Sunday, January 31, 2016

First Yard Work of the Year

We've been having a bit of a thaw the past few days. It feels so wonderful to get outside and breathe fresh air. Ahhh! There's something, be it however odd, that I just love about using my muscles and exerting extra energy while in the great outdoors with the endless blue sky hovering above and wisps of wind coming and going.

Today's chore was far from glamours. I spent a good amount of time cleaning up after the pups. But it was a chore worth doing, it can certainly be classified yard work, and I had the tremendous privileged of being out doors. Spring is a long way off but this year's first bit of yard work is officially in the books.

Little Abe spent his time chopping at ice, stomping in mud (frozen dirt actually), breaking twigs off the lilac bush and running all around. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

The photo above, something that once again causes me to marvel at life, and growth, at the power of seeds and nature. This patch of dirt that had only two or three days ago been covered in at least a foot of snow is now home to a small congregation of giant red sunflower sprouts, courtesy of that pesky squirrel that spent several days late this past summer climbing the large sunflower and eating the seeds. I'm not expecting them to survive the winter. I mean it generally snows on and off in these parts going into April. BUT what a little treasure to find buried beneath the snow!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January Numbers are in

Well that month flew by. I can't lament it's passing however because we are now that much closer to a new spring. My budget this month was $526.69 and I went WAY over it. Total spending for January was $673.73. Wow!

I spent almost $60 on clothing this month. Generally I spend very little in this category so that's A LOT and I spent almost $50 on stuff (anything that doesn't fit into one of the other spending categories). That's a really high number for that category as well but I purchased a booster car seat today for little Abe (that he'll use later). That took up almost half the "stuff" spending this month. The pet category came to almost $80 which is also SUPER high but I bought a bag of dog food right at the beginning and right at the end of the month. That generally doesn't happen. I also stocked up and bought about four months supply of toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish washer detergent. Those purchases should bring the next few month's spending down a bit.

January averages and spending categories
Groceries $374.95: that's an average of $12.10 a day
Food out $15.33: that's an average of 49 cents a day
Pets $79.79: that's an average of $2.57 a day
Stuff $49.65: that's an average of $1.60 a day
Toiletries $43.76: that's an average of $1.41 a day
Clothing $56.29: that's an average of $1.82 a day
Gifts $8.18: that's an average of 26 cents a day
Cleaning $123.40: that's an average of $1.48 a day

Average daily spending for January AND for 2016: $21.73

My goal for the year is to come in under an average $17 a day spending. I think it's safe to say that I'm still on track.

January 2016 Total: $673.73
NO SPEND day 12    1.31
Groceries $42.42    1.30
Birthday present $3.99    1.30
Dog bones $4.48    1.30
Car booster seat (for when he's a bit bigger) $19.89    1.30 (saved $11.90)
Book for little Abe $3.81    1.29
Donut 65 cents    1.29
Groceries $16.54    1.28
Dish soap $2.85    1.28
Clothes $3.54    1.28
Groceries $12.79    1.27
NO SPEND day 11    1.26
Groceries $12.89    1.25
NO SPEND day 10    1.24
NO SPEND day 9    1.23
Groceries $53.95    1.22
Dog food $27.55    1.22
Laundry and dish detergent $34.44    1.22
Groceries $17.37    1.21
Toy $14.99    1.21
Draino $8.49    1.21
NO SPEND day 8    1.20
NO SPEND day 7    1.19
Groceries $34.24    1.18
NO SPEND day 6    1.17
Groceries $5.46    1.16
Dollar store run & solar light $5.97    1.16
Hubby bought clothes for Abe $9.54    1.16  ($41.34 retail)
Groceries $10.90    1.15
Teeth gel and bones $20.89    1.14
Toiletries $3.79    1.14
Toy for Abe $4.99    1.14
Groceries $24.66    1.14
Groceries $20.15    1.13
Coffee and a donut $2.16    1.13
Dinner out $11    1.12
Toilet paper $30.22    1.11
Groceries hubby picked up $7.98    1.11
Groceries $7.46    1.11
NO SPEND day 5    1.10
NO SPEND day 4    1.9
Groceries $5.81    1.8
Groceries $26.54    1.7
Pair of shoes & 3 shirts for Abe $25.74    1.7
Birthday gift $4.19    1.7
Groceries $14.10     1.6
NO SPEND day 3    1.5
Winter coat (for Abe next year) $12.52    1.4
Sweatshirt/ light jacket (for Abe next year) $4.95    1.4
Coffee $1.52    1.4
Toothpaste $3.19    1.4
Groceries $18.74    1.4
NO SPEND day 2    1.3
NO SPEND day 1    1.2
Dog food $26.87    1.1
Groceries $42.95    1.1
Toiletries $6.56    1.1

Friday, January 29, 2016

More Clothes

I've gone and purchased even more clothing. Yesterday I picked up some much needed lounge/ active wear pants for myself. I also bought another sweatshirt for little Abe that he will most likely fit into next winter. I feel like I've spent a ton of money on clothes this month but I'm liking where the numbers are at.

