Savings rate & budget stress

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doug91
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Savings rate & budget stress

Post by doug91 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 1:29 pm

Essentially, I had a really good year last year, and it allowed us to easily save our goal (50% of take-home, over $80K total) while still enjoying a nice vacation and some short family trips. I was switched from a sales commission plan to a salary + bonus plan, and the year’s corporate results thus far are such that there’s no bonus, so my pay was significantly cut year-over-year. Last year’s monthly take-home (net pay) average was $10,684, this year’s has been (and will be going forward) $6,800.

As just about everyone on this board would have predicted, lifestyle creep was firmly established by the time the pay cut kicked in, and as such, we’re overspending. Which, on balance, is CRAZY, because we’re in a low COL area and by all rights should be raking in the savings with $6,800 in take-home. Several months so far this year, we’ve actually spent more than take-home. Not the norm, but it’s happened more than once. This, coupled with an HDHP during pregnancy and an un-budgeted car replacement in January that took the emergency fund down to the very, very low end of my comfort range, is stressing me out about savings & budget. I do want to emphasize that we are not in any way, shape, or form struggling, and we are leading a lifestyle that I could have only dreamed of while growing up. It’s just that given this enviable position that I’m in, earnings-wise, I feel like I’m doing my family an injustice by not making the most of it through savings & investment – after all, who knows how long it’ll last?

I know that with some hard conversations, we can get spending down by a reasonable amount. That said, the conversations would be genuinely hard. They’ll be about:
- buying conventional food vs organic, which is important to me and an emotional hot-button issue for my wife, especially as she’s six+ months pregnant and still nursing our 2-year old
- not eating out, which is a nice but expensive safety valve on “OMG we’re both exhausted” nights, and is also our standard time-with-local-family activity
- decreasing baby-sitting time, which is a huge source of rest for my wife (again, very pregnant with a very-much-2-year-old toddlder)
- decreasing “capital expense” shopping, which feels easy to me, but my wife feels that each thing she’s buying for the household, the baby-to-be, or our daughter has value in isolation (she buys very little for herself that isn’t maternity or pregnancy-related, we buy almost no ‘gadgets’ or luxury items)

The reality is, those are the areas we’re overspending on, though. A 12-month Mint history comes out with >monthly< averages of:
- $850 on groceries & supplies (doesn’t break out ‘paper towels’ vs. ‘broccoli’);
- $500 on eating out;
- $600 on shopping (including furnishings, so that’s slightly inflated by finally replacing an old hand-me-down mattress and shelving & cabinets I put in to get things up out of toddler reach)
- $400 on babysitting ($10/hr, $10 hrs/wk)

So there are lots of opportunities to cut, but they all involve the sort of conversation that I’m, candidly, terrible at. And, since I’m not often the one doing the shopping due to work schedules etc, it’s the even-more-awkward conversation about “her” spending habits (even though she’s buying things for the household) with the money that “I’m” earning (even though I’m only able to earn like this because she’s covering 100% of the rest of our family requirements). Factoring into this is a history on my wife’s part of stress – even under normal circumstances, money talks stress her out, and these aren’t normal circumstances: she was on bedrest from hypertension during her first pregnancy, and she’s got gestational diabetes this time around and is understandably consumed with carb-tracking and finger-pricking.

Here’s what I’m thinking, and I’d love some perspective from this crowd, knowing that there’s a large percentage of folks here that are pretty draconian about spending.

Step 1: Set weekly spending goals with my wife specifically around food. I think this can be done in a low-stress way as “meal-planning,” and can probably cut us down significantly on the eating-out side and some on the groceries side.

Step 2: Eliminate 401K contributions for the remainder of the year (currently maxed @ 25% of pay, all post-tax). This isn’t something I’m doing trivially, as I have an in-service withdrawal option that lets me put all after-tax money into a Roth, and it kills me to give that up.

Step 3: After life has settled down (relatively speaking) this winter / next spring, establish a hard-and-fast family budget for food, child care, and shopping.

