Friday, March 30, 2012

The B Word

You probably know by now I'm not a very good budgeter. Yesterday, I had $23 to my name. Thank goodness today was payday. I have a lot to do with not a whole lot of money, so it's time to buckle down and analyze my spending habits.

Some financial experts (I use that term loosely) recommend carrying around a small notebook and jotting down everything you spend money on for the month, but I'm not disciplined enough to do that for more than two weeks or so. The good thing is having a PNC Virtual Wallet account almost elimimates that need by offering a "Spending Zone" tracker where I can catagorize my purchases.

First, let's look at where my money should be going. I used a budget calculator which figured out the max I should be spending in each catagory:

(click to make it bigger)
The only catagories I'm "under" the limit are Housing and Transportation - sometimes Food. Yikes!

Now let's look at what I'm actually spending money on. I'm primarily basing this off February's spending because March was really a fluke with the whole bats in the attic mess, but I'm also taking into consideration the fact that our electric bill isn't $300 every month and I'm also contributing more money towards credit cards.
Here's the corresponding number breakdown:
   House: $640 ($600 for the mortgage, $40 water/sewer)
   Auto: $85 ish for gas & EZPass - I probably should raise this number to about $100 per month to factor in oil changes. Hubs pays the insurance so it's not included
   Debts: $470 for credit cards & student loans
   Utilities: $200 for phone & electric ($90 cell phones, probably an average of $100 for electric, although in the winter this number can climb a lot higher) I did not include cable b/c the hubs pays for that on his own
   Food: $500... MUCH higher than I expected
   Everything Else: $345 (mostly stuff for Molly, ATM withdrawals, & Wawa coffees)

For a total of about $2,285 or $185 over budget every month. And Savings didn't even make it onto the pie chart (good thing I opened that credit union account to have some automatically put away!) Obviously something's got to give and it's clearly food. I really need to get serious about coupons and shopping the sales.

It's kind of depressing to see yourself in the red after trying so hard to stay in the black. Hopefully I'll hit the Mega Millions tonight ($546 million dollars!) and I won't have to worry about it. But in the mean time, I'll keep working for a fatter wallet.

Day Thirty Two Spent:
$20 ATM withdrawal (work raffle, lottery tickets, coffee)
Day Thirty Two Saved: $50.00

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Treat Yo'self

The above captioned phrase has become quite verbatim in our house. We use it seriously, as a joke, when we're mad, sad, ecstatic, the whole nine yards. We like it so much that we wrote it on a dollar and hung it on the ceiling at a restaurant on Cabbage Key island this past December.
if you already know our last names, great! if not, the mystery continues...
But in order to better understand the science behind "Treat Yo'self/Yourself", we need to watch a little clip, courtesy of Parks & Recreation (seriously, if you're not watching this show, you need to stop reading this blog until you're caught up -- the references aren't going to stop here):

How about one more for good measure? I want to make sure you're fully immersed in the concept:

Ever since this episode came out, I feel like every advertiser is using this phrase in some form. I would be foolish to think the "go on, you deserve it" campaign is a new strategy, when in fact, it's probably one of the oldest tricks in the advertising book. What I didn't realize was how much of a hold it had on me until this past weekend when I was out at the shops (read more about that here).

I started to think to myself: "'ve been really good lately. You haven't used your credit card in one month! What's the harm in buying one dinner/shirt/drink/hair product/etc?" Let me tell you, it is a slippery slope back into debt when you start thinking that way.

Even though Lent is almost over, I know my financial journey is still just beginning, especially with this epiphany of sorts. I still have to overcome this almost primal desire to buy and consume. I have to make myself take a step back when there's an item in my hand and ask "Self... why are you buying this drink/shirt/hair product/snack? Are you really thirsty/naked/hungry or do you just want this item for the sake of having it?" Although identifying wants versus needs was an integral component in my rules, I have a bad habit of justifying my purchases instead of admitting I made a mistake by buying it.

I think it's a step in the right direction to be able to identify when I'm using the "treat yo'self" mentality. Hopefully, this will help curb future spending!

Monday, March 26, 2012

40 Ounces to Savings

Confession: I was a bit spend happy this weekend. I broke down and shopped needlessly.
On Saturday, we went out for a friend's birthday in Atlantic City; First, we went to Tony's Baltimore Grill, which was budget friendly at $9 for a cheese pizza and $2.50 for a beer. Then we headed over to A Dam Good Sports Bar in the Tropicana. ADGSB is famous for its $5 40 ounce beers; However, on Saturdays the price goes up to $9.00. Still a pretty good deal, when you compare it with other casino bars where it's $4 or $5 for a 12 ounce bottle. The spending kicked in when I bought four shots for the birthday girl. When we got our tab, I was shocked to see it was $8 per shot! I was ready for $5 each, definitely not $8. Overall, I spent $60 for the evening, without any gambling. We did save $10 in parking, though, thanks to one friend who snagged us parking passes.

Earlier in the day, I dropped Molly off at day care and stopped off at Target. I didn't buy anything (I saved that for Sunday) so I tempted fate by going to our local TJ Maxx/Homegoods store. I managed to not buy a million things for the house, but I did buy a $15 shirt to wear out to the bar. Now, if this was five years ago, I would have spent about $30 on a dress like this:

I had a photo of an actual girl at the bar, but it won't load. damn you, blogger!
But since I'm married now and don't need to impress anyone, I opted to buy a simple striped shirt which I can wear again. At least I'm learning something.
On Sunday, the hubs and I went back out and ogled at new grills and tried to price out how much it would cost for us to build a new fence ourselves rather than having it installed. We also stopped by Target (again) and I bought goodies to fill the hubs' nephews Easter baskets. I spent about $15 on each and filled it with mostly non-candy goodies, like mini games, stickers, etc. We were in a pizza mood still so I stocked up on frozen Digiorno's for $9 with a coupon.

Oh! And we received our tax return on Saturday, but that went right into the savings account to pay for the removal of the zoo in our attic. No fun to be had there.

Did anyone do better than me at saving money this weekend? Now I have no choice but to be super frugal until payday this Friday.