In total I've purchased:
two pair of pants for me
A winter coat, two sweatshirts (one is more of a jacket), and three long sleeve shirts that will fit little Abe next year.
I bought him a pair of shoes that apparently run very small because they fit him now (he thinks they're super cool and loves a new pair of shoes).
And his dad bought a pair of lined camo pants and three long sleeve Star Wars shirts that all fit him now.

Total retail value of clothing bought this month $241.65

Total out of pocket spent: $56.29

Total saved: $185.36

That's a 77% savings on all of the clothing/ shoes purchased this month. I'm pretty darn happy with that and I've gotten a good jump on little Abe's wardrobe for next winter.

Average daily spending for 2016: $20.79

Thursday, January 28, 2016

One Special Perk of Home Cooked Meals

I think I may have written an almost identical post to this one sometime last year. I can't remember. Sorry to re-reminisce but it's on my mind today.

My grandparents built their dream home on thirty two acres of property in Indiana. My brothers and I spent a few weeks during the summers of our childhood with my grandparents at that wonderful house. When I think of that place I can only remember joy, joy and fireflies, fishing, swinging into the clay bottomed small pond from a rope that hung from a tree on the edge. We went fishing in the larger pond (I only ever remember actually "catching" a very large tree trunk that left the three of us immobilize for the longest time because we didn't know how to get the small boat back to shore while attached to a tree trunk.) My grandpa caught fish though. He also had a wood shop towards the back of their property beside my grandmother's enormous veggie garden where he crafted things. That's where he kept little mac. I think the small vehicle he drove around the property was called little mac. Taking a ride in that adorable yet mighty little thing was better than visiting an amusement park for us kids.

We were wild and free in Indiana, always told to remove our hats at the dinner table, say please and thank-you and practice all the other proper manners but out of doors we were completely left to our own devices (it was like that at home too actually, probably a significant reason why I LOVE being outside).

When my parents divorced my mom looked for a new home for us, she wanted a home with property far away from the home she shared with my dad. Once she found the place where she wanted to start our lives over my grandparents sold their incredible home and property in Indiana to move up here and be with her, and us. My grandpa passed away during the move. It was tragic, blood clots in his legs, so in a way my mom and my Grandmother both began new lives together.

I have relics, sadly none of my Grandmother's beautiful English tea cups, but I have the artwork made from painted pieces of metal in the shape of ships that hung above their stairway in Indiana. I have their wonderful honey jar that seemed to always sit on the middle of the kitchen table. I have the solid brass (I think) boot that left a scar on my forehead when I was very young. And I have one large plate from their dishes that I remember using for family dinners at their home. My brothers and I usually ate meals with my grandparents in their sunroom that looked out onto the larger pond.

Tonight I made a pot of soup, just some chicken broth, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, a potato, peas, carrots, and a rue. But one of the things I treasure most from my grandparents, something I can't possess and yet it's something I'm able to recreate, is the smell of the boiled root vegetables that instantly transports me back to their kitchen in Indiana. I don't know why this particular smell brings me back there but lifting the lid off the pot sends an aroma wafting up that is exactly how I remember their home. There's something about an aroma memory that, at least for me, transports me through space and time so that in a moment, however brief, it's as if I'm there in that place, the memory comes alive and I don't just remember it, I am able to experience it.

I can't ever go back to their home. The people living there now have remodeled it so it's hardly even the same house anymore, not to mention it's 6 hours away and... well, I can't ever go back. But I can boil root vegetables and every single time I do I'm there for a moment, back in the Indiana kitchen with my grandmother. THAT is one special perk of home cooked meals.

Average daily spending for 2016: $21.35

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I can't believe how close we're getting to the end of January. Oh, how time flies BUT this means we're all the closer to a new spring!

Today was no spend day 11 for the year. I've just taken a batch of homemade cheese crackers out of the oven and now I'm going to try and get some quite reading in before the munckin wakes up.

Average daily spending for 2016: $21.65

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

This was our craft yesterday. That's my little Abe : )

He made the spider and cut out the rain drops. Life is SOOOO much fun with this one.

(The video quality is pretty poor but we'll probably made some more of these. This was just such fun!)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Darn money and spending and needing stuff!

Somewhere between Thursday and Friday spending went terribly awry. My budget for the month was (yes, past tense) $526.69. Spending as of right now is $549.90.

It all started out with the draino... the wash tub downstairs that our washing machine drains into had gotten clogged. I was refusing to buy draino and fighting with the darn thing for a week (I am not only frugal but very stubborn). When my husband insisted I wash his work shirts, the tub had completely stopped draining at this point and I spent over 30 minutes hauling buckets of really gross water upstairs while getting in a great workout of carrying buckets and climbing stairs I broke down and realized I'd better get to the store for draino. Yes, I am pathetic. I hate buying things like this, not only for the chemical aspect but $9 for something you dump down the drain. Gah!

It took a bit more work on my part but the tub is unclogged, running great now, AND I vastly enjoyed doing laundry Friday and Saturday. I really did. It felt like a privilege being able to just wash laundry and not have to worry about the tub possibly backing up into the washing machine drain pipe or hauling buckets of water up the stairs because it was getting really close to that point.