Step #2 runs absurdly counter to my nature, which is to save everything that I can in an automated way. However, I feel like I can do some “mental accounting” here while still getting a handle on things. If Step #1 is successful and gets us to a more reasonable spending level, which I expect it will be, then the extra cash from Step #2 can go into extending the life of the emergency fund. Once that’s done, I can put extra cash elsewhere in my investing plan, such as our I Bond purchases for the year. And, if Step #1 isn’t successful for some reason, it gives me the emotional (and purely fictional) impact of not seeing the checking account amount dropping, which will make it easier to just suck it up and wait until a more reasonable time in our lives to have challenging discussions. In other words, it psychologically buys me time to hold out for Step #3 so that we’re not having the conversation while my wife is checking her blood sugar and our toddler is trying to do a headstand on the dog.

I’ve put relevant details below, including how much we’ve saved so far this year (about $39K, including HSA & 529) and detailed info about earnings & debts.

I’d love opinions about this situation – I’ve always been a saver by default / luck, but I’m discovering that I’m not one by plan.

------

Age: 39 (wife is 40, toddler is 2, foetus is negative 0.15)
Tax Filing Status: Married filing Jointly
Tax Rate: 28% Federal 0% State (FL) (Federal is estimated, may drop to 25% this year due to compensation cut)

Salary: $182,500 (him, she’s a SAHM)
YTD Earnings: $106,935
YTD Taxable: $84,678
YTD Withholdings: $22,536
YTD After-Tax Deds: $9,371 (mostly after-tax 401K)
YTD Net Pay: $52,663

Emergency funds: 4 months now, need topping up due to unexpected car purchase in January (in MMAs)

Debt:
No credit card balances
Mortgage: $172,000 left at 4.25% fixed
Student loans: $32,000 consolidated at 2.75% fixed

Investing priorities:
1. Max out her non-deductible tIRA for backdoor Roth (Goal: $5,500.00 / YTD: $5,500.00)
2. Max out HSA Employee Contribution (company puts in $1,500) (Goal: $4,950 / YTD: $2,888)
3. Max out 401k (no company match) to pre-tax + after-tax limits (Goal: $51,000.00 / YTD: $26,734.00)
4. 529 to budgetary plan (Goal: $6,000.00 / YTD: $4,000.00)
5. I-bonds (Goal: $20,000.00 / YTD: $0.00)

Current portfolio: ~$640K (65/35 stocks/bonds)

Buysider
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Buysider » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:05 pm

Don't stress ... you're over planning some of this I think. Target the savings rate over a 2-4 year period, not monthly ... not a popular concept on this board, but I think a lot of people are over-saving in their 20s-30s. From a rational, economics perspective, you have a lot of capital expenses then (education, house, children, car) that you should be amortizing over their expected benefit period (working life, lifetime, infinite, 8-12 years) ... When you are in your fifties, the kids are out of the house, you can eat cheaper broccoli then!

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Jay69
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Jay69 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:28 pm

doug91 wrote: I know that with some hard conversations, we can get spending down by a reasonable amount. That said, the conversations would be genuinely hard. They’ll be about:
- buying conventional food vs organic, which is important to me and an emotional hot-button issue for my wife, especially as she’s six+ months pregnant and still nursing our 2-year old
- not eating out, which is a nice but expensive safety valve on “OMG we’re both exhausted” nights, and is also our standard time-with-local-family activity
- decreasing baby-sitting time, which is a huge source of rest for my wife (again, very pregnant with a very-much-2-year-old toddlder)
- decreasing “capital expense” shopping, which feels easy to me, but my wife feels that each thing she’s buying for the household, the baby-to-be, or our daughter has value in isolation (she buys very little for herself that isn’t maternity or pregnancy-related, we buy almost no ‘gadgets’ or luxury items)
First off congrats on the new soon to be baby. Remember if mom's not happy nobody is happy, so no changing whatever she wants to eat for the next 3 months!!!!

