Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year!

We found our 4 leaf clover!

I am so happy this year is coming to a close, not because it was bad, but because it was one of the best ever. We faced many trials, but we worked hard and I believe came out better for it in the end.

In the beginning of 2013, I had the goal to become a stay at home mom. But it looked like it would never happen. Hubby was out of work and I was busting my but to make ends meet. He would get a job, lose a job. He tried his best, but the healthcare industry was in a shambles due to the uncertainty of everything.

The end of 2013, found hubby out of work, but at least on unemployment. We barely made ends meet and had to rely on the generosity of family to keep a roof over our heads.

2014 started and I was a mess. I was working twice as much as normal in order to keep us afloat. I was never home and didn't see my family. When I was home, I would collapse in a heap in bed. It was HORRIBLE!!!! Then in February Hubby found a job. It was a good paying job. I was proud of him for finding a place to work that liked him and that he liked in return.

There was a problem though. We had to pay for two kids in daycare. It ate half of what he made every week. We were actually better off financially, with him at home on unemployment. But that is not how life should be. It shouldn't be so hard. If you are willing to work hard, you should be able to make it work. RIGHT?

After two long months of me working even more hours (to make up for daycare), and Hubby working full time, the house fell apart. Bills weren't getting paid, not because we didn't have money, but because no one was home to pay them. I know, sorry excuse, but when you are so overwhelmed it is difficult to even function. We knew something had to give. We knew we had to take a risk.

I had wanted to become a stay at home mom all those years ago. I ran the numbers a million times. We decided to take a risk. I had to lay all my trust in my husband. If you know me on a personal level, you know that me trusting someone, relying on someone so whole-heartedly, is very very hard. I took the biggest risk of my entire life. I gave notice at a job where I was respected. A job that fed my family for years. That gave me so many opportunities. I gave myself over to my husband.

On May 1st (only 5 months later than I had originally set my goal for), I left work and became a home-maker, a stay at home mom, a much happier person. But that was only the beginning.

Hubby had a great job, but wanted and needed a fantastic job. He kept looking for that dream job. One that wouldn't just get us by, but one that would allow us to do the things that were important to us. We wanted to be able to LIVE. To move into a house. To have fun. To save money for the future. Only a few short months after I left my job, Hubby found his dream job. It was a miracle to us, but in reality it was a result of hard work and dedication.

We had no idea that we would go from a family that was barely able to eat and pay the bills. Using the food pantry and wearing clothes and shoes with holes in them: to a family who can now donate and help others. We are current on bills. We were even able to get a "new to us" mini-van.

I foresee 2015 being a year where we continue to take what we have learned and grow even more. I am so grateful for my husband working so hard to provide for us. I am so grateful that I get to see my girls grow up and be a part of who they will become. This has turned out to be the year that I never thought was possible. Next year will be even better!

I wish you all a wonderful new year. Take risks, believe in yourself. Sometimes you will be amazed at the miracles that happen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Envelope System

This past year I have started the envelope system (see Dave Ramsey's site), a dozen times. There is one problem that I found. When you are broker than broke, you don't have any money to put in the envelopes. You are struggling just to get food on the table and the bills paid. I didn't realize that step number one, was to get current. I do not know why that fact escaped me, but it did. Once it finally did, I didn't panic over not doing "Dave Ramsey" the way that he intended. I got current. I created a budget and now I am at a place where I can do the envelope system.

What is it? Basically, you create a budget and live on a cash system. You create envelopes for each of your line items, food, gas, clothing, vacation, etc. They are not really meant for things like the mortgage, utilities and such.

Here is what I did to create my envelope system, that I will be using in 2015.

1. Sit down and think of the things you need money for. You are creating "sinking funds" or as my Grandma called them "kitties", for each of those items. This year we need to go on a vacation of sorts, to have a memorial service for my Grandma. We are also moving into a house. We need to upgrade my husband's car. We want to start saving for Christmas NOW. You might want or need new furniture. This is a great place to save for those things.

2. For each of those items I created an envelope. Then I thought about how much I needed for each of those items. I know that I need $1500 to cover my out of pocket expenses for my medical deductible. I took that amount and divided it by how many paychecks I will have this year. That amount will then be what I have to put in the envelope each pay period (in cash). I went ahead and did this for all the items I created.

3. Look at your monthly budget and see if what you are putting in each of the envelopes, each pay period is do-able within your current budget (after paying for household and transportation expenses). If you do not have enough in your "discretionary" income to cover all the envelopes, you need to play with the numbers to make it work. Maybe you cannot go on vacation this year. Maybe you put half of the amount away and combine it with next years, to have a nice vacation. Maybe an envelope needs to be eliminated?

4. Make sure you have an envelope for fun. Just because you are living on a budget, does not mean you have to live like a hermit. It might mean you can only go to one movie every other month. Maybe you find free things to do. Take a few dollars and spend them on yourself. Depriving yourself completely is a sure fire way to burn out on this whole process. The key is to find balance.

5. Buy a safe. Get a safety deposit box, what ever you do, keep them separate from your bank account. Keep the money protected. Do not walk around with a wallet full of cash. It is asking for trouble. The one reason why I do not open different savings accounts for these items, or even just have one big savings account, is I want the items to be for something. I want to know that a certain bundle is to take a vacation. I do not want to mingle the money, because you have to give your money a purpose. Again, look into Dave Ramsey's theories on this. I know that if I have money in savings and I am out and about and I see something I want, I am tempted to move that money from my savings account into my checking to buy that item. If I have the money at home, I have to go home and get it. It forces me to rethink my desire. I almost always decide the item is not worth it.

6. Be flexible. If you find a certain envelope isn't working for you, do not be afraid to change things. But no matter what, do not use one envelopes contents to pay for another's. If you steal from the vacation fund to buy a pair of jeans when your clothing fund is empty, you are not allowing the envelopes to work for you.

7. I do not create an envelope for groceries or gas. I pay for gas using my debit card and I usually keep my grocery money in my wallet right when I take it out of the bank. I have a separate place in my wallet to put my "blow" money for the week, so I can keep it separate from my grocery money. If you feel you need a grocery envelope, that is what you should do.

That is pretty much the envelope system in a nutshell. I hope you take the time to look into Dave Ramsey's website on the subject. Feel free to ask me questions. Good luck in using your envelope system this year. I hope it helps you to reach your goals, to have some fun and stay within your means.

What have I been up to????

Phew, it was a busy month of December. I took most of the month off from blogging and just focused on my family. I wanted this December to be different from December's of the past. In the past we have struggled to keep food on the table, give gifts and in general keep afloat. We have always gone into the new year hoping and praying we would get a tax refund to catch up on it all.

This year was different. Taking all of the principles that we have learned this year, we planned ahead. I decided to make a lot of the Christmas gifts for my family. I learned a few new crochet patterns and set out to make hats, scarves, slippers. I had the girls make ornaments to give as gifts. I also made cookies and banana bread. I cannot tell you how fun and rewarding it was. Granted, if I took my hourly rate before I became a home-maker, and put it toward the hours it took to make the gifts, it would have cost me $800. In reality it cost me under $25 for all of the materials (some of which I already had on hand).

I also set a strict budget for the girls presents and for my husband. For the girls I spent under $125 each. Yes, that may seem like a lot. But in years past I would spend way more. I did my research and found the best deals. I got them a few smaller gifts and one big gift. I tell you, this was the best year for them. They don't have any wasted gifts that sit in a corner. The ones that they got, they are using. I call that a success.

Hubby and I had a $50 budget to spend on each other. This included stocking stuffers. Sure there are things we would have loved. I would love to have gotten a Kitchen-aid mixer, or a vlogging camera. But when I thought about it, I wanted to save for our future even more. I set out to find some really good deals on things that Hubby wanted. He wanted Marvel themed shirts and little odds and ends. I got him things like razors, and other diddy's for his stocking. He got me a DVD that I have been wanting, some candy and a manicure set.

The girls each got $20 to buy us a gift. The girls went in together and got me a foot spa I have been coveting. They got Daddy some pajama pants and a Marvel themed coffee mug.

All in all it was a fantastic Christmas. We got to spend time together. We didn't sacrifice on paying the bills. I was so overwhelmed with it being such a wonderful and basically stress free Christmas, I didn't know what to do with myself. I mean really, Christmas Eve I sat in the closet crying after I put the stuff out from Santa. I was crying because I was happy. Crying because it was finally a Christmas like it is supposed to be. I know, I am a mess. LOL.

How did I do weight wise? I stopped logging my food after Thanksgiving. I stopped going to the gym when I blew my knee out again. What I didn't do was go whole hog on all of the treats of the season. I think it helped that I wasn't working. When I worked, I was surrounded by treats all day. Holiday party after holiday party. This year I was at home and I could control my eating. By sticking to a grocery budget, we ate pretty healthy. Sure we had treats, but they were home-made. I did drink soda, but it was limited to one a day and that I shared with the kids. I gained a pound here, would lose it there and back again. In the end, I weighed myself and I weigh exactly what I did at the beginning of the month.

