Sunday, January 25, 2009

Use it up, Make do, or do without..

This month I have tried to practice a little old fashioned thriftiness and make a real effort to use up what I have, make do or do without. I've got a lot of sock yarn in my stash, so this month I have concentrated on getting a sock made for my cute husband. I did blow it earlier in the month when I bought a load of Paton's sock yarn that was on sale at half price from Michael's Craft store, so I figured I'd better use it. That is the first time I've been in Michael's in months. I used to go in there every time they had a 40% off coupon in the paper, but since they have quit letting us use the coupons on books, I have pretty much ignored the coupons. I guess that's a good thing since I usually ended up getting other stuff ( impulse) while I was there to "save money with a 40% coupon". However, half price on this particular sock yarn was worth the splurge. I've been working from a pattern book in my stash and will make a few more pairs in the upcoming months from both the yarn that I bought and the yarn that is in my stash.

This winter, since I have to be indoors (I really am not a cold weather person!), I am concentrating on "domestic arts" such as knitting, decorating and cooking. I have recently revived the urge to put together a quilt, so that is what I will be doing over the next couple months also. I have wanted to learn to weave for quite sometime and recently got the class schedule from Yarn Barn in Lawrence, Kansas that offers classes in just about everything fiber. They have an upcoming rigid heddle weaving class that sounds perfect! I don't have the space or $ for a standard loom and was not really sure if that is the direction I wanted to go anyway, but the rigid heddle is portable and not a huge investment, so I am taking a class to learn it in April. Cute man and I love going to Lawrence. We go there and eat Indian at India Palace (swoon!!!) and if we are in town for dinner too, we eat at the Greek restaurant on Massachusetts street (I can't remember the name, but the food is GOOD). Hubby likes to wander in and out of the different shops in Lawrence while I am taking classes at Yarn Barn, so there is always something for both of us to do that we enjoy.

Speaking of "domestic arts", I made a pie! Yep--from scratch, crust and filling! It is the first one I've ever made so I think it turned out pretty darn good if I don't say so myself! I am going to make a couple more pies over the next couple months since I think I need more practice on getting my crust thinner. The filling worked out really well though.

Yum. I like pie!
Tonight I am going to make the dough for three loaves of white bread using the starter that I've been cultivating the past 20 days. I will make one to use tonight and two will be frozen for later. If I have time, cinnamon rolls are on the agenda too. I am going to try to get as much baking done this week as I can so that when I go to Iowa to visit my son, I have stuff in the freezer for the kids if they want it. Hubby is an accomplished cook, so it's not like they starve when I'm gone, but it would be nice for them to have cookie dough and some snack ready if they want to snack. I have been trying to do more cooking from scratch and buying pre-made stuff lately. It is easier to control the preservatives and you know exactly what is going into your body. Plus, it is cheaper per portion most of the time. I am not against buying convenience foods when our schedule is crazy, but when I have the time to cook, I'd prefer we eat stuff made from scratch. We are really trying to get our budget under control and unfortunately, food seems to be where we go over. It may be that my desired goal amount is to low, but I don't thing so. I'll give it a couple more months and see how close we come.

Friday, January 16, 2009

As My World Turns

Got to get up and go to the high school at 5:30 IN THE EVER LOVIN' MORNING this morning so that one of the boys could do a hydration test and weigh in for wrestling. Apparently he got there and was .2 lbs over his weight bracket, so he had to run a while to lose that .2 pounds so that he could pee in a cup to make sure he was hydrated. Something about wrestling smacks of insanity to me.

But then, I'm just the mom waiting in the 10 degree weather outside in the car for 45 minutes AT 5:30 IN THE MORNING....

I had brought along a knitting project to keep me busy, but guess what?

It is pitch dark at 5:30 in the morning. Yes, I could have turned on the overhead light, but when you are working in size 3 needles and knitting a sock, the light from above does not cut it. So, next time I will make sure I have a book and a good book light.

The kids are out of school today for teacher in-service, but we have just been hanging around the house and relaxing. It's been nice. Eventually I am going to meander into the kitchen to try a molasses cookie recipe from a cookbook I picked up at the thrift shop in Newton, Kansas. When I go up every Wednesday to help at the yarn shop there, I always stop in at the thrift shop next door that is run by the Mennonite Church. I ALWAYS find good bargains. This time I found a great coat for myself that only cost $8, a copy of Mrs. Field's Great American Desserts for $3.50 and a 2003 copy of America's Test Kitchen cookbook for $3.50. I love the magazine that is based on this show and the recipes in this book are spectacular. I also like that they talk about the hows and whys of perfecting the recipes, then give their recipe. They have a molasses cookie that is going to grace our table tonight, along with a blondie recipe from the Mrs. Field's book. I love blondies--and it is hard to find the right recipe.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just a quick post

I really couldn't think of a catchy post title, so what you see is what you get.

