Monday, July 21, 2014

4 Week no grocery shopping challenge!

I mentioned in my post on my spending for the last month that i had relaxed my food-spending standards quite a bit for that month. I have been doing better this month but the higher spending has bled over a little bit, so I am planning on taking some drastic action!

I am planning on not buying any food until August 20th!

Now this doesn't mean I'm taking a 4-week fast, it just means I will only be eating food that I already have in my house (or anything I get for free) One of my interests is survival/preparedness and self-sufficiency, so I have a decent amount of food stored in my house at any given time. I also have some chickens that provide me with eggs!

This 4-week grocery buying moratorium will accomplish a few things:

It will obviously lower my spending for the next 4 weeks, but it will also allow me to cycle through the food I have stored here. Frozen meats, canned vegetables, rice, etc. I will eat the older stored items and replace them afterwards.

Wish me luck!

-Double E
AKA The Money Monk

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spending and savings rate Summary for June 2014

**note to NSA/IRS snoops: This information is estimated and/or hypothetical. Final official documents submitted (tax related or other) supersede anything posted here. **

This is my spending breakdown for the month of June. I am planning on posting it here every month, mostly just for personal accountability.

Just a note, I purposefully relaxed my spending quite a bit for this month, especially with food. I finally was done with all payment obligations from my business ventures that didn't work out, and because of that I wanted to relax a little bit and not stress as much about money for a few weeks before redoubling my efforts.

So needless to say, my savings rate was shitty, but hilariously still better than the national average, even with what felt to me like uncontrollable spending. So as I taper back into frugal mode we'll see how well I can do.

Business expenses include some domain renewal, hosting, and po box renewal. This is much
 higher than the monthly average as most of these expenses only occur once or twice a year.

Car Insurance: I just recently called an adjusted my insurance and managed to lower it by 10 or 15%

Chickens: Yes I have chickens! I only have to buy feed every couple of months, so there are zero costs for this month. I could technically deduct the value of the eggs I get and make their net cost even lowe, but I haven't been doing that.

Clothing: I started a new job and bought 3 pairs of dress pants on sale at Men's Warehouse.

Entertainment: These were costs related to hosting a 4th of July freedom fest party

Food: This is just groceries and does not include eating out at restaurants. As I said my food spending was very high this month. I do eat pretty strictly paleo though which is more expensive, but I still aim for long term food costs of 250 for groceries AND restaurant spending, if there is any. Obviously I went WAY over that this month.

Gifts: Bought gifts for a friend and my girlfriend for their respective birthdays.

Health Insurance: This is the health insurance I had from being self-employed. As I become an official full time worker at my new job I should be eligible for insurance that will be around half this cost hopefully.

Internet: Normally internet cost is around 62 bucks, which I split with my girlfriend. But this month we needed a new modem AND router, so that drove the cost up.

Loans: This is obviously the most dastardly expense on here. This includes student loans and expenses I racked up from the business. I am aiming to have all business related expenses paid off by the end of the year hopefully, which will only leave the student loans. That will drop this expense to around 180 a month.

Misc Spending: Headphones for use at work, a big batch of vitamins, and a few other small things.

Mongo: This is my big fat-headed dog. His cost was just his food this month.

Other expenses are mostly self-explanatory.

Total spending: $2769.29
Total Income:   $3120.82
Total Savings:  $351.53
Savings Rate: 11.26%

So my savings rate was awful, but I expected that this month. It is wild to me that it is still higher than the national average though.

I am going to bring that number WAY up in the future, so stay tuned!

-Double E

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Earnings summary for June 2014

**note to NSA/IRS snoops: This information is estimated and/or hypothetical. Final official documents  submitted (tax related or other) supersede anything posted here. **

"If you can make a heap of all your winnings
and risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss,
and lose and start again at your beginnings,
and never breath a word about your loss.."

The past couple years have shown me that I am an expert at accomplishing the first part of that stanza. Never breathing a word about it has proven much more difficult. Especially if you count profanities.

For the past couple years I have been working for myself in a couple of different enterprises. While there is nothing better than not having to work for "The Man", you still have to make money, and sadly my enterprises did not work out and It cost me quite a bit of money. I am super bummed to have lost so much ground in my quest for financial independence, and it's hard not to think about where I would be if I had just kept plugging along on the safe and boring route.