I picked up a few groceries on Thursday and a ton of groceries on Friday. As usual I was shocked to see that we needed dog food (a $27 expense). I thought we'd make it to February before needing more. I also bought a ton of dishwasher detergent and laundry soap on sale. I shouldn't neither either for months. I'm curious to see how long both bulk purchases will last.

I guess January has turned into stocking up month at our house. We have four to five months of toilet paper and probably as much dish soap and laundry detergent (fingers crossed). Those three expenses should bring next month's spending down but this month is shot. Not fretting, just accepting reality.

Yesterday and today go down as no spend days. Tomorrow darn well better be too. I'd like to squeak one more out with Tuesday but we already need cheese and butter so I'll purchase both either tomorrow or Tuesday and let the other day be a no spend. Gah, I hate reporting the average daily spending but it must be done, dun, dun, dun...

Average daily spending for 2016: $22.91

In other rather uneventful news today has been a splendid no spend day. The kiddo and I played in the snow again (snow forts and snowball fights). We spent a good deal of time on the living room floor playing with legos. We've read books. He played in the kitchen sink for a good long while. I made another batch of white chicken chili (so good!) And I have a fun activity planned for tonight if I can find the charger cord for the camcorder. I hope everyone else is having as delightful a Sunday as we are over here in our very chilly portion of The Mitten (that's a name us Michiganders call Michigan, The Mitten).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.
-William Butler Yeats

Friday, January 22, 2016

Warm Winter Wonderful

The deep freeze broke for most of the afternoon (the temp got over 20F). The sun came out and one was able to venture outdoors for more than five minutes without frozen nostrils.

We took full advantage of the warmth and spent a whole hour out of doors, building a snow fort in the front yard, taking the dog for a walk around the block, and little Abe's walk around the block classifies as a hike since he took to the portion of land between the road and the sidewalk that's covered in massive mounds of snow. It was WONDERFUL!

Hooray for sunshine in the midst of a very chilly winter!
Hooray for rosy cheeks!
Hooray for quality time with the pup!
Hooray for fresh air!

And the blizzard that's supposed to come in tonight is nothing. I stocked up on groceries today and don't have to work tomorrow. I am happy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Superwoman Pot Pie

I've been cold, grouchy, horribly unmotivated and suddenly I'm feeling on top of the world. In fact I'm feeling rather like superwoman. And all because of food. I probably need to seek counseling.

There's something so magical to me about food. Growing food in the garden is down right miraculous. Transforming food from simple ingredients like a little flour, butter, salt, and water that will become pie crust or bread (add yeast), I marvel at what heat does to these simple combinations. I mean, cookies! Come on.

Today was NO SPEND day number 8 for the year. I think the frigid cold and the seemingly endless snowfall have a way of compounding anxiety for me. Maybe the being trapped indoors causes a trapping of sorts of stressers in my brain. The past few days I've been finding myself sitting and stressing about little things that really are not a big deal as if the sky were falling and life was about to cease. I'm surprised that I don't gain fifty pounds every single winter because food really makes everything seem so much better.

Today after another white knuckle drive home from work I wanted to make something really delicious but to be honest pickings are slim. This is where my super powers emerged and I became wildly triumphant. There was browned ground beef in the fridge and frozen homemade chicken stock in the freezer. There are apparently a pretty good assortment of veggies around our house (you don't realize these things until you start to scramble for a delicious off the cuff meal).

I frantically chopped up onion and garlic and began to saute these in a little butter. While they were getting yummy in the pan I diced up carrots and celery and one potato. Those joined the party and then I dumped in some flax seed (I've been adding flax seed to practically everything I eat lately for the Omega 3 because my doctor said there was virtually no omega 3 showing up in my blood work several months back). In a separate pan I thawed some of the stock which was slowly added to the veggies with a good helping of flour to give the whole bunch a gravy.

Then I made the pie crusts; flour, butter, salt and water, whala! The whole thing went into the oven (after I added the ground beef and some peas and corn to the veggie delight). I now have a fabulous beef pot pie, the fist I've ever made, totally thrown together on a whim, without a recipe and that, THAT is how I kick the winter blahs in the rear while rocking out the eighth no spend day of the year (that was not intended to rhyme). Plus, this was my best pie crust to date.

Sadly I will not be sharing a photo of my beautiful pie (I'm really in love with it) because the flax seed makes it look like its filled with bugs. No one needs to see that.

People delight in so many different things. Some people seek out adrenaline rushes. Some people delight in fame, recognition, or notable accomplishment. Some people find joy in decorating or fashion. I on the other hand am very content today, simply happy to the core because I cooked delicious food. That's me.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mid(ish) Month Spending Update

Our spending budget this month is $526.69.
That works out to an average of $16.99 a day.

Spending as of today is at $393.11. This leaves $133.58 for the next thirteen days. I have planned no spends tomorrow and Wednesday so the $133.58 should technically be for eleven days.

