Saturday, January 31, 2015

Last Day of January

Today I've an enormous to-do list. I'm hoping to make more chicken and dumplings soup. I want to bake something. I'd love to get the taxes started but my husband's W2s haven't shown up yet; maybe I'll start them anyway. I need to clean, clean, clean, and clean... our house is a mess right now. Ah, the weekend, what a wonderful time!

This month has been really good to me. I've felt incredibly motivated for most of it. My basement is looking pretty good (compared to how it was). I think I did really good with spending this month. I truly enjoyed being away from facebook. I baked a good deal and found out I love marmalade. January was a very good start to a new year.

I need to brainstorm February goals and hope to keep up the wonderful momentum. I'd like to do a "things I love" post at least a few days a week throughout the upcoming month of love. Stay tuned.

I'd better get the computer turned off now and start on the seemingly never ending to-do list for today. woohoo, chores!

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.90

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January numbers are in

We've two days left of this wonderful first month of 2015 but I'm ready to start wrapping things up. Here's my spending rundown for the month with average daily spending for each category. Honestly anything else I spend this month is going into February only because I actually have the time to add this all up right now.

$11.36 a day on Groceries. Total for January $352.17
64 cents a day on Cleaning stuffs. Total $19.38
$1 a day on Toiletries. Total $30.31

$1.07 a day on Gifts. Total $33.48
17 cents a day on Food out. Total $5.88

$1.90 a day on Pets. Total $58.86
76 cents a day on Clothing. Total $23.94

Average daily spending for January: $16.90
13 NO SPEND days out of 31 for the year
(okay, technically 12 out of 29... I'm shooting for one more this month)

I've been pretty regularly tracking my daily spending for a few years now. I have to admit that it's really neat to see it laid out in categories though. I'm already seeing that I'm spending more on food for our pets than I'd thought. I'm not planning on changing their food but I might try harder to find coupons and shop for their food when there are sales instead of just when they need it. Considering that I hardly ever buy clothes and I bought three things this month I'm pretty amazed with how low our average is.

The one that's really interesting to me is that I spent an average of $1.07 a day on gifts. Who thinks about it that way, right? That's a strange revelation. Truly I spent a pretty normal amount on what I'm calling a "gift" for my mom's birthday that included supplies for her birthday dinner and then I bought three other things for two nieces and my son that were enormously on sale. Still for some reason $1.07 a day sounds like something significant. If that were a realistic average for the year that's almost $400 a year and there's no way that would include Christmas. Christmas needs a category all of it's own. And it wouldn't include a birthday gift for my husband or myself. We usually go between $50 and $100 on our birthdays... if that seems high you must realize we were married for 10 years without any children. The two of us were our only immediate family for 10 years, you know.

I'm pretty proud of the 17 cents a day average on food out. That includes a $3 tip that I left for breakfast my friend bought me and $2.88 I spent yesterday on coffee and a donut while I was working. (I was in a horrible mood yesterday and needed the fuel) Wow, this month was great for not eating out!

Below is the list you will find if you ever click on the "2015 Purchases" tab at the top of the blog. I've been keeping track of my purchases there for years but I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've included the data in a blog post. Ah, the evolution of blogging. The only thing on the list that is not included in my average daily spending is food from the vet for our second dog. She gets bladder stones and horrible urinary tract infections from enzymes in regular dog food. We've had surgery on her once before and now we buy ridiculously expensive prescription food from the vet to keep her healthy and to keep from having her needing to go under the knife again. I do not include our medical expenses in with our spending and I do consider her dog food a medical expense. 

The other thing you may notice missing is vehicle expenses. I also don't include those in our budget as spending. I drive so much for work that I've considered almost everything vehicle related as a sort of work expense for about 12 years now.

January 2015 Total: $524.02
NO SPEND day 13    1.30
Candy and mini toothbrushes $3.83    1.29
Groceries $17.73    1.28
Coffee and a donut $2.88    1.28
NO SPEND day 12    1.27
Cat food $26.10    1.26
Gift for different niece $4.50    1.26
B-day gift for Abe $4.75    1.26
Toilet paper $9.99    1.26
Groceries $38.97    1.26
Gift for niece $4.63    1.25
Groceries $4.89    1.25
My mom's birthday $19.60    1.24
Groceries $3.60    1.23
Groceries $27.48    1.22
coat for Abe & pants for me $9.25    1.22
NO SPEND day 11    1.21
NO SPEND day 10    1.20
Groceries $29.74    1.19
Mini muffin tin $6.70    1.19
NO SPEND day 9    1.18
Tip at breakfast $3    1.17
Groceries $30.88    1.16
Dog food $30.26    1.16
NO SPEND day 8    1.15
Groceries $3.35    1.14
NO SPEND day 7    1.13
Groceries $35.91    1.12
Toiletries $1.39    1.12
Cleaning $11.25    1.12
NO SPEND day 6    1.11
NO SPEND day 5    1.10
Vet dog food $47.99    1.9
Groceries $32.45    1.9
NO SPEND day 4    1.8
Groceries $3.86    1.7
Band-aides $3.67    1.6
Groceries $21.11    1.6
New work pants $14.69    1.6
NO SPEND day 3    1.5
Groceries $29.45    1.4
Cleaning $2.99    1.4
Toiletries $6.29    1.4
NO SPEND day 2    1.3
Groceries $62.22    1.2
Cleaning $5.14    1.2
Toiletries $8.97    1.2
Pets $2.50    1.2
NO SPEND day 1    1.1

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Love Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade recipe (sort of):
 I wouldn't suggest winging it because that's certainly a great way to end up with a mess but that's pretty much what I did both times for my orange marmalade. The first batch I made with the clementines turned out pretty thick but still very yummy. This second batch I made is perfect. I got the recipe/ bare bones for my marmalade from this website

For this last batch I used the three old, wrinkly, somewhat dried out clementines and combined them with a fresh large orange. I also had four pretty ugly old strawberries that I chopped into small chunks and threw in the pot just to use them up. I added 2 cups of sugar and 1 tablespoon of rum. The recipe on the website said to add lemon juice and I didn't have a lemon. I did however have a small bottle of rum that has been in my baking cupboard for years so I just said, "what the hey," and put some in. I figured the lemon juice was really just for a little added flavor so why not rum, right.

I added just enough water to cover the pot full of super thin orange slices and sugar and then on second thought because my marmalade was a bit too think last time I added about 1/2 cup more water. Yes I should have measured. Oops. I brought everything to a simmer and cooked it on low for 40 minutes. It was simmering the entire time. After 40 minutes I got out my candy thermometer and attempted to bring the glorious concoction up to 222 degrees F. Last time I did bring it up to 222 but some of the oranges burnt to the bottom of the pan. This time I stirred it more and noticed some starting to burn at 220 and since it was taking several minutes to raise just 2 degrees I pulled it at 220. And it was perfect!