But far better is it to dare mighty things, or so they say. Luckily I have started a new job and I am determined to redouble my efforts to attain financial independence by forty years old. It may not be possible any more, but I am going to do my best to try to make it happen still.

As added motivation and accountability, I am going to start posting my monthly earnings and expenditures here on this blog.

Today will be earnings summary for the past month, and later I will post spending summary. 

So here are my earnings for the past month, with notes to follow:

TOTAL: $3,120.82


  • Some services such as adsense contain terms that do not allow you to say exactly how much you make, so I have lumped all the sources together. This category includes all my revenue from Adsense and any other online ads, Amazon affiliate sales, net revenue, and eBay sales net revenue.

    This number is very low for me for all those put together. The crappy ironic part about my business ventures not working out is that, to add insult to injury, I was spending more time trying to make it profitable and less time working on my other online ventures which were already profitable. This caused my earnings from them to drop off a lot. I should be making about twice this much from all those sources combined, and I hope to be able to get back to that soon.
  • Other earnings include CC reward rebates, sale of some items from my business, a health insurance refund, a paid radio survey, and a couple other small things. 
  • Right now wt my new job I am on a temporary/ provisional basis. Sort of like a probational period. At some point within a few months I should be brought on as an official full-time employee, and my pay should increase slightly at that point. It will still not be very high though. After I pay off expenses incurred from my failed self-employment experiment I will have to look and see how my online ventures are doing at that point and see if it is worth still spending 8 hours a day working for somebody else, or if I can maybe go back to working for myself, only this time with exclusively online ventures.

    -The Money Monk
AKA - Double E 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Super-Cheap Paleo Meals

I've written before about cheap food options, and if you aren't particularly worried about what you're eating, you can have meals VERY cheap, most times under a dollar. They can even be very healthy by conventional standards.

One issue with that is that to accomplish this level of cheap eating you will end up eating a lot of grains and some processed foods. There are are a lot of us that are attempting to eat a more paleo/primal diet, which is meat-heavy and contains basically no grains or processed food. I'm not going to go into too many specifics of paleo/primal diets, but the benefits are extraordinary, especially for those, like me, who's bodies don't handle grains as well as others.

The problem is eating like this can be a lot mroe expensive, but there are still ways to do it without breaking the bank. You aren't going to be able to find too many meals for less than a dollar, but you can stick with a pretty strict paleo diet for $200 a month, and certainly for $250.

That doesn't seem cheap to a frugal person, but for how clean of a diet I am talking about, it is well worth the extra $50 to $100 a month.

before I get into some specific meals, I have a few tips that help me with keeping my paleo food costs down:
1. buy in bulk when meat is on sale and freeze.  This is the biggest money saver for me, as meat is the largest expense in this diet.
2. compromise and eat some canned and frozen vegetables instead of fresh every time
3. continue to use all normal shopping techniques (coupons, price-shopping, etc)
4. eat in-season fruits and vegetables, as they will be cheaper.
5. grow some of your own fruits, veggies, etc (I have some chickens for eggs).

Here are some specific meals I make that won't break the bank:

1. Eggs, bacon, and fruit

Eggs are still less than $2 a dozen most places, so even though I usually eat 3 or more at a time, that only costs 50 cents.
Bacon is more expensive, but I get it when I can get buy-2-get-1-free, which gives me 3 pounds for $13. I buy as much as I can fit in the freezer. I typically eat a quarter of a pack, which costs just over a dollar ($1.08)
Then I add some fruit (banana, fried plantains, berries, oranges, whatever) and you can easily come in under $2. Under $1.50 even much of the time, depending on prices in your area.

This is a great, go-to meal for me.

2.  Chicken and vegetables

Another go-to meal for me is chicken and vegetables. Wait until chicken is on sale and then buy a lot of it. Around here the drumsticks and leg quarters can be had for as low as $0.70 a pound when on sale! You may not be able to find prices like that, but a jumbo pack of drumsticks can usually be had for $1.80 a pound or less.

I combine 3 or so drumsticks with a vegetable source - either  a can of green beans (60 cents), some frozen broccoli florets (cooked of course, $0.75), half a bag of mixed greens ($1), or maybe an avacado ($1) or some sweet potatos ($0.50).

No matter what combo you choose, you can easily come in under $3 (usually around $2 if you shop well and get good prices) for a super healthy meal with a lot of variations. I eat some version of this meal at least once a day.

