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Archive for June, 2015

Finding Balance and Planning

June 30th, 2015 at 08:29 am


For once it *feels* and *looks* like we are proactive versus reactive to our money situations. We've got the goal of the family vacation in December and are funding that with snowflakes. We managed to fund younger daughter's ipad with point redemption from three different credit cards (and one blood donation visit Smile ).

I've added more funding than usual for July because of the wedding and having family in town. I am also going to try to cut down on the trips to the grocery store (this is difficult since we're still very heavily into making smoothies and eating salads and we tend to go through these things very quickly). I'm also going through baking staples at a much quicker rate since I'm baking at least every other day. Our chicken and fish consumption is up, red meat consumption down (though my boys do love their burgers and hot dogs).

I made an appointment for DH's car to go into the shop for a going over and getting quotes on fixing brakes. This is his 1973 Corvette that lives in the garage and doesn't see much light of day - the cost is $76 for a diagnostic (he has $130 cash of his own stash from Father's Day and check from second job with my father). So we can plan accordingly to take care of what needs to be fixed mechanically.

And I'm feeling a bit lighter about skipping the class. At first I wasn't sure - but it required so much work outside of class (which I am fine with) but not in the summer when the kids are around. It was so nice to be able to go and play tennis with the boys for an hour yesterday.

Tomorrow we're heading to the Japanese garden in Rockford. A bit of day trip (90 minute drive north west of Chicago). My daughter will get to practice on driving on the highway. We're packing a picnic and I have snacks for the ride. Should be a lot of fun. Thursday we are back downtown in Chicago on business with our older daughter.

Wow - overlooked a bounty

June 25th, 2015 at 01:45 pm


We pay my DH's chase card online and never pay attention to the rewards count balance. I knew he had points to redeem and thought it was on his Citibank card which we use regularly.

Imagine my shock to find enough points to redeem 19 - $25 Target cards. Younger daughter's ipad for school is now considered PIF. (Paid in full) And stands at $575.

Rediverting the $140 of the $280 Scouting refund to the December FL Fund > $500 presently.

Wow! That was a nice little bonus, possibly a cosmic or karmic reward for the lack of freak out over pending unemployment grind again?

Funny how these things tend to work out!

And I had a delightful early lunch with CB today! So much more fun! Smile

Welcome. You've arrived ...

June 24th, 2015 at 05:31 am

to that place where you are free of all the ankle-biting worry scenarios, catastrophizing, and thinking the worst.

I am not naïve in thinking that I don't need to plan for unforeseen or even "maybe" situations, it just isn't an energy suck/"OMG! What will we ever do?!" that it used to be.

DH attended a meeting at the new employer (or shall we say "transitioned to employer") to discuss the timeline for the next buyout. Papers will be signed in six months, expect changes in the next 9-12 months. It is helpful that he's on his path to a different career option. It also helps that I've got the potential of making money.

Our conversation about the situation was a total of about five minutes. He told me the severance details. He also gave me his new job description for me to update his resume. He thought he might see a recruiter, but might not. We can live on bare-bones if need be.

I've got the EF. We've got the rental property we could sell and pay off the mortgage on this if things got really dire. We're not living high off the hog and would need to radically readjust. I'm not running off and stopping 401K contributions of 10% (actually upping to 11%). We're not stopping our future plans on adoption or educating our children in college for 2016-2017. (No need for negative comments here or flames about that - they will be deleted).

Wow, just a total different mindset from where I have been in the past dealing it the same exact situation.

I think I like it where I have arrived. I might definitely stay here.

Feeling good about balance

June 22nd, 2015 at 04:10 pm


I'm feeling pretty pleased about finding and maintaining a money balance.

The 6/30 rental property income will be the first payments on 2015-2016 tuition and soccer club fees, representing about 8.5% of balance.

The 7/15 rental property income will be used to take care of the balance of the air fare due on our trip to Dec in FL. We've moved the trip forward 3 weeks and save 50%+ on air fare. Booked that on DH's new American Express. Have $400 so far to pay - will throw other "found funds" towards that first payment.

Just pleased with the spending patterns and choices we're collectively making. And oldest son's birthday is in August. He asked if his birthday gift could be a wand. And we said, "Of course." He is our biggest Harry Potter fan.

Preserving the Capital

June 22nd, 2015 at 04:54 am


We've managed to keep the expenses down for Father's Day. The men golfed on Sunday morning; FIL took care of DH's cost as part of his gift.