This jar is from strawberry preserves we just finished that we'd gotten as a white elephant Christmas gift. I'm all about reusing glass containers, at least once. This last batch of marmalade made about three times what I've pictured here. This morning for breakfast little Abe and I had toast with cream cheese and orange marmalade on it. Yummy!!!

 In conclusion, if you have a good deal of cuties, or clementines, or a few oranges that are about to go bad (that you wouldn't just sit down and eat because they're really past that point) certainly don't be afraid to turn them into marmalade. It's kind of fun. It's super yummy and it's way better than eating crunchy oranges.

Average daily spending for 2015: $17.22
Today was NO SPEND day 12 for the year but I did end up stopping before work yesterday to get the cat food. That's what caused my average to jump.

Other side note: the bananas are in the freezer, peel-less and will be turned into banana bread at some point in the future. Thanks for all the suggestions on that one. I truly had not thought about freezing them and then making bread out of the frozen bananas.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Food Waste Update

I'm shooting for three no spends in a row Tuesday thru Thursday.
I just spent $9.99 on toilet paper, $36.97 on food and $9.25 on two birthday gifts, one for my little guy and one for a different niece. The clearance toys and sporting goods are an additional 50% off today.

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.25
The average factors in the next three no spends and does not factor in cat food I'm going to need to purchase probably today.

The food waste situation is on the verge of getting out of control here.

I bought a beautiful large orange today, sliced up the three wrinkly clementines, and I'm working on another batch of orange marmalade right now. I'm not sure how well it will work out but I sliced up the yuck strawberries that didn't have any mold on them and threw them in with the oranges. It'll be an interesting batch of marmalade with orange, clementine, strawberry, and a little rum. 

The other three strawberries got tossed out. I think I'll freeze the bananas and use them for smoothies. I'm highly contemplating using my new mini muffin tin to make a batch of apple Tassies with those two rapidly decaying apple halves. That'll be the second batch of Tassies I've ever made.

I've also got some creamy mushroom chicken in the fridge that I need to use up and I'm not sure if I should transform it into soup or just freeze it before it's too late... Something must be done about it today! Really keeping close tabs on the food we throw out is leading me to believe I threw out way more food than I ever thought before. It takes some work but I'm glad to be trying to utilize all of the food we bring into our home. It's only fair to the food, the people who produced it, and certainly the animals that gave their lives. AND it certainly helps save money.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gift card week

The unofficial week of gift cards is officially over. My son had gotten a $10 GC for Barnes&Noble from my aunt and uncle. I had a gift card there myself from last year with a $2.82 balance left on it. We went on an adventure this morning to pick out a book for him. We chose the classic "We're going on a bear hunt." I used to love reading that book to the kids at a day care where I worked. The book cost about $8.50 so we used the remaining money to pick up a gift for my niece's upcoming birthday and spent $4.63 out of pocket. I'm pretty happy with that even though I had hoped to spend nothing but hey, we got a gift out of the trip so it's good.

I also purchased a magazine subscription through groupon for my little guy with $10 that he'd gotten from a great aunt for Christmas. The subscription will only be for 6 issues of a magazine called Zootles but it looks very neat. Each issue features one animal and I think we'll do a week or two weeks focused activities and learning based around the animal on the issue for the month. We can even go to the library and pick out books about that animal. I think the magazine subscription will be very fun for him and me. His great Aunt gave him $50 all together so I've allotted $20 for an evening out for him and his daddy and $20 for his next horse riding lesson.

After the B&N trip I stopped at the grocery store with him to drop off a few deposit bottles ($1.10 worth) and pick up apple juice and a frozen pizza for tonight. I got a nicer frozen pizza, not Jacks our staple. After the $1.10 in bottle returns and a random $2 I found in a pocket I paid $4.89 for groceries today. I'm falling a little behind on the every other day no spend average I'm shooting for so I'll have to do a few days in a row this week. That just means I've got some good grocery planning ahead of me.

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.61

I'm very happy with where my average spending is thus far especially considering I've purchased two birthday gifts, three articles of clothing, a mini muffin tin, and a large bag of dog food all this month. I'm going to need to purchase cat food in the very near future so that'll shoot the average up a bit but 25 days into the year, I don't think I'm doing half bad. I'm also breaking my spending up into categories this year so I'm kind of looking forward to the end of the month and reporting where our $16.61 a day was spent. Ah, money fun. hahahaha!

Attack of the Blah's

I only got about five hours sleep Friday night. My husband called at 4am Saturday morning freaking out because the bank account was several hundred dollars over drawn. Thank-you 5/3 for pulling the equity line payment out DOUBLE and two days before normal. Oh, how I love thee! I'd planned to cancel the automatic payment on Saturday and pay it about a week later. Instead they totally screwed up our account, caused my husband to go without food while working Friday night, and after being woke in the middle of the night to a phone call like that I lost a good deal of sleep. I fixed things easy enough... it's sad that I'm getting used to dealing with things like this BUT I was frazzled, to say the least.

I'm a "require eight hours sleep" or more type person so Saturday was a me drinking a lot of coffee and being super grouchy type day. My husband and I were at each others throats. I had to prepare a veggie lasagna and cheese biscuits for my mom's birthday that I was sure I had all the ingredients for (I didn't) but I couldn't hardly get the motivation to move let alone clean up the kitchen and start cooking. Ugh, I felt like the sky was falling, like my kid was going to have to fend for himself all day, like I was needing to call my mom and cancel her birthday, like I was failing at life...

I got the lasagna made, somehow got myself dressed and my kiddo dressed and made it out of the house sort of on time... okay, not really. My car is driving kind of wobbly (I hope it's an air in the tires, maybe a little unaligned thing) so that was a little worrisome. We had to go to the store to get several things (even though it was a planned no spend) and ended up spending $19.60 on the items I was missing. I totally burned the cheese biscuits at my moms (and yet they weren't even cooked in the middle). Saturday was fun!... all this said, emotions have their appropriate place in life but sometimes they are just stupid, dumb, annoying buggers that need to be told to shut up. I managed to at least identify that most of this "failing at life" humdrum that was taking over my brain was the result of a frazzled early waking and lack of sleep but oh blah!

As we were driving to my mom's/ my sister's house, my kid knew how out of sorts I was, so I told him that we needed play a game called, "let's think of what's good." The whole way to the store we talked about what's good; it was a pretty warm sunny day, we were getting to visit with the family, we'd be eating yummy ice cream cake at Aunt Starr's house, he had a fun day with daddy and their buddies the other day; the list goes on. When we drove into the parking lot little Abe's favorite radio song came on, I actually drove right back out of the parking lot and headed to a different store so we could listen to/ sing the song together.

I'm still pretty blah today but all in all this has been a really great month. My family is incredibly healthy. My kid is super awesome. I've done great with spending/ budgeting this month. My basement looks amazing. I'm not going to let a few incidents and a horrible night sleep kill the rest of January for me (even though right now, emotionally it feels that way). Nope!

