Budget: October 2014 Recap

Wow! I am so happy to write about our successes in saving in October. We spent $370 less than we did in September (which was our record low for spending in years…or maybe ever).

I’ve included a snapshot of our monthly spending since December 2013 (from my Mint account):budget october spending

Key areas where we saved money:

  • Groceries: I’ve been keeping up with shopping our pantry for ingredients to make meals with, making a shopping list in advance, and sticking to the list (mostly)
  • Restaurants & Fast Food: This is a big one for us. When I come home from 24h shift in the hospital, the last thing I want to do is think about cooking. This means that my default when I’m tired has been to order pizza or Chinese. I’ve been trying to keep the fridge stocked with a couple of frozen entrees for those nights…maybe not the healthiest, but I’m sure it isn’t worse for us than all that fast food! I’ve also gotten into the routine of making lunches for the week on Sunday evening, so that I STAY AWAY from the cafeteria or fast-food restaurants at the hospital. Even though I never spend a lot at one time, a $7 lunch here and there does add up to a lot!

We also were proactive about MAKING more money this month. Mr. DG took on extra work over the weekend — he’s a Carpenter-turned-high school shop teacher, so he is doing a home reno for a friend. I went through our storage closet and sold some things on Craigslist (e.g. a few of my Halloween costumes from my bar-hopping days sold really well this month!). Plus, I applied for a few extra scholarships and bursaries through my medical school, so fingers-crossed that one of those applications will be successful. And a reimbursement we’ve been waiting on from the government finally was processed, so we were able to bank that money as well.

Overall, we were able to put $150 into savings and all the rest ($3400!!) into debt repayment. Hooray!

Vegetarian Chili Recipe – Inexpensive & Delicious!

Hello folks!

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

This week I tried out a new recipe for vegetarian chili in the crock-pot, and since it was so tasty I thought I’d share it with you! We made a big batch on Sunday night and packaged it into 6 plastic containers for lunches. Initially, I intended this to be my lunches for the week, but Mr. DG liked the chili too, so it became our lunches for Monday – Wednesday. He didn’t even notice that there wasn’t any meat – I had to tell him 🙂

Ingredients & Costs

  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained ($0.87)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained ($0.87)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can baked beans in tomato sauce ($0.87)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained ($0.87)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes ($1.17)
  • Half of a can of tomato sauce (approx $1.50. We used leftover sauce from Saturdays pasta)
  • Half of 1 medium onion, chopped (approx $0.45. Again, we used leftovers)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (approx $1.25)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (approx $0.25 for 2 stalks…it was $1.50 for the bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (negligible) 
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste (negligible) 
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (negligible) 
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (negligible) 
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (negligible) 

Cooking Instructions: Throw all of the above ingredients in a slow-cooker, and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Then, enjoy some chili!

Total Cost: $8.10 (Cost per serving: $1.35)

Note that the prices may vary depending on where you live and where you shop. In general, groceries tend to be more expensive in Canada (where I live) than in the US, so this recipe may be even cheaper if you are American!

I served my chili with a whole-wheat dinner bun ($0.35 each), making the total cost of each lunch $1.70. And it was simply delicious :). I hope you enjoy!

3 Tips for Getting Fit on a Budget

As I’m getting more and more busy with medical school this year, I’ve been cutting back on exercise. And unfortunately I’ve started to notice my jeans feeling a little tighter. So I’m adding exercise to my already long list of priorities, including  (a) sticking to our strict budget (last month we spent $1200 less than our monthly average in 2013!!), (b) trying out some DIY home decor projects, and (c) actually studying once in awhile.

So, what are some ways to keep fit while living a frugal lifestyle?

1. Become a runner

Running In autumn

Running In autumn

I started running about four years ago during my Master’s degree and absolutely love it! I enjoy being outside and having some time to myself, away from the stressful and busy hospital. Check out this beautiful photo I took yesterday while enjoying a nice run – what’s not to love? And I’ve lost about 30 pounds once I took up running regularly. But I’ve gained back 5 lbs in the last few months, since I’ve decreased running 6 times per week to 2 or 3 (in a good week). If you are new to running, start with a small and realistic goal, like completing your first 5k. That’s how I started, and it took me a whole summer to be able to run that long straight. After that, if you catch the running bug, you can shoot for longer runs like a 10k or half marathon.

Total cost? $100 for new shoes every 400-500 miles, which for me is about every 4 or 5 months. And for newbies, you really don’t need to pay for a clinic as there are tons of free training programs online. As some examples, I personally like Hal Higdon and I know a lot of people like to start with Couch to 5k.

2. Do yoga at home

Yoga is great for your mind and body, and a great balance for runners like me. But yoga studio prices are outlandish!! You don’t need a fancy studio to embrace your inner yogi. Just grab a mat, and tune into a free yoga class online. My favorite site for this is www.doyogawithme.com, but there are also lots of videos available on youtube.

Total cost? Yoga mat – I actually received mine as a Christmas gift last year, so free! But you can find basic ones at Walmart or Target for $20 or so. You don’t need lululemon!

3. Grab some weights

Lifting weights at home is a great way to fit in 20 minutes of exercise if you’re as busy as I am. Mr. DG and I have built up a set of 5, 8, 10, 20 and 25 lb dumbbells at garage sales and Craigslist…they aren’t really a “set” because none of the weights match, but hey, they do the trick! And if you don’t have weights at home, that’s not an excuse! You can still do push ups and sit ups without any equipment.

