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Mixed Bag

December 9th, 2018 at 07:31 am

Two more major and two minor gifts to purchase and then I am done! Some of the things are already wrapped and around the tree. I'm burning a Yankee Candle evergreen scented perpetually, so my house smells like Christmas most of the time. We've had Christmas music on in the background more, so it sounds like Christmas, too. Watching the Christmas shows on TV too. Loving that aspect of the holiday season.

Not loving the drama that can accompany trying to "plan" and "coordinate" where we need to be. I'm still in recovery from last year's drama and have simply said that my family will visit one place on Christmas Eve (we do Mass as a family at 3). I will go before or after to either my mother's or my brother's. I no longer worry about doing an all day marathon (which is tedious for the intovert!) and then rushing home to cook because I host everyone the next day. So as of this writing, I am waiting to hear where and when I will be going on Christmas Eve.

I am struggling a bit. I am disappointed that the job I had lined up in January is gone since the one I was going to replace has decided to stay. I don't really enjoy job searching, but will have to get back into the saddle. I have rejiggered the budget for January back to what it will be. It is fine, but progress will be slower. I'm economizing better and the area that has seen improvement is consumables/groceries (my daughters each cook one day a week, so I know only plan and shop for five dinners v. seven).

I've adopted a budgeting method that I recently found at TheBudgetMom which budgets each paycheck and relies on cash envelopes. My categories are broad, but limited. We got hit with an unexpected $300 this pay period so for the remaining week til payday it was: Consumables $80; Gas $40; Other $40. I've spend $75/$80 and will be baking cookies for lunch snacks with what I have on hand and drinking some odd smoothies using a collection of 1/4 and 1/8 remainder bags. But its good! And Other will probably be depleted as E (older son) needs a pair of school shoes. (Hello Payless and thankful for 30% off coupon).

I'm also aware that certain relationships outside of my family and demanding a disproportionate amount of my time. And I need to fix this problem and don't know how.

1) My best friend is having relationship issues with someone she isn't in a relationship with but want to be. (I can say that this individual is nowhere healthy enough emotionally or physcially for a relationship - think currently battling addictions - and resides in a different state).

2) A newish friend that I inherited after my cousin died is on the spectrum and has unrealistic expectations about what I should be doing in our "friendship" - I turned up 30 minutes late to an event that I didn't even commit to on Friday, wasn't feeling well, and left. My mother was present for this event and I heard all about the fall-out of my leaving after. Then I ran into this person at Church last night and she was so frosty and snide. I didn't make excuses for myself and wished her a Merry Christmas.

3) Another complicated ongoing relationship just has to fade. Or I'm wondering if it should just end and put a period at the end of the sentence.

I did attend a jewelry exchange for A's class. He is in 8th grade and I didn't bother attending from K-7th grade because this group of moms is like a sorority (and I am the further thing from being a kappa kappa sigma sweetheart). Another friend convinced me to go. And I went. And everyone was as nice as could be. I attended the event a very grand house in a gated community where i had to be checked in. I enjoyed looking at the home decor of this grand place. It was fine. I had a good time. I, for that time, was the extroverted introvert.

I'm not sure why all of this is on my mind. And it isn't money related. But this corner of the cyberworld is a nice to just "be".

Enjoy your day and I'll hopefully update on Friday for the next paycheck budget.


December 1st, 2018 at 08:02 am

I feel as though I've been adulting in the real financial world. I have received 100% of the cash bequest from my grandparents estate. I put 90% in a Vanguard money market for now. I used the other 10% to:

1) get one month ahead on the budget including mortgage
2) added $1K to our vacation fund
3) purchased a new sectional for our family room (last one was purchased in 2009 and it was since upgraded twice by my brother's hand-me-downs)
4) purchased tub and shower and surrounds for our bathroom upgrades
5) paid off semester of community college for younger daughter and 25% of upcoming tuition
6) am making weekly tuition payments for high schooler

We met with our potential realtor and feel that we can reasonably expect $470K for our home (after the bathroom upgrades, painting kitchen cabinets, new flooring in family room, and all over paint job). There wasn't any real shock there, I follow the value on Zillow and adjust down 10%. We're still looking at listing in the Spring.

I set up Vanguards accounts for the kids' yesterday. They haven't received their funds yet, but now there is a place for them to be deposited. I opened UTMAs for the boys and just money markets for the girls with limited agent authorization for myself. This is exlcusive of an education fund with $70K in it, but I'll deal with those funds next.

I am in the process of a major declutter (as in evaluating the place of every object in our home). Christmas was a bit difficult, but I did narrow things down a bit and have packed up the Dept 56 village we aren't using this year (from our hey day as collectors, we were growing Christmas villages along with my parents and brother/then SIL).

I am also feeling very differently about things and consumerism. I won't say that I'm heading towards minimalism, but I only want things that have purposefulness or I enjoy. Turning point for me, I purchased a Lego Harry Potter for son who is 16. It was the only missing set that he didn't have from the last production go-around. I found it for $65. Son's passion is gaming and he's in the process of building a gaming computer, buying one component at a time. I realized that the gift that I wanted him to have isn't necessarily the one he would like the most. So it went back, and I'm going to MicroCenter to deal with his guy there. (We are only doing one gift per child this year in the $80 - $100 range). They do get a second gift from their Advent Buddy on Christmas Eve.

