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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.

Q4 2018 Update

October 2nd, 2018 at 01:18 pm

Hard to believe it is the start of the last quarter of 2018.

Goals for the quarter:

1) Continue to track expenses
2) Save 10% of all income

We are finally graduating from paycheck to paycheck living (or where we run out of money four days before payday). We've paid $6,000 balance for property tax and $3,500 to a bill that was we were going to be sued for. We've managed to cashflow tons of smallish emergencies (tires/batteries/back to school/sports fees/class ring/etc).

Some of it is because our older children are fiscally responsible, contributing to grocery budget by cooking one dinner a week each and contributing more towards fuel expenses with increased car usage). Some of it is because we are just spending less. And I've re-negotiated down one medical bill from $200 to $95/month. Not ideal, but more breathing room.

I'm still job searching. I'm overqualified for some work, underqualified for other work, will consider two part time jobs or just a full-time temporary position. I've been ou tof town to California to help out with a family situation, so that derailed some plans. Just moving onward and not sweating things! I will find a job. Hopefully the right job. At the right time.

DH is still employed - and his job has become more secure with one of his counterparts out on sick leave. Looks like he will have a offer at the beginning of Q1 2019 with his most previous old boss. 10% less pay, but closer to home.

All the more reason for us to continue the declutter and move to downsize. We're making good progress and have finally decided on a subdivision that we really like and offers a floor plan that will work for us and the kids we will have with us (still all four).

Hoping to achieve my goals through continued accountability.


September 19th, 2018 at 09:13 am

Hard to believe that 2018 4th Quarter is almost here!

A lot remains the same: husband still being extended at current employer and he is one of 4 people from ODN left. He had a prospect that didn't turn out into a solid offer; he now has another prospect at 10% less than his current pay. Because of the level of misery he's experiencing, if it happens I'm supportive of this.

Our two older ones have jobs and contribute financially (putting gas in cars and cooking two dinners a week). Our third turned 16 and is judicious with his spending and will look for a job at the end of soccer season.

My resume is finally updated and I've applied for four part-time jobs on line yesterday. I'm most comfortable in higher education, so that's where I've been looking. I was ready to put out resumes earlier in the month, then went out of town to deal with a family emergency so that delayed my original plans that are now finally executed. (I've rethought subbing mostly because I don't have the $100 required for license and fingerprinting).

We are dodging money bullets left and right. Car tire - $180. New car battery - $133. Back to school funds and sporting fees for 8th grader - $400. Soccer sports fee for high schooler - $225. New driver to the insurance policy - $60/month (though I offset that by dropping landline).

We remain paycheck to paycheck, but I am seeing an improvement in cash flow on 10/1 once we make final payment of property taxes and owe $3,400 to a bill that went to collections. I've renegotiated some medical bill payments down by 35%.

So there really isn't anything new. At all. But we are now really preparing to list our primary residence for sale and are doing well on our declutter and clear out. It's embarrassing how much stuff we've collected over the years. But the future is bright!


August 16th, 2018 at 11:08 am

I blogged previously as P2P Living. Didn't really bond with that blog and couldn't remember what my password was, but this identitiy was engraved on my mind, so here I am again. Back as me.

What's changed? Not much aside from my attitude. We did graduate to full-fledged Paycheck To Paycheck living; we'd run out of money at about Day 9 out of Day 14. NOW we make a deposit to our Vanguard money market WEEKLY (growing EF again slowly) and we are solvent still at the next pay day.

The rental property is successful now, with a low-maintenance tenant who pays in cash and on time. Earlier when they were going to be out of town on vacation on due date. We are pleased as punch about that. Those funds are catching up on property taxes due in full by end of October.

Job Front: DH was officially notified that the job opportunity that has been linger since April no longer exists. A new CFO and soft sales led to the decision to only replace one of three senior financial analysts; chosen candidate had 12 years experience and background in Marketing. NOT DH.
** He still is employed at current situation, extended indefinitely. So paycheck is a paycheck at this point. His severence is 3.5 months and is unemployment benefit eligible. He's pretty miserable though given all he's doing is STILL AND AGAIN putting out fires that other people create.

