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Spent More to Save....

January 19th, 2014 at 06:43 am

Between sales and coupons (rare for what we buy,) my grocery amount was a little higher than usual. But we will eat many a meal!

Still on a soup kick...last night's was a black bean and rice soup - so delicious! I'd say it's my favorite, but I'm a bit fickle and say it for all my soups Smile I may be pushing it for the family, but I'd love to make a broccoli cheese one for tonight (adding cauliflower too because it was a great price at the store!) I love soup - it's warm (needed this winter esp!) It's forgiving and frugal - using up dribs and dabs in the frig. And it's adjustable - I can feed any and all sitting around the table at dinnertime and/or are blessed with leftovers for another meal or the week's lunches. Can't say enough good things about soup!

Our mail box got whacked by the county plow - the neighbor's box was on the ground, ours is hanging by a single screw. The route foreman has determined it was their blade and not the snow that did the damage (makes a difference on whether they're responsible!) I'm hoping the driver doesn't get into too much trouble, but we had just replaced it about a year and half ago. Finally - I might add!! Usually my husband is wonderful about all things needing repairs around here, but for some reason our old rusty mailbox was not on his radar. It got to the point that when you'd open the door, the whole box would tip over with it as it hung by one rusty screw. Eventually that thing would be either in the hands of the mail carrier or on the ground....so one day after a whole summer of teetering, I helped it a teeny bit on a Saturday Smile (Maybe the plow incident is payback for doing that??!)

Today's activities include a visit to the library and hopefully, some snowshoeing - it's predicted to be a heat wave today...followed by more of that crazy cold vortex thing coming our way again. Quite the gamut this winter!! Take care!

Winter Break That Never Ends...

January 6th, 2014 at 03:04 pm

...but my youngest and I are not minding one bit Smile School is closed again tomorrow, and we're relishing the extra time off.

I've got my discounted turkey in the oven - $.29/lb at Target at the end of last week. I saw a gal with a whole cart full!

Otherwise, enjoying time to get the house back in order and clear out the excess (made a last minute donation run on the 31st, and there's already a start to another pile!) Did some online financial doings yesterday - bills all paid or scheduled for the month, and monies shifted to savings. I love the holidays and the busyness, but I also love the getting back to normal!

Looking forward to a warm meal in my cozy house, maybe watch a movie with my girls while working on my winter punchneedle project, and then cuddle in with my library book, before further burrowing myself under the blankets for the night. A good winter's night!! Stay warm!

Oh my....

December 31st, 2013 at 07:25 am

Gosh, over a year since I last updated! Things sure get busy when you're living your lifeSmile A little familial update, or if you wish, skip on down to the more financial....

The ten-second year recap.....I'm still working the same position special ed position at the local middle school. My husband changed companies after 20 years at his previous, bumping up a title level, with an increase in pay. A slight culture change going from an international firm to much smaller company, but it's been a good move for him.

My oldest is graduated from college, and is doing an Americorp fellowship for the Boys and Girls Club in the same city where she went to school. She's still in the same rental house - yay to no move this year! She's thinking she may do one more year with Americorp - low pay, but easy enough for her to continue her frugal college lifestyle. And the college loan repay dollars are great too! She has a great boyfriend of a couple years, who spent Christmas here with us - the family expands!

My second girl is working and out on her own. She's a cosmetologist and works at a salon I could never afford (or would choose to want to!) She comes over for Sunday dinners after work, and brings her shears when we need some trimming Smile She's our fashion and fun girl, but she is fiercely frugal too. The portion for savings and retirement (!) come out first, then her living expenses, and then the rest is for bargain fun and shopping.

Number three girl graduated from high school, and was registered for community college courses, when she froze. A little background - this is my sp ed girl with the full IEP, who struggled immensely to get through her school years. She had in mind what she wanted to do, and the college would work with her accommodations....it sounded good, until she had a change of heart after registering. More like total panic, so we stopped and took a breather. We talked and talked some more...she talked with her sisters and friends also, and we talked with the school. Her placement tests are good for at least a couple years, she's admitted to the community college and can go anytime she wants, if she chooses to. But for now, she decided to get a nail technician state certification. She's got about a month and a half left, and then she can work (even at the frou frou place her sister does!) until she decides more on what she wants to do. Little steps, but headed in the right direction!

My youngest is a junior at the high school. She's enjoying school, friends, and activities. She'll also indulge mom and dad with camping, nature walks and hikes, snowshoeing and kayaking, depending on the season. The new meds for her fainting were hard tested this extremely hot fall, but she is now doing well (even through a recent bout of illness, which was always a challenge to get through in the past.) Fingers crossed!

