Catch 22, perfect storm, call it what you will the last two months have been very trying for me. Feel free to call me a wuss, or a weakling, or whatever you'd like but I know my limits and I have a very difficult time operating past them. I've worked extremely stressful and labor intensive jobs over the past 8 weeks, above and beyond the hours I have set as my availability. The good news, we've had extra income. The bad news, I'm terrible at sticking to a financial plan when I'm overworked (or any plan for that matter).
Budgeting, eating healthy, being healthy, maintaining my job, taking care of my home, raising my son, being a decent wife to my husband, and maintaining my sanity all take a lot of effort. I will be the first to tell you that often times I see hard working 40+ hour a week moms doing it all. I can't understand it and it makes me feel like I'm missing some sort of piece to the me puzzle. I can't do it all. Then you see the stay at home moms that are just as busy, just as tired, just as go, go, go as the 40+ hour a week moms. That at least gives me some perspective. When asked what I do I tell people sometimes that I'm a stay at home mom that works part time. That's what I'd like to believe. That's where my heart is. None the less, these past two months my job has been very demanding and I have not been a stay at home mom that works part time. I've been a mom trying to juggle all the same balls while working way more then I'm capable of and hardly seeing my husband at all. I have not been exercising, or stretching, or drinking enough water. I have hardly been doing any extras with my son. I have not been eating great and have been rush, rush, go, go, go, getting poor sleep, stressed to the max. My body is screaming at me. I hadn't been blogging or reading. Again, I know my limits and I've exceeded them. My spending rundown for March and April fully demonstrate my exceeded limits. The other good news is that it looks like the huge storm of giant jobs at work has passed (fingers crossed). If not, and this pace keeps up I will have to drop stores though. But for now, I think the insanity is behind me. I'm looking forward to returning to life as normal. All the sob story, is mostly for my own reflection. When I look back on March and April of this year and think, "how in the world did my spending get away like that," I'll remember the clip strip resets and the Goody hair accessory resets and the jumble of paint department and DIY dept. resets all at once. Plus this and that and every other thing that my office wanted done NOW. I am SOOOOO happy that the long winter is behind us. I am SOOOOO happy that the spring rains keep falling and the buds on all the trees are blooming. I am SOOOOOO happy that these past two months of chaos are behind me. I'm looking forward to May flowers and fun challenges, challenges that I get to pick, not just demands that are beyond my limits. Average Daily Spending for April: $19.02 a day
Groceries $417.32: that's an average of $13.91 a day Food out $44.88: that's an average of $1.50 a day Pets $37.27: that's an average of $1.24 a day Stuff $12.15: that's an average of 41 cents a day Toiletries $28.20: that's an average of 94 cents a day Gifts $25.72: that's an average of 86 cents a day
Garden $4.99: avg. 17 cents a day
Average Daily Spending for 2016: $19.08 April 2016 Total: $570.53 NO SPEND day 36 4.30 School supplies $10.16 4.29 Dog bones $4.48 4.29 Groceries $34.55 4.29 Coffee $3.26 4.29 Groceries $36.55 4.28 Coffee $3.26 4.27 Groceries $8.98 4.26 NO SPEND day 35 4.25 NO SPEND day 34 4.24 lunch $2.44 4.23 Groceries $53.23 4.23 Groceries $2.66 4.22
Groceries $30.01 4.21 Vit. E $5.31 4.20 Yard waste bags $1.99 4.20 Groceries $3.64 4.20 Groceries $6.88 4.19 Groceries $39.48 4.18 Coffee $4.93 4.18 Coffee $2.95 4.17 NO SPEND day 33 4.16 Face scrub $5.79 4.15 Groceries $20.15 4.15 Groceries $24.45 4.14 NO SPEND day 32 4.13 NO SPEND day 31 4.12 Gift $25.72 4.11 Groceries $41.14 4.11 NO SPEND day 30 4.10 Soil $4.99 4.9 Groceries $18.69 4.9 Groceries $38.51 4.8 soap and face lotion $17.10 4.7 Groceries $9.17 4.7
Groceries $11.71 4.6 Ice cream outing $8.75 4.6
Groceries $21.81 4.4 Nail clipper $5.24 4.4 Dog food $27.55 4.3 Qdoba $19.29 4.3 NO SPEND day 29 4.2
Groceries $15.71 4.1
March was not good. I hadn't even added the month up until today (April 30th). But today I sucked it up and plugged in the numbers for both March and April and now I'm all caught up.