So I managed to make it through Thanksgiving and Christmas without gaining a pound. I am still down about 7 pounds from official start in November.

Financially, all bills are paid. We were able to save and rebuild our emergency fund from zero to only being a couple hundred away from goal. This was despite an emergency vet visit for our dog. I am so proud of us.

Now back to food logging. Back to working out. Back to the business of it all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It is a really great start! weight loss journey

I have said it a million times over the past year (and before), that I wanted to get on the road to being healthy and fit. I struggled with finances and just trying to survive, that I was not able to fully focus on my health, until my financial life was in order. After many false starts, I finally did it.

Two weeks ago I decided the time was right and I jumped in. I knew I wanted to do some sort of Paleo or low-carb diet. With PCOS, you should not eat processed foods and you need to limit carbs greatly. I found that the traditional low-carb diet still allowed for too much fat and too little fruit. I love fruit. It is the one thing that I cannot find myself eliminating from my diet. So, after some research I decided to go as Paleo as I could.

Still on a rather tight budget, I cannot do the Paleo diet whole hog. They love grass fed, free range, organics of all kinds. I simply cannot afford to do that completely. Maybe one day. I am going to do as much as I can, without disrupting our tight budget.

Week one went great! I lost about 3.5 pounds. I stayed on plan and was able to give up Coke, without too much issue. I actually made it a whole week on plan! This was huge for me. It had been three years since I had been able to stay on plan.

Week two started out really rough. We were on a very limited food budget, because of an unexpected expense. After a weekend of really bad food and gaining back almost two pounds, I got some good advice and support from some friends. I decided to do my best to eat as close to plan as possible. I got in some extra exercise and made sure I stayed within calorie range. I re-activated my myfitnesspal account and stayed accountable. By the end of week two I was down another 2 pounds.

Halfway through week two, I am down another pound, averaging about .4 lbs a day. We are in Thanksgiving week, so I am making sure to get an hour workout in every day. My oldest complains that she doesn't like me going to the gym every day. I responded with, "do I take you to the park to play every day? Do I cook you really good meals? Do I cuddle with you when every you want?" She said yes. I then added, "Do you want me to be able to do that as long as you are living at home? Do you want me to be around to see you get married and have kids?" She said yes. I said, "Then please let me have the hour and a half a day to myself to make sure I can do that. She gave me a big smile and a hug and said OK.

I have gone from 274.4 to 268.6, with a wobble in there that bad weekend of eating. I feel so good that I am making progress. All who have PCOS, know just how hard losing weight is.

Some how this time it all feels different. We shall see.

I have a goal to do a 5K on or around my birthday, March 16th. I know I can do it if I keep my head down and work toward it. My hopes is that my hubby will join me. I would love for my parents and kids to watch from the sidelines. So I am off to find one!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rolling with the punches...$40 food budget for the week.

This week we had an unexpected expense due to a tire blowout. Thank goodness Hubby is alright, as he was going 65 mph at the time. Note to all - please get your tires checked regularly. It is dangerous to not get the air pressure and treads checked. In fact I had just posted on my personal face-book page the day before this happened. A visual inspection by yourself is not good enough. Run into a discount tire or other tire place and they will fill your tires and do a quick inspect for you, for FREE!

Since we are just now able to start our baby step 1 (a recommended step by Dave Ramsey to save $1000 for an emergency fund), we didn't have the extra money to buy a tire. This money had to come from somewhere, so I had to reduce my weekly grocery budget to $40 for the week. This would have been devastating if I didn't keep a well stocked pantry. 

(Side note, we are actually going to save $2000 in our baby step one. We feel that it would be better to have a little more buffer in case a true emergency happened. Plus, this would more than cover our medical deductible if we were to need it. Dave Ramsey has been using the $1000 amount for awhile now and I think it needs to be raised.)

First thing I did was check out what we had, that I could make meals out of. With a budget of $40 I decided to go to Aldi's and anything I couldn't get there, I would run to Walmart. At Walmart I used the balance of what was on my Savings Catcher gift card from the week before. You can see that I did not sacrifice on my choice of organic milk.  I can really taste the difference and I think it lasts longer. I also buy two half gallons, so that it doesn't spoil so quickly. Please note that I had left over grapes, apples, bananas and oranges, so I did not need to buy fruit this week. Lunches are left overs for Hubby, myself and the youngest. The oldest daughter eats a school lunch. We also have eggs, pancakes, cereal or the like for breakfast. 

Here is the menu I came up with and what I needed to buy to round it out.

1. Tacos
2. BBQ baked skinless chicken thighs, baked beans and veggies3. Spaghetti and meatballs with veggies4. Meatloaf, baked potato, (noodles for girls), veggies5. Grilled smoked brats, pan-fried potatoes, okra and carrots
6. Breakfast for dinner (Eggs, bacon, pancakes)

7. This will be on Friday when we get paid again, so we will be having a treat of take-out or I will make a home-made pizza.

Shopping list:

Aldi's Total with tax - $38.36
Ground beef 3 lb - 1 lb 93/7 fat for $5.09 (for tacos) and 2 lb 80% fat for meatloaf for $8.83
1 large can crushed tomatoes - $.99
3 lb Bag of onions - $.59
Egg noodles - $1.25
Onion soup mix - $.79
5 lb Bag baking potatoes - $1.79
Eggs one dozen - $.99
Smoked brats - $2.49
Milk - two half gallons organic 2% - 2.99 ea = $5.98
Cheese (block) - $1.89

Lettuce = $.99
Garbage bags (40) - $4.99 (hated that I had to buy these, but we were almost out)
Ketchup - $1.29

Walmart - $6.20 - 6.16 (gift card) = .04 out of pocket
1 Red bell pepper 1.78
Large bag of frozen peas 1.86
Celery .98
Okra frozen 1.58

Total spent was $38.40. I came in under budget! I also reduced our gas budget for the week. I usually like to fill up the van so that I can take the girls to our favorite park or just run around town. This week I only put enough gas in the van to get my oldest to and from school. If we want to go to the park we will go to the one across the street (not as nice, but they will still get the exercise they need). 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Going Paleo....

This past week has been a mess, our littlest has been sick with a high fever. The oldest has had a cough and general gunk. I have had nausea and just didn't feel well, in fact either did Hubby. So the beginning of our healthy eating habits went to the wayside. We are not 100%, but we have decided to plod ahead and figure this thing out.

After researching a lot of "plans", we have decided to go Paleo. There are a lot of great resources out there on exactly what it is, but basically you eat things like meat, veggies, fruit and no grains. You want to eat as closely to what our ancestors in the Paleolithic Era ate. I might get some flak on this, but it is similar to the Atkins diet. The main difference is that you can still have your root veggies (i.e. potatoes). Basically you want to eat food in its least processed state.

I like the sound of that. Eating food as it is meant to be eaten. So I will be giving up bread, processed, sugar laden drinks/food.

Why am I doing this? I have PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). It is a metabolic disorder that has its basis in insulin resistance. One of the best things to do for treatment is to eat a low-carb diet. Many have also had success eating a paleo diet. Having tried a strict low-carb diet in the past, I knew I could not maintain it long term. I am looking for something long term that I will enjoy and not feel too deprived.

What my mom taught me:
Basically my mom lives this kind of paleo diet without realizing it. She avoids bread and grains, but will still indulge in the occasional baked potato. She has been able to maintain a healthy weight and it has helped her with her own health issue (diverticulitis).

I also like what this kind of eating plan can do for the girls. I have a friend who switched to this way of eating and a lot of the behavioral issues her little girl was having was drastically reduced. My girls are healthy eaters overall, but they have gotten the bad habit of stealing our soda a little too often.

This weekend I am doing a menu plan and grocery shopping so that we can start this plan on Monday. Once I get the menu plan done I will be posting it to this blog's face-book page. I would love it if you had any advice or recipes that you share them.

Let's do this!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wow, what a onto step two...

I started the year wanting to really make a difference in my life. I needed to get the finances in order and I needed to lose the 70 lbs that I had gained. I tried to do them both at once and I failed miserably. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of improvement needed, that I ended up getting even further from my goals.

Once I decided to focus on one thing first, then move on to the other, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I was able to focus on getting the finances in order. To come up with a plan. Live the plan. Find success with the plan. Today I feel that we finally proved to ourselves just how much we have learned and grown as adults.

As you know hubby now has a great job. The bills are being paid and money is going into savings. We also had a huge success happen. We were able to trade in our 16 year old vehicle for a newer used mini-van. A year ago, my beloved Odyssey was returned to the bank. We could not afford the payments. I ended up getting a very cheap cash car. It was old, but it got us from place A to place B. It wasn't something we could take out of town though, so visiting family was impossible. Thanks to my mom, I was able to take the girls to go see my sister. But going to my mother-in-laws was out of the question.