My brother wasn't happy when we stopped the gift exchange with him and his family. Oh well. My parents and inlaws are getting Yankee candles and kid-made fleece blankets. Also some muffins and fudge. Again, they don't need anything at all.

My job for January isn't certain anymore as person I'd be replacing will most likely be staying on. But I've concluded that it wasn't meant to be and I'll keep looking for something that will work and take one class online a quarter.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday season! Happy December! I've decided just to continue tracking expenses, use the debit card, and implement whatever hybrid system in January 2019.

Another Quick Budgeting Question

November 19th, 2018 at 09:34 am

In the event that you use zero-based budgeting like Every Dollar, where do you sweep your remaining funds to?

In the event that you use a YNAB approach, do you let the amounts remaining fund for the future month or do you add the monthly budgeted amount and carry it forward?

These may seem like really simple questions, and I have realized that I've never been a budgeter. I've been a tracker. Just trying to retrain my thinking and adopt better habits.

Thanks for your feedback and hand-holding!

Holiday Week - How are you celebrating?

November 17th, 2018 at 06:32 am

This week my 8th grader is off for the full week (first time ever). The 11th grader is in school on Monday/Tuesday.

My goal in life is now simplicity and drama-free. If it gets more complicated that it needs to be, you will find me out of the loop/situation/etc. [If you were my child, you'd see that I won't discuss what created the problem in the first place, but I WILL discuss how we'll solve it - on minor life issues]

Last year there was drama about Turkey Day and where we were eating. My inlaws were dropped from the list of guests at my brother's and replaced with HIS inlaws. Fine. We ate at Buca di Beppos with my inlaws and went over to my brother's for dessert. I like my inlaws but am not skipping my brother's THIS YEAR to eat ITALIAN with them again. Sorry. No. So the NEW PLAN is we will go back and forth between my inlaws and my family. DH was not very happy about it, but I no longer sacrifice my happiness to meet other people's needs - so its an EQUITABLE COMPROMISE.

So this year we are eating with my family at my brother's on Actual Turkey Day. I am only bringing green bean casserole. On Sunday of Turkey Day Weekend, I am going to do a second dinner with my inlaws. I'm planning on the traditional fixings with a turkey breast in the crockpot.

We will also put up our tree and have a new sectional coming for our family room (we've been couchless for a while and moved a click-bed down from my sons' room.) Shopping for Christmas will be minimal this year. Family vacation is the gift (though everyone will get a new pair of PJs and a gift to open in the $70 range). Decluttering for a downsize really gets one thinking about useless stuff.

Hope everyone is warm and safe this weekend.

Cash Envelopes - Who Does It? YNAB - Who Does It?

November 15th, 2018 at 08:38 am

Today is my birthday. I'm taking it as an opportunity to look forward and make serious progress in our lives towards simplicity and responsibility.

I've spent (wasted) time on-line looking at budgeting stuff. I'd like to have and adhere to a spending plan. I'd like to ideally do it in cash. With envelopes. Does anyone here do a cash envelope system? My biggest challenge is handling the variables. I'd like to ideally have separate funds for groceries/gas/miscellany/other.

I'm upping the weekly spending to $250/week, broken down as follows:
Consumables - $100
Gas - $62.50
Miscellany - $62.50
Other - $25.00

I've been very unsuccessful at trying to break down budget categories that are narrow and include things like clothing/gifts/entertainment/etc. Perhaps I will graduate to this eventually. I am longer a recreational shopper.

I've also looked into using the YNAB software program. I will be one month ahead starting 1/1/2019. We don't use credit cards. We are paying down medical debt. We don't have many outside savings accounts.

I've spent too much time watching tutorials on youtube and IG, especially TBM (The Budget Mom who has elaborate budgeting/booking keeping practices) and Six Figures Under (who I enjoy reading her blog, but the YNAB video intimdated me).

So what works for you and what doesn't? I'm reinventing myself and money practices so I am game for any and all suggestions.

Also, in January we will be putting 10% in the 401K, we will be taking a family vacation in January or March (currently have $4,000 earmarked for that), and have increased our HSA funding from $1,000 to $1,750. I will be bringing in $300/week part-time, we will also pay cash for our daughter's semester at community college and continue to cashflow home improvements.

Honking My Own Horn

October 30th, 2018 at 02:15 pm

Every year at my husband's current employer, there is a Halloween event that includes a chilli cook off and a pumpking contest. Two years ago we won the pumpking decorating contest (turned one into cookie monster thanks to pinterest).

Last year we didn't fare very well in either category.

This year I am proud to say that I won the chilli cook off! I found a simple recipe for a creamy chicken chilli in the crockpot.