Sorry - that was more than ten-seconds Smile

The financial part! A little broken record here, but I need to plump the savings a bit. We also took on a little debt - we knew better, but...gotta get it paid! We made the final school payment for number three girl at the end of Dec, so 2014 is a year with no post-secondary - we haven't had that in many a year!

Financial particulars -

We get paid twice a month (15th and 30th/31st) - each check is planned out with set amounts for savings, debt, bills, etc. (along with what is taken out ahead of taxes)

Get a handle on discretionary spending - groceries is a biggie (my word, there is less people here and I seem to be spending more!!)

Do the annual perusal of where our dollars are going - check into insurances, taxes, etc - see if I can improve. Collect tax papers and year-end stuff, etc.

Continue purging and sharing the spoils with others - what I can't pass on to my older two, I donate! NEVER-ending chore...

Take care! Happy New Year!!

Thankful Times

November 24th, 2012 at 07:49 am

Much to be thankful for.....

We enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at home with all of our girls and the two older girls' boyfriends. The girls helped out with the cooking and setting of the table. It seemed like such a lot of food, but we have made quite the dent in the leftovers! And we did take a break from the turkey last night to head out to our favorite Mexican restaurant (inexpensive, but muy bien!)

On only one night of the year, Thanksgiving evening, cars are allowed to traverse the length of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to see the holiday lights and decorations of "more than a half a million twinkle lights, 300 illuminated snowflakes and about 4,000 feet of natural garland. The mall's planters have been newly replanted with more than 5,500 spruce tips." It was dazzling! We also got see the crowds of people lining up at the downtown Target. Over the course of day the balmy weather that we woke to Thursday morning gave way to snow and plummeting temperatures, so everyone was bundled up - hopefully the deals were worth that cold wait!

We're not real big on shopping, and especially with crowds (online shopping R us,) so we've been hanging out and visiting and playing card and board games. The beautiful annual wreath that my husband's aunt sends was hung up on the door on Friday. Later we cuddled onto the couch with blankets and cocoa and watched the first on our holiday movie-viewing list - "It's a Wonderful Life". The holiday season is here!!

Later this morning we'll do our annual trek to Clear Lake and choose and cut our tree. We'll ride the wagon pulled by Maggie and Mike the Percherons - the driver has been the same through these 20-some years we've been coming here, and his team is ALWAYS Maggie and Mike Smile So we'll sing some carols (the driver says the horses insist!) and pet Maggie and Mike and the other barn animals, take pictures with the llama because she has pretty eyes, get our candy canes from Santa...oh, and remember to strap our tree to the top of the van. We'll take this over a shopping trip anytime!

I've been squirreling away baking supplies during sales for the past few weeks. I put some butter on the counter to soften for later today - we'll do my oldest's favorite, chocolate crackles. We'll bake enough to send some along when she heads back to school tomorrow. I already pulled banana and pumpkin breads loaves from the freezer to send along too - her college crowd loves homemade baked treats (which is handy, as I love to bake for an army!)

On the medical front, we spent Wed at the hospital redoing some testing on our youngest. The course of treatment that she had been following for the last 2.5 yrs suddenly wasn't working the last 1.5 months. Based on the new test results, the cardiologist prescribed a new treatment plan, and we are hopeful. The Dr still calls her his one-in-a-million case - he and his colleagues have never seen a case so extreme. We're still hoping it will be something she outgrows. We're now letting her old meds clear out of her system, and she's already feeling better, which makes it feel that we are indeed moving in a positive direction. I know there are many times side effects to using meds, and that often you have to choose which is worse - what is being treated or the treatment itself - and it seems we had run the course for those meds. We'll start the new med tonight, and hope, hope, hope and hope again.....and pray a whole lot.

Luckily, or maybe not, we've met our medical deductible early in the year - I think maybe March or April. We tried out the HDHP/HSA, and while I panicked a little at first, it worked out well. So well in fact, that I went ahead and chose that option again for next year. Granted the only other option isn't all that great, and there is more company financial incentive offered for the HDHP...I'm sure I'll be panicking again come the first few months of the new year but I'll be fine,gray hairs and all Smile

Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (or recovering from the rash of illness several here have been dealing with!) Take Care!!

Wending my way through the weekend

September 30th, 2012 at 05:09 am

My husband and I have a wedding to attend next weekend. At this point in my life, I live in jeans and tops/sweaters, and I've been doing Weight Watchers successfully. What dressier outfits I have are too baggy and/or seriously out-of-date. Since I'm mid-way to my final weight yet, I didn't want to spend too much. I lucked out at Target though. I ended up buying a darling fitted black dress and a cocoon sweater for a coverup - perfect for cheap!

