FPU: Big Tax Return = Big Screen TV! NOT!!


There may have been a time in our lives when a large tax return meant some new expensive toy for the family.   We are no longer those people and have really changed how we look at our tax returns.

In 2010 we embarked on a new journey to become debt free after attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at our church.   We are still working on that journey. The entire experience has been  life changing for us.   This experience changes how we look at our tax return.   Most of our tax return is earmarked before we even receive it.  We fully fund irregular expenses we know we will experience in the upcoming year.

I must admit: This practice would most likely not be endorsed by Dave Ramsey.  He would like you to manage your money and not have the government hold onto it for you all year.  For us, it works as it actually forces us to live beneath our means.  It is a fool-proof way to save funds that we know we can’t touch until we file our taxes. If the government makes an extra 5 bucks in interest off of our withholding, then they can keep it and we’ll appreciate that this money was saved for us Smile

That being said, you can bet we file our taxes very early in the tax season.  We file our taxes the first Saturday in February.  Since we both claim “single-zero” on for payroll deductions our return is usually pretty big.

For 2014, the following will be fully funded from our tax return:

Debt Reduction – we will pay off our last credit card, if there is still a balance once we receive our tax return. (That card is down to about 1 and 1/2 payments til zeroed-out.)

Emergency Fund – will be fully funded at $2000.

Car Insurance – set aside enough funds to pay car insurance on all vehicles every 6 months to receive a discount.

Christmas – yes, we fully fund Christmas in February!  What peace of mind!  (Because you know Christmas is going to happen again this year.)

City of WBL – irregular bills are hard to budget for so we fully fund them from our tax return.  This a quarterly bill that used-to sneak up on us at times….not anymore!!

Soccer Fees –  our youngest plays traveling soccer

Camp – our youngest goes to camp each year.

Duct Cleaning –  This year we are having the ducts in our home cleaned.  Between illnesses and allergies, it seemed like a good thing to get done.  This was last done in 2007.

Summer Fun – this is a new category we are funding this year.  We found that small parties, mini-weekend-vacations and other fun events over the summer wreaked havoc on our budget.  This year we set aside extra money to go to participate in summer fun!

Training – as a licensed social worker, I need to attend 40 hours of training every 2 years to renew my license.   I need to complete 26 hours this year.  This will fund the conferences, meals and lodging for me to complete my training hours.

We should be able to fully fund all of these items from our tax return.   This is a huge relief to us to know these expenses will not have to be worried about!   As you can see there is no Big Screen TV on our list, but instead many other things that give us a huge sense of relief knowing they are fully funded for the year.  The concept of saving for future expenses is called a “Sinking Fund”.  If you want more info you can read our blog post about “Sinking Funds” and how we organize our finances.

We are different people with different priorities….we live a simpler life striving towards our goal to be DEBT FREE, (and financially secure when we retire!)

Wishing you all a wonderful week!



Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our Means

Grocery Budget – January 2, 2012

dbet   The menu is planned so I was off this morning to purchase my groceries for the next two weeks.   With my shopping list in hand, I headed off to Aldi’s for the first round of purchases.  I will not go grocery shopping without my menu made and list in hand.  If I do it is disasterous.  Hubby and I are continuing our journey through Financial Peace and groceries are one area we have found we can save alot with a little planning.  

If you do one thing this year to help with your monthly budget, menu planning is well worth the time.   We have decreased our food budget back down to $100/ week vs $120/week as two members of the family have moved into their own home.   Every night I feed 5 people (4 adults and 1 kid) and we eat a sit down meal each night.   It is a great time to connect as a family. 

The Website “I’m a Organizing Junkie” is where I got started on meal planning.  I still find the Menu Plan Monday posts very helpful each week to plan my menu.  This week she shared some menu planning resources on her Menu Plan Monday blog post that you might find helpful if you are new to menu plan.   Give it a try….it will be time well spent. 

Grocery Shopping for 1/2/12
Walmart                $53.97 
Aldi                      $ 96.87

Total Spent for 14 days – $150.84  = $10.77/Day or $75.44/ week


Happy Savings!!