I leave you with a poor youtube video of one of my very favorite songs that always puts me in a better mood. You kind of have to blast it and sing along at the top of your lungs with a good deal of attitude to get the full effect but, yep, one of my very favorite cheer me up songs. If you listen, enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Growing Up Milestone

My little bitty baby boy will be three years old in just over a month. He now has his first official household chore. There's something about this milestone that is leaving me in complete awe. He is really growing up... wow.

He's been helping me feed the dogs for as long as I can remember. Our dogs are fed twice a day. They eat separate food because we feed the younger one a prescription food from the vet and we feed the older one a nice mature dog food blend. I always fill a cup with food for the older dog first and my little Abe puts the food in his dish. I then fill a cup for the younger dog and little Abe puts the food into her dish. He returns the cup to one of the dog food bags for me and then he closes the door. Last night I asked him if he wanted to feed the dogs all on his own and he was very excited at the idea. He opened the door, scooped the perfect amount of food for our boy and placed it into his dish, scooped the perfect amount of food for our girl, placed it in her dish, returned the cup to the bag, and closed the door. I sat across the room and watched my very big boy taking care of his pups all on his own.

Today he's fed the dogs each time all on his own. I have just pulled a ball jar from the basement and marked it with a dry erase marker so that my little guy has his first chore jar. And now I have a decent use for the odd little wall cubby (that used to house the wall phone). I'll put a cotton ball in the jar each time he completes his chore (I'll include helping me to clean up his toys at the end of the day) and when the cotton balls reach the line he'll get a reward. For now I'm thinking I'll have him pick out a toy from the dollar store. I've only filled the jar for photographic purposes. He's got two cotton balls so far. It should only take a week for him to reach the line right now but I'll use something smaller than cotton balls and move the line up more once he has more than one chore.

My baby is growing up!

When he gets a little older I'll institute an allowance and I'll probably end up switching the big helper jar from "chores" to "kind unexpected acts."

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.09

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mini Shopping Spree

The title sounds kind of fun but this is just a normal, "here's what I bought and that's what I paid for it" blog post.

I picked up some groceries on the way out of work today even though I'd contemplated making this another no spend. I wanted to get in on the 10 items for $10 get the 11th item free sale and I knew that if I didn't pick up a solid set of 11 things today I might miss it. So I did that. And then I spent another $17.48 on a few other good sale items and some stuff I need to make veggie lasagna on Saturday for my mom's birthday.

I also took advantage of some clothing clearance deals. I'm NOT a big shopper so I was only able to force myself to get two things but I'm happy with the purchases. I got a winter coat that will fit little Abe great next year. I spent $6.68 on the coat/ originally $29.68. (I almost bought the exact coat during a black Friday sale for $15) I picked up a pair of lounging around the house pants for me. I only have one decent pair so I'm happy to have a second. The pants were originally $19.08 but with the clearance price, the additional 50% off the clearance price that the store was doing today, and the 40% off in store coupon that I had I paid $2.57 for the pants. I think that's the best deal I've ever got on pants, even when shopping at a thrift store.

In total I spent $36.73 today and I saved $47.50. For me that is good! I'm quite proud of that shopping trip :)

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.63

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NO SPEND day 11 (with a little stop at Panera)

Well I've managed to do it again; a no spend cheat two days in a row. I had a big project at work today that was going to take more time than usual so my husband shooed me out the door first thing hoping I'd be home sooner than later. I hardly had time to get dressed with mr. grouchy moping around let alone make my morning coffee. But I had a plan. I grabbed two slices of my sourdough bread and a Panera gift card that I'd written $6.33 on with a sharpie and headed out. We got the gift card for Christmas and used it once to get our little family of three breakfast back in December.

When I gave birth to little Abe my husband catered to me for an entire week (the only time in my life that's happened). He ran out to Panera the morning after little Abe was born and brought me back a hot coffee and a breakfast souffle that I enjoyed immensely in the hospital while sitting in the bed with my fractured tail bone and my little bundle of awesome sleeping soundly away. I think it was the first time I'd had one and it seemed to be the most wonderful thing I'd ever eaten. During my baby daze of 2012 we had many a breakfast souffle from Panera (that was our backslide with the credit card debt year... in part thanks to those wonderful souffles). Needless to say I hardly ever have them now but they are a food with high sentimental value to me. There's a pretty big connection between those first few days of your little one's life and whatever went on during them.

I ordered a large coffee and a breakfast souffle this morning and quickly tried to do the math in my head. There is tax so I wasn't sure what the total would be but knew it was going to be very close to what I had on the gift card. The total this morning for my coffee and breakfast souffle came to $6.34. I showed the cashier what I'd written on my gift card ($6.33) and said, "I'm pretty sure that's the balance left. Do you have a penny?" She laughed and picked one off the counter behind the register. And with that NO SPEND day 11 is in the books and I had a wonderful breakfast on the way to work this morning. This will be the second time I've had food away from home/ anything not home cooked this month.

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.47

Last night we ate the steaks my hubby got from the butcher with the other gift card (I guess you can call this the week of gift cards), two half pound cuts of sirloin for $12 a pound. I was terrified to cook them because I cannot properly cook steak but I did the smartest thing I could think of. My husband has somewhat of a man crush on Alton Brown so I knew that if I googled what Alton would do and followed the directions to a T then I could blame Alton if they turned out poorly. Well, they turned out just great. As did the garlic bread I made from the sourdough, some corn, and the mashed potatoes and carrots (I always like to throw something orange in the potatoes; carrots or sweet potato because orange seems a healthier color than white; yep, it's an oddity I have). BUT I had at least three different nightmares last night about cooking disasters so apparently the fear of cooking the steaks improperly was ever present on my subconscious.

Basement Adventures Part 2

As the clean up/ clear out progresses I have more goodies to share with you.

I think this one is my favorite. I found an unused valentines card... timely, eh? It reads "I'm not interested in a nice, normal relationship!" and on the inside it says "I like ours better." I will absolutely be giving this "found in the basement" card to my hubby come this valentines day. I vaguely, like a distant thought in the back of my mind, remember buying this for him one year and I waited for him to give me a card but he did not, so, I did not give him one either.

Now this basket of randomness with spider webs intertwined throughout just intrigues me. I don't understand what the wooden thing with string wrapped around it is for or what the metal thing is. I feel almost like I'd be disturbing one eyed Willy's treasure if I were to move any of it's contents. I'm not sure why but a few items like this, and my grandpa in laws tool table that has NEVER been touched since he passed just seem like they need to be left alone... inevitably, I will take more photos and then disturb the history that has thus far been preserved in my basement but for now they stay as is.

This bike basket with something that looks like a speedometer was buried in a box of stuffs. I couldn't even begin to tell you why but I like it. I have a strong feeling that the bike it attatched to is actually hanging on the wall in the back of my rickety garage (that is currently on its way to falling over... the tiny shack of a garage is worse off then the basement).

This one I have listed to etsy. It's a fire king jadite D handle mug. I've it listed for $30. It seems to have some value in it. I do love it though. I'm kind of a fan of mugs and this one is just a fabulous vintage little fellow with the most gorgeous pale minty color. If it were said that I collected anything, mugs would be it. But this is rather small for my liking and if I can get $30 out of it I'll gladly let it go.