Next weekend also, my oldest and her boyfriend are heading south to visit his parents in southern MN, then they'll stop at our place on Sunday on the way back north. Usually we would take them out to eat, but we'll host a bbq here instead. It'll be more relaxed, as well as better priced.

We're keeping the spending reigned in as our two youngest are heading to Italy next spring for their band trip, and my husband and I will be joining them! It still seems a little unreal yet....but so exciting! We got the girls their passports this summer, and husband and I will later this month. Italy vs. spending frivolously - a very easy choice Smile

Scrutiny on the groceries - did pretty well. My husband likes to tag along, and is slowly understanding the budgeted amount IS what we're spending. I do better shopping alone, but I like it when he comes along, so it's a work in progress. I just try to spend that much less on the weeks when it's just me!

Not eating out is going good. Also reigned in the coffee/ hot chocolate treats - even the cheaper versions at the local Holiday gas station. As the weather started to cool - warm beverages seem such a fine treat, but we have travel mugs and the makings at home - we can do it!

Tough week emotionally at work.....a graduate from our school district was killed. He was with a couple of friends, when an suv pulled up and a group of people got out. While trying to protect the two girls he was with, he was punched once and fell back and sustained a fatal head injury. He was only 20. A 17 yr old was charged with his murder, and the attorneys want him tried as an adult. So senseless and tragic... he graduated the year between my two oldest, and well, it hits a bit close to home.

On the agenda for today - I'll take a look at finances and make an online payment to oldest's school. And will see what else needs to get sent out this week.

Will putter around outside - put away a few more garden items (pots, stakes) and pull the chairs into the garage (not too deep, as we still use them for backyard campfires.) Still lots of green tomatoes - will they turn red in time?? Crazy tomato year...

I washed and line-dried another duvet yesterday, as well as regular laundry.

Need to go through the bathroom cupboard, as it's driving me crazy with its disorderliness!

And bake - I need to bake...some for us and the girls' lunches and some to send back with oldest next weekend. Pumpkin bread for sure and maybe chocolate chip cookies (or bars, if it gets late.)

I also need to get out for a nice, long walk. I did one yesterday morning at the local county park, and it couldn't have been more perfect. So definitely planning another one today - maybe through a nearby old-growth forest. It has been a beautiful autumn here!

Enjoy your Sunday - take care!!

September speeds along....

September 23rd, 2012 at 08:25 am

Our school schedule is up and running, and somehow entering into our fourth week. We've added two 6th graders to the crew in my classroom (no one went on to the high school this fall.) We're busy, but all are settling into their routine pretty well. (And how busy is reflected in my Saturday morning weigh-ins - I've lost 7.5 lbs over the last three weeks! I do walk daily outside of work, but I did that before school started back up...but any way it's happening, I'm happy!)

My oldest is in her senior year of college. We were thinking she'd get to graduate a semester early in Dec, but one class was not available until spring term, so she spread out the credits between the terms to receive maximum scholarship and grants. One of her instructors for her art history minor asked her to join a group she is taking to study in Italy for the May term - they'd make an exception for her minor. I told her to look into what funds are available for that, and she did, and there are. We'll run the numbers and decide before the Feb deadline. It sounds like such a wonderful opportunity! Her major is in psychology, but she really loves art history. I should encourage her to look into what it would take to double major, since there's a cap on the cost over a certain number of credits - she may be close enough to make it feasible. And who knows, maybe having two majors will help in the end for acquiring a post-school career Smile

Speaking of careers, my second daughter is really enjoying her new career at the spa/salon she went to after graduating cosmetology school. She's continues to prepay her few loans that are in the grace period, while she's still here at home. She's looking ahead to moving out into her own place, but she's biding her time and building up her money reserve. We used to joke in her younger years that the depositing of her paychecks in the bank was only a formality as they were immediately dispersed to stores at the mall. But she has grown up and listened, learned and, more importantly, acts on her financial goals and plans - very, very proud of her!

My third daughter is a senior in high school this year. We've been spending the last couple weekends photographing her in various locales for her senior pictures. Then she needs to decide which one goes into the yearbook. Over the summer we visited her first choice of community college. There's another one she'll check out nearer the downtown area of the Twin Cities that is an easy straight shot in by bus. Her first choice is a nice school, but does have some major parking issues, and the nearest bus connection is nearly to the school. Some upcoming decisions soon - free application week is in Nov.

My youngest is a sophomore already! She took her driver's permit exam and passed. Yesterday, we finally had a chance to get her in the car - by the fourth, you'd think it would be less terrifying Smile She did well after getting a few right turns under her belt and a feel for the gas and the brakes.