Only $219 of this month's spending has been on groceries ($10.95 a day). I've spent $52 on clothes for little Abe this month (technically his dad spent $9.54 but I'm not calling that "his" spending so it's in the regular budget (how could any good father pass up really cool clearanced Star Wars clothing after all)). I purchased about four or five months worth of toilet paper ($30.22), spent about $50 on the dogs, and there are a few other odds and ends in there as well.

If I stick to purchasing food with the remaining budgeted monies then we're a little above our $12 a day average on food spending. So, it looks like I should be able to stick to this month's budget pretty easily if I stop buying other things... except we're going to need another bag of dog food and I'm planning to buy laundry detergent and dish washer soap.

The spending rundown is $393.11 spent
$133.58 to go
No spend days Tuesday and Wednesday
Eleven days left in the month after that

Average daily spending for 2016: $19.66

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Solar Powered Night Light

Small mason jar
Lawn solar light
Super glue

I glued the lid to the top portion of the light before I took the above photo. Sorry. I also got super glue everywhere. Messy is my middle name, as they say (or sudden, actually sudden is a more appropriate middle name for me). I did not glue any of my fingers together or to the light though, so all is well. I will definitely purchase the "gel" super glue next time. There is totally a reason they came out with that latter version.   

I made this night light because normally we leave the bathroom light on all night. My son likes light in the hallway as opposed to an actual night light in his room. Our hallway light it much too bright but the bathroom light shining into the hallway is just perfect. I can't put a plug in night light in the hallway because there is not an outlet there. I saw this craft on pinterest and knew instantly that I would try it out. I honestly did not think it would give off that much light but we used it last night and it was perfect. I love this little jar light and he did too!

I had the mason jar on hand already but the actual cost would be 58 cents for the jar. I spent $1.06 on super glue and didn't quite use a quarter of what I bought, that's makes about 26 cents for the super glue. The lawn solar light cost $1.79. This little craft cost a total of $2.63. I don't know the life expectancy of a solar powered lawn light but according to an ENERGY CALCULATOR that I found online, leaving the bathroom light on for about nine hours each night costs us $1.80 per month. If this is anywhere close to accurate I will have recouped the cost of the solar powered night light on our energy bill in less than two months.

If we were using an actual plug in wall night light, the energy calculator says it'd cost about the same as what I spent on this solar powered night light to power that for a year. However you look at it I'm not paying for energy to run this thing. It just needs to be set on a window sill during the day. Living off the grid, Yeah! (Haha) I'm curious to see how long the solar light will last but we'll no longer be turning the bathroom light on at night so as long as it lasts for a month and a half then I'll have officially saved money on this craft. This solar powered night light is awesome! 

We started the paper mache shelves yesterday as seen by the mess above. They will take a good deal of time and I'm pretty certain they are going to be quite lopsided but the small shelving unit is turning out very sturdy and it will serve it's purpose quite well. Additionally, paper mache is always fun and we'll end up with a virtually free shelving unit with a lot of character (I had to pay for the flour to make the paste but the cardboard box we're covering with paper mache came in the mail and I'm using a catalog that also came in the mail as the newspaper).

Average daily spending for 2016: $21.11

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Yummy Saturday

Yesterday turned out much better than I had anticipated and this weekend looks like it will be relaxing but fun instead of the coffee, cookie, sleep binge I had been craving.

Little Abe and I ran to the dollar store this morning just sort of to get away and I was hoping they'd have supplies for two projects I have planned for today. Nope. Then we went to the grocery store which I had not wanted to do but it was a pretty successful trip (and not a huge budget buster). I found a solar light (that I was hoping to find at the dollar store) for pretty cheap, got a cheap bag of flour for paper mache we're going to do today, and we picked up popcorn kernels for a super yummy treat.

We haven't had a microwave for probably over a year now. When the one we had died (which was a pretty darn new microwave) we just never bought a new one. The ONLY thing we miss having the microwave for is popcorn. I thought to buy a popcorn popper but just never have. Today however after little Abe spied a few different bags of pre-popped popcorn at the store (which were all packed with the wonderful list of artificial this and chemical that) I picked up a bag of kernels and told him we'd make some on the stove when we got home (they are non-GMO kernals too).

The popcorn has been popped. My husband called me a lunatic (literally) as I stood at the stove gently moving the pan of un-popped popcorn kernels back and forth. What has this world come to when a grown man thinks that popping popcorn on the stove top is an alien endevour? The popcorn is SOOOOO delicious (and there's not a single burnt piece in the lot of it)!

Today's plans
Start a paper mache shelving unit for little Abe's room
Craft a solar powered night light for little Abe's room
Stove top popcorn DONE
Spend a relaxing Saturday with the kiddo (my third shift hubby has gone to sleep for the day already)

Despite the cold and the back and forth rain snow, I'm in a much better mood then I was yesterday. Something about activities and attempts at anything new helps put much needed motivation back into my life. I will for sure be updating you all on the night light and the shelves.

