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Archive for August, 2006

Son learns about money and healthy eating

August 30th, 2006 at 11:49 am

We came up with an idea for our first grader. He now has the option to purchase lunch at school, as a big first grader. Wink We decided that at the beginning of the week we will sit down with his lunch calendar and decide which meals he would like to buy and which days he would like to pack. Each week he gets $10 regardless. If he packs all week, he keeps $10. If he buys all week, he keeps only $1.25. This motivates him to make some decisions and it makes him responsible for his money and his eating choices. Just like I have to decide if I am willing to pay fast food for lunch or keep my money and pack, so must he make this same decision.

So far, this plan is working well and has raised some good discussions. At first he wanted to buy lunch every day, but he didn't like getting only $1.25. Then he changed it to packing every day. We talked about how it is ok to splurge sometimes and that this money is budget for lunch. He can do what he wants with it. Eventually, he decided to buy three days this week, because the menu options were pretty good.

The best benefit to me is I get to encourage him to choose mostly healthy lunches. I hate soft pretzel day! What kind of lunch is that? And French Toast sticks with syrup????? Come on. If he wants to eat pizza once in a while, that's fine, but let's stay away from the absolute junk.

A new obsession- gardening

August 30th, 2006 at 11:37 am

My regular readers are getting a glimpse of my personality. I get obsessed with things, but these obsessions never last. In fact, they are generally short lived. A lengthy obsession for me lasts about a month.

Finances was my obsession. Thankfully, I have stopped what I would call "obsessing" about it, but the thought is still there. This is good because now it is a healthy battle rather than an obsession. If I can keep finances on the back burner, it will continue to cook. If I continue at the pace I was, I'll end up burning it, to keep up with the cooking analogy. I'm content with where I am with the finances right now and proud of myself for not having let it go all together.

My new obsession? Wink Gardening. I get so frustrated when an obsession hits at the wrong time! LOL! Here we are approaching FALL and I am obsessing about gardening. To fulfill my needs I have been doing a lot of reading, researching and tending to houseplants. LOL! I decided yesterday that my office at work needs plants because I read (while researching) that plants absorb toxins. How cool is that! And my office is toxic! Saddly, most schools are. I read up on plants that will survive with very little light, because I'm in a dungeon. I went to the nursery and came home with a Potho (I think). I also bought a Venis Fly Trap for home and the boys are enthralled with it.

Now, true to my obsessive nature, I spent last evening repotting and making cuttlings from my new Pothos and my beautiful Spiders that I am so very proud of. I am filling my home with plants now, and rather frugally too. The spiders have all been completely free, made from cuttlings. I cut a new cuttling for a plant I got from my MIL. It's a very common plant, but I don't know what it is. LOL! This is all new to me! The Pothos and Fly trap I paid $14.00 for, but I can make as many new plants as I want from the Pothos, so I don't mind the investment. I have two offices at two schools and a home to fill with toxin removing plants! LOL!

In the meantime, I am researching for a garden in the spring. I learned that if I lay out cardboard boxes on my grass it will kill grass and weeds while creating rich soil for my garden. This is good. I can do this. After that, I have about 15 things I want to plant! LOL! I don't do "small" well. I am going to try to scale back to my favorites and build from there though. Otherwise, this obsession will wane like all the others and this one, like the finances, is a good obsession.

Fancy figuring...planning ahead

August 30th, 2006 at 11:19 am

I am a planner! My plans don't always work, but I enjoy the process of planning the plan. Wink

I just did some figuring with my salary and pay scale. If I can complete 5 more course between now and the Fall of 2008, I will be bumped up to a Master's +20 pay which works out to about $280 more per month after taxes. If I can complete an additional 3 classes by Fall of 2009, I will be bumped up to a Master's +30 pay which works out to about $480 per month after taxes. And that is without taking into consideration cost of living increases, because they aren't a sure thing. (These are very rough figures not taking into consideration things like tax brackets. I simply figured the difference between my gross monthly pay and my net monthly pay is 30%. EEK! I figured the rest out accordingly.)

Here's another "if". AFTER we eliminate our debt (not IF, but AFTER), and IF we can pay off our car loan by Fall of 2009, we will have approximately $1200 left over after all bills are paid for living expenses. This is exactly what we are used to right now eliminating what we pay out toward debt. This is good news! This means we can live entirely off off my salary within 3 years!

