Quarterly Budget Review: July – September 2016

budget reviewEach quarter I share a quarterly budget review of our spending so you can see the breakdown of how we allocate our money. It’s also great accountability for me and helps Dave and I to see how we are stewarding our finances.

Budget Review: July – September 2016 (actual spending)
summer 2016 budget review
What happened this quarter?

Annual fees
Not a big slice of pie but our annual fees for my RD (Registered Dietitian) license & Dave’s PE license were due. Womp womp.

dietitian groupNational Summit
Thankfully the annual Beachbody summit was in Nashville this year so the only expenses I had was from gas and groceries since we stayed with my sister & brother-in-law and I packed my own lunches for the day so I didn’t have to eat out. I snagged a photo with a handful of fellow dietitians at the conference!

High school Reunion!
My 10-year high school reunion was this summer. I was a bit disappointed by how much it cost and that people I was hoping would come didn’t show but I still had fun connecting with old friends. This was more than our entertainment budget so to us it was a big chunk for our spending.

NoraHair cuts

Nora’s got her first hair cut at 2.5 years old. Her hair is amazing and people pay big bucks to get her highlights and natural curls. It was just getting tangled easily with all the swimming we did this summer. We took her to a cute boutique shop for kids since they had a 1st cut deal for $15 but I may attempt to do it myself down the road since I’m not thrilled about paying $20+ for a trim. I also got my first hair cut of the year! I’ve only ever dyed my hair twice and it was a quick 30-day one that faded so I guess this is one way we save money since I don’t need to keep up with color or a certain cut.

New kicks

I am a simpleton. After 3 years of wearing out my one pair of summer sandals I gave in and bought a new pair of sandals. However, I go on walks with the girls a LOT and I knew the flat sandals I was using were not doing my feet any good so we invested in a good pair for me. I am so happy with my Keens and while it’s the most I’ve spent on shoes ($67 after coupons and a promo code) they are worth it.

square dancingEntertainment
We’ve kept our entertainment budget at $50/month for awhile now so that means we have to get creative with how we spend it. We never go out for a full dinner since that would blow through the budget quickly so we find fun, creative ideas. This quarter we went on coffee dates, played tennis, went on a fishing trip with my dad, Oktoberfest in Cleveland, Forro (Brazilian) dancing lessons, and we went square dancing with my parents and the girls at a local cider mill. My face hurt from smiling so much. Best $10 we spent on entertainment 🙂

Grocery bill back on track
I did a pantry challenge with my nutrition/fitness accountability group in September and it helped me prioritize the food we already had in our home rather than buying more stuff. We went over $13 one month and under $14 another!

Biweekly mortgage payments
We have biweekly payments set up for our mortgage (ex. If your mortgage was $1000/month you’d pay $500 every two weeks so you end up making 13 payments each year instead of 12 to get ahead of schedule). This means that two months each year there is an extra half payment. This month was one of them so that explains why the ‘home’ slice (ha) is bigger this month.

3 paycheck month
Something unique that we do is rather than dividing Dave’s salary into 12 months we budget based on two paychecks per month. Twice each year Dave gets 3 paychecks in one month so those “extra” paychecks go toward our financial goals. We had an “extra” paycheck month this quarter so it went toward our new (to us) car savings. Lord willing we’d like to add to our family but I’m not sure we can fit a 3rd child into the back of our Chevy Cruze so we’re saving up for a bigger family car and slowly adding to our “new car” folder in our Capital One 360 account which is why the ‘transportation’ pie slice is much larger this quarter. I would love to hear recommendations if you love your family-size vehicle!

What do you use to track your expenses?

Lifestyle Carnival 110th Edition

Welcome to the 110th edition of the Lifestyle Carnival! I love this carnival because it covers a spectrum of topics, not just finances. Submit your blog article to the next edition using the carnival submission form at Blogger Carnivals.