Friday, January 15, 2016

I've just arrived home from work which means the weekend has now begun. It's been raining all day and the snow is turning to mush and yuck and of course flood warnings are beginning to pop up. Quite literally all I want to do with the entire weekend is drink coffee, eat cookies, and sleep (a great combination for gaining ten or twelve pounds). Of course I have a three year old boy to attend to so there will a bit more than that happening round these parts but I sure do need to find a hearty heaping of motivation somewhere. Between the rain and the cold and a seemingly never ending pile of bills that keeps increasing, blah!

Average daily spending for 2016: $21.11

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Snow Day

All night while most were slumbering round these parts of the globe the snow was coming down in bucket fulls. We woke up to several fresh new layers of the white stuff. I opted out of going to work for the day and we hunkered down. Today was no spend day number six for the year.

But we did venture out of the house for a bit. The wind chill is pretty low and the snow isn't good for packing so we didn't stay out long but my little guy had a blast jumping in and off of piles of it. He made snow angels, found sticks to swing at mounds of snow, and threw plenty of fresh fluffy falling apart "snowballs." (when its this cold the snow does not pack; its like trying to make a "snowball" out of sand)

He was caught putting handfuls of the yummy white fluff in his mouth every few seconds. I haven't the slightest clue how his face didn't freeze off. We walked down our street to the corner and back. I love these mini adventures where my little buddy gets to experience something we don't do every day of the week, finds joy in the tiniest of pleasures, and where the both of us get to create new memories, memories in which we really enjoy each other.

Hot chocolate would have been a very  nice ending to the snowy adventure but since the little guy enjoys eating the snow so very much I thought he'd be pretty impressed with chocolate snow ice cream instead. Into our blender I gathered a big bunch of snow from a clean spot in the yard (beside the house where our dogs and no people ever go). Then I mixed some cocoa powder with hot water and sugar. I cooled the cocoa mixture down with cold milk and poured that into the blender with the snow. It made for some scrumptious (low calorie I might add) "ice cream." I topped Abe's treat with sprinkles because sprinkles make everything a tiny bit more special.

Average daily spending for 2016: $19.94

Sunday, January 10, 2016

First Time Cracking an Egg

Our cookies with some yogurt in between and left in the freezer for a bit

Married at 19, four kids at 28, and divorced at 30. In the blink of an eye my mom went from a full time housewife/ stay at home mom to a 40+ hour a week third shift factory worker who slept as much as she could manage and spent the rest of her waking hours surviving and raising four small children alone.

Before the catastrophic shift in all our lives she was teaching me how to cook. I remember I had this small set of little kid cook books. I loved those books. I think that having my very own cook books made me feel like something of an adult. Each one had a certain category of food. I seem to remember one being beverages and there was a recipe for egg nog in that one. There was one for desserts which had a recipe for a chocolate dump cake that I was always thrilled to make. I don't remember what the four categories were or what other recipes were included but the books were a pale yellow color and I loved them.

My favorite thing to do with my mom though was bake Christmas cookies. We had a set of recipes that we/ she made every single year and Christmas cookie baking time was certainly the highlight of every Christmas season. I was still young when my parents split but I enjoyed cooking with my mom before the microwave baked potatoes or noodles with cheese days.

My son is a super spunky three year old who loves to bake with mommy. I generally let him pour/ dump the ingredients in the bowl and he helps me stir. If there's kneading or rolling pin work to be done he's sure to lend a hand. He loves "sprinkling" flour on the table and sampling the dough. And he almost always asks to crack the egg. I've always, always, always said, "no, you have to wait until you're bigger." I mean, come on, there are adults who can't properly crack an egg.

Today we made chocolate chip cookies. He was thrilled when I handed him an empty measuring cup and told him he needed to scoop the sugar. I always scoop each ingredient and then hand him the cup to dump in the bowl. This time was special. He got to scoop the white sugar all by himself and then the brown. He stirred them into the butter and then I completed that task. Then I handed him the egg. He hadn't even asked if he could crack it. I wish I could describe the look to you that he had on his face. It was a look that said a million things, "am I really old enough? are you actually letting me do this? are you serious? is this a joke? have I just won the lottery?" (okay maybe not that one since he doesn't know what the lottery is)

I told him to tap it on the edge of the table and he was radiant. He tapped it, tapped it once more and then got to crack it into the small bowl I set aside specifically for the egg. Once I picked two little bits of shell out he got to place the newly cracked egg into the butter sugar mix. He was on cloud nine. I also let him measure out the flour, baking soda, salt and chips. His first batch of cookies, that if you were to ask him he made all on his own. In truth, the white sugar probably had a bit less than it called for. The brown sugar was a little bit more. The flour wasn't exactly measured (as you might imagine with a three year old at the helm) but I think this was our most successful batch of cookies to date.

My new years resolution was to experience more new things. I have a cheat because I'm living life with a small child. Today's new experience was brilliant! Experiencing my son cracking an egg for the very first time... this one goes down in the books (or on the blog). Very much like the good days of childhood when I used to bake with my mother.

