Saturday, November 7, 2009

What To Do With Halloween Leftovers

If you have a bunch of chocolate candy left over from Halloween and are starting to think about tossing it out or bringing it to the office then try this fun recipe instead. When I first saw this post on Noble Pig I laughed and sent it to my resident candy expert and it was declared a must-try.

Please visit Noble Pig for the recipe I used. It is my favorite cooking blog, just yummy home cooking and I have yet to try anything I didn't love off of her site. Click for recipe here.

I used slightly less than 2 cups of chopped candy which included Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, M&M's, Peanut M&M's, Baby Ruth, Nestle Crunch, Whoppers, 1000 Grand, and Butterfingers. You can see the M&M's gave a little color to the cake. The only variation to the recipe is that I coated the bundt pan in cooking spray and sugar instead of flour.

Here is the batter with all the candy going in:
From Food

Here is a slice of the finished bundt cake. This was a real winner and it is fun trying to pick out what melty gooey candy you're eating.
From Food

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Spending Challenge: The End!

The ghouls and goblins arrived which heralded the end of October. Thank goodness.

I was not able to do the daily posts like I hoped to track everything, so here is the final tally of our attempt at significantly decreasing our spending:

Last Tally for Days 19-31:
Baseline Avg Spending Combined: $1,823.14
Actual Spending Combined: $605.98
Savings: $1,217.16

As you can see we were getting a bit tired in the second half of the month. I give major kudos to those bloggers who have done this hardcore and not spent a dime, it was tough for us. The majority of the $605 was spent on groceries, the liquor store (weekend company!) plus some miscellaneous stuff.

So how did we do overall? It wasn't a total bust though I am a little disappointed in how dedicated we were. Here is the final breakdown for October:

October Tally:
Total Baseline Avg Spending: $4,266
Total Actual Spending: $1,468
Total Savings: $2,797
Original Savings Goal: $3,000 ($203 short)

We spent only 34% of our average spending previously, which is certainly good. We came close to the $3000 target but fell a little short. We paid off 2 bills we wanted gone and that felt great.

Lessons Learned:
1. This is a lot harder than it looks, if you are trying to be strict.
2. Set a firm food budget. For me this was the hardest area to control. I have a very hard time keeping the grocery bill to a minimum mostly because I buy a lot of organics or sustainably raised food which costs more, but I think is worth it. Hubby & kids seemed to be a sense of panic whenever the pantry got too low (like i was trying to starve the family or something). I also just really enjoy food and cooking so I always want to try new things, hard for me to say no!
3. You need to have a plan for the unexpected. We had a few house issues that cost money, not a lot but still things we had to stop and decide what was worth spending money on and where do you draw the line?
4. Everyone needs to be vested in the process. I think we were both pretty good at this, but we probably could have been better at deciding to go really hardcore, i.e. spend less than we did.
5. Plan for kids and their expenditures. We told our kids what we are doing and why and they were sort of OK about it, only whining occasionally. But we had a few times where they had activities costs we were unsure of how to approach. So this is what I did:
Did NOT Buy: school pictures, clothes or shoes, toys. DID Buy: Friend's birthday present for a party, some small special food requests not on the menu, school lunches, 1 school party: tickets & & food. I'm not sure we really tackled this area the best though it could have been worse, I fended off a request for something that costs money almost daily.
6. Be concrete over what is discretionary and what is not. Medical costs hit us a couple times and it wasn't something we planned for but I optioned to add it as a bill and not discretionary. Car maintenance is another area we struggled with (became a bit of both discretionary and non).

The Fallout:
All in all we are really happy we did this, it proved we can spend less and save money. In fact we've been talking about doing this maybe quarterly, January for sure (post-Christmas freeze).
Looking at what we spent what we saved and how tight things felt, we decided to set a goal of saving $1000 a month going forward. I think this is doable as long as we don't go back to our old ways or don't have some big expenditures we are unprepared for. That $1k would be going to an emergency fund to help pay for the things that creep up on us. Also, we are planning on traveling to either Italy or Egypt next year and both options are expensive so we have a lot of money to save up in the next 6-9 months.

Happy Saving!