My brother hosted a cook out. Our contribution was an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Oldest son found it in the Sunday adverts and it was shaped like a mug of beer. Cost was $18.50 after $3 coupon.

Gifts for stepdad and FIL were VERY LARGE draft beer mugs that I found for $3.50 at Walmart, and then I picked up six packs of German lager at Aldi's for $6xx each.

DH and I have a new unspoken rule about buying each other what we'd like. I had assumed that I'd throw some odd funds into DH's Corvette brake job jar. But he also informed me that he's like Tae-bo DVDs. He enjoyed the VHS tapes years ago and I found a set on Amazon for $14.

Event total (gifts and food including) roughly $63.

And everyone was quite happy with their gifts. No need to break the bank with golf shirts or Best Grandpa T-shirts after years and years of that.

Definitely thinking smarter, not harder.

Hope all had a happy day celebrating with loved ones.

Stayed Afloat/Economic Choice

June 19th, 2015 at 06:42 am


Today was pay day. I think that I finally have a better grasp on the inflow and outgo of money - if I keep to DH's regular pay every two weeks for mortgage/living/most extraneous, then it is a predictable amount I'm working with. It gets complicated if I comingle the rental property income that comes in mid and end month. That is what I consider for savings/tuition/taxes/etc. So, really it is a pretty boring money in day -- paid the bills that needed to be paid, worked a rudimentary spending plan for "extraneous" -- here is where economic choice comes into play: Thursday night is wristband night in our home town where the carnival comes and you can have unlimited riding for $25 from 5:30-10:00. I'm giving each child $30 - enough for a wristband and an overpriced snack and if they opt out, they can keep the money, if they opt in, they are covered for a minimum of fun, and if they want A LOT OF FUN they can dip into their own funds.

Not everyone likes to do the same thing - though my boys tend to travel as a herd (they share friends and the friends they have don't mind hanging with the other brothers). One daughter definitely won't be going because she has pom practice, but she could always go another day if she wanted to.

My brother asked us if we'd watch his dogs when he's gone on his honeymoon. And this is a paid gig for us (no need to flame me, because he does save 50% over what he'd pay at a boarding facility). This will go towards the Dec FL trip. We are nudging along quite nicely on that - seeing the fund didn't even exist one months ago.

Other than this ramble, enjoy your weekend! Smile

Simplifying the Feeding Frenzy

June 18th, 2015 at 01:03 pm


1) Have in stock the staple items to make individual English muffins pizzas in the broiler (shredded cheddar/pizza sauce/seasoning/pepperoni)

2) Have ingredients on hand for baked potato bar (fall-winter idea)

3) Look into having pre- homemade muffin mix ready to go (just add eggs and bake)

4) Snacks: popcorn for the air popper and seasoned salts and toppings

5) Just plan enough quantity for one or two more eaters

This follows up my previous post about feeding eight children dinner and then seven children breakfast. I do like the open door policy we have with our kids (and I'd rather have them hang here where I know where they are and what they are doing), but in doing so there are certain concessions to be made -- like a better planned stockpile.

Any other simple ideas that I am missing? Please feel free to add! Smile

Feeding lots of people ...

June 18th, 2015 at 07:08 am


I try to keep spending at the $125-$135 range per week (and this includes all consumables including pets/cleaning/paper/personal care/etc).

I may have to have a small grocery slush fund for those many times when I'm having lots of kids over. Last night I fed dinner to eight children (we did Italian beef sandwiches and meatball subs). This morning I have seven for breakfast. We've trucked through a majority of the fresh fruit, so I'm running back to Aldis for more $1.29 bags of plums/peaches/nectarines.

Tonight its going to be leftovers: I have about two cups cabbage tomato soup/two servings turkey chili/one beef sandwich/and 17 meatballs.

Stocked up on milk which happened to be $1.69/gallon at Aldi's. We go through lots of milk here.

I'm thinking I should most likely have a bit of cash on hand for a Little Ceasar's pizza or two, and more baking items on hand to at least make cookies or muffins for breakfast.

This is definitely workable with a plan. This just happens to be a random observation and musing.

Analyzing the Spending and EOM Goals

June 17th, 2015 at 12:48 pm


Well, the spending is in the first half of the month and there isn't anything really surprising. I'm average about $80 a week on gas and $125 a week on groceries. Gifts/Clothing categories are down - carrying over for July (my brother's wedding and more family in town).