I’m keeping my posts related to food, fitness and finance although I could provide a million pictures I take of Nora every day and talk about the funny things she does. She’ll be 6 months on 4th of July! I decided to sneak a few recent photos of her in today’s lifestyle carnival because I can. Enjoy!

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TRAVEL

Wayne @ Young Family Finance writes Five Common Sense Things You Can Do to Save Money – Simple steps you can take on to save money for your young family.

Crystal @ Married (with Debt) writes Paying For Past Mistakes – There have been a couple of instances recently where past actions or decisions have come to back to haunt me financially. Paying for past mistakes…

Angella Grey @ Travel Blog writes Historical Sites In Mexico – Few countries compare with the ancient history and beautiful architecture of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is so much to offer from a holiday in Mexico. From the staggering monuments of ancient civilizations, to the exquisite architecture of its wonderfully preserved buildings, Mexico has some of the most remarkable sights the world has to offer.

Greg @ Travel Blue Book writes 6 Best State Fairs in America – Summer is near which means that the state fairs are right around the corner. Come with us and explore the 6 Best State Fairs in America.

Jeremy @ Modest Money writes How to Get the Best Deal: Car Finance or Personal Loan? – Car finance is often easier to get and for many it seems more convenient. Just keep in mind that you could end up paying back a lot more than you would with a personal loan.

TW @ Tightwad Travelers writes How to Liquidate Visa Giftcards – It is easy to travel the world for free using Visa gift cards and travel hacking.

Harry Campbell @ Your PF Pro writes Get the 2014 US Airways Mastercard Before It Goes Away – Even though the merger between US Airways and American Airlines has been going pretty smoothly, I’ve actually been more concerned about how the merger between the two frequent flyer programs will work. Working in the aerospace industry, I think less competition is a bad thing for consumers but at this point, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Instead, I decided to take advantage of the merger by applying for the US Airways Mastercard one more time before it goes away.

FASHION

Mario @ Debt BLAG writes Losing socks isn’t your fault; here’s why you should declare sock bankruptcy – Why waste your laundry day pairing up socks? Declare sock bankruptcy and never worry about losing individual socks again.

Xochitl Hernandez @ www.partyandbeauty.co.uk writes Hen Party Games to Make the Hen Night Sizzle – Ideas for games to make your hen party a great success

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HEALTH

Jon Rhodes @ Free Hypnosis MP3s writes The Real Way To Use Affirmations – Many people use positive affirmations to stay happy and healthy. Here’s how you use them…

Natalie K. Frazier @ www.Nataliekfrazier.com/blog writes Sugar is not sexy – Sugar is linked to causing preventable diseases

Natalie K. Frazier @ www.Nataliekfrazier.com/blog writes What’s really in your peanut butter/plus DIY peanut butter – The scary ingredients in your peanut butter, recipe to make your own

Natalie K. Frazier @ www.Nataliekfrazier.com/blog writes Skinny ice cream – A recipe for banana peanut butter skinny ice cream. No sugar added. Only 2 ingredients and so healthy for you.

NoFilter Editors @ NoFilter Magazine writes Go, Green Giant, Go – Juice recipe for a nutritious breakfast smoothie that is packed with antioxidants.

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes Best Summer Food Indulgences – There are some foods and drinks I love come summertime that are easy (seriously, I can’t cook) and inexpensive to make.

Miss T. @ Prairie Eco Thrifter writes 7 Health Tips to Boost Your Everyday Wellness – With a little planning, and small changes, it’s possible re-jigger your life for more health and wellness. Here are some steps to take:

ENTERTAINMENT

Rishi @ Latest House Music writes FREE REMIX OF LANA DEL REY’S YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL BY AFROJACK – On the top right hand corner of the sound cloud link there is an option where you can download your copy of Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful remixed by Afrojack!

Harry Campbell @ Your PF Pro writes Never Buy a Cup of Coffee Again: Buy a Keurig Coffee Maker – There was a time where I actually didn’t like the taste of coffee. I would drink a frappucino every once in a while, but let’s be honest those things taste more like a milkshake than actual coffee. But times have changed, and one of the reasons why I now like coffee is because I actually enjoy the taste. I usually add a tiny bit of creamer or a small amount of milk but that’s about it. I’m not sure how much of a pick me up it gives me but mentally the caffeine definitely helps.

 

WEALTH AND RETIREMENT

CAPI @ Creating a Passive Income writes Life Logic: Opening a 401k – A 401K can be an excellent asset for your future and your current lifestyle. It’s a good investment for yourself – but how do you open one? Read here!

SBB @ Simple Budget Blog writes The Weddee, Not the Wedder: How to Budget Wedding Attendance – Showing up at everyone’s wedding but your own? Here’s how to stay afloat during the busiest of wedding seasons.

Debt Guru @ Debt Free Blog writes Shopping Strategies: Buying Now Or Waiting for Better Deals – Everyone has their shopping strategies. Do you buy or wait for deals later? Read here – we weigh the two strategies and help you on your way to shop smart.

IMB @ Investing Money writes How to Protect Your Portfolio – With the stock market averages changing, investors are becoming edgy. These are unsettling times. Read here to learn how to protect your portfolio.

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves writes Can Your Student Loans Be Forgiven? – Last week, I did an interview with Lynn Berry about how new college graduates should handle student debt.

Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder writes 12 Mobile Apps That Will Help You Earn Extra Money – My cell phone bill is ridiculously expensive, so I’ve found a way to balance it out by downloading mobile apps that actually PAY ME to use them. Here are the 12 best apps that will help you earn extra money…

Hank @ Money Q&A writes 4 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Refinancing Your House – A friend of mine just refinanced his house. And he’s not happy. You’d think that someone who lowered his interest rate by more than 1.5 percentage points and dropped his loan term to 15 from 30 years with a fixed-rate mortgage would be ecstatic. But he’s not.

SavingMentor @ How To Save Money writes When to Buy Things To Save The Most Money – An effective and simple saving strategy is to buy items in the off–season – when they are at their cheapest. For example, the price of air conditioners is the highest in the spring when the snow melts and it starts to get warmer. Prices start to come down in the fall as temperatures across the country start to drop.

Mike @ Personal Finance Journey writes Time versus money and what is your time worth? – When was the last time you considered what you spend your time versus money on and how much your time is worth?

Don @ MoneySmartGuides writes 5 Ways To Save On Car Insurance – Car insurance can be a large expense for many. Here are a handful of ways to save on car insurance. What will you do with the savings?

debt debs @ DEBT DEBS writes Debt Deliberatons – Dealing with Debt Repayment after a Period of Lifestyle Inflation

Andrew @ Finance with Reason writes Why You Should Get a Line of Credit Before it’s Too Late – Opening a Line of Credit will improve your financial flexibility, raise your credit score, and protect you from paying high interest rates on credit cards.

Natalie @ Debt and The Girl writes A Secret Career Confession – Last week a friend of mine was looking for people that wanted to do a little acting for a video that was being produced for the company he works for.

Brad @ Enemy of Debt writes A Sure-Fire Way To Save On Taxes – Those who pay less in taxes do so by spending less and saving more.

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Three gifts for men to get your gift ideas factory going – Men are awkward customers. I can say this because I am a man and I empathise with anyone who has ever endured the frustrating quandary of what gifts for men to get for friends or loved ones.

Justin @ iPlugin writes What’s the reason for the decline in iPad sales? – People are beginning to question what’s going on with Apple’s ubiquitous iPad tablet as sales during the first quarter of 2014 dropped 16%.

Danielle @ TeacHer Finance writes Why Bargains Aren’t Always Such a Bargain – Here is some sage and simple advice; never purchase anything just because it is a bargain.

Cat @ Budget Blonde writes Saving Money Isn’t for the Sleep Deprived – Despite being up all night with my little boy bean, I thought it would be an excellent idea to go to the grocery store on Memorial Day and leave hubs with the twins.

Alexa @ Defeat Our Debt writes How to Get Rid of Debt on Your Own – There is no easy way to get rid of debt. You have several options, each come with their own set of pros and cons. Here is how to get rid of debt on your own.

Alexa @ Single Moms Income writes I Did It……I Opened a Retirement Account – At the beginning of the year I declared that 2014 would be the year I stopped talking about investing and just went for it.

Larry @ KrantCents writes If You Were Boss – What would you do if you were boss? What if you were boss of the company you work for?

Monica @ Monica On Money writes What Turning 30 Taught Me About Money – I finally turned 30 in March. For years, I’ve been anxiously waiting to turn 30! I’m not exactly sure what I expected, maybe that I’d suddenly become more successful

Aaron @ Aaron Hung writes Facts you really need to know about your 401(k) – If you have a 401(k) plan through your employer there are a number of things that you really need to know about it in order to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Justin @ Edward Antrobus writes Tips to Help You Pay Down Your Student Debt – If you’ve just recently graduated from college, congratulations! Best of luck finding a job and starting your career.

Marissa @ Thirty Six Months writes Unemployed Financial Management – Losing your job can be a very difficult and stressful time. It is, however, vital that you take the right steps to secure your finances as soon as you become unemployed.

Marissa @ Finance Triggers writes 3 Ways to Ensure You Have Money Left in the Last Week of the Month – We all know that when we look in our bank accounts during the week approaching pay day, it is more than likely that a few moths will fly out.

Sam @ The New Business Blog writes 5 Top Apps for Entrepreneurs – If you are a busy entrepreneur you already have your hands full with a million different things that need to be done.

Katie @ IRA Basics writes The Secret of Saving for Your First Deposit – Are you ready to become a homeowner and do not fancy a no-deposit home loan? Then the biggest obstacle standing in your way is the first deposit or down payment.

Lily @ Paying Debt Down writes Is Data Mining a fair way to set Insurance Rates? – With computer technology advancing by leaps and bounds, it is no surprise that insurance companies have started using sophisticated software to help them determine what rates to charge their customers.

Bob @ Dwindling Debt writes Health Insurance Coverage | Will My Health Insurance Cover Dentistry? – It is no secret that your dental health is one very important element of your overall health.

Andrea @ So Over This writes Could You Live on Minimum Wage? – Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past the year it’s hard to miss the ongoing debate over minimum wage!

Hadley @ Epic Finances writes 9 Proven Strategies to Eliminate Debt – One of the most stressful things that can happen to a person is falling prey to what I call the Debt Trap.

Lenny @ Best Money Saving Blog writes Financial Aid Tips for the Uninitiated – If you are the parent of a child in high school that is rapidly approaching college age, chances are that you have just been introduced to the numbers game that is financial aid.

Amy @ Money Mishaps writes The biggest threat to Retirees’ nest-eggs? Their Mortgage – What is the biggest threat hanging over the head of many older Americans heading towards retirement?

Jack @ Money Saving Ethics writes Taking the Leap: When is it Time to Ditch the Lease? – This past decade has paved the way for some very big changes in the housing market, making it both harder to find a home and easier to get financed for one.

Matt @ Budget Snob writes Five Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid when Buying a Used Car – Purchasing a used car is a great way to avoid the hit of depreciation and drive away on a steep discount in comparison to new models.

Danielle @ Saving Without a Budget writes Lock Up Credit Card Safety with the coming Card Control App – One of the most vulnerable points that credit cards have is that, since they are always on, they can always be used by criminals who somehow get access to their data.

Jay @ Daily Fuel Economy Tip writes Gas Saving Myths Exposed – Summer is coming up fast and with it gas prices will be increasing, as they seem to do every year.

Oscar @ Money is the Root writes Borrowing Money? Avoid using these 2 Methods – While it is certainly true that everyone needs money, sometimes it is rather hard to find if you need extra money quickly.

Daniel @ Make Money Make Cents writes 4 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast – With the housing market looking troublesome and many people still tightening their budgets in the economic recession, finding the best buyers for your house can be tricky.

Hayley @ Disease Called Debt writes How Paying Off Debt is Helping Me Change My Life for the Better – Paying off debt involves making certain changes to your lifestyle. However, during the debt payoff process, you might just find yourself making other changes in your life too. This post describes how paying off debt has opened many doors for me and provided me with great opportunities.

Harry @ The Rideshare Guy writes Why Lyft is the Perfect Second Source of Income – I’m always looking for easy ways to make money, it’s kind of like a hobby for me. Some people like to watch tv or play sports, but I’m always on the hunt for hobbies that align with viable business opportunities. The first time I realized that I could make money off a hobby was during college when I started coaching volleyball. Obviously it wasn’t the same as getting paid to play, but I did get paid to hang out with my friends(who were also coaches), hit balls at a bunch of kids (as h

Thomas @ UK Buy Bitcoins writes BITCOIN ATM MACHINES OPENING AROUND GREAT BRITAIN – Bitcoin is coming to the UK and now, amongst other online ways, you can buy Bitcoin via any of the ATM machines that are popping up around the world.

Erastus @ Sprout Wealth writes Don’t Make these Investing Mistakes Like I Did – Learning how to invest can be overwhelming for many. I don’t want you to do the same mistake I did when I started investing. So, check on these investing mistakes.

Erastus @ Wise Dollar writes Debt Reduction and Elimination: Attitude Rules – Is debt reduction something you think about, yet aren’t sure how to go about? The first thing that will likely need changing is your attitude towards debt.

Brad @ How to Save Money writes Cook your Own Meals and Save Money – How cooking at home can save you thousands and tips on how to make it less arduous

Jacob @ JL Online writes Online Entrepreneurship – You can work online in a number of different capacities as you see fit.

Mark Ross @ Money Saving Dude writes The Difference Between Being Frugal and Being Cheap – There is a difference between frugality and cheapness. Sure, their main objective is save as much money as possible, but I’d rather be with a frugal person than a cheap on. Find out here whether you’re really a frugal person or a cheapskate.

Mr. 4HWD @ The Four Hour Work Day writes When Wanting More Money Doesn’t Mean You’re Greedy – There’s been a lot of media write-up over studies that show Millennials would rather have fulfilling jobs with low salaries than jobs they didn’t enjoy but came with high salaries. Gen Y doesn’t seem to be as driven by money and success as they are by wanting to make a difference.

Thomas @ i need money ASAP! writes Organizations That Help With Rent – So you need money asap because you’re behind on rent. Well the good news is that there are organizations that can help with rent in these situations. These organizations are either not-for-profits, religious groups, or local/federal government agencies. Make sure to try them all since each one has its own criteria for granting assistance.

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HOBBIES

Jennifer @ www.loveofasparrow.com writes Love of a Sparrow – Yoga, DIY, Recipes, Everday life

 

GOOD EATS

Anne @ Travel Blue Book writes The Lolos of Grand Case, St. Martin – Cheap, Delicious Eats – What on Earth are lolos? Learn about these deliciously cheap restaurants found in St. Martin and save yourself some money while eating on the island!

Gretchen @ Retired by 40! writes Feed Your Family Fresh, Healthy Food for $300 a Month – Think it can’t be done? Think again! We stick to a $300 (ok, sometimes $400) budget for food, toiletries, cleaning, and baby supplies!

Mr.CBB @ Canadian Budget Binder writes Homemade Granola Bars – If you love snacks don’t go out of your way to pay store-bought prices when you can make them at home for a fraction of the cost and much healthier.

 

Choose fruit for dessert (and cover it in chocolate!) for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is 3 weeks away which seems like plenty of time to prepare but, let’s be honest– most of us don’t know what we’re doing for Valentine’s day until the night before or the day of. I’ll be the first to admit that Valentine’s day is a hallmark holiday but I still love it since Valentine is my maiden name 🙂

That pic is from Valentine’s Day 2009 when Dave and I were in Indianapolis for a weekend conference. Dave and his buddy got creative and made shirts for their dates. The shirts came with a poster-sized card they also made for each of us. We obviously didn’t wear the shirts out to dinner, but it was still a cute effort on their part.

It takes the least amount of effort to enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant as long as you make reservations well in advance. If you want to be a little more creative, do a little planning ahead and hold your own dinner date night. Dave and I have bumped up our entertainment budget since paying off our student loans, but we still like to find cheap date ideas for Valentine’s Day. I’ve got plenty of recipe ideas at Budget for health that are easy to make for a romantic dinner if you care to browse around…

Last year I offered a few tips on ways to NOT overindulge on Valentine’s day. If I had to add one more tip to that list it would be to choose fruit for dessert. The best compromise I can come up with is if you cover fruit in chocolate. Chocolate-covered fruit is easy to make and I would add that it makes for a fun, interactive event to add to your night! If you are pressed for time and want to put your effort into other parts of the night, you can often find a discount code on chocolate-covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries. The strawberries I’ve seen at our grocery store have been looking a little wimpy but these babies come fresh and plump. The option to roll the chocolate-covered strawberry in crushed nuts is another way to add a boost of nutrition to your dessert!
Two Full Dozen Gourmet Dipped Fancy Strawberries

What are your plans for Valentine’s day this year?

Parable of the Rich Fool

Photo source: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Earlier this week my friend Khaleef shared a post on being content with what we have. Coincidentally (or not), last week’s sermon at my church was on the parable of the rich fool. Gather around folks, it’s story time…

A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

The Old and New Testament combined have about eight hundred passages on wealth. This includes saving, spending, investing, tithing, running a business, running a family budget, etc. There is a great lesson we can learn from this parable and it’s summarized a few verses earlier in Luke 12:15: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness (greed/materialism), for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

I’ve heard it said that if you want to learn a person’s values, take a look at their bank statement. I started sharing my quarterly budget review a few months back partly to hold myself accountable for the way my husband and I spend our money. I am a detail-oriented person. I like my homemade Excel budget sheet that breaks down our spending categories. I like setting goals and working hard to achieve them sooner than I planned for. Being detail-oriented is not a bad thing but it can get the best of me if I’m not careful. More than once I’ve found myself getting caught up with with our finances. I’ve been tempted to cut out our monthly allowance for entertainment so we can throw the extra cash at our house savings, but I know it would just lead to two bored and bitter homeowners.

In regard to identifying with the parable, two main points stood out to me:

We are not to devote our lives to the gathering and accumulation of wealth
Being financially wealthy, saving, and having a lot of “stuff” is not inherently bad. It’s when we let money and “stuff” define who we are. We should work hard, invest wisely, pay bills, give, and provide for our families. We need money to do most things we want to do in life, but at what income level will you be content with what you have? If your salary is $70,000 but you wish you made more, how long after receiving a raise will you be wishing once again that you could make more? The bigger the box, the more you’ll need to fill it up. You may say “I don’t want to work for the rest of my life.” If you do that, you’ll fall into all kinds of trouble. It’s a trap. And everybody thinks they’ll be the exception to the rule and we’ve now learned that’s not true. Are we coveting money? Or content with money?

We are not blessed by God to hoard our wealth to ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing in the lives of others
Of course we want to save for retirement and leave an inheritance for our kids, but where do we draw the line? Will working 80 hours a week really pay off more than precious time spent investing in your spouse or kids? Before my husband and I got married, we expressed a similar desire to live simply so we can give more. That doesn’t mean we can’t eat out or have nice things (hence my recent upgrade from a dumb phone to an iPhone!); it just means we pick a handful of things we really want and continue our lifestyle at a similar level regardless of how much we make. We want to be good stewards with what we have, not hoard it to ourselves. Right now we live in a one-bedroom apartment and don’t own a TV. We don’t plan on living like this forever and would like to own a home one day that will allow us to be hospitable to others. I’d love to be the free bed and breakfast for friends and family visiting from out of town, host parties on game day, and so on. If our income increases then it just means we get to give more and save more, not inflate our own lifestyle.

How do you keep yourself in check with not letting money and possessions rule your life?

Saving for a Vacation: Ireland expenses

I’m back from 9 days in Ireland! The country was captivating. Standing outside our hotel I could see rolling hills and the Irish Sea was only a short walk away. My sister-in-law’s wedding was beautiful and we had so much fun exploring Ireland and laughing with family. My husband & I asked my sister-in-law about saving for a vacation like this since she had been to Ireland a couple of times. She suggested $1,000 to cover all of our expenses in Ireland (not including the $1,800 for our plane tickets), so that’s the amount we planned for spending. She was spot on- our total expenses in Ireland came out to $992! Here’s where the money went (FYI, € means euro):

Hotel
Standard prices for a hotel would be around €70 ($85), but family knew the owners and we got a deal for €40 per night ($49). Eight nights cost us €320 ($393). We had a washer and dryer we could use as needed and a commercial-sized kitchen and dining hall. This was very helpful since we usually had about 15 people to seat at a table!

ATM fees
We dropped $40 on ATM fees. We withdrew money from a bank’s ATM on two separate occasions. Both times we were hit with the transaction fee, the ATM fee, and a MasterCard fee. I’m not sure what would have been the better way to go about this aside from getting a specific credit card that wouldn’t get hit with international fees.

Food
The hotel provided cereal, fruit, yogurt, and milk. This covered breakfast and we occasionally made a big batch of eggs, French toast, and sausage. We chipped in €100 to my in-laws to cover groceries, especially for the giant pot of chili we made for after the wedding rehearsal. It lasted us the rest of the week, so my bowels were in tip-top shape and vacation constipation was not an issue 😉 We went out to eat for dinner most nights and Dave & I were able to order what we wanted and enjoy it without guilt from dropping €30 on the two of us.

Driving
We actually didn’t include gas in the Ireland expenses and counted it toward our monthly gas fund since we wouldn’t go over that budget in August anyway. The toll roads did bite us in the butt since we drove from Indianapolis to Chicago for our flight and then drove back home. We ended up dropping $20 on toll roads alone. Bleh…

“Souvenirs”
I hate impractical gifts. I didn’t want to get family something I could buy in the states and I wanted whatever I got to represent the Irish culture. We ended up getting my parents a couple packages of these chocolate covered biscuits called Digestives. The name makes it sound more like a Metamucil laxative biscuit, but it’s really just a chocolate-covered biscuit with an unfortunate name. Any time my sister-in-law or now brother-in-law would visit from Ireland they brought a few packages of Digestives and I loved them. They only cost about €5 and my parents seemed to enjoy them.

Entertainment
We toured an old cathedral, a Viking museum, and a couple breathtaking gardens. The whole group went together and we asked for a group discount at each place. Instead of paying €16 total for the tours, we made out only paying €12 per person.

We took the train to see different towns along the coast of the Irish Sea 4 days in a row. We paid €19.50 per person for a 3-day pass. On the 4th day we went to get a day pass for € 8.50 each and the guy at the counter gave Dave & me the family discount for 10 euro total! We knew there was a family pass but misread the sign and thought it was for 2 adults who had kids. It actually said 2 adults and up to 4 kids. We could have saved some money if we would have known that.

How do you estimate expenses for a vacation?

If you can’t get enough Ireland, check out all 300+ pictures on my album:

Ireland

Nashville or Bust!

Vacations can get expensive. We’ve estimated that we’ll have spent around $3k total for my sister-in-law’s wedding in Ireland this August. Thankfully we’ve budgeted wisely and set aside money each month so the expenses wouldn’t leave us eating PBJs for a month after (although that wouldn’t bother me too much!). My smart, beautiful sister and her fiancé are graduating from pharmacy school this Friday so my family decided to turn this Tennessee trip into a 5-day vacation. I’m so excited to relax for a few days and spend time with people I love so much.


Here’s what we’ve got planned…

Thursday– Driving 9 hours to Nashville with maybe one or two potty/gas breaks and arriving on time to pick up my sister and brother-in-law from California at the airport, stock up on groceries, and check in to our rented home.
Friday
– Driving 3 hours to Memphis for my sister’s graduation. Eating out at a barbeque restaurant my family loves then heading back to Nashville.
Saturday
– Chillaxin all day until the RASCAL FLATTS concert at the GRAND OLE OPRY!!! Tickets were only $34 each. My entire family loves country. Dave used to hate it but now he says he tolerates it :). He’s still excited to go. Rascal Flatts is more like pop country anyway.
Sunday- Visiting a winery my sister got engaged at. We’ll likely pay for wine tasting, but I’m not sure if we’ll buy any wine. I probably couldn’t tell the difference between a glass of $80 cabernet and a glass of Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s anyway.
Monday-
Trying on bride/bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding next September. Her wedding date is the same as my parents and her fiancé’s parents’ anniversary, aww 🙂
Tuesday-
So long Nashville, it’s been great.

We set aside money each month to save up for vacations and have money leftover in May’s entertainment and grocery fund so we’ll have around $100 to spend in Nashville. That doesn’t seem like much for a 5-day trip, but this will actually be a pretty cheap trip for us. We’re carpooling in my parents’ cars and staying at a house that they’ve rented, so that cuts out two significant expenses. We’re only eating out once and plan to cook at our rental home the rest of our meals. We only have $64 in concert tickets planned for expenses, so we plan to chip in on groceries and/or gas.

How blessed am I that God would give me two loving and supportive parents, 4 amazing sisters, two hilarious brothers-in-law, and a handsome, godly husband!

How do you save money on vacations?

Budget Review: January – March 2012

Every 6 3 months, I’ll post an update showing how our money was allocated. Consider this quarterly update a tool I’ll use so you can hold me accountable to reaching our 2012 goals!

I was originally planning on doing a six-month budget review but I think, at least for this year, it would be better to do 3 months since we just made the last payment on student loans and will also be knocking out our emergency fund within the next few months.

What’s happened since the last budget review?
– Dave got a 3% raise in March! Not bad for only 9 months into the job!
– Since I started my new part-time job in February, we were able to throw more toward student loans. We didn’t pay as much in March as we usually do since we made the final payment and are now DEBT FREE!
– We celebrated paying off loans by giving ourselves a higher spending amount in entertainment for the month of March. We visited friends in Indianapolis and enjoyed sushi, ice cream, and some delicious pizza!

January through March 2012 (Actual Spending):

January through March (Estimated Budget):

We didn’t do too shabby. We went quite a bit over on vacation because we bought our plane tickets in January. My new job and Dave’s raise kind of throws off the percents, but overall we’ve done pretty well this month!

Estimate: Category: Actual:
10% Tithe matched!
17% Taxes under 4%
7% Saving under 2%
25% Student Loans over 12%
17% Rent under 7%
2% Utilities/Phone under 1%
5% Groceries under 2%
1% Entertainment matched!
5% Transportation under
5% Medical Health under 2%
2% Personal matched!
4% Vacation over 7%

Past Budget Reviews:
July – December 2011

How did you do with your budget this year?