Money Saving Meals #1: Pasta & Beans with Chicken

I’m not going to claim to be a chef. I’m not even going to claim to be a home chef. I’m just a person who cooks for their family most days. I try to focus on money saving meals, and I’d say I use a recipe about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, I just throw some stuff in a pot and hope for the best.

This is not going to turn into a food blog, I promise. However, I do think that it’s not too out of line with frugality leading toward financial independence to post a money saving meal recipe that worked out for us every now and again. After all, when you cook at home most of the time, it can be easy to get bored with eating the same things over, and over, and over, and over…

Sometimes you just need a new idea. Or something to get your brain juices flowing so that you can start thinking of your OWN new ideas.

End disclaimer, I guess.

money saving meals

I’ve been cooking most of our meals since HB and I started living together about 4(?) years ago.

I should know that. I really should.

While cooking at home saves you boatloads of cash, it hasn’t always been about that. Growing up, my mom cooked homemade meals almost every night, and now I simply can’t imagine eating most of my meals from a takeout container or while sitting in a restaurant. I can’t say I am always ecstatic to have to plan and cook a dinner every night, but if I let HB cook we would be eating tacos 7 nights a week. I wish I was joking. That man loves tacos more than he loves me, I think.

Nowadays, it’s still about having home-cooked meals, but we’ve added the fact that we want to save money as well as two little noise makers that don’t always do too well in a restaurant setting. The only place we’ve been brave enough to take them without help is the Mexican restaurant down the street that takes only about 7 minutes to bring your food.

I’ll give you one guess what my husband had to eat there.

money savings meals
Literally my husband’s face when he sees tacos.

Anyway, I’m rambling, as I tend to do. We are here to talk about easy and cheap recipes to make at home.

Today I’m sharing with you a pasta and beans with chicken recipe that is highly adaptable. You can change the type of bean, the type of pasta, or add some veggies. My husband won’t eat many veggies, so that’s why you don’t really see them here. Peas would go nicely though.

You can make it vegetarian by taking out the chicken and switching the chicken broth to veggie broth. Or, you could take out the chicken and just do a nice over easy egg on top, letting all that ooey gooey eggy goodness run down all over your noodles (even more of a money saver). If you like to drink your booze, you could add a little bit of dry white wine to the sautee step. Do whatever you want. It’s your birthday, you can cook what you want to.

Also, you’ll notice that my measurements aren’t exactly precise. Cooking doesn’t need to be precise–that’s baking. Just go with your gut. And if you need to feed more people, just add more of everything! Taste as you go. You’ll be fine.

So without further adieu–money saving meals, volume #1:

Pasta & Beans with Chicken

Serves: Two hungry adults and two 1 year olds who refuse to eat anything but goldfish crackers. There was at least one serving leftover as well. Adjust to your needs.

Ingredient List

(1/2) LB. of shaped pasta: This is approximate. Use whole wheat, egg noodles–whatever you have.

(1) 15.5 oz can of beans: A white bean would be nice, but use what you have. Drain and rinse before using them. Beans are packed in sodium. You don’t need all that in your dish.

(1.5) cups of shredded, cooked chicken: This is approximate. I cooked mine in the crock pot, but you could also used canned chicken if you wanted to.

(2) 15.5 oz. cans low sodium chicken broth

(3-4) cloves garlic, minced

(1) small onion, diced

(2-3) tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, for sauteeing

(1) tbsp. butter, for sauteeing

(1) parmesan rind (optional–I keep these in the freezer after I shred parmesan to use around the kitchen. They just add extra flavor.)

(2-3) tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

Put some water in a pot on the stove to boil. This is for your pasta. When the water comes to a boil, salt the water liberally. This seasons your pasta. They say salty like the sea, but it’s really more salty like broth. Salty like the sea makes things a little too salty. Cook until it’s about halfway done.

Put the butter and olive oil in a skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. I used nonstick. We aren’t trying to sear anything here so it’s just going to make your life easier to use non-stick. Dice up your onion and toss it in the skillet to get a little happy.

Wait until your onion is starting to get translucent, and add your garlic. Garlic burns quickly so just cook it for about 30 seconds or so. Then add your parmesan rind, beans, chicken, chicken broth and salt & pepper. Make sure you taste before you salt because you may not need any depending on how salty your broth is. Let simmer for maybe 10 minutes on its own.

Next, dump your pasta in and cook it the rest of the way in the pan. The starches in the pasta will help it to bind and it will create its own little sauce. Remove the parmesan rind and stir in the parsley at the last minute.

To serve, top with some parmesan cheese and enjoy!

A Goodwill Valentine’s Day

HB and I are not romantic people. We don’t go to expensive dinners in swanky, poorly lit restaurants or buy each other extravagant presents for Valentine’s Day. Or any other holiday, for that matter. If we do gift the other something, it’s usually small and inexpensive. Buying each other fancy things is just not something that we do. We’d rather save our money.

So, in the interest of saving money, HB and I are not buying each other Valentine’s Day gifts this year. Yep. A bigggg bouquet of nothin’. That’s it. And you know what? I’m totally fine with it. Flowers die and chocolates go straight to my ass.

But I did get a Valentine’s gift from someone else

valentine's day
Whaaaaaa??

GASP.

Yes. Yes, it’s true. I am having an affair.

An affair with making monnayyyyyyyy. BOOM. Man, I really had ya there, didn’t I? No? Not even a little bit? Fine.