That concludes the basement adventures as of now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Eating Out Conundrum (this one's for Sue)

In a recent post Sue commented:
January has been good for us too except... and we are still having issues with eating out - any suggestions from anyone? It is without a doubt our biggest vice and we feed off of each other (no pun intended) in making excuses to eat out. I HATE, HATE, HATE to cook and it is basically just the 2 of us now (youngest who still lives at home is barely here) so I'm open to anything. I've tried menu planning, once-a-month cooking, you name it and we just find some excuse to eat out - HELP!!!

Ahh, eating out! It's so wonderful. It has a plethora of amazing benefits. Starting with not having to cook. At home you probably have seven to ten dinners to chose from, that you like, that you have to shop for, and prepare yourself but when you eat out you have probably more than that in restaurants to chose from with entire menus at each. Of course there are a handful that you really like and you have favorite meals at each of them but it's like you're a king or queen with all these quick and easy and delicious options at your finger tips. Of course you don't have to clean up the mess of having just made dinner. That's a huge bonus. You can easily bring home the delicious dining out food if you want to eat at home. And shoot, some of the food will come right to your door; doesn't get better than that. If you love "going out" this eating while away from home thing is a perk in itself. You get to socialize with at least the waiter, people watch, experience different spaces. Ah, this is the life!

Of course you pay a price for all this luxury, all these options and benefits, and it's not an insignificant price either. When my husband and I were living off of credit cards (hey, I always paid the required payment... we weren't doing anything wrong <throat clear>) we ate out A LOT. And it wasn't even that I didn't like to cook (however I hate the clean up) but just that it was fun, and easy, and yummy, and my husband is not super appreciative of a home cooked meal. We ate out, and ate out, and ate take out in, and were happy as could be.

When I finally realized that we weren't making enough money to pay even the minimum credit card payments and pay all of our bills too is when I signed myself up for the Dave Ramsey financial peace university classes at our church. I'll tell you all, one thing I noticed was that all of us horribly indebted individuals ate out often. The price for eating out regularly, even if you can afford it, is a ton, A TON of money spent on the luxury, on the benefits, on the easy options. IF you can afford it and IF you want to spend your money on the luxury of eating out instead of a plethora of other things you could be spending the gobs of money on then more power to you! For real. Live it up and eat till your hearts content. I do not judge you in the least. I'm happy for you. But if you realize that you're just blowing money on eating out but you also realize it's something you've grown super accustomed to and you're having a difficult time stopping the habit then I have a few tips for you; just a few things that have worked for me.

For some people it's easy to just decide, "We're going to stop eating out. We're going to eat at home from now on." At least I think some people can easily make the switch. It was torture, absolute torture for us. Like Sue said we fed off each other all the time. We'd plan to eat dinner at home and then one of us would say "but I'm REALLY craving..." and the other would try and stay strong but there would be a great excuse, or you'd be the martry and want to make the other person happy. "Okay honey, if you are REALLY craving that and it would make you happy if we just went out to eat today. I understand. I want you to be happy." Oh, it took us way too long to change our ways. But they were our ways. We had grown accustomed to a lifestyle and that is not, generally, an easy thing to change.

- Make sure to have supplies/ ingredients at home for several different meals. Chances are that if you're feeling the need to go out and especially to not cook then you're probably not going to want to eat what you have on hand. If you have several options to choose from you're more likely to want one of them at least. It's not usually a good idea to start out the day saying we're going to have ____ fill in the blank. You're going to end up convincing yourself by the end of the day why you absolutely do not want that meal and then you'll head out for yummier, easier food.

- Come up with some really easy meals to prepare that you like. Our main one is tacos. If you have some meals that you can prepare without much torture and that you really enjoy you're way more likely to eat at home.

- Set an eating out goal for the week. Maybe your goal is to eat out twice that week. Or maybe it's to not spend more than $30 on food away from home. Whatever your goal is, goals are a really great way to retrain yourself/ to learn to grow accustomed to a new lifestyle. Make sure you set a goal each week and try your hardest to accomplish your goal. If your goal is simply "to not eat out," you're likely to never accomplish it I mean unless you're one of those earlier mentioned people who can change their habits easy peasy.

- In a very simple, as little work as possible way, track what you're saving on not eating out. Estimate, estimate, estimate, because if you're crunching numbers all the time trying to figure out how much you're saving down to the penny then you're just adding more work on top of the cooking and cleaning. But say you spent $8 on your dinner for two at home and you would have spent $18 on your dinner for two at the local taco place: you just saved $10. I'd highly recommend having a jar that you drop a note into: January 20, we saved $10 today. At the end of the month or the end of the week you can look back at how much you saved and you might be surprised at how motivated you are to not eat out the next week.

- Have a destination for your savings/ establish rewards. Let's say you have a summer road trip planned to see Mt. Rushmore and some other sights. In keeping with the "track what you're saving" thought, put what you're saving towards a reward for yourself. Let's say you end up saving $70 in a week by eating out less (truly you will save so much more). Give that $70 a name; pick a reward. Say you're going to put that $70 towards the price of admission for the two of you to go on a tour of Wonderland Cave in South Dakota and buy some souvenirs. That wonderful adventure is from just one weeks eating out savings. I'd like to think you'd get pretty excited about eating at home after a few weeks of racking up the rewards. Another reward could simply be to put the "eating out savings" into an actual savings account or towards your credit card debt snowball. Rewards are a very good way to retrain yourself.

- Find someone to hold you accountable. If you can get someone else excited about all of the not eating out progress you're making it will be easier for you to stick to your guns. And likewise if you have someone to report back to when you've tripped up and ruined your plans to eat at home today it can make it considerably more easy to stay strong. This blog was my main source of accountability along with tracking my daily spending. Especially in the beginning there were so many times that I was dying to eat out but I decided that I would not because I did not want to come here and report my failure. (those of you who have been here from the beginning, thank-you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to change)

- Bake a cake. This one might be a tip exclusively for me but often times I'd be more inclined to stay home and eat dinner I'd prepared at home if I had a yummy treat waiting for me at the end of the evening. What can I say, I'm a piggy. If I had an eating at home chocolate cake reward, so to say, and I ate out and came home to eat my cake after, well it surely didn't taste as good. Who wants to ruin a delicious piece of made from scratch chocolate cake with a sour mouth full of shame?

- Make sure your kitchen is clean. Remember I said I hate cleaning up after cooking, well I've learned that when I do clean up after cooking I'm WAY, way, WAAAAY more inclined to cook the next time around. Cooking is a chore enough but having to wash dishes that you need to prepare a meal before you prepare the meal can be completely defeating. Plus, not having clean working spaces/ clear counters and an inviting stove top can make cooking feel like a much bigger chore than it really is. I know this is 100% true for me.