I'm looking now for a job since the kids will be back in school Monday. I'm finding it hard to get in at an entry level for OD since everyone is only hiring Project Managers which I fall short of talent-wise. I've decided to join the student chapter of the OD Network and hope to build some bridges that way while taking one class at a time.

Job wise: I can't decide if I should pay the $100 to get the sub license for my state ($50 for fingerprinting and $50 for license) or just look for a part-time job at the local community college. Haven't really a clue - but must decide soon.

Back to watching the pennies after a hiatus of tracking; though not entirely irresponsible spending.

Today: Took forgotten coupon to Payless and got $7 back on BTS for older son. Also returned slimey carrots for $2.

We did cancel the land-line and I'm paying bills online biweekly. That seems to be working.

Now everyone is back at home and my grocery bill will be increasing; I'm car sharing, so my fuel expenses will be decreasing as everyone needs to chip in.

DH is getting busier with his side job working for biological dad. That's how we're funding our upcoming vacataion - CASH! - and we currently have $1,400.

I also did list some items on FB Marketplace and sold a dress for $5 this month. Not much, but I'm trying to stay on top of things like that to at least contribue some $$.

Also, we are finally decluttering and got rid of a load of furniture from our basement plus some items from the garage. We've started looking at Open Houses for townhomes and are deciding where we'd like to look and what size we will need.

ETA: I also reversed a $20 account maintenance fee over at Vanguard by electing for electronic delivery of all statements/notifications. Go me.

So, I'll be returning to blogging here and let P2P sort of fade into the abyss. Off to catch up on things. Smile

Suggestions Please.

June 9th, 2018 at 10:35 am

For a young man that I don't know well (first cousin's child) who is graduating law school. I've met him several times, very nice.

My cousin is hosting his graduation dinner at my house tomorrow for the family (20+ people) having it catered from Portillos.

I'd like to give a small gift, but my budget is currently running on empty. I initially thought about a coffee mug and gift card to Starbucks, however he is Mormon and as such does not drink coffee (no caffeine). Nor liquor of any sort.

Nice frame? My budget is probably $15 max.

Thanks in advance.

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!


The Future.

June 4th, 2018 at 09:15 am


Updating the resume and getting on linkedin today.


Reworked the budget to include $25 weekly/Vanguard. Not much, I know, but when you're digging out and starting over, it's a step in the right direction.


Have a do list and am planning on tackling it (I've moved away from having a list since I was in survival mode for awhile there). My goal is all 6 items on the list done.

Hello, June. I'm glad that you're here.

Found Some Money, Edited Spending 5/24 & 25

May 26th, 2018 at 07:14 am

We have an unused can of bath-tub finish spray paint that we didn't use over at the rental property ($3 of Comet cleanser and elbow grease worked magic). I found that receipt and DH's taking it back now. That's $40 + tax when we could really use it!

Amended spending for 5/24

$70 - Check from Mom (reimbursed)
$9 - Change rounded up and deposited

-$58.00 - Groceries at Aldi's
-$15.25 - Gas for Versa
-$8.25 - Misc Joanne Fabric for craft project

I used roughly $2.50 from the check book

Spending for 5/25


Smart Money Moves for 5/25:

1) I was organized enough to know where the receipt was for return (Hello at least $40)

2) I skipped the end of year pizza party for the volleyball team (I'm an introvert, find these stressful, didn't have the $ anyhow, so I went to the final match and made arrangement for A to go with the coach). His cost to attend was $0 since it was included in the sporting fee

Right now I am going to spend some time working on my project for the second class, make some muffins for breakfast (from a mix) and some quinoa for lunch.

Low-spend around here just because there's no choice. Have a nice relaxing weekend, SA Friends!

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.


May 15th, 2018 at 11:14 am

What a rough patch. Total breakdown of communication, depression, frustration, ready to throw the towel in. But won't.

Our situation has been stressed beyond belief - everyone is in transition, in flux, and not managing it well. Broken, but not destroyed. Losing the battle, but not the war.