My mom with my brothers
(I think my son looks just like both of them)

Out of Everything

COLD... sooo.... cold! I feel like I can't get warm. Maybe I should exercise...

Changing subjects, when opening our fridge today it seems like we are out of everything. But I also felt like we were out of everything right before the five no spend day stretch at the end of December. Okay, granted that five day stretch included four Christmas parties which all involved food but we had to bring something to most of those and I hadn't planned very well so my point still stands.

Right now we need milk, are almost out of juice (a staple here), have a few shreds of cheese left, only one pound of ground turkey; It feels like we are out of everything and I'm having this tremendous urge to run to the store in this blizzard on my day off to purchase necessities. No! Today is going to be a no spend day!

I have $27.63 budgeted to spend on food groceries for today thru Wednesday (plus a small bag of 10 cent deposit cans). I do NOT need to run to the store on my day off in a blizzard. It feels like we are out of everything but I got this! Tomorrow I'll need to get milk and juice and a few others things. I'm not going to kill the budget (cash for this week) because I want this that or another thing. I shall now take inventory of the kitchen...

Meals in the house right now:
A few servings of White Chicken Chili (it turned out GREAT! I already made a second batch)
One Jacks Pizza
Tuna, peas, Parmesan and noodles (that's our quick go to meal)
One serving of rice dinner (one of Abe's favorite meals)
Fixins for Tacos (if I can hoard the little bit of cheese; we can't eat tacos without cheese)
TONS of chicken stock so I could probably make a veggie soup or a veggie soup with dumplings (I love dumplings)

Wow, I guess we aren't out of everything. There are also five apples that need desperately to be used. I think I'm going to make applesauce with them today.

Average daily spending for 2016: $19.37

Thursday, January 7, 2016

First dinner, then money

Very much inspired by Sonya Ann's post the other day over at A Mom, Money, and More which she titled "Would you eat green chicken and tortillas," I now have the beginning of white chicken chili started on the stove. Yes hers was a crock pot recipe. No it was not white chicken chili. I have problems. I wanted to make the chicken like she said but then I strayed. Chili sounded really good and I know, blasphemy, I'm just not a fan of the crock pot (I do have one though). I haven't made white chicken chili in longer then I can remember and I've never made it with salsa verde so this adds a new experience to the new year.

For Christmas I think the ONE thing I actually asked my husband for was a stock pot. Of course that was foolish of me because my all time favorite Christmas present are these expensive chocolate truffles from Chicago that he gets for me every single year. I LOVE them! They seriously make Christmas morning so much more special for me. I did not specifically ask for them this year and he did not get them for me. But he did get me the stock pot. I wanted it to do proper canning this summer. I believe it was the day after Christmas when he looked at the enormous pot sitting on the stove and he asked me, "when are you going to start making stock already?" Like I was neglecting my gift and should be making stock round the clock.

All that said, I am boiling a whole chicken right now (that sounds very inhumane) and am making stock for the chili and for chicken and dumplings later on this week. The recipe I am using for the white chicken chili is here (sorry Sonya Ann, I failed) and I chose it specifically because of the salsa Verde that Sonya Ann used for her green chicken.

Okay, on to money. I am way over budget at this point but I'm not the least bit stressed about it. I've gotten my son a new winter coat for next year ($12), a pair of shoes (the next size up; $11), and two long sleeves shirts and a sweatshirt for next year ($14.74). I purchased a pretty neat Star Wars candy gift set today for Little Abe's birthday. It was in the Christmas clearance ($4.19/ originally $15). He is going to LOVE it.

Last year I did notice that there was a lot of fabulous clearance during the month of January. In attempt to keep my spending down I purchased a little of it but not as much as I probably should have. This year I am going a different route. I am only purchasing things that we will need or smart gift choices for this upcoming year but I am not holding back as much on the January clearance sales for the sake of the budget. I think buying a few more things on deep discount this month will off set some spending later. So I'm going for it.

I purchase very little at full retail but simply for my own reflection the clothing and shoes pictured above would have cost $132.47 if I'd paid full price for it all. I spent $43.21 on all of it, a savings of $89.26 (67% savings). Not bad, not bad... I'm going to have to find something really really cheap to push that total over to 70%... I like the sound of 70% a lot more.

Average daily spending for 2016: $20.87

I better get back to that chili... the chicken is probably done cooking right about now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gingerbread Art

Apparently I can't get enough of Christmas. It's just going to continue for the rest of the year at our house. Last night little Abe and I put together the Gingerbread house kit I got in December. He had so much fun but really he was just trying to decorate it as fast as he could so that he could start picking the candies off to eat them.

Our masterpiece

And he's going in for a peppermint!
Hmm, I wonder what Christmasy activity I can think of for tomorrow. For real though, maybe it's because we didn't have any snow for all of December and it's a winter wonderland outside now. I just can't stop. oooh, we could start on next years Christmas cards... Hahaaaa!