Awesome Dumb jokes aside, my Valentine’s Day gift today was To: Me, From: The Goodwill Bin Store. Also known as the Goodwill Outlet Store, for those of you who may not know.

“The Bins” is where I go to get a lot of my clothing that I resell on eBay because they sell textiles by the pound. That means that I can get good stuff for dirt cheap in order to maximize my profits. Normally, they charge $1.19 per pound of clothing, but TODAY ONLY Goodwill made all clothing .49 CENTS a pound.

Well spank me hard and call me Susie, that’s a dang good price!

Imagine my excitement upon receiving this news when I went to checkout. I paid a little over $12 for two GIANT bags of clothing! That means I got around 24 pounds of clothes for 12 DOLLARS, people. What is this madness? Best Valentine’s Day ever. Just don’t tell my husband I said that.

Just kidding. (No I’m not.)

After I left the Bins, I headed over to a nearby K-Mart that was going out of business. That was mostly a bust, because they had only marked things down by like 30%. If I had my coupons with me I probably could have gotten some good deals, but I didn’t. I just can’t seem to remember to take those damn things anywhere.

Normally, I like to look for AT LEAST 75% off of a product’s original price if I’m going to sell it on eBay. Sometimes that’s not even enough to make a decent profit once shipping is factored in. People on eBay will only pay so much for an item, whether you offer free shipping or not. So it’s either going to be $10 plus $4 shipping, or $14 total. Shipping is kind of a bummer. It’s expensive and they just keep onnnn pushin’ that price higher and higher just to see how big it can go before people start hand delivering all their shit again. But, I guess, thems the breaks. *shrug*

Anywho, HB and I plan to order something for dinner later and I was going to make us some little chocolate lava cakes for dessert as a Valentine’s Day treat. He’ll be happy to hear about my gift, even if it didn’t come from him.

After all, it’s going to benefit him one day. And when it does and he can retire early, I’m never going to have to buy him a Valentine’s Day gift again. His gift will be early retirement. To: HB, From: Me and the Goodwill Bin Store.

How I Got Started Selling On eBay

A healthy portion of this blog will be focused on documenting my time selling on eBay and sharing tips that I’ve picked up along the way. But before I start doing that, I think it may be fitting to share how I got started on eBay and where I am with it now. After all, if I’m going to be doling out advice, you probably want to know where that advice is coming from, right?

selling on ebay


Why I Began Selling on eBay

Let’s rewind to about two years ago, before I started selling on eBay as a business venture. Back then, I primarily used the website as a way to rid ourselves of clutter around our home and to generate some extra cash. While the thought had certainly crossed my mind before, I wasn’t necessarily looking for financial independence. However, while doing some research about how to optimize my listings for maximum selling potential, I stumbled upon the idea of selling on eBay as an actual business.

People were going to thrift stores, garage sales, Wal-Mart, Target, pawn shops, and tons of other places to get great deals on marked down products. Then, they’d take that product and sell it on eBay for a profit. These people were doing this as a job. As in making a full time income, and a large one at that.

Hmm…very interesting.

So I did a little research and began educating myself on the idea of becoming an eBay reseller. I read some websites, watched a lot of YouTube videos and was very soon convinced that I could make selling on eBay work as an actual business. There was no way that I was going to make a full time income, but it seemed like a flexible way for me to score some extra cash for our family.

eBay for Financial Independence

This was when I started to get a little more serious about the idea of financial independence and how eBay could play into that. I mean, people were really doing this. They were quitting their jobs and selling full-time on eBay. They were still working, but they only worked when they wanted to and they created their own schedule. Seeing these people designing their lives and owning their time was eye-opening.

Despite all the success stories I read or saw on YouTube, I didn’t see myself rising to the level of full-time reseller. It’s not that I didn’t think I could do it, but selling used items on the internet certainly wasn’t a passion of mine. However, I did see myself working part-time and making a generous amount cash that would be “extra” money that my husband and I could invest.

Not that we weren’t already investing. HB and I were both working at the time and dumping as much as we could into the stock market, 401k plans, and IRAs. But I figured that the more money I could pile into our investments, the quicker we could retire–and the quicker we could get out of the life sucking rat race that is working in America.

That was it. My fire for FIRE was lit.

Testing the Waters

My first step toward starting my business was to test the waters. This meant going on my first sourcing trip.

I took my mother with me for moral support and headed to a department store in the local mall to shop their clearance section. This was a mistake, as I learned later, because department store prices rarely go low enough to make a profit that is worth your time.

*Sidenote–when you start out in any business, you’re going to make lots of mistakes. It’s important not be disheartened.

Despite shopping in the wrong store on my very first try, I did manage to sell some of the things that I bought for a small profit. I went on a few more sourcing trips with decent outcomes before I was completely convinced that selling on eBay could really work for me. Once I was sure, I made the decision to start a legitimate business.

Getting Legal
selling on ebay
Don’t be a dirty tax evader.

Once I decided to really pursue selling on eBay seriously, I needed to get legal. eBay doesn’t really report what you do on their website to the big, bad “Tax Police”, but I wasn’t willing to risk getting audited and being fined a gazillion dollars for not reporting my income. My income, by the way, is probably much less than the gazillion dollars they would fine me for being a dirty tax evader.

*A word of advice–if you decide to start selling on eBay (or anywhere else), make sure you get your business in legal standing with the proper state, local, and federal government offices. Also, pay your taxes. It’s tempting to just not report the income you’re making, especially if it’s not that much, but this is illegal and not worth the risk.