Average Daily Spending for March: $18.30 a day
Groceries $407.57: that's an average of $13.15 a day (Normally average $12 a day in this category) Food out $49.11: that's an average of $1.58 a day Pets $5.98: that's an average of 19 cents a day Stuff $34.70: that's an average of $1.12 a day Toiletries $1.33: that's an average of 4 cents a day Clothing $38.25: that's an average of $1.23 a day Gifts $24.18: that's an average of 78 cents a day Garden $6.25 : avg. 20 cents a day Average daily spending for 2016: $19.10 March 2016 Total: $567.37 $422.46 goal
Water $1.09 3.31 Clothes $38.25 3.30 Groceries $30.66 3.30 Groceries $9.46 3.29 NO SPEND day 28 3.28 NO SPEND day 27 3.27 Easter basket stuff $14.40 3.26Dog bones $5.98 3.26 Groceries $53.22 3.26 Groceries $6.26 3.25 Groceries $6.85 3.24 Coffee $3.26 3.23 Groceries $5.36 3.22 Soap $1.33 3.22 Coffee $3.26 3.21 NO SPEND day 26 3.20 Shamrocks $4.96 3.19 Groceries $87.41 3.19 NO SPEND day 25 3.18 St. Patrick's Day $9.78 3.17
Groceries $24.57 3.17 Pizza $27.12 3.16
Groceries $3 3.16 NO SPEND day 24 3.15 NO SPEND day 23 3.14
Groceries $52.05 3.13 Toy $19.08 3.13 McD's $3.37 3.12 Groceries $11.28 3.11 Groceries $13.68 3.10 two coffees and sandwich $5.05 3.10 Water and candy $2.09 3.9 Dollar store run $3.65 3.8
Groceries $6.98 3.7 NO SPEND day 22 3.6 Groceries $53.39 3.5 Groceries $10.73 3.4 Seeds $6.25 3.3 (I know, I'm getting carried away now) Groceries $3.06 3.3 Groceries $23.47 3.2 A book $6.71 3.2 Batteries $5.26 3.1 Groceries $6.14 3.1
I work in six different super centers as a vendor/ merchandiser (I don't actually "vend" anything). The stores I work in are all part of a local large chain. I personally find the dynamics of each individual store quite interesting. One of my stores is a little bit hillbilly. If you walk down the main aisle at that store there tends to be more hunting and fishing items on display. One of my stores is in an area with a high population of Hispanic residents and you will find a much larger variety of ethnic foods related to Hispanic cuisine at that location compared to the others. One of the stores is near a very large university and it is VERY geared towards college kids. One of the most interesting differences that I've found is that one of the stores, near a high population of Dutch descendants has these awesome Dutch pig in the blankets in the frozen foods department that none of my other stores carry. It took my awhile to realize why I could only find them at one store (and to figure out which store I'd bought them at).
Most shoppers are very unaware of the differences between stores. Besides small layout differences the average customer has no idea that one store will offer a larger variety of a particular item than another based on clientele. Most shoppers are also unaware that prices are a few cents higher on most items in a store depending on whether or not there's a Walmart across the street and also depending on the overall economic situation of the area. Lower income areas tend to have lower priced items throughout the stores. (The chain I work in began in 1934 (28 years before Walmart) and is credited with pioneering the modern supercenter concept. The owners originally wanted to keep the stores local (unlike Walmart). It is rumored that Walmart tried to buy the company which refused to ever sell, after which Sam Walton vowed to build a Walmart directly across the street from every single location of this chain. Walmart has been pretty successful in this vendetta. However a few stores are still without the competitor directly across the street and the prices on items throughout are higher at those stores by a few cents.) At one store a yogurt cup will cost 59 cents and at another, only a few miles away the same yogurt cup will be 65 cents. Most customers don't realize this. These subtle differences fascinate me.
I could be wrong but I imagine most if not all chains operate with this same model. Lower prices where there's more competition and in lower income areas, higher prices where there's more wealth and less competition. There are three stores in particular not very close to my home (closer to a big city about 40 minutes away) where a few of my friends shop. The price differences at these stores is actually pretty drastic even though all three stores are quite close together. I've talked to my friends about the price differences between the lower income area store (with a Walmart across the street) and the the higher income area stores (both don't have a walmart directly across the street).
