~ from my home to yours, living the Working Pantry lifestyle ~

Friday, February 2, 2024

Hunkering Down in 2024: Week #5

Hunkering Down in 2024:  Week #5

The end of January is finally here, and I can do the tally to see how we did ‘hunkering down’ financially for the month.

Did we meet our goals of adding to our savings and paying off the first debt in our debt snowball?  YES.WE.DID!

It was not fun at times!

It meant that we had to say ‘NO’ to some things we wanted to do!

It meant that we did indeed wrestle with ourselves and the temptation demon on more than one occasion.

But we stayed the course and did it, and we are so proud of ourselves.  We are now 1/12th of the way to achieving our 2024 financial goals.  One twelfth may not sound like much, but it’s further than we were in December!

So, what did we do in order to meet our goals?

We voluntarily gave up our personal allowances all month long.

We stayed out of the stores as much as possible.

When we did go, we only purchased what we needed.  No bargain shopping this month!  This allowed us to stay way under our grocery budget.

Hubby took his lunch to work almost every day.  There were a couple of days where he had to eat out and we were okay with that.

We did good, but that was January and as happy as we are about our efforts and the results, it’s time to shift our focus to a new month and new challenges.  

Before we head into February though, I want to give God all praise, glory and thanks for all that we were able to accomplish towards our financial goals in January.  We continually ask Him to go before us, to guide our steps and to bless our efforts in all of life but this year we are asking specifically for an added measure of help and guidance in our 'hunkering down' financial journey.   We work like it all depends on us and we pray like it all depends on God.  To God be the glory!

February, here we come!

Since we paid off one of our debts in January, we’re going to use the snowball method and tackle another one in February.  In fact, our goal for the debt we have in our sights is to pay off half of it. That’s going to take some dedication, but I think we can do it.

Our savings goal for this month is to save at least $1 more than we did last month, we’re going to give it our best shot!

You will remember from last month’s posts that we have regular mini financial meetings to talk about what strategies we want to use to reach our goals.  They’re nothing big and formal, but we do give each other a say in what and how we proceed toward our goal for that month.  We had the meeting for February while riding down the road together.  Here’s what we decided would be our plan for February …

Hubby would continue to carry his lunch to work, eating out only when absolutely necessary.

We both agreed to forego spending any money on Valentine gifts for each other or specialty foods.   Our plan is to get creative and celebrate Valentine’s Day without spending money.

We’re going to try to reduce our power bill by at least $25.  Twenty-five dollars might not seem like a lot, but it’s the habits we’ll be practicing and establishing that will pay off in a continued lower power bill that we’re aiming for.  Our last power bill was $214, let’s see if we can lower that by at least $25.

We both agreed that for the month of February we would forego our personal allowances again.  We discussed the fact that we didn’t want this journey to make us feel deprived to the point of frustration and or desperation but did acknowledge that we were both still in a good place for giving up our personal allowances again in February.

And finally, we asked each other if there was anything that we really wanted or felt like we needed for the month of February.  After taking a moment to give it some thought, we both answered, ‘no!’  Sure, there are things we would like to have, but nothing that we wanted bad enough to give up or slow down the progress we’re making on our financial journey.

January showed us what we could accomplish when we tried really hard and made some sacrifices.  As a result, we are pumped and ready to tackle our lofty goals for February.

How did your January go?  Did you accomplish any of your financial goals?

What are your financial goals for February and how do you plan to work towards them?

I can't wait to read your comments, they are so inspiring to me as I hope my posts are to you.

One more thing, for the ladies who are following our book of Esther ladies Bible study, lesson 16 has been posted HERE!

until next time,

mrs. patsi @ A Working Pantry

She looketh well to the ways of her household … Proverbs 31:27 

Sharing 44 years' experience of frugal, prudent living and pantry building 

My second blog:  From This Heart of Mine, where I share my love for God and His Word through my personal Bibe study.  Physical preparedness is important, but not near as important as spiritual preparedness.  Ladies, join me over at From This Heart of Mine and study God's Word with me.

