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Archive for January, 2014

Prepping for no spend month

January 28th, 2014 at 10:08 pm

February is going to be No Spend Month at our house. I should technically say "low" spend month, as it's not like we're spending nothing. We're just going to be on a super low, tight budget.

This is our second no spend month. We did one in 2008, when DH1 was just a baby. We had a set budget for all food, gas, entertainment, etc. of $400. We made it through, but barely!

This month, we're setting the budget at $600 for the month for groceries, entertainment, food, gas etc. (two kids, and they eat a lot more now).

Here is how it will work. Regular bills, like college savings, mortgage, utilities, etc. aren't included in the $600. The budget is only for the purchases we have some modicum of control over. We've also decided not to include milk in the $600, as the boys are growing and drink a lot of it, and we don't want to restrict them.

So, I guess I'm getting ready for no spend month. Although other than gassing up one car,that doesn't mean much! We're not going to be buying or stockpiling groceries or anything else before the challenge, as that defeats the purpose!

The general plan is to eat from the pantry and the chest freezer, which is amazingly full thanks to our fall farm share and recent gift of beef from a friend. That is something we didn't have last time!

My goal is to just hit the reset button on spending, and maybe free up some surplus for savings and extra mortgage payments during the one month spending fast.

Last time, the no spend month impacted our savings and spending for months after. It was really great for us.

Of course, now we have two boys who always seem to have the wants, so I have to brace myself for a bunch of kid complaining!!

Here's a link to more info on no spend month...

Budget boys' room makeover is done!

January 25th, 2014 at 09:58 pm

Well, by some miracle, the playroom is basically finished. I have to sew and hang the curtains but that is about it.

Here are the after pics. Total cost was about $700, most of it for the rug and new sofa bed (which, just my luck, I brought home the wrong mattress from IKEA. They are sending me the correct one, since they had the wrong box of mattresses at the right bin number for my model. Ugh.)

Anyway, here are the 'end' pics. Can you tell the boys have moved their toys back in??

Boys playroom redo-- more pics

January 24th, 2014 at 12:50 am

Okay, so here is an update on the playroom project. Carpet is out and wood floor is clean. I've repainted, put down the rug, and am starting to put furniture back in and put the new stuff together.

Some pics are below. But first, an accounting of our expenses:
$239 Lyckesele sofa bed
$89 extra washable cover
$75 shelves
$25 lamp
$42 table (saved $9 with discount card)

Rug, 9 x 12
$200 for bound carpet remnant

$37.80 - 2 gallons Valspar with primer @ $35 each with tax - $10 rebate, - $22.20 on an old Lowe's gift card

Freecycled carpet and carpet padding, saved $18 in garbage disposal fees.

Total project cost:
$707. 80

Darn. Over budget! I could have scrimped and not bought the extra washable cover for the sofabed. I'm glad I didn't though. I also could have pieced together cheaper flooring, but I don't regret that either.

But, to make up for the overage in the projects budget, I'm taking "rug for the boys' room" off this year's list. I was able to repurpose two of the small area rugs from the playroom for their bedroom, and I think they will work for at least the next year. That should just about make up for it.

So, no regrets overall, even though it was more money than I anticipated.

Now, the fun part. The pics! Just so you know, I debated long and hard about what color to do the accent wall and I made a bold choice-black. So far, I don't regret it though!

playroom before and during pics (new pic added)

January 22nd, 2014 at 04:45 pm

If you guys love a budget room makeover as much as I do, here are some pics to tide you over. I ripped out the carpet today and peeled back part of the padding to reveal hardwood floors. Let's see if there are any surprises!

The befores are a little fuzzy. And remember, there is MORE chaos than usual because we had things out and were moving things around, and we freecycled some furniture.

Stay posted for more. I should have the floors bare by tonight, then it's on to painting, then decorating.



Ikea trip and boys room redo

January 20th, 2014 at 04:34 pm

One of my planned expenses for the year is redoing our very sad toy room/ guest room.

It has very sad and very stained white carpet, which has only gotten worse since we moved in with two little boys. (Who puts in white carpet?????).

The plan is
-removing the carpet. There is hardwood underneath.
-cleaning up the hardwood and putting a large rug over it
- a new sofa bed with washable covers
- a homework/art/lego table for the boys, with a bright light over it.

Simple, but a lot of work!

My sister and I went to Ikea yesterday to get the sofa bed and the table. I do love the idea of washable covers!

We decided on the Lyckesele sofa bed with a yellow cover and an extra orange cover, and the Linnmon table top in pine finish, to match the pine trofast storage we already have.

My budget was $500 and I squeaked in at $525, plus another $30 or so to repaint. Not too much over budget, I guess.

We freecycled the old sofabed, which was single size, s not very useful to us. I'm also considering freecycling the carpet pads, etc. to keep them out of the landfill.

extra mortgage payment

January 17th, 2014 at 01:56 pm

Paid the mortgage today and managed to add $200 extra to principal. I can't wait for the new balance to show up.

Other than that, not much news. I'm trying to 'right' the ship financially, so to speak.

We've been doing great lowering the grocery bill. I think we've spent about $100 a week for the four of us lately,and we buy organic milk, etc.

