Monday, December 29, 2014

Money Monday: 2014 Coupon Savings

2014 is quickly coming to a close. As I began looking at my 2014 goals, the one that I was most interested in was my coupon savings for 2014. While I do track how much I save, I don't keep a running total throughout the year.

Total Coupon Savings for 2014: $1,704.39

My goal for 2014 was to save $2,000, and this year it looks like I missed my goal by $295.61.

But, there were some savings that I never calculate.

First, I am allowed to price match at my grocery store. I do this when I purchase produce, because its based on pounds purchased, or number of items. I don't have the time or desire to calculate those savings, so those are never included in my totals. (For example, if I have an add showing apples for .99C a pound, but my store is selling them for $1.25 a pound, I just show the cashier the add for the lower cost apples and they price match them to the lower price.)

Second, I don't calculate the rebates or incentives that I get when I purchase products. For example, at one store, I currently have $25.00 in rebates. I collect those rebates each week, and I am waiting until I earn $100.00 in credit before I cash them in. Again, I don't calculate that into my savings.

Finally, there are usually 2 or 3 mail in rebate offers that I participate in per month. These are the programs where you purchase a product, then mail in the upc code and receipt, and they send you the purchase price in the form of a check or gift card. Those are usually only a few dollars each, but they do add up. Again, I don't factor those monies into my savings totals.

In the end, when simply looking at the recorded numbers, it looks like I didn't meet my goal, but when I factored these other items into the total, I believe I ended up saving more than the $2,000 goal I set for myself.

In 12 months, we managed to save nearly $2,000 on things that we normally purchase. Those are real dollars, and real savings. For us, those savings allow us to stretch our dollars. According to the USDA, food prices in 2014 rose a little over 2% in 2014 over 2013. Using coupons and deals, we have been able to keep our food budget steady, and did not have to
increase it in 2014.

In addition, using coupons has allowed us to build an impressive stockpile of goods. Now, if we need razors, shampoo, cleaning products, or food, we have them here, in stock. That is a great feeling.

We have also been able to use coupons to purchase items for free or very cheap. If they are items that we don't need, or don't use, we give them to family or friends. We are also able to create bags to pass out to the homeless around our community.

If you are interested in coupons, and how to find deals, cut coupons, and organize them in less than an hour a week, please check out this post, or feel free to email me. I would love to help you out. Also, if you are interested, please feel free to check out my coupon savings page that I update throughout the year.

Tell Me: Did you do any couponing in 2014? How much did you save? 

**Disclaimer: I am not an extreme coupon user. I don't purchase coupons online nor do I dumpster dive for coupons. I spend $5.00 each week for a double issue of the newspaper to get those coupons, or I print them from sites on the internet. I have never purchased more than 6 items at a time, and have never used more than 1 cart while shopping. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Last Christmas

This Christmas week, has been very merry indeed. Its been filled with family, friends, food, laughter, presents and love. But, its also been bitter sweet.

I've spent nearly 30 Christmas' in this home, and this year is the last one I ever will. My parents are retiring in 2015, and they are moving to another town to be closer to family, which is wonderful and exciting. But these past few days, as we've helped my parents clean out the attic and sort through the stuff, there have been moments where I felt nearly paralyzed with sadness as I was overcome with memories and emotions. 

My parents close on their new house on January 9th, but won't retire until the summer. But, that weekend in January, they plan to begin moving things to their new house each month, to make the final move easier. The next time I step foot in this home, there will not be a bed in my room, or things in my closet. The end is very near. 

Last night, Christmas eve, we went to our final Christmas service at church. The church were I was baptized, where I met Jesus, and went to Sunday school. The church where I made friends, played on the lawn, spent countless hours. During our final song, I stood quietly looking at the alter, taking it all in, just wanting to remember the church, because its been exactly the same since I was a child. 

And last night, I woke up after everyone went to bed, and wondered the quite rooms of this house.  A lot of life happened between these four walls. Good things and bad. Memories and moments that we treasure, and a million others that we have long since forgotten. Dreams came true, hearts were broken, fights and make up's occurred. First kisses, slow dances, parties. They all happened here. It is just a house, just brick and drywall, but somewhere along the way, it became home. A refuge from the storm, a place where love always prevailed. 

