Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Yes, I did say I would post about these today, but today I'm simply  not in the mood. I've been pondering them and do have lots to tell you, but you'll have to check back tomorrow. I've thought too much today and am now needing to get ready for a fun evening with family and friends celebrating the blessings of 2010 and welcoming the blessings ahead in 2011! :)

Happy New Year!

Recap on 2010 Goals

Here is a recap on my goals for 2010.

-Pay off 2 student loans--> DONE & then some... :) Very exciting.

-De-clutter the garage--> DONE and then messed up a bit and then re organized again...For now it's looking good. :)

-Scrapbook: 1. Family--not really finished, haven't been working on it much. This will probably go on 2011 goal sheet too. 2. Asher's--It's mostly up to date. I did "cheat" a little and ordered some kodak books to help me keep up through the fall and winter, but it's all to date. :) 3. Audrey's-Same as Asher's. I do intend to work on finishing up some of the spring pictures I have for both of them that have been printed and are waiting to be scrapbooked. Hopefully that'll happen at the beginning of this year so I can have their books ready for their birthdays. 4. Our Wedding--not even touched. We've been married 8 1/2 years and this one is still not even close to being done. Maybe in 2011?!?! ;)

-Spiritual/Personal Growth  reading once a week & Daily Bible reading-->Did pretty well on that. There were a few patches where reading wasn't as consistent, but for the most part I was able to do several Bible studies and a few books like The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey & Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. I also got started on the Karen Kingsbury books and read the entire Redemption Series and am on the second book of the Firstborn Series. So, I'd say my reading goal has been satisfied! :) 

-Make a healthy diet change/month-->This is a mixed review. We did make some great changes to our diet this year, but I'm not sure it would total 12. We did switch to better dairy products, we also have been getting farm fresh meats & eating game meat which is also healthier for you. We've continued to have a healthy supply of fruits and vegetables, but I've worked on getting them from local and/or organic sources more regularly this year. I think this is a goal I will continue through the next year, but maybe not expect a full 12 changes. 

-Deep clean one room per month--> That was going really well for about 1/2 the year! Throughout the fall I haven't been as consistent on it, so I think my new goal will be to find a good cleaning service! ;) I actually do think the goal was good, life just happened and cleaning didn't make the top of the priority list.

-Redecorate/Fix something in the house (3 projects this year)--> We did several things in our room to add some updates, but I don't think it's finished. I'm not really happy with the result of this goal. I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to do more of these things that I think are fun and add life to our home. I have some clear ideas of what I'd like to do, but time &/or money seem to keep them from happening just yet. Hopefully this year some of those things will happen!

So, there's my recap. This year I'm going to set goals under specific categories, so we'll see how that works. I'll write  more about that tomorrow! :)

How'd you do this year? Did you have goals that you set? Did you do a good job completing them? 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tips for Setting Goals

One of the biggest problems with doing new years resolutions is that people expect too much of themselves and try to change everything in their lives in a week! It doesn't work that way and it ends up making people feel like failures because they weren't able to make the changes they had hoped to make.

Here are some of the things I like to keep in mind while setting goals:
-Make them realistic
-Allow a reasonable amount of time for them to be completed
-Add some goals that will be exciting/fun--not just work
-Write them down in a place where you can revisit them throughout the year to re-evaluate them; be willing to make changes to them if necessary.
-Allow for flexibility and "life to happen" so that you won't be discouraged if you didn't do a perfect job--no one can see a year down the road, so it's likely not all of your goals will happen just the way you'd like them to.
-See it as an opportunity to grow and mature in specific areas of your life, not as a standard you have to meet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Resolutions?

Do you make New Years Resolutions? Do you keep them? Do you make a long list of things you want to do and then have nearly the same list the next year? How do you feel about them? Do you think they are helpful?

I'm curious about what you guys think.