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  1. Good morning Patsi. Bravo on achieving your goals for last month. It sure does feel good when you can see the results of your labor, doesn't it. We had something interesting happen this past month. We are on a community well and the water company that maintains it sent us a letter that the insurance for the pipes on our property was going up about $30. Hubby called our homeowners insurance company and asked if our homeowners policy covered such a thing or if we could put a rider on it. Yes and yes was the answer for $3 more a month. He then called the water company insurance company and told them to cancel our policy. Unbelievably they offered to cut our premium back to $8 a month. Hubs told them no, he wanted to cancel the policy. After dealing with their rudeness the policy was finally canceled. He's thinking about reporting them to the State Insurance Commissioner for unethical practices.
    We continue to meet our goal of replenishing our emergency fund and staying out of the stores. Only purchase this week were 3 dozen eggs. I found a recipe I was looking for on Amish 365.com. It was for a pastry Hubs had sampled when we were at the Amish market that just opened near our home last week. Unbelievably easy and the dough portion was bread rather than dough. I'm hoping to get some gluten free bread made this weekend so that we both can enjoy it. I have all the ingredients that it calls in my fridge and pantry. In resisting temptation we've looked at those things we've said no to as just deferred gratification, not that we will have to say no forever. We are content with this mindset. We thank God for all our many blessings and his continued provision for us. Have a blessed day. Cookie

    1. Cookie, I am hearing of all kinds of questionable tactics by insurance companies, it's really sad that trust in our insurance companies is disappearing due to those tactics.

      That recipe sounds like it would be good, can you give us the name of it? I want to go look it up.

      Deferred gratification, I like that, that's our mindset too!

      Have a great weekend!

  2. You two did so well in January. Paying off those small debts really gets the ball rolling. We do those little finance check-ins too.

    For this year I had lowered our grocery budget and then we only spent 60 percent of the new budget which is half of last year's budget. We only purchased needs for immediate use and for holes in our pantry. Leftover finds will be moved to savings. I noticed in the stores that tops for Spring are really short. That will definitely cause me to save the clothing budget. I returned two pairs of pants that I bought and knew I would not wear. We had a very restful week here at the lake. We did eat out twice but did not exceed the budget and they were our big meal for the day. What do I want in February? A huge box of chocolates!! But, I will wait until those big beautiful boxes get to the salvage grocery store for about $3.

    I found a new YouTube channel and have learned some new things from her. It is Homesteading with the Zimmermans.

    1. Lana, you are singing my song about a huge box of chocolates!!!!

      I checked out Homesteading with the Zimmermans, I really liked what I saw. Thank you for the recommendation!

      You had a good week! By the way, I don't like short tops either! Have a great weekend!

  3. Awesome that you achieved your goals in January, Patsy! We're doing alright. Staying hunkered down. This past week was one I like to call "a challenging opportunity for growth". The tooth filling went fine. No abscess. And I did it w/o any sedative. Same day oral surgeon's appointment was another story. It'll be $300 to pull the tooth, BUT he also found a papilloma on the roof of my mouth. When he pulls the tooth on the 9th, he'll also remove that and send it off for pathology, adding another $365 to the bill, not including lab work. To save money, then, I'll just take a Xanaz before the surgery--he gave me a prescription for ONE pill, which in the generic is $40. And our guest bath toilet is leaking. Hubs made calls this morning, as we're still under our initial home warranty. Last year we did buy a 10 year extension of the warranty for $1500. $150 a year isn't bad, as calling in a plumber would cost that just to come in the door.

