Mustache Monday: Grocery Bill Comps on a Diet

Mr. Money Mustache has a lot of opinions about cutting down grocery bills. My own opinion is that if I had the resources, I would hire out my culinary thinking to professionals. While the husband and I have talked about growing a garden in our small outdoor space, the cooling weather has put a temporary kibosh on that idea.

The most recent US average of monthly Food Plans for a family of 2, ages 19-50 ranges from $390 (thrifty) to $774.30 (liberal). A quick Mint check of our grocery bills in 2014 shows our average monthly groceries to be $300.

The husband was concerned that our 3 Day Facelift Diet would show a big jump in grocery expenses so I thought I would do a run down of our expenses for that time.

Breakfasts: Trader Joe’s – steel cut oatmeal $3.29, bananas (7 @ $0.19 = $1.33), organic cage free eggs $3.29, frozen berries $2.99, pineapple $1.79, honey greek yogurt $4.99; Target – grapes $4.53, spinach $2.98; Whole Foods Larabar (4 for $5.00), Smith’s kale $3.99, cheddar cheese $1.79, flax seeds $2.69, heirloom tomatoes $3.49

Total Breakfasts: $42.15

Lunches: Smith’s cucumbers $1.78, Trader Joe’s almonds $5.99, lunch at Nauvoo Cafe $8.62, other ingredients already included in Breakfast breakout

Total Lunches: $16.39

Dinners: Trader Joe’s – quinoa $5.99, balsamic vinegar $3.99; Smith’s – extra virgin olive oil $6.99, frozen veggies $1.19; Costco wild Alaskan sockeye salmon $36.99

Total Dinners: $55.15

Snacks/Treats: Trader Joe’s – pistachios $7.49, pumpkin seeds (for husband) $6.99; other ingredients already mentioned

Total Snacks: $14.48

Grand Total: $128.17

As a caveat, we did not consume all of these groceries in three days. In fact, most of these groceries will last us through the rest of this week especially the snacks. The biggest expense was definitely the salmon. We were able to eat it all in three days. Given the price tag and the quantity, I’d like to be able to find other ways to get our fish consumption. We’d still be under the moderate cost plan according to the USDA weekly totals, but I want to keep our grocery bill to our usual average of $75/week. Must find the balance!


Mustache Monday: Lifestyle Inflation

From as far back as I can remember till I was about 21 years old, I couldn’t wait to be a grown up. I imagined all of the adventures I would have and the accomplishments I would gain. I wanted to be a captain of industry. I wanted to travel the world and speak 6 languages. I wanted a lovely home and a lovelier family.

When I reached my early twenties, I did not want to be a grownup at all. I wanted to relax. I wanted to attend every worthwhile concert, watch every great movie, and just hang out with my friends.

The husband and I have worked hard to balance the dreams and the fun with our long term goals. Putting money into savings and accelerating our mortgage does not mean we deprive ourselves of treats or comforts.

I recently read an article MSN Money called Doing Well at $125K but still losing sleep about money. This article and its variations are a recycled topic. I like to call them “The dwindling middle class” articles.

These articles are always pretty tough for me to swallow. When the husband and I were looking at our mountain of debt, the last thing I wanted would have been strangers scolding me for my choices. The big thing that I would say goes back to perception or what I think of as lifestyle inflation.

Is the “beautiful home in Plano” worth it if you’re paying $440/month in utilities, a $2700 mortgage, $700/month in whatever “other home costs” means and still you have a commute where you spend $140/month in gas and tolls?

Also, the article does not break down the $3000/month credit card debt or $700/month student loans (beyond stating they paid down a $100K balance to $21K).

Who’s to say the expenses won’t increase, when the one spouse starts earning an income? I’ve heard so many talk about how much money is spent when kids come into the picture, and I’m sure that’s true to some degree. What makes me suspicious is that these same people are writing these articles, making just getting by seem so bleak and miserable.

I guess what I want to say is that I’m not afraid of the future.

Mustache Monday: Time Value of Money

Like I mentioned last week, the husband and I accumulated debt when we were first married and it took almost three years to completely pay it off. Once that was finished, we were left with the not-terrible-but-still-challenging task of deciding what to do with the money we had previously been shoveling towards debt.

This was when Mr Money Mustache really helped. See, paying debt turned into a kind of game. Little by little, we could see all the credit card balances and loan balances shrink and the feeling excited my little nerd heart. Less excitement came from watching my savings account gain an abysmal <1% interest. What I needed was a why. Why did the idea of no debt leave with me with such a freeing feeling? Why couldn’t I capture that through saving?

Around this time, the idea of FU money started circulating online. I realized walking away, or at least the freedom to walk away from a career or vocation was just the attraction I needed to keep from reverting back to our spendy ways. MMM brought the philosophy and energy that I needed to hear.

We started saving towards a down payment on a house. Once we submitted our first mortgage payment, we made sure we had 20% down. Now we’re in a kind of long range forecast. This is the point in the finance articles and blog posts where it gets a little vague. Everyone has different versions of their own personal FU scenario.

If our calculations are aligned with MMM, it should take the husband and I 15 years to become financial independent. We’re hoping to do it in 10 with the house paid off in 6. We’re making every effort to keep our expenses steady each year and not increase with our incomes. We don’t monitor our expenses as meticulously as in the pants-on-fire days of debt, but we make sure our spending categories on Mint and Personal Capital keep to the average.

Since I feel so “in it”, it can be difficult to see the horizon. To remember the why. But so many times I look around at my life and feel this surge of contentment. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I can be happy right now.

Mustache Monday: A History

My commuting college student life was a carefree time of making almost no money, but not spending much either. This quickly changed as years of inattention found my post college self with consumer debt for the first time and loans. I also married a lovely boy with not-so-lovely debt of his own.

Luckily, this was around the time I found JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly and MSN Money’s Liz Weston (and a Frugal Babe honorable mention). With their advice and some spartan living, the husband and I paid off 3 car loans, 2 student loans, 2 credit cards, a consolidation loan, and a store card over the span of 2 1/2 years.

The past 3 1/2 years have seen our focus change from debt clearing to saving and investing. This also coincided with the emergence of Mr. Money Mustache. He was not the first to introduce the idea of early retirement or, if that term is too unpalatable, financial independence. But his earnest/brazen approach to personal finance was refreshing. He challenges the idea of why we should save by poking holes at the how.

If Mr. Money Mustache took a peek at our finances, we’d probably get an earful and a righteous punch in the face (especially since neither of us owns a bike!), but we generally try to keep his precepts in mind. We sold one of our two cars as our daily commute reduced drastically when we moved into our new home. Both of us are walking distance to public transit and the husband is able to walk to work. With no consumer or revolving debt (besides the mortgage), most of our savings goes into a Vanguard stock index fund (VTSAX), employer 401k’s or accelerated mortgage payments with some cash reserves in a dedicated online savings account.

My hope is financial independence in 10 years. Circumstances are bound to change in that time, I know, but I hope for the better.