My friends were completely unaware of the price differences until I pointed them out. BUT they both said the same thing, they prefer the higher income area store and "the small price hike doesn't seem like such a big thing." In fact one of my friends drives farther to go to the higher priced store. Mind you, I used to work at this particular lower income store once a week, for several years (it's no longer one of my locations). It's not a bad store and if you go during the morning/ afternoon it doesn't seem "low income" or unsafe. It is a bit older, not quite as clean and fancy and it does get a little more interesting in the evenings but the friends I'm referring to do shop in the morning/ afternoon.
For example's sake, if you had a cart with 40 items in it and the average cost was 10 cents per item higher (that would obviously balance out to where some items would be 2 to 3 cents more and others would be say 40 to 60 cents more) that trip would cost you $4 more at the higher priced location. If you shopped a similar trip three times a week your groceries would cost $12 more a week and $624 more a year. Now, most people honestly don't notice the subtle price differences. Literally, every person I've ever pointed these price differences out to has been unaware of them. But even once I've pointed out price differences people have almost always said, "I like this store more."
The way we shop, where we shop, and paying attention to every penny goes a long way if you actually care about spending $624 to shop in a "nicer" store as opposed to spending $624 on an actual thing (or having that extra $624 to put towards debt or savings). When we throw quick stops at a "convenience" store into the picture price differences can actually be quite drastic. Instead of 2 cent or 10 cent differences there will be several dollars worth in price differences. You really do pay for convenience at a convenience store.
What would you do with $624 (or more)? Do you pay attention to price differences in shopping centers where you live? This is just one little aspect to the spending saving game but it's an aspect that's incredibly intriguing to me and something that I don't think a lot of people pay attention to.
It's been pretty cold and gloomy around here lately.
But I'm feeling warm, contented, and happy.
Our little gardens are freshly tilled (waiting for warmth).
There are blooms now in our strawberry bins.
Hooray for backyard strawberries!
I have a large pot of homemade beef stew (my first ever (yes, I've made goose stew but I've never made beef stew)) bubbling away on the stove right now.
Tomorrow is Friday, which means the weekend is fast approaching.
No matter the rain and the cold and the gloom,
we've a lot to be happy about and much to look forward to.
This year's tomato seeds are well on their way. I have these little guys set on the kitchen window sill behind the sink. Same as last year. It's official that one of my greatest joys during the spring season is watching the little sprouts on the kitchen window sill lean toward the sun and get bigger and bigger each day. I love seeing the start of new life, new fruit, new growth in it's very beginning stages just sitting there in the sunshine each time I need to use the sink for anything. For me this is pure joy.
(for the record, seeds grow really well in egg cartons and old strawberry containers. (I poke a hole in the bottom of each egg holder))
Speaking of little sprouts, I used some dollar store construction paper to cut out letters and rectangles. My little sprout glued each letter in place. He may have adhered a few hanging off edges and he might have glued down one of the 'P's backwards. It made the "Happy B-day Daddy" sign all the more personal. I wasn't expecting Abe to glue all the letters down. I thought he'd lose concentration after the first six or so. Nope, he did every single one all on his own. I'm not sure how much my husband loved it but we're quite proud of ourselves and our efforts and for that I'm giving us a pat on the back and two gold stars. It turned out really cool. (I love being frugal)
The big helper jar will now serve a new purpose. We will no longer be going to the dollar store for a reward after he's completed his chores. This little guy has graduated to bigger guy chores and just started receiving cash. We're just into week two of the new chores but he's excited to save and to spend his own money on the myriad of toys he's dreaming of. Literally dreaming of too. He has a habit of creating toys in his mind that he wants to buy at the store but that don't actually exist.
I purchased the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Junior kit (on sale for a little less than half price). It comes with this chore chart and three plastic zip up envelopes for cash. One envelope says SPEND, one says SAVE, and one says GIVE on it. At the end of the week when he gets his allowance (which right now comes to about $6) he puts one dollar in the give envelope, three in the save envelope and two into spend. The save envelope isn't for college or anything like that. It's savings for a bigger purchase like a $20 toy. The spend money he can spend right away if he chooses.