    But I digress. Sorry. We stayed on budget in January, even with the extra dental expenses! Praise God! Taking February a day at a time. Kind of like January. I've been able to stash some pre-cooked, homemade convenience meals into the freezer for the upcoming surgery or nights when I'm not up to cooking. That includes meatloaf, roast chicken, bacon & egg breakfast burritos, and pre-browned ground beef for an easy soup or stew. Last night's small crock pot beef roast yielded 2 cups of beef broth that'll be fat skimmed and popped in the freezer today for said soup/stew. And that's about it. --Elise

    1. Elise, I'm so sorry that the dental issues are costing so much money, but I'm glad that you were able to stay on budget. I hope the pathology report comes back good.

      You did good preparing meals for when you won't be feeling so well. That is smart planning.

  4. Well done in meeting your goal. It certainly gives you a boost when a plan actually works out. We did well on general spending this month and were gifted quite a lot of food from a local grocery store that was going to bin it. In my opinion wrinkly chillies are already half-way to being dried and going into my food stores! Unfortunately we did not escape the storm damage, as we first thought. The mortar under a tile at the edge of the roof had cracked and I noticed that it had begun to slide into the guttering. We had to call someone out to fix it and are awaiting the bill, but it was not something we felt confident of sorting ourselves and are grateful that someone else could do it for us.

    1. Tracey, I'm sorry you had damage from the storm, but glad you found it before it did more damage. We would have done the same thing you did, if it had been our home.

  5. I've been continuing to cook from the pantry and pull from the freezer, making meals that use up the oldest items in storage. It's good to see the freezer/pantry emptying. I tried a recipe for coconut curry lentil soup: https://www.theenglishkitchen.co/2024/01/coconut-curry-lentil-soup.html
    that was just phenomenal. Today I chopped up some frozen turkey kielbasa to add to it, and that was equally wonderful.

    It's not all sunshine and cooking here, though. The roof over our garage developed a leak over the past month. and has damaged the drywall ceiling. Sigh. No idea what the repair costs will be. We have emergency savings for it, but it sure hurts to have to dip into it. Once you have an emergency stash, you don't want to ever have to use it! LOL. Human nature!

    Cookie, may I ask what Amish pastry recipe you got? I would love to hear more about it!

    1. Sue, they're called cream cheese roll ups. There are several variations of it on Pinterest as well.
      Basically you use 10 or more slices of any kind of bread,cut the crusts off and flatten the slices with a rolling pi. You mic up a cream cheese mixture such contains an egg yolk some sugar and vanilla and spread a table spoon of that on each slice. Rolling up like an egg roll,, Dio it in melted butter and roll in a cinnamon and sugar mixture and bake. Hubs said the sample he tasted was delicious. I plan to make a batch soon

    2. Sue, I understand the sentiment of 'once you have an emergency fund you don't want to use it.' Also, once it's depleted you feel an urgency to get it built back up!

    3. Cookie, I see the name of the recipe you mentioned earlier. Thank you! They sound delicious!

  6. Congratulations!! Job well done!! We did so so. No debt but could’ve saved more had I reigned in my spending.
    I’m thinking February repairs will finally start from the tornado in December. We got less than half from insurance. They’re not budging. But I’m thankful we got what we’re getting. Hunkering down will be a necessity

    1. Lee Ann, I am hearing so many things about insurance companies that is not good. I'm glad you're getting what you're getting though as any amount will be a help.

    2. Patsy well done on achieving your goal of paying off that one debt and I am cheering you on on paying off half of another debt this month too and achieving the $1 more in savings this month too compared to last month. You both did so well going without your personal allowances for the month, keeping eating out to a minimum and being way under your grocery budget.

      We did well last month and banked with interest that we got on the high interest bank account $2587.49 towards my new car and so far saved $7277 odd dollars towards our goal.

      As well as yourself we were also under budget on our grocery spend by $192.61. We both made a concerted effort to not spend additional money in the stores on things we liked. For the home we did buy some mats/rugs and runners and toilet mats/covers that we needed and these we had planned to buy for some time.

      This month we shall continue to resist buying things we like but don't need, try and keep our grocery budget again under budget and also other categories to try and save more towards the new car. I have adjusted the budget down on some categories where I had allowed too much for bills that will give us more money for everyday expenses and savings.