I've never been much of a resolutions girl myself, but in the last couple years my husband and I have set some goals for the year. It's been helpful in a lot of ways and it's helped us move forward and grow in areas we may not have with out them.

I'll be posting about setting goals this week & some of my tips, plus what my goals will be for the new year and a recap on last years goals. Follow along and post some of yours too!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Groupon Deal!

I just got this Shutterfly deal on Groupon. It'll be 2 calendars for $20. These make great grandparent gifts with pictures of the kids for them to enjoy each month.

Forgotten Update

As I was browsing back through some older posts, I noticed that I forgot to give you a car update ! It was a mixture of good news and bad news, but mostly good considering the circumstances. As I shared before, the repair was quite an expensive one. The price the mechanic quoted us was any where between $800 and $1,700 depending on the damage they could discover as they went along. As you can imagine we were far less then thrilled by the quote. We were very discouraged to say the least, not only was it in the midst of our Christmas shopping, but it also happened right after our computer started failing too!

Now, the good news, the actual cost of the repair was $759. I know, it was A LOT, but compared to the numbers they had told us, not only was it on the lowest end, it was BELOW the lowest end!! :) I like to think God threw that in as an extra bonus just for me! ;) Since I had been praying for it to be less then what we were expecting. The other piece of good news is that we didn't even TOUCH our emergency fund. Since we'd had some extra in our budget for those two weeks, it completely covered the whole bill. AND, just because we have an awesome mechanic who is so good to us, he fixed my power steering problem (that was completely unrelated & just an extra thing we mentioned to him to look at) for FREE!

As crummy as it is to have car problems, we saw God's hand in all of it. Taking care of us, providing all of the finances for it and even giving us a few extra blessings in the midst of the troubles.

Debt Update

It's been a while since I've given a debt update, so I thought now would be a good time to do so. We started our debt diet on July 27th, so it's been exactly 5 months. I'm happy to share with you that to date we've paid off just under $16,000 of debt!!! Isn't that exciting?!?!

Here's a quick run down on how we've done it:
-Emptied all our savings (leaving only the $1,000 emergency fund)
-Withdrawing some investment accounts that weren't doing well and/or weren't active any more
-Lived on a cash only budget
-Saved and applied every spare penny we could find in our income toward debt
-Sold stuff we weren't using
-Picked up extra jobs/shifts
-Applied for higher paying jobs and asked for raises
-Cut back on bills or non-essentials any where we could

We still have a long road ahead of us, but the progress has been amazing and we are so thrilled!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy your time with your family and friends this week!! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It seems like dinner gets the most money saving ideas. So I thought I'd share some of mine for breakfast today. Breakfast can actually be very affordable. Although, I think a lot of people are spending a lot more then they need to in order to have the convenience of a quick breakfast on their way out the door. Here are some ideas, that will save your budget, won't just give you a sugar high and get you to work and your kids to school on time! :)

-I grew up on oatmeal, eggs and toast. Most mornings my Dad made breakfast and that's what was served. It's basically a family tradition breakfast now. I serve it regularly to my kids too. Although I don't always do the eggs. It's very cheap and fast. You can buy a large (2 lb) tub of oatmeal for under $2 and that will feed our family a lot of breakfast! It's significantly cheaper then the average box of cold cereal, for sure.

-Eggs are a lot more in expensive then cold cereal too. I know several people who eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast. That's not my favorite kind so it's not usually my choice. But scrambled eggs are easy to make quickly and can be, if need be, reheated the next day for a quicker breakfast.

-If you like to do the frozen waffles, it's easy and cheaper to make the same thing at home. Buy your favorite waffle mix, make a whole bunch of waffles, freeze them separately (so you can take them out one at a time) and I'm certain it'll be much cheaper then the frozen boxed ones.

-Toast, bagels, english muffins are always easy to take on the go. Add some peanut butter for protein or your favorite toppings and it's a quick, easy breakfast.