In order to get legal, I set up my business through Legalzoom as an Limited Liability Company (LLC). That way, my personal assets weren’t going to be at risk if my company was sued. I have no idea why we ever would be sued, but just in case.

The process was very easy to do. I did it in one evening (not including some wait time while they file your paperwork) and it cost around $350 dollars. I highly recommend Legalzoom if you’re looking to start a business.

Ramping Up My Business

After I got all the boring legal crap out of the way, it was time for the fun stuff–making the monayyyy.

I purchased some shipping supplies, a male and female hanging mannequin, a whole bunch of inventory, and got started. Wanting to get as many listings up as I could as fast as possible, I pushed really hard in the beginning. I listed new items every day for many, many weeks in a row. My husband was annoyed and I was tired, but I found my sales increasing with the more listings I published. I’m not going to say it was easy–it was not. I worked on it with literally every second of free time that I had for a long time.

Eventually, I got to the point where I had enough listings that it made sense to start an eBay store. I also needed to start a store because we were going on vacation and having a store is the only way that eBay allowed you to put your listings on hold. Otherwise, I would have had to cancel all of them and restart them upon my return. There was no way I was cancelling and relisting over 300 items–so I pulled the trigger and started a store.

Where I Am Now

I’ve been selling on eBay as a business for a couple months shy of a year now, and I’ve done much better than I thought I would. My business was pretty much profitable from the beginning, and I haven’t hit many roadblocks along the way. But because you can always be better, I’m still working on improving my eBay store.

To do that, I’ve been focusing on increasing my amount of active listings. As it stands, I can usually expect to have between 425-475 listings up at any given time. Today I have about 470. Building my volume has been slow going, mostly due to time constraints and having trouble finding enough decent items to list. I often run out of product before I am able to go out sourcing again, which is absolutely not good for business.

Even if I can’t get out sourcing or post a dozen listings, I usually do something for eBay every other day. I’ll relist items, leave feedback, or start a sale in my store. I should note that the every other day doesn’t include shipping. That usually needs done at least once a day.

Honestly, I really don’t work quite as hard on it as I did when I first started. I really should, but I don’t want to burn myself out. eBay is a lot of tedious work, and it can get very old, very fast if you spend too much time doing it. This will get better when the twins are in school and I have more time to get things done. Since that won’t be for quite a while, I will just do the best I can with the time that I have for now.

My Next Steps

My goal is to have about 600 items listed. The people who see large amounts of sales on eBay tend to have between 1000-2000 listings, but I just don’t think that is realistic for me. The amount of shipping, relists, and the storage space I would need to have for that kind of volume is just not something I am willing to take on. I think once I get to 600 listings, I will list enough to just maintain that amount.

I also plan to improve my photos. Photos are very important on eBay because people really need to clearly see what they are buying in order to feel comfortable enough to purchase your item. The best photos are taken with a lighting kit and in front of a white backdrop. Right now, I have neither of those things. I don’t have the space for a lighting kit or a backdrop and my photos are mediocre as a result.

Unfortunately, I can’t really do anything about this right now. Like I said, I just don’t have the space. We are going to be moving house in a few months, and I plan to make myself a little photography studio in the basement with a lighting kit and backdrop. I don’t claim to be an excellent photographer, but hopefully just doing those things will allow me to significantly improve my listing photos. Better photos should mean more sales. And more sales meansssss……

A fatter wallet investment account. Can I get an amen?

Amen!

Who doesn’t want a fatter investment account? If you’re looking to chunk yours up a bit, I highly recommend looking into eBay. It does take a while to get started and it does require some time and effort. Be ready to put in a little legwork.

But if you’re willing, I truly believe your efforts are rewarded. Especially if your options for work are limited like mine are. You’re going to make more money doing eBay than you are doing, say, survey websites or rebate apps.

So if eBay is something that sounds right for you, go ahead and get started. I’ll be posting tips and tricks that can help you along, and I’m always willing to answer questions to the best of my ability.

Good luck and happy eBaying!

Cousins and Coupons

Yesterday, my sister brought her two kids over to my house to play with my two kids. A “cousin fun day”, if you will. Below you’ll find a semi-accurate representation of what my house looked like after everyone left:

house after playdate
The difference is that my house is slightly smaller.

Those of you who have small children know how quickly ONE child can tear your house to absolute shreds. So when you have FOUR small children in your home…*shudders*.

My mom ended up coming too, as she always does, because four very active children under the age of 5 is sometimes too much for two already exhausted adults to handle. So with 3 adults and 4 kids running around, the whole ordeal makes for a lot of people in my tiny little house.

It was chaotic. It was crazy. And I only had to be there for some of it.

I had my next couponing trip to Rite Aid planned and ready to go. I asked everyone else if they wanted to haul our herd of children to the store so I could get there before everyone else cleaned the shelves out. They volunteered to stay here with the kids while I went alone.

Well, well, well…I never turn down a trip to the store alone. That’s the closest thing to a vacation that this mom EVER sees.

So I gathered up my coupons and I went. But, because I’m an idiot, I forgot a couple of them on my printer. So here’s your first Rite Aid couponing tip: don’t be an idiot. Remember all of your coupons before driving all the way to the store.

I still managed to get most of the stuff that I had planned on getting. I would show you a picture, but my children were picking everything up and slamming it onto the floor repeatedly, so I ended up having to put everything away immediately. Being a mom is fun.