- Do not be afraid of frozen pizza. You have to have a go to meal for a really busy day when you just don't have time to cook. We really don't do freezer meals at all but a good cheap frozen pizza (and I say cheap because we happen to like Jack's pizza the best of all the frozen pizza's and it's the cheapest) can be an absolute life saver when you're tired, worn out, been super busy all day and you just need food fast. Having "fast" food in the house is not a crime. It's just smart.

NO SPEND cheat

Today was NO SPEND day 10 for the year BUT I picked up some groceries before heading home from work. I had $12 in store rewards and I used the $12 to pick up a few things. I'll tell you, it's pretty fun shopping without spending any money.

I was really tempted to use the store rewards on some great clearance items I've been noticing this week but I did the responsible thing instead. I pretty much just picked up some odds and ends for my kiddo: juice, granola bars, Ovaltine; stuff along those lines, but I'll be able to pull off another no spend day tomorrow now too. I'll get some of the clearance items later depending on where my average daily spending is at towards the end of the month and if they're still around.

When I got home my husband informed me that he used a gift card from his grandma (from Christmas) to get some steaks, hot sauce, and beer from the local meat market. Woohoo, that's a free dinner I hadn't planned... although, I am horrible at cooking steaks. It's looking to be a pretty great no spend day on this, the 20th of January.

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.47

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Tassies

Happy Birthday week to Sluggy!

I big time splurged and bought myself a mini cupcake tin today. It cost all of $6,70 but it was a big splurge for me because I haven't bought anything for cooking/ baking/ for the kitchen in a very, very, very... I don't remember ever buying anything along these lines, honest. I also want to purchase a pop over pan but that will come later. I've never made pop overs before but they look fun.

Next, I baked a batch of walnut tassies in honor of Sluggy's birthday week (I hope you don't detest walnuts). I've never made tassies before so that marks another new baked treat off my quarter goals list. I wasn't going to let the birthday candle go to waste so I sang happy birthday to my son after I snapped the photo. He knows it's not his birthday but he's still at that age where he gives people "birthday" presents all the time and loves to sing the song to them. He was delighted.

Average daily spending for 2015: $17.29

In other news, I got all the weekend to-dos done. Dogs teeth scraped, toe nails clipped, hair trimmed, and bathed. I baked three loaves of sourdough bread, cleaned a bunch more in the basement, and thus far (except for breaking a tooth today) January has been pretty swell.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Onto Sourdough Bread

I had been purposefully in denial about it but the verdict is in and facebook eats up an absurd amount of my time. I will not be giving it up but I do need to come up with a way to force restrictions upon myself; yes, I am like a five year old and need disciplining.

Today I've cleaned a tremendous amount in the basement (still a huge ways to go but getting so much done...) and made two loaves of sourdough bread. I'm ecstatic (I'll make another tomorrow). The recipe called for sourdough starter; 1 pack of active dry yeast, 2.5 cups of water, and 1.5 cups of flour. The starter makes three loaves of bread. It is to sit for at least 24 hours or up to four days. I was hoping to give it two days minimum but alas my patience is not what it should be. I gave it 36 hours and now I've two loaves of wonderful bread and so inexpensive. I also think I've finally managed to make a pretty loaf of bread. Yay me, and it's very yummy (the most important part).

Granted bread takes a lot of patience, a decent amount of work, and a good deal of time but by my estimate one loaf of this sourdough costs about 75 cents. 75 cents for a loaf of fresh baked bread with absolutely no chemicals, preservatives, additives, sugar; I could go on an on. I'm so thrilled! If I end up buying a brick of instant yeast and keeping it in the freezer as Lisa's suggested it would cost considerably less even.

I love making bread. Part of this new found passion is probably due to the sprinkling of flour on the table and kneading the dough with my hands. I've been a bit of a mess maker all of my life. I like my hands dirty, whether covered in paint or graphite from artwork, dirt from pulling weeds and working in the garden, goopy flour from paper mache, or now bread dough; there's just something about working with my hands and them being filthy that I love.

Here's today's beauty :)
You can almost smell it, right?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Moldy Red Peppers Make For Very Happy Snowmen

After the first snowman was constructed I absolutely pulled the moldy pepper out of the bin to cut the most perfect happy snowman mouth from it.

We've had a lovely morning and a lovely time at breakfast with my friend. Afterwards the three of us drove down to the lake to see how far it'd frozen out; Lake Michigan is very much alive. Less than a month ago there wasn't a single frozen formation in the lake (I always refer to the mountains of ice that form at the shore as frozen waves). Our lake doesn't freeze out flat because of the huge waves so rather it has large mesmerizing frozen hills along the shore. The frozen waves went out very far already and the lighthouse was covered in a very thick sheet of ice.

When we arrived home my little guy and I headed into the backyard and built some happy snowmen together. He also made some snow angels and we ran around with the dogs a bit (okay, he ran around with the dogs a bit). All before nap time... now that's a good Saturday. 

Average daily spending for 2015: $18.20

Friday, January 16, 2015

Simple Updates, Weekend Plans, Groceries

I apologize for the excessive blogging as of late. I guess that avoiding facebook for the month has caused me to blog considerably more than usual. I feel like I have a ton of random updates due to my increase of posts.

1.) Turns out I love clementine marmalade! The little batch I made awhile back is almost gone and I will for certain be making more.

2.) After two successful loaves of cheese bread I will be taking a stab at sourdough this weekend/ week. I'm going to make the sourdough starter tonight so I shouldn't have an actual loaf of bread (or three... the starter makes three loaves) until Monday or Tuesday. I'm thinking I will be giving a loaf of bread to someone come Tuesday, that is if they turn out super yummy.

3.) I'm moving along in the basement much quicker than I'd hoped. I'm both super proud of myself and super excited that we may have a usable/ clutter free/ junk free, clean basement quite soon.

4.) On the "food waste" front I ended up throwing out a bit of taco meat yesterday and a red pepper today. The pepper was just beautiful. I cut it open and it was all moldy inside. I can't be blamed really for that one, I mean, a moldy pepper in disguise was not my fault. Add to that the few moldy clementines I threw out a few days back and that is all of our food waste for the month so far.

5.) Tonight I'm making a huge pot of soup with the three remaining chicken breasts from the $1.99lb chicken I bought earlier this month. It will be chicken and dumplings soup and although my husband is not a huge fan of soup or chicken I'm rather excited about it. Yum! I used several carrots that were at the end of their life, a little bit of already chopped onions left in the fridge, a very small portion of the pepper I threw out (it was free of mold and looked good), four large cloves of garlic, salt, and a hearty amount of corn and peas.

6.) I have a very long to-do list for the weekend. I'm calling it the weekend of the dogs. I've already scraped plaque from their teeth today. I intend to trim their hair, cut their toe nails, and give them baths and a good brushing. That's enough for one weekend but I hope to clean a good bit more in the basement, do some sort of fun activity with little Abe, and maybe get some reading in (which would include a trip to the library). Among other things I have a pretty good list ahead of me. I'm glad it's the weekend.