Saturday Spent:                                                                           Sunday Spent:
$60.00 dinner + drinks                                                           $28.00 gas ($3.63 p/gal. yuck!)
$15.00 TJ Maxx                                                                         $32.10 Camp Bow Wow
$3.20 Wawa (5 hour energy)                                                 $77.05 Target
-------------------------                                                                  $18.00 Walgreens (allergy meds)
Saturday Saved:  $10.00                                                          -------------------------------
                                                                                                               Sunday Saved: $0.00

Monday Spent:
$5.00 Mega Millions tickets
Monday Saved: $0.00

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fantasy Fun

Lets take a break from our serious money talk for a minute, okay?

The Mega Millions in NJ has rolled over for the second time and the jackpot is now a cool $356 million and growing.

Which means, if you won Tuesday night and took the lump sum pay out option. NJ is going to take about 11% of that in taxes, leaving you with about $317 million. Uncle Sam is going to take a hefty 25% which means you're bring home about $238,750,000. What do you do first?

Here's what I would do (in no particular order):
  • Immediately put in my two weeks at work
  • Put out house on the market. I wouldn't even pay it off first. 
  • Pay off our other debts
  • Buy a big house a few blocks from the beach in Brigantine so my mom could sell her house and live there with us
  • Travel
  • Open my own bar/restaurant or at least go back to bartending (a job I actually really loved)
  • Become a dog trainer
  • Adopt more dogs
  • Get Brian a membership at Galloway National Golf Club
  • Buy a hybrid car
  • Invest at least 100 million of it
  • Get crazy awesome seats at MetLife stadium for all the Jets home games for all my in-laws
If I've learned anything from this savings experience, it's definitely to put as much of the money away before I start spending it!

What would you do if you woke up a mega millionaire?

Friday, March 23, 2012

omg! pyf. wth?

Yesterday, I was chatting up a co-worker for details to add to Thursday's post and she mentioned a concept I hadn't thought of since my personal finance course at Simmons College - Pay Yourself First (or as I like to say, PYF).

The concept is simple - set aside money in some type of account before you pay bills, buy groceries, or hit the bar. Like most people, I think about saving only when there's barely any money left in my bank account. In October 2011, Americans were saving about 3.6% of their disposable income which is only 0.5% higher than our pre-recession savings of 3.1% (from here). When I think about how much I take home per year, while it's not much, 3.6% in savings seems downright pitiful. Clearly, paying myself last isn't working out, especially after crunching the numbers yesterday.

What does work (for me) is an automatic payroll deduction. If I can't see it, I can't spend it. A few months ago, I enrolled in a deferred compensation plan and opened an IRA, both offered by my employer, in addition to the money taken out for my pension (I'm of the mindset the pension probably won't be there by the time I retire). Between the two accounts I was contributing 12% of my pre-tax income towards retirement. So I actually was paying myself first for a bit. Once I started this debt payoff challenge, I decreased my contributions to 3% in order to sock the extra $120 or so towards credit cards. Unfortunately, my savings account has grown only infinitesimally in the past two months and I decided it's time for more drastic measures.

Our employer won't automatically deduct money into just any account so today, I signed up with our county's credit union online. All they asked for was $5 to open a basic savings account. On Monday, I'll pop in with my signed form and my driver's license and they'll be able to route $50 from every paycheck into this new account. Once I have $100 in the account, I'll receive compounded interest quarterly. The rate isn't much (0.1%), but at least I'll have money set aside every month before I can figure out a way to spend it.
one day this will be me.
(with money. not with a colored face but a grey neck/hands)
Who else PYF's? Can we get this acroynm happening for real? LoLz.

Day Thirty Two Spent:
$0.85 vending machine Oreo's
Day Thirty Two Saved:
$5.00 in new credit union account

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Does anyone know where the name of today's post came from? It's from the geniuses that developed this little diddy:
Can you believe it's been twelve years since that series aired? Me either. Anyway, "5gether" was the first song off their sophomore album 2gether: Again. It popped into my head while reading the article "5 Tips to Cut Custs on Your Home" What? You're not reminded of fictional boy bands while reading finance articles? Weirdo.

Absolutely none of the recommendations are helpful to us at the moment. None of the homes in our area are even selling for me to fight a property assessment (though this tip did help my mom last year!), we can't even afford basic remodeling right now because of the costs of removing the zoo from our attic, I'm fairly certain we have the cheapest mortgage we could have scored (and a low interest rate to boot), and we don't have a business that needs a home office, at least not until this blog goes viral.

The only tip that got me thinking was #3 - Know how much mortgage you can afford. I distinctly remember being on the phone with Wells Fargo during the pre-approval interview and almost having a heart attack when we were approved for a $1,600 per-month mortgage. Once I picked my jaw up from the desk, I remembered I was only paying half that amount. $800 per month still seemed like a lot, especially with our wedding right around the corner. I never did a monthly mortage calculator back then, so why not do one now?

Most mortgage calculators tell you to take your gross monthly income and multiply it by 28%. This percentage accounts for monthly payments for principal and interest, mortgage insurance (we have it), property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association fees (don't have it), and payments for a home-equity loan or line of credit (don't have either). I used my take-home pay to do the calculations - I don't see the point in figuring out what I could afford before everything is taken out, since that's not what goes into my bank account every other Friday.

$2,200 x 0.28 = $616.00 per month

I'm just squeeking under the max by $16.00. Phew!

The other calculator the article suggested was a Maximum Monthly Debt Repayment (MMDR) calculation of your gross monthly income multiplied by 36%. The MMDR includes mortgage payments, credit cards, student loans, car loans/leases, ailmony, child support, or other debt with more than ten months of repayment left. It's noteworthy that the ideal percentage is 36%, but in places where the cost of living is higher, like the northern NJ/NYC region, the percentage may go as high as 45% Here's mine:

$2,200 x 0.36 = $792.00 per month

Here is where I blow past the recommended 36% and even topple the cap of 45%. Between the morgage ($600), my student loans ($205), and my credit card payments ($350), I'm closer to using 52% of my monthly take home pay just for debt. Wow! No wonder it's tight during the winter months when the electric bill gets sky high as well.

What's your percentage look like? Off the chart or small and sweet?

Day Thirty One Spent: $0.00
Day Thirty One Saved: $0.00

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

For Richer, For Poorer

Today, I thought it would be interesting to see how my peers handle finances within their relationships. You already know I'm not the best when it comes to communicating with the hubs about money. I was curious to see if anyone else had the same difficulties or if I was the only one with my head in the sand. I gave everyone the same three questions to answer, but all the respondents have been together for varying amounts of time (names have been changed).

