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Archive for January, 2016

No spend month starts now!

February 1st, 2016 at 03:52 am

And I'm totally excited! I'm not dreading this no spend month at all. We have $700 in cash to last us the month, a freezer full of meat and a full gas tank. What more can a family need?

Of course, the prize is in sight, which makes No Spend Month easier: paying off the mortgage much much faster. And, I'm planning to spend more time cleaning,scrubbing and organizing. I'm looking forward to having a cleaner house (fingers crossed it works...)

My only worry: the kids! We have Cub Scout and other events this month that are the most likely to be the budget busters. I'm trying not to stress. I'm going to focus on having as many No Spend Days as possible, especially this first couple of weeks, and then hope that we have enough money left to pay for the kid stuff.

Let the adventure begin!

Prepping for No Spend February, car update

January 29th, 2016 at 02:38 pm

February is no (low) spend month. I'm setting the budget for groceries, gas, and all other spending at $700 for the month for the four of us. I'd like to skate by at $600, but the last time we did this, we only had one son and he was 6 months old, and we managed on $400 for the month. Now we have two, and they are 6 and 7, so they need things like food. They drink milk like we own a cow, so that's why the jump from $400 to $700. We'll see how it goes. If it goes well, we might do it again later this year for the same or lower budget.

We're hoping to free up cash to put toward the mortgage. I'm getting antsy and want to see if we can pay it off THIS year instead of next, with a combination of tax refunds (if we get one...) , cash and ef savings.

I'm excited about no spend month. I've lined up a bunch of cleaning and organizing projects around the house. (Hey, cleaning is free!) Hopefully, those will improve the look and function of our house, which always makes me feel better. I'm also kind of looking forward to being home more and being able to say no to things, as in, events and this or that. Every weekend, all we do is run around to this event or that. And granted, I love having friends and a busy social life. But it'll be nice to put that on hold so I can concentrate on all the stuff that gets pushed to the side when we're busy.

Yard Sale!
The kids want to have another yard sale, since they made about $40 on their cookie stand last year. If I can purge enough of their stuff and ours, I'll consider it. Yard sales are a lot of work, but we made more than $200 last year! I could use that!

But Before We Can Start...
Of course, this is a jam packed weekend ahead of no spend month. I'm throwing my sister a birthday party. She has severe anxiety about parties and having people over, but she wants to get over that, so as a gift, she asked me to help her throw a party at her house. This is HUGE for her.

So, I'm supplying the food and booze, music, etc. (This is where it will get spendy, although I think I can skate by for under $100.)

I think the party will be great. I want her to see that her home is her sanctuary from the rest of the world, and you should be able to share that with your friends without freaking out about it. Our bffs are at our house all the time, and it's great. I like that we can all stop by each others places and chat, or have a drink or a snack, and I want my sister to have that feeling too. It's life enhancing. And cheaper than always meeting them out somewhere!

Car Update!
Also, in my last post, DH's car wouldn't start and was kaput in the garage. Well, the darn thing only needed spark plugs. Can you believe it??? Darn thing needed a tune up. Honda knows how to make a car. He's had it since 1997, and all we've ever had to do to it was tires, oil changes and now spark plugs. The darn thing will never die.

Car is dead, plus free home improvement, with pics

January 11th, 2016 at 05:34 pm

DH's car won't start. It's got 250k miles on it. (a 1997 Honda). It cranks but won't turn over. Yay. I don't know how much it will be to get that fixed, but it's a big cloud of unknown in my already stretched budget. It serves me right. His dad and I were driving around in it at Xmas, telling DH he needed to fix all the things wrong with it. And here we are. Darn it. Stupid thing couldn't wait to break until after the house was paid for????


I'm trying really super duper hard not to spend money unnecessarily. This directly clashes with being stuck inside in winter, which is the season I want to do and complete house projects. So, I'm been looking for cheap and free home improvement projects that improve the look and function of our house. Thankfully, cleaning and organizing are mostly free.

This weekend, I redid the hall closet. It's tiny, with a tiny door, and the kids are still small, so they just throw their backpacks on the doorknob and their coats on the closet floor and call it a day. Um no... It was a mess, first thing you see in the door.

I hung a lower rod for the kids, so they can hang up their own coats. I installed a few hooks on the inside of the door for backpacks, and sorted all the hats, mittens and sunglasses into a shoe holder on the inside of the door. I also put extra backpacks, lunch bags, and scarves in bins on the top shelf.

