Sunday, April 20, 2014

Glorious Day

Today was by far the most beautiful and warm day we've seen in a very long time. To me it seems almost like nature is celebrating this holiday with us as well. Today on Easter Sunday I say, "Hallelujah for the Lord has risen!" It's truly a happy day.
Of course it'd be uncharacteristic of me to leave off a photo of my biggest blessing dressed in his Sunday best, consisting ENTIRELY of hand-me-downs. The hat was mine from high school. He was pretty insistent on wearing it. Happy Easter everyone!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Another Day


Life can feel so overwhelming, you know just the ordinary little day to day.
But then there's happy puppies and giggling boys,
grass beginning to turn from brown to green in the yard,
flowers springing up from patches of black dirt,
buds appearing on the lilac bushes
big fat wriggly worms squiggling around in it all,
I mustn't forget the plethora of brilliant bird songs,
and fresh air.
Simple beautiful fresh air.

It's really not so bad.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Still dieting.
Still grouchy.
Still no "new" vehicle.
Lost 8 pounds though.
Fin.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Little of This and a Little of That

Abe and I have been doing lots of yard work since the weather has turned around. Today we found tiny little white flowers. He seemed pretty impressed with our majestic find. I LOVE watching him learn and discover new things about this world. Hooray for SPRING!!!!
In other news I am trying with all my might (going on a few weeks now) to eat responsibly and spend responsibly. This may sound like an easy task to some of you but I still have to put so much energy into each of these accomplishments singularly that I'm awful at doing both together. I am a snacker, a sugar addict, and a wife who sees too little of her husband and finds immense comfort in a giant bowl of homemade mac'n'cheese or an enormous slice of chocolate cake (I could continue with a VERY long list at this point but I will refrain). I've always been able to spend responsibly OR eat responsibly but the weight of them together crushes me. I know, I'm a weakling. I'll be the first to admit it.

I'm happy to report that I'm doing pretty well at both these tasks but I've not been in the best of moods these past few weeks. I think that's why I've been seemingly absent from blogging. I hate blogging when I'm living under a little black rain cloud. The only respite I've found these past few weeks has been in getting outside and doing yard work with my boy. He's learning which bird is which, plane watching, kicking around a basketball and a dog toy, he's chased the dogs some, helped me rake and pick up randomness, and found so many little treasures (the above flowers today, squirrel treasures, bird feathers, cool sticks, ect;). This winter was BEAUTIFUL but I'm so so so so SOOOO happy that it is finally gone. I need sunshine and fresh air even if it's still a bit chilly here and there.

That's about it with me and mine. No new vehicle yet. Dead van still in the driveway. I'm not any more ready to tackle that challenge then I was last time I checked in and so: one step at a time. Today is yard work, spend time with Abe, clean up around the house, eat healthy, and go to work. Tomorrow will be what it is tomorrow.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April Stock Up Results

April Stock Up Money: $90
Dog food
Cat food
Toilet paper
Shampoo and Conditioner

I'm planning to spend $15 a day this year on everything I purchase. When I devised this plan at the end of last year I wasn't sure how close I'd be able to get to the goal. Right now I'm averaging around $17 day. That sounds kind of close but $2 a day adds up fast. I'd like to get below $17 a day this month. One of my new approaches this year is to take an average of $3 a day at the beginning of the month and stock up on some of my least favorite things that always seem to ruin my budget. Ideally I'll plan out gifts for the month from this money as well. After I've spent the stock up money that leaves an average of $12 a day for all additional spending (in theory).

This month I did not purchase a wide variety of items with the stock up money but I did get quite alot of shampoo and conditioner on a good sale with a coupon. I also purchased at least a month and a half worth of toilet paper on sale with a coupon.