The only good thing to the lowest point is there is only one way to go, and that is up.

The issues stem mostly from my husband making some broad-based assumptions about my willingness to amend our future plans by several years to accomodate a stable job offer and the reality that he is an only child with parents who need help and are unwilling to make things easy on him. There was the assumption that I would help out with my inlaws who are having a difficult time now with health (this is despite the fact that we are in dire need of additional income, I've spent several months killing myself for a certification so I can gain said employment, and my obligation is to my children not my inlaws - and I should add that they don't like me at all). I will be completing my school work and have applied for a part-time paid internship for the summer. Then I will going to Southern California with my daughter for several months; she is signed there and that agency wants her since she's been in the Midwest working here for the past year. I plan on being able to do contract work there as well. We have a place to stay and transportation issues to deal with, but it will work out.

This means getting ready to downsize as fast as possible. That will free up capital. We plan to sell the rental property and the primary residence and buy a townhome. It really just has to happen sooner than later. We simply cannot afford the mortgage and the taxes on both property. I'm far too tired anymore to play the juggling game with finances.

The good news: I am two weeks away from the end of the academic journey and am pretty certain on a 4.0 GPA for the 25% of the Masters Degree I completed in 20 weeks. Husband has a job interview for a stable positioin at a higher salary with his previous boss. Older daughter is graduating with her Associates Degree on Friday (inducted into the Honors Society, all while traveling and having a successful modeling career). Younger daughter is off to be a camp counselor at a YMCA summer camp for 10-weeks over the summer (she will be earning a very nice amount of money).

Notice there aren't any little money details here; I've sadly ignored the bigger issues by burying my head in the sand and sadly it came down to my breaking point: the unwillingness and inability to move forward on a future that is best for everyone.

So at this point no talk of a permaanent parting of ways. Happy about that. We've never taken that path at all in our conversing and fighting; and to do so was a big mistake.

Thanks for reading. Smile

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.

Back in the Saddle

April 22nd, 2018 at 04:14 pm

Three paychecks left until Official Unemployment (5/4, 5/18, 6/1).

Goal is to spend as little as possible. I've neglected mostly everything except schoolwork lately. That's not a good thing given our situation.

Mostly for accountability, I'm posting this here.

For 4/20 - 5/3, our living money (groceries/gas/miscellaneous) is $500. We ran out of FSA funds and had to spend $70 for a prescription. So our current economic reality is: $215/week.

Thus far, have spent:
$85 on groceries
$30 on gas
$30 on DH's outing to celebrate boss's last day. The department is going to a Happy Hour. Reality is: DH can't exceed that amount since we're on a cash basis.

Thus far $145/$215

The $85 on groceries for the week (our cupboards are fairly well stocked). The menu plan is this:
1) frozen pizzas
2) homemade mac and cheese
3) chili
4) baked chicken
5) tacos
6) beef and peppers
7) curried chickpeas

We are also back to cash only.

This will most likely be the tone of future posts; boring/numbers and tracking.

Honest Opinions, Please.

April 20th, 2018 at 07:06 am

Is it okay to attend a Meet & Greet without purchasing the guest's book to be personalized?

I am attending a university-sponsored event tomorrow at no cost because I am a current student. I have paid to join the professional organization (student rate). My goal is to not only learn the topic, but to network.

I will add that we just made some necessary upgrades to the rental property (new front/back/garage doors purchased from Menards and installed and bath tub paint, etc) to the tune of $1,100.00 (Paid cash)

DH's last month of work is May. We will have three final paychecks; he is currently working with a recruiter and I am finishing up a graduate certificate in Organizational Development. Our only extraneous spending has been a $100 suit for him from Kohls on sale and $80 textbook for me.

I don't know the etiquette of attending Meet and Greets and don't particularly want to purchase this book. Is it OK if I go and don't spend the $40.

I really haven't a clue; thus the question. Thanks for the advice. In the event that it is tacky to go and not buy the book, I will buy the book and attend.

I have no point of reference for this. Thanks!

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!

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