      As usual we will bank any money that we are under in all budget categories towards our car savings at the end of the month.


    3. Lorna, thank you for your encouragement! You all did really well with your savings. It feels good when our hard work and sacrifices pay off, doesn't it. I hope February is as good for you as January was!

  7. Congratulations on staying within budget. In January, I was good on my key categories for auto, groceries, and meals and entertainment (typically allocated to my widows group meetings and get-togethers with family, since I live alone). I did have travel planned for several months, so I will have hotel and rental car expenses to pay off, which is doable. January is typically tight, because I have insurance coverage due. Additionally, there have been some significant increases in utilities, so I'll be with you in working to reduce those costs going forward. My goals for each month are to "make ends meet" without having to dip into savings and/or investments. I can utilize those funds, if absolutely necessary. But, as a single woman living on my income alone, those monies must carry me through to my last days. So, at this stage of my life, I want to ensure that those funds are only used for critical expenditures. (I am not yet at the age where I have to take a minimum required distribution. Hence my hesitation about withdrawing funds for regular household living expenses.)

    My February goals will have me utilizing my pantry and freezer, as much as possible, baking my own bread, and reducing electric, water, and natural gas. I'll be comparing not only the monthly charges, but also consumption to see if conservation is impacting the bill or if there's a minimum usage that I'm unaware of. I will also be working to reduce telecom and cable/internet fees. Looking at every bill that comes in to see where I can cut costs. One month at a time.

  8. Congratulations on reaching your goal of paying off that debt, Patsi!! What an encouragement to keep pressing on throughout the year.
    Our January was a success also. We came in under budget in all categories. That combined with the overtime Colton picked up during the holidays not only got us caught up on our savings but put us ahead. We opened up a new savings account at our bank after hearing it offers 5% interest. Our first goal was to get our checking back up to a certain amount. Our second goal was to put anything over that amount into savings. (I will do that each month with a year-end goal in mind.) I had a number I was aiming for and reached that also.
    February will not see as much progress simply because there will not be overtime opportunities, but much can still be done in the day to day that will save money. As we know, it all adds up. We are anticipating a large expense in March/April (we are getting sheep!) so my goal is to put back half the amount this month.
    We are a couple days into February and have already spent some on gardening supplies (needed), so I cannot technically claim a spending freeze for the first half of the month, but I will start today and act as though I am. It really helped last month to make sure there was enough to cover unexpected expenses (and there always are) and also to ensure that my "wants" were truly wants and not impulses by making myself wait.
    I am adding another element to my savings efforts, and that is to be a producer instead of a consumer. I have a list of things that I can make/do with what I have on hand. Things like canning the bag of dried beans for the pantry, turning the frozen peaches into peach butter for the pantry, adding homemade meals and snacks to the freezer, etc. I have seeds to plant, fabric to sew with, photos that need to be scrapbooked or put into albums...there is plenty to keep me busy building up my home without needing to spend any money to do so. Hopefully it will be a very productive month! Cheering everyone on!

    1. Kelsey, I have read your comment several times and am amazed at your wisdom and your wise choices! I am so proud of you!

      I too am concentrating on being a producer instead of a consumer. When one takes the option of running to the grocery store off the table, it changes the way we plan. When I canned pinto beans for my pantry a couple of weeks ago, I used what was in my pantry. This afternoon I spent quite a bit of time searching for snack and lunch foods recipes and found some I want to try. Honestly, I am enjoying the creative aspect of staying out of the grocery store. It is forcing me to think outside the box and look to what we have and to what we can do with it. I'm going to rehydrate my sourdough starter and get it going again for bread, etc. I'm also going to make granola bars for snacking. I have everything on hand for the bars and to make sourdough bread. That's just two things I can produce instead of purchase and that feels so very good!

      I hope February is a great month for you!

