Family Living 4 Less

Saving Money Without the Sacrifice!

Posts Tagged ‘budget’

There’s No Such Thing as a Cheap Lunch

Posted by flsquared on February 6, 2010

Today I made a big mistake.

On Saturdays, I have started swapping language lessons in the hopes of reviving my dormant French knowledge.  My instructor is awesome–a Parisian artist full of life and spirit and the patience of a saint!

After the lesson, I typically take advantage of the fact that I’m out of the house and go grocery shopping.  If you don’t live in Manhattan, you may not understand why I need to go shopping alone, but suffice it to say that Whole Foods and Trader Joes are “cheap” supermarkets, so much so that there are often crowds that would rival Black Friday sales at Walmart.

Today, we got together from 11am-1:30pm and I was starving as I left.  I hopped on the subway down to Union Square, but knew I would not make it through the hoards of Trader Joe’s groupies without a snack.  Right in front of TJ’s was a hot dog vendor.  Score!  Quick and cheap.  After all, I had to get back home to relieve hubby from babysitting duty.

(If my friend D. is reading this, I am sure to get a lecture.  Yes, I know, you have warned me time and time again about eating from the street carts!)

It was not a good sign when the guy cleaned out the mustard with a toothpick and then put the toothpick back in the box.  Ewww!

But the hot dog had already been paid for so I scarfed it down and ran inside to do my shopping.

As I waited in the 45 minute line to pay for the groceries, I grabbed a hot wing sample.  Spicy but good.

I was even counting my blessings as I got to the bus stop just as the 103 was pulling in.  Yoo hoo!

However, as the driver swerved through traffic and slammed on the brakes over and over again, my stomach began to turn.  I’m not really sure if it was the hot dog, the sole buffalo wing, or the 30 minute roller coaster bus ride, but I seriously didn’t know if I was going to make it home before I lost my lunch.

I actually got out of the bus 2 stops early and started walking.  I stumbled into the apartment and downed two hot chamomile teas with honey.  I laid down on the bed.  The room slowly stopped spinning and I was able to go out and play with the kids.

Sometimes I am so stupid.  I will spend double to buy hormone free milk or free range eggs, but I buy whatever crap they sell on the street corner.  Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson and the next time I need a quick snack I’ll either bring one with me or grab something at the fruit stand.

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What Would You Do For a Free Coffee?

Posted by flsquared on February 1, 2010

You don’t need to do much, apparently.

I just got the news that this month there will be free coffee all over Manhattan–a godsend for a tired mama of 2!

Thanks SeamlessWeb!!!

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Budget Update: Success in 2009!

Posted by flsquared on January 10, 2010

Looks like the budget went well for the last 5 months of 2009:

August: saved 9.7%
September: saved 13.4% (!!!)
October: overspent 1%
November: saved 12.4%
December: saved 1%

An average of 7.1% savings!

I’m pretty pleased as it always takes a while to figure out a place and learn how to get the most for your money. 🙂

Our highest costs, bar none, are estimated taxes, rent (duh! we live in Manhattan!), and groceries. Since the first two won’t be changing any time soon, I am going to have to get a handle on the food….It’s just not as easy as it was in Pittsburgh!

The good news does not come without the bad, as we have had to pay a number of bills already in January (remaining hospital, down payment for Victor’s school, among other things) and I know we are going to be a bit over. But we’ll continue trying to do the best we can!

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Budget Update: We’re Back on Track!

Posted by flsquared on December 16, 2009

I am happy to report that we are back on track with our budget!

August:          saved 9.7%
September:  saved 13.4% (!!!)
October:        overspent 1%
November: saved 12.4%

Hooray!  And this includes some major sick time with my littlest man (3 days in the hospital and a slew of follow-up doctor visits) as well as an awesome Thanksgiving.

I predict that this month will go well.  We haven’t bought Christmas gifts yet (urp!) and we do have a few additional obligations this year (tip to the super, a gift for the boys’ teacher, etc).

I’ll post an update soon and let you know how we do!

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Can a Family of Four Live on a Salary of $150k in NYC?

Posted by flsquared on November 8, 2009

This was the title of an Urban Baby discussion last week that really got me thinking.  My quick answer was a resounding “Yes, and well!”, but many of the posters did not agree.

I suppose what surprised me the most was the tone of the responders.  They seemed to say: Don’t do it!  You will be sacrificing too much!

For me, it’s a given that if you live in Manhattan, you will, most likely, be living in a small apartment.  Even the “big” apartments are small.