My goal all along has been to eventually live off of one salary and invest the other. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! The light is 3 years and a pretty specific plan away, but it is there, none-the-less.

Back to work...less time

August 26th, 2006 at 07:37 pm

I have less time for blogging these days! Or perhaps just less energy. I'm not sure.

We're chugging away. I've been reading on the site more than participating lately. I'm trying to figure out this whole coupon thing. I like to just shop at Aldi's and forget the hassle, but my Walgreens experience has intrigued me.

I'm also considering gardening for the spring. Our land is absolutely horrible and it's hard to get grass to grow! The builders stipped our entire neighborhood of top soil. I'm thinking this Fall we'd like to till a square of it and cover it with leaves so that by Spring we'll have a nice piece of dirt to work with. Then we can plant and see what grows! I really like the idea of free groceries in my back yard.

I'm stressing about money again. It's the beginning of the school year which always comes with pop up expenses. I've held money back from paying off the debt so that these expenses don't bust the budget. My hope is to not use it all and have a large sum I can send all at once at the end of September. I'm not very good at waiting though. I like to have a little to send here and there. I just $100 to one card, but that's not near as much fun as a couple hundred more.

I'm also stressing about the time factor involved in saving money. It's so much easier to save money when one person is home! It's so easy to be too tired to make lunch or dinner and then dining out becomes a so very tempting. I try to have safe guards in place for these events, but we're not perfect. Sometimes we don't feel like eating my "just in case we feel like eating out quick meals."

I also start to get overwhelmed when I think of upcoming expenses for our boys. They are so young right now, but it won't be long before we will need to purchase musical instruments and pay for lessons in addition to sports activities and whatever else. We limit sports activities right now. They choose one per year and they aren't doing the things at the same time which cuts down running around time for us. But since music is so important to us, eventually they will be doing both music AND sports at the same time! I want to give them that opportunity, but goodness it is expensive! I know that as a flute teacher I charge $15/half hour lesson. That's around $120 per month for both boys for one instrument! $240 if I want them to do piano in addition to a second instrument, which I do! Add to that the cost of sports activities, and, well, how do parents do it? And by then they will be eating more too! LOL! EEK! No more small plate dinners keeping our grocery budget in line. Let's not even talk about college yet. Phew!

Alright, I'm done worrying. It's on paper and out of me head now. Wink

Excited about grocery shopping

August 23rd, 2006 at 12:31 pm

I just got my checks in the mail from Kroger Rewards for *drum roll please*...$90! EEK! Of course that is because the three months prior to coming to this site I had racked up that many points on my credit card! Still, $90 is $90. Even though I don't shop at Kroger any more, but Aldi instead, I can stock up on things that I can not get at Aldi.

$50 of that money is going toward diapers for a friend who is having twins. So I have $40 left, plus two $7 off coupons plus a few other coupons I can throw into the mix. Free stuff, here I come!

The only problem is, I can't find that $7 off coupon! Grrrrr. I know they do this on purpose. They send really good coupons a good month before you can you use them because they know that you will lose or forget about them!

I'm off to turn my house back upside down trying to locate those dag-gone coupons!

I was a little frugal today

August 22nd, 2006 at 05:13 pm

I just remembered a few little frugal things I did today.

I used my leaky faucet drip water to water all five baby trees in our yard. Pathetic little things. I also used it to water our plants and we added it to the washing machine for a load. Oh, and lemonade. Can't forget the lemonade! That's a lot of water!

We had meatloaf for dinner and one little single serving remained. Instead of letting DH eat it, which he normally would, we repackaged it with a side of rice and side of corn casserole and (voila!) it is lunch for another day. A homemade frozen meal.

I also rescued a spider plant. I had never been able to keep a plant alive. Then, my grandmother died and I took home a beautiful Daylilly from her funeral and it has thrived since March 2005. That inspired me to try other plants. So a co-worker clipped 4 baby spiders from her plant. I gave 2 to my room-mate at work and I kept 2. My 2 did beautifully over the summer! I put them outside and they are babying like crazy! Well, I went back to work yesterday and walked into the room, and there, on her windowsill, were my roommate's spider plants! EEK! They were so wilted, their leaves were molded to the pots. And they are such tiny, pitiful little things. Here's where this relates to finances:

Past me would have thrown them away and given her new clippings from my plants at home. The new frugal me saw the beauty that was still in those not-dead plants. So I watered them and put them outside on the sidewalk while I worked for the day. I wrote my roommate a kidnapping letter and took the plants home. Just since yesterday morning those plants have perked straight up toward the sun! It's so much fun to watch them come back to life, like on E.T.!

