Happy 2017!

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I am so looking forward to this new year.  I’m focusing on becoming a healthier me as I’ve gained a few more pounds and discovered with most foods I eat, I just feel plain lousy.  So this seems to be the day.  It’s a Sunday and the beginning of a new journey.

So as part of my journey of health – I’m going to be focusing on eating fruit and veggies every day and to try to eliminate processed foods from my diet.  As much as my taste buds love Cheez-It’s Classic Snack Mix – about an hour later I feel just icky.  I’m trying to follow the advice my body is giving me and maybe we’ll feel better.

I’m going to continue to focus on my family history.  My long lost family members I found here in the same town I grew up in I will be meeting with this new year to get stories about family.  So excited!

Contemplating a reading challenge. A few years back I read 60 books, contemplated 75, but sometimes that takes up so much time and energy.  We’ll see.  But I do want to read more.

And of course – trying to get myself (and by extension my husband) out of debt.  We can do this.  Our willpower just has to be so much better than it is.

Organization is another on-going goal for me.  But lately even I’ve been feeling claustrophobic from some of the stock piled junk.  January – look out!

My last goal is to blog once or twice a week.  I really do enjoy sharing my thoughts and finds with the world.

What are your goals for 2017 – share in the comments below!!!  Good luck!

How to Save Money & Entertain Your Children

BudgetTips

So it is summer time and having 2 kids (ages 9 and 12) can make for a huge challenge when it comes to keeping them entertained when obviously the first thing out the door when you don’t have money is your entertainment dollar.

So you look around to find ways to amuse them.  Today we utilized our local library.  This is the same local library who has entertained us with our reading program (I’m excelling by the way – not too sure how much reading my youngest has done as of late but it’s even his attempt at reading that makes me happy).

But today hubby took boy child to Jedi Training at our local library and it made his day.  Though he knew they were “meaningless” commands, he still enjoyed swinging around a lightsaber, trying to easily go through an obstacle course, and I would assume overall Jedi mind tricks – it was a fun program completely free for the younger kids at our library branch.

Next week it will be girl child’s turn as she heads into tye dying a t-shirt.  I keep telling her we would be happy to take her to Hula Hoop Dance tomorrow afternoon, but she says she’ll pass.  Dancing with a hula hoop could be extremely fun if you ask me.  Though my hips probably never want to see a hula hoop again.

We’ve signed our kids up for a handful of these programs already… with being a 1-income family there isn’t a whole lot we can do, but we can find ways to keep the kids entertained so they have interesting stories to tell when they return to school at the end of August.

Stretching a Budget

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As I referred in a past post, budgeting has been a big obstacle for my family this year.  It seems like all I’ve been doing is “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  So, a few weeks ago, I settled down and really looked at where my money was going.  I wasted so much on stupid stuff, primarily getting junk food at the local gas station (my beloved Dr. Pepper Polar Pop and bags of either Chex Mix or Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn).

So now on days I have these cravings, I simply use cash.  If I feel the need to have a Polar Pop, I have to come up with the 74 cents it takes to purchase it.  No more putting it on a credit card or debit card.  Cold. Hard. Cash.

This has helped a great deal.

But then a week and a half ago, on a day when I was feeling really good about myself (I had called in to pay off a debt… like one of our biggest ones… I was so incredibly proud of myself) and then 4 hours later while driving home from work I get a call from my husband that he lost his job.  I’ve been in stress mode ever since.  So, later this week we will go back to this as I find ways go de-stress (because Lord knows, I need it).

Anyhow – it’s funny how you hear through the grapevine the best places to grocery shop for your family when you are trying to maintain a budget.  I have always been bad about going to a bunch of different places to get the best prices but I can honestly say last week I went to the main grocery store I always go too, got enough food to make 2 weeks worth of meals and only spent $111 and some change.  Granted, most of the items purchased were on sale – as we had $69 worth of savings using one of the rewards cards.

Now hubby did go to another store to get chicken breasts as a competitor did have a better price, but it wasn’t by much, because all in all we only saved about a $1.50.

And this week we have picked up a few items – with the kids now being out of school, Eggo waffles were on sale so we’ve gone twice now to pick up a couple of boxes (they can’t get enough waffles).

So I guess the moral of the story is this:  choose foods on sale and stock up on the foods when they are on sale and you can easily purchase a decent amount of food to make a number of meals.  I still check all the ads and pick which grocery store will save me the most money and this really seems to help.  One store seems to do better with meats, others with produce.  But that’s okay – I’ll do what I can to get the most bang for my buck.

Is this common sense? Yes, but so many don’t start with easier tasks to get to the final destination.