So after hubby got his new job, we re-evaluated our finances and decided that we could still attain our goal of moving to a house next year AND buy a used car. Yes, financed, but one we could afford. We were not going to get ourselves into a bad place by getting another $500 a month car loan. At one point in our lives, we had TWO! We were a mess.

We came up with a dollar amount that we could afford every month and a total vehicle price we were willing and able to pay. We knew we wanted to get replacement for my van that I loved so dearly. Off to search we went. Most of the one's we were looking at were a little out of our price range. What we needed was our old van, but cheaper. Low and behold I found one online. It was a year older than my last van, but the same base model van. We didn't need DVD, electric sliding doors, navigation. We needed the space and reliability. Plus, with less bells and whistles, the less that can go wrong and would need repairs.

We went to the dealership and tried to make a deal happen. The first night, they just weren't able to make it happen. They wanted us to have that dreaded $500 a month payment. We could of course make that payment now that hubby makes more, but we were refusing to do so. To make that payment would mean we wouldn't be able to move forward financially. We wouldn't be able to save as much money each month. So we walked away. We went home and they said that they would keep working the deal to see what could be done.

The next morning we got a call. They would be able to get the payments down (a lot). If we could come up with a little more money down, they would double what they were originally going to give me for my trade. So we were meeting in the middle. We discussed it and decided we had a deal. We went into the dealer, signed the papers and are now proud owners of a 2008 Honda Odyssey.

By financing the vehicle we will be able to re-establish our credit in order to buy a house. I wouldn't recommend financing a vehicle unless you can keep your monthly payments lower than you can afford. Be able to pay it off within 3 years or less. Buy a used vehicle so you are not paying for that "instant depreciation" when you drive it off the lot. The only thing to add to the vehicle in the finance office is GAP. Nothing else is worth paying for. Do not get the extended warranty. It is not worth it. You can get an excellent used car for around $15K. In our case, well under. I think I will do a blog post about purchasing a car. I have 20 years of experience in the industry and I think I have some great suggestions.

To wrap up this post, I feel good about our financial decisions. We have learned a lot. We still have to stay on top of things, but I am no longer stressing out about them. This has now released my mind to be able to focus more on my physical health instead of just financial. I have decided to return to weight watchers. I had great success on the plan before and hope to again. I feel like I am in a good place about it. I am not desperate. I am not starting out feeling defeated. I feel like I was able to conquer my financial short comings, I have the confidence that I can do it with my weight too.

I know that I will have my rough weeks. My ups and downs, just like I did getting the rhythm of financial peace. But now I know I have the strength to move through them and succeed. So now it is onto the 2nd stage of my plan. Come along with me...I am excited for what is to come.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Budget gets a revamp....

As you all know, hubby got a new job. He got his first paycheck today! Yippee! It is so nice that he is finally getting paid what he deserves. He is loving his new job and feels that he really has a lot to contribute to them. He is able to work a bit from home too, so that helps when the whole city shuts down due to ice.

One thing that has to change with his new job is the way we budget. He used to get paid every week, so we were unable to pay rent with one check. We had to save up throughout the month in order to have enough to pay it. Now we are able to pay it with one check.

I have been thinking of how I am going to budget on this new system. I have come up with this:

First check of the month:

1.Pay all bills excluding rent.

2. Fill cash envelopes for things such as groceries, clothing, entertainment, car maintenance, etc.

3. Load prepaid gas card. This is something new I am going to try in November. I find it difficult to go into the station to prepay for gas, when I have to unload the girls too. Also, when you go inside to pay you are tempted to get that bottle of coke, candy bar, etc. So if I get a pre-paid gas card, I can pay at the pump and not worry about it.

4. Pay off any debt with left over balance.

Second check of the month:

1. Pay rent

2. Any remaining from that check will be moved to savings.

All in all, I think this is going to be a good system.  If we ever have a month that has more than two paychecks, we will move that entire paycheck into savings. I will tell you that it will be weird to be able to put money into savings on a regular basis. Never before have we made enough to cover all expenses AND save.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What a fantastic turn of events...

So much has happened this past year. I started the year working my butt off at a job that took all of my time. Hubby was out of work and trying desperately to find a job that made it worth putting the girls into daycare. He finally found a position that paid pretty well. I was still working way too many hours in order to help make up for the rising daycare costs. It was decided that I would quit my job and be a stay at home mom for the summer. It was a huge risk, but something we thought was the right thing to do.

I was enjoying my summer with the girls. I was working hard at keeping us on a strict budget that would allow us to get to a place where all the bills got paid on time. During this time, Hubby was still looking for a better paying, permanent position. While his salary paid the bills, it left nothing for extras or savings. We were still better off than while I was working and paying for daycare, when we were in the hole $400 every month.

Hubby had a great interview at a company he had previously worked. He passed all the interviews and background checks. But when it came down to it, they never called him for the final offer. Thankfully during this time, he went on an interview with a company that showed great promise. Within two weeks of his first interview, he started. It was the answer to all of our prayers. It was a huge bump in pay.

This new job will allow us to pay all of the bills, replace one of our vehicles and save for the house we want to buy next summer. This is not a time to get lax about our budget or expenses though. This is a time to be grateful for all we have learned and stay on task. We will only get to our goal of owning a house, if we use this extra money to save for that down payment. We need to continue to pay bills on time.

Last weekend we were finally able to have a little fun and took the girls to our local arcade for some fun. We stayed on budget. Shared a soda and popcorn. It was so rewarding. Yesterday I went out with my mom to see the house my parents are having built. I do have to say, it was awfully nice to treat my mom to lunch at Applebee's. I can sit back and relax knowing my commitments are taken care of. Bills are paid for the month. We have money for groceries. Rent will be able to be paid by the first.

On a side note, I didn't want to offend anyone with my last post. I do not want you to think that I think all people who drive new cars or have big houses are not responsible with their finances. I have several friends and family that are. What I was getting at, was that we cannot assume that just because people have these things, that we know their financial status. I wanted to make sure that people realize that we are responsible for our own finances. We cannot rely on other's for our success. They are not here to bail us out. It is up to us to learn, build our own wealth and grow up to be responsible adults. I hope that clears it up a little.

Hugs and love, until next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do not assume to know...

One thing I have learned over the past few years of financial enlightenment, is not to assume you know about someone else's financial status. You do not know if they are in debt to their eyeballs. You do not know if they are millionaires.

I was waiting tables at a Don Pablo's when I first moved to Texas. There was this guy that came in every Saturday. He wore torn jeans, a threadbare western shirt and ratty old gym shoes. He would sit at the same table, drink a few beers, eat some chips and talk with all the waitstaff.

One day I was told to take his table. I had never served him before, so I was kind of nervous. He had his normal beer, chips, conversation. When he left, he did so with a $100 tip on a $20 bill. I was flabbergasted. There was a note on it that said, "Keep smiling, keep living, keep giving."

As I walked back into the kitchen in shock, one of the senior waitstaff pulled me over. He said that I was welcomed into the "John Walter's" club. It turned out that he was a millionaire. He was retired from being an air traffic controller and loved spreading "love" in the form of unexpected money. It was shocking to know that someone so forgettable would turn out to be so memorable.

When you see someone who drives the fancy car, lives in a big house and flaunts his Platinum credit cards; you think that the person must be drowning in cash, when in reality they are just good at balancing various credit cards and other creditors. Nothing they have is theirs. It could vanish at any moment. You might assume they have money to throw away, when they only have $10 in the bank until next payday.

Another thing we must remember is our parents. We may go through life, never wanting for anything. We might think that they are made of money, because they gave us a great life. That may very well be true, but the point I am making is that we do not know. We cannot expect our parents to bail us out of every situation. We cannot expect them to "chip in" when an emergency happens.

A parent who made a lot of money at a high paying job, might not have a whole lot of money when forced into retirement at the age of 55.  Even with decent insurance, medical bills can pile up. We need to be mindful that we do not know every detail of someone's life. It is not our right to, either.

What we are responsible for is our own lives. We are responsible for making our own good financial decisions. We cannot rely on a handout, a bailout, inheritance or a "gift". What we can do is work hard, save our pennies, live with integrity and within our means. Save as much as we can, while we can. If you do not know how to manage your finances, learn. It is never too late, but the earlier you do the better.

I must add that yes, I have gotten help from family and friends. I wish them to know how grateful I am to have had that help. But one thing I have learned is that when you have a parachute that is given to you, you tend to live life taking risks you shouldn't. I had to learn that I am responsible for myself and my kids. I must make my own parachute. I must live my life and respect other's for living their's.

I hope that this post puts things in perspective a little. You never know what someone else's story is, just make sure you make your's the best one you can.

Friday, October 3, 2014

First Month of Complete Success...

When I sat down to do the budget for October I about cried. I usually cry because I have to figure out how to pay bills from the previous month, along with the current bills. I didn't have to do that this month.

