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  • Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of April

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and I’m happy to report that we saved 9% of our goal last month, and have now saved over 29% of our total goal. We’re actually a little bit behind, because 33% of the year has gone by – but I’m pleased to be so close to that mark, considering how much of a stretch our goal actually is.

    How we did it:

  • As always, the biggest part of our savings came from paying ourselves first. The consistency of this monthly savings is the single biggest factor in our success.
  • We put our tax refund into savings. I do everything I can think of to reduce our tax liability, including participating in my employer’s flexible spending account and making tax-deductible charitable donations. This year, we had to pay extra tax to the state but got back about twice that from the feds, so the difference went into savings. It can be tempting to spend unexpected money like refunds, but I find that they’re an easy way to boost savings if you can resist the temptation
  • We snowflaked extra income into savings. This includes money I earned through Swag Bucks (when they had their PayPal sale), MySurvey, and Instant Cash Sweepstakes.
  • Also, I’ve adjusted the way I manage our money a bit so it’s easier to keep track of our spending and saving. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming post as part of the Ways to Make & Save Money series.
  • Looking ahead, my blog income tends to dip in the summer, so if you could spread the word about CFO to your friends and help me grow the blog, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of March

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, so here it is: we’ve saved 20.3% of our goal so far.

    I’m pretty pleased with our progress – I knew starting out that this goal is a tremendous stretch, so to be at 20% with 25% of the year gone is satisfactory to me.

    The good news is that I’ve been doing fine with my big oven, so there’s no imminent need for a new oven – something I was afraid of last month. The bad news is that we’ve got some pretty substantial and un-budgeted-for expenses coming up, so I’m mentally preparing myself that our savings total won’t grow as much as it has been.

    As always, I continue to do the things I recommend in my Ways to Make & Save Money series. Also, I can’t believe how little we spend compared to how much we used to spend before kids. It’s been a while since I tracked our spending this closely, and it’s wonderful to see the difference.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of February

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, so here it is: we’ve saved 13.9% of our goal so far.

    Last month, that number stood at 3% and I was rather disappointed. However, in calculating this month’s numbers, I realized that I was off, and that we actually saved just over 5% last month. Since I was quite disappointed last month, it was nice, albeit also embarrassing, to spot that error this month.

    One thing I did this month was reduce the extra principal we put towards our mortgage and redirect that money into savings, which added another 2% of our savings goal. California’s economic situation is so dire right now that hoarding cash and building up savings seems much more important than paying off the mortgage faster – even though that is something I would very much like to do. We plan on sticking with this new plan indefinitely.

    Just like last month, we did many things to help us get closer to our savings goal. I really do all of the things I recommend in my Ways to Make & Save Money series, and I’ve been tweaking some of those things to better suit our savings style, like snowflaking extra money into the savings account by depositing rebate checks into an account that’s not at the bank where we keep most of our money. Since that means the snowflaked money gets nowhere near the checking account, it stays in savings permanently.

    Another thing I’ve been doing is taking a closer look at our spending, and especially at what I spend on groceries and household items (there isn’t much wiggle room left in our budget!). Our spending on food is higher than most families in part because I buy organic milk, organic/antibiotic and hormone-free meat, RBST-free cheese and yogurt, and organic produce. These items are not cheap – a gallon of organic milk is $5.49 on sale, and I usually need 2 gallons a week, plus another 1/2 gallon at $3.29-$3.49 to leave at the .boys’ preschool. I’m not obsessive about organic products, but we can afford them and I don’t see any reason to put extra chemicals in my boys’ bodies if I don’t have to.

    However, I’m now working harder than ever to keep my grocery and household spending down. I’m chasing more deals at the drugstores and grocery stores. I’m making more trips to different stores, and thinking harder about where my money is going. My price book has more entries than ever before, and my target prices keep going down. My goal is to get my monthly spending down while still getting these high quality foods for my family, by buying them on sale and stockpiling when possible.