Husband is doing well too Smile His branch boss was let go recently, as the company reduces its mid-level management. The guy who took over manages branches here in our metro area and Rapid City SD, with the install/service areas they encompass. We're hoping for this to be a positive thing rather than a worrying thing. His line of work is in security/fire systems (he does commercial and industrial, but the company does homes too,) and this industry is still feeling the backlash of hard times and budget line reductions. My husband has been keeping stealth feelers out, just in case...and we keep our budget in line as usual.

I was looking back over some of my early blog entries, and was reminded of some of what we did during the leaner times. Sometimes I get into an automatic mode that I forget or ignore taking a closer look at what we spend money on.

First up...groceries. My groceries category encompasses a lot - our food, health and beauty, household items, pet needs, and even small clothing and school needs (blacks shoes for band concert, poster board, etc.) I should probably just call it my Target category, because that's pretty much where I shop. I'd like to look a little closer at what I'm spending and try to reduce it a little, as I think we can do better than we have. The cupboards are replenished after the summer "eat down". I'm slowly stocking up on items for the upcoming season of baking, but we're pretty stocked up household-wise, so it's a good time to hone it down.

We keep a running list on the frig of what we need, and I check in with the family before I go. I don't use a lot of coupons (not available), but what I have is always clipped to the list. My grocery list is on one of those long shop list pads, with a bull clip magnet. I flip up the bottom and write the meal list on the back. I always keep soup, frozen pizza, mac and cheese, etc on hand for crazy times or too tired days. I like eating out, but not wasting it in a frazzle or due to laziness.

With its cooler temps and school's schedule, September has me in a CrockPot mood! Last night, I tried a new soup recipe - Pizza Soup - excellent (and smelled wonderful all day.) Scalloped potatoes and ham for tonight. I do love fall!

Speaking of fall - I've been taking the most amazing walks on the paths at the nearby county park. Forget going north for the leaves this year - it's gorgeous here in the metro right now! Did I mention I love fall?!!

Enjoy your weekend...take care!

September already

September 2nd, 2012 at 04:27 pm

I'm not sure how much more could have been crammed into one month...

My husband had off the first week of the month, and the "fun" he and I planned with our two youngest was to paint our house! We prepped a couple of evenings before starting the scraping and caulking bright and early on that Sat morning. Painting the siding went quickly, but the trim, oh man, that trim took forever! Our 1200 sq ft story and a half house has sixteen windows, three doors, trim along the roof line for the gutters, as well as those gutters and downspouts. And to do the windows, the aluminum storm windows had to be removed, so all parts of the windows were washed too - my very favorite part!!

During the week after my husband returned to work, I worked with my youngest to clean out the girls' old playhouse, and painted both the inside and outside. The following two weekends, my husband repaired red squirrel damage on the trim of the detached garage, and sprayed the sides (cement block) and brush painted the trim. Yesterday, he did the same with the shed. It is all so, SO done - whew!

Just missing out on the house painting fun by a couple of days, my oldest and her boyfriend came to visit and for her dr/dentist visits. Low-key and fun, with lots of time for visiting and hanging out around the campfire. My daughter did find out she needed some additional dental work, so a return trip was warranted.

The two youngest started getting busy in the last few weeks with marching band practices and parades. Our little town celebrated its one hundredth birthday, and we attended those festivities. The youngest also took and passed her driver's permit test!

And then the last two weeks of August have been wild.... Getting ready for school (not as big a deal with older kids now.) A couple of medical appointments for the youngest two. Oldest and boyfriend returned for her dental appt, and they headed to the state fair (the rest of us went this week as the high school band was playing in the fair parade.) Then we all went to the Renaissance Fair. We had a funeral to attend (my husband's brother's fil.) Lots of visiting with extended family - not sure why it happened all at once, but sometimes it just works out that way! My youngest wanted to go to the MN Zoo to see our dolphins for the last time (they're moving to a new zoo soon) and to check out the new baby animals on display, which we did today.

I really, really would like for tomorrow to be a lazy day, getting ready for our first day back to school on Tuesday!! One can hope....

I'm really going to miss summer break, but I do look forward to the back-to-schedule feeling September and the new school year brings. Our classroom adds two new students (I've worked with both in younger grades.) We also add a new staff member to our room, given the increasing challenges of some of our students -yes! My own kids - my oldest is a senior at college, second is working at a great job (graduated last June), third is a senior in high school and youngest is a sophomore. Me, I seem to be repeating middle school Smile

I'm looking forward to reigning in the spending too - we did great in a lot ways (eating at home, spending within the budget, time at the library and beach) but much of the fun stuff came all at once (painting and the actual fun stuff!) and well, it'll be nice to get back to the program here!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!!