Another huge help has been explaining our situation to the children, and this has surprisingly made life easier with their not constantly asking me if they can have this or that.

Life is a struggle at the moment, but we will survive!  I’ll share another budgeting tip next Monday!

 

Money Monday$

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Budgeting.  

That is one of those evil words that can be so intimidating.  It’s one of those annoying things in life you have to have.

And my family is at a point right now where we need to budget every penny we have.

Why?

Because lately life has been overly stressful trying to make ends meet.  It all began last fall when hubby bought himself a pretty new truck.  Trouble was, it is way out of our league as far as money we bring in and our spending habits.  At the time he was in charge of paying the bills and so things went from bad to worse. When asked if he could get it, I repeatedly said… “You’re paying the bills, you know what we can afford.”

Apparently my subtle insinuation of “if you don’t think we can pay the monthly payment, don’t get the truck” didn’t make it’s way through his thick skull.

So here we are, scrambling.  So as I do what needs to be done to make my family of 4 (sometimes 5) balanced each month (so I can stop robbing Peter to pay Paul, as they say), I’ll share with you what I learn.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Budgeting.  

According to Nerdwallet.com – you can create a budget in 4 simple steps:

  1. Calculate your monthly income
  2. List your monthly expenses
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income
  4. Set goals and allocate your additional money

Are you like me and thinking that is way too simple of a process?

So I went to another website, Cozi.com,  as they caught my attention strictly because when my only electronic device was my Nook, it had an app where I could put a grocery list into Cozi and my husband could actually check off the list at the grocery store on his iPhone… so if something came up at the last minute he often would see the additional item and all would be well with the world.

Anyhow, Cozi had 6 steps in their list:

  1. Write down your financial goals.
  2. Record every single purchase you make, without exception.
  3. Create your spending categories.
  4. Hold a budget meeting (with your spouse)
  5. Schedule a time to create your budget
  6. Tweak your budget at the beginning of every month.

I liked this one a little better, simply because this is what I did recently.  Not so much as I was spending the money, but I designated all my spending for the month of April 2016 and wrote down every expense that came out of my bank account and listed it into the following categories:

  1. Crap (yes, every stupid thing I bought that was completely unnecessary – like Chex Mix and a Polar Pop at the Gas Station before work)
  2. Fast Food
  3. Credit Cards
  4. Groceries
  5. Utilities
  6. Mortgage
  7. Miscellaneous
  8. Insurance
  9. Gas (for the car)

The categories were quite the eye-opening.  Because I have an insane memory, I was honest and when I purchased the Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn at the same time I purchased gas, I split the 2 charges up and put the amounts where they actually needed to go.

It did not take me long to realize I spend a lot of funds on unnecessary conveniences.

One of the additional points that I liked about Cozi’s suggested points was Step 1 – writing down your financial goals.  They want you to list multiple ones.  Financial freedom is always a great reason to want to save money, but so are fun reasons – vacations!  These are your motivators to keep you on the straight and narrow – let these reasons be worth while!

Step 2 – they noted one category that is often overlooked – give yourself some weekly spending money… otherwise you will go nuts.  And they are right… you will.  Allowing yourself a weekly Polar Pop may just give you that tiny bit of sanity your world needs (or just the jolt of caffeine and sugar to keep you awake at work).

Step 4 – if you have a spouse, work on your budget with them.  This would be a huge laugher in my household.  I say this because my husband HATES discussing money. Actually, he dislikes discussing anything.  Whenever I need to have a serious conversation with him, he gets this blank look on his face and I realize he is no longer listening to anything I have to say.  Do any of you have this same problem with a spouse?  (I do recognize men can read this blog and maybe your wife is the same way as my husband – doesn’t it drive you crazy?).

For me Step 5 goes along with Step 4.  If you aren’t going to really, truly and honestly sit down and speak with your spouse in a meeting about the budget, do you really need them to schedule and create it?  For me, no.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t sit down with all my findings, show him what I came up with, what the game plan needs to be for us moving forward and tell him he needs to make sure he goes along with suggested changes to go along with our new budget.

And can I just say I love the fact that this list includes tweaking?  Face it, once we get motivated and start saving and spending in a far better pattern than our reckless ways once had us, you can always see where this could help you here, or this could be done there.

Remember, your budget isn’t written in stone.  You need to/can make adjustments accordingly to make life better for you and/or your family.

So, this week I am going to work on my goals, finish up separating my categories (I am a glutton for punishment and like to go back a couple of months) and next week we’ll try to focus on how to get the most bang for our buck at the grocery store.

Do you follow a budget?  Do you have any tips or suggestions you can share to make budgeting easier for me?  Please share in the comments below!