Budget Update: Weekly Groceries


Hubby and I went grocery shopping today after planning our menu.   We only used money we had on gift cards so that meant we stayed within budget.   YEAH!!  

Since hubby’s parents have moved to Stillwater we have been going to the Walmart Superstore after we are done at Aldi.  Aldi is still cheaper, but Walmart Superstore seems to be cheaper than Cub Foods.  

I spent the following to plan our menu for the next 8 days.  We feed between 5-6 people each night. We have a open door policy so we never know who will show up

Walmart 1/28 –   $11.12
Aldi – 1/30     –   $ 94.52
Walmart –           $ 42.61

Total –            $148.25 / 18.53 per day or 129.00 per week.  

I want to keep our household budget down to 125.00 a week, but have not been able to maintain that.   The price of food has increased and we continue to eat the same amount.   I still know I am doing better than I would if I didn’t plan a menu each week.   Hopefully next week will be better.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!!!


Getting on track in the new year…..

It is hard to believe that 2010 is nearly over.   I think the years go by faster and faster as I get older.   Which comes to my next thought…..as we leave 2010 behind, I will also be leaving my 30’s behind.  I am not sure how I feel about turning 40.  Somedays….it really doesn’t seem possible that I could be that old.  I certainly don’t feel 40, but then again what does 40 feel like?  


As many of you may have heard about, hubby and I started and completed Financial Peace University at our church.  We sort of took the class on a whim, but found it to be very needed.  It is wonderful to be on the same page financially with my hubby.  We are working hard to make progress, though we did slack off a bit in December with the holidays.  Now it is time to get intense again!  I am excited to see the progress me make in 2011.   If you have not heard of this class…..check out Dave Ramsey’s website or radio show.  I am sure my family is tired of hearing on Dave Ramsey!   Either way we have once again celebrated Christmas without putting anything on a credit card.  With that said, we have not used a Credit Card in over 6 months.  

But I will say we were over budget with Christmas so it is a little tight still so shopping today was interesting.  I had to add some of my fun money to the mix to complete our errands.   But we do have groceries for the next two weeks.   So that is good!


grocery Groceries

Aldi – 130.02

Sam’s – 38.64

Walmart – 15.00

Total – 183.66 (16 days of menu)  – $11.47/day or $80.35 per week.  

Household Items/ Clothes (2 pants Tommy)

Walmart – $40.75

Luckily, I was already use to meal planning as we have been able to keep our food budget under $100 a week.  This is very good skill to have.  We are excited for the journey we are on financially so I am sure you will be hearing more about it. 

Happy Savings!!

Grocery Budget: 7/24/10

dbet  Today was grocery shopping day.   I budget $100/ week for groceries to feed my family of 5 or 6 depending on the day.   My key to success is menu planning is to only buying what I will need for the next two weeks.   We had way more food spoil the last two weeks than I would like to see.  ARGH!  The leftovers aren’t always gettin eaten in a timely fashion.  I need to remember to bring my lunch more often to work.  Tommy usually takes leftovers to daycare too!   

Grcoery Shopping for 7/24/10
Sam’s Club –          $36.37 ( TP, Dawn and Bounce) 
Aldi                      $108.72

Total Spent for 14 days – $145.09  = $10.36/Day or 72.54

I still have a couple of things I need to pick-up later in the week.  I am waiting to buy the produce for the second week of my menu, to hopefully decrease the food spoilage. 

2- Gallons Milk
Watermelon – 3.99
Salad Greens
Knorr Pesto Mix
White Chicken Chilli Seasoning


Happy Savings!!

Grocery Budget: Update 7/10/10

dbet  Today was grocery shopping day.   I budget $100/ week for groceries to feed my family of 5 or 6 depending on the day.   My key to success is menu planning and only buying what I will need for the next two weeks.   When I was buying food for a month, I was finding I was losing money to food spoilage.  That wasn’t good either.   But the less I go to the store, the less I spend is still very true!  And never shop without a list! 

