Unemployment offices in most states are so swamped right now they are asking for 6 weeks to process claims. My case is nearing the 10 week mark and we have been told the process won’t go any faster unless we can prove severe hardship- such as a foreclosure notice from our bank.
Thank goodness we got on board with Dave Ramsey years ago and paid off almost all my school loans, our cars and credit cards. We still have a portion of my grad school to pay off and then we can really get back on board with focusing on our savings account.
What I have learned from this experience is the importance of having a savings account. Since I am 31 weeks pregnant the opportunities for employment are limited. I had no idea the unemployment process took so long and that it would be over two months without a word.
I also decided to be extremely proactive in the process. The night we heard my company would be closing, we sat down and really looked at our budget. When we moved to California last January we put 20% down on our house, which basically wiped out our savings. This was a mistake that we have learned from and will never repeat! At the time we had no idea the economy would experience the roller coaster we have all been on.
Since then, we have been focused on slowly building our savings back up and have 3 months of expenses in the bank. Our goal is to not have to touch that money during this process so we slashed everything in the budget. I fought our way out of an expensive cell phone contract and I will be getting a prepaid phone. I would skip this altogether except being so far in the pregnancy I feel more secure knowing I can get ahold of someone just in case. We slashed our grocery budget down to $30 and I am spending a lot more time at home to avoid filling up our tank. We cancelled my daughter’s expensive gymnastics class and I am taking her to the park several days a week instead. I sold a few items we don’t use on Craigslist. I submitted our taxes the same day I got our final W-2 and we have already received a refund from the federal government. (Just in time to pay the registration on both of our vehicles).
While we aren’t in financial peril, we should have known better than to empty our savings account last year. I am thankful that we do have savings in place that combined with my husband’s income would easily get us through the end of this year. I am thankful that we don’t have bill collectors calling since we paid off our cars and credit cards years ago. I am also thankful that we have the determination not to go back into credit card debt and we are willing to do just about anything to stay out of it. We are also trying to stay positive and are looking forward to getting back on track with the debt snowball to pay off the last bit of student loans.
Stay tuned as I will be posting our experiences with Dave’s program and how we eliminated over $20k in debt a few years ago.
Did you miss this Guest Post on Money Saving Mom about maximizing the interest rate on your savings/checking account? I caught some financial experts recently discussing how most Americans spend more time weekly planning their grocery list than they spend yearly on their overall financial picture. Maximizing the interest on your savings and checking is a great place to start.
I also have an ING savings account. We actually have one for our emergency fund (we keep $1000 in a savings account linked to our checking and the rest in ING), as well as an account that we deposit our property taxes into monthly. I was very skeptical of online savings but we have had this account for 2 years with no issues whatsoever. When we sold our house last year we had a substantial amount in ING while we shopped for our new house. The only issue with online accounts is that is can take up to 5 days to transfer funds into your checking. I have found transfers typically go through within 48-72 hours.
Contact me for a $25 referral bonus if you decide to open an ING account.
My freezer is my best friend. It pains me so much to throw food away and my dear friend, Frigidaire, is always saving me from (literally) throwing away money.
1. Meat: I buy almost all our meat on clearance at the grocery store. Since I never know what will await me when I shop and I usually have a menu plan prepared anyway- it all goes straight to the freezer. I save a small fortune on meat by shopping this way and I can ensure I always have something on hand for last minute meals. I haven’t paid more than .99 on bacon in who knows how long- since it is almost always on clearance at Safeway. Once I get home I cook the entire package and put it in freezer bags. It warms up extremely fast and stays crisp. I can add bacon to breakfast in the morning, pastas, burgers, sandwiches whatever in just a few seconds since it is already done. I do the same with lunch meat. I always find very high quality meats on sale at my store near expiration for .99 and if I have a coupon I can get it nearly free. Then I get home, separate a few pieces into sandwich bags label the front ham, turkey etc.. and put it all in a big Ziploc. It is much easier to cut when it is frozen and I can toss the meat into anything I am preparing. My husband makes sandwiches all the time with this meat without any problems and I can make paninis without even defrosting the meat.
2. Snacks: When bread is on sale (like the .99 sale this week at Safeway) I buy an extra loaf and make an entire loaf of pb&j sandwiches. They freeze beautifully and are a great quick grab for me on a busy day. Since I am a vegetarian this is a great way to get a little protein and is certainly healthier than hitting the drive thru. I have found they defrost in about 20 minutes so by the time I actually get my shoes on, wrestle the baby into the car and head out it is ready for me. (This is a great tip for mommies that pack school lunches too. I promise the bread is not soggy and they taste like they were made fresh that morning.) I also do a marathon baking session about once a month. Most recently I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins to use up my canned pumpkin and a bag of Bliss chocolate that was close to expiration. Just chop the Bliss up and you have chocolate chips. I use dark chocolate to make it a little healthier. Once they are completely cool, I put 2-4 muffins in sandwich bags and then all of the small bags into a freezer bag and Viola! you will never throw away yummy baked goods because you couldn’t eat 18 muffins in 2 days. These defrost perfectly and can also be reheated in the oven in minutes. If your yogurt is close to expiration, toss that in as well and defrost when you are ready for a smoothie.
(PB&J shelf is getting low! Yogurt on the left)
3 Produce: This is the worst for throw away and you are usually tossing the most expensive stuff you bought that week. I look for sales and stock up on veggies and fruit we love. Most recently I bought a ton of apples and red peppers at a great price. Both freeze beautifully- the peppers go in little baggies all chopped up. I top pizzas, add them to pasta, eggs- whatever. They cook in seconds. For the apples I had several that were starting to get mushy so I chopped them up and tossed them in a bowl with a little flour and sugar. Then I put them in freezer bags. These can be baked and added to ice cream or to top pancakes. My daughter LOVES these for dessert (just bake in a ramekin) on their own. I also made a little crumble topping inspired by Ina Garten- which also freezes- and I can make homemade apple crumbles in seconds.