I’ll have to just list for you what I got–which I’ll do below, along with the prices I paid and how I got to that price:

(2) 12 packs of Cottonelle Toilet Paper Double Rolls
On sale for Buy 1 Get 1 Free. Original price was $11.99 I used a MFR coupon for .50 off. I also got .50 back on the Ibotta rebate app.
Final Price: $4.99 each ($4.49 after $15 Bonus Cash) You can buy the Members Mark Toilet paper at Sam’s Club for what works out to be approximately the same price on any ol’ day of the week, but that toilet paper sucks. It leaves lint. That’s all I say. It leaves lint.

(4) Bottles of Herbal Essences Shampoo/Conditioner 10.1 oz
On sale for Buy 2 get 1 free. I had a MFR coupon for $2.00 off of two. Price per item was $4.79
Final Price: $2.52 each ($2.02 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(4) Cans of Aussie Hairspray 10 oz-14 oz
On sale for Buy 2 get 1 free. I had a MFR coupon for $2.00 off of two. Price per item was $5.49
Final Price: $2.99 each ($2.49 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(4) Bottles of Suave Professionals Shampoo/Conditioner 12.6 oz
On sale for Buy 2 get 1 free. I had a MFR coupon for $2.00 off of two. Price per item was $3.99
Final Price: $1.99 each. ($1.49 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(1) Double pack of Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste 5.1 oz each
Original price was $7.49. I used a store coupon worth $2.00 that I got out of their weekly ad and I also had another MFR coupon for $1.00.
Final Price: $2.24 per tube ($1.74 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(2) Arm & Hammer w/ Oxy Laundry Detergent 43.75 oz
On sale for $1.99. I used a MFR coupon for $1.00 off one item. I bought 2.
Final Price: $1.49 each. (.99 after $15 Bonus Cash) Like I said above, I bought two of these but only had the one MFR coupon for $1.00 off. So the final price here is actually an average of the two prices. Technically I paid $1.99 for one of them and .99 for the other.

(1) Bic Flex 3 Disposable Razor Pack
Not on sale, but I have a mail-in rebate for this to get the item for free.
Final Price: $7.99 (eventually free) ($7.49 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(1) Lysol Disinfectant Spray 19 oz
On sale for $4.99, used 1 manufacturer coupon worth $2.50.
Final Price: $2.49 ($1.99 after $15 Bonus Cash)

(2) Boxes of Fiber One Bars
On sale for $2.50 each when you buy 2, used 1 MFR coupon worth .50 off 2
Final Price: $2.25 each ($1.75 after $15 Bonus Cash)–this is what I would have paid had I done this deal correctly. I actually ended up buying a Fiber One Protein bar because it was labeled as part of the Bonus Cash promotion–but upon leaving and looking at my receipt it did not ring up as the promotion price. So I ended up paying extra for that box AND extra for the second box because I didn’t technically buy two boxes (it doesn’t count because the first box wasn’t part of the promotion). In my defense, this was definitely mislabeled in the store. Next time, I’ll pay closer attention.

(2) Boxes of Special K Cereal 13.1 oz
On sale for 2/$5. I used a MFR coupon worth $1 off of 2 boxes.
Final Price: $2.00 each. ($1.50 after $15 Bonus Cash)

If you’re wondering what all that up there is where it says the price “after Bonus Cash”, here’s your explanation. Rite Aid was running a promotion that if you spend $40 dollars worth of qualifying items, you get $15 in Bonus Cash. Bonus Cash is basically just store credit that goes directly onto your store card that you can use next time you shop at Rite Aid. I didn’t end up getting this because I didn’t spend enough. But I plan to.

Because this was my first time couponing at Rite Aid (and only my second time ever) I wasn’t sure whether the amount of money you spent toward the promotion was the BEFORE coupon price or the AFTER coupon price. The cashier didn’t know either. So I kind of just got what I wanted and went up hoping that I spent enough. I didn’t. I was a little under 4. stupid. dollars. off.

Soooooo…that means I’m going to have to go back and buy something else worth about $4 by February 10th, when the promotion ends. I’m definitely not leaving that $15 bucks on the table because that is going to push the price per item down about 50 cents–that’s where I got the Bonus Cash price I have listed up top next to all my items.

All in all, I wouldn’t call my couponing trip to Rite Aid a smashing success. I definitely made some mistakes, and I really wish I had spent enough money toward the promotion to get that $15 Bonus Cash the first time. As it turns out, it’s the BEFORE coupon price that matters–but I just flat out didn’t spend enough on promotional items. I wasn’t tracking how much I had in my cart in promotion items as I went, and was instead just hoping for the best. Not the best couponing strategy, I’ll admit. Now, I have to head back there just to get $4 worth of stuff.

I’m going to waste $4 worth of gas just getting back there. *rolls eyes*.

You live, you learn I guess. Right now though, I’m going to work on putting my house back together and reading the fine print on my homeowner’s insurance to see if it covers “aggressive horde of small children”. Bye.

 

 

 

 

The Target Tip

So I went on my very first couponing trip.

This is not to say that I’ve never used a coupon–I don’t live under a rock–but it was my first trip to a store where I had planned out certain things to buy with the intention of saving a ton of money by combining store deals and manufacturer coupons. Coupon “stacking” they call it.

I did okay. I didn’t do great. But I did well enough for my first try ever, I think. Here’s what I got:

head & shoulders cheez it coupon
My winnings. 2 boxes of Cheez-Its and 4 bottles of Head & Shoulders 2-in-1.