1. How did you view money before you were in a committed relationship/engaged/married?
  • "I would say my husband and I have always been "loose" with our money" - Gloria, married 1.5 years, together 7 years
  • "I was actually a better saver before...but I was also working two jobs" - Julie, married 6 months, together 5 years
  • "I didn't think about money that much, I would spend it like hot cakes. I didn't save much, or if I did, it was because I wanted something expensive." - Wes, married to Julie
  • "Back in the day I was probably the consumer who bought things without researching and double checking. I just did stuff without thinking about the future." - Sophia, getting married in August, together 1.5 years
  • "Prior to being in a committed relationship, I viewed money as something to spend on clothes, gadgets, going out, or vacations." - Dan, in a relationship 2 years
2. How has being in a relationship/engaged/married changed the way you view your money?
  • " When we first opened the joint account, it took a little getting used to, because we were both so used to just doing what we wanted all the time, and not having to worry about what anyone else was spending...But with the joint account, you have to know what the other person is doing so you don't overdraft. If we are running low in the checking account, I just give my husband a heads up so he can watch his spending until the next direct deposit is put in.  Neither one of us spends too frivolously... With big purchases, he usually just goes by my opinion since I handle the finances." - Aubrey, married 3.5 years, together 9 years 
  • "Before we got married, we settled a lot of debt and refuse to use credit cards except for 1 small one to build our credit- less than $500 limit... We have made a point to try to make all big purchases in cash... Overall, our relationship with money has been the same- what's mine is his and vice versa." - Gloria
  • "I think of everything WE need, for example if I want to buy a Coke for work, I think is there anything we need at home...Now-a-days money is the third thing I think about everyday!" - Wes
  • "As much as I make fun of him for making pie charts and talking in percentages... I have found myself looking at the charts and making sure that whatever I want is #1: necessary; #2: affordable... I used to spend money on crap that I really did not need- only because I didnt have a goal." - Sophia
  • "I've always been a saver, so if anything, I've influence my husband to be better with money." - Bridget, married 28 years
3. Do you find it difficult to talk with your significant other/spouse about money?
  • "Some times it's difficult to talk about money with my husband, especially after I splurged on something for the house or myself or even when the grocery bill gets a little higher than usual." - Claire
  • "It's very difficult because I never had to explain to anyone how I spent my money... We both have a love/hate relationship with payday because we know we have money but at the same time we know we need to sit down and talk bills..." - Wes
  • "No. We often have discussions about money." - Bridget
  • "There are no difficulties talking about money with my partner, we talk about it all the time, our goals, and how to spend and save." - Dan
It wouldn't be fair for me to ask others about their personal lives without discussing our own, so I sat down with the hubs tonight and made him talk about these topics (spoiler: he wasn't very interested).

1. Prior to dating, we were both spenders and we didn't think about what we were spending our money on.
2. The hubs said "it's easier to save now, but only because I make more money." He thinks he spends money on the same kinds of things he did before we were dating. Obviously, you all know I am trying not to spend the way I used to and (attempting) to save more money.
3. We both think it's difficult to talk with each other about money. He says it's because I "have my own ideas about a situation." I can admit I have trouble listening and/or seeing a different perspective other than my own. I feel it's difficult to talk to him about money because he can be very dismissive about what I see as a problem (for example, how much money should we have in savings).

Feel free to respond in the comments with your answers to the questions as well! I think it's so interesting to hear about others relationships. Must be the sociologist in me. Or I'm nosy. Probably both.

Day Thirty Spent: $0.00
Day Thirty Saved: $0.00

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guano Bowls...Collect the Whole Set!

Sadly, we could probably make a whole set. This morning, we had a pest management company come out because we thought there were squirrels in the attic. Unfortunately, there are squirrels in the attic. And mice. And bats. About a dozen of them. Since my readers are classy people and probably don't spend their Saturday nights watching Billy the Exterminator like we do (I told you we knew how to party), I'll let him explain:

The good news is that at least some of the expense will be covered by our homeowner's insurance. Update:  There is no good news. I spoke to one of the claim reps who has already emailed me letter stating they will not be reimbursing us for the job.The (other) bad news is instead of using our tax return for a fence, we'll be replenishing our saving's account. Removal of the bats alone is going to cost around $2,000, plus the costs for trapping & removing the squirrels/mice. I feel like I'm starring in my own rendition of The Money Pit.
shelley long has an abnormal face no one can fill
 Hopefully your Tuesday is going better than mine!

Day Twenty Nine Spent:
$29.00 gas
$15.00 co-pay
Day Twenty Nine Saved: $0.00

Monday, March 19, 2012

At My Own Expense

Today was a very expensive day.

I bought four things I didn't need today. I went into PetSmart for one toy (Plubber) and walked out with five. Those damn clearance signs!

Thankfully, since I've cut down on spending in the past twenty-ish days, I was able to purchase other necessities today without fear there wouldn't be enough money in the bank to cover them. Which is good, since tomorrow is looking like a pretty expensive day as well.
this is what I've been seeing all day

I ended up spending more than I anticipated on a new pair of glasses this afternoon. I went to "America's Best" (imagine me air quoting that) for new specs & contacts. We have a pretty crappy vision reimbursement plan at work, but I knew Cigna would cover one eye exam a year (but not the actual vision correction). Yet the store told me differently. I was also informed that because I was getting contacts that their "free eye exam" offer didn't apply even though I was purchasing the two pairs of glasses. Ridiculous, but yesterday, our accountant told us we can deduct our medical expenses as long as we keep as our receipts, so you know those bad boys went in a folder for next year!

I also did some food shopping today at BJ's. Unfortunately, their in-store coupons weren't as good as last time so I didn't save as much money; However, I did manage to snag two lilac bushes, two hydrangea bulbs, and a pack of astilbe for my front gardens. Generally, I try to shop locally, but when it comes to flowers I found the big box stores tend to offer more for your money.

In other news, I set up a small ($50) automatic savings plan for each paycheck yesterday and I also reached my first $100.00 in savings! It's small, but at least it's something! Any one else have a little victory this weekend?

Day Twenty Eight Spent:
$293.07 Electric Bill
$121.25 BJ's
$15.00 co-pay
$233.95 eye exam & glasses
$28.22 PetSmart
$11.21 Target (birthday present)
Day Twenty Eight Saved: $0.00

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to Save Money on Saint Patrick's Day

Get so drunk the night before that the thought of booze makes you want to vomit. I saved myself at least $100.00 yesterday.