End of month goals:

1) $103 additional principle payment to mortgage (I'm liking even hundreds in the balance Smile
2) Making some prepayments to 2015/2016 tuition (about 5%) of totals since we know what we owe since all financial aid and scholarship amounts are in
3) Increase 401K contributions to 11% from 10%

Also trying to rework some things to see about sponsoring a child through UNITED and maybe increasing contribution to church by a bit.

Dec FL balance is at $400
M's ipad balance is at $270
(I expect the FL balance to increase with DH's side gig check up to $500)
(I expect the ipad balance to increase once I redeem a forgotten 23000 thank you points with Citibank on DH's card)

Slow and steady wins the race - or in this case - funds all the pots.

What a $1 bag of frozen fruit at the Dollar Tree get you:

June 16th, 2015 at 06:57 am

10 oz of frozen blueberries
10 oz of frozen strawberries
12 oz of frozen pineapple
12 oz of frozen mango

I should add that the selection of what is offered varies; sometimes it is only berries, other times it is mango and pineapple.

This has been helping to keep the price of our smoothie consumption down. I will admit to buying the bags of pretzels, frosted animal crackers, and fudge covered graham crackers (which my children prefer from the fridge) as snack staples for the days I don't bake.

Last night was my oldest daughter's scholarship Mass at our Diocese's chapel. It's been celebrated by the auxiliary bishop the past few years. She has been the first student ever to receive the scholarship all four years of high school, and she was approached about speaking at the fundraising luncheon next spring. That is a great honor for her, and we as her parents are so proud. The reception was very nice and low-key, my parents came as did one representative from the council that recommends her.

Photo will self-destruct in a bit, but wanted to share. Smile



Tracking the Spending; anyone bank with Byline?

June 15th, 2015 at 08:35 am

After several weeks of tracking the spending (consumables/extraneous/utilities), I've found that
on the average the household has been spending:

Groceries $130 (after 10% savings with coupons)
Gas $80

Groceries includes all household/personal care/pet products.

The grocery spending is up with the increase in fruits and vegetables (still on the smoothie kick - though I can buy frozen fruit at the Dollar Tree - so I buy whatever they have: been pineapple, mango, and blueberries - we've been doing recipes according to those). We're also going through more Greek yogurt and almond milk, more chicken (about 7-8# a week), and baking stuff since we're cooking a lot more from scratch for snacks and stuff). My goal is to be in the $125-$135 range weekly.

Surprisingly, the healthier eating isn't costing as much to the budget as I initially thought it would. We are also going through flax seed and nuts so that is included in the budget increase as well.

I'll continue to track the spending. I've worked up a list of needed things to buy, and I'm just watching the sale ads from the Sunday paper and for other deals - last year I ended up with a $100 Old Navy card purchased at CVS and got $15 ECB which worked out well for me outfitting my sons and buying some baby shower gifts.

And does anyone here bank with byline bank? They have a pretty good deal right now - $300 for a checking account and savings account with $5K. I'd lose the liquidity of my EF for 90 days, but think it'd be fine. (Already farmed out $5K of EF for another offer.)

End of month goals:
1) Make a payment of 8%-10% on tuition balances for upcoming 2015-2016 years.
2) Make additional mortgage principle payment of $103
3) Increase 401k to 11% up from 10%

These things should be easily attainable if spending remains within normal limits. Entertainment: going to spend $20 on a groupon for local pool admission for one day.

Daily Udate

June 12th, 2015 at 05:45 am

Dark and rainy morning here in the Midwest. Most likely a good day to go back to bed, but the girls need a ride to church where they are helping out with a drama camp.

Frugal triumphs yesterday
1) Saved gas and had girls bike to church
2) Made homemade mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies for dinner
3) Opened the Capital One account for $50 bonus in 90 days

I missed having a NSD because I spent $6 on elastic ankle supports for my oldest son who was complaining of some pain after the last soccer game/practice. I am so glad that the season is ending tomorrow, and I imagine if the pain continues he'll go to see the doctor. We've never had any sports related injuries which is surprising with all the sports/dance the kids do.

Moved up one extraneous expense (pom camp fee for younger daughter). It is in August, so I assumed I could pay in July and had it on the list of "To Pays". They'd like payment now, so my additional principle payment to mortgage drops from $200 to $103. Oh well, so the juggling of the money balls continues.

Still operating from the premise of economic choice - decided to put off an outing to see the first run movie Jurassic World to next Tuesday when it is $5 at the local Cinemark. We'll treat the cousins and then have a sleepover, should be a lot of fun. If we had gone today - would have been $8/person. Still spending the same amount, just including others.

Frugal doing for the day:
1) Library for movies and books and wii games
2) Eating from pantry/freezer
3) Still on track for my weekly budgeted spending of $125 on groceries, looks like we'll be using frozen fruit in the Vitamix for our smoothies, since not planning on shopping til next Tues or Wed.

Organizing goal for the day:
1) Books > final cut to shelf/picture books and early readers to basement
2) Final bag up of items for tomorrow's drop off to SVDP

All is fine in and out of the money realm. Smile

Frugal festivities continue

June 11th, 2015 at 07:55 am

along the lines of:

1) Opened capital one savings account with $5K from EF - will get $50 in 90 days (this was in lieu of opening checking accounts - which I had planned, but never did). Also considering the Discover savings account for DH and making another $50. Will most likely divert those bonuses to Dec FL trip.

2) I have decided to take a seminar this summer - one week long the first week in August. Tuition during the summer is 35% cheaper than in the fall/winter/spring sessions.

3) I returned an impulse purchase to Sam's Club - $5.xx. I realize that I don't look good in orange and I never will, and I really like my white/black/grey palette. Note to self: avoid clearance priced clothing in the color orange/melon or turquois/aqua green. These will never, ever work for you.

4) I returned the Christmas gift to the store DH purchased it from and have a store credit for $76. I didn't have his debit card for it to be credited to - but I do like the store he shopped at, and will have it for future needs or whims.

5) Cleaned up the jewelry that I'm going to hopefully sell tomorrow.

6) Limited driving today and designated it a NSD.

Frugal Doings

June 10th, 2015 at 05:11 am

1) Tracking spending (again) and realize that I save 10% average weekly on the groceries using coupons on things we use regularly Aldi's had almond milk and Greek yogurt on sale, so I stocked up a bit on those items (still cheaper than regular store)

2) Took two surveys at the bottom of receipts and yielded one free donut at Dunkin Donuts and free fries at Portillo's.

3) Today will spend $3 on Wed. morning kid movies at our local theater

4) Cashed out $150 in Target gift cards from PNC Bank to put towards younger daughter's ipad needed for school

5) Passed on textbooks to nephew for his frosh and soph years

6) Cancelled oldest son's registrations to Boy Scout Camp (he's going on a different trip with extended family that week) so that resulted in a $280 refund.

7) Gained back 1# of 8.5 lost - need to make better food options - definitely attributable to carbs. Frown

8) The Christmas trip fund has $225 thus far (two of DH's checks from side gig plus money my daughter didn't spend on her trip to FL that need not go back into the cash flow).

9) Going to move $5K to a savings account at Capital One for a $50 bonus to be credited in 90 days.

10) Going to work the smoothie recipes around the seasonal produce on sale coming up

11) Younger daughter found a dress for my brother's wedding at Nordstrom Rack - can't say that I've ever been there - but will most likely visit again. My limit was $30 and she found the cutest Betsey Johnson dress (but smallest size is 2 and it will have to be altered) for $48.xx after tax (down from $130?!). She covered the overage, and I'll cover the alterations. So cute, and the girls are now done with clothing for the event.

Smile

The old Polish proverb goes:

June 9th, 2015 at 01:42 pm

"Not my circus, not my monkey."

Flipside of that is:

"Not your circus, not your monkey."

In the event that anyone feels the need to offer unsolicited advice along the lines of "what I think you should do" or "I don't agree with you" - such comments will be deleted. I'm not asking for anyone's approval on or acceptance of what I or my family does.

You don't like how we chose to celebrate birthdays, move on and don't comment.

I try to afford people the respect that I would like to receive. Life is too short for such drama.

Smile

Money Tides Might Have Turned

June 5th, 2015 at 08:02 am

Today is the first day of *the*frugal*summer. We slept until 9:30.

The goal for the summer is have at much free and frugal fun as possible this summer, with the goal being a nice trip to Florida in December (birthday and Christmas gifts for kids/funded with our savings and Christmas cash from grandparents). We've got everyone on board.

We are having our celebratory year end dinner out tonight at Portillos (minus daughter in FL). We've saved our change (and I will obviously supplement from the Consumables category). Managed to effortlessly save $32.50. (Everyone's change and my singles plus a random $5).