Here it is:

Place two pounds chicken breasts in the bottom of crockpot.
Add drained can of corn and rinsed and drained black beans.
Add can of diced tomatoes WITH liquid.
Add one yellow onion chopped.
Add one green pepper chopped.
Season with one packed of dry ranch dressing mix.

Cook on high 3 hours.

Remove chicken breasts and shred. Return to crockpot and mix well with vegetable mixtures. Add on brick of cream cheese cut into squares, stirring til well blended.

Cook an additional 15 minutes.

I've never considered myself anything beyond basic in the kitchen. I'm pleased that my simple recipe was recognized and won.

Prize: Engraved ladle with our names on it.
And a $15 gift card to AMC Cinemas. I'm thrilled about that since I've forgotten how much I like seeing movies in the theater. Hello Date Night!

Happy Halloween!

Lost my grandmother

October 16th, 2018 at 10:10 am

Eight days ago my grandmother died at the age of almost 99. I was able to spend time with her one month before she passed, and I think that she might actually have waited to see my daughter. D arrived on Friday the 5th and had a really great day with G. The chaplain came and they had a wonderful 45 minute visit and my daughter got to pray over her great-grandmother. Saturday my grandmother was tired and they figured it was just the excitement of having D there. Then on Sunday she was tired, but in good spirits, having spent time outdoors in the Cafornia weather which she so enjoyed. They had her favorite dessert at dinner and the next morning my uncle and aunt were notified that my G passed away in her sleep.

My grandmother wasn't in bad health, but was definitely frail and having a hard time maintaining weight and had become more oxygen dependent. So while it wasn't completely unexpected, I had still hoped to see her again.

I am sorry that the other Laura lost her mom. And I hope that Lucky Robin's Dear Girl get a diagnosis and reliable medical treatment so she feels better.

I guess this was really just a lament post. Nothing here has changed one way or the other moneywise; we're still just moving along toward the future.

Prayers for everyone who needs them.

I love it when it’s under budget

June 7th, 2018 at 11:31 am

Last month D’s inhaler coverage changed with the insurance’s Decision not to cover Qvar. The replacement inhaler was $65. Same Rx today was $20 copay. I had budgeted $65. I called in a Rx over-ride so I’m getting next month’s now, putting $25 transfer to Vanguard.

Funny how happy one can get over found funds, especially when the funds remain limited.

And then the ceiling fell in, or where I just laugh ...

June 7th, 2018 at 07:59 am

We had a plumbing issue with the toilet in the master bath. Twice it overflowed with tons of water. We were't home the second time and it took Offspring a bit of time to turn off the water valve.

It must've been a lot of water because the ceiling in my family room was stained the first day after and actually fell in the second day following.

And there is currently a gaping hole roughly 4' x 8'. DH removed the wall board and we've got the dehumidifier going, so it's not feeling musty or moldy.

Irony: I agreed to host a law school graduation party on Sunday for my cousin who lives out of state, but whose son lives in Chicago. My house is clean and it's being catered by Portillos. I've collected card tables and chairs from family and friends. I am renting a carpet cleaner on Saturday (we've two dogs, one very old who is having more accidents nowadaays).

My mother (who has strong Martha Stewart tendencies) said, "Oh dear. When are the repair people coming in to fix it before that party?" To which I just laughed. Since we're still running on fumes here and the money we have needs to cover oil changes and pet grooming.

I've my final appointment with the Career Counseling Center on Tuesday (finalize my resume) and we're still in the process of finding renters for the rental property.

At least my good humor was here and I didn't let my mother's aghast look that I'm actually hosting a party with a hole-y ceiling get my knickers twisty!


And how deep can the pit be that we need to crawl out of?

May 23rd, 2018 at 01:08 pm

We received notification at the beginning of the month that we owed an additional $3K to the high school. There was a new tuition manager this year, our scholarship package has always been a consistent amount (from the Diocese, the school, and various scholarships). Our son didn't receive one scholarship this year (for the $3K) but the assistance is always one line item. (I should add that we've had a student at this school for six consecutive years and there has never been a problem).

An account reconciliation showed we weren't on the list of CCW Scholars and the amount was reverse. So I had to borrow money from my father, who was totally fine with it. I always said that I would only ask for money for my kids. That happened.

So, I am eight days away from completing my graduate certificate in OD (and I'm doing well). I meet with the career counselor tomorrow. DH's last paycheck is 6/1. He has a promising opportunity with his old boss, but that company is in a reorg structure now. I've decided to look into temp agencies come 6/5.

I managed a small get together for my oldest daughter to celebrate her graduation from community college. I did a brunch and fed 15 people for about $60. That included a memory frame for $8. I also spent an additional $8 on flowers.

We've also depleted our flex spend money and all medical/rx is out of pocket. The latest rounds of DH's PET and CT scans adds another $1,600 to the balance of what we owe. Oh well, the Earth will continue to spin and the sun will continue to set and rise.

But we're healthy and reasonably happy and still have many blessings to be thankful for.

Boring Old Update and Light at End of the Tunnel

April 29th, 2018 at 04:09 pm

I had $500 allotted for all living expenses for 4/20 through 5/3, as in cash only in a jar.

