Saturday, April 11, 2009

Our Family's Finances - Weekly Wrap-Up

Expenses – I do not budget to the dollar. I just know that in general we spend about $400 per month in groceries – some weeks more and some less. I spent about $60 at Safeway plus another $10 at Giant and $10 at Whole Foods (on my gift card). My husband spent about $30 at Costco for food. So we spent a little over our approximate $100 budget for groceries. We didn’t eat out this week and being that it’s Passover, we won’t be until next week. I didn’t do any other shopping this week. The kids were on spring break, but all of our activities involved playdates with other children, riding bikes, and going to playgrounds so no extra costs were involved at all. My husband bought a sports jacket for half-price for $50 that he needs for a work trip.

Deals – Our grocery stores are fighting each other for our business these days. When I first moved to the DC area, there was Giant and a couple of Safeways, with a few Magruder’s scattered about, but that was it. Giant was by far the biggest and the most expensive market. Now there is also Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter plus the warehouse chains. And they are getting competitive. Many are running loss leaders, triple coupons, $5 off $50 on a weekly basis. Anyway, this week I bought 8 pounds of strawberries at $1.50 per pound. And I bought 3 ½ pounds of 90% lean ground beef at $1.99 per pound. Great deals! Some of the meat and the strawberries are already frozen for future use.

Income – I participated in a focus group on Monday night, which paid $100! They called me out of the blue. It lasted two hours and they fed us dinner. It was a lot of fun. I am now on their list, so I hope to get called again. I got a quarterly dividend check from my mutual fund – also about $100 and listed a few things on eBay – not much since it’s the holidays and spring vacation. I also sold a child’s bike seat on Craigslist for $10 that we aren’t using any more. I’ve taken pictures and hope to get more things up on eBay in the coming week.

Investments – I finally took the $1,000 from last week and put it into my oldest child’s Education Savings Account (ESA). I decided on putting it into a mutual fund that we already own with Vanguard. They have low fees and it is a relatively low-risk stock fund. I’ve been pretty conservative with my kids’ college funds – most are invested in CDs at 4-5%. But I know I should take advantage of the 10+ years I have until my oldest goes to college and put more into stock mutual funds, so I am trying to rebalance a bit. And I’m hopefully taking advantage of some cheap stock prices. I need to invest the other $3,000 for the first quarter of the year. (Our new budget is that we need to invest $4,000 each quarter to fulfill our Roth IRAs and ESAs for our children. We’re a bit behind on this since this plan just went into effect on April 1st when my husband’s company got taken over officially and his salary changed.)

Giving – My giving is usually in the form of a lump sum dollar amount to a few different charities throughout the year – often when they call me to remind me. I also do many donations of clothing and household items throughout the year that we don’t use or I don’t sell. So my giving week to week isn’t very much and is very random. Anyway, on that note, for this week, I donated my change from my groceries to a fund at Safeway and $1 for Kids with cancer at Giant.

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