Friday, October 30, 2009

Our budget plan in a nutshell

My weeks seem to be getting busier and busier. I am able to keep up so far. Madison's girl scout troop is having so much fun. She earned her first petal and we were so proud of her. It brings back so many good memories for me to watch her. Girl scouts were some wonderful times. School has been a bit crazy. She is really doing well and learning so much. I couldn't ask for a better student to teach. I am including cooking each week into her lessons as well as shopping. We love using the thrift stores for some good lessons. She amazes me constantly. Mackenzie is standing and clapping and waving. So many new skills, its amazing she is able to sleep at all. Last night, just before I put her in the crib, she clapped for the first time and hasn't stopped since. I thought for sure she would be up all night clapping. The whole family was in her room and she was clapping for us. Great idea just before bed, but she still slept fine. She went on her first audition this week. My mom, Madi and I drove her all the way to Miami for an audition for a photo shoot. 4 hours there and 4 hours back! But is was a fun road trip and a good experience to see how well she might do. She was as good as I could possibly have asked of her. Now we just need a call back! Keep your fingers crossed and say a few prayers for us!

I have been working on writing a lot this week. It has been very fun. Creative juices are flowing at the very least. I have been posting some articles on line. You can see them on the right side of this page. The name of the site is ehow. I haven't read a lot. I suppose the balance is probably more of an average!

Our budget is coming together. This month, we are testing our totals and will be readjusting as needed. We are working toward to goal of having 6 months of income saved up. At the moment, we speak of unexpected expenses...we are most likely going to be replacing Mike's car and my check engine light is on. Sooooo...this "readjustment" has taken some careful thought. We have our monthly budget. Then with the money we have saved each month we have an "excess income" amount. From that excess income, we have a set amount that is for savings and the rest is excess for checking. The excess in our checking is meant to pad our checking account for things like unexpected car repairs or just life happenings that are not already budgeted. We budgeted in the things that we know we need or do every month. Now we have envelopes for each category to document what we spent by writing it down or by receipts. I will be really tightening our belts in a lot of areas to have as much excess in checking over the next few months. Every tiny amount I save is money toward our goal. That means each night I save money per person on a meal, we get more padding in our checking account which turns into more money in savings because after a few months, I will add to our savings column to get us to that 6 months savings mark faster. So that is our plan in a nutshell.

I will keep you posted on this and please ask me if you have any questions!

Moments are so many, but here is a sneak peek...
-Mackenzie sitting on a big red bean bag chair having a mini photo shoot! All smiles!
-Madison being this amazing, supportive big sister. She watched every second and did everything in her power to keep her happy so she would do a good job!
-Mike surrounded by the girl scout troop stuffing a scarecrow!!
-A shower...without interruption...oh wait. That was just a dream:)

Life's pace is picking up so we are buckled in and ready for the ride!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good times and bad

Madi all dressed up as Jasmine from the Sawyer-bobbity-boutique.

Madi lost her first tooth!

At Mosi learning about probability.

Our Thomas Town!!!

Me, laying on a bed of REAL nails!!

Some of you may have read through my facebook yesterday that I had the worst shopping trip of my life at the Walgreens right by my house even though I scored 0ver $40 of stuff for $4. Why, then, was it my worst shopping trip? I will save the long story. Check out my facebook (listed here on the right side bar) for the details, but it all had to do with customer service. This just goes to show you how customer service can truly ruin what should have been en extremely good shopping trip! Go read it!

I took Madison to the Orlando Science Center to get our passes that we earned by doing our garage sale. We checked it out for a little while and are very pleased with our purchase! It also gets us into a ton of other museums all over the country including the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. On Friday, Mike needed some items from a store in Tampa that specializes in hydroponics, so the girls and I made a trip of it and went to the MOSI. We had a blast. We spent several hours there and barely scratched the surface. So much fun and lots of things I can utilize as school work without her even realizing it. We finished out a unit study we were doing on Where the Wild Things are, so after the MOSI we met Mike at Festival Bay and went to see the movie. It was very sweet. It was just about as unrelated to the book as it possibly could be, but sweet none the less. I saw some parts that seemed unnecessary and a bit odd, but ignorable. It was a fun night to say the least.

