it begins at 3pm ET on Monday, July 16 and will end 36 hours later.

Amazon Prime Day offers a GREAT opportunity to make purchases taking advantage of some awesome deals, but it’s also a prime opportunity to get sucked in and buy things you don’t necessarily need but end up buying because of the dreaded F.O.M.O. Before you buy anything, be sure it is something you truly need and will use. The temptation will be great but if you use a good bit of restraint and common sense you should be OK.

IF you find something you truly need, and IF it’s in your budget, by all means take advantage of the sale. If not, step away from the computer, put your card back in your wallet, and DON’T MAKE THE PURCHASE!! If you should decide to shop on Prime Day, I would be most appreciative if you would shop using the link here. I will earn a commission for each sale at no additional cost to you. Thank you.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Recurring payments – friend or foe?

“When you pay attention to detail, the big picture will take care of itself.” George St-Pierre

Technology these days makes it very easy to pay for things without your being aware of it. When I started on my frugal journey one of the things that surprised me was the number of items I had set up on autopay. It was only after I really started paying attention to my finances that I realized how many of these things I was subscribed to. Some of them hit before I had a chance to cancel them, but they were cancelled immediately so the charges won’t recur. When this happened once too many times to make me happy I did a good scan of my accounts to look for recurring charges. When I found them, I went to the vendor website and cancelled the recurring charge. It took some time, but it was worth taking the trouble since most of the recurring charges were for items I was no longer using. How crazy is that? Some of the items it was just a simple “click” on their website to cancel the charge but on others I had to actually get on the phone, stay on hold for what seemed like forever, and talk to someone whose job it is to talk me out of canceling. They’re good, but I was better! I figure I have probably saved myself at least $100 per month by taking the time to do this, which makes my wallet very happy. The vendors, not so much…I recently got a postcard in the mail from a vendor whose account I had removed from autopay because I no longer need their service. The postcard had all kinds of gloom and doom predictions if I didn’t renew the autopay to the subscription. Oh, the HUMANITY! I think I’m good, thanks.

While I did my analysis the old-fashioned way, I thought I’d take a look and see if technology was available to do the search for me. Lo and behold, it is! I truly think there IS an app for just about everything. While I’ve never used any of these products I wanted to make you aware that they are available so that you know what your options are. I’m not a paid endorser of any of the products listed and accept no liability for their performance. (Yep-it’s those pesky lawyers talking again…) Special thanks to creditcards.com

https://www.truebill.com/

https://www.asktrim.com/

https://claritymoney.com/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hiatus-manage-subscriptions/id977040079?mt=8

It’s a worthwhile exercise to really take a close look at your financial statements so you can get a handle on your spending, including your recurring charges, so you can keep track of where your money is going. Make it work for you!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Leftovers – A Cook’s Best Friend

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” Calvin Trillin

Someone in a Facebook group I frequent asked the question, “Do you eat/serve leftovers?” I would have thought the obvious answer is, “but of COURSE” but I was surprised by the number of people turning up their noses at the very thought of serving a meal made up of leftovers. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk eating a midday meal of leftover spaghetti and it is nothing short of FABULOUS! There’s something about tomato sauce with herbs and spices sitting in the fridge overnight that does something wonderful to the flavor. The meal was good when I fixed it for my family last night but it’s so much better today now that the flavors have had a chance to blend. Yum-O!! Chili is another food that just tastes better when it’s had a chance to sit for a bit.

In addition to the better flavor, serving leftovers is a food budgeter’s best friend. What a waste it would have been to throw away the leftover food after the meal I fixed last night. While I don’t typically eat out at lunchtime, on the days I don’t have something from the previous night’s meal to take to work I usually have a frozen meal for my lunch. On rare occasion I can find them for under $2 in my grocery store but typically they’re usually around $2.50-$3.00 apiece. Since I buy my ground beef in bulk at Sam’s Club, use store brand pasta, and use a store brand can of crushed tomatoes as the base for the sauce, my homemade spaghetti usually costs between $1 and $1.50 per serving. It doesn’t sound like much savings, but over time it definitely adds up! An added bonus is that I know exactly what’s in it.

While I haven’t started doing it regularly yet, once I get better organized I plan on starting to cook in bulk on the weekends to make my weekdays a little easier. I started that process earlier this week by smoking a pork butt I found on sale before the 4th of July holiday. I paid a bit over $13 for this lovely and smoked it on my Big Green Egg for 10 hours. Oh, my HEAVENS was it good! The size of this piece of meat was MUCH too large for my family of 3 to eat at one sitting so after pulling it I portioned it out and put it in freezer bags. That one day of cooking will provide my family with 4 main course meals and save me a TON of time. It can go straight from the freezer to the table in no more time than it will take to reheat it. SCORE!