    2. Producing is exactly the best choice right now for us too. We have so many ingredients that need to be used so we are being mindful of that as well. It does feel good to use what we have!

    3. I agree with what y'all said about being forced to use ingredients. I'm enjoying the creativity and the satisfaction that comes with using things that have been sitting around or that would otherwise go to waste. It's also giving me a good idea of how much/little of different things we go through and how long it takes. Not to mention, it gives me a good idea of what I'd like to restock when we run out, as well as things I won't be buying again. An extra bonus is that Colton and the kids have been happy with the extra baked goods since I'm not buying packaged snacks! John told me that it would be ok if I made biscuits every morning 😂

  9. Patsi, I forgot to mention our electric bill was only $125 this month. That is with having endured freezing temps that we haven't seen since Texas's infamous freeze in 2021. Our month's bill was in the $400's that year. The investment in our energy efficient windows (that will last a lifetime) and our wood stove are paying off big time. It can be very difficult to see big sums leaving the account for such investments when you've worked so hard to save, but it is for a purpose, and that purpose is currently benefiting our home and budget. It is nice to reap the rewards.

    1. Kelsey, but aren't those the kind of things that we work so hard to save for! Good job ... enjoy the benefits of your hard work and sacrifice!

  10. January was a month of adjustment for us. Getting use to the new budget as our health insurance premiums rose meaning that our take home pay is less. Our payday was also moved by one week. You wouldn't think it would make a difference, but I feel it threw everything off! That might have to do with my love for routine.

    February will need to be a month of saving as we need to have some electrical work done. We will have estimates this week and then we can make our decision. I know we save for things like this, but I dislike seeing our savings dwindle! So, it will be time to buckle down and put as much back as we can.

    1. Wendi, I'm with you on spending our hard-earned savings, I have to remind myself that's what they are there for ... but it sure does light a fire under us to get them rebuilt as soon as possible.

      I know all about health insurance premiums, we have paid an outrageous amount over the last few years. One year it was $1800/month ... yes, you read that right! (My hubby is considered self-employed so we had to pay the full amount. No employer to help take the edge off.)

      Moving a payday is very much cause to create chaos in a budget!

  11. Patsi, Your posts are very inspiring and motivating. I read them all but rarely comment. I have shared your hunkering sown posts with my daughter who is trying to pay off debt. We agree it is your attitude which makes the difference in motivation. Seeing this as a challenge and not deprivation is beginning to change my daughter's way of thinking. As for our hunkering down, we have been being very intentional with our electricity usage this month. Last month's bill was way over budget, like $60 over! We have figured out where the problem is and are doing all we can to fix things so that this month we are at least on budget if not less. We eat from our pantry and garden (even in these mountains I am still getting spinach!) and staying out of stores. I did find an excellent sale on hooded jackets for our grandsons: original price $15...clearance price 48... but they rung up as $3!! The boys are thrilled. They are name brand and excellent quality. I needed to do a big shop to restock some cleaners and paper goods (plastic wrap, ziploc bags) and the total was outrageous! I know some of the items will last us for many months but I felt the pinch. I did find a good deal on Dawn dish soap so I bought 5 bottles. That should last us many months. I volunteer in our church library and one of the perks is helping to choose new materials then taking them home to read before we get them on the shelves. I brought 2 home this past Sunday to enjoy. I am a fast reader so will have them back and ready to put on the shelves by this Sunday. It saves me a trip to the public library since I am going to church every Sunday. I am sewing lap quilts for students going through crisis at my old school where I taught for 15 years (the last 15 of my 38 years of teaching). Like others we are doing what we can to hunker down and cut costs. We have no debt or mortgage but enjoy traveling and will only go places when we have the cash. Thanks for your great posts!

    1. Marley, thank you for your encouragement. I hope your daughter can find something in our journey that will help her in hers.

      You got a steal on those jackets! Don't you just love it when something like that happens.

      I agree that going to the grocery store is not for the faint of heart.