Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Best Buys at Trader Joe's

When we moved to Boston, we lived a few blocks from Trader Joe's, so that's where I did 95 percent of all our grocery shopping. Over time, I've learned that a few things are particularly good buys there. Here are some of my favorites.


Face Wash: Pretty cheap, pretty natural, and this stuff seriously lasts forever because it's so thin.

Jojoba Oil: I use it as a makeup remover. Another cheap, natural alternative. And it takes forever to get through a bottle (a major plus).

If you like buying real maple syrup, this is the place to get it. It seems expensive when you buy the 32 ounce jug, but it's WAY cheaper than buying the small containers at the regular grocery stores.

TJ Brand Pirate's Booty: Okay, I know this stuff isn't actually healthy. But it is so delicious, and it's much cheaper here than the Pirate's Booty brand is at normal grocery stores.

Cheese: Really any and all kinds. They have a wonderful selection (like their honey goat cheese? Yes, please). I just have normal cheddar pictured here, but it's still pretty good and the price is pretty good.

Nuts: They have a great selection of nuts at pretty good prices.

Bananas: At our Trader Joe's at least, bananas are a loss leader item always priced at 19 cents each. 

Share-- What are your favorite items at Trader Joe's? What are your favorite grocery stores?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Budget Boot Camp: To Do #6 - Budget for "Funds"


Note: To join our once-a-month e-mail Budget Boot Camp, sign up here. Here are the lessons we've done so far:

I like to budget for expenses that are more flexible in terms of when you spend them, like money for dates, decorating, clothing, personal spending, etc. using "funds." Basically all this means is each month you add a specified amount to your specific fund. The unused portion rolls over to the next month. 

Why do I love budget funds? I love using funds in budgets for a lot of reasons. 
  • Funds are extremely powerful tools to cap runaway spending. The types of things they are best at tracking (clothing, random fun personal purchases, home goods, etc.) are just the types of things that tend to be impulse buys.
  • They make your budget more flexibility-- and that's something that really makes living with a budget more enjoyable and successful. It helps not feel so pinched if you know you can still buy the things you enjoy, you just have to save up for them. 
  • They can help your marriage. Even if you and your spouse are both frugal, you're not the same person, so you're not going to value everything the same. Having a personal fund enables one spouse to buy things they enjoy without guilt (or resentment from the other spouse). Lisa gives some other good marriage money tips in this post.
How do you track funds? There are a couple of ways to track funds-- in Excel, on paper, online, or using the envelope system.
  • Excel. I have a separate tab in our family budget file where I track our funds. There's a column for each different fund. You can download our free template on our Facebook page here. Or you can make your own that suits your needs. The monthly budget shows the full amount of your fund flowing out every month. But you track the balance on a separate tab. Here's what ours looks like.
  • Paper. I know historically I haven't been super supportive of using paper for budgets, but here's one area where it can work pretty well. When we were first married, we tracked most of our budget in Excel, but we had a sheet of paper taped to the fridge where we tracked our fun spending money. On the first of the month, we would add $15 to our account (we've since increased it a bit). Any time we spent money for fun discretionary items, we would write the expense on the paper and update the running balance. It was kind of fun to have it up in an easy to see place (although we would usually move it if we had people over...)
  • Online. Honestly, I haven't tried to do fund accounting using software because I found it a bit frustrating. But, similar to budgeting for irregular expenses, I think you could use the rollover function to make this work on Mint (or whatever you're using).
  • Envelope system. This system uses cash. You deposit your monthly allotment in an envelope, jar, or other container each month and spend out of it throughout the month. The leftover stays in the envelope at the end of the month and "rollsover" to the next. Pros: You will never overspend. Cons: You have to go get the cash each month, and it doesn't work as well for online purchases. 
To Do #6: Set up your funds
  1. Decide what types of funds you want to have (date, individual spending, etc.)
  2. Decide what amount to allocate to each fund monthly.
  3. Set up your system (Excel, paper, online, or envelope).
And here are the products I'm loving: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (gets crayon off walls, need I say more?) and these leather earrings. My baby always rubs her face up against my cheek, but these are nice and soft and don't scratch her. 

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