Not to sound to harsh but baby sitting time for rest, forget it, when you have kids you just sign up for no rest, not that you can change this now being she is 6 months along and its a lifestyle she is used to but when the second child comes its going to be 3-4 times the work! I don't claim to know why having 2 kids is 3 times the work of having 1 but that's the way I felt about it.

Going out to eat is big $, we used to eat out a fair bit as well but really now enjoy just having people come over for dinner, pot luck style many times, bring your own pizza and we cook a pile of them up, toss some grub on the grill etc. and have a simple meal and good drink. We do this about 3 times a month with family and friends. Besides who wants to go out to eat with a 2 year old and a new born:) Maybe I'm just getting older or being in the middle of raising my family but at the end of the day the last thing I feel like is jetting off on vacation, just want to take a week and sit on my deck with a book or hide out in the wood shop, well the family is allowed in the wood shop so guess I'm not hiding!

Don't feel bad if you can't save for the kids school, if you can great if not so be it.

I'm a tad older then you, but had our kids in our early 30's. I was the sole bread winner while our kids were younger (making about what you make now) for the most part until the youngest hit the 3rd grade and the wife went back to work (at the school to have the same hours as the kids). It was some of the most stressful time in my life I will admit, its just a little scary its all ridding on you to keep a good roof. I guess what I'm saying it may be more than just budget stress and plain old family stress on top of it all.

I did not see if you have 2 or more cars but auto's are the low hanging fruit many times, I'm sure you know that.

From what you wrote I think you know what you need to do, sounds like you grew up with less, its just going back to your roots!

Good luck and enjoy your family and friends.
"Out of clutter, find simplicity” Albert Einstein

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White Coat Investor
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by White Coat Investor » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:39 pm

Like so many of us on this board, you're saving so much it causes stress. Cut back to saving 20% of your income for retirement. You can bump it back up later when your income goes up. There's no reason you HAVE to save 50% of your income if it isn't very comfortable. One of the blessings of a high income and high savings rate is that you don't really have to budget or fight about money nearly as much as someone who earns less or saves less. So what if you save 40% instead of 50% this year? It just doesn't matter. I need this advice just as much as you do, BTW.
1) Invest you must 2) Time is your friend 3) Impulse is your enemy | 4) Basic arithmetic works 5) Stick to simplicity 6) Stay the course

enderland
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by enderland » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:46 pm

Maybe I'm missing something but you are still spending an additional $4k.5 a month you didn't list?

Your mortgage is pretty low, so either you've paid it down a lot and still have a high monthly payment, or you have other holes too.

One thing you could do is go shopping with your wife sometime. She's a lot less likely to receive "spend less" poorly if you are willing to go shopping with her.

investor1
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by investor1 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 3:04 pm

I don't recommend using meal planning as a way to avoid the real issue of spending less on groceries, eating out, and babysitting. Your wife is likely to get pissed when she figures out what is going on and that you weren't honest about it. Be blunt about it and show her how well it works via a meal plan example.

You are saving a lot of money. Relax.

Sit down with your wife, figure out a budget for the monthly spending you are concerned with, and have you and your wife use Mint or something similar to stay within budget.

Why aren't you deferring taxes? Your income is high and will likely drop in the future (similar to how it did now). That would give you a cheaper way to put more into your retirement accounts now rather than giving those dollars to the government now.

MathWizard
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by MathWizard » Mon Aug 05, 2013 5:09 pm

I would ease up on the savings.

You've already got nearly 2/3 million before you are 40.
I know the polls on this board show people have huge sums of money at a very young age,
but that is not realistic for most people. You are still paying on school loans, yuo;ve got a mortgage.
Once they are done, you'll have more cash flow. Your savings rate is sky high, you could drop it for now, and
slowly move the % back up as time goes on.

The eating out number seems high, and I doubt you will want to do that with the newborn.
(Our first had colic we only ate out when visiting family, and one of was rocking the baby while
the pther ate and talked. Not a fun night out at all.)
The biggest issue with eating in is the cooking/cleanup. When we stressed, I'd often get a take and
bake pizza (fresher ingredients), or get one delivered and just use paper plates or napkins. Nearly
zero cleanup.