A lot of that is due to the chest freezer being full (so glad I bought one) from farm shares, summer garden stuff, and the gift of meat our friend brought.

I'm making an effort to start 'eating down' the chest freezer, and just buy perishables like fresh fruits/veggies, milk and any odds and ends we need to make recipes during the week.

I do have a spendy weekend coming up. We're redoing the boys' toy room. The carpet is nasty, so we're taking it up shining the hardwood and sticking a large rug over it. (Already bought the rug). We freecycled the old sofa bed in there (single size, from the 1960s), and are getting a larger sofabed with a washable cover from Ikea this weekend. We have a lot of houseguests, so this will give us another sleeping option.

I'm also getting them a new art desk/ lego table future homework station. So that's why this will be a spendy weekend. These are planned expenses. I will try to be judicious with my choices, but not feel bad about spending the cash. These will be good upgrades!

mortgage snowflakes

January 16th, 2014 at 03:25 pm

I have two mortgage snowflakes to send in this week.
1. 9.49 in rebate checks
2. $15 from the scratch off lottery tickets my mom gave me for Christmas

Not too shabby. Payday is Friday, and I will send them with the mortgage payment. I WILL PAY OFF THIS HOUSE!~

Generous surprise

January 15th, 2014 at 03:07 am

A friend of ours came over to have "man night" with hubby. He brought us a giant bag of organic, grass-fed local beef from his cousin's farm. He said they couldn't eat it all before it would be no good (in the freezer more than six months, etc....), so he brought some to share with us. There had to be $60 worth of meat in the bag, at least, including steaks, roasts and ground beef.

I have to think of a nice way to say thank you. We're on a tight budget lately and also planning for a no-spend month in February, so this will go a long way to stretching the grocery dollars!

Gardening to save Big $$$$$

January 6th, 2014 at 01:16 am

Okay okay, gardening might not seem like a financial issue, but really it is. I swear!

We have a rather ambitious backyard 'farm' brewing. (I'm up to about 600 sq feet in planting space in the back, and 200 in the front). If I play my cards right, we will have plenty of fresh, chemical free heirloom fruits and veggies to eat from April until December next year.

I'm going to keep track of everything I pull out of the garden this year, as well as every dollar I spend on the garden, so I can determine how much it really does save. At the end of the season, I will calculate what it would have cost me to buy what we grew at the grocery store. Not sure how I should account for the items I can, but I'll figure that out. Should be interesting. I did this four years ago, at the last house, and I remember we pulled almost 200 pounds of roma tomatoes out that year alone. It was an epic year for home-canned pasta sauce.

Once again I have big plans for my backyard veggie garden. I finished my seed orders tonight. Luckily, I still have plenty of awesome heirloom seeds left over from last year (still viable), so I only had to spend about $30 out of pocket to fill in all the gaps.

I also attend an annual plant and seed swap, which allows me to share my extra seedlings in exchange for sometimes very expensive flowers, fruits, and veggies. All for free. It's fun. (I got spendy irises and lilies for my front yard last year). This year, I plan to grab strawberry and raspberry starts, some perennial flowers such as bee balm, and maybe some flavored mints for a tea garden. I highly recommend finding a free plant swap. They are addictive.

Last year, the goal was to construct the gardens. We had an okay season, but made the mistake of using subsoil in the raised beds (mixed with compost) and it was just too heavy and poor to produce much. We still got some, but not nearly what we could have. That has all been dug out and replaced with an excellent compost mix.

This year, the goal is to maximize their productivity. Spring, summer, and fall crops, row covers to extend the season, the whole deal. It could be an epic failure, but no matter what, it will be awesome, and I'm excited. I've always been a big gardener, but this is a step up even for me.

I'll probably be out in the garden in late February installing hoops and row covers.

If any of you are interested....

I have done a lot of research into season extending, and found and excellent book on it: "The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener" by Niki Jabour. I love it because she gardens in the same zone as I do, so all of her advice is relevant, unlike the books coming out of California.

I'm also going to try harder to interplant-- i.e. growing carrots, lettuce or beets under the tomatoes, rather than one crop. It could work well.

I hope I'm not the only one excited to garden!

I was out working in my beds this last sunny day. Here is the top pick, of me laying cardboard for the paths (I will mulch over them. It looks nice and keeps weeds down). And, then below that, my dream for what my garden will eventually look like!

Back to zero, and the nightmare!

January 2nd, 2014 at 05:54 pm

New year is always bitter sweet. I like the clean slate and the calm after the rush of holidays, but boy do I hate to see all my goal totals start at zero again! Gah! It makes me antsy, I like I need to jump start, but if it isn't payday, there isn't much to do but wait. Boo.

This morning I am feeling super thankful for everything, though. I had a nightmare that we lost everything and my family had to move into the worst housing projects in New Orleans. I've seen them. No one should have to live like that. It was a very detailed dream, down to every inch of what the apartment looked like, the rules we had to follow, the debate of letting the kids play on the grass for fear of violence, etc. It was intense. I don't know what brought it on, but it's stuck with me today. We are so very lucky, and I'm lucky we know it.

On another note, I found this series following a family trying to eat a super healthy real food diet on $600 a month for a family of five.

Sorry, I can't remember how to hyper link anymore. I suck!