As I mentioned in my last post I am not looking forward to April financially. As much as the one vehicle situation is a pain in the rear I do hope we end up putting off acquiring a new one until April is over. Have I mentioned that I HATE the process of buying a car? There's just too many other financial matters to deal with this month and I don't think I can handle even the thought of throwing a car purchase into the mix. Licence plate renewal, two birthdays, the quarterly trash and water bills... that's enough extra, just enough. Thank-you very much.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March Numbers Are In

The below list is a simple summary of all our cash outflow for March minus my husband's spending (which includes his lunches and any spending strictly for himself; ie going to lunch with a friend, picking up beer for band practice (which he did not do this month), ect).

Home expenses $1071.66
Vehicle expenses $724.66
Utilities $358.33
Credit card payments $514.89
All spending $527.25

Each of these categories has several things inside of them. For example home expenses includes the mortgage payment (and escrow), and equity line. Vehicle expenses includes the car payment, gasoline, and car insurance. We almost spent less money this month than what was paid towards credit cards. Three months in a row I "almost" spent less than paid towards credit cards. I don't think April is going to be the magic month that will tip the scales though... ah, who knows.

April is for sure going to be a tough one. My husband's birthday is this month. We have not taken care of the dead vehicle situation yet. We have to renew the plates on the car this month (I'm always amazed at how much that costs). The water and trash payments are due this month. Those two are billed every three months. Yay for April right... At least it's looking like spring is finally here. My son and I have been spending LOTS of time in the yard the past few days and I'm feeling like a new woman. The fresh air and warmth and yard work (which, don't tell anyone, I LOVE doing) has me feeling happier than I remember ever being. This winter was brutal!
Average daily spending for March: $17.01

I'm sort of kicking myself. I was SO close to being under $17 a day this month. BUT I'm still happy I did not average $20 a day like February. And my daily average for the year went down a little bit too.

Average daily spending for 2014: $17.56

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spending

I'll do great for a good stretch of time not wanting much and sticking to my guns financially speaking. Then all of the sudden I desperately want to purchase a hundred things. Something in my head starts screaming at me that I NEED them. "NOW!!!" The feeling sticks with me for a week or two. This is becoming a bit like a rollar coaster ride. I have been doing a good job dealing with these spurts of "need." But it sure is annoying. I'm starting to wonder if the need phase is triggered by something. I'm not sure how I'd figure out what the trigger was if there is one... hmm.

Right now I need to purchase new curtains and blinds (no I didn't purchase new ones last time I felt the urging). I need to order Scottish meat pies from a bakery in Detroit. I need to purchase a new toy bin or shelves for my sons room (again, I refrained the last time I was feeling this need). I need some new PJ's. And lastly (okay, I'm certain there's other items that I'm forgetting about) I keep seeing really great toys that my son needs me to purchase; a tricycle or big wheel, some sporting toys, bath tub paint and side walk chalk, tons of odds and ends that he would just love right now.

Truth be told, to state the obvious, none of these items are in the budget at present. Sadly it always seems they never will be though and I think that's what creates the urgent need for them, that feeling that I can't have them. We don't NEED any of those things. They'd be nice to have but that's all, just nice. The feeling of need is just so annoying though.

Moving on: Average daily spending for March: $17.36

I'm now $15.70 over budget for the month if I wanted to truly spend $15 a day. Honestly I just glanced back and saw that my average daily spending for February was $20.27. Being reminded of that makes me feel alot better about being at the $17.36 average currently. That means that right now I've spent $78.57 less this month than last month. I'll choose to be happy about that!

Cars, Oh Lovely Lovely Cars

Honestly, does anyone ever truly feel "grown up?" I'm 34 this year. I know that's not old but it certainly does seem rather adulty. The husband and I have purchased two cars together without help or input from our parents. But from my experience car matters always seem so urgent; so rushed. When it comes to cars I never really feel "grown up." Things just seem so shaky, iffy, confusing; there are no clear paths in dealing with vehicles it seems. The whole ordeal tends to make me feel like I'm a silly foolish 16 year old again.

This time around I'm really proud of us for really taking it easy (so far). We're weighing our options, all of our options. We're doing what needs to be done to get around the issues that come along with two working adults having one vehicle between them. We're being realistic about what type of vehicle we should possibly purchase and looking at every way we can to not take out a loan. We're actually doing some research in finding the best way to sell Murphy and the seemingly dead van along with him.