It was a free project because I used things I already had around the house. I was already using the shoe holder in the closet. But half of it was empty, so I cut it in half and moved an underused hook from another closet onto the door for the backpacks. The lower rod used to be for the kids costumes in their closet, but they never hung them there, so it was unused. I already had the bins on the shelf. I just added a box from aldi to hold the lunch boxes. Voila. Free. And functional. I might spring for a nice basket for the bottom, though, to hold all the roller skates and winter boots.

My second free project was organizing my dresser. I wasn't planning to, but I saw a short video on apartment therapy about the virtues of storing your t-shirts and jeans vertically instead of in stacks in your drawers. Something about being able to see everything. I thought it was worth a try. Boy. So far so good! It's so easy to find what I'm looking for AND each drawer holds soooooooo many things. I used to have two drawers of pants. Now, everything fits in one! And... now I know I have too many pairs of black pants.

In other unfun house news, I spent the weekend bleaching mildew off of my bathroom walls (the last owner painted with oil-based paint, a big no no in a bathroom, so now it molds. Argh.).

Feeling impatient

January 8th, 2016 at 02:31 pm

I am feeling impatient and antsy. Normally, I'm pretty good about this, but right now I wish I could fast forward to the end of February.

Why? That's when we'll know if DH is getting a bonus and how much it will be, the taxes will be close to finished so I know if we're getting a refund and how much, and once I have all that I'D KNOW FOR SURE IF WE COULD PAY OFF THE HOUSE THIS YEAR.

I just want it done!! I'm so anxious! And excited.

But we have a lot to do between now and then. I've got to figure out how to pay off the Christmas bills without dipping into savings. I've got two birthdays to plan (DH and my sister), and February is a No Spend Month.
Gah! Still. I wish I had all the answers today so I could sleep at night!

Back to real life, and tiki wall project

January 5th, 2016 at 02:35 pm

Well, we survived.

The end of the year is always so busy. It's like I hit an oil slick at Halloween and then rush through New year's out of control.

House guests, parties, deadlines, gifts. It's always so crazy! And on top of it, we (meaning me) am the host for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (there's no one else to do it), and have to have houseguests staying with us (in-laws. Yay) during that time. It's very stressful.

This year, we added a 6 day trip to New Orleans to visit friends into the mix. I'm super glad we did, but boy , now that we're home I finally feel like I can breathe. It's nice to be back to real life, back to a schedule, kids in school.

Except...There's still so much to do!

It's January, so I have to wrangle the bills and the money and think about how we're going to get where we need to be financially for the year. I haven't been so good at that this year. Maybe because I'm waiting to see if the bonus and tax refunds materialize, and if they do, if we will be able to pay off the house. (Squee.)

So far, I did manage to take down most of the Xmas decorations, tackle the giant mound of holiday recycling, clear out the jillion shipping boxes, pay the car insurance and renew the plates for both cars. Fun, I know.

Now for the tikis....

Something weird always happens to me in winter. I guess it's because I'm stuck inside a lot more with the cold and snow. I always feel the urge to deep clean and redecorate the house. This year, that has meant finishing house and decorating projects I've been meaning to do forever and probably already have most of the supplies for. (I'm trying to look for cheap and free ways to improve the house).

I finally finally after four years of never getting around to it, finished one wall in the tiki den. I have lots of tiki/ Hawaii albums, so I framed a few of my favorites for an art accent wall. I've attached a pic below. I think it's cute! It was reasonably cheap, too. I had four frames, and when I went to Michael's to get more, they were 50 percent off. I paid about $3.25 each for really nice album frames with real glass. I've been picking up the albums at thrift stores and yard sales for 20 years now, so they were all 25 or 50 cent albums, and the total for framing was less than $40.

I also removed some clunky old shutters from the windows in the tiki den and replaced them with rice paper shades. I had one shade already, from our old house in New Orleans, and I had to buy one new one to match it. It lets in so much more light. I am planning to make curtains from some sort of tiki barkcloth fabric, but haven't gotten than far yet.

I also have some supplies for a few random repairs, like replacing the wonky dimmer switch in the dining room. Hopefully I'll be able to do them soon. Next week, it's time for my annual rug steam clean, so I'll have to rent a machine from the store.

I guess I'm winter nesting. Weird huh? It's garden in the summer and inside the house in the winter, I guess that's my seasonal schedule!

And, this one is for Laura, to get her thinking about using her tiki furniture! I took down some clunky old shutters and replaced them with rice paper blinds. I also stacked my tikis and hung shelves to display part of my tiki mug collection. (The shelves go all around the room.) Forgive me for posting a pic of a project that isn't done. We have yet to make tiki curtains for the windows!