Meal Plans

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When we don’t have a meal plan, food costs more.

Our regular plan is to build a menu for the week and go to the grocery store on Sunday.  This allows planning, instead of scrambling for a a meal after work each night.   It also give us a chance to plan for leftovers so we have something to eat for lunch at work.

We work until about 5 every weekday.   When we don’t have the meal planned, it’s usually chicken nuggets or hamburger helper for dinner.   Not only is that repetitive, but it’s not terribly healthy.  It is, however, convenient.   If we plan for it, we can get the ingredients ready the night before and know what we are doing when we get home, instead of trying to think about it after a long day of work.

If we don’t plan for leftovers, we tend to make the right amount of food for the family.   When this happens, there’s nothing to bring to work the next day, which means I’ll be hungry about lunchtime with nothing I can do about it except buy something. Buying lunch is never cheaper than making it.   I can get a sandwich at Subway for $5, but I could make a sandwich just as tasty and filling for less than half of that, using money that is meant to be used for food.   All during wrestling season, we make 30-inch sandwiches on meet nights for a cost of about $5, feeding ourselves and at least a couple of others who didn’t have time to make their dinner before the 5:30 meet.

No leftovers also means no Free Soup, which is a wonderful low-maintenance meal that leaves everybody full.  Nobody ever gets bored of Free Soup.  (Hint:  Don’t ever put a piece of fish in the Free Soup, or the flavor will take over the entire meal.)

Unhealthy, repetitive food for dinner.  Over-priced, low-to-middle-quality food for lunch.

OR

We plan our meals right and have inexpensive, healthy food that doesn’t get boring for every meal.

It seems to be a no-brainer.   Except, I don’t have lunch today because we didn’t plan our meals and used the last of the leftover hamburger helper for dinner last night.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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Budget, updates, and the future

I have recently reworked our budget, including a new spreadsheet, sorted by categories. It’s a Google Doc template available here. I will dive into each section in detail in coming weeks.

My wife and I had a long conversation about what has worked and what has failed miserably regarding our debt and repayment plan. The results of that conversation will be the subject of a few posts over the next couple of weeks.

Our destination hasn’t changed. Our map hasn’t changed. We are making some changes to the route we take, to allow better for our strengths and weaknesses, both as a couple and as individuals.

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Don’t Screw Future-You

A conversation between me and my temporally displaced self.
Future Me: Excuse me, Jason?
Me: Yes?
FMe:
Me: May I ask what that was for?
FMe: Of course.
Me: What was that for, jerk?
FMe: That was payback for all of the hell you have put me through.
Me: What?!?  I’ve never even met you, before.
FMe: Of course you have.  I am future-you, and I’m sick of getting screwed by past-me, that is, you.
Me: Huh?
FMe: Listen close.  You’re not  the sharpest brick in the box and I don’t want to explain this twice.
Me: ???
FMe: A long time ago, when you first met our wife, you were dumb.
Me: I don’t appreciate….
FMe: Shut up.  I was dumb then, too.  Remember?  You…err…we bought a new truck, built an addition on our…err…your…err…whomever’s house, got married in the same year.  On top of many other expensive decisions.  Do your recall?
Me: Yes, I do.  So what?
FMe: If that wasn’t enough, you and your smoking-hot bride are still shopping like you’re rich. You drive a new car.  Your kids wear new clothes.  You’ve got a house full of new furniture.  How did you pay for all of that?
Me: Naturally, I charged it.  Zero payments, zero interest for a year!  Pretty smart, huh?
FMe: What happens in a year?
Me: I don’t know.  I’ve got a full year to figure that out.
FMe:  I’ll tell you what happens!  Future-you, that’s me, gets screwed!   Your raise didn’t come through.  You had a baby. The truck broke down.  Your wife took maternity leave.  A roommate moved out.  You took a loss in the stock market.  You didn’t plan!  You had no savings to cover any of those problems because you were too busy servicing debt to pay for your current life.
Me: How was I to know?
FMe:  Life happens!  You never know what is coming next.  You need to plan and save for what might happen.  Otherwise, you’ll just accumulate more debt to be serviced by yours-truly.  That is not acceptable.
Me:  So?  What are you going to do about it?
FMe:
Me: Really?  Again?
FMe:  I’m struggling to pay your debt. Your son starts college next year, but you’ve left me completely unable to help.  Your daughter wants to get married in a couple of years, but the Father-of-the-Bride can’t afford a tux.  My wife, your beatiful bride, wants a vacation that I can’t afford.   You’ve screwed me, dude.
Me: I’m sorry.  What can I do to fix it?
FMe: Buy me dinner, first.
Me: Huh?!?!?
FMe: Stop the excess spending. Spend less than you make, for a change.  No credit.
Me: None?
FMe: None.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Only spend what you can afford. Budget.  Pay off those nasty bills.  Don’t leave me hanging.
Me: So, what you’re saying is that, if I don’t have the money, I shouldn’t buy it?
FMe: Exactly.  That’s the path to wealth, freedom, and financial independence.  Live in the real world.
Me: Gee, thanks, Future-Me!  Now I know.
FMe: And knowing is half the battle.

What would your future-you have to say to you?

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Answer: How Much Term Life Insurance Do I Need to Buy?

From a question posted here:

Thank you for all your help in my previous question. After meeting with the agent, I’ve decided on term life insurance over whole life. But I am still not sure how much term life I should buy. Should I buy as much as I could afford or some specific amount?

My answer(edited a bit):

That question is far too open-ended.

Are you married?  If yes, are you the primary breadwinner?  Do you have children?  Investments?  Savings?

Here’s my situation:

I am married, with three children.  I have the primary income.

We have a mortgage, a car payment, and some consumer debt.

I added up all of the debt as my base level of term life insurance.  My family will not be burdened with debt if anything happens to me.

To the base level, I added 5 years of my net income.  Without changing a thing, my family will be supported exactly as is for 5 years if I die.   They won’t, however, have the same level of expenses, due to the base level of insurance paying off all debt.   All of my living expenses also evaporate.  For example, there will be one car sold, one less mouth to feed and body to dress, etc.

I figure with the lower expenses and no debt, my insurance will support my family for 10 to 15 years if my wife manages the money right.   If she continues to work, it should last almost forever.

How do you figure the “right” amount of life insurance?[caption id="" align="alignright" width="196" caption=" "] [/caption]

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