Last time our car died we dove into the car hunt ferociously and fast! We set our budget around $6000 and ended up driving away with a $11,000 loan. Granted at the time we needed a reliable, fuel efficient car. No repairs yet and years later we still love the car we bought but we did not stick with the plan at all. This time we just need a "get arounder" and we're taking it slow. You can call it lazy if you wish (I'm pretty sure that's how my in laws are looking at the way we're "tackling" our dead vehicle situation) but I'm proud of us for taking it slow this time.

I don't think my husband and I are in agreement about how much we spend on this next vehicle but at least we're on the same page about taking our time and not rushing into a huge new debt. At this point I'm looking at that as a victory.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dusty Beer

There was something oddly intriguing about the way the sunlight was illuminating the dust on that brown jug this evening. The three glass containers were each glowing slightly and the dust was sparkling (if only in my imagination). "Simplicity" to me is finding an unusual amount of pleasure in tiny things all through out the day and not needing more because you have so much (there is so much filling the universe) already. My simple moment today was "enjoying the way the sun shone on the empty jugs and bottle caps" in my kitchen this evening.

My hubby likes his beer
(as you can see by the dust those growlers
have not been refilled in a very long time).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Spending Fun

I just spent $45.61 on groceries ($10 of that will be part of next month's stock up; shampoo and conditioner) and saved $21.98 through sales and coupons. Extreme couponers can get money back on their shopping trips or get like $400 worth of groceries for a few cents but I am NOT an extreme couponer. I buy a considerable amount of fresh food (which you don't tend to find coupons for) and I do not have the time to even think about extreme couponing. I'm SOOOO excited about the almost $22 savings on a $67 basket of groceries. I did purchase another newspaper as well. So $2 of the bill goes to that. I haven't saved this much money on a shopping trip in a long time. It's amazing what us frugal folk get really excited about huh :-)

Average daily spending for March: $17.45
(the above average figures in tomorrow as a no spend day)

There's $35.17 left in this month's budget and 8 days left of March but tomorrow should be a no spend day easy.

Income

Oooh, ooh! It's a small raise but my husband got a raise this week. Even if raises these days basically just mean keeping up with inflation it's a whole lot better than not keeping up with inflation. AND we'll take it! I really have been unbelievably overwhelmed with handling the finances lately. This is happy news. Happy HAPPY dance!!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Uh Huh

Today was NO SPEND day 20 of the year. That's no record but I'm happy to have not spent money today none the less.

Average daily spending for March: $16.69

There's $70.78 left in this month's budget and 9 days left of March... wow, only 9 days. That kind of went fast, huh.

Yummy!

I used to make bread in my mom's bread machine during my high school days but I don't remember making bread from scratch aside from that (actual bread; I'm not considering sweet bread like banana or zucchini or orange coconut the same as a loaf of regular bread). Let me tell you, kneading bread dough is incredibly therapeutic. The recipe I found last night said "you may have to knead the dough for up to 10 minutes," and I'm like, "yeah right, like I'm going to do that." I think about 5 minutes in I decided that I could happily knead dough everyday if I had to.

Okay, tell me if you've ever seen a loaf of bread with more "character" than this little sucker? (I think it needed more kneading) I'm proud of him though. And fresh baked bread smells amazing!
One pitfall: AFTER I'd mixed up the dough and kneaded it I read the part of the recipe that said to let it rise for 1 to 2 hours. Oops. I should have probably started the adventure before 8:30PM.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Attempting To Keep Things In Perspective

I find myself getting very discouraged often times lately, "geesh, this debt isn't going anywhere and it's more difficult to pay the bills and buy groceries then ever!" Finances are a big headache.

Rarely do I stop and think about the reality that our income is much lower with me working part time (although my husband going into management has off set that a little bit). And we aren't a family of two any longer. We were for so many years that honestly I don't think about the fact that we really are a three person household now. Even though the kiddo is just two there is a good chunk of extra expense that comes along with him.