7.) I went shopping today and spent considerably more than I'd planned but with the exception of some boneless skinless chicken thighs that I found for $1.59lb that I could not pass up, I stuck to my list. I had to buy dog food and picked up a few chews for them too. I spent $30.26 on the dogs and $30.88 on groceries.

8.) I'd really hoped for a no spend tomorrow but a dear friend of mine asked me to go to breakfast tomorrow for her birthday. I was absolutely not going to turn her down simply due to my plans for a no spend. I will gladly give that one up. Also, it will be the first time I've eaten any sort of food away from home this month (beverages included). I think making it half way through January without a single food or drink purchase away from home is pretty darn good.

I'm off to make some dumplings for my soup now.
I hope each and everyone of you has a fantastic weekend!

Average daily spending for 2015: $18.02

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Marked off NO SPEND day 8 for the year
Baked from scratch brownies with made from scratch frosting after dinner

That pretty much sums up my day

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.35

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Basement Adventures, wee

Little Abe and I spent a good deal of time cleaning in the basement today. I'm feeling very accomplished. It's such a huge job but it feels good to make little dents. One thing I've enjoyed about cleaning down there is that several VERY OLD and honestly really yucky items that I put at the curb (a day early on purpose just in a case anyone would come by and pick them up) have been picked up. I love that people are taking things I'm throwing out. I'd WAY rather they be re-used if just for scrap wood or whatever than to go in the landfill. And today I contacted a scrapper who's picking up some stuff that I left in the driveway for her. I've thrown out a ton of trash/ damaged/ ruined things from the abyss that is my basement but I'm very happy whenever I'm able to find an alternative to the landfill for the junk down there. And truly, to me, every bit of what I'm discarding is junk.

I've also gotten rid of at least 90% of the spider webs that have accumulated over the years... we don't use the basement except for one little corner to do laundry in. After having vacuumed up a good deal of the chipped paint from the floor (maybe 40%) and gotten rid of most of the webs from everywhere else it already looks kind of cozy; okay, that's a stretch, but comparatively I think I can say "kind of" cozy.

I thought I'd share with you some of the most interesting of my basement discoveries today. Again, for any new comers, my husband and I purchased his grandparent's house when they passed. The family took the things they wanted and left everything they did not.

This little guy is rusty as can be but I think it's splendid. It's probably something that will continue to live in my basement pantry for a very long time just because I love it.

I've never heard of nor seen a "frozen food box." This package is honestly completely full of the things. It's one of those odd finds that just leaves you feeling like you've stepped back in history for a moment, you know, before Ziploc. I don't feel like throwing these out but I certainly don't know what to do with them.

This has probably got some value in it. I'll try and sell it on Etsy as soon as I can figure out how to calculate shipping... there are just some things that seem too complicated.

In other very non-interesting news I ended up getting a few groceries today. Tomorrow will be a no spend. I used my $10 store reward and spent $3.35 out of pocket, stuck to my list, and only went $1.15 over what I'd hoped to spend.

Average daily spending for 2015: $16.35

Cheese Bread Recipe

I've made a second loaf of cheese bread today. It's only just a regular loaf of bread with a bit of shredded cheese in it but it's SO yummy! I must say I absolutely love the aroma that fills the house when bread is baking in the oven. This second try at the recipe turned out just as good (only my loaf was a bit more wobbly looking... I've yet to learn to make a pretty loaf of bread)

This recipe is from a Martha Day Complete Baking recipe book.

Ingredients:                                               Cost $1.75 for one loaf
1 package active dry yeast                                    .50
1 cup of luke warm milk                                         .20
2 tablespoons melted butter cooled a bit                 .20          
3 cups flour                                                           .35
2 teaspoons of salt                                                  ?
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese                    .50

*I used all purpose unbleached flour. The book specifically says bread flour for several other recipes but not for this one so I am fairly certain that this recipe calls for an all purpose flour.

1. Stir together the milk and yeast and leave for 15 minutes to dissolve.

2. Add the melted butter to the milk yeast mixture. (The yeast is alive so if you pour hot butter onto it you'll likely kill it. Letting the melted butter cool for a little bit prevents it from killing the yeast. But you still need melted butter.)

3. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture.

4. With a wooden spoon stir from the center incorporating flour with each turn to obtain a rough dough. If the dough seems too dry, add 2-3 tablespoons of water.

5. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 2-3 hours.

6. Grease a 9x5 inch bread pan. Punch down the dough with your fist. Knead in the cheese, distributing it as evenly as possible.

7. Twist the dough, form into a loaf shape, and place in the pan, tucking the ends under. Leave in a warm place until the dough rises above the rim of the pan. (Rising about the rim took a much longer time for mine than I'd anticipated but patience is a very important part of bread making.)

8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ways I've learned to save money/ What's the point of a no spend day

Where there is no vision, the people perish
-Prov. 29:18
- The number one way I've learned to save money is to plan out my purchases. If I don't bring a list to the store then I will buy a good deal of random excessive stuff that we do not need. Ideally the list will be well thought out with the majority of items on sale and/or that I have coupons for.

- Not eating out/ drive through/ delivery is a very effective way for my family to save money.

- Similarly if I'm able to avoid buying food at work/ while working then I save a great deal of money. I'm continually amazed at how much money I save when I don't buy food at work and how much money absolutely flies out of the bank account on weeks that I get lazy and don't plan food for work.

- Simply not using the charge card is also a really good way to save money. Let's say you're really good at paying your balance before interest kicks in. Well you're already one up on the majority of people and way up on me but "a study of credit card use at McDonald’s found that people spent 47% more when using credit instead of cash," regularly sighted by Dave Ramsey. People simply tend to spend less when they're spending real money as opposed to credit which can offer a disconnect to reality. I know this is true for me.

- Contemplating a purchase two or three times before you make it is a really good way to save money. Let's say you want to buy a new rug; first of all do you actually need it? Second, if you've come to the conclusion that you really"need" a new rug I recommend not buying the rug you come across until your second or third trip to the store. Chances are very high that you'll find a cheaper one in the mean time, find one you like more, or decide in the end you don't need it after all. And lastly if you end up purchasing it I think you'll be much happier with your new rug and have a greater appreciation for it after all the thought you've put into it. More times than not patience is a very good way to save money.

- I'm very slowly, day by day, getting better at sale hunting and coupon using but obviously spending less on the things you regularly buy is a very good way to save money. I'd suggest stopping by Sluggy's blog if you want to be a great bargain shopper.

- Frugal hacks. 1.) I never buy paper towels or napkins. If someone in this home needs a napkin then they can use a wash cloth. I use old socks for any paper towel use. Yes, they aren't pretty but once the sock is quite worn I cut the toe off (so that we don't continue wearing the old ratty thing) and begin it's second life as a kitchen rag. 2.) I love using spaghetti sauce jars for drinking glasses. 3.) I trim my own hair. 4.) I groom our dogs. 5.) I'm not entirely sure how frugal cloth diapers are, I like to think they're very much so, but after taking sometime to grow on me I LOVE not buying diapers and using cloth diapers for my kiddo. He only wears a diaper to sleep at night now but I truly feel good putting one on him every night. It's awesome not buying diapers. I'm sure there's others but I'm drawing a blank. 6.) Something I've learned from frugallychallenged over at trundling through life is that very old worn sheets make for excellent soft facial tissues. We, thank the Lord, very rarely get sick around here but a strong runny nose and an old sheet sewn into a lovely tissue go wonderfully together. They really are the best.