I sat down with my calendar, my bills binder, the expense log, my computer and calculator. One thing was different, I also sat down with my husband. He had the day off of work, so I thought I would walk him through the process.

Clearing off last month's information from the dry erase calendar, I put down this months information. I looked up the bill balances from all bills. I didn't even have the amount for cable yet, because the new statement hadn't come out yet. The balance was zero still. With that, I had tears come to my eyes. We have always been behind on cable. Even if it was just a week or two, it never ever had a zero balance. This month it did. Every bill was completely current. Rent was paid. I even had money in savings.

All of this left me with a feeling of not knowing where to start. I have been current on bills before, but never from my own doing. Someone always bailed us out. This was the result of a lot of hard work. Not stressing about paying the bills was a new feeling for me.

So I took a deep breath and went ahead with this months budget. Things are still really tight this month, but everything is getting paid. The tiny bit extra is being moved into savings. We are even going to be able to have a little fun by going to the State Fair, something hubby and I have never been able to do.

I am able to breath now. I know that I am living my life with integrity. I am fulfilling my obligations as an adult. Do I still have some debt? Yes. Do we still have a long way to go? Yes. But we have finally gotten to a point where our budget is balanced. We see a future where we can be happy and not live in fear.

More happy news to come in a week or so. It will go a long way to helping us reach our goals of home ownership.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to lower your grocery budget!

One of the greatest impacts on our budget has been reducing our food budget. Years ago we were spending on average $400 a month on eating out, as well as another $100 a week at the grocery store. Yes, that is $800 a month on food. Ridiculous!

About a year ago we cut out our eating out from 4-5 times a week to only once or twice a week. That made a huge difference. Our grocery budget skyrocketed though. We were still saving some money, but no where near where we needed to get it to.

Here is what I did to bring our food budget to under $100 a week.

1. Menu plan

  • Take a look in your pantry and see what meals you can create with items you already have on hand. Most people can come up with two meals. This week I was able to come up with three meals!
  • You probably have meat in the freezer, but need the stuff to make it into a meal. Put those items down on your grocery list. 
  • I know that each week I will have a ground beef meal, a chicken meal, a pork meal, maybe a fish meal. After you have shopped your pantry, figure out what meals you are missing. Think about what you are in the mood for this week. Write that meal down. 
Once you have gotten your meals written down, write on your grocery list the items that you need to create those meals. Fill in with stuff for breakfast. We have standard breakfast choices of cereal, frozen waffles or eggs. Lunches are usually left overs or sandwiches. Throw in some snack items, household items and your list is complete.

* Put your list in "region" order. This will come in handy when you are shopping so you are going in order, instead of jumping around on the list. If you use tip number 3, you will see how this helps even more.

2. Coupon

I know what you are saying, "I do not have time to coupon." You do not have to sit down with a newspaper every week. You do not have to have a coupon binder or go crazy with them. All you need to do is sit down with your grocery list and go on the computer to You can search through categories to see if items on your grocery list have available coupons. You can print off a total of two coupons for each item they have listed. This is for each computer in your house, so if you have two computers, you can print off two on each of those computers. This process maybe takes 15-20 minutes tops. I think it is worth it to save a few dollars.

3. Shop with a calculator

After you have decided what your food budget is, make sure you stay on track at the store with a food calculator. It is amazing how fast the tally runs up on the items in your cart. Once I started using a calculator in the store, I was able to go from spending about $110-120 at the store, to spending about $80.

Here is how I do it:

I have my shopping list and as I put items in the cart I write down the total cost of that item, next to it. I then add the amount into my calculator (the calculator app on my phone is very convenient). You may also write down a subtotal for each "region". For example, on my list I have a Produce section. Once I have put all those items in my cart, I will subtotal that region. Adding regions as I go. You can find a system that works for you, but a calculator is a MUST HAVE, when trying to stick on budget in the store.

Once I have gotten all of the items on my list I check my total. If there is money left, I can choose to fill in with "treats". Or I can call it a day and be happy with going under budget.

If I find I have gone over budget, I review my items to see if there are cheaper versions (store brands or other brands) that I can substitute the items I normally use. I have found that store brands are often just as good, if not better than the items I normally buy.

You can also buy smaller, less expensive items. This week I needed potatoes for one of the meals I was making. I would normally buy a five pound bag, but it would bring me over budget. I knew I only needed two large bakers, so instead of paying $2.98 for a bag, I got two large bakers for $.81.

4. Find a store with the best prices or Price Compare!

For a few months I was running around all day on Saturdays to get the best prices at three to four different stores. In the end I spent more money than I would have if I shopped at one or two stores. I decided to shop at Walmart and Costco from now on.

One benefit of Walmart is that they price match items. But I was not happy about having to do all the research on my own. Luckily I heard about Walmart's Price Catcher. I figured I would give it a try this month and I could not have been happier. In 3 weeks I got back almost $15 in e-cards. Here is how it works:

  • Shop at Walmart
  • Get the Walmart Price Catcher App on your phone
  • Scan your receipt into the app after you shop
  • They will scan all the sales flyers for you to see if you should have paid a lesser amount
  • They will then let you know if you are owed money, select to have it sent to your e-card.
  • Next time you shop, have them scan your e-card bar-code on your phone and you get that money put toward your balance. 
5. Leave yourself a budget buffer.

My weekly food budget is $100 a week. I decided that my initial food shop should be at $80. This leaves me with an extra $20 a week to be able to run back to the store to get more of something. This could be getting a few more bananas, milk, or even a snack from the gas station. You know how it is, you think you put everything on your list and you go to make dinner and you forgot to put a key ingredient on your list. This allows for those moments, without killing your budget. Any money that is left over can be put into savings, or if you are like us, we use it for a treat like ice-cream out as a family.

These are a few things that I have done to reduce my food budget. This will allow us to save up for that down payment we are working on. I hope some of these tips help you to reach your financial goals. I will be sharing more of my tips in the future. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mini-breakdown, now coming out the other side...

I had such motivation a few weeks ago. I wanted to get back on track with my weight loss and use you all as way to be accountable. It failed. I wanted to explain why.

For the past 6 months we have been lucky enough to be getting commission checks from one of Hubby's old jobs. We did not know how much they would be every month, or when they would stop coming. We had been doing well with paying the bills and rent, but we relied on that money too much. We had several emergencies that made those checks a Godsend. We came to rely on them too much, so when they stopped we were not prepared.

When you are wondering where you are going to come up with rent money, nothing else matters. Everything else on your plate slides off into the trash. I was so stressed out that everything salty, sweet and greasy found its way into my mouth. I found myself on the couch, crying and barely able to get up to go get my oldest from school. Dramatic Much?!?!? Yes, but that was where I was at.

What did I do to come out of it?

1. I forgave myself. I forgave myself for not keeping on a strict budget. I forgave myself for not saving more money. I told myself that I am only human. We all make mistakes. The key is, to forgive yourself and move on.

2. I had to admit failure and pull some money out of savings to get pay rent. I hated doing this, but in reality the pain of doing so helped to solidify the determination to not let it happen again.

3. I sat down immediately and came up with a system to get spending in control. This meant coming up with a realistic budget. Anyone can set up a budget, but it takes being realistic and following it that matters. I had been setting up a budget for months, but failed in following it.

4. I decided that I needed to make myself review the finances every day. I had an old ledger that lists all of your expense types (rent, food, gas, utilities, etc); with a column for every day of the week. I told myself that every time I spent anything, I would log it in that journal. I decided that as soon as I got up in the morning (after breakfast), I would log anything I spent the day before. I would check the checking account to make sure I was on the same page. You may ask why I don't use my check register. When you are spending cash, that doesn't reflect what you are actually spending on different items. I would take out a chunk of cash for food and gas, but I didn't know where it was actually going. My goal is to use this log to make a better budget the following month. It will also give me a visual on where I need to reign things in my spending.

5. I set up the calender that hangs on our wall. It is a dry erase calendar, so I can update it every month. What I did was to sit down with the bills. I listed the bill, amount and due date in the bottom notes section. Then in the box for that date, I put "cable due", "rent due", etc. As I pay them I will mark that it was paid.  This will give my husband and idea on what is due and when it was paid. I also went through my daughters school announcements to see what financial commitments I had for her. This month she had pictures, PTA dues, and a Scholastic book fair. In the past we could never do these things because we didn't plan for them. Not anymore!

6. Each payday, before I spend any money on anything else, I will pay the bills due that pay period. The problem I was having was that I would go shopping first. I would overspend, or the week would get away from me and then something wouldn't get paid so it would roll into the next week. Then we wouldn't have enough to pay the next weeks bills on top of the previous weeks bills. It would roll and roll on like this until the end of the month when we were "screwed". I hate to admit this, but if more people knew that other's are having the same issues, maybe I can help get them make the changes they need to make too.