Our debt is very slowly going down, which seems so discouraging but IT IS GOING DOWN. For the first half of our marriage it was only ever going up. So, even if progress is slow going, it's progress. I need to find at least a little solace in that. My dream for life isn't to be a wealthy person living in the lap of luxury. It is however to have a happy family and ideally stay home and raise my child/ children. Being able to work part time, still pay all the bills, pay off debt however slowly, and learn how to be a great mommy and homemaker is progress.

I really can't complain. I'm living the dream. I think often times the way we perceive things makes an enormous difference in how we feel about life. I can look at myself as someone who's struggling along with money, not making huge strides in the debt arena, and embrace frustration. Or I can see that I already have so much of what I really truly want out of life and revel in that. I'm attempting to walk out the latter.

Average daily spending for March: $17.34

There's $70.78 left in this month's budget.

SPACE ROBOT

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Call Me Chipper

Almost two months ago I started to drive to work and the power steering and brakes on our van weren't working. That was a fun drive around the block. The day after that adventure our baby sitter went to California for a month. We decided that rather than investigate then and there (in the negative temps and crippling wind chills and 10 feet of snow) we'd wait until we actually had child care again and a "need" for a second vehicle.

My husband just put some power steering fluid into the van (today) and turned it on. I don't know if the van was angry or if there's a small nasty monster living in the engine (the monster clearly was VERY upset by the new power steering fluid). OH MY GOODNESS that noise was NOT a good noise. There's also a MASSIVE puddle of fluid under the van (angry monster pee?) that looks like oil. (I did check the dip stick... there's no oil in the engine) For real though, did winter poke holes in the entire underbelly of our van?

Here's where I want to scream and say, "WHY!?!?! Why when we basically just got our tax refund back, why when I feel like I might be able to pay all the bills on time next month, why when I finally have $1000 in the emergency fund... WHY!?!?!?!?" The van is shot. We're not even bringing it into a shop. No brakes, no power steering, an enormous puddle of oil coupled with the fact that it's super old and only gets about 15MPG fuel efficiency... We're scrapping the beast (and the nasty little monster with it).

I'm not going to scream though. I'm not going to lose ANY sleep over this situation. I'm not even going to blame Murphy even though I am secretly wishing that he is the monster in the engine right now that just majorly growled at my husband and me and that as soon as we ship the sucker off we'll never have to hear from Murphy again. I am just going to say hooray! "Hooray there's $1100 in the savings account and we can probably get a $2000 ish vehicle from somewhere. Hooray, we're going to get a "new" car!"

And I'll just leave it at that. No matter what we get I think I'm just going to stay in this chipper state of mind and pretend that it's a BMW (for the longest time as a kid I dreamed of owning one). "Hooray, we're getting a BMW!" You think I should change my status on facebook to let all my "friends" in on the great news? I'm getting a beemer!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day


Average daily spending for March: $17.73

There's $106.90 left in this month's budget.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Countdown

$15 a day for March = $465

This young lass has spent $358.10 so far this month.

There's $106.90 left in this month's budget.

It's not practical that I'll pull off $15 a day but I'm going to see how far I can make it on the remaining "budgeted" funds. Let the countdown begin.

At present the average daily spending for March is: $17.73
(that's with 2 prospective no spends, tomorrow and Tuesday)

I just picked up a ton of groceries... a ton of groceries for me at least. I try and keep my shopping trips under 12 items. I have several lunches, breakfasts, smoothie fixins, beverages (except my husband seems to have guzzled the apple juice while I was shopping), and 4 dinners worth of food in the house. Two consecutive no spends "should" be easy and I "should" be able to get by with pretty light spending for a few days after them. Ugh, I hate shopping.

Prospective pitfalls: My husband is HORRIBLY wore down from a crazy work schedule last week. He's been a bear (a mean, grouchy bear) and I'm pretty wore down too. That's the first issue. Me being very emotionally wore down has also led to me REALLY craving a dinner out on the town. It's not like dinners out are off limits but it's also NOT in the budget right now.