Here is the breakdown of how its been spent:

$180 for groceries
$80 for gas (my daughters are contributing more so this expense has gone down)
$75 for 2 Rxs (last of the FSA funds were used for dental expenses earlier in the month) One was a 90 day
$75 for Home Maintenance (5 gallons of driveway filler/sealer and weed killer)
$68 for Miscellaneous ($30 for DH's boss's going away party/$20 for son's volleyball activity, $7 for sewing supplies for other son's project, $6 for Zumba for me)

I have $20 remaining for milk and produce and few necessary items for dinners Tues/Wed/Thurs.

I am confident that for 5/4 through 5/17, we'll be able to do it on $400 cash.

The menu plan is fairly basic, we're eating meatless one night and breakfast items for another. I used a rebate check for the weed killer at Menards and saved $15. I purchased the black top filler sealer from Menards because it was on sale this week.

Today I completed the last day of the two weekend seminar. I'd say I'm 65% done with the research and writing for the final for that (5 questions due on 5/38). My research project's review of the literature is done and I'm moving onto design planning (about 65% done with that project also).

I've started doing some preliminary looking, need to get update on linked-in, and think that I have a good chance of becoming employed in a reasonable amount of time! DH is meeting with a temp agency for contract work (they pay a regular salary, offer 401K and health insurance). We think that contact work might be the way to go for him as we transition to the next phase of life.

Unemployment is still looming, but maybe not as large as I made it out to be. Still the EF isn't what I'd like it to be, but we should be OK.

College book stores price match. Who knew?

April 10th, 2018 at 01:07 pm

I had a snafu with the last textbook I purchased online from Amazon. On the cover it clearly stated that it was intended for international students and not those in the US or Canada. Boo. I was so happy to get it at a reasonable price; after all the angst, I was able to use it in class and cannot quite actually determine what the differences in the text books are.

I was on campus at the bookstore today for the textbook for the two-weekend seminar upcoming. They only had new books for $105. While being helped, I said I could probably find it cheaper on Amazon, to which the worker said they price match. I ended up with the text book for $73.00 out the door. I was happy with that.

Who knew that they price match? I also found out that the eye doctor sells the contact lens boxes at warehouse club prices. I suppose it always helps to ask if they price match.

I guess this qualifies as "Saving while spending". I will need to Whack a Mole for this puchase (I am $23 short from the EXTRANEOUS FUND). But its fine. Spending across all other categories is at expected or less.

Investing in Professional Self, and Good Test Results!

April 9th, 2018 at 11:32 am

I'm in second the ten-week quarter for a graduate cerficiate in Organizational Development. This is the third week of classes; I am fairly organized in what needs to be done as far as the research project for my Methods class (meeting with library research specialist tomorrow) and also for a two-weekend seminar.

I found out that I can attend the university's Lecture/Speaker Series for free. I have decided to purchase the speaker's book and attend the Meet and Greet the night before for network purposes, and I've also decided to pay $130 for the annual student fee to join the professional network.

I think that I've realized that sometimes capital needs to be invested into a product in order to keep it current. Or, Hello Professional Life.

Also: I've ammended this to say thank you for the prayers and well wishes from the earlier post where I mentioned a new nodule on DH's lung. He's two years post cancer diagnosis and his doctor is conservative. The results of the PET scan were fine, non cancer. Thank you again! Anxiety is ugly.

Win Some. Lose Others. Today was a Loss.

April 3rd, 2018 at 03:29 pm

I was riding high on the thrill of the economical suit purchase for DH.

And I was super proud that I got my required textbook in an earlier version for $35 on Amazon. It arrived today and ... big fail. It's for international students and not intended for use in the United States or Canada.
Topic: Methods of Research in Organizational Behavior. I thought that statistics were universal, but apparently not. The only way to remedy this is to see if I can take out a general methods textbook and try to supplement. It's required for tomorrow, I will limp along.

Also in an effort to corral expenses, I did not renew my Amazon prime today.

I did spend $33 at the grocery store and $25 in gas.

Prayers please for DH's upcoming test. It's a PET scan to confirm that a small nodule on his lung is really the "highly unlikely to be harmful" kind that his doctor thinks it is. DH does have some small nodules of insignificance on his lungs, this is a new one. His other CAT scan results were all fine, he is two years post-cancer diagnosis. I know logically this is probably nothing, but the anxiety and stress is kicking in. Anyhow, he needs to eat a particular diet tomorrow before test on Thurs.

That's all for now. Stay warm; hard to believe its spring out there!

Batten down the Hatches

April 2nd, 2018 at 11:11 am

Goal for April: No to Low Spend.

Already spent $101.66 on a new suit for DH. He hasn't had to interview in about a decade and we decluttered his previous career clothes. He had a variety of pant sizes (36" to 42") (he's been up and down the weight continuum). We cleared it all out and he is starting over.

Kohl's had a great sale ($200 suit coat for $75, $100 pants for $44. On top of that I used 20% off and it was free shipping, plus $10 Kohls Cash back for future use). Used debit card - so I'll consider it a win-win.