On the other hand, in just 5 or 10 minutes walking you can find yourself in a park, a museum, a library, etc.  During the summer there are more festivals than you can imagine.  As the winter is closing in, it’s more difficult to find free activities but they are there.

For us, our major expenses are rent, health insurance, and food.  Next year, preschool will be included in that list.  We also try to go to Spain and Florida once/year to visit family.  Everything else that we spend money on is minimal and we don’t spend even close $150k/year.

We no longer have a car (and all that goes with it), our utilities are next to nothing, and entertainment is cheap.

I will say that I totally understand how you could spend even double that amount and feel like you are living a humble life.  Between eating out, endless forms of entertainment, preschools that cost more than my college tuition, nannies, housekeepers, etc, etc, etc. the money can just slip through your hands.

I have a friend who probably earns triple what we do and honestly feels poor.  She lives 2 blocks away, in a very nice, but not super-fancy, building.  She does not wear designer clothing or go out every night.  She has a part-time “mother’s helper” and someone to clean her apartment once/week.  They have a car and go away at least once weekend/month.  Nothing all too extravagant here, right?  Especially when she compares herself to her friends who have private jets and rent a place in the Hamptons for $30,000.

Saving (or just not spending) money in this town is hard work, but it is very doable.

I think the key to it is both simple and extremely complex.  Be happy from within.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Be content with your choices, and don’t even notice the Jones’.

What are your thoughts?  Am I missing something?  What are we sacrificing that everyone else seems to need?

Posted in family, frugal, money, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Budget Update: It’s working!!!

Posted by flsquared on November 2, 2009

As you may remember, my family started living on a budget shortly after moving to Manhattan.  This has been a tough adjustment for us as we are not at all used to tracking expenses, but it has definitely been eye-opening.

In the budget, we only included my husband’s base salary as we are hoping to save his bonus outright.  Our hope is to save 10% of the post-tax base salary, but we will be happy if we just break even and don’t touch our savings or his bonus.

Here’s how we’re doing:

August:          saved 9.7%
September:   saved 13.4% (!!!)
October:        overspent 1%

NOOOOO!!!!

On the upside, we are net saving about 7% which is not too bad.

Additionally, we also made some big purchases this month like a membership to the Children’s Museum and NYC Rec Center as well as a big $225 application fee for Victor’s preschool next year.  We should definitely save some money this month as we went crazy buying food (nearly $600 this month) at the local grocery store’s huge Columbus Day sale.  Our cupboards, fridge, and freezer are bursting at the seams.

On the whole, I do think that tracking our expenses and being accountable to them is working. It’s difficult to spend money consciously, but it sure does help!

Wish us luck that we get back into the black next month!!

Posted in budget, frugal, money, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mama’s Challenge: Can I buy a baby gift without purchasing anything else?

Posted by flsquared on October 22, 2009

Gymboree is having a 60% off sale on baby and kiddie clothes.  And I have a 20% coupon that a friend gave me to further discount the sale!

Awesome, right?

Except we don’t really need anything right now.  Well, that’s not exactly true–I could stock up on next fall’s clothing for my oldest.  However, my in laws will be in town in just 2 months and have already mentioned that they would like to buy the boys some clothes.

So we don’t need anything.

Except my Super just had a baby boy last weekend and we need to buy them a small gift.  Since they already have everything from their oldest (except in pink!), I thought I would get them a little outfit.

I entered Gymboree, kids in tow, impressed that they were actually content to hang out in the stroller while I shopped.  I found the PERFECT little outfit for the new baby, as well as a few things for my boys.  Luckily, I forgot my wallet, so I put ONLY the gift on reserve to come back later and pick it up.

The next day I stroll by and am welcomed by a huge line.  However, this is the only time that I can pick up the clothes so I stick it out…  And I start checking out little outfits here and there while in line.  Oh, the agony!!!!  Seriously, what is it about baby and toddler clothes that makes you want to buy everything even when you have more than you need?  I even check out the girls’ outfits and fawn over them!!!  (I sometimes wonder if they spray hormones in the air to make you baby-crazy).

I am happy to report that I only purchased the gift and nothing else.  Not even socks.  Not even shoes for next season (my weakness).

Do you have any tricks to avoid purchasing extra items when you are buying a gift?  I would love to hear them (as I think I got lucky this time!!!)

Posted in baby, budget, frugal, saving money, shopping, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »