How much of a “value” is it?

What do diapers and yogurt have in common?

Bigger is not always better.

I got an e-mail from a friend of mine in Florida, Leanna, about a recent discovery she made at the store.

“Did you know that when you buy Gogurt at Wal-mart you have two choices- you can buy an 8 pack or the 16 tube ‘Value Pack’?

The value pack with 16 tubes cost $4.48 while the 8 pack of tubes cost $1.80.

So….for $5.40 (3 of the $1.80 Gogurt packs) you can get 24 tubes. That is $.92 more for the extra 8 tubes of Gogurt! Just thought I would pass my discovery along. Just because it says value pack doesn’t mean it is the best value!!!!”

She is absolutely right. Just because something comes in a larger quantity it’s not always the best deal.

I have asked another reader to keep me up to date on the big expense at her house- diapers. I had no idea how expensive diapers could be until I started trying to help her out. Their family used to go to Sam’s Club twice a month and buy their diapers- they figured it was the cheapest way to go.

Now when I talk to her, they are spending about 75% less than what they used to spend by buying diapers at drug and grocery stores. They just shop the sales and use their coupons wisely.

So before you go to the big box store, ask yourself 4 questions:

1. Do I have room for all this stuff? It’s not worth buying 48 rolls of toilet paper if you don’t have room in your bathroom for them. Make sure you can store stuff so that things don’t take over your house.

2. Is it really cost effective? Compare the cost per unit at the big store to your normal grocery store. Remember that some big box stores will not accept coupons, so take that into account as well.

3. Can I use this before it goes bad? If you are the Duggar family you can probably eat the big pack of anything. If it’s just you and your smallish family it might take months to go through a crate of oranges. Or that 5 pounds of ground beef might be in your freezer for year. If you have to throw it out, it’s not worth the money!

4. Do I really need this? Impulse buying in a big store happens just like in a normal store except the items are much larger. If you do go to the store, make a list before you go and stick to it.

So thanks to my two readers who made this post possible.

Thoughts? Does anyone shop at those stores and get good deals? Let me know about them!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Step #5- Follow the Plan

This is the last of a 5 post series on getting your budget under control. In case you are just joining me, here are the first four steps. They contain some very useful spreadsheets in trying to analyze your current situation:

Step One: Decide It’s Time for the Truth
Step Two: Where Your Money is Now
Step Three: Take a Look at Your Debt
Step Four: Make a Plan

So now for Step 5. To quote Nike “Just Do It.” Like anything else in life worth doing, handling your finances is worth doing well. You have crunched the numbers and taken a hard look at where you are.

It’s time to focus on the future. What are your goals? Being debt free? Retiring at 40? Paying cash for your child’s education? Every time you want to eat fast food but don’t have the money in your food budget, think about that goal. Every time you get into your sensible fully paid for car and your neighbor peels out of his driveway in a flashy leased sports car, think about that goal.

To quote one of my favorite films: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.” Your things do not make you who you are. Choose to invest in your future instead of stuff.

Decide today is the day to make the change.

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Step #4: Make a plan

So you have your budget and your debt in black and white, laid out on spreadsheets forcing you to deal with the reality of your finances. Now it’s time to make a plan. A million suggestions are on-line with steps to take to reduce those bills. Here are a few of the most popular:

1- Memberships. Do you use your gym membership? Netflix? Cigar of the Month? Take each of these and evaluate it’s use against it’s cost. If you are paying $30 a trip to the gym, either step it up or give it up.

2- Credit Cards- any of your rates seem ridiculously high? If they do and you have been making your payments faithfully, call the company and ask them about lowering your rate. People are defaulting on credit cards right and left nowadays, so they may be willing to work with a good customer. (I have done this. I called and said I wanted my rate lowered and he said “okay, the computer will let me lower it to ____. Is that acceptable?” It took all of 3 minutes.) If they can’t lower your rate, look at doing a balance transfer to a card with a lower rate.

3- Monthly bills- check the amount of your utility bills for the month. Are they too high? You may be leaving things on during the day or have other reasons for the high usage. Perhaps spending a few dollars on a programmable thermostat could help. Check the websites of your utilities, many of them have programs designed to help you save money by either agreeing not to use utilities during peak usage time or by averaging your usage out over the course of the year.

4- Food/Essentials- this is where most people waste their money. I previously spent an incredible amount of money on food without realizing it. Set a grocery/essentials budget and take that amount out of the bank in cash on pay day. Once the cash is gone, make do with what you have in your house. Find ways to cut corners or make substitutions. Use coupons.

5- Start saving something- contact your Human Resources department and see if they can transfer $50 from every pay check into a savings account. Use an on-line bank or an institution where you do not keep your checking account, so that it is harder to get to the funds but not impossible. Assuming you get paid twice a month you will have saved $1200 by the end of the year without doing anything yourself.

Wherever you see problems, try to see possibilities. Throw around ideas with the other people involved in your finances- great ideas can come out of brainstorming sessions! Remember that you control your money, your money does not control you!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Step # 3- Take a Look at Your Debt

So you have acknowledged that some changes in your finances might be smart.  And you have taken the time to do your budget and figure out where your money is and should be going.  Now it’s time to look at my least favorite four letter word: DEBT.

Try to get the most recent numbers possible for both balances and interest rates on all of your debt: credit cards, student loans, mortgages, IOU’s to mobsters… everyone.  (You may be surprised at some of your interest rates- certain types of lenders enjoy raising them on the sly!)

Once you have your information select a way to organize it.  I prefer an excel spreadsheet.  There are other ones out there but this one is my favorite and pretty easy to use (click on the link that says “download now” about halfway down the page).  It operates on the snow ball theory of debt payment. 

The spreadsheet’s right hand side has directions on filling it out. You can either list your debt with the lowest balance or highest interest rate first- there are arguments for both approaches by people smarter than myself.   In the top box change the date to today and fill in the creditor, the balance, rate and monthly payment.

Under the top box enter the amount that you are willing to put toward your total debt each month into the “monthly payment” cell. 

Once that information is completed, the spreadsheet will do the math for you.  By looking at the bottom you can see when your debt will be paid off if you make payments faithfully.

Hopefully it’s good news!  If not, I will give you some suggestions in step #4 on what you can do to help move those dates a bit closer!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Step # 2: Where Your Money Goes Now

After a successful night of helping out a friend, I feel confident in sharing with you the second step in trying to get a firm grasp on your finances. Remember that step one was getting all financially responsible (or irresponsible) parties together and promising to be honest about how things are.

The next step is to sit down and figure out where your money is going right now. You will need your bank statements for the last few months so that you don’t miss any expenses and your pay check stubs as well as any credit card statements that you have used to buy things on a regular basis.

One of my favorite bloggers put a great excel spreadsheet on his web page to help us out. This sheet is designed to take your income and compare it to your output. In addition it shows you what percentage of your income you are spending in each area.

This may help you identify some expenses you can eliminate immediately. For example, maybe you pay for unlimited netflix, but it takes you a month to watch the one DVD you get. So you switch to the plan that sends less DVDs and costs less money. Or maybe you get the newspaper every day of the week, but really only read it on Sundays (when there are comics). Maybe charges for bookstores are tying up most of your “fun money” and getting a free library card could provide you with the exact same books.

Keep an open mind and you will be amazed the changes you can make!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Step #1: Decide It’s Time for the Truth

I wrote this post earlier today and ironically ended up having a conversation at dinner tonight with a friend who wants me to help her with her finances. Without even meaning to, this is the first step I walked her through on her road to getting her finances together. I think it really is the first step for everyone.

I have friends who have cavities in their teeth. They know about it because they can see and feel them. And yet they refuse to go to the dentist. Why? It’s not because of the money (most of them have great dental coverage). It’s not because of the pain (although I know one or two claim that as their reason). It’s because some things are easier to ignore than face. Once the dentist tells them those cavities really exist, it makes them harder to ignore.

People treat their finances the same way. Maybe at the end of the month you notice that you had to use some of your savings to pay your bills, but once you read your statement you forget about it. Maybe when you get your quarterly update from your 401k you wish there was more money in it, but then you just file it away. Like the main character in Confessions of a Shopaholic you choose to remain ignorant rather than face the truth about your finances.

There are consequences for reviewing your finances. In some cases, it might mean sitting down with a spouse and admitting things have gotten out of hand. It could mean acknowledging that you have accumulated debt and have nothing to show for it. It might even cause you to face that if you lost your job tomorrow, you would have no way to survive.

When it comes to your finances, ignorance is not bliss. Whatever your circumstances I promise that you will be amazed at the big difference the little things can make.

This post is going to be the first of a five part series outlining some small steps you can take to help evaluate and improve your financial situation. These are not unique ideas, they come from years of me scouring the internet and combining that information with what I did personally to set myself on the right financial track. I believe this first one is the most important.

Step #1: Before you start pulling out bank statements and analyzing information you need to make sure you are prepared for what you may discover. You need to be prepared to handle the truth. And if you share your finances with someone else, you need to make sure they are too. You need to be ready to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. Sit down with your partner and promise to be honest with each other about what is going on. If you are like me and have sole responsibility for the finances in your household, make a vow to yourself to keep an open mind.

Once you have done that, you can begin to make changes that will have a huge effect on your future!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.