Ham bone went into crockpot for bean soup, another crockpot has homemade granola going. I've baked brownies for boys' lunch snacks tomorrow. I did spend $18 building up a stockpile last month.

So trying to plug those money leaks. Prepping for short-term unemployment. Outlook is still sunny.

Happy Easter/Spring and Hello April

March 30th, 2018 at 09:14 am

I closed out spending for March. The extraneous spending was higher because we had title/plate/registration/tax on the minivan my parents gifted us, I paid for spring sports for my grade schooler, Easter cost us $170 (that is the dinner and I spent $30 on each child getting them things that they need (summer clothes), I also had to pay for a textbook that I needed for this quarter and couldn't borrow.

I think that the rest of the year is going to fly for us since we are 4th quarter/2nd semester for everyone. I have 9 weeks left of the quarter and I think it should be manageable. The methods of organizational research class requires weekly check-ins with the professor (there are only nine of us in the class), so I won't be stressed at the end of it, and I read the syllabus for the two weekend seminar and I've already started what I can on that (journal article reviews and doing prelim background research on some OD topics).

I am going to attend a Speaker Lecture Series for free; I'm non-degree seeking (16 hour grad certificate) but they agreed to waive the cost. I'm looking forward to it and am glad I accepted the offer. More knowledge is always a good thing.

Looking forward to a low-spend April. It's a short month, I'm fairly organized, and I've been building a stockpile. And collecting easy and economical recipes.

Today we're heading to the Garfield Park Conservatory and eating at Chillis. I spend $50 on gift cards at CVS for Chillis and have $10 ECB. I also spent $50 on groceries at Target and got a $10 gift card. I'm hosting a brunch but it keeps getting smaller and smaller. I don't really mind much; I'm getting less and less accepting of other people's drama.

Enjoy your weekend and see you in April!

Practicing for Frugal/Low Spend/Unemployment

March 25th, 2018 at 03:29 pm

Still challenging myself to keep as much money as possible, spending the least amount required, while still having a happy existence. I think it can be done.

1) I've been decluttering and clearing out. This has been a definite reminder that I've blown money on things that aren't right/don't fit/aren't needed/etc.
I have started a list of items of clothing that I need to maintain a capsule wardrobe; things that my sons need; etc.

2) I will be going to Play It Again Sports to part with Lacrosse equipment and outgrown football and soccer cleats. Hopefully I can get a store credit there or a reasonable cash offer. (Note: I don't regret these purchases!)

3) Today we took our dog for a walk around the local pond. It was brisk and sunny, and we went twice around for 1.00 miles. No cost and minimal complaining. My runner didn't want to run; maybe next time.

4) We went to the library and checked out several movies: Inferno, LaLaLand, In Cold Blood, and some other oldies.

5) I did spend $2.64 at the grocery store for fajita sauce and peppers. We had some fajita steak strips that needed to be used.

6) Tomorrow we are going to the Arboretum and out to lunch with my parents. No cost to us since this an annual even we do with them during spring break.

7) Yesterday we visited my parents and worked a 500 piece puzzle. Free and a good time.

I do think that one is capable of succeeding if they have the correct mindset. I'm fairly new to optimism. I battle SADD and sometimes have an undercurrent of self defeating thoughts. And, oh, the anxiety! But it's getting better.

And I'm keeping myself positive with positive living reminders and memes on my FB wall. And I will toot my own horn: I got a 4.0 for the first quarter (last grade was pending), but I achieved my goal for the first 10 weeks.


Moving Smarter in the Money World

March 21st, 2018 at 09:04 am

I found a bonus offer for a checking acount that requires NO direct deposit of other funds to be bonus eligible. It's thru 5/3 and will pay $200 after a $500 balance is maintaind for 60 days. I can do that. I am doing the bare minimum since I already put some of the EF in a share certificate with a Christian credit union and given the uncertainty of our situation (though unemployment is certain and date certified).

I am also allotting $15 the week of the 19th and the 26th to begin for the April grocery challenge. There are some pretty good prices this week: 4# of sugar ($.97), canned beans ($.50), cake mix ($.80), and canned pineapple ($.80).

I'm also using a gift card to a more upscale grocery store for my ham. Spiral cut is $1.37/#. I got the gift card for transferring an Rx to their pharmacy. Not sure how many will be coming to Easter Brunch this year, so depending on what I have left over, I may go with a bottle of wine or Fannie May mint meltaways as a splurge.

I appreciate all of the suggestions for meal ideas for April. I've compiled an excel spreadsheet and have decided to keep it fun. I'm looking forward to trying some of these recipes. I think a good attitude will be key to the success of this experiment.

Spring Break is next week and since we don't want to break the bank, I'm coming up with some ideas. I have saved some money and have looked on Groupon. I think it might be fun to do a family outing to an escape room. There is one for 6 people for $58. That is what it would cost to bowl or roller skate. We also go to the Garfield Park Conservatory (a wonderful place under the Chicago Park District, and it is free!) and color eggs and go to the Easter Vigil. We also go to the Morton Arboretum with my parents and they take us out for lunch.

I've also started a list of movies for a Family Movie Night. The first is Angels and Demons (my older son really liked the Davinci Code - watched it with him on Monday when he was sick).

So here is what is happening at Easter Brunch:

Sprial cut ham; cornbread casserole; green bean casserole; crockpot mashed potatoes; jello salad. Dessert: Cake Pops and maybe Fannie May meltaways

What's on your menu for your Spring celebrations? (maybe there are Passover celebraters here?)

What traditions do you have?

Aside from the trip to the flower house, coloring eggs, attending Easter Vigil, we also watch "Easter Parade". Sometimes "Brigadoon"

Grocery and Meal Plan Challenge for April

March 19th, 2018 at 10:36 am

The writing is on the wall and DH's official last day is 5/31 with his final check on 6/1. That being said, I need to cast some attention to the budget and spending. I will readily admit to being on money autopilot since I started back to school in January. We aren't over spending and I am tracking, but I am seeing that things can definitely be done smarter to conserve money if I just put forth the energy and plan and commit.

We had two trips to Sam's Club in the past month. One was for $270 (I used $100 of the tax return toward that) and the other was for $230 (I used $100 from DH's bonus for that too). We did stock up on toilet paper, feminine hygiene products x2, batteries, razors, dishwasher pods, and vitamins. Since our local Sam's closed, we did have to drive to suburbs north for the trips and we did fill up on gas while there.

My goal for April is $300 for all consumables. That's $10/day for a family of six. I'm planning on no processed food items and am on the fence about Gatorade since my boys are practicing daily for soccer/track/and volleyball.

I've been spending some time on websites reading about frugal meals and was wondering if anyone has any tried and true economical recipes that their families like?

Our cheapest eats lately have been: curried chickpeas and ground turkey with peppers. I've also made crockpot granola with success, and instead of Belvita bars for my daughter, we found a simple recipe for sweet potato pancakes that are very tasty and economical.

I've found a new recipe for quinoa broccoli bites. And am looking to expand my new recipes for this endeavor.

Thanks in advance!

Plan for April

March 15th, 2018 at 05:53 pm

DH's boss's last day is 4/30 with the final reduction in his current department is 5/31. The office will become a satellite office as the work has migrated to HQ, with a kick-back of some of the more complicated contracts for a final transition.

This means a finite number of paychecks. This thankfully coincides to a completion of my program and I would surmise that I should be able to find a job relatively easily or at least get a paid internship for the summer.

So the plan for April is to do a low-spend, uber frugal month challenge. There isn't much anticipated and it will be a month full of soccer, boys' volleyball and track. I won't need to outfit the boys with summer uniforms because they're set.

I'm going to see about borrowing the text books for the upcoming quarter. I'm using the library for books on tape and videos. I'm thinking that it can definitely be a practice run at economizing.

Definitely giving thoughts to how to contain costs while increasing savings.

Smarter in General

March 14th, 2018 at 03:27 pm

Thanks for all the feedback on where your sinking funds are parked. I also found a particularly helpful youtube vid about it at JennPlans. Thanks to Scottish Girl for recommending that. Since forever, I've been lumping all those things together into one EXTRANEOUS/MISCELLANY category (other categories in the budget are mortgage/utilities/consumables (food/household/personal care/pet)/gasoline. So that would be education/clothing/gifts/entertainment/etc. And that has been at around $300 a month.

I've tracked every red cent spent since 1/1/18 and feel that I have a fairly close estimate to what I have spent, yet I need to work some magic and come up with actual amounts for each intended sub-category.

Things that have helped with the money flow:

- I have two daughters who are at home now, and since the use of my car has increased, they contribute to gas and insurane payments. Since they both work (older nannies and models, younger nannies and dog sits), they pretty much cover all of their own expenses.

- Our medical expenses have been lower since we have a Flex Spend account set up and that should cover the next three months of expeses (so 1/2 year). We did not have that last year.

- We are still contributing 10% of DH's pay to 401K. I'd like to save more, but there is still uncertianty in our future.

- I took advantage of a CD (savings certificate) paying 4% (thanks FrugalTexan Laura for recommending the CU!)

- I'm parking the sinking funds into the Reserve Checking Account associated with the PNC Virtual Wallet.

- This is the first time that we aren't anxiously awaiting the check from DH's side job to cover some expense. It's rather nice to not feel the anxiety of Paycheck To Paycheck living. Best thing I ever did was apply the income tax refund to YNAB's income usage concept. I'm actually looking forward to April 1st when I will pay pretty much everything that isn't automated.

- I will declare April a Low-Spend month since I will be back in school (starting up last quarter on 3/26) and am taking one 4 hour course over two weekend seminars. I also plan on incorporating a simple but detailed meal plan for most of the month.

- We are eating healthier and it does cost more.

- I'm feeling desperate about lack of sleeping pill usage, but will ride it out. I've started training for a 5K in April and ran yesterday and today despite it being cold. I've learned that older daughter does not like to run in the cold. I'm hoping to take off another 6-8# this month. No sugar either.

- Today I made homemade granola in the crockpot. Nut-free since older daughter had her allergy testing done and lots of things came up. Frown

- Anyhow, just feeling smarter in general.

Where do you park your sinking funds?

March 12th, 2018 at 09:21 am

I never paid attention to these sorts of conversations before, because I was a financial mess and figured I'd never get to the pro-active point in money management since I was mired down by anxiety and reactivity.

Fast forward to current situation where we are much better and stable (despite uncertainties) and I have started a sinking fund for future car expenses. It's $25.50/month so that we can pay for three car registrations in February 2019.

So my question now is: Do you park your sinking funds in an additional external account that you make transfers to monthly?

Also, opinion on laddering CDs as a safety measure? This is something that my father did with my grandmother's funds years ago. Did Ima Saver do this too?

Any and all opinions appreciated.

Also what other categories do you plan for? All of our insurance premiums are monthly. I am thinking to add for gifts and maybe insurance deductibles in case of a car accident or incident.

Half Way Done

March 11th, 2018 at 03:04 pm

Today I uploaded the last of the papers which I needed to write for this past quarter. I've completed 8 graduate hours and am half way done with the certificate in Organizational Development and Change. I am confident that I will have a 4.0. I submitted a partial sample of my writing for this last paper and received positive feedback, so I am cautiously optimistic that this will be considered a success.

I have two weeks off and then will take the final two 4-hour courses, one Tuesday nights and the other in a two-weekend format. Upon completion I will at least have a current skills set that should make me marketable in the public sector.

On the money front, spending is within reason. I took $100 from DH's bonus and put it toward a shopping trip to Sam's Club. I stocked up on quite a few items and feel that everything purchased will be used. We're eating healthier, more fresh produce and less processed food. The athletes are eating more and everyone is back at home.

We are anticipating $115 from DH's side job with my biological father and for once we don't need those funds for necessary expenses. We'll put that in the savings. I am also expecting a $300 refund from an overpayment on my oldest daughter's Hawaii trip back in January. That will go to savings also.

I'm feeling a wave of relief not to have papers hanging over my head and have decided to continue a serious declutter of our house and I'm going to take up running again. It's been awhile and I really do miss the training that I did for a 5K a few years back. I'm a size 4 and may have to buy myself some new clothing items and lots are just getting ridiculously big. I actually fit into one of my daughter's sweaters (size Small) and it looked good and was comfortable.

I think the fog of winter depression is lifting, too, though this year I was really too busy to let it rule my life, though there were spurts of exhaustion and lack of motivation.

Here's to the turning of the corner.

Positive Changes

March 9th, 2018 at 01:55 pm

New beginnings with YNAB, and I'm seeing some progress (well, more like small steps) in a positive direction.

1) We transferred 10% of DH's bonus into savings. The balance is going for some car repairs and new doors at the rental property.

2) We established the first sinking fund and deposited $25.25. That's 1/12 of the cost to renew the license plates for three vehicles next February 2019.

3) The paycheck today is earmarked for the first half of April 2018.

4) I am very close to finishing up the third paper for this first quarter. I earned 2 A's so far, and got positive feedback on the draft I submitted for this paper, so I'm feeling that I will end with a 4.0. And I should add that these are real classes at an academic university; my previous academic run was in a seminary where everything was rather "fluff". I am proud of myself for making the decision and sticking with it. One more quarter and I will be done.

YNAB One Week In

March 6th, 2018 at 03:32 pm

I made the decision to use YNAB the way it was intended/recommended by living on last month's salary. I could never actually figure out a way to fund it since our existence is in all reality very paycheck-to-paycheck. I earmarked one month of living expenses from the tax refund to start it, and March's paychecks will be lived on in April.

It's interesting because I'm not "having to rob Peter to pay Paul." I paid an additional $18.50 on the mortgage to bring the balance owed to an even $218,475. All of the utilities for the month are paid. I used the FSA Debit Card to cover this month's medical/prescription costs.

DH's bonus is being deposited on Friday. With those funds we are installing a new front and back door at the rental property, having new garage door installed, and are attempting to reglaze the bathtub with the assistance of our handy man friend. I'm not sure the actual cost of those.

We are going to also to get two new tires and an alignment on our old '07 Dodge Caravan, this has been upgraded with an '07 Honda Odyssey from my parents. Also from this will be license plates renewal for the Dodge and my husband's Corvette. that will be $202.

I am almost officially done with my first half a professional certificate. I'm completing the final paper for the third class (I did receive two A's on two 2-hour graduate seminars). My motivation and enthusiasm are at a good level and I'm feeling proficient (it was a rough haul there with some of the weeks of being with nearing graduation MBA students and I'm a fledgeling).

So, hopefully the trajectory continues upwards in a positive direction!

Future Plans and Property Values

March 1st, 2018 at 08:55 am

We've started to plan again for a downsize from our primary residence to something smaller as well as selling the rental property. I know that the Z-estimates from Zillow aren't an exact science, but I'm using them for a quick snap shot.

