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Archive for September, 2010

Phew! Things are looking up!

September 28th, 2010 at 05:45 pm

Got the call from the doctor today. My numbers are great. I DO NOT have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

I recently had gestational diabetes, and this is my first annual test for diabetes. (50-50 chance of Type 2 within 5 years after GD) I was very scared. I am so thrilled. It's a good start.

The new budget is also still working out, even with pricier needs coming up.

For instance, I bought Kid #2 his next car seat today. I found a highly-rated model 50 percent off. They were discontinuing that color. (Do people really pay double just to get certain colors? Not me!) Still have plenty left in the budget for the week for groceries, etc.

A friend I haven't seen since Christmas is also coming over this week, to have drinks and dinner after the kids go to bed. Frugal fun at home. No babysitter, cheaper food. Love it.

And, hubby and I are taking our first overnight camping trip with friends this weekend. Cost: $20. Free babysitter. It should be a good time.

improving "personal" economy

September 27th, 2010 at 02:21 pm

I had posted earlier that I have been pretty depressed about the economy, and some of you talked about your personal economy. You inspired me. You are right. I can't control what's going on out there, but that doesn't mean I am powerless.

So, I am attempting to reclaim some power in our personal household economy.

-I have capped the amount of money we are allowed to spend each week on everything: groceries, gas, formula, incidentals. If we stay at or under the target, we will have more to put in savings every pay check.

We hit the target on week one, and it looks as though we will hit it again. We have had some incidentals, so it looks as though this budget will work.

-I reordered the bill due dates so that similar dollar amounts of bills are due during each pay period. This is only for budgeting. all of our monthly obligations used to come out of one check. This simple move showed me how much we really have left over each week.

-I am trying harder to save money and track spending. The coupon folder is back in my purse.
I am once again looking at grocery sale fliers.
I'm buying as many groceries as possible at Aldi again.
I'm only buying what's absolutely necessary on every trip.
I'm trying to combine trips to save gas.
I'm trying to cook as much as possible at home to save on take-out.
And, I'm trying to do house projects I already have the supplies for, rather than start anything new.

This hopefully will have a positive impact on our finances. Regardless, I feel more in control, which makes me happier.


Salsa recipes

September 25th, 2010 at 06:55 pm

I ran across this great little free guide to making and canning salsa. The recipes were too good not to share. I am going to try out the green salsa recipe tomorrow.

http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/PNW0395/PNW0395.pdf

It's bad out there

September 24th, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Just dropped off a box of food goodies for our unemployed neighbor only to find out our other neighbor and friend just got laid off.

I read business and financial news every day, and it sounds as though things are pretty grim economically. Now, I've got at least 4 out of work friends struggling. My own income has taken a hot (down to 1/3 what it was in 2008) and I'm just praying hubby doesn't get laid off.

It's hard to remain upbeat.

Anyway, on the goals front: I had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. It was ridiculous. My goal was to can 24 quarts of pasta sauce. It has been surpassed. I have 31 quarts of pasta sauce and tomatoes. Today, I canned another 24 pints of red salsa and 9 pints of dices tomatoes for cooking. I still have to make green tomato salsa and can the stragglers in the next two weeks. I actually have to buy more jars. I never thought this would be possible!

The economy, Wal-mart and food banks...

September 23rd, 2010 at 09:13 am

I thought this was particularly poignent:
http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/09/20/watching-walmart-a...

I have been thinking about the economy a lot lately. My spirits are sinking, thinking the U.S. has reached its peak and is now on a precipitous decline from its status as a world leader and rich nation.

I don't want to argue politics here. I will just say other countries seem to be moving ahead and we are pedaling backwards. China just launched the most high-tech submersible so they can claim minerals from the sea floor, while we are here arguing over who deserves health insurance. Really?

I wonder what kind of future my children are going to have. We aren't rich, but I fear they will be worse off and have fewer opportunities than we have had. I hate feeling like this.

This is in part exacerbated by the fact that many of our friends have been ;aid off recently, and most have been looking for months for jobs an have nothing.

I am heading to Aldi today to pick up a few things, and while I am there, I am putting together a food box for an unemployed neighbor. This is the second friend we have done this for in the past month. A sad economic indicator, if you ask me. But on the bright side, I think America needs more neighborliness. We need to bring back the idea that we should take care of each other. I don't know how we lost that.

Bean's winter wardrobe: $39

September 21st, 2010 at 01:28 pm

I hit the thrift store today looking for winter clothes for my 2.5 year old. I didn't expect to find anything, but came home with a giant bag of stuff.

Last year, I got him 7 pairs of pants and three sweaters for $18.

I scored, but didn't get by as cheap this year.

This year, I got him 5 pairs of pants, 5 sweaters, and a new winter coat for $39. Not too shabby, for what is essentially an entire winter wardrobe. Most of the brands were Old Navy or Nike, so no one will have to know how cheap they were! I noticed they charge more for the 4 and 5T than for the 24 month sizes, so I won't complain. It was still half of what I would have spent new, not including the coat, which is very nice and was only $4.

The little one will then be getting the big one's sweaters and pants from last year.