On Friday, I received a rebate card from AT&T in the mail for a cool $50.00. Woo-hoo! I went down to Atlantic City for a girls night with two of my best friends and spent yesterday on the couch nursing a hangover before going to bed at an obscenely early time. Do I know how to party or what?

This morning, the hubs and I went to get our taxes done. We ended up owing the state $13.00, but our accountant said that's common in a two income household. We're getting a little over $2,000 back this year. About half of the money we are going to put towards a fence, I will take a smidge to put towards credit cards, and the rest we're going to put away for a rainy day.

We went to a new accountant this year and she was great! She really gave us a lot of tips on what we should be doing in order to maximize our refund next year. Although we make a lot of cash donations, she advised us to make 3-4 trips to Goodwill per year and make sure we get receipts for our donations. We learned we can deduct our medical expenses (co-pays, prescriptions, eye glasses, etc.) as well as any non-reimbursed work expenses. The latter is more applicable for Brian than me, but since we file jointly now, I get to reap the benefits! She suggested keeping a notebook in the car to log any work-related trips we make as well as any trainings we might go to and the related expenses that go with it (food, tolls, etc.).

Tomorrow we have a new pest management company coming out to try and figure out what's going on with our attic creatures. I'm also going to the dentist for the first time in ten years (yikes!) and hopefully squeezing in some food shopping. Looks like a pretty expensive week ahead!

Anyone save any money this weekend?

Saturday Spent:
$4.99 Pepto @ Rite Aid
Saturday Saved:

Sunday Spent:
$17.11 PetValu (flea&tick med for Molly)
$46.07 Petco (Molly's food -- anyone see a theme here?)
$13.55 State of NJ taxes owed
$165.00 Accountant fee
Sunday Saved: $0.00

Friday, March 16, 2012

Credit Chameleon

On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to check out Credit Karma, an online service that allows you to see your TransUnion credit score (not the same as your FICO score) for free. In addition, you also have the opportunity to see your credit report card so you know what areas you to improve on. I was a bit hesitant to utilize the site, as giving out personal info to unverified, third party companies isn't something I'm usually comfortable with. I familiarized myself with their privacy policy and used Internet Explorer's "In Private" browsing feature which restricts cookies. I was relieved they did not ask for my whole SSN, just the last four digits. Here's how I faired:

Credit Report Card: C (ouch! definitely thought I'd do better than that!)

  •  Open Credit Card Utilization - C - my utilization ratio (balances divided by credit limits) was 43%
  • Percentage of On-Time Payments - A - 100% !
  • Average Age of Open Credit Lines - D - my average is a little less than 4 years, with the oldest credit line being 7 years.
  • Total Accounts - B - 21 (14 active, 7 closed)
  • Hard Credit Inquiries - C - 3 in the past two years (most likely all from buying the house last year)
  • Derogatory Marks - 0
  • Total Debt: $175,557 (79% mortgage, 16% student loans, 5% credit cards)
  • Debt to Income Utilization - 62% (just me, hubs' salary not included)

  • Credit Score: 686 (double ouch)

    That score represents an almost 80 point drop from where I was at this time last year. I believe when we started prepping to buy our home, my score was in the 740-750 range. This was the initial kick in the pants I needed to reign in my spending and reverse the downward trend. Checking back in is definitely the boost of motivation I need to keep up the plan.

    There's not much I can do about the "length of time" my accounts have been open, save for not opening any new accounts. I'll have to keep watch over the accounts I do have to make sure I'm not charged any kind of inactivity fees - or worse - have cards closed for inactivity. According C.K. accounts open for 8 years or more is what I'm aiming for. Additionally, with the passage of time, the "hard inquiries" on my credit report will disappear as well.

    The big area to work on is my utilization ratio. The sweet spot is 20% or less. Now that I have a plan, that number will, hopefully, be achievable in the near future.

    What was really cool on the website was the Credit Simulator - Essentially, you can plug in different scenarios and see how it reflects your credit score. For example, if I pay off my credit card debt, my score would rise to 755. If I obtain an auto loan for $12,000, my score drops three points. If I do both those things, my score still rises to 729. Pretty cool.

    Has anyone else used Credit Karma (or a similar website)? Raise your hand if you'll have Karma Chameleon stuck in your head the rest of the day. Yep, me too.

    Day Twenty Five Spent:
    $1.00 vending machine chips
    Day Twenty Five Saved: $0.00

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Go Green, Save Green

    There are numerous ways to go green in order to save money: buy a fuel-efficient vehicle, repurpose/reuse, make your own cleaners, etc. I recently discovered a new way to save money that's also super healthy - making green smoothies!
    that's not me. i don't smile that much in the morning.
    In the past, I was hesitant to buy produce in bulk because inevitably some would go bad before I could eat it. I was spending more money to buy smaller quantities and making frequent trips to the grocery store. This was especially true in the late fall to early spring before the local farm stands re-open. I might as well have thrown money straight into the trash can. Now, if any of my fruit is too ripe to eat raw, I just pop it in the freezer for later use.

    For the "green" portion, you can use just about any leafy vegetable that your heart desires. I'm still pretty new to the smoothie game, so I use spinach because it's mild in flavor and it's easy (& cheap) to come by. I'm looking forward to purusing my local farmer's market this summer for fresh kale, chard, and mustard greens to use in the smoothies. I also like to add some greek yogurt for its protein and creaminess. Depending on my fruit supply, I may choose a favored variety for an extra kick of fruitiness or just the plain fat-free version. You can often find individual greek yogurts on sale at your local grocery store or a larger fat-free container at a big box store.

    Lately, my go to combination has been strawberry kiwi. Shop Rite had 6 kiwis on sale for $1.99 and a large container of strawberries for $2.50. I use about a half kiwi per smoothie and probably about a cup of sliced strawberries (it's really about personal taste preference, so I don't have exact measurements for you). I add almost enough water to cover the fruit and two heaping tablespoons of fat-free greek yogurt. I blend those first until smooth, then I add the spinach. The first smoothie I made, I only used one handful of spinach, but now I throw in about two & a half.