Value of Rental Property: $250.000
Mortgage on Rental Property: $0.00
Value of Primary Residence: $460,000.00
Mortgage Balance for PR: -$218.000

Total Value: $492,000

The townhomes we are looking at are in the $240,000 range. I'm feeling slightly better about the overall picture of our fiscal health.

New Start

February 28th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have two more weeks of classes and then I am 1/2 done with the Organizational Development and Change Certificate. The paper writing is hefty, and my confidence and motivation ebb and flow, but with the light at the end of the tunnel for completion of 1/2, I'm propelling forward (maybe more like catapulting).
The feeling of drowning has passed, thankfully.

Suprisingly, DH is still hanging on - migration of the work is complete, but they still need some financial analysts for reports through March or June. He will be receiving a partial bonus on 3/9 since company only met 55% of target revenue. Better than nothing.

I've decided to utilize the tax return to full fund a month's living expenses to give YNAB an honest attempt the way it is intended. I've been fairly diligent on tracking expenses since 1/1 and feel that I can move forward with an accurate idea of how each category should be funded. I also look forward to implement sinking funds monthly.

My parents gifted us their '07 Honda Odyssey. They offered us the car with no warranty or $3,500 which would be the trade in. We currently have an '07 Dodge Caravan that is on its last legs, so this is an upgrade. It has all of the bells and whistles and has been lovingly maintained and its actually a huge upgrade to us. We do consider this a huge blessing and are hoping to make this one last for the next several years.

We have remained at 10% contribution for 401K, but I do need to be more future-oriented in putting other funds away. I am hoping to be able to do so upon becoming employed by target date of June.

I hope everyone is moving forward in 2018 and achieving their goals!

February I Review

February 15th, 2018 at 08:51 am

The areas that I am targeting for controlled spending are consumables (all grocery/household/pet item), gas, and extraneous (including everything else like clothing/entertainment/household items/books for school, etc).

In January we averaged (for Ist and IInd havles)
Consumables - $321
Extraneous - $192
Gas - $138

The total of extraneous for the month was $380, but that covered hot lunches for both sons, Zumba, textbooks, some witner clothing items, and $78 was from my trip to CA with my younger daughter).

In budgeting for Feb I, here are planned/actual:
Consumables - $225/$236
Extraneous - $110/$80
Gas - $135/$80

Observations: We are higher on consumables because we are doing a smoothie cleanse and I spent on protein powder and more produce, and we hosted a dinner party with eight additional people.

Extraneous: I didn't include my NYC spending money since I had been frittering away cash for that, but I did need to dip $35 into that, the rest was just odd amounts for books, socks, a movie admission, etc.

Gas: This is lower than average, mostly becasue I was gone 4/14 days in NYC, there is snow and we are driving less.

The amounts remain the same for Feb II, and I expect that we will fully utilize the amounts available.

I am plodding along with my classes. I am enjoying them and am excited by the prospect of employment on the flipside, the writing is, however, daunting. Just finished one 30+ page paper, moving on to second 20+ page paper.

NYC Spending Recap

February 12th, 2018 at 05:41 am

Our NYC trip was February 7-10th. Seems like we accomplished a lot in a short period of time; we saw Times Square, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller Center, an LOL Comedy Show, my daughter had a photo shoot in Fulton Street Station (awesome images!) with a photographer she worked with in Chicago, I was able to hear my friend deliver the keynote speech at the Federal Bar Association's 5th Annual Fashion Law Conference, Chinatown, and the Museum of Modern Art.

What we spent:

Airfare from Chi to LaGuardia: $33 (used miles and had to pay $11/each in fees)
Accommodations at 109th and Broadway in Manhattan: $0 (thank goodness for family!)
Travel on the subway and bus: $50
Dining out: $190 (one major meal a day for four days)
Entertainment (museum admission/comedy show): $120
Miscellaneous (souvenirs, snacks, personal care items forgotten to pack): $84

Total for overall: $475ish.

Cash-flowed every last dime, banked every memory!


February 6th, 2018 at 09:03 am

I am half way through the ten week quarter and 25% done on my timeline for the organizational behavior and consulting certificate. I'm surprisingly on top of things for school and home. My enthusiasm and energy were keeping me going, but I'm feeling tired and lethargic and just moving toward the end line of this quarter.

I was in California last month and am going to NYC tomorrow for a few days with my daughters. Thank goodness for redeeming miles to fly for free and relatives with an apartment in Manhattan across from Central Park. We were told to bring good walking shoes and are taking a bus from LaGuardia to their place. Sounds like an urban adventure. I'd like to continue to keep on this trend of going places and seeing and doing things. All on a budget of course.

I tracked every red cent spent in January. It wasn't too bad, but could be better. The Miscellaneous category was high due to books (though I did download one on audible for free with a trial membership I cancelled), some needed winter clothing items for sons, and $80 while on vacation (souvenirs and gas for car rental). February is looking MUCH better, though we have everyone living at home now so grocery budget will probably reflect that by month's end.

I did the taxes. Our refunds amount to $6,250. That will be very helpful.

Onward to March.

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