Now is not the time for a big budget fight.
Your wife is 40 having a child, having had difficulties with the first child.
I would not add stress.

GenXer
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by GenXer » Mon Aug 05, 2013 5:16 pm

I think your inclination to ease up is a great one. And it's clear that you are very supportive and understanding of the challenges your wife is facing right now. Being pregnant while caring for a toddler--and dealing w/gestational diabetes--is not a walk in the park.
Focus on all the ways you're doing well financially (high income, impressive savings rate, relatively low mortgage, substantial retirement nest egg) and relax a bit. You're doing great! And your wife hardly sounds like a spendthrift, though, yes, maybe the eating-out budget is a bit high.

As far as the babysitter ...
Even though I felt grateful and lucky to be a SAHM (on a low single income but w/a very supportive spouse) for a few years, it's still pretty hard work (the only people allowed to dispute me on this are the ones who've done it themselves), especially at the age your child is. When the baby comes, it'll be pretty tough for a while. I think the babysitter cost and hours are reasonable and I do not think you should get rid of this luxury--on your salary--right before a new baby comes! If you couldn't afford it, that would be different ... but you can. The occasional break that the sitter provides will only become more important to your wife when the baby comes. All the best. I'm hoping that you and your wife find that the second brings even more joy to your lives. The first year of two was hard for us, but every year after that (almost 13 now) has been terrific.

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doug91
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by doug91 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:41 pm

Thanks, everyone. Honestly, not the replies I expected - a group of BH posters suggesting to relax about savings... one for the books. But seriously, I do appreciate the encouragement, and MathWizard, you're right, I think a big part of my reluctance to cut back on savings is because I spend so much time on this forum and am continually awed by the number of 35-year-old millionaires finalizing the details of their plans to retire at 42. Stinginess envy (stingvy?) from keeping up with the Bogleheads, I guess.

enderland - there are a lot of low-3-digit spending categories each month. Mortgage is a reasonably low $1,270, another $500 goes to the 529 each month, and from there it tends to be a few hundreds in pre-natal care against the HDHP deductible, a couple hundred for utilities & Internet, a hundred and change for life insurance and that much again for cars, etc etc. There are probably places to narrow the losses, but no gaping holes that I've been able to find.

investor1 - can you elaborate on deferring taxes? I lower my income by maxing pre-tax money into 401k's and the HSA, and am not paying taxes on my I Bonds each year, but am otherwise unaware of other strategies to defer my tax liability each year. I've tax-loss harvested where I can, but I actually only have 13% of my investments (excluding I Bonds) in a taxable account, all in one investment (Total International Admiral), so there's not a lot to play with TLH-wise. Any heavy-hitters I should be investigating?

Texas hold em71
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Texas hold em71 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:34 pm

You are doing great! I really hate to see you ease off of the savings too, but it might be necessary to keep the peace at home.

Does your wife know you are thinking about making this change? Is she assuming all is well as long as you are handling things? While it might be the right decision right now, make sure she knows that you are choosing her health and sanity over savings right now. It is really important that she knows what is happening in a way that doesn't create a lot of guilt.

Savvy
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Savvy » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:51 pm

When do you want to be able to stop working?

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/ ... etirement/

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doug91
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by doug91 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:27 pm

Savvy wrote:When do you want to be able to stop working?
We have dreamt of retiring early enough to travel extensively, and possibly move to, a developing country while still young enough to make the most of it. That was before (supposedly medically impossible) pregnancy #2 occurred, though, so now I'm assuming that I'll stay in tech for a while to come and keep up with the industry's regular tectonic shifts. In other words, no set date, but sure would love it to be sooner vs later, and I know that making this change will delay our long term goals / aspirations.
Texas hold em71 wrote:Does your wife know you are thinking about making this change?
We've definitely discussed it, but whenever I discuss cutting back on retirement / college savings, she gets very anxious and says not to and that we'll figure something out. But if we try to talk specifics, she gets anxious again and can't work through any details on what we might cut back (just "less of everything," which results in identical consumption patterns after a week or two). Given our current situation, I think the best course of action is to free up the cash, take minor / incremental steps where possible (less eating out, grocery planning), and deal with the actual problem when there are a few less things competing for our mental & emotional cycles. I just don't see it being tackled productively right now.