This last week, I made a whole chicken and some lasagna which have made for some fantastic left overs and lunches. We have decided 1 night a week we are going to do rice and beans or soup of some kind. Just another easy way to save some money. We had made a fantastically responsible decision to get Mike's car fixed, (about $2000), instead of get a cheap new car. But it has come to our attention, there is more to fix than previously anticipated, so we now are having to look into buying a car. As we have been only using cash for over a year and a half, we are not sure about adding a bill to our budget, so I guess we are going to be re-figuring previously mentioned budget. Boo!! I hate restructuring! I will keep you posted. I am going to post our ACTUAL budget once this gets worked in. Some people have asked about how much I put in each category and there was the discussion of emergencies, so I figure I can post it here and let you see it.

Moments to top it all off...

-Mackenzie waving at the movie screen.
-Some fantastic writing time all alone.
-Church service on Sunday where we truly felt our own growth. BOTH of us.
-Mackenzie standing up in her crib waving at me in the doorway.
-3:00 am. The biggest, most grateful hug from the sweetest baby telling me to enjoy it while it lasts.
-Mike, coming home to tell me how he went into the Walgreens to be sure they understood just how much they had upset me. He could not stand how poorly I was treated and I love him so much for it.

Sometimes, just when we think the bad is bad, it turns out to be the best!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planning my Budget...

First off, I have to tell you about this website. I have signed up for tons and tons of free stuff. Some of it is samples, some of it is just plain free. See for yourself!

Planning. This is definitely under construction. I have a lot to say in this area, but none of it is set in stone. Brandee, you mentioned the pots. I have done this with envelopes. I have found it to be difficult. More because I would make an envelope for something like medical, but not utilize it and that money would sit there unused. I have seen this system successfully implemented though for a lot of people I know. We are "tweaking" our budget right now. What we have come up with so far is to be putting a certain amount into savings. That saving is then used for the "unexpected" occurrences. How do we get to that "certain amount"? The plan is every month, we will spend X amount on gas, groceries, utilities, mortgage, etc. and then, let's say I do not use all of my budgeted amount for gas that month. As long as I did not go over in another area, that money will go into savings. Basically, the goal is to save up your unused amount each month. This is preliminary as of now. We are just getting started.

Some of the saving is based on what you can control. I can control my food, entertainment, and to a smaller extent, my water/electricity and gas. If we find our energy bill is getting too high, we turn the air up and use less lights in the daytime. If our gas bill is going too high, I work on combining more trips or taking 1 less trip to my parent's house. Summer, you mentioned unexpected items popping up that you need. I have managed this by utilizing really good deals on things I NEED. I specify need because as I mentioned in another blog, I am getting really good at not taking a deal just because it is good. An example is a few weeks ago I had a BOGO coupon for Herbal Essence shampoo. The store had a BOGO sale. You don't need shampoo for a while! BUT, if you find 2 weeks in that there is a similar deal, stock up again. You need and use those items so it is not just a deal. This week, although I already have razors, I have a coupon for $3 off and I happen to know Walmart has them on sale. If I take advantage, I get them for around .80. But, I am not going to make a special trip because then I am wasting the gas.

It has taken me a long time to get to a point where I am ahead on things like shampoo and razor, or laundry detergent and dish soap (which I have enough of to last until January thanks to an unbelievable trip to CVS!) Now, anytime I see a really good deal on those items I can choose to take it, or wait until there is extra room in my grocery budget. Make sense? I also only buy things after finding the store that will get me the most out of my coupons and has the best sales.

Next month, we have to go for Mackenzie's 9 month check up and that is $20 copay. Here is what I will plan. I will plan to take $10 from 1 week and $10 from the next from groceries. I know I can do this because I have. I had 1 week this month where I spent $70 on groceries. I needed to make up $20. After 3 weeks, I am now averaging $52/week. If I can make a $40 week next week, I will actually come out ahead of the game (by $1, but still ahead!) which in turn puts money into savings...when we get that all worked out!

It has all become about the things I can and can't control. I know Madi and I love to take trips to the mall, but it means driving a good distance. This summer, I cut out trips to the mall. I also try to ride with Mike to work if we are going to be doing something in Orlando that day. I set my air higher during the day. I limit my shower time and if we seem to be running high water, I turn the water off while washing my hair or body. It all makes a difference.

I have begun pre-making meals and freezing. I have also taken a new step in doing things like making pudding for Madi's desserts rather than buying pre-made pudding. I also make dinners that are larger for leftovers.

Now, I realize I am a stay at home and you may be thinking I have more time than moms who work. But I am a very busy stay at home mom. I watch baby Paige 2 days a week all day and into dinner time while home schooling Madison (2 of the days actually going TO school with her where I participate in teaching) all of which takes lesson planning and preparing. I still have to do regular household chores and cooking and laundry. Then there is the fact that I have an 8 month old baby who tends to need attention. I definitely understand time constraints. As I mentioned in the last few blogs, I am working on finding time to do the things that are going to make a difference. I want to make a difference to other people as well. I want to use my trials and errors to help and maybe extend our help in other ways because we have been fruitful with our time and our lives.

These are my choices. We, as a family, decided we would try to live a little simpler each and every month. We have made a lot of changes in our lives.

If you would like some ideas of things you can do, I am pretty creative with this stuff and may be a good sounding board!

-Madison lost her first tooth and was so happy and proud. It was like a right of passage!
-Riding bikes outside in perfect weather.
-The smell of fall.
-Mackenzie jumping up and down because she wanted Daddy to pick her up.
-Laughing hysterically at the dinner table as a family of 4. Mackenzie participating.

I am finding so much joy in the simplicity of life. Feeling blessed, happy and loved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Strategy and feedback

Mackenzie loves to attack Paige! Poor Paige!

Madison making sentences with flash cards.

I was asked recently about my post and what information I am giving out. I looked back through and, although I believe this to be a work in progress, I see I am doing a combination of things. I offer what I have done as far as shopping, goals and accomplishments, and I offer how I did it. But in this blog, I will focus on what exactly I do to get some results, particularly from shopping.

I have come to discover while doing some reading recently, that I am not a stockpiler, per say. I am more of a budget keeper. How do I keep my budget? I don't always. I do AVERAGE it though. I had set a budget several months back of $80 a week. I am slowly whittling this down. I am aiming for $50, though that does not always work out. I have not, even on my worst shopping trip recently, gotten back up to $80, so that shows some progress. Unfortunately, Mackenzie's diapers eat some of this up. Thank goodness I am still breast feeding and making her food rather than having to buy separate. Though I have recently read that, when learning to live more frugally, you will find things you ARE willing to do and things you are NOT willing to do. I am willing to breast feed and make baby food. I am not willing to make every meal from scratch and I am also not willing to shop at more than two stores for a good deal. You have to decide what works best for you in learning to live simply.
Madison helping to make Turkey pot pies to freeze.

I also do not take advantage of EVERY good deal that comes along. Here was what I did this week. I wanted to spend $50. I looked at the websites for Walmart, Publix, Target, and the ad for Save-a-lot. I compared them to the few sets of coupons I have and decided Walmart and Publix would get my the best deals. They had the items I needed on sale and I had coupons. I did not pay full price for anything and I did not go to any other stores. Does this mean sometimes I pass on something I may need? Yes. I did not buy milk for 3 days last week because I refused to pay 3.09 until I could get to Walgreens to get it for 2.49. That is my choice on certain items I can do without. I made eggs for breakfast.

As for keeping the things I need down to a minimum. Here are some other choices I make because I do not mind. I often make pancakes or eggs for breakfast. Though I have gotten some seriously cheap cereal, I tend to save it for emergency, leaving early days. I have snacks like crackers, cheese, yogurt, or veggies. But mainly, I make dinners that I know I can get leftovers from. I have been on a whole chicken, whole turkey kick lately as they were on sale and they were CHEAP! This means turkey pot pies, turkey sandwiches, left over chicken, soups. I also plan a few meals like lentil soup. Lentil soup costs .78/bag and I can make 2-3 pots of it. I add a chopped carrot, stalk of celery, some salt and half a small onion to a cup of boiling lentils. Cheap and it get me 2 lunches though I am the only one who eats it. I make meat loaf which makes lunches for the next day. If I am not going to be near a microwave, I just make peanut butter and bring raw veggies, apples, cheese, crackers, things like that. Mike always has leftovers for lunch. I make pot roasts. When I find them on sale I buy 2 or 3 to freeze.

So to sum it up, I have made the choices that work best to keep my meal costs down, keep us well fed, and keep me from running from place to place. No, my cabinets and fridge are not overflowing but they are full and we are fed and happy. We have gotten used to this manner of living and choose this for ourselves. I know others who have made other choices, but these are ours.

I would love to hear what people have done with their budgets. Please drop me a note and tell me what you have done or some progress. It is great when I hear other ideas. I am still a work in progress and am flexible.

If you read my last blog, you saw I did a Facebook fast to gain some extra time in my new time budget! I did it and I loved it. I have now gotten to cut out a LOT of time from Facebook. I think I will try it again. I do not spend a lot of time on the computer but I do need it for researching shopping and writing or I would cut it out all together. This week, I have not turned on any television for myself during the day. Instead, I played music or listened to a book from my computer. How did YOUR challenge go? Did you take it with me? Please tell me!!


-Paige and Mackenzie playing on the floor like little girls instead of babies!
-Madison reading whole stories to me.
-Mackenzie walking in the walker all around the kitchen while I cook.
-Some solitary, rare moments to myself.
-Madison mopping the floor because, "I don't want you to have to do ALL the work!, I can help too!"

Just when you think you have it all figured out...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Take a challenge with me on my new budget...

My time is becoming more and more precious as it seems to be flitting away in the wind these days. I have been doing to my time as I do to my grocery bill! Too bad there are no coupons for time budgets. As I go through my weeks, I am whittling away the nickel and dime things that cause my time bill to be to high for my time budget. I am at the beginning of a Facebook fast! I think that is unnecessary caloric intake right now! I will get my time budget under control and return to it at a later time. My priorities are taking care of Mackenzie (making her food, not buying it in jars, beginning to teach her baby things and other such mommy things), home schooling Madison, cooking every day to prevent spending unnecessary money eating out, organizing the house for simple living, planning ahead for meals and groceries, teaching Madi how to live with purpose, educating myself, writing, and living with my own purpose. I have found some time at the end of the day lately, often while Mike watches Glenn Beck, and without Facebook and email, this may prove to be a fantastic time to get through the items I cannot accomplish during the busy day. I will keep you posted on this new progress.

Madison and I are working on Egypt right now in school. It is amazing to see just how much she loves to learn and what she will take in! I mean, Egypt?? Come on! I love it! We talked about the Nile and are on our way to King Tut! She is reading like a storm and love to do it. She is really into reading the Tinkerbell books as well as Junie B. Jones. Those are chapter books so I read those to her. But she reads all of her books to me!

I am waiting until Friday to go grocery shopping. I know I will need to find some more of those whole chickens again and I will need produce. I am sticking to that $50 this week, but hoping for $40!

Take a challenge with me. Weed out not just your grocery bill, but the time calories eating into your life. Go through your day and keep track of the things that are above your budget. I challenge you to find time to grow yourself and your family wisely. I am on board and would love to hear how you do as well!

-Paige has a new noise that makes me smile no matter what! The little rollie polie!
-Mackenzie was in her crib one morning waiting for me and the second she saw me, her face lit up!
-Madison recited a bible verse about being wise. She is learning!!!
-Mike cleaned the air vents in a rage, but also to be helpful to me. My ever observant man!
-Madison snuggled up to Mike when they fell asleep on the couch one night. So precious!

There are many kinds of budgets...take time to find time! We can do it together!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Best laid plans

. /The ladies playing!
Madison's first sleepover at our house! They went to church and this is them singing!
A visit from grandma and pop pop at the campground resulted in pop-pop in the pool. NEVER happens!
Grandma and pop pop with the girlies!
Mackenzie's first time in a swing!

The little ladies out for some fresh air! Madi's home school group!
Doing some math at school!

I have gotten behind...AGAIN! But alas, the school year is well under way and time is flittering away. We are desperately trying to make the most of what we have. We are, daily, being taught lessons and are really beginning to notice what and where we are. One important lesson we are learning actually come straight out of the lessons from our children's ministry at church. It is all about being wise, making wise choices and surrounding ourselves with wise people. So my thoughts lately have really focused on what I am DOING with what I have. Including my money. Part of my quest for the "deal" is to save money, but the other is to use what I am saving for others. I am not sure how long it will take for me to really feel the abundance, but I have noticed with my research and practice, my deals are getting better and better, thus I am getting more for my money and saving money in our account. As a family, we have begun to look at some needs of others and are going to begin to extend our hands. God has helped us out in massive ways and it is time, we use what he has given us to help. We have tried to live pretty simply and when we find that we have some excess, we do not want to indulge ourselves, we want to help. We have begun to feel it is our time to help for however long we are able. I, at least, managed to read some this month. I have not written all month. Boooooo! But, I have been doing a lot of research on blogging and coupons (for the purpose of saving money). If I am to continue to home school, I need to continue to contribute by saving as much as possible. I feel pretty balanced. Perhaps it is because I am doing what I feel is needed right now. I must admit, as I am sure most people can relate, with my husband working 7 days a week, I feel like my day never ends. EVER! I always have a child's needs to meet or hanging off of me or laundry or dishes or food to cook...something. Always. I am constantly on the go, even when I am home. That includes my time for researching and answering a very curious 5 year old's endless array of questions. That being said... Madison is an amazing student. She is reading so well and loves science. She is learning about Egypt right now and we are working toward King Tut. Her math skills are great and she is loving being taught by me. She has begun girl scouts now and in a Daisy troupe. She will be doing community service projects and I cannot wait to see how far it will take her growth. Mackenzie is beginning some baby babble and is now standing herself up in her crib. She is really getting to be a fun little being with a personality! You should check out this picture of my trip to CVS today which I was determined to make. I have seen so many amazing store trips in my research so I wanted to make not just a great deal but an amazing trip. My total was 22.04. Considering the diapers alone should have cost 19.00, I'd say this trip was well worth it! It was a total saving with sales, coupons and extra care bucks was $47.06!!!! I did this in 2 separate orders to get the most for my money! : I also went to Save-a-lot this week and got whole chicken for .99/lb, 5lb bag of potatoes for $1, 3lbs of bananas for $1, cans of veggies for.45, 1.99/lb ground turkey and some other various deals giving me all my shopping for the week and then some totaling 53.03!!! The girls and I have done a few thrift store tours this month. (We have lot of them here in Clermont) We found some amazing items and spent very little money. I am very proud of the lessons Madi is learning in frugality and value! many to choose, but here are a few. -Mackenzie saying da-da. -Mike surprising me with Santa's White Christmas ice cream!!!! (My favorite kind of coffee!) -Mackenzie standing up in her crib one morning when I went in to get her. -Madison's singing girl scout songs and doing the girl scout promise at her first meeting. -My CVS trip. -Our decision to help others being joint and almost like it was laid out for us. -An amazing moment whenMadison whispered in Mackenzie's ear without knowing I heard, "You are always my sister." Really feeling purpose and fulfillment.