- Keep it simple. Find free activities that you love. It seems people are always trying to find something exciting to do; entertainment. But simply enjoying the people you're with and noticing the loveliness of today can be very entertaining. I find that going for a simple walk with my son and focusing on each other and our surroundings can be, sometimes, the most fun thing ever. Watching a movie at home, making it a neat event instead of just another movie can be very entertaining. Just the other day we went sledding and it was the most fun free activity ever. My family loves walking around downtown and not buying anything but just enjoying the day together. Simple can be very wonderful.

- I find that no spend days encourage me to spend less.

I wrote the following almost two years ago so I thought it might be time for a refresher:
What's the point of a no spend day anyway, after all if I don't buy the milk, and the eggs, and the cocoa powder today I'll just buy it tomorrow. What did I accomplish by putting off the purchase just one day?

I'd like to think that NO SPEND days are very healthy like exercise. For financial weaklings like me successfully accomplishing challenges like a NO SPEND help significantly strengthen my financial muscles. Even if you'll just purchase the milk, eggs, and cocoa powder tomorrow you still had to have a plan in place that allowed you to have all your necessities for today. And every single NO SPEND day guards you from impulse buys. You weren't able to plop that candy bar on the belt today if you didn't spend a penny now were you?

NO SPEND days:
Help teach the unorganized shopper to plan
Guard against impulse buys
Offer little financial goals during the long arduous process of paying off debt
Encourage frugality
Definitely help save money
If you try for a few NO SPENDs I think you'd be surprised at the little things you end up not buying.

All that being said I didn't focus on no spends very much last year. This year I really am shooting for an every other day average. It's the biggest no spend challenge I've taken on but as long as I don't fall behind in a major way it's a very doable challenge. 182 no spends for 2015!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Shopping

Today was grocery shopping day. I'm planning no spends for tomorrow and Wednesday. I'll make chili today. We'll eat leftovers tomorrow and then tacos on Wed. I went to the store with my list hoping to spend $45 and came away spending $48.55 on a $60.66 bill. I saved $12.11 with coupons, sales, and a $5 store reward and I earned another $10 in store rewards for my next shopping trip. That will make Thursday's shopping total pretty low. I didn't buy anything that wasn't on my list so I guess I did pretty good. I also think I have enough toilet bowl cleaner and dish soap to last for several months now. I picked up a pack of dust masks for my basement cleaning project. Between the decades old layers of dust in some spots, hiding mold spurs, and who knows what kind of paint I'm chipping off the floor I decided to stop deep cleaning until I picked up some masks.

Now I must make chili, get my kid down for a nap, and head off to work. Maybe I'll get a little cleaning in and hopefully I won't eat all the bread before all is said and done. Happy Monday everyone!

Average daily spending for 2015: $17.28

Oh yeah, clementine marmalade on cheese bread is very tasty   : )

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Great Quiet Day Here

I'll be going to sleep tonight with a smile on my face because today was just about perfect.

-Went sledding with my guys
-Baked a wonderful loaf of cheese bread
-Cleaned a bit in the yuck basement
-Made a new dinner
-Got a shower in during the little guy's nap
-Pulled off NO SPEND day 6 for the year
-Put together a shopping list for tomorrow and planned out meals for the week

Yep. All of the above leaves me feeling a bit like super woman and very happy.

Average daily spending for 2015: $17.58

I'm by no means an experienced bread maker but this loaf was SUPER tasty (we've already eaten half of it), puts me closer to my quarterly goals, and turned out better than any other bread I've made. Yay!

Free Fun - Sledding

It finally warmed up! Hooray! My husband walks in the front door this morning and say's, "It's 30 degrees outside." (that's Fahrenheit, 2 degrees below freezing) To which I immediately (because I knew what he was getting at) said, "Awesome! We can go sledding now!" Little Abe has not been sledding yet. It was just too cold last winter (much like this winter has been so far) and we didn't get out with him. Today so far has been sunny and relatively warm with no wind... perfect! Someone gave me a sled for him a few weeks ago (I honestly do not advertise that I'm frugal, truly).
It was the most beautiful morning ever; just the three of us out in the sunny snowy winter wonderland. There were birds chirping the entire time. I couldn't help but feel embraced by beauty as we had the time of our lives. Little Abe loved sledding and my husband had an absolute blast with his son. The pure white snow glistened on tree branches everywhere you looked. I promise there were absolutely no trees anywhere near the sledding paths. The sun was bright on the horizon in the distance with it's rays peaking between trees.

So perfect and didn't cost one single penny!

Just perfect!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Food Waste Update - Clementine marmalade

We're ten days in to the new year. I'm paying super close attention to what food we're throwing away this year and hoping to throw away very little. Until today I had been very successful at using up anything that was close to going bad.

I had a box with several shriveling clementines that I didn't really know what to do with though. I imagined I'd have to throw them out sooner or later (because I tried to eat one and it was gross) but I held onto them anyhow. I bought a new box of clementines a few days ago and gosh darn it there were 3 moldy ones and a few really shriveled ones in there too.

Now, do I buy orange marmalade? No. Have I ever made orange marmalade before? No. Have I ever eaten orange marmalade before? I honestly do not remember. But for some reason it crossed my mind today to use up the not moldy but very shriveled clementines (I think I put about 10 in) to make clementine marmalade. It's so yummy!!! The stuff is like candy. I made a very small batch because I just used the shriveled clementines I had but it's awesome.

Today I threw away six moldy clementines but the marmalade that I made with the shriveled ones is a total success!

Friday shopping trip

Today, very hopefully will be a no spend. I do not want to leave the house.

Yesterday I spent WAY more than I'd planned. I was hoping to grab "a few essentials" on my way out of work and spend maybe $5 to $8. Haha! I should absolutely not under any circumstances allow myself to shop without a list. I spent... wait for it... $32. Yeah, a bit more than $5 I'd say.

One thing I got though that I hadn't planned originally was coffee grounds. I'm almost out and whenever I run out I end up buying coffee from McDonald's or someplace more expensive during the interim. I should also not allow myself to run out of coffee grounds. I got some that are a bit nicer than the Maxwell house I've been buying (I do prefer a bit more expensive coffee than Maxwell house) and they were on sale for $5.99 a pound. I'm glad I got them. Here's the silly thing. I will often be cross with myself for spending lets say $4.98 on a bag of coffee grounds "ah, so much money" and yet I've struggled for years to break a Starbucks addiction (which I have successfully broken). Do you have any idea how many pounds of coffee beans I could have purchased with the amount of money I've spent on Starbucks beverages? Now that is nonsense. I'll keep purchasing grounds instead, thank-you very much.