We leave tomorrow afternoon to head back to Dallas. So this, my final night, in my home before everything changes, before everything is different, before normal is no more, I will take a moment to thank this house. Thank it for always being warm and inviting. For always keeping me safe from the storm, and for being more than just a house. 

In these last few hours and days of the only "normal" I've ever known, I'm reminded of the quote by Steven Rogers. "Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but its whats in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today was a Good Day

Today was a good day.

Scratch that, today was a wonderful day.  A day filled with hard work, frustrations, and finally, some sweet tears, and a precious moment that I will hold dear in my heart, forever.

Today started like most others. I arrived at work and hit the ground running. Emails, projects, meetings, repeat. I don't talk about work much on the blog, but I work in commercial real estate and I am the manager of several assets that are worth millions of dollars each.

I am fortunate to have a great team that works hard, plays hard, and are some of the best in the business. They work their backsides off, and I am so grateful for them.

A few weeks ago, I was able to approve and send out bonuses to the professionals on my team. While everyone was excited and grateful, there were a few grumbles, but for most everyone, they expected their bonus.

Today, however, I was able to give out a bonus to the housekeeping folks who take care of the buildings. They are on their feet all day, doing the work that no one wants to do. They take out trash, clean the bathrooms, and do a lot of the dirty work. Around 4:30, I walked into the lobby of one of my properties, and met one of my housekeepers. He is the newest member of the team, and has only been working with me for about 6 months. This afternoon, I was able to hand him his bonus, and when he looked up, there were tears in his eyes.

He is an immigrant from Mexico. He works 2 jobs, and comes in everyday with a smile on his face.  I told him how thankful I was to have him on my team, and how impressed I have been with his work. Still with tears in his eyes, he said thank you. He explained how much the money meant to him because he has been wanting to buy a Christmas present for his little boy, but he didn't have the money. He also said he has been wanting a Christmas tree, and he was so excited because he could take his family to buy one.

As I watched this grown man cry over his bonus, tears filled my eyes. His bonus was $250.00. For many of us, that is a lot of money, but it is not life changing. Many of us drop that much over the course of a weekend on clothes, dinners, and events with friends.

With tears in my eyes, I told him how thankful I am to have him on my team, and how much I appreciate him. Before I left, I leaned in to give him a hug, and he kissed my cheek and squeezed me tight, and again, in his accented English, whispered "thank you so much, you have such a big heart" in my ear.

That moment, that hug, that interaction is my Christmas present. That moment is all I need this year. Not because he paid me a compliment, but because I was able to do something for someone else who really did need it. He made my day, he made my week, and he made my Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Money Monday: The Cost of Juicing

14 days ago, my husband and I decided to do a pure fruit and vegetable juice detox. At first, we were planning on doing a 3 day detox, but, after 3 days, we decided to keep going for a full 10 days.

The detox has been both hard and unbelievably rewarding. We have both lost weight, slept better, and feel healthier overall. We are currently continuing to juice for two meals a day, while eating a healthy sensible meal of salad and lean protein each night.

The lessons we learned from juicing will come in another post later this week, but for now, lets get down to the nitty gritty of our 10 day challenge.

To start, we needed to purchase a juice. We chose to purchase the Breville Juice Fountain from Bed Bath and Beyond. The list price was $149.00, but I found a coupon, and saved $30.00, so we only paid $120.00 (pre tax).

Then, we purchased the fruit and veggies. The first shopping trip was the most expensive, because we were not sure what we were going to like, and spent around $75.00. That first round of produce lasted around a week. Since then, we have done four shopping trips, and each trip has varied in price.

The four shopping trips cost the following (rounded up to keep the math nice and simple):

Shopping Trip 1: 75.00
Shopping Trip 2: 35.00
Shopping Trip 3: 35.00
Shopping Trip 4: 35.00
Shopping Trip 5: 35.00

So here we are, day 14 of juicing, and while we are no longer doing a pure detox. Again, we are still juicing during the day, and eating at night.