investor1
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by investor1 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:16 pm

Oh, sorry! I misread your post (I was reading it while working).

lindisfarne
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by lindisfarne » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:33 pm

For the organic food issue:
First, since your wife is 6 months pregnant, now is not the time to make a huge stand on whether she should eat organic products. I would argue that a few extra hundred dollars over the next 3 months is worth it, since she thinks it's important, & I tend to agree pregnancy & childhood are the most important times to opt for more organic.

But this can be done strategically. (But even so, I'd cut eating out so I could spend more on organic.)
There are some organic things that are just very expensive. I buy organic strategically: I weigh the risk vs. the cost. If it's some condiment, I'll skip the organic if it's pricey - I probably won't ingest enough of the condiment for it to really matter.

The EWG has ranked produce in terms of how much pesticide residue is found when tested (based on government sampling). You can decide to try to generally buy produce from the "dirty dozen" in organic - I try to do this but will go with conventional (or something else) when the price difference is just crazy.

For dairy, you can buy products that say they're made from rBGH/rBST-free milk. Virtually all of Trader Joe's dairy products are labeled that way, if you have TJ's in your area. (TJ's has very good prices on many organic products). [Don't waste money on Horizon products: Horizon should not be considered organic - they are a huge corporation & there is evidence of many violations of organic regulations.] For milk (assuming your wife is drinking a lot of it), organic is probably the better option, but you could drink the rBGH/rBST-free; wife/child would drink organic.

For meat: eat much less, cheaper cuts, and try to choose organic.

Shop the sales.

Note: unless you're eating out at restaurants that stock only organic food, you're already compromising. Does your area have those "meal assembly" businesses where you put together meals which you then freeze? Those are generally cheaper than eating out (although not cheap), and could be an option for those "exhausted" nights. Frankly, I don't see how eating out with a two year old wouldn't be exhausting. I'd eat breakfast cereal for dinner rather than go out with a 2 year old (especially if 6 months pregnant). Healthy breakfast cereal (plain cheerios) can be quite nutritious. Scrambled eggs makes a good dinner too.

Mudpuppy
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Mudpuppy » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:02 am

Since most of the expenses you were considering cutting (as an aside, I don't think now is quite the right time for that given the stress it would cause for the whole family) were food related and you said your wife handles most of the home responsibilities, do you do any cooking for the family or does your wife handle all of that? You might offer to make some simple meals after work or put something in the crock pot in the morning before heading to work. I'm also a big fan of putting leftovers in the freezer in portion-sized containers so a whole meal can be pulled out when everyone is wiped out in the evening. That could lead to fewer nights eating out.

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frugaltype
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by frugaltype » Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:23 am

That's a lot of eating out and shopping. I suspect the shopping is going overboard and a lot of the stuff "needed" is not. Simple meals can be prepared with very little time.

I would not cut back on the babysitting. Anyone who advocates that can strap two or three ten pound sacks of something to themselves and try to do child care.

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frugaltype
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by frugaltype » Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:23 am

Mudpuppy wrote:Since most of the expenses you were considering cutting (as an aside, I don't think now is quite the right time for that given the stress it would cause for the whole family) were food related and you said your wife handles most of the home responsibilities, do you do any cooking for the family or does your wife handle all of that? You might offer to make some simple meals after work or put something in the crock pot in the morning before heading to work. I'm also a big fan of putting leftovers in the freezer in portion-sized containers so a whole meal can be pulled out when everyone is wiped out in the evening. That could lead to fewer nights eating out.
+1

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doug91
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by doug91 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:18 am

Mudpuppy wrote:, do you do any cooking for the family or does your wife handle all of that? You might offer to make some simple meals after work or put something in the crock pot in the morning before heading to work.
I did all the cooking during the first trimester, or "the sleeping months." Actually used to do almost all the cooking even prior to that, but as work requirements increased, she and I agreed on a division of labor that would allow me to finish out the work day without distraction.