-I've also made a batch of muffins or breads to use for a week for breakfast. Grab a piece of fruit to go with it and you've got a great breakfast.

-If you just can't get rid of the cold cereal all together, I understand! :) We don't either. There are just some days that's what you want to eat. Although we try to limit that. Here are some ways we stretch the cold cereal. For our kids, I serve it on vanilla yogurt which has a lot of benefits. 1. It doesn't make as much of a mess, when they are learning to spoon feed. 2. It fills them up better then just cereal and milk, so they can have smaller servings of cereal. 3. You use less cereal because their bowl is full of yogurt. 4. It has added nutrition too. I then serve them milk or juice in their cup to drink along side it. We actually use less milk this way too.

What are your money saving breakfast ideas?

Cheap Entertainment

One of the easiest things to do with your kids this time of year is to take them out to look at Christmas lights. We usually try to find out which neighborhoods have a lot of homes decorated or go to some of the nice ones we know about. We like to take along some snacks and hot chocolate, turn on some Christmas music and let the kids enjoy the view! Our kids LOVE it and it's a free way to spend the evening creating memories and spending time together.

If you live close to an airport, that too can become a cheap outing. You can do it a couple of ways. You can go to a parking lot close by and park so that you can watch the airplanes come in and out. Again, snacks and drinks make it extra fun! ;) You could always put on some fun music too. If you are open to paying a few dollars for an hour at the airport, you can take them inside and find a big window where they can stand and watch the airplanes go in and out up close. Either way, it's a fun and free way to have some time together. The kids, especially little ones, enjoy seeing the airplanes too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Guest Blogger

I think it would be fun to have some readers do a post with some of the ways they are saving money, living on a budget, a funny story about being thrifty, an idea they have had or tried, or anything else related to simplifying our lives. If you'd like to post something from your experiences on here, I'd love to have you over! ;)

Here's what you can do:
1. Write up a little description about yourself and how you came across this blog
2. Write a blog post that you think apply to the content of the blog
3. Email them to me through my profile
4. Watch to see them posted

I'd love to have more then one, so blog away!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Creative Gift Exchanges

I can't take credit for any of the ideas I'm about to share, but I never like to pass up an opportunity to share good ideas! :)

My friend, Sarah and her family, have come up with great ways to give gifts to each other that are meaningful, but won't break the bank. Here are some of the ones she's told me about:

*They drew names (I think by gender) and then made a gift for the person they picked. They had plenty of time to work on it and came up with really creative ideas that weren't just a cooking mix or hat. I'm not sure what they all were, but they were personal to the one they were giving it to, which made it all the more special.

*This year they are each bringing a book from their "library" that has meant something special to them this year and want to pass it on so someone else can be inspired, taught or encouraged like they have been through that book. They'll do a "white elephant" exchange for the books.

*Last year they went with DVDs, not sure all the details on that one, but again, another simple idea and reasonably priced too.

Another idea I heard recently would work well for a gathering of friends or colleagues. Every one brings a $10 wrapped beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic or a combination would be decided by the group) and a "white elephant" exchange takes place. Everyone walks out with something special!

What creative ideas have you heard? I think we're going to have to try some of these! :)

The Simple Pleasures

This week I was thinking back on some of the moments that just made my heart smile this week, most of them didn't cost any money, didn't take much time and/or effort. They were essentially, the simple pleasures of each day.

-Snuggling with the kids in bed before getting started with our day.
-Baking cookies with my daughter
-Decorating cookies with friends
-Making and building new friendships
-Getting to sleep in
-Having a family lunch out
-Listening to the funny things my daughter says
-Watching my kids love each other, play together and laugh with each other
-My husband coming home from work an hour earlier then usual
-Having the money to cover all our car expenses without causing extra stress
-Making plans for a girlfriend outing
-Getting extra hugs and kisses from my kids
-Getting everything done in time!
-Enjoying a lovely cup of coffee, catching up with a friend
-Getting a free Starbucks holiday drink