    The whole process takes less then 10 minutes, depending on how many fruits you need to cut up. I like that I can carry it around the house as I finish getting ready for work. One 12-16 ounce cup keeps me full until about 11 AM, which is even longer than when I eat eggs for breakfast! It also helps curb my cravings for unhealthy food which is great. Don't feel like you need to get a fancy blender, either; We have a basic $30 blender from Target, which works fine for chopping up small or sliced produce (if you want to blend ice in though, maybe splurge a little more).

    In short, green smoothies are good for you AND your wallet! Anyone inspired to try one tomorrow morning?

    Day Twenty-Four Spent:
    $25.00 gas
    $10.00 March Madness pool
    $1.00 Mega Millions lottery ticket
    $1.00 chocolate bar (sheriff's fundraiser)
    Day Twenty-Four Saved: $0.00

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Things That Make Ya Go Uggh

    It's been a rough day and a half. And you know what that make me want to do? Shop.

    I want new slippers.
    I want a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks.
    I want a cute shirt to wear.
    I want a bottle of red wine, even the cheap kind.
    I want a trashy magazine.
    I want a manicure/pedicure.
    I want a new purse.

    I know purchasing any of those things won't make anything better for more than an hour, but that doesn't stop me from wanting them.

    Momma said there'd be days like this.

    Day Twenty-Three Spent:
    $14.93 Domino's
    Day Twenty-Three Saved: $0.00

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Income, Savings, & Budgets, oh my!

    While perusing MSN Money today for blog inspiration, I came upon this article about savings & budgeting. Admittedly, I have never been very good at either, which is how I racked up credit card debt in the first place (obviously). I have a PNC Virtual Wallet checking account which has a spending tracker as well as a short term savings account & a long term savings account, but I don't really check up on my spending very often.

    The author says "I realized that it wasn't the little luxuries here and there that got me in trouble. It was the large, irregular expenses -- like vacations, major repairs and the holidays -- that did all the damage. To avoid overspending, I had to do a better job of planning for those." Dammit if he didn't just take the words right out of my brain.

    He realized that committed (or fixed) expenses needed to stay below 60% of the household income in order to be able to contribute a decent amount of money to a savings account. What I like about his plan was he didn't advocate getting rid of your TV or only having pay-per-use cellphone like so many financial "experts" advise. The only task is to keep it under 60%, which is great for us, since we love our TV and our iPhones.

    He also states if it's too hard to keep the committed expenses under 60% due to credit card debt then to use the money that would be going into a savings account to pay the debt off faster. "Every dollar in interest that you don't pay is just like getting a guaranteed, risk-free, tax-free return on your money equal to the interest rate on the debt."

    My monthly take home pay is approximately $2,100 so 60% of that is about $1,250. Now let's try to break down my monthly fixed expenses:

  • $650.00 mortgage
  • $100-$150 electric bill (I used $125 for the actual calculation)
  • $40 water/sewer bill (note: this is actually paid in 4 installements of $120)
  • $90 cell phone bill
  • $347 credit card payments (this is for the new payment plan I came up with for this month)
  • $203 student loans
  • $25 EZ Pass
  • $120 in gas (averaging 1 fill up every 5 days at about $30 per tank)

  • Total: $1,660 - or about 79% of my take home pay and I didn't even include food on the list! No wonder it's a struggle to stay afloat some months.

    The good news is I've already taken a few steps to reduce some of the expenses. A few weeks ago, I detailed how we switched to a new electric provider. March will be our first full month with Constellation, so hopefully, we will see the savings on our next bill. Last week, I started car pooling with a co-worker, which should cut my monthly gas budget by at least 25%, though I'm hoping for about 40-50%. It will also decrease the amount EZ Pass takes out for tolls, since I won't be using it as frequently.

    I also decreased my retirement contributions for the time being while I work to pay off the credit cards. Previously, I was contributing 12% of my pre-tax income to two different plans, in addition to what was being taken out for my pension. I knocked the outside contributions down to 3%, but there's not much I can do about the pension (even though I'm 98% certain there won't be a pension by the time I'm old enough to collect it).

    Unfortunately, there's not too much I can do about the student loans. I'm already on an interest-only payment plan with Sallie Mae for the next three years. I'll have to look into ways to decrease our cell phone bill without getting rid of the iPhone (I love it. So so much.)

    Another silver lining is that Molly seems to be quite content to chew on my shoes, so it looks like I won't have to buy her a new toy anytime soon.
    it's not like I wore those boots regularly, or anything.

    Day Twenty-Two Spent:
    $5.00 Acme
    Day Twenty-Two Saved:
    $40.00 - found money in my badge! score!

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    So App-ealing

    It's going to be a slow week at work, so there will be plenty of time for posting. If there's anything you'd like me to write about, please let me know in the comments!

    I figured I would share some of my favorite iPhone apps that help me shop smarter. All the apps are free, so hopefully they'll save you some money, too!
    • CardStar - Essentially a virtual wallet where you can store all of your loyalty cards, even non-grocery cards like Best Buy Rewards, Hallmark, etc. This way you can get rid of the pesky key tags (or in my case, the whole additional card holder for the regular size ones). It also provides you deals & coupons to the stores you have saved.
    • ShopAdvisor - Say you see a shirt in Macy's you really like, but it's not on sale and you don't have any coupons. Just scan the bar code into ShopAdvisor and it will search for the product until it's within your budget.
    • Coupon Sherpa - A database of mobile coupons for grocery & department stores. There are also links to printable coupons that you can e-mail to yourself & print out. I actually haven't used this app too much because stores in our area do not scan coupons from your phone. Plus our printer stopped working and I haven't fixed it yet.
    • Buy Me a Pie - This is the app I use when I'm shopping somewhere that doesn't have its own mobile app (like BJ's). Helps to keep my impulse spending in check.
    • SavingsStar - Made by the same people as CardStar, you load your grocery/drug store loyalty cards into the app then select coupon offers you think you would purchase. After purchasing the item, a rebate is applied to your account. The hubs and I share an account and we've gotten about $7 back in rebates so far (the rebate is linked with your Paypal account)
    • Weekly Ads - Just what it sounds like, the weekly ads for stores near you. This is great, since we get a very limited supply with our mail and most end up in the recycling.
    • Gas Buddy - While not a "shopping" app., this little guy has come in handy lately! It shows you the prices of gas in and around your area. The only beef I have with it is there isn't a way to distinguish cash versus credit price differences.
    • Locavore - Tells you what food is in season for your area and helps you find local farmer's markets, both of which are cheaper than buying food brought in from other places
    I also have the mobile app for our bank which allows me to securely view our balances and conduct transfers as well as the apps for Stop & Shop, Shop Rite, & Target which let me view the weekly specials and make lists. I'm still waiting for Acme to come out with an app.