I also got a toothpaste that I didn’t show because it wasn’t really part of my couponing endeavor. We just needed toothpaste.

The Head & Shoulders is something my husband uses because he has super dark hair and any little bit of dry scalp shows. They are normally $5.99 at Target (read: expensive) and I got them for $3.24 each–saving us $11 total for all four.

These will last my husband for quite a while so I guess I have they call a “stockpile”. I combined a sale that they were having and a coupon, as well as a get a $5 gift card promotion that they were running to get this price. I was pretty happy about this purchase overall, although I’m sure people have gotten them for cheaper.

The Cheez-Its go very fast in our house. The babies love crackers and I like to eat them instead of potato chips. Of course, Cheez-Its aren’t good for you either, but at least they aren’t fried…which is what I tell myself so I don’t feel bad about eating half a box in one sitting.

I got these for $2 a box–they were on sale for $2.50. I wasn’t thrilled with that because I thought there was a store deal that would have made it way cheaper–but the deal turned out to only be on Family Size boxes, and those weren’t on sale. So I used a coupon that I had and got it down to $2 per box. They were normally $2.99. Eh.

I wanted to write this post for two reasons–first, to show you what I got on my first ever couponing trip. Which I did. Second, and more importantly, I wanted to share something really great that I got and didn’t even have to pay for. A tip.

Let me explain. The promotion that Target was running for that week was that if you bought 4 items out of these particular brands you get a $5 gift card. Here’s the flyer below:

target sale flyer

Or so I thought.

When I was done shopping, I went up to the self-checkout (because those things are awesome amiright?) and scanned my 3 bottles of Head & Shoulders and 1 Crest toothpaste–all brands that were included in the promotion. Nothing happened. No “yay you got a gift card!” showed up on the screen. No balloons fell from the ceiling. No choirs sang my name in perfect unison. Nothing. Not a dang thing. 

So I asked. This is not something I would normally do because I’m just not a talker. Especially not to people I’ve never met. I suppose you could call me shy–I don’t know. But I would normally just shrug, assume I did something wrong, and leave.

But not today. I am getting this couponing thing down no matter how many strangers I have to talk to.

So here’s what the nice Target lady explained to me–It’s more about the price–and less about the brand. I thought that if I just got the specified number of things from the specified brands, I would get the coupon free and clear. Au contraire, my fellow fledgling couponer extraordinaire…You gotta spend the right amount of money to get the coupon.

So see in the flyer where it says $3.99 right above all the Crest stuff? You have to buy something, from Crest, that equals $3.99. What I bought was $2.00 and some change–so I didn’t qualify for the coupon.

Same goes for the other prices listed–you need to buy something Head & Shoulders that’s anywhere from $4.99-$7.99 and so one and so forth.

Mind blown. Totally didn’t know that. And you know what? No matter how much I hate talking to strangers, I am glad that I asked. Because otherwise I would have had no idea what I had done wrong and probably just gotten frustrated and left without ever knowing why I didn’t get my coupon. And I would have paid more for the shampoo. It would have just been bad all around.

So The Target Tip is to pay attention to the prices when you’re looking to get the $5, $10, $20 or whatever coupon they are offering that week. It’s not just about the brand.

You know what they say–you need to spend money to make money. Whoever “they” is must shop at Target.

The Superbowl and Staying In Your Lane

Ahh, the Superbowl. An American holiday. The slow cookers lay in wait and the beer coolers runneth over–it is but 48 hours away. Family and friends gather ’round the flat screen and discuss how it is that their team “just can’t lose.”
It is here. It is time.

staying in your lane

 

Unless you’re me.

Honestly, I consider the Superbowl nothing more than a welcome distraction on the weekend so that I can go to the grocery store in peace. Everyone else is at home shoving pizza, beer and wings down their gullets and yelling swear words that their Grandmother has never even heard of at their big screen TVs. I would wager to guess that the Lord’s name is taken in vain more times on this day than all other days of the year combined.

And that’s just coming from my husband’s mouth.

Don’t take me wrong–I love sports. I played many sports growing up before focusing on softball rather competitively all the way up until my second year of college, when I decided to get a job instead. I think sports are great. They keep kids out of trouble and give people something to look forward to. Many of the athletes use their platforms to start charities and help out those in need. Sports are a very good thing.

But here’s my problem–people get so angry about them. I mean, people get in fights in bars and get arrested over an argument about whose city has the better team. People get really, really…really fired up about sports. Especially football–and the Superbowl.

But why? Why do Americans get so emotionally involved in sports? This is the question I ask myself every football season, every hockey season, and every.baseball.season as my husband yells obscenities at our television and commiserates through text messages with his fellow sports-friends.

I mean, we don’t even know these people. In most cases, we don’t have any hope of EVER knowing these people. Many of them live in entirely different states and live entirely different lives than we could ever hope to live as non-multi millionaires. Why do we care so much when they suck the big one for the entire game? Why do we care so much when they throw an interception? Why do we care so much when they drop what would have been a game winning pass?

This is something I have noticed about American people–we don’t like to mind our own business. Many of us become very involved in what other people are doing and make it a part of our own life. That’s why Instagram is so popular. And Facebook. And YouTube. And Twitter. And whatever other social media platform there is out there. We like to be involved in what other people are doing. Sometimes, we even like to live vicariously through those people. It’s a spectrum, really, ranging from “not caring at all” to “stalker peering into your bedroom window”.