Average daily spending for 2016: $18.77

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pretty Random Post

Yesterday was a planned no spend day but we ran out of milk. Of course that meant that I had to spend $18.74 on groceries and buy toothpaste for my son (which I'm glad I remembered because we used the very last of it the night before) AND pick up a new winter coat for him for next year and a light jacket/ zip up sweatshirt. I saved 70% on the pair so I couldn't pass either up. The particular coat I liked most only had one left in the size he needed so I chose not to wait it out a few more days.

In other news, today was a no spend day, NO SPEND day number 3 for the year. Tomorrow is another planned no spend so let's hope it doesn't pan out the way yesterday did. I really like the coat though. And I love having a brand new coat for him in the closet that only cost $12. Clearance is just such a wonderful thing (with a heavy dose of restraint). I'm going to look through the budget, but I'm considering buying a second coat just to donate somewhere. I mean, a brand new coat for a little kid who actually needs one for only $12, yeah.

Changing subjects, it's SOOOOOOOOO cold right now! Hm, I guess that's not much of a subject change actually. All of last winter was like this (with LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of snow) so having a really mild November and December sorts of makes up for it a little but gee, I can't seem to get warm, my joints all hurt quite badly (and I'm not that old) and my poor eleven year old mini-schnauzer is really feeling the bitterness too. He's been limping every time he stands up the past few days. Hooray for the polar vortex!

Average daily spending for 2016: $19.55

Oh yeah, I meant to share this the other day because I think it's super cute. I picked up this Christmas reindeer craft for 11 cents in last year's Christmas clearance. Several days ago little Abe and I sat down to work on it. I helped him with the stitching along the edges but he glued all the other pieces on himself and put them where he liked.

The picture on the package showed a very jolly reindeer with perky little ears. Little Abe purposefully made his frowning. I said something to him like, "honey that reindeer looks awful sad. Don't you want to turn the mouth to smiling?" He laughed and said he wanted it just so. It's still so cute. I'd say that was a very well spent 11 cents. 

For the record, our dog did knock over our Christmas tree this year. And I think it's safe to say that the blue snowflake thing hanging for the reindeer's antler is an ornament. Little Abe witnessed the falling of our tree and the breaking of several ornaments. I'm just going to speculate that this reindeer must have also knocked down a Christmas tree, hence the ornament hanging from his antler, and that just isn't a fun thing for anyone to experience so the frown is fitting. Haha!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Food Waste Update; Old Oranges

Today was the second no spend day for the year. I wanted to spend a good portion of today baking so little Abe and I started bread dough early in the afternoon. Then, I knew that I had three old oranges that I needed to either use or dispose of so I went to pinterest looking for an orange cake recipe. I settled on one but as usual I majorly altered it. I only wanted to make half of what the recipe called for. I didn't have any concentrated orange juice, and lets face it I'm virtually incapable of following a recipe to a T. The very delicious looking recipe that I chose for inspiration for our chocolate mousse covered orange cake is HERE Our old oranges cake didn't end up being the best cake we've ever eaten but it was still a special treat.

Wait, "chocolate mousse covered" you say? The recipe for that is HERE. I've posted a link to this particular recipe a few times because the chocolate mousse portion is possibly the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. And the chocolate cake recipe results in the tastiest chocolate cake I've ever made. When I do make this chocolate cake I not only follow the recipe exactly for both the cake and the mousse I also do not make the frosting any more (I've made this cake at least four times). The mousse is so fabulous and the frosting is so decadently sweet that I prefer to just leave the frosting off.

chocolate mousse covered old oranges cake
Okay, back to the chocolate mousse covered orange cake; although I haven't done a food waste update in awhile I just love posting these because turning three wrinkly oranges into this just so happens to be one of the major highlights of my life (baking is so awesome). Oh, and I managed to squeak a new experience in for today (like I posted about earlier). I tried a new recipe. Win, win here!

of course there was cake so we had to sing happy birthday
Average daily spending for 2016: $19.09

Oh yeah, and the bread; any day with fresh baked bread is just so much better!

New Year Reslutions

Yesterday was our fifth and last Christmas party for the holiday season. Somehow having the long drive, all the present opening with scraps of wrapping paper flying everywhere, the mounds of delicious food, a neat gathering with my very large Scottish, Irish family, and copious amounts of political arguing behind us it now feels like the new year.

Even though I don't have a list of goals I'd like to tackle this year, or even one or two, I love the new year feeling, the starting something from the beginning, what changes can I make this time around feeling. Along with that feeling I am starting this year with the desire for new experiences. I don't plan to spend any more money in 2015 then what I did in 2016. Ideally I'd like to spend a bit less but I do want to experience more. I'd like to try new foods, cook and bake more new foods. I'd like to visit new places in town, or neighboring towns we don't generally stop in. I'd like to do new things, like maybe go to a gun range for the first time, or tour a local dairy farm that makes grassfed, organic raw cheese.

I spend everyday watching this little guy, who is growing up rapidly, experience new delight one after another. His world is fascinating, exhilarating, and full of wonder. Be it a brand new toy he's never played with, a new sweet treat he didn't know existed (He does this awesome little squiggle when he tastes something delicious for the first time. He squints his eyes, makes a gleeful yum noise, and then does a half shake half dance thing that's specific to the new food yum reaction), or witnessing an animal "in real life" that he's never seen before, the life of a three year old is constantly NEW.