We have on our calendar of (almost free) things to do:
1) Visit Lincoln Park Zoo
2) Participate in library reading club
3) Free concerts in the park
4) Car show (free) on Friday nights
5) Trip to MSI where we have a membership already
6) White Sox game three tickets from rained out game for a different game
7) Volunteer at local humane society
8) Feed my starving children outing
9) $1 movie at our local theater - kids movies on Wed mornings
10) Use a groupon for a visit to the local pool (skipping a membership this year)
11) My girls are volunteering as counselors at three camps my church is running - one son is also a counselor for one camp, and several are attending various ones
12) Summer reading for upcoming grades starting in the fall

We're trying to calculate the value saved on some of these things and then using that to fund our account and keep it afloat.

And my oldest son hap opted out of BS Camp (that I just paid $280 for but should be able to get a full refund) to go on a "Boys' Outing" with my brother's new father in law, brother in law, stepson, and nephews. It sounds like a whole love of fun in a huge RV with camping, fishing, biking, etc. I secretly wish they'd invite me. Smile

So, all in all, heading in the right direction. Smile

Simplifying/Streamlining/Confession

June 4th, 2015 at 05:15 am

Since the school work is winding down, I'm finding more time to tackle problematic areas in the house (yesterday was organizing my cookbooks/transferring out winter boots/coats from closet/tackling year end papers and supplies from the kids). Consequently, lots of things are going into the trash or donate boxes. Very satisfying to see progress with less.

That said, we're tending to value experiences over stuff. We don't need more stuff. I don't think we want more stuff. DH and I talked about a trip to FL in December as birthday/Christmas gifts to the kids (5 birthday from 8/23 to 12/22). Factoring in what we receive as gifts (cash from parents) it is probably do-able. Excited about that plan and putting it into action.

Streamlining: Just trying to work smarter, not harder. Tomorrow is payday and there isn't anything exciting or mind blowing about that. I was down to my last $8 (this appears to be the theme "Running out of money the Wednesday before Friday's payday". My mom lent me a trash sticker (cost $3.82 weekly for trash pick up) and three eggs. The kids ate left over and DH and I had scrambled eggs.

Confession: In going through my closet I found a black patterned tunic my husband bought me for Christmas. He let me know that the sales gal helped him out. I don't exactly like it very much. At all. My mother loved it and bought herself the exactly one. Twinsies with your mom who is nineteen years older than you: Not gonna happen. Good news is it has the tags on it, and I have the receipt. I can return in for a store credit. Back it is going, and is will be forever a distant memory, until I see my mother wearing it. Right? Wrong? It cost $73 with tax. (Side note: DH did get me beautiful earring, too, that I love and wear with regularity when I get a bit spruced up!)

And I'm going to see about selling two rings and diamond necklace. Rings were from the dating days when I wore them (and I believe DH purchased them from MILs friend who had her own version of a pawn shop) and the diamond necklace was a hand-me-down. My children have their own nice jewelry and these aren't sentimental items - in the least.

Tomorrow is first full day of summer when I won't have to be a responsible parent to get up and say good-bye to a school-bound child. Last day of finals for younger daughter. She had a tough, tough time with Spanish -- thinking about dropping it for next year and doing Latin.

ETA: $4.81 impulse purchase (shirt from Sam's) going back. Will count that in my "smart money" too.

Random observation:

June 2nd, 2015 at 02:44 pm


It costs more money to eat whole foods, but I'm thinking that it is totally worth it.

10-day green smoothie cleanse turned out profitable; weight loss of 8.5# for me, and 15# for DH. I am pleased to say that I followed to a T with the exception of 1 small cup of 1/2 caff coffee in the morning. (I hate to say what I was drinking pre-cleanse). I've also managed to kick the sleeping pill habit. It's been a rough go, but I think I'm finally finding equilibrium with wake/sleep times natural to my body.

The kids are getting way less processed snacks. I've yet to become totally reformed, but we've said good-bye to soda (opting for lemonade/ or Arnold Palmers). We've said hello to healthy bytes and home-made cookies. Less bread, more chicken. (Like 7# of chicken in one week - with seven eaters).

Went out to eat today with my mom and daughter at Egg Harbor. (Not sure if those are around the US or just Midwest?) And I had a fresh fruit crepe, passed my English muffin on to the others, and drank water. Smile

Today I spent $68 at the grocery store for the next few days. Save $6 in coupons and got a free milk.