Budgeting, Planning and Scheduling Oh My | 52 Week Money Challenge


Putting together a game plan for success

In case you missed it last week... My family is trying to save $13,780 in 2014.

And let me tell you... this is no small task. Honestly, what were we thinking? After coming to the realization that we impulsively put a plan in action to get more discipline in our lives, we came to the conclusion that we needed to start planning, scheduling and budgeting or this just would not happen!

You can expect a regular update from us every Tuesday morning! So here it goes, this is what we have been up to for the last week...


Something Stephanie and I are trying to do in 2014 is go on a date every week, with 3 kids and 1 on the way, life can get busy and scheduling time to connect is becoming more and more important for us. Mondays are now our date night and after time spent gazing longingly into each other's eyes over an Americano, we get down to business. Last week we spent 3 hours trying to schedule the 52 unique ways we are going to save or make money for our family money challenge.

Do you know how hard it is to figure out 52 unique ways to save or make money?

We were able to come up with 40 ideas on our first date, a few more last night and we are confident that we can figure out the remaining ways as the year develops. However one thing is crystal clear... going into this challenge without a plan would be a complete disaster!

The kitchen was one area we knew we could make a difference, so the majority of our efforts last night were spent on scheduling our meals. While eating out costs a fortune... comparatively speaking, eating at home can save you money. But what we are discovering is that planning ahead in the kitchen and making meals in bulk is where you save the real money! 2 words. Vegetarian Lasagna.

Planning Ahead

When Steph and I were first married we tried to keep track of our finances, but after realizing that we spent over $2,000 a month eating out, we gave up keeping track so we would stop feeling guilty. Ignorance is bliss right? Anyway, as we have added children to the family, we certainly eat out less than we did before, but still more than we should, at least 3-5 times a week. This adds up. Fast.

I can honestly say that it is blowing my mind how much money we have saved in the last couple of weeks by eating at home. Let's look at the lasagna. In a restaurant I would easily pay $18 for a personal lasagna, x2 because I don't share lasagna. Last year we stopped eating out as much and started "cooking at home" which meant buying meals from delis or the grocery store and cooking them at home. A good lasagna to feed the family would run us around $12, considerably better than the $36 + tip.

It gets even better when you buy all the ingredients and make the lasagna from scratch. We were able to put 12 family sized meals in the freezer for $3.75 per lasagna. Seriously.

So let's recap...

The True Cost of Lasagna.

  • Restaurant Lasagna. $36.00 + Tip
  • Grocery Store or Deli prepared Lasagna. $12.00
  • Homemade Lasagna. Under $4.00

Steph and I can make 10 Lasagnas at home for the price of eating in a restaurant.

So in order to figure out how much money we can allocate to our savings account by reducing our grocery bills... we need a budget!


In addition to making inexpensive lasagna, something else we have figured out in all this planning is that we have no concrete way of telling how much money we are saving on a monthly basis because we don't have a budget.

To our shame, up until this point in our lives, we have been living without a budget. There I said it... it feels good to finally get that out there. How can we outline savings unless we have something to compare it to... we need a reference point, if you will.

So in response to this, we are now working with Sandi Martin; a fee only advisor, on our family budget! And let me tell you, we are really really excited about this. Sandi will be working through our entire last year of spending to help us figure out a plan to properly allocate our funds in 2014. Two things I know about Sandi, she loves to spreadsheet and she loves tidy fiscal year ends... just the kind of person we need in our life!

I have always known it was a smart idea to have a budget, however I just didn't realize how stupid it was not to have one!

There is no use beating ourselves up about the past, so we are moving forward in a hurry and loving every minute of it. Here is our weekly progress!

Bank Accounts

Part of what we are committing to by blogging our journey is sharing our progress weekly, actually showing the money being deposited into the account with a nice little story of how we did it. Well... we are still figuring out our banking situation.

Our goal was to secure a free bank account with Tangerine (formerly ING Direct) and make our deposits there. Well, you have to write a cheque for that. We bank with TD and a local credit union. I went to TD first to get a cheque to deposit the initial $100 to Tangerine in order to set up our account, however TD wanted to charge me $35 for 50 cheques. I said no thanks and walked out. #TDBankFail

From there I went straight to the credit union to see if they could help! And they did.

While at the credit union, I met with our personal banker and picked up 4 free cheques printed in the branch and was ready to go before she put the hard sell on me. I told her that I was setting up a TFSA with Tangerine as part of a 52 week money challenge. Of course she tried to get me to open a TFSA there, however after comparing rates, Tangerine's rate was considerably higher (good for investments, bad for mortgages), I politely declined the account. She then went into our existing accounts and found that we were over paying in transaction fees and introduced me to a new "no fees" package and switched us to free banking on both our accounts. A total savings of $24 per month. She even went back and refunded the fees from when the "no fees" product was launched.

In one visit to the credit union, we saved $288.00 a year in transaction fees. That is a nice fit for week 28.

So now we are torn. We love banking at the credit union, the staff at our local branch are awesome! Even after they couldn't match the rate on a TFSA, they still found a way to help us save money and did it because they genuinely cared! I guess the question is, do we keep banking with the credit union or do we chase the higher return at Tangerine? I mean...

What price do you put on customer service and loyalty?

I would love to know your thoughts... What should we do?

  • A. Move all our banking for the challenge to Tangerine
  • B. Keep all our banking for the challenge at the Credit Union
  • C. Keep the holding account at the credit union while transferring the 52 week challenge money to a TFSA at Tangerine

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, I am curious to know what would you do?

Stay tuned for next week as we finally get some bank statements loaded and we share what we have done in the first 3 weeks of the year! Filling some holes! Saving some money! This is actually a lot of fun!

Love from Jackson and the Middleton Family!

I am wearing a kilt right now. I have consumed coffee today. Family Man. Innovator. Follow me on Twitter @kiltedbroker | Formerly the Executive Editor of the First Foundation #OwnGrowProtect…

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