The older I get the more I realize I don't know. I think the same is true for experiences, new sights, new sounds, new tastes, new places. We get used to life. But I want this year to be new. That's my new year's resolution. It doesn't have to cost a dime but there is something priceless about the increase, the adventure, the experience. I look forward to that this year.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Spending Rundown and Debt

I have been tracking our spending as a daily average for five years. The exercise really helps put our household spending into perspective for me. And it's helped me to better set spending goals over the years. I have lost days and months even during the five years that I've been keeping track but I still have a rough estimate as to how we've spent our money. This year I was very successful keeping up with recording our spending and I only lost track of seven days in June. This means that the total spending and spending categories reflect 358 days this year and are averages based on 358 days.

I just started tracking our household spending by category at the beginning of this year. Before that I was just tracking total spending; not breaking it down. I can honestly say that after a year of watching how much money is going to which category I'm still thoroughly fascinated by the numbers.

2015 Spending Rundown
Groceries $4181.81: that's an average of $11.68 a day for the year
Food out $420.17: that's an average of $1.17 a day
Pets $408.59: that's an average of $1.14 a day
Stuff $273.10: that's an average of 76 cents a day
Toiletries $269.94: that's an average of 76 cents a day
Christmas $243.73: that's an average of 68 cents a day
Clothing $242.94: that's an average of 68 cents a day
Gifts $196.06: that's an average of 55 cents a day
Cleaning $123.40: that's an average of 34 cents a day
Garden $43.25: that's an average of 12 cents a day
School and kiddo crafts $19.47: that's an average of 5 cents a day

Total spent all year: $6422.45 

That's an average of $17.94 a day for the year 
(358 days)

The things that I do not track in our daily average are automobile expenses and medical expenses. I generally don't include educational outings like admission to a museum or the zoo (except I would include food or souvenirs we purchased there in the spending totals). I don't include lessons for my kiddo, like swimming and horse riding lessons. I don't include any money that my husband spends solely on himself.

On the debt payoff front this is the first year we've paid over $10,000 in total debt off reaching a total of $11,500 of debt paid off this year. This means that we started the year with $130,000 in debt and ended the year under $120,000 in debt. (This is TOTAL debt, house and all) We also no longer owe on either car. Woohoo! Both cars are fully owned by us and NOT a banker.

The total debt payoff should have been higher but we ran into some big expenses at the end of this year. Ahh, such is life! I'll gladly, any day of the week, take the $11,500 without complaining about what could have been. Now that our net worth isn't negative (I think that happened for the first time this year as well) I've started to keep track of that too. I'll probably start posting net worth updates this year too.

And now, onto 2016!
This year, on top of setting an average daily spending goal I'm looking at the categories I tracked in 2015 and I'm working on setting goals/ budgets for each category. I won't be fussy about it but at least the category goals will be something to aim at. It turns out that a lot of highly successful people with money do actually budget in a very similar way (something I learned from the book The Millionaire Next Door).

Happy 2016!!!

A bit more of Christmas and a New Year

When I started blogging several years back the last thing I'd expected was to meet really great people and make really good friends. I was simply hoping to chronicle my attempt at spending less and following a budget. I had hoped that a few people would find what I had to write at least semi-interesting but I truly had very little expectation for anything much more than my writing an online journal that anyone could stop by and read.

If you look at the photo below you'll probably not notice but can definitely see two ornaments on our tree, two stuffed buddies beneath, three Christmas cards on the wall, and one nutcracker on the bookcase (actually there's a Thanksgiving card on the bookcase as well but I'm not sure it's visible), all of which we received in the mail this year from fellow bloggers, readers of this "online journal," all blogging community friends, most of which I have never met. Little Abe and I also were the delightful recipients of a beautiful and fun online advent calendar we enjoyed this Christmas from a fellow blogger.

This year ended pretty rough. Christmas was nice, a bit too busy, but we enjoyed it all (mostly). But December had a few health scares for our family. We had to say good-bye to our cat of 13 years in November and my heart broke in pieces. We really feared we were going to lose our dog this month too. Thankfully he's still with us but there was a rough patch for sure. He's getting older so the reality of him not being here forever is... it's REALLY painful to think about it.

Needless to say, the Christmas packages that showed up VERY unexpectedly from friends I've made through the blog were bright shining moments in our month and so unbelievably surprising. I absolutely love Christmas cards and am so overjoyed to have the three of them from fellow bloggers hanging up there with the others. What an incredibly neat outcome to having started this silly online journal. I've met such incredible people and made good friends. To everyone who stops by here on occasion to read this online journal, you guys are all the greatest! I'm so fortunate to have made good friends through this blogging journey. And to those of you who truly went WAY above and beyond thank-you for spreading such wonderful Christmas cheer to this part of the globe and to my family!!!

I look forward to this new year. I look forward to all the adventures of this wonderful blogging community, and I wish everyone a fabulously blessed and happy New Year!!!