It's amazing how each day there are moments that make our lives full of blessings. What simple pleasures are you enjoying this week?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ham Lessons

I've learned a few things about the ham world this week. Judging from my past post you can probably tell that I was clueless about all things--ham! But not anymore, thanks to my money saving mission, I've learned quite a few new things and of course, I have to share them with you! :)

1. Hams come fully cooked! That saves me that step!
2. Hams come pre-sliced (Spiral Sliced)--Another step saved.

So here is what I did. I bought a ham for $1.39/lb that was spiral sliced, brought it home and then followed the directions to add the honey glaze to it that it came with. Once that was finished I took the slices off the bone and placed them in small freezer bags for lunch meat. With the rest of it, I took it off in large chunks and diced it or shredded it to add to casseroles, soups or dishes. I packed them all up for freezing & labeled them for future use. It turned out to be even easier then I thought it would be!

**Sidenote: If you're seeing a lot of sales happening at different stores and don't want to go to each of them, most stores honor their competitors prices. All I do is take all my ads in with me and while checking out, hand the check out clerk the ad for the items I'm buying and they ring it up for the sale price. It'll save you a lot of money and time by using that trick on your grocery shopping days! :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts with a Purpose

Every year we've gone to the store at 4 AM on Black Friday along with thousands of other Americans to buy our Christmas gifts. It's a fun tradition and we've gotten amazing deals and usually taken care of all our shopping in one day. I've loved it and it's been awesome! But this year we're doing things a little different. This year, I've shopped a little along the way and enjoyed the opportunity to buy things that will go to a better cause. Some of the ways I've done that this year have been to buy from local vendors in order to support their home business or a hobby job for a stay at home mom. We've also bought gifts through Samaritan's Purse in honor of some of our family members, who I know will be blessed to know other people's needs will be met in their honor. I haven't bought all our presents this year from those sources, but it's the first year we've done more of that then just buying everything from the store. I'm liking it. Maybe it'll be a new tradition! :)

Have you bought or made gifts that are fulfilling a great purpose this year? What kinds of things have you done?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feeling Behind...

I haven't had the stomach flu in who knows how many years...until yesterday. Yuck! It was awful. I didn't do much other then sleep, which set me further behind on housework and Christmas preparations. I've done laundry every single day this week and have PILES to put away. Between both of the kids having some stomach trouble too, it's been at least a load of laundry a day.

On one hand it's been a crummy week, but on the other hand, it's been a very slow, relaxing week! On Wednesday the kids and I enjoyed a lot of snuggle time and rest since we just weren't feeling so great. Then yesterday, it was more of the same. Today we seem to be moving a little more quickly again and I'm working on tackling the housework that has been neglected. At least we're all rested up now! :)

A calmer Christmas

Have you noticed how many advertisements have words in them like, "enjoy a calmer Christmas", "take the stress out of the holidays", "simplify gift giving", etc? I think I get an add at least once a day in my inbox advertising a product or store that has the solution for a Christmas that is less hectic. It's got me thinking, if it's such a big deal in the marketing realm, there must be a lot of stressed out people trying to make it through this month with some sense of sanity by the end of it all!

Whatever happened to those things actually being part of the Christmas season? Calm, simple, about loving and gathering friends and family, simpler expectations, less pressure to find, buy or make the perfect gifts, all of what the season used to mean. I think our culture is crying out for that simplicity to come back. I know I am. As I've shared with you, we are making that a priority this year, to keep things calmer, less hectic and more meaningful, focused on what's really important and what we're really celebrating. For our family, it's a time of celebrating our Savior's birth and that day was SIMPLE! He was born in a stable with animals, laid in a food trough and his parents slept on hay. There was nothing glamorous about it, but from that simplicity came the most powerful and magnificent life in all of human history. Which again, makes me wonder (I know, I shouldn't think so much! ;)), why are we working so hard to impress people, make a big scene, be franticly working on our Christmas plans, when from a seemingly meaningless moment, history was altered forever.