Much Ado about money

August 22nd, 2006 at 04:27 pm

Well, I broke the challenge, and I broke it big! What have I done? Let's break it down.

Yesterday, I went to the thrift store and bought back-to-school clothes for the boys. I wasn't going to, but then I decided I was just being cheap. My youngest son is hard on clothes and between all the spaghetti, jelly, marker and grass stains and the bald spots in his hair where he groomed himself, the child was looking pretty ragged. Confused I spent $100 on a cart load of clothes. I got at least 50 pieces which included a bunch of shirts for DH and one orange turtle neck for me. It's to go with the 3 Halloween Vests I have never worn because I had nothing to wear them with. Big Grin I think it cost me $.60. Ooooooh, big spender. Wink

Today, I went to Walgreens and did some rebate shopping for the first time ever. I have mixed feelings about it. I'm really going to have to watch myself if I continue to do this. I think it can be good as long as I buy things I need to buy and not just because it fits in with the rebate. I am a shop-as-I-need-it shopper, not a shop-because-it-is-onsale shopper. I do not typically stock up on soaps and deodorants and whatever else. This is new to me and I'm not quite sure how it is going to work into my budget. Right now, my plan is to have my $200 and my grocery list and fulfill those needs first. With whatever money is left, I can "play" at Walgreens with a strict list and a calculated total of how much I am spending. I am wondering when/how I recoup the savings in my budget. I guess eventually I can go a month without buying toiletries? I don't know. Whatever...I spent $86 with a savings of $17 at the register. I will be getting $26 back in rebates.

The we got the boy's haircut to a tune of $26. No more bald spots in the little guy.

Finally, I spent $40 to fill the gas tank. It wasn't quite empty, but the price was only $2.49 and I'm afraid it will go up before I need to fill up.

Even with all of the above expenses, only the $100 thrift store purchases and half of the haircuts were outside of the budget. I basically paid for it with the padding in the checking account. I could have used the misc. funds in the freedom account, but I'm trying not to if I can help it. The best news is...NOTHING IS GOING ON THOSE CREDIT CARDS! It was outside of the budget, but still cash. Big Grin

Day 8 no spend challenge

August 19th, 2006 at 06:47 pm

It is the end of day 8 for me. It has been remarkably easy.

Today we took some friends on a one hour drive to help my brother do some drywalling at his house. We had lunch there. On the way home, we were starving just from all the work we had done. I really wanted a coke! Coke is like beer to me. I can't stand beer, but sometimes a girl just needs a Coke. Wink But we managed to get home without stopping.

I had spaghetti planned for dinner, but then I remembered that we had corn casserole, pasta salad and carrot raisin salad in the fridge leftover from the night before. So we just pan fried some chicken and ate leftover sides instead. That was frugal because otherwise those sides would probably have hung out in the fridge for two more weeks when I finally would decide to throw them out. I'm pretty good about using up meats or freezing them, but sides are a different story.

I'm happy with the way our debt downpayment is going. We just switched from a 9% card to a 0% card for 15 months. The problem is that it comes with an initial 3% transfer fee. But 3% one time vs. 9% every month is a big difference. Still, that initial 3% is going to bother me.

I have a goal to have all this paid off within the year. At the rate we are currently going, I just might reach that goal.

End day 7- no spend

August 18th, 2006 at 07:04 pm

Man! We have been really lucky with unexpected money coming at us lately! I get to add another $31 to the CC tonight. Verizon owes us $95 and we are getting a $50 refund from another CC that was closed like 3 years ago???? I didn't know we had a refund coming. Gee, you'd think they could have told us. I'm only going to count the $31 though until the other money comes in.

DH almost spent money tonight...almost, but didn't. We went to a friend's house for dinner and the guys were talking about "Mythbusters" and an episode where they put some "Menthos" in a 2 ltr bottle of diet coke and it erupted. They had to try it of course. Wink They went to the store, but DH forgot his wallet. Hmmmm....too bad. Our friend just went ahead and bought it all since it wasn't that big an expense to begin with. It was cool too! I recommend you try it yourself!

So here we are on day 7 and no money spent. Now we just have to get Friday to Friday of next week. Dinners are covered....lunches are getting difficult. Especially with school starting up.