I'm honestly not sure how much he should earn for each chore. Right now I'm just winging it. Currently he has four chores but I've written in a bonus spot because he does usually help out with something each day like yard work or laundry or dishes. I'll add a few more after we're two or three weeks into this new routine. I picked just the four to get this new system started. I'm honestly excited to watch this little dude learn about saving and spending and to learn the value of a dollar; knowing that you don't just get what you want when you want, that you have to work for your money (and things), and that saving money is hard work but worth it. He seems excited too.
I have not been blogging, clearly. I have not been reading other people's blogs, sorry. I truly miss all of you. What I have been doing is spending hours and hours outside each day for the past five days in a row. Spring has FINALLY sprung and Little Abe and I have been doing lots and lots of yard work, been having fun running around, he's been playing with friends, and we've been thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warmth. Ahh, I feel alive again!
Putting the Bidwell Casaba sprouts in bigger pots while they're waiting to go in the ground.
Yesterday we saw the epitome of lovely. I had to run out and get dog food for Bozzy (honestly right when I was supposed to be feeding him). It was gloomy, misty, COLD! And all of the sudden little Abe and I saw a full rainbow as clear as could be arching through the sky. It's the first rainbow he's ever seen. We got out of the car at the dog food store and walked across the empty parking lot together in the cold misty rain so that we could stand and gaze at the full arch. It doesn't get much more lovely then that, experiencing one of this world's most beautiful sights for the very first time with your child...
I'm still working my tail off and exhausted/ brain scrambled but I wanted to keep up with reporting lovely bits of each day.
Tuesday: I took the back road to work, the one that goes a long stretch through the country; I wrote about taking it home from work a few months back (before winter). Last time I wrote about driving home that route fall was only just beginning. The grass beside the road was long, vibrant green and wispy. There were unharvested fields filled with produce. Farm market stands were brimming with pumpkins. It was such a beautiful scene to drive through for 15 plus minutes.
This time, you could say that the scenery was ugly but I didn't see it as such. The fields were all brown with mud, vast open expanses of clumpy dirt. The grass lay flat beside the roadway, void of green, just yellow, brown, almost grey from still being dormant after the long winter. There were no stands of fruit, or barns wide open arrayed with produce for sale signs. Yet the acre, upon acre, upon acre of gloomy, muddy expanse was dotted all over with white seagulls and the entire vision couldn't help but evoke within me a joy, an expectation, a gleeful eagerness for the new season of life that is fast approaching. The stagnant looking, gloomy brown expanses didn't appear to my eyes as much like a void, instead I could see a brand new beginning, the very start of a wonderful overwhelmingly beautiful new season of life.
Wednesday: Also, while driving home from work, I spotted a chunky little brown figure scurrying through a blueberry field. Upon closer inspection I could see that it was a beaver. Beavers aren't the sort of animal that people in my part of the world see often. They certainly do live here but I can't remember having seen one in real life, in the wild but once before. The creature spotting was a very lovely moment in my day. I'm always thrilled to see a new or rare creature in the wild. It's just the sort of thing that helps make any day grander for me.
Thursday: I've begun to undertake the toilsome task of cutting our dog's hair again. I do it about twice a year. I started with our older guy, Bozzy. I don't remember if I ever even mentioned it here but he was diagnosed with diabetes the day before Christmas Eve. We've been giving him two shots of insulin a day since then and he's on a strict feeding regime. It was a relief to know that he wasn't enduring kidney failure (the very thing that took my beloved 13 year old cat Deedee in November) but it was a harsh reminder that he is getting rather old. I was probably glum about the diagnosis for two months, just feeling the dreaded grim reaper knocking at his door. The life span of a dog or cat is way too short. They're given so much of our hearts and then to have to say good-bye after a relatively short time, it's awful!
But he is doing really well, aside from the fact that the insulin will make him go blind. His eyes are starting to get foggy and that does break my heart a little. I do know that his time will be much shorter then I'd like. However for now I'm very happy that he's still with us and I'm not so mopey about the inevitable as I was in December/ January. Well, I started to cut his hair on Thursday. He enjoys (mostly) getting his hair cut. He likes the affection and the attention. He was standing there super well behaved, patient, and proper while I was trimming. The thought crossed my mind that "this could be the last time." But it wasn't a sad thought. This thought was lovely because I realized that I was getting to trim his hair one more time (possibly more). That if this was the last it was also in a way, one more because we could have lost him in December. A slightly dreaded task (it hurts my back quite a bit to trim the dog's hair) became special.