This is a trap. You know why? Because when we watch too closely what other people are doing with their lives, we start to compare. And then we start to become jealous. And then we start to envy. And then we have a problem.

I’m not talking so much about sports anymore. I think most people realize that the professional athletes that we see on TV are raking cash like leaves in your back yard and you’re probably never going to be able to buy anywhere NEAR the things that they can afford without even blinking an eyeball. No, I’m talking about something else.

I’m talking about Facebook. I’m talking about Twitter. I’m talking about all the social media websites that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. That’s where it starts to become dangerous.

You know those people. You know the type. The ones who go on their Instagram with a photo of their brand new shiny Prada bag and $2000 Christian Louboutins and talk about how great their lives are. The ones with specially curated social media platforms that make us all feel like absolute garbage–and they intend it to.

Well, why can’t I afford Christian Louboutins?
This person is 5 years younger than I am, how did they land a job that’s so much better than mine?
Well, gee. I can’t afford a vacation to Figi. I must be a failure.
What? That’s their houseIt looks like the fuc*ing Biltmore Estate!

Yeah…those people. Delete those people. And here’s why–once you become enchanted by all the wonderful things that other people have, you lose sight of all the great things that you have.

I wholly believe that this is one of the reasons that credit card overuse is so prolific and people are drowning in self-induced debt. People see what other people have, and they want it too. Monkey see-monkey’s gotta have, if you will.

“Want” is the enemy of living a frugal life and becoming financially independent. And I’m not saying I never fall victim to it–I’m not perfect. But in order to live the most frugal life I can, I actively try to manage my “want” and focus on my “need”.

Do I NEED a brand new Christian Louboutin shoes? No. I WANT them. (I actually would never spend that much on an effing shoe, but just for example’s sake.) I do need shoes to protect my feet, but I only need ones that will do just that. I don’t need ones that do nothing more than represent a status symbol.

So I guess that’s why I don’t care too much about sports, or the Superbowl. I guess that’s why I don’t spend much time on any social media platform. I truly don’t really care what other people are doing, especially if it doesn’t affect me. This is what I like to call “staying in my lane.”

If someone can afford to take a vacation to some tropical location 3 times a year, I’m happy for them. But I’m not going to sit in front of my computer screen, feeling bad about myself, because I can’t afford to do that too. All that does is make me lose focus of my goal–financial independence.

And that is something that I “just can’t lose”.

 

The Starting Line to Financial Independence

financial independence

I have to admit that I’ve actually been at this online money making thing for a little while, albeit not quite as obsessively as I am now. For me, the starting line to financial independence isn’t exactly the starting line. It’s like a couple steps after the starting line, so…still not very far.

So what have I been doing?
Well, I’ve been selling on eBay for coming up on a year now. I have an eBay store and I am considered a “Power Seller”–which basically means nothing more than I sell a lot of crap. It’s not actually crap, I do my best to find the nicest things possible, but you know. Figure of speech.

I’ve also been dabbling in couponing here and there–but I haven’t really got into it much. I started a price comparison book back when I was pregnant with the twinnies with the full intention of getting our grocery bill down. I figured I would peruse the sale ads and clip coupons between feedings and diaper changes, during one of the many uninterrupted and peaceful naps both babies would take, at the same time, through the course of the day.

Silly, silly, stupid girl.

Basically, my life blew up like a gigantic pinata filled with soup after I had two babies to care for and no idea to do it, so all my “good intentions” fell by the wayside. As a result, financial independence took a back burner and I have a bunch of little pieces of things that I started over a year ago that I intend to pick up again.

Life does catch up to you sometimes, and quickly, but at no point did I give up entirely. Financial independence is still, and will always be, The Goal. I have been doing some things regularly for the past several months to get us closer to The Goal. I also dabbled in a couple other things here and there that didn’t really work out for me, which I’ll talk about in a later post. So here’s what I’ve been working on:

  • Using rebate apps and websites
  • Shopping at lower cost grocery stores (like Aldi)
  • Selling on eBay
  • Working on Amazon Mechanical Turk

What this all means is that basically I do have a little bit of money that I already made through my eBay account and Amazon account, and I have been saving some money here and there with rebate apps and websites and by shopping at low cost grocery stores (like Aldi).

So what’s the problem? Seems like you’re already doing it all.  
Basically, I’m looking to ramp it up. I do have a bit of knowledge about how to utilize rebates and coupons when I’m shopping, but I need to learn more about how to stack coupons and drive prices down really low so that I can stock up on essentials. I don’t see myself become an “extreme couponer” because I’m not going to be standing in the middle of a grocery store having a heated argument with a manager about whether or not my coupon is valid, while everyone behind me stares daggers at the back of my head and wonders who let me out of my closet for the day. I do think that I can do better than I am currently doing though.

Additionally, I have a moderate amount of knowledge about selling on eBay and am doing fairly well at it. I think I am going to do even better this year than I did last year. I’m going to start teaching myself about the stock market and investing and I’m learning Amazon Mechanical Turk as I go. I’m doing okay.

That is the problem. Okay is the problem. Okay isn’t enough. Okay isn’t going to get us financial independence by packing our investment account full of dollars to live the rest of our lives off of. Okay may buy us a trip to Disneyland–but not much more.

So where are you starting, really? 
At this point, I’d like to be a little bit transparent and share with you exactly where I stand monetarily with all the things I’ve been doing so far. Some of them aren’t that impressive, but it’s the best I got right now.

financial independence
Feeding the piggy.