Several of the goals I set for myself in 2009 were a carry over from 2008. Since I had not mastered them in 2008, I thought I'd give them more attention in 2009. Sometimes a habit takes a while to catch on. So, here are more goals from my list for 2009. Several of these might be in prior posts..sorry..not a big news day today.

1. Save at least 10% of our paycheck EVERY paycheck .

I had been doing this in 2008, but found that due to overspending, I'd dip into the savings and spend that--and sometimes more. Not good. I know it is just the first two weeks of 2009, but I am going to pat myself on the back for not overspending and dipping into savings. I put 10% away and have been very careful with the budget that I have outlined for myself. Not that I haven't been tempted--I did slip on a pretty big yarn sale splurge, but I've been really careful to curb any other spending that I usually do since I did go a little off track.

I am going to work on the 10% goal for the next two months, with the goal of increasing this to 20% each check. That will get us on the path to having the suggested emergency fund as per Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.

2. Make 2 week meal plans and stick to them.

I follow a couple bloggers who faithfully write out and follow meal plans, so I know they work.

The advantages of a meal plan is that I have a chance to look at our weekly grocery sale ads, find any matching coupons and can save money by planning my menus around the sale ads. Although the ads come out weekly, I plan 2 weeks at a time off one ad. If I see anything that is too good to pass up in the next week's ad, I purchase it. However, I have found that the advantage of doing a two week meal plan and doing the two weeks shopping on one or two days is that I do not go to the store as often and that cuts out the possibility of impulse buys.

I love knowing exactly what I am going to prepare that day. No standing in front of the fridge trying to put together a meal when I am tired and not thinking clearly. That's how we end up with the ingredients for soup getting used up for a side dish, then having to go to the store..Before I leave the house in the morning, I look at the menu and pull out anything that has to thaw. Easy. I can also look at the next day to see if there is anything that can be done towards prep work for the next day's meal. We're having chili tomorrow, so I will be cooking the meat and making the chili in the crockpot after I finish posting this. Tomorrow the pot gets pulled from the fridge and we take out what we need.

Eventually I will start doing once a month cooking to have prepared entrees waiting in the fridge at least part of the month. I figure if we have even 15 meals made ahead of time and frozen, that is 15 meals for days that might be too busy for regular cooking. No fast food has to be bought if there is something more nutritious in the freezer.

Another aspect to saving faithfully is that we are looking into getting a freezer in the next month. We did get some Christmas $ from my in-laws, and put that towards the freezer, so we are closer.

The savings goal goes hand in hand with the meal planning goal.

3. Lose weight.

I know, I could have picked a more original goal, but this one is a real need. Let's just say I have a significant amount of weight that I need to lose. I have lost about 6 pounds to date, but am working on more aggressive weight loss. I am a snacker and that needs to change, or my activity level needs to get bumped up. Probably both. We recently bought a resistance weight station from a friend that was not using her station and I am going to make time at least 30 minutes a day to do a resistance workout. This will start Friday night. I figure I can keep up a 30 minute workout.

4. Get my house decorated.

We brought a couple new pieces of furniture into the house over the past couple weeks, and they are basically just sitting in the middle of the room obstructing traffic. I also have dining room chairs to recover soon. I will purchase the batting that goes under the chairs next payday since I did blow a little on my impulse yarn purchase. Hopefully this will remind me of what impulsive purchases mean- that something else has to be delayed if that money is blown.

At this point, there are only 4 really big and important goals I am working on, but they are significant goals that will definitely help our house run smoother. I know we are hearing a lot about the recession and the impact it is having on everyone's household, so I am trying to get to the point I should have already been at. As bad as this sounds, the recession has been a long time coming. Again we Americans got too "spend friendly", and as history shows, all good things bottom out eventually. I saw this in the 80's when the bottom fell out of the oil market. I lived in Enid, Oklahoma at the time and everything revolved around oil. Overnight the bottom fell out and businesses closed. Since the money from oil had stopped coming in, people lost jobs, houses were foreclosed on...pretty much the same thing that is happening now. It is scarier now since I am older and the reality is that now we have a house payment. I am thankful that we bought a house below what is "normal" (3 times your annual income was "suggested as normal") and we don't have any car payments at this point. Still, it is scary since one business failure can have a domino effect on others.

What are you doing in your household to weather the storm?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Additional Goal for 2009

This morning Hubby went out the door to go to work and discovered the center console light in his car had been left on (possibly by oldest who borrowed car while here?) and the battery was dead. He had to take the Neon. Normally we have three cars up and running, so that is not an issue. However, my van has been out of commission so now we are not exactly free wheeling. My van goes in the shop this week--I am really looking forward to getting that car back! This has left me thinking that we really need a newer and more dependable car.