7. After I pay the bills, I will take what is left and subtract my food, gas, odds n ends budget. What ever is left over will go into our short term savings account. This will help us to make sure we have rent money at the end of the month.

To wrap it up, we have started this month on a really good standing. I have regained control and feel more relaxed. I have heard time and time again that when your "house" is in disorder, everything else is too.

That brings me back to my weight loss journey. I read a really good blog post ( It helped me to realize that it isn't about diets or fads. It isn't about setting a goal with an end date. It is about getting active. Calories in and out. You can read the post to see what you get out of it, as it might be different than what I did. My personal weight loss journey will continue. For now I am focusing on trying to keep my finances in order. Get active. Enjoy life. I will share my successes as they happen. Maybe one day when I the finances are completely under control I will get more serious about the weight issues. For now I have to focus on one thing.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to share your journey. I love hearing them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Really looking at yourself is painful...

I had great hopes and aspirations to be able to kick this thing called obesity in its butt. It didn't happen. Instead, I end up defeated, depressed and at a loss.

Today I went to the mall with my family. The oldest was in desperate need of new shoes, so we headed for one of the discount shoe stores. Overall, it was a good trip to the mall. That was until we went to get in the truck to go home.

I stood there looking at my reflection in the window, while hubby was loading up the youngest in her car seat. I saw this person who was so overweight, that there wasn't any cuteness left. I saw someone who I knew my husband wasn't attracted to anymore. I saw someone on the edge of death.

Before, when I was overweight, I could still see myself as cute. I could see a shape that was at times sexy. But now I see this deformed person who can barely get up from the couch. I will hear the kids screaming from the other room and wonder if I will be able to get to them in time if something were to happen.

Yesterday, we went to my mom's house for her birthday. I sat on the couch looking at the family photographs on the bookshelves. I saw my wedding photo and I was almost brought to tears. I was beautiful. Still overweight by most standards, but I was beautiful. My face wasn't distorted. My skin was glowing. My hair shiny. Granted it was my wedding, but the beauty was under the makeup and hair goo.

I have tried several times to go on a diet. To give up coke, carbs, sugar. I have failed every single time. What is wrong with me. I see myself heading to an early grave. I cannot seem to stop it though. I would love nothing more than having another child, but we agreed unless I could lose 50 pounds, it wasn't going to happen. Not even the intense desire for another child can get me off my butt to lose this weight.

No one can help me but myself, but I just cannot seem to do it. So that is where I stand. Feeling like a loser. One who is the worst kind of loser - one that knows exactly what needs to be done, but is not doing it.

Thank you to my friend Katie, for calling me out. I needed to share what I was feeling. I need to get this out. Maybe something will click and I will figure it out. Maybe one day I will succeed. For now, I am searching for the belief that I will succeed. Maybe that will be the step that I need to move forward.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Journey to a House #1

I have never owned my own home. I have only lived in apartments, except for when I lived in my parents house. It is not for lack of wanting, but for lack of ability. Up until now, we have only been able to dream. It seemed an impossibility to us, to be able to buy our own home. Due to the changes we have made this year, we see that we are finally in a place to be able to work toward purchasing our own home.

Our goal is to buy our home in three years, before our youngest starts Kindergarten. I will put it out there that I would love for us to move into our own home as early as two years from this October, instead of the three years. We shall see if we can make it happen. I will be happy with the three year plan as well.

The goal is to put up weekly blog posts with how we are making this dream possible. We will outline our plan, the things that we accomplished, what went well and what didn't. I will be sharing the sources for websites, books, and tools that will be helping us along this journey.

First I will outline what it is we are working toward.
     Continue to pay off debt (in our case student loans).
     Increase our credit score by 100 points.
     Make sure to have a history of complete on-time payments.
     Save up for our down payment of at least 10%.
     Find the right mortgage company.
     We will be buying land and placing a manufactured home on it, with a budget of $160,000. In the future, we will build our dream home on the property. We would probably be able to spend more, but we want to keep it under what we can afford.

Next week will be the first post on what we will be doing to increase our credit score. There is a lot of information out there, I will weed through it and find out what it is we need to do.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How much is it worth to you?

We have a goal. A goal to buy a house within three years. This is a BIG goal for us. One that we are willing to sacrifice to achieve. If you were able to time travel two years ago, you would think we were insane. We were in no position to even dream of home ownership. We did dream, but it was so out of reach that we might as well have been trying to find a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.

I have shared with you some things that we have done to change our lives around. We are by no means perfect, in fact I can admit we still have a long way to go. But we have learned so much, that we can finally see our dreams as possibilities.

When you have a goal, you have to take a look at how much it is worth to you. When we set out to start a family, we put our dream of having a farm on hold. We put all we had into having babies. With fertility treatments, it was very difficult. But in the end we have two beautiful girls. Would I have done things differently? Yes. There are some things, but I would never change the outcome.

So how much is a farm worth to us. I have been watching my "money saving" vlogs and reading blogs. All to give me motivation and ideas on how to make this dream happen.

While we have cut out a lot of eating out, my grocery budget is higher than we need it to be. On average I spend about $125 a week for a family of 4. This is breakfast, lunch and dinner for all but one meal (our treat meal). I really want to get it down to $80 a week. It can be done, but it is a challenge.

The main thing is, how much is it worth to us to cut our food budget. Are we willing to eat peanut butter sandwiches several times a week? Ramen? Heaven forbid, eating left overs. The answer is yes. I am willing to do anything, if it means we can buy tiny farm.

There are some things that I have already started doing. One is, making as much as I can from scratch. Shopping sales. Getting generic brands. Buying in bulk. Freezing left overs instead of letting them go bad. Joining a wholesale club and becoming members of a food co-op. All of these things have helped us. But I am looking to step it up a notch.

I am on the search for new ways to save and make extra money. I will do this. I will succeed in finding a way to provide for my family (without a full time job). I take this as a great challenge and if you know anything about me, you know I love a challenge.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Change in Plans

One of my life goals has been to have a farm. Nothing big, but something where I can have animals, my own garden and a place for my kids to play. I have been pushing it off and pushing it off over the years. We pushed it off to have kids (used the money for infertility treatments). We pushed it off due to job loss. We pushed it off because the plan was for me to go back to school and get my dream job of teaching.

This past week I went on a trip to see my sister. My mom, my girls and I piled into a car and drove the 11-12 hours to Iowa from Texas. During that time I was able to reflect and talk with my mom. I came to the conclusion that I really don't want to push off the dream of home ownership anymore.

In order for me to go back to school, I would be using the money that would equal a really good down-payment on a house. I would be pushing off home ownership for another 5-8 more years. I do not want to do that.

I am happy being a stay at home mom and as long as my husband makes enough for me to do so, I want to do it. I was going to get a part time job (in the evening and some hours on the weekend), to pay for me going back to school. To go back and get my Master's, or even the classes to get certified, I would be paying about $10-12k. That would go a long way to us getting a house.

So after some reflection and discussion with my husband, I have decided that I will not return to school at this time. I will get the part time job I intended, but I will use all of that money to build up a savings for a down-payment on a little property of our own.

We were also thinking of buying a house her in our neighborhood, then after a few years we would move out to the country. After doing some more reflection, we knew in our hearts that if we moved into a house, we would not move again until the girls graduated from High School. I do not want to wait that long.

It has been decided that we will go ahead and move out to the country and skip the "house in the suburbs". My youngest will start school in three years. Our goal is to save up every dime we can (while paying off debt), during this time. Then either before she starts Kindergarten or at the latest when she starts first grade, we will move into the country.

We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I feel this change of plans will benefit our WHOLE family. Eventually, if I want to return to school (after we get our house), I can do so. For now I want to do this. My mom said that she felt it was a good choice too.

So here we go...a new journey. One I feel really good about.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Leftovers - How to like them...

As you probably know by now, I HATE leftovers. In my search for saving every penny I can, I have tried to find ways to learn to love them. I have started by doing leftover redo's. I will turn pulled pork into pulled pork enchiladas. I will turn left over chicken into chicken noodle soup. But what about things like meatloaf or my pasta bakes?

Next week I am going out of town and leaving my hubby to fend for himself. I have decided to try something new with the meals I cook this week. I made mini-meatloaves this week. Instead of having them for leftovers, I decided to wrap each one really well and freeze them. That way hubby will be able to take one out and let it defrost in the fridge over night. I also had a bunch of roasted red potatoes, so I divided them up into freezer bags. This way hubby has a side to go with his meatloaf. All he has to do is heat up a can of veggies and he has a complete meal.

For the rest of the week, I plan to do the same thing. I will be making orange glazed pork chops and rice. I will take one pork chop (wrap it in plastic wrap). I will also take a baggie with some cooked rice. These two things I will put in an individual freezer bag. All he will have to do is take it out the night before and defrost in the fridge. When he gets home the next night he can just throw it in the microwave.