    Are there any apps I missed? What helps you?

    Day Twenty-One Spent:
    $.75 vending machine Cheez-Its
    Day Twenty-One Saved: $0.00

    In Revelry

    We've officially passed the half way mark in the forty day challenge! I'm happy to report I have not stepped inside a Kohl's, TJ Maxx, or other department store in the past twenty days which is definitely a personal best. I still have a ways to go on this personal financial journey, but we're taking baby steps, at least!

    This past weekend was a mish-mash of spending & saving. Friday night, my husband and I met our friends at The Melting Pot in Atlantic City. The four of us have been going out together for Atlantic City Restaurant Week for the past three years, so I knew prior to starting the challenge this night would be coming. We stuffed our faces for $33.12 each and it was phenomenal. Hanging out with great friends is worth every penny! The hubs and I were going to hit the slots, but by the time we were finished eating all we could think about was going to bed. That was at least $20 saved.

    To close out Restaurant Week, I went back to Atlantic City on Saturday with my momma to lunch at the new Golden Nugget casino. The food wasn't great, so I'm happy we only paid $20 each (tip included) for the 3 course meal. Then I said a tearful goodbye to my second favorite week of the year (birthday week takes the top spot, obviously).

    Momma Q has been saving her inserts from the Sunday paper for me so I spent some quality time with her and clipped a bunch of coupons. Since neither the hubs or I read the actual paper (we're online news people), it saves us a cool $2.25 per week. I also picked up my wedding video which finally came in the mail and so far looks like the worst $600 I ever spent. Win some, lose some, I guess.

    Saturday night, I headed up to my sister's house for some more quality family time. Even though I bought gas on my lunch break Friday, the gas in Hammonton was only $3.48 so I couldn't resist the opportunity to fill up for .05 cents cheaper than at home. You know gas prices are out of control when you get excited for under $3.50 a gallon. After hanging out with my sister & her family, I went to The Pour House in Collingswood with my friend. Mrs. A was so generous and paid for my veggie burger (delicious!) and my two beers (Hefeweizen- yum) in exchange for a shout out on the blog. Let's give her a nice round of applause, shall we?

    After staying up all night and getting home at 7:00 AM on Sunday, I didn't get any of my household errands accomplished. I ended up running to Walgreens for a heat wrap for my knee which has been super sore lately. I picked up some medicine that I had a store coupon & a manufacturer coupon for, total savings- $3.00! I also purchased my first "reward" which was a new mascara & some concealer. I had coupons for both and the mascara was on sale, which kept me under my $10 limit for both items. Our local produce market finally re-opened for the season, and I was able to use my savings from Saturday to buy a ton of fruits & veggies. I managed to resist buying a box of Girl Scout cookies conveniently located next to the register - a difficult task indeed!

    This is the week where the majority of our household bills are due, including my credit card payments, so it's the ideal time not to spend any extra money. Hopefully, I'll be able to work at my friend's restaurant on Saint Patrick's Day so I can sock away some extra money in our savings account. With spring right around the corner, we have a lot of household projects that need to be accomplished!

    What did you do this weekend?

    Saturday Spent:
    $17.32 gas
    $14.98 Rite Aid
    $22.00 lunch @ Grotto
    Saturday Saved:

    Sunday Spent:
    $10.48 Walgreens
    $11.67 B&B Produce
    Sunday Saved:

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Debt Tsunami

    The next time you have a few minutes google debt + natural disaster of your choice. It's kind of fun. But not right now, you're busy reading my blog.

    The final installment of our debt elimination journey has us riding the waves of the Debt Tsunami. Adam Baker claims it's the "ultimate method to pay off debt" by tapping into our emotional connection with our credit cards. This sounds like it's about to journey into "My Strange Addiction" territory. The Debt Tsunami is "about paying off your credit cards in order of their emotional impact" regardless of their balance or interest rate.

    Mr. Baker contends that the snowball and avalanche methods won't work if they don't correlate with your specific personality type. For example, "logical" people usually prefer the avalanche method because it makes sense to pay off high interest cards first. The method assumes you are a mathematical person who can detach yourself from the emotional side of debt. The snowball method works if you're someone who's motivated by little victories. But what happens if you're neither (or both) of those people?

    In the argument for the tsunami, Mr. Baker references two scenarios which both involve money lent by a friend or family member. This scenario doesn't apply to me at all, so I have some trouble identifying with the "emotional side" of my debt. But I'll try. Let's go through his step-by-step strategy:
    1. Create the initial burst of energy. Oh, look, "start a blog" is one of the options. (double check!)
    2. List your debts from smallest to largest including interest rate
    can i put "creates awesome tables in paint" on my resume?
         3. Focus on the emotional connection with each debt. Apparently I should be closing my eyes and imagining what it'll feel like to pay off each debt, but I'm at my desk, so that's not going to happen. Other questions to focus on:     
          a. How long will it take to pay off?
          b. On what did you spend the money? .
          c. How much of a burden is this particular debt in your financial life?
          d. Is it secured or unsecured?

       4. Reorder your list based on potential emotional impact - Mine would be in order: 1, 2, 3, 4. There is a caveat here - "order the debts by how awesome it'll feel to eliminate them combined with how easily you can actually get that result." Eliminating Card #1's debt is not going to be easy, so there's a wrench thrown into my list.
       5. Head immediately towards shallower water: "The only way to build momentum is to go as fast as you can towards shallow water." Here is where we reduce spending & budget better in order to apply more money towards the debt payments.

    While I appreciate the ideas behind the Debt Tsunami, I don't think it's right for me in its entirety. Instead, I'll combine it with parts of the Avalanche & Snowball theories to create my own Debt Meteor program (kudos to my co-worker for that one). I'll tackle the balance on Card 3 first, since it has both the lowest balance and the highest interest rate, but one of the lower emotional connections. Then we'll move onto Card 1, which has the higher balance, interest rate, and emotional impact. From there we'll go to Cards 2 & 4. I'll tweak the plan if and when it's needed, since I need to set myself up for successes, not failures.