We rented a Kia Rondo from Dollar recently to go to Iowa and I really enjoyed driving it, so that is what we are considering. We're considering ways to cut extras in the budget so we can just buy a newer car outright. I really don't want to be bogged down with a car payment right now.

However, we also have to get a couple other cars in the next two years (one for oldest so he has something there in Iowa and a car for the twins to share), so this is going to be interesting. One of the kids is going to end up driving the van, I'm sure.

My goals for 2009 are not set in stone at this point. There are a couple things I am looking at doing for myself, my family and our finances. I am reading all the finance and money management books I can get my hands on lately so that I can come up with something that fits our family and our needs.

I have started cutting out extras and trying to build up the $1,000 small emergency fund that is suggested by Dave Ramsey and am taking inventory of things we have here at the house that I can use to refresh and redecorate. I realized this week that we have a couple wood bookshelves in the garage that can be stripped and refinished for use in my bedroom along with a really neat chair that I picked up in Stillwater for free. Students living next door to my mother had thrown this heavy wood chair out when they moved. The cushions and support straps were completely gone, but the wood structure of the chair was perfect and all it will take is to strip the wood, prime it and a coat pf black enamel. There is a wood lip all around the seat of the chair, so I am going to either fit it with a wood piece to hold the new cushion, or I might even re-strap the chair like it was before. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. This month I am planning to start getting the stuff in our garage taken out of boxes and either put in the proper place or donated. The idea doe this is twofold: To get the garage cleaned out so we can put the cars in it and to be able to take stock of what we already have so we are not buying doubles.

This past week and the upcoming week we have had my grand nephew here. We are taking him for a little while to give my niece a break since she is having trouble with her third pregnancy. We take him back this weekend for at least a week, but will probably come get him after that if she needs more rest. I had forgotten what it takes to have a little one around the house! I also realize that I have gotten used to having a lot of independence, which is really curbed with little ones.

Well, lunch time beckons!

Good coffee and great friends to you and yours!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Christmas Trip to Tipton, Iowa

This Christmas I drove to Tipton, Iowa to pick up my oldest son and bring him back to Kansas for the Christmas holidays. As far as the budget, the costs involved pretty much sank it. After renting a car to go up and back twice, food, gas etc--it was pretty much a budget buster. However, I did get to go outside my comfort zone and got to see some pretty scenery. The town my son lives in is a small town with a lot of wonderful Victorian houses, which I will post pictures of later, and a wonderful downtown full of architectural charm. A lot of the stores are vacant, but the town is still charming, with very friendly residents. The building above was the City Hall at one time--I'm not sure of what it's original function was, but can't you just see a shop on the bottom level and lofts on the top floors? I did get to try the doughnuts at the Tipton Bakery and have to say, they beat the pants off Krispy Kreme in both taste and friendliness.

The building in the above picture is being renovated for a gallery and gelato cafe. I'm looking forward to visiting and seeing how it evolves. I love seeing new businesses start and hopefully more will follow. This town is so cute--I can just envision boutique style shops and galleries here. In combination with the awesome Victorian

Of course, one son had to pop his head in the picture about the time I snapped the shot. Say hi to Mark. Did I mention that it was 13 degrees outside? That's the reason for Mark's red face and frozen pose... Typical teenager, the lips kept moving...

Detailing on the old city hall building. Beautiful. Oh how I wish I had the money to invest in buying and restoring a couple of these buildings for business and residential purposes. They are so beautiful and have so much potential!!!

The view down the street. This is just one side. This town is so cute, I can see why my son loves it here. He is about 30 minutes from Iowa City, which contains a really good University, so we are hoping he decides to finish up college there.
As I said, the cost of going back and forth to Tipton sidelined our financial goals, but I do plan to pick it back up and renew my goals of being frugal and thrifty in 2009 in order to get us ahead and in line with my financial goals. Part of the plan involves reading the books by Dave Ramsey. I ordered "Total Money Makeover" and "Financial Peace" from Dave's website right before Christmas (he had them available for $10 each as opposed to $25 normal retail for each book). I also picked up the "Financial Peace Workbook" for the same price. I am going to read through Total Money Makeover first--that seems to be the one everyone swears by, then I will start implementing the program. I'll report on how well I do and whether this works for me. Believe me, if it works for me, it'll work for anyone!
Since it is January 3rd, I probably should post my goals for 2009:
1. Get $1,000 in the savings for an emergency buffer (this is as per Dave Ramsey). Preferably more, but I'll feel great at the first benchmark of $1,000.
2. Cut the grocery bill down. We spend an awful lot on food and dining out. Less than in the past, but it can still come down more.
3. Buy that freezer. I'm going to be on target for that by February. Throughout January I will be trying recipes from my freezer cooking guides and letting everyone decide which ones are keepers.
4. Use up the fabric and yarn stash in my closets. Seriously, I have enough fabric for SEVERAL quilts and lots of handknitted stuff. I need to slow down on buying more until I deplete a large portion of what I already have. I have a full sized quilt top partially assembled for the bed in the guest bedroom, it's time to get it assembled so I can get it machine quilted. I want top learn how to handquilt the smaller ones, or even machine quilt them myself--but anything bigger than a full size will have to be sent out to a person that has a long arm machine.
5. Figure out what creative endeavor I want to do to bring extra $ into our budget and get the proper training to get my own Etsy business up and running. I have a couple leads from things I'm interested in and have talents for, I just haven't done a business plan and examined all the things involved. The business plan will be forthcoming in February.