That is two meals out of the way. Two more to go...Monday he will do leftovers from Sunday night. Tuesday he will do meatloaf. Wednesday he will do pork chops. Thursday we will get home around dinner time. I think I will get a freezer crock pot meal together for him to throw in, in the morning. That way we all get a good fresh meal when we get home!

With all of these plans for the freezer, I have to get going on my freezer fund. I cannot wait until I have a bigger freezer to do a lot of freezer meals. I would love to have my freezer chest dedicated to raw foods. Then my freezer connected to my fridge will have freezer crock pot meals, leftovers I have frozen, or other prepped foods. I cannot wait!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Making Progress - Weight Loss

One of my goals is to become physically fit. To lose this weight in a way that is sustainable and doesn't kill me in the process. Some say to go whole hog and give up everything "bad", workout as much as you can, in general give up on a happy life. Or that is how I see it.

I know, after several failed attempts at losing weight, that I am not one to be able to live a life with no carbs or soda's. I just cannot do it. If you tell me that I cannot have something, I become obsessed with it.

When I left my job in accounting to become a stay at home mom, I wanted to finally conquer this weight issue. A little history.

I have fought my weight my whole life. I was always the heavier one, filling out in the girly bits at a rather young age. I have a picture of me in 4th grade, where I had to wear a training bra. By the time I was in 8th grade, I started to pack on a few pounds. Once I had my first boyfriend, I set off on the diet roller coaster. I would skip breakfast. Have Cheetos and a Coke for lunch. Dinner would be what my mom would cook, but then I would give most of it to my neighbor when he would come visit.

The Cheetos diet didn't last long, but because I was active the weight stayed relatively normal. This changed when I moved in with my father in my senior year of high-school. There was a lot of stress during this time. Combine that along with horrible eating habits learned from my dad, I gained 50 pounds in a matter of months. When I graduated from high-school, I weighed 190.

Over the years since, I have weighed about the same. Occasionally blooming up to 250. But I never went above that. That is until this past year. After I had my second child, I managed to get down to 200. I still had weight to lose, but I was comfortable and felt sexy. Then I stopped breastfeeding, my husband lost his job (twice) and I ended up working a desk job for 10-12 hours a day. Needless to say, my weight skyrocketed to 278.

When I quit my job, my main focus was to develop a routine with the girls and find my new normal. I was not really concerned with jumping into a weight-loss routine. One thing I knew for sure was that I could not follow a strict plan. I am a very stubborn person. If you tell me I cannot have something, I will go out of my way to get it. I know, huge personality fault.

So once I found my new normal with the girls, I decided I needed to do something about my diet. One this was to reduce the amount of eating out. This was easy, because being on a limited budget we could not eat out. I found ways to add more fruit and vegetables into my diet. I accomplished this by ordering Bountiful Baskets and planning my menu around the items I received.

Another thing that has helped, is my goal to get my two year old to find of love of fruits and vegetable. She has been a meat eater since she started eating solids. After a year and a half with hubby, she rarely ate veggies or fruit. In my quest to develop her pallet, I found myself eating more veggies and fruit.

I have not given up soda, but I have cut down. I used to get a large coke on the way to work in the morning. This would be followed up with a 20 oz coke at lunch. More often than not I would have a can of coke with dinner. All this Coke, started to accelerate my insulin resistance (a symptom of PCOS) into full blown diabetes. I was constantly feeling like I was going to pass out and had horrible headaches. I knew something had to change. I have since switched to drinking water and sparkling water. I love carbonation and sparkling water gives me that. I still have a can of coke a day, but no longer do I have it all day long.

With cutting back on portions, adding fruit and veggies. Reducing a lot of my soda intake. I have managed to lose 10 pounds in the past month. The first month I was able to maintain my weight after gaining about a pound or two a week for a year. Once I found my footing, the weight has seemed to melt off. I do not feel deprived. I do not feel like I am dieting. I am doing what is right for me.

I have a LONG way to go, but I will stick to it. One day I will be back to that Happy place.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

First Ever Costco Run

I was always against going to the big warehouse stores, as I believed you could always do better using coupons and shopping sales at the regular stores. I still believe you can do wonderfully that way. However, I decided to give the warehouse stores a try. I do know that bigger isn't always a better deal, so I tried to keep that in mind on my first Costco run.

I am a firm believer in stocking up, whether it is toilet paper or frozen and canned foods. There are weeks where you might be tighter on money. Having a stockpile will make sure you can still have healthy meals on the table. Over the past few months, my stockpile has dwindled. We have had a lot of extra expenses and I have had to go with the bare minimum in shopping.

My goal for Costco, is to get most of my meat and dried goods. I am currently saving up for a freezer chest, so that I can stockpile more frozen goods. Costco also seems to be a pretty good place to get things like pull-ups. I was thinking of getting the dog and cat food there, but I do not like the idea of buying 100 bags. So for that I will continue to go to Walmart or the pet store.

I plan to go to Costco twice a month. I will split my stockpiling list in half, so I will get half the first trip and the other half of the list on the second trip. Here is how I intend to split up the lists:

Trip One:
Chicken - breast, thighs, whole
Pasta - wide variety. I got a package this time that had three different kinds.
Canned tomato products - (paste, diced, sauce)
Milk - I got three half gallons this time. We usually go through a gallon and a half a week, so we will probably have to get milk for the second week.

Trip Two:
Beef - ground, sirloin, roast
Pork - huge pork loin to cut up half into chops and use the other for a roast.
Rice - I love rice, so I will buy a nice sized bag.
Frozen Veggies - I found that my youngest prefers frozen veggies (peas, green beans, mixed)

Each trip will be filled in with other items that I need to replace from my stockpile.

I will continue to get my Bountiful Baskets every week. My hope is that I can go to Costco for meat and dairy. Then I will use my Bountiful Basket to plan my weekly meals. I want to try to get my grocery shopping down to twice a month. My goals for the month are $400 a month on food. I have a budget of $100 a month for Bountiful baskets and two Costco visits of $150 each.

In addition to my food purchases, I will continue to buy my detergents and household items at Target, Walgreen's and CVS. With coupons and buyer programs, you cannot beat the prices. For the household items, I have a budget of $125 a month. This includes pull-ups, cleaners, dog/cat food, etc.

This month I will save up all of my receipts. At the end of the month I will do a blog post sharing all the items I purchased, how much I spent and what meals I was able to make for my family. If it works out, I will do this every month. I hope that it will help me to stay on budget and to be accountable.

If you have any tricks of the trade, please share them with me in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day One of No Thrills July

June was a very expensive month, with car repairs, A/C problems, a birthday, anniversary and an unexpected expense that put us over the edge. To bounce back, we have decided to have a No Frills July.

What does a No Frills July consist of? We will be sticking to a very strict budget. We will not be doing any things for entertainment that costs us money. We will not eat out at all, not even a quick trip to Mc Donald's. We will not purchase clothes or toys or magazines. The only things we will buy is food to cook at home, gas for the cars and pay the bills. Every left over penny will go directly into savings, to rebuild our emergency fund.

I will be taking the girls to see my sister later this month, so that will be a little expense that is beyond our normal budget. But I will be doing a blog post on how we will/did do it without spending too much.

Of course there is part of me that wishes I had gone to see the new Transformers movie this past weekend. But in reality, I can wait it out and it will either still be in the theater in August (cheap theater anyone.) I can always wait for it to come out on DVD or Netflix. I am not going to die without seeing my beloved Markie Mark. Well maybe, but I will have to risk it.

Leftovers will become my friend and I will work hard to re-invent them. I will eat the food I have hiding in the back of my pantry and freezer. The grocery budget will be a strict $100 a week, including household supplies.

This month will serve as a reboot for a budget that got out of control. It will be hard, but I hope by coming on here and sharing my daily trials and tribulations, I can make it.

Today's task: Create detailed budget for the month.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to be successful at the dinner table...with kids.

My oldest daughter came craved fruits and veggies when she was in the womb, when she came out, it didn't change. My youngest wasn't as much of a fan, but I did not give up.

When I was working a ton of hours, the kids got out of the habit of eating fruits and veggies. Hubby did his best, but would often forget to offer them fruits and veggies at snack and meal times.

While my oldest continues to raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night for carrots, my youngest wants candy, chips and cheese. Since I have been home, I have made it my goal to introduce her to fruits and veggies again, and hopefully develop a love for them.

One rule for introducing foods to kids, is that you MUST give them to them more than once or twice. It will often take 7-8 times of introducing a food to a child before they will accept them. Despite the fact that my youngest refused to eat an apple, I continued to give a few slices to her at meal time. The other day she surprised me by eating them and asking for more. She will not eat green apples, but loves the red ones. So the red ones she will get.

If you still cannot get your child to eat a certain food, try cooking it or preparing it differently. Many children will not eat cooked broccoli, but will love it raw, maybe with a little ranch dressing. After awhile of eating them raw, try cooking them again, but maybe just a light steam. Eventually, they will eat them like you prepare them for the whole family. It takes work, but isn't it worth it to have a child that will eat a wide range of foods?