That said, crock pot: we don't have one, partially (ok, entirely) due to my aversion for kitchen gadgets (cost, cleaning, storage). Are they worth it? We're vegetarian at home, but maybe for hands-off cooking of bulk, one-pot meals it'd be worth it.

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englishgirl
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by englishgirl » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:00 am

doug91 wrote:That said, crock pot: we don't have one, partially (ok, entirely) due to my aversion for kitchen gadgets (cost, cleaning, storage). Are they worth it? We're vegetarian at home, but maybe for hands-off cooking of bulk, one-pot meals it'd be worth it.
You can probably borrow a crock pot from relatives, or pick one up at a thrift store, and then give it back once the baby is here and you guys are back to normal, unless you find you enjoy using it. I don't use mine very often (I think you need to get into the habit of it), but there are plenty of vegetarian dishes you can make. I throw brown rice and some of the quicker cooking legumes like lentils or mung beans into the pot with veggies, a can of tomatoes and water (and seasonings/a little olive oil), and it all cooks up very well. Mmmm, actually, I should drag the crockpot out and make that soon.
Sarah

Mudpuppy
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Mudpuppy » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:41 am

doug91 wrote:That said, crock pot: we don't have one, partially (ok, entirely) due to my aversion for kitchen gadgets (cost, cleaning, storage). Are they worth it? We're vegetarian at home, but maybe for hands-off cooking of bulk, one-pot meals it'd be worth it.
You can pick up a 3 quart round Crock-Pot brand slow cooker without programming features (just a dial for off, low, high, warm settings) for $21 at Amazon. I find that size is just the right size for most soups and sauces. I find that a soup recipe that uses a 32 ounce box of broth will usually yield 5-6 bowls of soup in the 3 quart cooker. There's also a 5 quart round Crock-Pot with basic timer settings for $30 on Amazon that can make double soup recipes (e.g. two boxes of broth). I personally found the 3 quart to be the optimal size for me, but I'm a one-person household.

These are basic models, but you don't really need bells and whistles in this particular kitchen appliance. Both have dishwasher safe removable crocks for quick cleaning, although I find a vinegar rinse before going into the dishwasher helps after making any bean-based recipe. The bean residue tends to stick on even through the dishwasher.

And good to hear that you do a lot of cooking. It was hard to tell about the division of labor from your first post, and cooking at home is one of the quickest ways to save on the eating out bill.

minneapples
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by minneapples » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:21 am

I adore my slow cooker, and cooking big batches of soups and stews, freezing the leftovers, was an enormous help during my pregnancy and first few months with my baby. We ate out much less and also had less stress around meal prep, and prepping a double batch of stew takes little more work than prepping a single batch. We didn't do it for financial reasons, more because it was even more convenient than take out, but it had the side benefit of being cheaper and probably healthier, too. It was a win-win-win all around, and slow cookers can be had so cheaply. I actually got two in different sizes (one as a free hadn-me-down), so I could prep both on the weekend and leave them in the fridge until the morning I was going to use them, so we could have two nights per week taken care of completely in advance. I cannot say enough wonderful things about a crock pot if you like roasts, soups, or stews.

Agreed with everyone who says this is not the time to make major changes in your expenses -- it sounds like money talks stress your wife out even under the best of circumstances, and many of the budget reductions you are contemplating would result in more work and stress for her, too. This is not the time to add to her load. That said, there are probably some things you or she could do to reduce expenses without affecting her work load -- batch cooking, like I suggested, possibly a babysitting arrangement with friends or neighbors (you take mine Tuesday afternoon, I'll take your Thursday...) But you have been an aggressive saver/investor until now, you can ratchet back a little for a few months or years, and still make good progress toward your goals.