The grand total for 10 full days of juicing: $335.00

This is the first time that I have calculated how much we spent on this challenge. Honestly, that number is a bit shocking. That is not cheap at all! But, when you pull out the cost for the juicer, the cost for the produce was around $215.00.

As I stated above, this was not a cheap experiment, but we knew we were going to spend more than we normally would on food this month. But, I am also taking into account the long term effects on our health and our budget. We see food as fuel, and while we are not opposed to taking medicine, we both prefer to take as little medicine as possible. By spending a little more money now, on the front end and improving our health, we are saving money on the back end because we don't have to spend those dollars on health care. Therefore, I have no problem spending the extra money.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Juicing Detox, Day 3 and 4

Here we are, the end of day 4, and we are still going strong.

If you have not been following along these past few days, my husband and I are in the midst of a juicing detox. In this challenge, are only allowed to drink pure fruit and vegetable juice, no food, just juice. We decided that we would spend 3 days doing the detox, and reassess. If we felt good, we would continue for a few more days. If we were struggling, we would see if we need to make some modifications.

First, its not been easy, at all. I never realized how much time and effort I spent either eating, preparing, and thinking about my meals. A significant portion of my day is spent cooking, eating, and cleaning up after meals. Now that we are not sitting down to eat, the mornings are much slower, and the nights are longer.

Second, I never realized how much I snacked throughout the day. This detox is making me much more mindful of what I put in my body.  Even though many of my snacks were healthy, I still ate without thinking about it. For me, I think I spent a lot of time eating out of habit, boredom, or as a form of entertainment. I very rarely asked myself, "Am I actually hungry?"

For me, day 3 was extremely hard. I had to drink some juices that I did not enjoy at all, and they were a bit tough to stomach. There were two drinks during the day that were majority kale, and they did not go down easily. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and had a headache. I ended up going to bed before 8:00PM because I didn't feel well.

Day 4, (Thursday) has been much easier for me. I had 2 more kale juices today, but they were not quite as bad as day 3. I've found that I just have to chug them down quickly rather than sip them. As much as I detest the kale drinks, I cannot deny that after I drink them, I get a huge burst of energy for a few hours.

For my husband, day 4 has been a challenge. The newness of the challenge has worn off, and now we know what to expect from what we drink. He was already laying on the couch when I came home from work, so I know he's been struggling today.

There have been a few bright spots these past 2 days. We added spinach to our juice for the first time, and I didn't mind it at all. I wouldn't say it was good, but I would say it was much better than kale.

I've also found that I can stomach the harder, heavier juices in the middle of the day. Most days my stomach is a bit off in the mornings, so I need something light. Plus, I have found that I enjoy having a pure fruit juice in the evening as a treat, which encourages me to drink the harder, greener juices during the middle of the day.

Things are good here in the house o' juice. We have struggled a bit, but are staying strong. We both know this is for our own good, for our own health, and that when we are done, our bodies will be stronger, healthier, and better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Juicing, Day 2

Kale sucks.
This is overpriced organic kale. It was terrible yesterday, its terrible today, and will be terrible forever. 
I don't like to eat kale. I don't like to drink kale. I hate kale. And in juice, kale is everywhere.

Kale has been and should always be a garnish, only. 

I may need to backtrack for a moment. My husband and I are currently doing a dextox where the only thing we consume is fruit and vegetable juice. We are doing a mix, making our own and purchasing some from a juice bar. (Could that sound any more pompous....juice bar). 

Today, Tuesday, marks the end of day 2 of the challenge. 

Today's menu
Breakfast: Orange, carrot, and celery juice, 8 oz. Homemade 
Snack: Orange, carrot, and celery juice, 8oz. Homemade
Lunch: Beet, kale, carrot, and parsley juice, 8oz. Juice Bar
Snack: None
Dinner: Orange, pineapple, and pear juice, 8oz. Homemade. 

Day 2 of the detox has been better than I thought, yet still difficult. This morning, it was extremely hard to wake up, I was just exhausted. Most mornings, I wake up quickly, and head straight to the gym. This morning, I could not even fathom getting out of bed, so I slept an extra hour and half. I also noticed that I was stiff, sore, and my joints were aching. I took a hot bath, and did some stretching, and felt a bit better. I called a friend on the way to work, and she thinks I am detoxing from sugar, because those are some tale tale detoxing signs. 