Another thing you must do, is not to give them the same thing every day. If they always have waffles for breakfast, nuggets for lunch and chicken with rice for dinner, they will not develop a taste for anything with flavor. Do not be afraid to season their food a little. When my kids are young, I do not season the food, I let them know the food in its pure state. Once they get older, I will start to add things like garlic and onion and herbs.

Try not to cook something different for your kids than what you eat. I find this one hard at times. I will use my oldest as an example. I would always make something different for her when hubby and I would make steaks for dinner. She is not a meat eater and calls everything chicken. After having a friend of mine ask why I wouldn't share a great steak with the kids, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter had all the steak I gave her and said it was the best chicken she had ever had.

Make sure the meals and snacks you set in front of your kids have a wide range of colors and textures. We all love pretty things, food isn't any different. Offer a fruit, veggie, meat and maybe a starch or grain at every meal. You do not have to offer a whole lot of a food, but a few pieces of each, will go a long way to filling up your little one. Remember, their tummies are tiny! You can always offer more if they want more of something. We have a rule though, they have to try one bite of everything on their plate before having more of something.

One last bit, do not offer snacks before dinner time. We are all guilty of this. We are trying to get dinner going and the kids are yelling at us that they are hungry. This is a great lesson in patience. Find something else to distract them, whether it is a game, a chore, or having them help you in the kitchen. The last one is a great idea. My oldest would only eat cheese pizza until I had her help me make pizzas. She went to town adding different veggies to hers. She was so happy to have created it, she ate three pieces!

To wrap it up, offer new foods to your kids multiple times and in different ways. Eventually they will eat them. Offer a wide array of colors and textures, who wants to eat a bunch of bland texture lacking foods. Have the kids help you in the kitchen to distract them from snacking before dinner. Last but not least, have fun experimenting with food. Your kids will end up having a wonderful developed pallet for all different kinds of food.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Leftovers - from terror to terrific

I hate leftovers. I really do not like eating something two meals or two days in a row. Unless it is cold pizza. How can you not eat cold pizza!

In trying to cut the budget, I have realized that the best thing that I can do is embrace leftovers. I found that as long as I can turn the leftovers into something new, I am more than happy to eat it.

Adventures in Pulled Pork
I was able to get pork butt on sale for $8.88, regularly $21.94. I knew I liked pulled pork, but I was uncertain the family would eat it. I figured if the experiment was a failure, we were only out the $8.88 instead of the $21.94. Luckily the family loved pulled pork sandwiches, but what to do with the huge amount of pulled pork left over? You can only eat so many sandwiches!

On the internet I went, searching for things to do with pulled pork. I came across a recipe for Pulled Pork Enchiladas. I am not a huge fan of enchiladas, but my hubby loves them. Since, I made him try one of my favorites, I thought it was only fair for me to try one of his.

I received a lot of Anaheim peppers in my Bountiful Basket order this week, so I thought it would be a good chance for me to try to make my own green chili sauce. I found an easy recipe online and went to making the sauce to use while making the enchiladas. Note to future self, use gloves while handling hot peppers. My hands burned a bit for a few hours after making the sauce.

I want to say that the enchilada's were fantastic. Hubby approved wholeheartedly and we were able to use up some of the remaining pulled pork. I did end up putting some of the roasted peppers I did not use, in the freezer for the future. Once I portioned out the amount of pork needed for the enchilada recipe, I did end up freezing the rest. So I am all set to make another batch of this yummy dinner in the future.

I had such a great time finding a use for leftovers, that I am going to make this a new goal of mine. I am not going to be afraid to try new recipes. I will EMBRACE leftovers and make new things out of them. I want to make sure we are not wasting food. It is not cheap! So come along with me in future posts to see what I can come up with for leftovers. If you have any great ideas for leftovers, send them my way!

Links to recipes used: (note: in the green chili sauce recipe, I substituted cumin for the coriander)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Reading Club

The other day we went to our local library for craft and story time. We found out that the library we went to all this time, was no longer our library. Our city decided it wouldn't support it anymore. I was so upset. I wanted a free place to go with the kids, where we could interact with other people and where they could develop a love for reading.

What seemed to be a loss, was really the beginning of something wonderful. You see our library is a one room library. It doesn't have many books and only a few computers. There really isn't a good area for the kids to sit and read. But it was what we had.

After leaving the library I was bound and determined to find a library where we could go. Certainly, we wouldn't be left out in the cold. I pulled out my trusty phone and called neighboring cities. I was so lucky to have found a neighboring city that allows anyone with a State ID to join.

I didn't really expect much, maybe something along the lines of what we had before. Little did I know we were going to be welcomed into Nirvana!

The library is connected to the cities police department. It is surrounded by a lot of restaurants, shopping and parks. The parking lot was shaded by a lot of trees and it felt like a clean, safe place to be.

You walk up the stairs into a building that is cool and smells fresh. Wonderfully clean bathrooms are right there, for the toddler in the midst of potty training and the 7 year old who holds it until the very last minute.

When you walk further into the building there is the information desk, staffed by some of the nicest people around. They were so helpful and welcoming. It took a matter of two minutes to get my new library card.

Within steps of the information desk is the children's wing. Yes, I said WING. There are about 6 computers set up (first come first serve) for the younger children. They have three touch screen computers and three standard computers. All loaded with educational games and programs. Even my two year old couldn't get the darn thing to shut down and she tried. About 15 feet away there are another 6 computers set up for older kids, wanting to do research and homework assignments.

To the right of the computers is a big area full of play centers. There is a kitchen, blocks, trains, and more. There are comfy chairs surrounding the area for the parents to sit.

There are several sections of books, separated by reading level and types of books. They are all on a children's level so that they do not have to ask for a parents help to pick out a book.

The free fun, doesn't stop there. The library offers summer reading programs, where the kids get prizes for reading either 25 days (for 30 minutes), 25 hours or 25 books. Just for signing up, they got tickets for Legoland and the Aquarium. They offer a ton of free entertainment programs and story times. I didn't hesitate to sign them up. Even babies can sign up! All the parent has to do is read to them. At the end of the program they get a free book and other prizes.

There was an adult reading club too. For every 3 books I read I get a raffle ticket. The raffle tickets go into a pot for the big prize at the end of the summer. But I also get a free paperback and prize package. If I choose to do a book review, I get a drink tumbler.

Needless to say, a really bad day turned into a fantastic day. I have a FREE place to take the kids to play and read. Which is fantastic when you are pinching pennies and don't want to spend every waking moment at the pool.

The moral of the story is to check out your local library. If it isn't a great library, check out neighboring cities to see if you can join their's. We do not have to spend a lot of money to have fun things to do. Get out of the house. Have some fun. Read a good book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting a life

One thing that is very important for stay at home mom's, is to not get in a rut by staying at home. If all you do is stay home, you are asking for depression to take over. Unfortunately, that is what happened to me. For the past two months, I have focused on the kids and getting the house clean. I need to get a life.

Here is what I am doing:

I found a library about 10 minutes from us, that has fantastic children's programs, totally free. They have at least one thing every day for the kids to do. In the process, I will be able to have some adult interaction with the parents. It will also allow the kids to be with other kids. We went there today and the kids had a BLAST!

Secondly, I put in an inquiry with a local mommy group. I was scared to do so, but I need to get out of my comfort zone. I have always heard that it is hard to get involved in an established group. I emailed the group yesterday and the president got back to me today. They are having several get together's this month, one of which is tomorrow. I can go to two get together's before I decide if I want to become a member. There are yearly dues of $25.00. I plan on going tomorrow, so I will let you know how it goes. I sure hope it works out. They even have monthly mommy night out's!

A good friend of mine recommended that I get active. I know she is right. I need to get some exercise every day. Not just in housework or going to the pool with the kids. I need to find some time by myself, where I can workout and be in my own thoughts. So starting tomorrow, I will be returning to my aqua-fit classes three times a week. I will also take advantage of all those personal training sessions I paid for, but didn't use up. This will help me reach my weight loss goals, as well as helping me battle this depression.

If you have any other suggestions for a SAHM looking to "get a life", please don't hesitate to comment below.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Depression and the Stay at Home Mom

I have been a stay at home mom almost two months. Overall it has been a really good experience. I love the time I am spending with my girls. However, I have found myself falling into a depression.

It has been a really tough month. We have had a lot of expenses come up, that have blown our budget out of the water. So it is hard to determine if I am depressed or super stressed. Hubby thinks it is both.

I got an email from him today saying that he thinks I need to get out of the house. Yes, that is true. I HAVE to get out of the house. It is not enough to go to the pool every day, or get my adult interaction online. I have to get out and talk to people that are not my kids or even my husband.

When my husband comes home all he talks about is his work. Who said what, what he accomplished, what accolades he got from his boss. While this is communication, it is not the form of communication I need or want. All it does is make me feel more isolated.