Good luck to you and your wife. GD is no fun. Sounds like she's lucky to have a mate who appreciates her hard work and seeks to understand her POV.

Easy Rhino
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by Easy Rhino » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:49 am

Bro, you're saving 50% of your pay in a 401k. Actually based on your goals you're trying to save closer to 50% of your pay. Lighten up a little.

But, if you want to save money on the budget, it's not usually food that' the budget breaker. it's usually things like housing and cars and medical/childcare expenses.

However, in your case, you're spending around 10k a year on groceries. That's a lot. You might be buying some silly stuff. Like not only organic, but free trade shade grown artisanal hand-signed by the Antarctic farmer stuff.

In conclusion, reduce your retirement savings some and stop shopping at whole foods.

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ursineogre
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Re: Savings rate & budget stress

Post by ursineogre » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:55 pm

lindisfarne wrote:For the organic food issue:
First, since your wife is 6 months pregnant, now is not the time to make a huge stand on whether she should eat organic products. I would argue that a few extra hundred dollars over the next 3 months is worth it, since she thinks it's important, & I tend to agree pregnancy & childhood are the most important times to opt for more organic.

But this can be done strategically. (But even so, I'd cut eating out so I could spend more on organic.)
There are some organic things that are just very expensive. I buy organic strategically: I weigh the risk vs. the cost. If it's some condiment, I'll skip the organic if it's pricey - I probably won't ingest enough of the condiment for it to really matter.

The EWG has ranked produce in terms of how much pesticide residue is found when tested (based on government sampling). You can decide to try to generally buy produce from the "dirty dozen" in organic - I try to do this but will go with conventional (or something else) when the price difference is just crazy.

For dairy, you can buy products that say they're made from rBGH/rBST-free milk. Virtually all of Trader Joe's dairy products are labeled that way, if you have TJ's in your area. (TJ's has very good prices on many organic products). [Don't waste money on Horizon products: Horizon should not be considered organic - they are a huge corporation & there is evidence of many violations of organic regulations.] For milk (assuming your wife is drinking a lot of it), organic is probably the better option, but you could drink the rBGH/rBST-free; wife/child would drink organic.

For meat: eat much less, cheaper cuts, and try to choose organic.

Shop the sales.

Note: unless you're eating out at restaurants that stock only organic food, you're already compromising. Does your area have those "meal assembly" businesses where you put together meals which you then freeze? Those are generally cheaper than eating out (although not cheap), and could be an option for those "exhausted" nights. Frankly, I don't see how eating out with a two year old wouldn't be exhausting. I'd eat breakfast cereal for dinner rather than go out with a 2 year old (especially if 6 months pregnant). Healthy breakfast cereal (plain cheerios) can be quite nutritious. Scrambled eggs makes a good dinner too.
I agree regarding not having to buy every thing every thing organic. The important things to focus on when purchasing organic are foods that have fat (dairy, meat, oil) and vegetables/fruits with thin skins/peels or skins you will eat. Pesticides and other chemicals tend to be fat soluble, hence the discretion.

I am not a vegetarian, but I still recommend a crock pot, probably a 6 quart rather than a 3 quart. It can be a pain to clean by hand, but there might be dishwasher safe models.

If you eat meat ocaissionally, I also suggest looking into local farms for your supply. You can see what they are doing, how they feed/treat animals and you are supporting local farmers rather than a mega farm who knows where. Plus, you can buy a whole cow, pig or chicken for a price that averages less per pound than buying individual cuts at the grocery store.

In the vein of supporting your wife's pregancy without getting too much into nutrition, if you buy the whole cow and/or the cheaper cuts of meat, you'll end up getting more nutrition while saving money. LIver, kidneys and hearts are much less expensvie than T-bone and have more vitamins (A, D, omega 3) than the same. I know the taste is gamey, so I suggest grinding liver and mixing it with ground beef and/or ground pork.

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