Around lunch, I found that I was really hungry. I broke into the beet juice, and that drink was rough. I ended up having to hold my breath and chug it as quickly as possible. It tasted terrible, but, it kept me full for the rest of the afternoon. 

Finally, around dinner time, my husband and I were both hungry, and craving something sweet, so we made our own pure fruit juice. It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! By far, the best tasting juice of the day!

Over all, today was much easier than I expected it to be. I am finding that if I drink juice every two hours, I don't get hungry. I've had very few headache's like I thought I would. Plus, my cravings for processed foods has been waining. 2 days of no eating, and while I am not hungry, I have found that I miss the act of eating. I just want to chew something. 

If anything, thus far, this challenge has taught me how often I mindlessly snack, and give into my cravings. 

As far as my husband, yesterday he was having some pretty severe caffeine withdrawals. He was fighting some nausea and a terrible headache. Today, it has subsided just a bit, but he has been really strong and pushed through the pain. 

Overall, we are doing well. Day 3 is going to be tough because we have some pretty terrible juices waiting for us, so we will have to be pretty disciplined to get through it. I will report back tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Great Juicing Detox of 2014

That title sounds pretty epic, doesn't it?

This past weekend, over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband, mother in law, and I watched the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

The documentary follows the story of a man named Joe Cross, who goes on a juice fast for 90 days in order to improve his health and lose weight. Prior to the fast, he was on a lot of medicine, he was over weight, and had an autoimmune skin disease. His goal was to juice for 90 days, and get off all his meds, all while taking a road trip across the USA. The documentary was really good, and brought up a great deal of points regarding the benefits of juicing.

Later that day, my husband, out of the blue, mentioned that he would like to try juicing. He suggested a 10 day challenge, of nothing but juice. My first response, was a nervous giggle, because I've done detoxes before, and they are hard. Secondly, I know that I am weak, and feared that I would break. After some discussion, some research, and taking to juicers, we decided that we would do a 3 day detox, then reassess.

We have decided to make our own juice in the morning and evenings and then purchase some juices to drink during the work day. Currently, our fridge is packed with kale, cucumbers, celery,apples, pears, lettuce, carrots, and ginger.

I plan on documenting my findings, feelings, and thoughts about the process here, along with the juices I have been consuming.

So here we are, day 1.

Day 1: Monday.
Breakfast: 8 ounces hot water, with lemon. 16 ounces of celery, carrot, and apple juice. Taste good, not great!
Morning Snack: 16 more ounces of celery carrot, and apple juice. Taste good, not great.
Lunch: 8 Kale, Cucumber, Apple, and mint juice. Taste like crap. Would have been easier to just go outside and snack on the lawn.
Afternoon Snack: 8 ounces Orange, carrot, apple juice from Whole Foods. Tasty, but would really like something to eat.
Dinner: Nothing. Still full from afternoon juice.

Most of the day, I felt really full. I never felt hungry and never felt the desire to eat. I felt full, and had a ton of energy.

Currently, it is around 8:00PM on Monday night, and I am starting to get really hungry. I wish I would have had some juice at dinner time. I don't want to drink any now, because I don't want to be up all night using the restroom, so I am dealing with the hunger pains. I am also dealing with a headache right now, and I will probably go to bed early in order to avoid the temptation of swallowing an entire loaf of bread.

As for my husband, he has done great today, but he has had some adverse side effects that I have not had to deal with. He is a coffee drinker, and in addition to the hunger, he is also dealing with a pretty bad caffeine headache. When I came home from work today, we was laying on the bed in the dark suffering pretty badly. But, he is staying strong, and not giving in. He has chugged more juice, and water, and is hoping that the pain subsides tomorrow.

Here we are, at the end of day 1, hungry, headache ridden, tired, and irritable. I keep telling myself this is for my own good, for my health. This will make me healthier, better, and stronger.

Tell Me: Have you done a juice cleanse or detox? Any tips for surviving this?