Grcoery Shopping for 7/10/10
Bread Thrift Store    $2.99
Sam’s Club –          $38.55 ( ranch, potato Salad, plates, yogurt, bananas and green beans.)
Aldi                      $111.14
Cub Foods –         $  41.21

Total Spent for 14 days – $193.89  = $13.85/Day or 96.94/week


Happy Savings!!

Grocery Budget Update……

dbet  I am trying harder to tighten up our budget here at home.   We have a number of projects we would like to save money up to complete.   I have also borrrowed from my Christmas fund and need to pay that back too.   I made my menu for the next 16 days.  My goal is to keep my budget at approximately $100/week to feed my family. 

I stretched the period of time between grocery shopping trips.  I started this weekend with 422.34 in the grocery budget.   I am saving up some money to buy a case of ground beef at Sam’s soon.  That usually costs over $100.00.  

I bought the regular pack, mega meat pack and small ham at Fare For All.  Fare For All is a cooperative food buying program open to everyone.  Our Church is a Fare For All Express distributor, so I try to participate monthly in this program. 

Grocery Shopping for 6/26/10

Fare For All  –        $42.00
Bread Thrift Store – $ 6.00
Aldi –                   $ 103.75
Cub Foods           $  52.52

Total Spent for 16 days –  $204.27/16 = 12.77/day or 89.39/week 

Happy Savings!!



Grocery/Sam’s Expenses for February

Grocery Shopping and Sam’s Club Expenses for February:

Sam’s Club – 194.73

Aldi – $242.78

Festival – 61.39

$498.90/ 4 = $124/ Week 

I am a bit over budget this month, but I am ok with that.  We ate mostly out of the pantry last month  and spent around $80 per week all of last month.   We were out of so much and had more things than normally needed at Sam’s.   I am sure next month will be lower again since things are all restocked again.  

I still prefer shopping for the month at a time.  It really is a time saver and money saver for me.   Check out our monthly Menu to see what we will be eating in February and get some inspiration for your own menu! 

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!!



Grocery Totals…..

Last week, I had my hubby and children go grocery shopping for me as I had a Dr appointment I had forgotten about.   I had my list all ready so I was able to send them off to shop for me with a plan.   They did a great job!   Hubby even spent $27.63 on some nice steaks for my birthday and still was within budget!  

Grocery Total from 1/18/10

Aldi – 55.12

Festival – 16.70

Sam’s Club – 79.21

Total Spent:  151.02 / 2 = 75.51 per week to feed 6-7 people each day

I have been making sure that my meal planning has focused on using meat I already had on hand.  This has been a real money saving Technic.  

 I have mixed up a casserole for supper tonight and now it is time to ge to work. 

Have a great day!

Grocery Shopping Success………………..

I am very happy to report that hubby and I stayed within our budget for grocery shopping for the next two weeks.  We had so much food here at home, that we knew we needed to just eat out of our pantry/freezer for a few weeks before going to buy groceries. 

I was reading on MSheriff’s blog about the challenge she was participating in, Eat From The Pantry Challenge.  I decided that in an effort to get back on budget a bit and recover from the holidays, I too would particpate in this challenge.

I had $29.40 left in our grocery budget.  After church this morning we headed out to wisely spend our $29.40.   Our first stop was at Sam’s Club.  We bought pop-tarts for my BIL’s lunches and French Bread.   I counted the food for my BIL as well as we provide all his food for his lunches as part of his room and board.   His food items are not things I would normally buy.  We spent a total of $9.76 at Sam’s.

Next, we headed to Aldi to purchase the rest of our groceries for the next two weeks.   We spent a total of $17.61 at Aldi’s.  


 Our grand total for groceries for the next two weeks was $27.37, WOW!!   $2.03 under budget.   I can’t believe we did it. 

You might be saying to yourself, how much could they have bought for less than $30.00??   More than you would think really…..gotta love Aldi!


Is your pantry or freezer overfull with food??   I challenge you to join me and plan you next week of meals from your pantry!   It is a great way to get back on budget for the new year!!

Happy Savings!!!