In other random rambly type news: I haven't purchased a single disposable diaper this year (and see no reason why I shall have to). My son is down to one (cloth) diaper a day. He's no longer wetting at naptime so it's just the bedtime diaper now. I've kept expenses down a bit by using cloth wash clothes to wash the dishes. My husband prefers sponges for the dish washing but he hasn't washed the dishes since I started working part time so there's really no need to purchase any. I haven't purchased any paper towels this year (I'm not in the habit of doing so but my husband sometimes requests them). I found a stash of old trash bags in the basement (we have a ton of other people's stuff/ inherited items in our house) so I haven't purchased any trash bags this year. I'm waiting on most of the coupons from last week's newpaper till the items are on sale as well so I don't have an actual coupon total. But I totally broke even on the $2 cost of the paper with stuff I regularly buy so I picked up another paper today. I might be able to get into this couponing thing... but it seems that it could get SOOOO easy to buy stuff you don't need just because you feel like you're getting a good deal. I wonder if that might cancel out alot of the money people think they're saving... I don't know.

Sunday Fun

Cut up old t-shirt.
Put mattress next to couch.
Pile up pillows and blankets.
Woohoo!


My husband hated the t-shirt I transformed into the cape (it was mine).
Baby Abe had a lot more fun than this photo lets on.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Orange Coconut Bread Recipe

I love making this bread when I have an orange that's gotten a bit old. It's a sweet bread like banana, or zucchini. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar but I use 3/4 cups. The original recipe also calls for 8oz. of orange yogurt but I always have plain yogurt in the house for my son's daily smoothie so I use just under 8oz of plain yogurt and then squeeze the juice from half an orange into the yogurt. It seems a bit more dense with the orange yogurt (as opposed to plain w/ juice added) and I think I like it more the original way but what can I say, I'm frugal and I like to use what I have.

The recipe calls for a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. I've never been able to get the center to set in less time than an hour but I am pretty sure my oven cooks a bit on the cooler side.

Mix together:
3/4 cups of sugar
1 egg
1 Tbls. of canola oil

Add to above mixture:
8 oz. of orange yogurt
1/4 cup of 2% milk

Mix together in a different bowl:
2 cups of flour
4 or 5 Tbls. of sweetened coconut
1 tsp. of baking soda
2 tsp. of grated orange rind
(I just put in as much as I can shave off of one orange)

Add the dry mix to the wet mix
Pour into the prepared bread pan(s)

Top with 1 Tbls. of sweetened coconut
Bake for 50 minutes in 350 oven.

This is a rather large loaf of bread.
Credit for the background artwork goes to my son.

This last time I made the bread I actually covered the ends of the pan with tin foil and left the middle exposed for 55 minutes. I cooked the bread for 10 minutes longer with the tin foil off. I feel like the bread cooked more evenly this way. Maybe I just need to split the recipe into two smaller loaves... I only have one smaller loaf pan though. I've received several compliments on this bread. The original recipe came from Cooking Light magazine.

Average Daily Spending Update

Here's a tour of how I plan my spending (ideally).

As it stands my average daily spending for March is $17.71 a day.
I'm pretty sure I can get away with buying tuna fish and apple juice today and not spending tomorrow.
That would bring my average daily spending for March to $16.96 a day.
My goal this year is $15 a day.

The remaining budgeted money in order to reach my goal of $15 a day for March would be $162.54 for the last 16 days; about $10.16 a day. I've accomplished this before BUT not while including spending for my son in the budget. I don't think I can do it... but will I try? Yep! That's the goal: spend $3.58 today, nothing tomorrow, and just $162.54 for the remainder of March.

All in all, at $16.96 a day so far this month I can't say I'm doing too poorly.

I've been doing okay with not buying food while working. I think it's about a 2 days out of 5 days ratio of purchasing food while working. Dropping those 2 days would really help in reaching this months budget goal.

I've got a few old oranges sitting on my counter right now that are just dying to be made into orange coconut bread. I'm off...