Quick debt update

August 17th, 2006 at 08:38 pm

DH got his first second job paycheck tonight. It will get deposited tomorrow and $250 of it goes straight to the cards!

August payment total so far: $950

That puts us officially UNDER the $23,000 mark I started off with! I can no longer say we are "over $23,000 in debt". Yay!

Hey, it's the little things that keep me motivated. Wink

End Day 6- no spend challenge

August 17th, 2006 at 06:08 pm

It is the end of the day and I have now officially not spent any money.

I just sat down with my calendar and rearranged my dinner menus. We are eating for free the next few days because we've been invited over to other people's houses. My friends do this a lot, so when I entertain, I know it will be reciprocated. It's nice!

Anyway, we have enough food in the house to get us through dinner through Sept. 8. That's pretty good! So dinners are taken care of, but not breakfast or lunch. I am lousy about planning for those two meals. Sometimes I try, but mostly I don't. I just go to the store and pick a lb of turkey meat and a few loaves of bread. I don't know how much of anything to buy because it isn't actually recipes. So my next step is to actually plan lunches for all four of us. Breakfast is basically oatmeal, yogurt or cold cereal, so that is easy.

I think I will make that my next challenge. Plan lunches! I can not count on leftovers, because usually if I have leftovers, I have enough for another full meal for all four of us. Those are repackaged and frozen. Lunch leftovers only happen if there is enough leftover for only one person, and that doesn't happen often around here.

I'm going to sit down tonight and make up a grocery list for next Friday as well as a preplanned spending list. I know I need an oil change and the boys need haircuts. My mom gave me a cutsie little porcelain purse that has notepaper in it and I thought "Great, clutter." That sounds awful, I know. I found a use for it today! I stuck it next to my microwave with a pencil and now the little notepapers are my grocery list and preplanned spending lists. We have never had a running grocery list before, and I think running lists are very smart. My mom always had a running list, so I'm not sure why we don't. It's all part of my debt free plan!

Day 6- no spend

August 17th, 2006 at 09:07 am

I'm tossing around different ways to use my budgeted money. This is the problem I always have. I tend to earmark the same sum of money for many things.

For instance, right now I am thinking about my gas budget. We have decided on $100/wk. This summer, this amount has been more than enough, but once I start back to school, it may not be. Right now I am thinking that I want to use the left money for oil changes. This would change this category from "gas only" to "gas and maintenance." I didn't think about oil changes when I set up my F/A. My other thought was that anything left in the gas budget at the end of a pay cycle would go to the CC's. Since oil changes only happen once every 3 months or so, I think I manage to do it all. Just some random thoughts here.

If I can manage to get through the two week period without spending any money, I think I will get the oil changed next Friday as well as hair cuts for my boys.

Other than all that, I am doing well with not spending any money. I made DH a quick lunch as he was heading out the door. He said his plan was to go do his interview for his job but be back by 2:00 and just eat then. Maybe...but if he got hungry while he was out the temptation to stop would be too great. I'm not sure how to get him to plan ahead for his lunches. He is lousy at pre-planning just about everything. I want him to make his lunch the night before, but since he is often home for lunch, he doesn't want to do that.

Day 5- no money spent

August 16th, 2006 at 05:43 pm

It is day five of my two week no-spending challenge. I see there are some out there who are on their 15th/16th days! Way to go! I will be happy to make it to 2 weeks, although I am not at all feeling the strain.

We had pork roast, mashed potatos and peas for dinner. The roast and potatos were frozen leftovers from another night. Quite tasty for five minutes of work reheating.

DH want to purchase and ethernet cord for the computer. I'm trying to get him to hold off until after the challenge. It is not a need, though pretty close. No, not really. It will just make it possible for him to be on the computer at the same time I am. He works from home, so I get pretty antsy about my computer time sometimes. But I go back to work on Monday and the problem will therefore resolve.

One thing I did prior to this no-spend challenge was pre-plan expenses for the upcoming two weeks. I pulled out money for two birthdays coming up and DH's doctor appointments. It's nice being able to grab the cash I need for the birthday gifts without feeling stressed about it. I just put some money in a card and sent it to my dad. Not the most thoughtful of gifts, but it saved me the postage of a regular gift that would need to be shipped. And I know he can always use money. Big Grin

Tomorrow is day 6 and I see no reason to fall of the wagon.