The rest of the $32 shopping trip was lots of fruits and veggies, some granola bars and juice for my boy, and other pretty much essential food. I spent more than I'd have liked but I did not buy anything wasteful. So I guess it's a win.

Now I will google something to do with clementines that are, um, not in their prime. I do not want to throw them away. Anyone ever make orange marmalade? I bet I could use the little guys up for that sort of a thing. Hmm, clementine jam... I might just have some yummy work ahead of me.

Average daily spending for 2015: $19.33

Oh goodness, I almost forgot to mention: We still haven't eaten out, coffees, sodas, a quick drive thru burger or pizza delivery included at all this year. I feel like this is note worthy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Tithe, The Blizzard, and The Furnace

Preface: I've gone to church virtually all my life. I've been tithing since my first job, a neighborhood paper route I got as a young kid. I am very passionate about our Creator and I love Jesus. The Bible is my absolute favorite book. A few years ago the church I'd attended for 15 years had some head pastor "issues" and seemingly almost over night my church was no longer. So many people left and so many people came that before I had time to blink the church that I'd taught Sunday school in for ages, the church that I attended 4 mission trips with, the church that I'd spent almost more time at during high school than what I spent at school was not really my church any longer. I stopped going shortly after my baby Abe came along and I've had very little motivation to find a new one. I have trust issues and I'm not one that easily finds a brand new "family."  I say all that to end at: a few years back I also stopped tithing.

The story: Every day I thank the Lord for being our protector and our provider. I know that He blesses us and that He protects us. He is in control and to add to that our debt and financial messes are from pure stupidity on our parts not because of any shortcoming on His part. A few months back I heard that still small voice say, "You need to start tithing again." I always respond to these sort of things and I politely replied, "really? now? This is quite possibly the tightest our finances have been in years. You can't be serious." To which I heard the still small voice say, "Yes, now. If you are faithful I will bless you." I don't need much more than that these days. I've learned it's not best to ignore the quiet nudges.

Last night on the coldest most snowy most windy night I can remember in a very long time our furnace stop kicking out heat. My husband had just left for work when I discovered the house growing cold. The temp in our house dropped from 69 to 60 in just about an hour. I figured with a lot of blankets and snuggled in bed together that little Abe and I would be fine through the night but I was a bit scared at how cold it could get with the horrid weather outside. I turned the furnace off completely and let it sit a bit twice before I called my husband to let him know there was an issue and that we'd need to get it fixed asap in the morning. Staying warm was the foremost thought on my mind but of course I'm thinking all the while about how much this repair would cost, where I would come up with the money for it (things should not be allowed to break after Christmas), and how would tomorrow be as it grew colder and colder, would I need to find some place for our three furry kids to stay, how would I prevent the pipes from bursting once it got to freezing temps, would a furnace repair man even be available in this kind of blizzard... oh, the thoughts.

My husband ended up calling his sister who lives down the road from us. She came and picked up me and little Abe to spend the night in her living room. His car seat was in the car my husband took to work but her kids were sleeping, her husband was home (he had to shovel out their driveway at just about midnight before she could come by and get us even) and little Abe was able to sit in his cousins car seat on the ride over. It's a good thing she's got 4wheel drive too. The roads were filled with snow and not plowed in the least. It was quite the adventure. I hardly slept last night. I couldn't stop thinking about how cold my home was getting and hoping it wasn't too cold for my other babies. I kept questioning, and I felt wrong doing so, but "why this Lord? how are you going to provide for this? we can not afford this." I was hoping for a miracle of sorts. I kept saying "thank-you Lord, I know that you are our provider, you are our protector."

My husband came home from work to a 40 degree F house. The animals were fine. And for some reason before calling a furnace guy, all I can think is that is was by the leading of God, in snow up to his waist and temps around 0F he walked over to the side of the house that the furnace intake is on. We don't walk over there as it's the opposite side of the driveway. We don't drive past there since it's not the direction of anything we go to. And I've mentioned it before, my husband is NOT handy. I don't know why he thought to look over there at all. There was a drift of snow that came to the bottom of our windows. The air conditioning unit and the furnace air intake were completely buried, just gone. He shoveled all the snow away from the intake, went inside, turned the furnace on, and there came the heat.

Conclusion: Sometimes stupid things happen and you are forced to cart your 2 year old around in the middle of the night in a horrendous blizzard and inconvenience family members and then in the end you feel very blessed for things to have worked out just perfectly. I'm feeling very thankful. Much like the time the tire blew out on my van and instead of it becoming one of the worst days ever it was an exceptionally awesome day. <linked here
The Lord is most certainly my provider and protector and I think maybe it takes a little shaking up of things here and there to help me see this truth more clearly. He tends to work that way, the shaking up of things. To many it might just look like Murphy.. you know, Murphy's law; life happens. But to me it looks like a subtle reminder. I think I'll continue to listen to the still small voice even when it asks me to give away money I hardly feel I have. In my mind I'd be foolish not to.

The end

(I felt this post needed a p.s.)
p.s. I just visited the post about my van and oddly enough the tire blew out on the exact same day last year as this year's furnace incident. I'm not sure if I should eagerly await January 8th from now on or be a little nervous as it approaches. How odd.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Just Another Day in Siberia

It's been snowing non stop here for days. And today was the worst. It was in the single digits Fahrenheit all day. 6F when I got home. And the wind chill is absurd. Very negative degrees going on there. The inches of freezing cold white stuff are accumulating faster than anyone can clear them. I've been home from work for 3 hours and I've been hearing neighbors snow blowing their driveways ever since I arrived. No snow blower here though. Just a good old fashioned shovel and a freak who thinks snow is one of the most visually stunning events in nature (that'd be me). I enjoy it much more when it's not so cold though.

This fabulously (and a tad bit scary) snowy Thursday turned out to be a NO SPEND, number 4 for the year, that I'm particularly proud of. My work phone was broke Monday thru Wednesday and I needed to fill out a bunch of reports on the replacement phone today at 5 different stores. I drove at least 100 miles today in this nonsense (for the record I'm used to LOTS of driving from years past and I'm very careful in snow which I'm also very accustomed to driving in). Did I want to pick up a Starbucks beverage during the middle of the day? Oh yeah. Did I want to grab a few clearance items while working in the 5 different stores? Yep. Did I want to get a few groceries before I headed home. Yes I did. I really wanted to pick up a box of granola bars for my little Abe. But I resolved this morning to not spend a dime. I brought some snacks with me for the day, made myself a big cup of coffee before I left the house and just stuck to it. I'm kind of shocked that I pulled this one off. Usually when I work a longer day, particularly one with a lot of driving, I can't squeak out a no spend.


Average daily spending for 2015: $20.11

We only went out for about 3 minutes to shovel the front steps.
But he liked getting out of the house.
That strange thing in back was making a home in my basement.
I'm getting rid of it.
Little Abe calls in the spider webby roof.
I have no idea what it is; I think it was a project some kid made at one time.