    One thing I’m worried about now is that we may need to buy a new oven, since my small oven died last month. We’re getting along for the moment with the big oven and toaster oven, but the big oven emitted a funny smell the last time I used it and we’re hoping that it was just because it hasn’t been much. (While I greatly appreciate all of the part-finding suggestions, we’ve concluded that we don’t have the skills or confidence to do our own repair, so the cost of the labor wouldn’t be worth fixing the oven.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t have to spend $1000 or (likely) more on the kitchen anytime soon.

    Because I’m hoping that our progress in March will be as good as our progress in February!

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of January

    Last month, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, so here it is: we saved 3% of our goal in January.

    So now I’m wondering if I was overly ambitious in setting my goal. The fact that we didn’t even come close to 5% really bums me out. Looking at our purchases, the only room I see for cutting back is in my stock-up purchases on things like shoes and clothes. But then I worry that not stocking up when I can will lead to greater expenses down the line. And, as the boys get older, they’re eating more, their clothes are getting more expensive, they’re getting involved in more activities, and so on and so forth – all of which costs more money. At least having two boys means items can be handed down, which saves on future expenses.

    However, I do believe that even if we don’t quite achieve our goal this year, we’ll still be closer to it than we would have been otherwise. And, I’m keeping the story of Crystal from Money Saving Mom in mind to get me through the rough times.

    As for the 3% that we did save, here are some of the specific ways we added to our savings account:

    We paid ourselves first – This is the most basic and important key to saving consistently. Read more about this here.

    Blog income – As always, thank you for your visits and clicks to boost my ad, affiliate and referral links income. Also as always, I reiterate my commitment to be as honest, transparent, and reliable as possible. (Read the full CFO disclosure.)

    Swag Bucks – If you don’t know about Swag Bucks, start here. I redeemed $50 worth of Amazon certificates from Swag Bucks in January, and bought things I would have paid cash for (it’s fair to say “cash” since I pay off my credit cards every month).

    Surveys – I’ll write more about making money through online surveys in the future, but I did want to note that I brought in a few dollars this way.

    Online “garage sale” at Amazon Marketplace – I’ll write more about this in the future as well. In the meantime, you can read what I’ve written before about selling on Amazon.

    We ate in – As I mentioned last week, my goal to save money has really motivated me to menu plan and cook, so we’ve been eating in almost exclusively. We’re not only saving money, we’re also eating healthier. There have been some marginal meals, but for the most part, our meals have been varied and delicious. Our eating out has been minimal, and I expect that trend will continue.

    I’ll have another update at the end of the month!

    Chief Family Officer’s New Year’s Resolution: Save a ton of money in 2010

    New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap sometimes, but I love them. My parents taught me that goal-setting is a major key to achievement, and I’ve certainly found that to be true.

    I always set a few financial goals each year – in 2009, my big goal was to pay off my student loans, which we did in the spring.

    For 2010, my big goal is to save a ton of money because I want the security of a large cash cushion. I’m not comfortable sharing the exact amount, but it’s going to be a huge stretch for us. To achieve this goal, we’re going to have to do all of the things I talk about to save money, from eating in to playing The Drugstore Game to making free money. To be clear, I’m talking about money that’s above and beyond the money that already goes into retirement savings or is otherwise earmarked for another purpose (like the car fund). I’ll give you an update each month to tell you how much of our goal we’ve accomplished.

    And starting tomorrow, each Monday, I’m going to share one way that I will be making and/or saving money this year to reach my goal. One of those ways is this blog – your visits and clicks help generate income at absolutely no cost to you, which helps me reach my financial goals. So thank you! Having said that, I want to assure you that I firmly believe that the very best way to make CFO great is to be as honest and trustworthy as possible. I’ve made a conscious decision not to post deals that I see on other blogs if I’m suspicious of the offer in some way. I also try to be as transparent as possible about any benefit I’ve received or may receive, which is why you see lots of disclosures. You can read CFO’s full disclosure and disclaimer here.

    As for my other New Year’s resolutions, they are much the same as any other year: Be a good wife, mother, daughter, friend. Be kind and generous. And like so many others, lose some weight. Someday, I’ll have to examine why it’s relatively easy for me to reach my financial goals and so difficult to reach my weight loss goals!