    Which program works best for you? Anyone else inspired to create their own debt program this weekend?

    Day Eighteen Spent:
    $28.56 gas
    $5.00 lunch
    $32.10 daycare for Molly
    Day Eighteen Saved: $0.00

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Debt Earthquake & Aftershocks

    Two other ways frequently mentioned in eliminating debt are balance transfers and loans. Neither of these choices are optimal for my personal situation, but maybe they will help you out.

    The first option, balance transfers, is pretty simple- Apply for a 0% interest card (and be approved) then transfer your high-interest balances over. Assuming you pay off the balances before the promotional rate expires, you'll have saved a good chunk of change in interest. One cavat to look out for is the fee associated with transferring the balance, usually a flat fee or a percentage of the transfer. lists the following as the Best No-Fee, 0% APR Offers for 2012:
    1. Citi Platinum Select Mastercard - 0% APR for 18 months on transfers and purchases. Transfer fee is 3% of the balance
    2. Slate from Chase - 0% APR for 15 months on transfers & purchases. Slate is one of the only cards with no transfer fee
    3. Discover More - 0% APR for 18 months on transfers and 6 months on purchases. More cards are also part of cash-back program
    4. Capitol One Platinum Prestige Mastercard - 0% APR until June 2013. Balance transfer fee is 3% of total with no minimum to transfer over. The annual APR's are also lower (depending on your credit score, of course)
    You can read the full list here. I just opened a balance transfer card in August 2011 (Card 4 on my list) so obviously, opening another line of credit is going to hurt me more than paying off the existing cards . Card #2  just sent me a letter in the mail offering 0% on balance transfers; However, that would take up most, if not all of my credit line on that card which isn't a good idea either. If you only have one or two cards with high balances, can sock extra money into payments, and won't be tempted to use the new card, then this might be an option for you.

    The second method would be to take out a personal loan to consolidate the debt into one monthly payment. Generally speaking, the loan rates at the bank tend to be lower than credit card rates. They dip even lower if you have a credit union nearby.

    I decided to call up PNC and find out what kind of terms they were offering for a $10,000 unsecured loan. Since I'm already a customer with the bank, they offered me an APR of 8.99% if I have the payments automatically deducted from my checking account. The base APR is 9.24% - still not too shabby. There are no pre-payment penalties associated with the loan, which is good. A three year plan would cost me $318.00 per month and a four year plan would be about $250.00 per month. This would almost seem like a great option if I didn't already have that one card with 0% interest. Plus, another unsecured debt would not look good on my credit report right now.

    Some websites even suggest taking a loan out from family members or friends, but I'm of the mindset not to mix business with pleasure. Has anyone ever loaned money to a family member and actually had it all paid back? I know if it's not going to affect my credit score negatively, I would be lax in my re-payment efforts. No need to create unneccessary family drama - we do that well enough on our own.

    Just in case the past three days didnt't have enough natural disaster analogies for you (spoiler alert), tomorrow, we'll look at the Debt Tsunami! Hold onto your surfboards.

    Day Seventeen Spent:
    $5.00 Sally Beauty Membership Renewal
    $1.07 Dollar Tree (makeup remover cloths)
    Day Seventeen Saved:

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Debt Avalanche

    It seems that the majority of debt reduction plans all have some kind of destructive nature theme going on - like the "debt snowball" is really a snowball packed with ice that's going to impale your credit card debt and the "debt avalanche" is going to bury your debt in a pile of who-knows-what.
    The second program I'm going to look at,"Debt Avalanche", focuses on paying off high interest rate cards first instead of paying off the cards in low-high order. The premise behind this program is by paying off the higher interest cards first, you'll save money since the interest charges won't be as large.

    Sounds promising. Here's my table (click to make it larger):

    According to a Snowball vs. Avalanche calculator, paying down the debt in this fashion will save me $55.00 in interest. Meh. Pretty unimpressive, in my book, but I guess any savings is good savings when it all boils down, right?

    In both scenarios, I'd be paying off Card 3 first, which fits in nicely with how I planned to do it anyway. So you don't have to go back to Friday's post, the plan for Card 3 is: First payment comes out on March 14 for $134.79 and I'll be paying $100.00 towards that card each month while paying the minimums on the other cards. Barring any emergencies, I'll make a double payment on the card this month and have the whole thing paid off in the next three months.

    These two programs seem to encapsulate the most popular ways to pay off debts. Tomorrow, I'll look at two other options that I'm fairly certain I won't use, but we'll discuss because I like to hear myself type.

    Day Sixteen Spent: $0.00
    Day Sixteen Saved: $0.00

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Debt Snowball

    The premise behind Dave Ramsey's "Debt Snowball" is a fairly simple one: pay off your debts from smallest to largest. According to Mr. Ramsey, "Paying the little debts off first shows you quick feedback, and you are more likely to stay with the plan." The idea is to apply each debt's minimum payment to the next as you work down the list in order to eliminate the debt faster. "Payments Remaining" is the number of payments remaining on the debt when you get to that item. "Cumulative Payments" is the total number of payments made (aka a running total).

    As a side note - Mr. Ramsey encourages each participant to have $1,000 in savings before starting any kind of debt repayment. Although throughout the blog, I keep my spending/saving separate from the hubs, I did count our joint savings as my safety net in this exercise. Since one of the goals of this journey is to save more money, I will work on a separate personal savings of $1,000 as well.

    Here is my debt snowball (click on it to make it bigger):
    First impression: Wow. Almost six years to pay it all off.

    You'll probably note that there is only a month & a half payment left on Card 4 by the time I get down to it. I currently pay $150 per month towards the balance because it is a 0% interest rate card. If need be, I may adjust that number in the future once I'm being charged interest, depending on how far along I am on the other balances.

    Mr. Ramsey also encourages you to list all debts, including student loans and mortgages on the debt snowball, but since revolving debt is my immediate focus, that's all I've chosen to include on here. I accepted long ago that I wasn't paying my student loans off until my 40's and the mortgage... well, that's 30 years for a reason.

    Overall, I think the Debt Snowball is one of the easiest plans out there and I'm partial to it; However, tomorrow we'll look at another option and compare. I know my sister-in-law, Stephanie, has used this plan with success. Anyone else out there have a plan you recommend?