6. Go to the Iowa Writers Festival in Iowa City. This has been something I've wanted to do for quite a few years, but finances and travel kept me from it. Now that I have actually driven the route (my son live 30 minutes North of Iowa City), I know I can do it easily in the summer. I've already seen it in the winter when it is icing and the roads are bad. Been there, done that. No big deal. I just have to save $ to actually get there and the registration/class fees.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

OK-so 2008 has come and gone. How close to my goals did I get as far as getting the budget under control, using what I already have on hand as far as craft supplies and starting an Etsy business?

Ummmm. Not very.

But I do plan to stay on course in 2009 and actually formulate more of an action plan. This Christmas was the third Christmas in a row that the holidays kind of overwhelmed me. I didn't get any of the baking or candy making done that I usually get done. Actually I was just kind of wading around and not getting much done. I am not sure why I've had 3 years of getting overwhelmed. Maybe I need to examine my activities/goals and commitments and work towards simplifying.

Since I didn't get my normal holiday baking done, I have decided I am going to bake a dozen cookies on the 15th of each month and send to the people on my list that normally get home baked goodies from me at Christmas. I got an AWESOME cookie cookbook a couple weeks ago. I'll post the title later--I can't remember it at the moment and I seem to be planted in the chair...I'll probably start January's box with candy since I didn't do that either. See? I seem to have been on shut down mode this season. Maybe it was all the economic news or just my poor planning (which is more likely the case).

On the side, I am looking forward to the start of Simple Mom's 2009 book club. I bought a copy of the first book from the list "Your Money or Your Life" and have read ahead, but will go back when it starts and read each chapter and participate in the discussions online. I love the aspect of an online club---it fits my schedule and the books fit the theme I am trying to incorporate into my life. There are a couple other books I will be reading on my own such as two books in a series by Dave Ramsey ("Total Money Makeover" and "Financial Peace") that I have heard a lot of good things about.

As I sit here, my 2 1/2 year old great nephew is throwing a complete temper tantrum. We have him for a couple weeks since my niece is having complications in her pregnancy and he is a handful. It has been 13 years since my kids were this age and I have to say, toddlers are a lot of work. I'd forgotten how much. However we are working on getting him on a schedule and setting some rules. My niece gets overwhelmed with a 2 yr old and a 15 month old--not to mention she is going to have another one in 6 months--so my great nephew has been runny a little wild. The first couple days were a little wild since he tried to disassemble the house and had a few meltdowns, but he is learning there are rules. Not that he isn't testing them.....but that is what kids his age do. That is their job.

And he is doing very well at it!

Off the subject, I did get to go to Tipton, Iowa to pick up my oldest son. The nine hour trip there turned into over 10 hours since the roads in Missouri were iced over, but on the way back we had clear roads all the way through. After Christmas we had to take him back. The twins went with me so they could see the town where their brother lives. We did get a little later start, but since the weather was warmer, I had not anticipated any problems. But guess what you get when you get lots of melting snow and warm temperatures?


LOTS of dense fog. Actually it was fog from Des Moines clear up the interstate to the point where I was going 40 miles an hour. There were cars following behind semis that were flying, but since all I could see was less that 4 foot off the passengers headlight, I did not want to follow the rest of them. What happens if there is an accident up the road? With the lack of visibility, all the cars that were flying along following the headlight of the car in front of them would pile right into each other. Count me out on that action. The boys and I ended up navigating our way off the interstate to a Super 8 hotel in Newton, Iowa. We had my son's cat with us so I was afraid they would turn us down and we'd have to do plan B--sleep in the car. They were gracious enough to let us have a smoking room so the cat could come in. I was sooo thankful! We had originally tried to get into the parking lot of the Newton Inn that was directly off the interstate, but we couldn't find the frontage road in the dense fog and gave up. The Super 8 parking entrance was well lit, so that's where we went. I am going to make sure I email corporate to let them know how nice the staff was to us. We had a good nights sleep then left the next morning for the remaining 90 miles of the trip. By then the fog had faded and there was a little ice, but nothing that caused any problems since the road crews were apparently out on the interstate pretty early and the roads were clear.

As much as I loved visiting Iowa, Dorothy was right: There really is no place like home.