So don't think you have to break the bank to stick with a super quality paleo diet. It is slightly more expensive but totally worth it.

- The Money Monk
AKA Double E

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to make more money from your blog with insurance, loans, and mortgages

If you have a blog there is really no reason not to have Google adwords on there. Most bloggers do, and most realize that the money they get from the ads comes from people clicking on those ads, and you get a percentage. But what many bloggers don't really think about (or maybe don't even know) is that many keywords pay a lot more for each click, and that you can, to some extent, control what is going to be in the ads showing on your site!

Google has really complex algorithms designed to maximize the targetting and effectiveness of the ads it shows, so it changes what ads somebody sees based partly on their behaviors online, but also based on the content of the site where the ad is seen.

If the article is about surfing, chances are the ads are more likely to be about similar things. One article may not do it, but several on the same subjects can start to control the ads.

Below is an infographic displaying the top 20 most espensive keywords in Google Adwords. These people are paying as much as $50 PER CLICK on their ads! and you can get a percentage of that!

Now I never suggest spamming with these types of techniques, because they will hurt your traffic and your revenue more than help it, but depending on the content of your blog you can use these keywords to give yourself some ideas for articles while simultaneously influencing the CPC (cost per click) of the ads showing on your site!

Is your site about surfing? do a post on surfing and health insurance. Insurance is the #1 highest cost keyword.

Have a site about investing? write about whether it is a good or bad idea to borrow money to invest (Loan is the #2 keyword).

However you choose to do it, just make sure you are writing a legitimate article that would add value to your site even without any tertiary benefits. But it can't hurt to check out this list and use those top 20 keywords as inspiration for some future articles.

-The Money Monk

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to get a 9% discount on your gas!

Here is a sweet opportunity I came across recently:

As you know I sell a lot of stuff on eBay. They sent a message to my account about some kind of promotion they are running where you can get 10% off a purchase of at least $75. I am also enrolled in "eBay Bucks" which is free to sign up for and gives you 2% back on most (but not all) purchases you make on eBay. I don't buy a lot on eBay, but I do get a lot of my supplies like labels and tape there, so there is no reason not to be signed up for it.

So I found a Shell gas gift card for the value of $250. Strangely enough it was listed for $259, which is $9 MORE than face value! I had always wondered how people can sell some of these gift cards for more than face value, I guess now I know. There were no others in the appropriate amount listed for any less, so I went ahead and bought it.

The 10% promo code brought the price down to $233.10.

The eBay bucks promotion also gave me $5.20 cash back, effectively bringing the total down to $227.90.

So I got $250 worth of gas for $227.90. About a 9% discount!

Paying with a rewards credit card could give you another 1-3% cash back too!

If you are going to use techniques like this, make sure it is for something that you really need, and aren't going to use more of just because you have it. Gas fits the bill perfectly for me. I will definitely use it eventually, and having 'free' gas sitting around in gift cards isn't going to change my driving habits any.

This example also highlights how having the capital available to buy things in quantity when you can get a discount can save you big money! I basically gave myself $22 free dollars! That's almost 3 hours or human labor at minimum wage!

Let me know if you have ever done anything similar.

-The Money Monk

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Credit card rewards foolishness - Pay attention!

In an effort to get people to use their cards, and use them more often, many credit card companies have instituted various reward programs. Most of these take the form of points that you earn as a percentage of what you spend (usually 1 to 5%) and then you can use the points to get cash back, gift cards, and a host of other items.

If used intelligently these reward programs can be beneficial. If you only spend what you were going to anyway, and don't carry a balance on the card and incur interest payments, then you get your percentage every year and it's basically free money.

But there is one thing I have noticed about most credit card rewards programs, and it illustrates why you should always pay attention, and always calculate everything:

The reward programs almost always offer gift cards and cash back as option to redeem your points, but the gift cards are usually at the exact point-cost as the cash back! So in other words, it takes the exact same amount of points to get $50 of money that you can only spend at a single merchant as it does to get $50 back in cash that you can spend anywhere!

Why would anybody go for the gift cards? On one of my cards, at the higher denominations of point redemption, it is actually a WORSE deal to get gift cards than it is to get cash!!

I have no idea why anybody would spend MORE points to get less money and less options, but it just goes to show you why you need to pay attention and calculate everything!

-The Money Monk