Money tinkering

September 21st, 2010 at 06:53 am

I'm doing some tinkering with our monthly budget/auto payments. I hope this will help us better manage our cash flow. Before this, we had all of our monthly large debits coming out of one paycheck, which brought my checking balance uncomfortably low. With a few changes, I have managed to make our committed expenses from each check the same.

First, I broke the kids' monthly 529 payment into two debits, one on the 1st and one on the 15th. Before, I had one giant debit coming out on the 15th. I also upped the amount for each child by $25. We'll see if we miss it.

Second, I arranged for our preschool tuition to come out in the first check, and our car loan to come from the second check.

These two changes mean I can budget for the same amount-- $440 to come out of each check. (I rounded the car payment up to $240, from $217. We'll see if we miss that extra).

I have a firmer plan for my freelance income as well. I make a steady $600-$750 a month. After my IRA is maxed, I will use whatever is left to make sure we have met our college savings goals for the kids. Whatever is left after that will be used as a lump sum payment to the auto loan. I just hate having debt, so it's got to go!

Now that I have a secured plan for the freelance money, maybe I will be motivated to take on more work.

It isn't much, but I hope this will help us plan. I was so on top of our finances two years ago, but this year I have basically failed at my family fiduciary duties! I'm trying to turn it around, though.

I guess with everything that has happened around here, I should be happy anything gets done.

The butter tally

September 20th, 2010 at 05:47 pm

As some of you already know, hubby and I constantly joke about the butter consumption around here when his parents visit. We have no idea how they eat so much, and yet another visit has passed and we have no idea where it went. The tally was 2 pounds plus one stick of butter for a 5 day visit.

It's madness.

In other news, We were finally able to put some money into savings this pay period. We'd been treading water for a couple of months now, due to unforseen expenses, nothing major, just a lot of $200-$300 things here and there that really ate up every extra penny.

Hopefully, we can keep that momentum going until the end of the year, minus the new windshield for our Honda (with 200k miles on it.), a new car seat for the youngest, and our last house project for the year-- adding insulation to the attic. I may hire this out, as we can't realistically do it with two kids 2 and under.

Today's frugal musings

September 13th, 2010 at 05:30 pm

Finally Success! Or so I thought.

First, the good stuff:
-I finished my first draft of my first novel. Feels great. Now the work of revision can begin.
-I bought Squid's b-day present on ebay, a $60 discovery channel exclusive toy that I think he will enjoy for a long time. I paid $19, including shipping.
-got groceries at Aldi for $62 and made dinner with what was in the freezer today.
-I picked another 10 pounds or so of tomatoes from the garden, which will be diced and canned later this week.

Now the OK and the bad:

-Just found out the in-laws are coming tomorrow for a week, so I have to head back to the store and buy things they need to have on hand. (They mysteriously eat about 2 pounds of butter every visit. Hubby and I can't figure out where it goes. Maybe they just eat the sticks while the rest of us are sleeping!)

-I have managed to keep our spending on the credit card (we put all of our day to day expenses on there) to a reasonable amount this pay period. Hopefully we can keep it up until Friday and put an extra amount of our paycheck into savings, to make up for last week.

-the checking account balance is okay, but lower than I like, due to preschool, first car payment, and the 529 debit this week. But, I think we will be okay until payday, so I am not going to pad it with a withdrawal from the savings account.

Moving right along.

September 10th, 2010 at 05:49 pm

The non-money goals are coming along. I canned 11 quarts of pasta sauce today, and 8 last weekend, so I am at 19 quarts. Five more and I've met my goal for the year. I have a bumper crop of Romas, so I'm pretty sure I'll make it.

Although, I slaved over the stove for 6 hours today making sauce when I could just go to the store and buy some for cheap. Moneywise, it probably isn't worth it. But, at least I know the ingredients are organic and homegrown. And I get a kick out of the self-sufficiency part of it.

Also, I MAY -- just a maybe_- be finished with my first draft of my first novel by the end of this week. I was typing along on it today and realized I was almost there. Crazy!

As for my weight loss goal, I am joining a program at the YWCA called Fat Club. it's a six week weight loss exercise program. My friend has done it three times and has lost 30 pounds. She says it's hard, but a lot of fun. It starts Oct. 9 and will cost about $190. I'm amped. I want to be pre-baby skinny again!

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this

September 7th, 2010 at 06:00 pm

Apparently $75,000 a year is the key to happiness.

http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2010/09/07/the-perfect-salary-fo...

treading water

September 7th, 2010 at 02:15 pm

I am unhappy to report another payday has passed without any money going into savings. Ugh. We just spent too much on the credit card (we pay every two weeks), and we had too many other bills to pay this time. We had my first car payment, our first preschool bill, and the deduction for the kids' 529 plans.

We didn't take a step back, but we didn't go forward either.

On that note, I'm trying really hard to only spend what is absolutely necessary for the next two weeks, so I can make up for the recent lack of savings.

I have also decided on a Christmas budget for the kids of $100 each, using second-hand items to stretch that where it makes sense. An example. My youngest likes Bob the Builder. I bought him a giant red Muck dump truck for $6.00 second hand, versus about $50 for a new one.

I also wrote my financial mantra on the fridge:
Spend as little as possible on the boring things you use every day, so you have more for the things you value.

So far, this is the plan. We'll see if it works out.