 

The List

eBay–$11,373.75. 
This is the gross sales number up to today’s date. I won’t net anywhere near that and I can’t tell you what the net is right now because we haven’t spoken to our tax person yet. This is my first year ever having my own business, and I have no idea what taxes I am going to owe and what write-offs are available and whatnot. That shit is confusing.

I’m going to guess that it will be around $2000.00. I had a lot of expenses in the first year because of the startup fees, buying a new computer, and just purchasing a ton of inventory in order to fill up my store.

Amazon Mechanical Turk–$43.72
I started working on here just 18 days ago so I haven’t made that much so far. I am impressed with the amount I do have though, because I really had very low expectations when I started working on this website. I had heard bad things about it being only slightly better than slave labor. I haven’t had that experience.

Ibotta–$69.85
These are my lifetime earnings on the app. I started using this app on April 22, 2015…so this number is really pretty bad. I have a tendency to forget that it exists until AFTER I have gone shopping. Then when I get home, I realize I could have bought the same thing in a different brand and gotten cash back from this app if I had just looked at it BEFORE I went shopping. I really need to get better about that. But that’s why I’m here–to get better.

Checkout 51–$22.75
This is my lifetime earnings on this app–also bad. I probably downloaded this around the same time as I downloaded Ibotta. I have the same problem with not checking the app before I go shopping–and then realizing I missed out on cash back when I get home.

SavingStar–$3.67
I actually really don’t like this app. I plan to do an article about the best grocery apps, so you can learn more about why when I get that article published.

Ebates–$16.26
This is the one I am most ashamed of. Ebates has been around for a really, really long time. I just signed up in April of 2017. I know, I know. I’m an idiot.

Couponing, Shopping at Low Cost Stores, General Price Comparisons–??
I don’t keep track of money saved when I’m just doing my regular old being a cheap-ass routine. So I don’t have a number for you here but I can tell you that it’s likely pretty high. If you don’t believe me, I will offer that even my own mother told me that I was “sooooo cheap”. That was a point of pride for me.

 

So here you have it. This is where I stand today on the journey toward financial independence. I hope to be a little bit better off tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. When you’re in my situation, it’s all about baby steps–and one penny at a time.

A Lullaby

Sometimes I like to create my own lullabies just to keep things fresh. Here’s my latest.

Best sung in the late hours of the evening, after a long hard day of scrubbing poop out of your carpet and having large chunks of your hair pulled out by tiny hands. It goes something like:

Rock a bye baby, on the tree top
For the love of God go to sleep so Mommy can drink.  

 

It’s a work in progress.

Operation: Husband Rescue

My name is Michelle and I’m here to rescue my husband. 

 

My husband has been kidnapped.

Now, before you start getting all kinds of crazy pictures in your head of people being tossed into white vans with no windows and poorly written ransom notes being pulled from boxes full of dead animal parts, let me explain.

As I’m writing this, my husband is actually warm, safe and, well maybe not so comfortable, at a desk chair in his office at work. His long legs are jammed under his little desk and his yacht sized feet are stuffed into tugboat sized dress shoes. He’s signing off on spreadsheets, he’s allocating funds, he’s squinting his eyes to read contracts in that are written in tiny font and worded in lawyer’s English. This is where he sits, almost every single day for many, many hours. Staring at the computer and talking to people that amount to little more than strangers on the phone. Working, working…working.

And that, folks, is why I am here. My husband has been kidnapped, just like in the movies, but not by scary men in funny masks. In this plot twist, he has been kidnapped by work.

Work–more specifically the 9 to 5 lifestyle that’s making millions of Americans sick, tired, and miserable every single day.

My Ah Ha! Moment

Have you ever noticed that most of us go to work every day and spend so much, way too much, nearly all of our waking moments there so that we can afford things like nice cars and big houses, yet we have ZERO time left to drive our nice cars or sit in our big houses? Even worse, we have no time to enjoy our friends and families, be out in fresh air and nature, explore interests and passions, travel to new places and see new things…

How did we get here? Whose idea was this, anyway? At what point did work become the only thing that matters anymore?

Before I go on, I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing with my life. I mean I’m talking a lot about my husband and how he’s always at work. So what do I do? Why am I not complaining about having to go to work every day and punch the clock of some jagoff CEO that doesn’t even know my name?

Well, I do have a job. It’s just not the kind I have to leave my house for,  and not the kind that actually pays me.

I am employed by two tiny dictators who look a little bit like me, act a lot like me, and pay me in hugs, kisses and by spitting yogurt on my walls. I am a stay-at-home mom.

Ahhh, the stay-at-home mom. Observe her in her natural habitat: wandering around Target in her yoga pants, drinking a piping hot Starbucks caramel soy latte with an extra shot of espresso, extra foam please.

financial independence
See her leisurely wafting the delicious scent of roasted beans.

Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Trust me. There ain’t none of that going on over here. I have twin boys who are just over the age of one. Yes, TWO babies at the SAME time. I tried to take them to Target the other day and they lasted exactly one handful of Puffs before serenading the entire store with their original song, written in an octave fit for Mariah Carey,  entitled “Everybody Scream Their Face Off Until Mom’s So Embarrassed That We Have to Leaveeeeeeeeeeee”.

In all seriousness though, I love my kids. I’m lucky that I get to stay at home all day with them and watch them grow. They surprise me every single day.