Total cost? We’ve probably spent close to $50 on all the various weights, but still much less than an annual gym membership! And both of us can workout at home together, which can be fun 🙂

 

I hope this post gives you some ideas on how to work up a sweat without busting your budget! Now, time for me to get back at it!

–xoxo

Budget: September 2014 Recap

Well, for our first month on a strict budget, we are actually $34.01 under budget!!

I’m pretty happy with this, especially as there were a lot of extra expenses in September that I hadn’t planned for. For example, my best friend got married in another city. This meant we needed to travel on the ferry to attend (we live on an island), stay overnight in a motel, get my hair done as a bridesmaid, and of course buy a gift for the lucky couple. In addition, another friend of mine had a baby at the beginning of September, and so I needed to get her a baby shower gift. Also, Mr. DG turned 28 this month and so we splurged for a new haircut for him, plus I got him a small birthday gift (a new case that he’s been wanting for his cell phone).

Where we saved money:

  • Cell phone: I had a $50 mail-in rebate from when I signed my contract and it finally went through
  • Electricity: Our bill was about $40 less than expected, as it was a relatively warm month and so we didn’t end up needing to use our electric heating much.
  • Gas: This September, Mr. DG started teaching at a high school that happens to be much closer than the one he worked at last year. This means less money spent on gas, plus way less time commuting! I’m happy about the savings on fuel, and he’s happy about 15 extra minutes to snooze. 🙂
  • Groceries: Firstly, each week, I tried to ‘shop’ our pantry for ingredients to make meals with. We used to this plan out meals for the week, and then would make a shopping list of any extra ingredients we’d need. Once we made the list, I scoured grocery store flyers and clipped coupons to look for the best deals. Then–and this is important–we actually stuck to our grocery list (we often have the bad habit of making shopping lists, but still tossing random things into the cart like chocolate milk or prepackaged foods!). On top of our planning, we were incredibly lucky with grocery gift cards this month. Firstly, I participated in a research study at my university (this involved being interviewed about my med school experiences for less than 30 minutes) and was given a $100 grocery store gift card for my time. Secondly. my husband was given another $100 gift card from his parents as part of his birthday gift. And we still have some money on left on the gift card, meaning we should save money next month too! Wahoo!

Reflecting on the month, I think one thing that this month taught me was to start planning for things like birthdays, baby showers, and weddings well in advance. Hopefully this will allow us to put some money aside for these events over time. Also, we could hopefully purchase gifts when they happen to be on sale, or maybe be more creative and make some gifts ourselves.

Overall, I think the month went well, and I hope that we can keep this up in October. Please feel free to share your tips for cutting costs, as we are certainly new to this!

–XOXO

DG on a Budget!

Welcome to the first post of my budgeting series. Because I still have two years of school to complete before I start making any moola, my husband and I are living solely on his salary as a high school teacher. Thus, Mr. DG and I have recently locked down on our spending and our actively trying to embrace a more frugal lifestyle.  Unfortunately, we didn’t stick to a budget in my first 2 years of medical school (or when we were both undergrads), so we have already accumulated a fair amount of student debt. But a late start is better than not starting at all, right?

I’m hoping to post monthly updates about how we’re doing and whether we’re reaching our budgeting goals. We’ve created a budget that includes our fixed expenses, a modest amount of spending money, and some money set aside for savings and emergencies (e.g. one of our fur babies gets sick or the ol’ DG mobile breaks down). We have decided for privacy reasons not to post exact dollar values for these categories.

I’m most worried about being able to stick to the our spending money limit, as that is definitely the area that we’ve cut most drastically. Frankly, in the past, the two of us could easily spend $100 on a night out – between dinner, drinks, and cover to the local bar. And I could certainly drop that at a cute boutique, buying clothes and other things that I think I ‘need’ at the time. But the truth is, we don’t need any of the stuff in that category (except for a hair cut once in awhile) and so it made sense to start cutting things out from there first. I am also hoping we can learn to plan our meals better, so that we will hopefully spend quite a bit less on groceries.

I am optimistic that we can do it, but only time will tell! Wish us luck 🙂

–XOXO

Spread the Love with jam wedding favors

For our wedding favors, we decided to make our own jam. I saw this idea on Pinterest, and I thought it was inexpensive, personalized, and cute! Plus, it was a fun thing for the wedding that my hubby and I could work on together.

First things first: we needed some berries. We went to a local berry farm as we had this wonderfully romantic notion of hand-picking our own berries! Unfortunately, when we got to the farm, they informed us that we missed the local strawberry season by a few weeks. Nuts! So on to plan B: the regular old grocery store. Luckily, strawberries were still in season down in California and so we were able to buy a few big flats of strawberries for relatively cheap. We also decided to get a few raspberries to mix in for extra zing.

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To make the jam, we followed a recipe I had found online. A million thanks to www.intimateweddings.com for posting this recipe, which you can find here.

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Now came to pouring all that yummy jam into the sterilized mason jars. It was messy, so make sure you put down lots of newspaper first!

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Finally, I found some cute pink plaid fabric at a local fabric store, and we picked up some hemp at the craft store. My husband cut the fabric into circles using jagged-edge scissors, while I tied it on to the lids with the hemp. I also added little labels with our names and wedding date, for a personalized touch. For these, I just made them myself on Word and printed them on to card stock. Easy and oh so cute!

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Best of all, guests kept raving about this jam for months after our wedding. I would definitely recommend it as a favor for your own wedding or party!

–XOXO