When I was working I talked with my co-workers throughout the day. It wasn't always about work or the kids. I want more of that without having to work full-time.

I am yearning to go back to school. I was originally intending on staying home with the girls this summer, then when my oldest went to school in the fall, I would find a part time job to save up to go back to school. Then I would start back to school after the Holidays. Now I am thinking I will find a part time (evening/weekend) job sooner rather than later.

I was also going to go to school online (to obtain my teaching certificate). Now I am pretty sure I will attend a traditional university, so that I have that much needed interaction. It will be more expensive to go to a traditional university, but I think in the end, it is really what I want and need to do. The main thing is, is that I cash-flow school. No more student loans for me. I refuse to do that again.

All of this stuff is going to take time, so in the meantime, I have signed up for Bountiful Baskets again. Last winter I did it for awhile, but I drifted away from it. Now that I am going back to it, I thought I would volunteer every Saturday for an hour or two. This will be a great way for me to feel like I am doing something non-mommy related. It is also a great way to get some fresh produce for less money than at a grocery store.

I have also reached out to a local "mommy" group, to see if they are still active. If not, I think I will advertise and start my own. It is a lot of work, so I would rather join one, than start one. I have heard that these groups can be both wonderful and horrible. So we shall see what my experience is like.

This fall I am also signing up my oldest for Girl Scouts. This should be another way for me to get involved and "have a life". It is also a great way for us to do fun things that are subsidized by the group. Last year they went to Legoland for $5. They have camping and other fun things. I was never part of Girl Scouts when I was young, so this should be interesting.

To solve the other problem (financial) I have been having, we are going back to a strict budget. It is not that we have "overspent", it is that things have come up that have depleeted our savings. We need to be on a strict budget in order to build it back up again. I will be doing all I can to cut expenses and save save save.

Wish me luck in conquering the funk I am in. The house needs to be cleaned and I cannot find the energy to do so...depression sucks. You want to do stuff, but you just can't. I will have to force myself. One thing is for sure, I have to do it. No one can do it for me.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In a funk...

This past week was insane. My oldest went to Vacation Bible School with a friend of hers. This meant that every night from 6pm to 8:30pm she was there. This lead to everyone getting to sleep late. In general our whole schedule was thrown off. Then on Friday I watched the same friend from 7am to 5pm. Two tired 7 year olds, plus a two year old was not what I call fun.

In general I have been in a funk the past week or two. I do not know what it is. I think I am looking for a way to be productive. Maybe I am depressed? I have a history of depression and anxiety, but I got off the meds 6 months ago.

I was going to take the whole summer off from work to spend with the girls. Then in the fall I was going to go to work part time in order to afford to go back to school. I want to get my masters degree in education.

I find myself daydreaming about being back in school. Having a life outside of Mommyhood. I think this is why I am in a funk. That and the fact that this week was totally out of my comfort zone.

I like having a schedule. I like knowing when I am going to wake up, when I will be able to go to school. I like having dinner with the family, watching some tv, giving the girls a bath, then bed. This past week that was thrown out the window.

So how am I going to fix this mess. Next week we will return to normal. I think I am going to start looking for a part time job. I was going to return to The Children's Place, but I think I will look for something different. Its all up in the air.

Enough rambling for to you all later.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It has been a tough month.

This month has been hard. We have had a lot of things come up that have tested us.

First off, we had to get the truck repaired. I will say this happened the last day of May. Sarah's last day of school. It cost us over $500 to get it fixed. I have said though, I would much rather pay $500 once or twice a year on car repairs, than $500 every month on a car payment. While fixing the truck wasn't what we wanted to do, we were ABLE to do it. We had the money.

A good thing that happened was paying off a rather large bill that had been hanging over our head. We were able to pay off the last $965 of it. This was huge since we also had to pay for the truck repairs. So again, I think this was a huge sign of success for us.

One huge test was something that happened where someone wasn't on top of things and didn't do what was needed. This cost us an additional $293 this month, that we did not plan on. This one hurts, because it was out of negligence/laziness and not something that was just unfortunate. This event is a huge life lesson. Do not let things slide. Do not feel that you have one more day. You don't. DO IT NOW. Love Now. Play Now. Talk Now. Do the adult things that you have to do and you won't have to face the consequences.

Another thing that happened this month was my oldest turned 7. This is so hard for me. My baby is growing up before my eyes. I am proud that I was able to give her a good little birthday. We kept it simple, inviting my parents and having cake and opening gifts. Part of me felt really bad that we didn't have this huge affair. I felt bad that the air conditioner decided to break so it was sweltering during her party. But I do have to say that I feel good that this was the first year I didn't stress over having enough money to buy her a few gifts. I felt great that I stayed within budget and it didn't "hurt" our bottom line. So really the only emotion was some Momma sadness over her baby getting older.

One more thing. I am starting to focus on my health now that I am acclimated to being a stay at home mom. I am back on my medication for PCOS. On the downside is that it makes me severely ill for two weeks, while my body adjusts to it. I am nauseous all the time. I feel like I have been hit by a Mac truck. I hate it. In the past, I would take it for a few days and give up. But with my goal of losing weight, I HAVE to be on this medication. To attain my goal of becoming a healthy active person, I have to get through this. I HATE IT. I hate being sick. So far I have almost a week down, so I need to keep going. I can do this!

The month is only half over and I feel like this month has sent us through so many tests. I feel we are passing them pretty darn well. I feel more confident with my choice to stay home every day. But I need these tests to stop. Ok?!?!?  Thank you God for showing me the path, but can I have a little peace for a fraction of a second?

Monday, June 9, 2014

I wish I didn't feel like I HAD to...

When you work outside of the home, you know what you need to do. Your boss sets guidelines and you follow them. You have reviews and get raises. You KNOW what to do.

When you are a stay at home mom, you know what you have to do, but what is enough, without overdoing, or not doing enough?

When you stay home, you wonder if your husband comes home and asks himself, "what the heck did she do all day?"

I am a perfectionist. I will admit it. When Hubby was home with the kids I would ask the same question. So how do I know I am "doing enough", so he doesn't ask the same question.

I find myself working myself to death, even when I am sick. How do I figure out what needs to be done, what should be done and what can wait?

So these are the questions of the day.

I have decided to conquer one big project a week. Last week it was the closet. This week it is cleaning the carpets. I have no idea what next week will be. But I think if I do one big project, then split the other days between the smaller cleaning chores, I will be OK.

I know, I sound nuts right? But that is what it is like being a stay at home mom. We feel we have to justify our time. Yes, we want to sit and enjoy a TV program. Yes, we want to take a nap with the kids. But in our soul, we wonder if Hubby will think we are being lazy.

It doesn't matter that our days are filled with, cooking, child care, changing a hundred diapers, keeping fighting children at opposite sides of the house, meal planning, the list goes on and on. Why do we still feel we are not doing enough?

I think this is something I need to work on...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stopped living like the Jone's and started living like the Dale's.

One thing I have learned is that life is too short to be living it for someone else. I spent a lot of time trying to impress other people. I wanted to have a great car, a big house, and to look perfect. Granted, having nice things is a good thing to strive for, but when it puts you at risk, it is not what you need.

For years it has been a struggle financially. We made car payments that would equal a mortgage payment. We paid daycare that would equal a mortgage payment. We paid rent that would equal a mortgage payment. All of that and we had nothing to show for it.

Every one of the kids birthdays we struggled to get them gifts. It was always last minute and we always missed paying a bill because of it. We felt guilty and we felt like we were failing as parents and adults.

This year is different. It is my oldest's 7th birthday. I have all the gifts purchased, even the wrapping paper. We decided that we would take her and a few friends to the movies to celebrate, instead of having a huge party. The past two years we had a big party and we went to Great Wolf Lodge for a few days. It put us in the whole big time. To know that we made responsible decisions this year brings tears to  my eyes.

On top of being on top of the birthday thing, we were able to pay off a BIG bill hanging over our heads. We actually paid it off ten days earlier than what we had laid out to pay. Having it paid off means we will be able to tackle other bills and steadily save for a house. YES A HOUSE!

Once we stopped trying to live life like everyone else, we found that we were happier. The things we have are ours. They can't be taken away from us.

I don't apologize for having a 16 year old truck or a 10 year old car. I say, hey, isn't it neat? They are ours!

I have a friend who is in a hard place. She is where we were not too long ago. It is hard waking up every day wondering when the bank will come and take all of our stuff. There is no security. You are stressing all of the time. I wish I could give her some hope. I wish I could help her. But in reality, there is nothing that I can do. It has to be something she does. I am here for her. I love her no matter what. I hope she takes a little of what I have been through and finds peace in her own life.

Don't be afraid to live like life yourself. Other's may look like they are doing great, but are they really? Are they living life in a reality that will come crashing down around them? Are they on the verge of losing everything? You just do not know. So live like yourself. Live within YOUR means, not someone else's.