But the experience has always been somewhat tarnished for me because I often feel…guilty. I feel sad. I feel tortured by the fact that my husband was at work and didn’t get to see their proud little faces when they took their first step. He wasn’t here when their random “da da da” babble turned into a more pronounced and obvious word: “Daaaaad”. He won’t be here for all of our day trips to the zoo, or to see the dinosaurs at the museum, or to build a snowman outside after a fluffy morning snow. He’s going to miss so, so much. My husband gets to see our kids for an hour to two hours most days of the week and quite frankly I can’t even type this sentence without crying.

That was my “ah ha!” moment–when I realized how much of our kids’ lives my husband was going to miss.

So I came up with a plan. I am going to rescue him.

The Plan

When I use the term “rescue” here, I mean that I would like for our family to have financial independence. That means that all our decisions won’t be based on finances–they will be based on what makes us happy. In the long run, I’d like for my husband to retire completely before the normal “retirement age” of 65. How many years early he gets to do that depends on how much we are going to be able to save and invest. I don’t have a set goal yet–I’m just starting out on this path.

Now–in order to have financial independence or retire early you need money. Lots of it.

Of course. That’s obvious.

But as I mentioned earlier, I don’t have an actual job. What I do is important, but it’s not a job.

Yes, we have my husband’s salary–we don’t pay our bills on hopes and dreams. His salary allows us to be comfortable and still save some money. But during a time when most families need two incomes just to pay for their day to day expenses, how are we going to save enough to have financial independence on just one income?

I’m not going back to work. At least not for a while. We have decided that’s not right for our family because we don’t want to send our kids to day care (the cost is just laughable anyway) and we don’t want to burden our family members with taking care of our children 5 days a week. We had the kids, we want to raise them ourselves–a luxury that I realize not everyone has. We are lucky.

So what’s a housewife to do? I need to make some sort of income from right where I sit in my living room, somewhere between snack time, nap time, and what seems like the 1000th diaper change.

Here’s a little disclaimer: I’m at the very beginning folks–I haven’t even figured out our budget yet. If you’re looking for expert personal finance advice–check back in a few years. Right now, I’m just stumbling through while I try to figure this mess out–and documenting it along the way. If you’re up for the ride, stay tuned.

No Really, The Actual Plan This Time

So here’s a breakdown of the specific goals that I have (for right now). These are subject to change throughout the journey as roadblocks and obstacles come up, because we all know life can sometimes just be one giant, blazing dumpster fire.

Goal 1-The Realistic OneDowngrade my husband to a less stressful job that allows for more flexibility so that he can spend more time with the family. This goal is solely one of financial independence so we can design our lives as we see fit–including where and when we work. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we will never have to work again, but our life decisions are no longer going to be based on money, and we won’t have to live in fear of things like “company restructuring” which is really just a nice way of saying “Your ass is fired.” 

Goal 2- The Crazy Big, Totally Unrealistic One: Become retired early. Live off smart investments. Only work if we really want to. Be independently wealthy and spend the rest of our lives drinking beer on a beach somewhere, watching our kids chase crabs around the sand dunes. This probably won’t happen, but a girl can dream. 

financial independence
I want to stand on frozen lakes any ol’ time I want to.

 

How I Plan To Accomplish This Without a “Real Job”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

That’s the saying, at least. Let me first say that we save and/or invest some of the money that my husband makes at his job. I am not going to fully fund a drastic lifestyle change doing odd jobs on the internet.

With that being said, I’m not really here to talk about my husband’s income. I’m here to talk about what I can do to supplement what we are already saving without getting a “real” job. Instead, I plan to string together a variety of “side hustles” and cut costs all over the board on our budget to see what kind of money I can come up with.

I have started implementing some of these plans already, but I’m here to explore what more I can do and how to properly invest the money that I am making because stashing it into a savings account that gains .000001% interest a year ain’t gonna hack it.

Here’s the current list of projects that I am going to take on that I think will make us or save us some money and get us one step closer to financial independence. I hope to keep the blog updated with how I’m doing on all of these aspects of the plan. This is subject to change as I add things that I want to try or abandon things that just aren’t working out.

The List

  • Selling on eBay. (I’ve been doing this for close a year already–more on this later) 
  • Investing in the stock market. (No clue how to do this, desperately need to learn.)
  • Saving as much money as possible through coupons, budgeting and the like. 
  • Meal planning based on what grocery items are on sale.
  • Blogging/Writing. 
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk.
  • Acquiring rental properties. (Eventually).
  • Cash back apps and websites like Ibotta and Swagbucks.
  • Whatever new opportunity I may come across along the way.

I know there’s others with blogs similar to mine. I know I’m not the first one to write about this subject.

I’ve read the blogs–not all of them–but some of them. Many of the ones I found share some common themes that I’ve had a difficult time relating to. Things like having previously held a high paying job that allowed for large chunks of money to be stowed away at a time, a two income household, no children, and prior experience or understanding of personal finance beyond “just stop buying shit you don’t need”. I have none of these things–we all live different lives, and that’s okay.

So I thought I could stake claim on my own little piece of the internet for people in similar situations as me–Little to no personal income and little to no personal finance experience, but the desire to change their life by taking back their time, earning financial independence, and removing themselves and their family from the grip of the typical 9-5 lifestyle.

I hope what I write helps and inspires you. I hope you can learn right along with me as I go. We deserve a different life. We deserve financial independence. We deserve the right to own our time and design our journey to joy here on this Earth. We only get so long, and we only get one shot.