    Day Fifteen Spent:
    $22.00 Lunch (treated co-worker for birthday)
    Day Fifteen Saved:

    A Dollar Does It

    Apparently three days without blogging has distressed a few of my readers. My apologies. To make up for it, I will try to post two smaller entries today. I do the majority of blogging at work, so some days it's important for me to get some actual work done. Gotta keep the man off your back!

    First, lets chat about weekend spending!

    Saturday Total Spent:
    Lucky's Bed&Biscuit: $21.67 (Molly nail trim & ear cleaning)

    Sunday Total Spent:
    Family Dollar: $5.35
    Acme: $16 ish

    For some reason, our last two dogs (Molly & Wheatie) hate to have their feet touched. They immediately pull away even if you touch the top of their foot. Unfortunately, that means at-home nail clippings are out of the question, especially for Molly, who is extra wiggly.

    In the spirit of supporting our local businesses, I chose to spend a bit more money & took her to Lucky's Bed & Biscuit, instead of our local Petsmart. Just a personal choice, though, and one that might change in the future!

    Then we went for a 3 mile walk at the Barnegat Branch Trail, which was completely free! Afterwards, we did nothing all day, which was also free.

    Sunday started my first phase of spring cleaning. I decided to tackle the kitchen and commenced with the sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing of it all. We took a quick trip to Walmart where I scooped up a $5 candle (Raspberry Sangria) to help the kitchen smell like spring (it worked). During the cleaning, I decided I wanted to de-scale our Keurig. I looked up the instructions on Keurig's website, but unfortunately, I didn't have enough vinegar in the house. A quick trip to the dollar store fixed that.

    I never used to shop at the dollar store, but lately, I've found that they have a great selection of products at competitive prices. Did you know you can also use coupons at some stores? I just learned that! Definitely have to keep that tidbit in reserve for the future. On this trip, I picked up a gallon of white vinegar for just $1.25. I also purchased my favorite dishwasher detergent (which I can't seem to find anywhere else) - Palmolive ECO+ for $2.50. My last purchase was a pack of glitter Easter eggs for $1.00. You'll see what I did with them later.

    Not only did the vinegar aide in cleaning the Keurig, it also helped me clean out the oven! I found this "recipe" for a natural oven cleaner - even though I don't have borax in the house, I decided the powerful combo of baking soda & vinegar would probably do the trick. I painted the mixture all over the inside of the oven with an old paintbrush then let it sit for about an hour. With just a scrubby sponge and a little extra elbow grease, I was able to get rid of any burnt-on food with no toxic fumes making us sick or hanging around our food. I've also used the baking soda/vinegar combination to clear out the sink and tub pipes. It's such a multi-purpose cleaning tool and so inexpensive!

    Sunday also consisted of a trip to Acme for produce. I've been hesitant to buy fruits & veggies in bulk at BJ's because I don't want them to go bad, but since I've been trying to eat healthier, I think I'll stock up next time. These $10-$15 mini-trips are probably more expensive in the long run.

    Here is what I did with my $1 Easter eggs:

    I've really enjoyed decorating to the seasons in our house. It makes everything cheerier, but can be expensive. The dollar store has proved to be the best way to dress up the kitchen & downstairs bathroom without breaking the bank. Total spent for this project was only the $1 I paid for the Easter eggs. I already had the dip tray & the mini candle. I bought those cloth napkins a few months ago at Kohl's for a mere 0.89 cents. Even the hubs said he liked it!

    Have you had success at the dollar store lately? Any tips I should know?

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Apple Pie Chart

    Bonus time! What Wheel of Fortune catagory does today's headline belong in?

    What's that? No one under the age of 30 watches the Wheel? Bummer.

    For the past two days I've been condensing the spending on my three cards into ten catagories. Luckily, most companies now offer some kind of "year end summary" so all I had to do was sift through the transactions to make sure they were in the right catagory. Then, I added up the totals and made a neat little pie chart:
    For clarity:
    "Other" included some printing/photo purchases, charity, & dry cleaning
    "Fees" was primarily interest accrued on Card 1 and a small rush shipping fee from Card 2
    "Grocery" included grocery & drug stores
    "Home" is limited to improvement/maintenance - think Lowe's/Home Depot - anything else went to "Shopping"

    I think the other catagories are fairly transparent. Clearly, I chose the right thing to give up for Lent, since shopping is the largest catagory. Looking at the shopping section is rather embarrassing; I can't even name one thing I purchased with all that money.

    Yesterday, I scheduled my monthly payment for Card 3 (total: $534.79). I've chosen to pay this card off first, regardless of the method I use for paying down the balances. $134.50 will be March's payment. Since March is a three paycheck month (woohoo!), I plan to make a second payment on this card as well, hopefully for at least the same amount.

    Starting Monday, I'll be blogging about the various options/strategies that exist for paying off the debt and picking one as my own. Are there any methods you have found helpful? Please share!

    On an unrelated note- I want to thank those of you that have reached out to me, via comments, Facebook, or in person with your suggestions and support. I've only encountered one judgemental person thus far which makes me so grateful to have such uplifting people in my life. Even though it's uncomfortable to look at my flaws head on, it also feels good not to be carrying this secret around anymore. Who knows, maybe this weekend I'll get around to telling the hubs about the whole shebang. I'll admit, this honesty thing is pretty refreshing!

    Day Ten Spent:
    $1.50 vending machine soda
    Day Ten Saved:

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Working Hard for the Money

    I saw this image on Pinterest last week:
    It combined two of the things I'm not very good at into one effective plan- Score! The hubs and I are currently doing the 60 Day Insanity workout. We have successfully completed 8 days of the workout so today, I transferred $8 from my checking account into my short term savings. It's a win-win.

    Speaking of wins, last night, we got together with a few of our friends at JD's Pub & Grill to play Quizzo. We used to go weekly when we all lived closer together, but it's been at least a year since our team played together. We were a little rusty out of the gate, but managed to win it all in sudden death overtime! The prize was a $25 gift card to the restaurant which we were able to use on our check last night. $25 divided by 6 = $4.17 per person. So essentially, I got a glass of wine for free!

    the rhinos smell like victory. and beer.
    Smart and money saving. Now that's a sexy combination.

    Day Nine Spent:
    $1.00 vending machine Raisonets
    $34.00 gas (9.6 gallons @ $3.55 a gal.)
    Day Nine Saved: $12.00