Pork Butt

So now I must ask you-do you serve leftovers to your family? If not, why? If so, what are some of your favorites? Please let me know in the comments-I’m always looking for new money saving delicious meal ideas!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

#FFwF

“Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.” Randy Pausch

With summer in full swing here in the Northern Hemisphere, thoughts are turning to how to enjoy the warmer weather and the longer days. Doing it on a budget can be a challenge but it’s really not that hard if you do a little homework.  A post on Facebook by my new friend Ruth caught my eye recently. She titled it, “Free Summer Fun” and used the hashtag #FFwF, or Free Fun with Friends. Quoting from her post, “When I am intently focused on money, numbers, savings and bills it can be easy to get a bit “myopic” and focused on what I don’t have or what I can’t do. And so to combat that, I have become very intentional and invitational about doing what I call “Free Fun with Friends, #FFwF. I put it out on my Facebook page that I am seeking companions to join me in doing free things on Fridays (my day off). A couple … people have expressed “concern” or things like “you’ve got to treat yourself sometimes” but overwhelmingly people have jumped on the idea and even taken the tag on themselves. In my area, over 100 museums are open for free admission one Friday during the summer and I have had 4 friends take me up on doing one of those this summer (an art museum, an historical museum and a specimen garden). I have hikes scheduled with 3 different friends, a games night with a few other people and some crafting dates with others. I am also working on finding dates with others to use free museum passes available through my public library or that friends have access to through their libraries. For each one we always pack a lunch and picnic, sometimes in the car and spend time just catching up and relaxing.”

I loved this idea and asked if I could share it with you. She graciously agreed and gave me a link to the site she uses in her area to find free fun things to do-if you’re in New England, check it out! http://www.highlandstreet.org/programs/free-fun-fridays

Being on a budget does NOT mean the fun in your life is over-it just means you need to do a little searching and planning to find the fun and save the money!  A Google search of “free fun stuff to do in [insert location name here]” came up with no less than 130 different free or low cost things to do in my town. One of my favorites is the monthly movie night held in the town center. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and watch a family friendly movie with your neighbors! They’re not first run movies but the price is right!

For my readers in America, have a wonderful July 4th Independence Day holiday. Be safe and have fun!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Embracing Compromise

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” John Wooden

I had a conversation with my nephew Matt recently. Matt is a Marine Corps veteran (ooo-RAH!), married with 2 sweet little girls, and a recent college graduate getting ready to enter the work force as a civilian. I wanted to advise him about being sure to sign up for his employer’s retirement plan and he let me know he was on it! One topic led to another and we ended up discussing money management styles. While the conversation was not adversarial in the least, we didn’t exactly agree on how to do things, either. I’m a little bit “snowball” and he’s a little bit “avalanche”. (See what I did there?) (Please-some of you older readers let me know you get this reference!!) While I decided to be smart and remind him that avalanches start with snowballs, I definitely saw his point. He wasn’t comfortable dealing with his situation using the snowball method, and who am I to say he’s wrong? It works for him and his family and he’s working a plan. In the end, that is the most important thing. Lesson learned!

Even in my own situation I’ve found compromise is the best way to get it done. When the Hubs and I sat down to write our very first budget, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he had his own ideas on how he wanted to get our financial house in order before his impending retirement. His ideas were a little bit out of kilter with mine but rather than be stagnant and do nothing, we talked it over and decided a little bit of my way and a little bit of his way was the way to go. We are getting it done together using a variety of ideas from different sources that we’ve made our own. It really makes no difference how you get there. Communicating effectively, having a concrete plan that works, and reaching your goals is all that matters in the long run.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Hide the packages…really?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Albert Einstein

Back in the mid-1980s when the Hubs and I were living in Germany, I was out one night shopping BY MYSELF for a new coat. That didn’t happen often, and it was nice to be out for a little bit on my own. I found the most fabulous coat but it was, in my eyes, outrageously expensive! It was perfect, but it was MUCH more money than I’d ever spent on an item of clothing for myself in my life. Before I bought it, I called home to make sure the Hubs was OK with me spending that kind of money on the coat. I didn’t need his permission, but I felt like I needed to run it by him before I made the purchase. It was a good investment as I still have this coat and I still wear it to this day.

This story of my long-ago coat purchase brings me to a meme making the rounds recently on Facebook. It has me a bit perplexed and, quite frankly, a little bugged. It’s a picture of a doormat with a phrase that goes something like, “Postman, UPS guy, whoever, please hide packages from husband.” At first glance it was cute but then I started thinking about it a little. What kind of relationship exists when one spouse feels the need to hide purchases from the other? In addition to hiding the spending, I can see/hear the purchaser telling a child who witnesses the purchase to, “Don’t tell Daddy”, or “Don’t tell Mommy”, and bringing a child into the lie. In essence, spending money without your spouse’s knowledge is a lie. What kind of example does that set? I may be making a bit more out of this than what is there in reality, but I can see how some relationships actually exist like this. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s a recipe for disaster both relationally and financially.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental but if you have a good relationship with your spouse, such behavior is SO unnecessary!! Spouses who communicate openly about their finances don’t need to hide their spending from each other! The obvious solution to this dilemma is to, wait for it, BUDGET for it! If you really don’t want your spouse to know what you’re buying, put a line item in your budget setting aside an amount each spouse can spend without consulting the other. The Hubs and I do this and it works really well. We can’t really avoid each other’s eyerolls over some of our purchases, but we have absolutely no say in how each of us spends the money we set aside for ourselves. And if what you’re wanting to buy costs more than what you have budgeted, revisit your budget or save up for it! OMG, what a concept! OK, that was a little judgmental-I admit it. It’s really just common sense, though. That, and showing respect for your spouse. Oh, and let’s not forget that trust thing. It’s pretty important.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…