A calm Christmas...that's what we want this year. One like the day Jesus was born, celebrating HIS coming and HIS gift to us among our family and friends.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baking much this time of year?

Most of us are doing a little extra baking this season and that is a fantastic way to fill our plates, tummies and save on heat! :) What a great deal! As I've become more of a baker and also more of a "green" thinker, I've found that heating your home with your oven is a great way to get two things done at once. You'll get to enjoy something tasty coming out of your oven when you're done too. :)

If you're planning on having the oven on for a while, be sure to turn your heat down and let your oven the heating for you. Also, after you're done with your baking, leave the oven door propped open just a bit and let the heat from your oven fill your room. It's going to need to cool anyway, why not let that air save your heating bill while it's cooling? ;)

Stay warm and cozy! If anyone is baking something extra delicious, I'm willing to take some of them off your hands too! ;)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


We aren't big ham eaters for the holidays, but I know there are plenty that are, and thanks to those of you who are, there are great sales right now! This week I saw ham as low as $1.39/lb and even though that isn't a usual item on our dinner table, I'll be picking one up, BECAUSE we do eat a lot of sandwiches. My plan is to buy a ham, bake it and take it back to my local grocery store and ask them to slice it for me. There may be a charge, but I'm certain it'll still be far cheaper that way then the $3.98 or more per pound our lunch meat costs. Not to  mention it'll be a much fresher flavor! :) Once it's been thinly sliced for me, I'll package it up for freezing and we'll be set with a great supply of lunch meat for a while. I'll probably chop some up as well and freeze for adding to casseroles, eggs or other dishes that ham goes well in.

I'm also seeing a lot of baking supplies on sale this week. A pound of butter for $0.99, compared to the usual, nearly $3 price tag. Butter can be frozen too, so I'll be getting several at that price.

Don't miss out on these deals! :)

**If I can't get it sliced at the grocery store, I'll use an electric knife to cut the ham in thin slices.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Does anyone else feel like they are running from one thing to the next?! It's so strange how the month of December just makes things instantly busy. I was hoping this year wouldn't be as much like that since most of our shopping is done, we don't have a ton of things on the calendar and we're doing our best to be more relaxed during the season...BUT, it's still happening.

With our car in the shop STILL, it's added a little extra stress to daily life. Along with extra details for church programs, holiday parties, two kids getting the stomach bug and all the usual life things, it's been a busy week.

I think the word "busy" is becoming one of my least favorite words. It feels stressful just saying it. This week, I'm hoping to work on using the word "busy" less often and focus on making this week described by words like: relaxing, enjoyable, productive, memorable.

I've got more ideas of posts to come, but you'll have to be patient with me this month, I'm working on being less BUSY! ;)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two Week Grocery Bill=$45

This week I had a fairly long grocery list to re buy a lot of the staples and basics we had used up before going on our trip. I was a little nervous about how much it would all add up to, but it was surprisingly low! The things I needed the most were our dairy and fresh produce for the next two weeks. There were some really great sales at some of our local stores that helped with the produce. Thankfully since we have a decent stock of pantry goods and meats in our freezer, so that really helps cut down on our regular grocery bill. It's an added blessing to keep our grocery cost low since we'll be needing extra funds to go to the things we will be fixing!

After loading my grocery cart with all the things we'd need for our home and also a few extras for a veggie tray I'll be bringing to a shower on Sunday, I was surprised my total rang up as $44.50!

My husband and I have both been surprised by how few changes we've had to make in our lifestyle, but how big of a difference it has made in our budget.

Friday, December 3, 2010

God Provides

We've always had all our needs taken care of and never missed a payment on any bills. We know it's because of God's provision for us. Again, today as I was doing our two week budget, there is evidence that God is taking care of us. We found out last night our car repair has the potential of being quite expensive, possibly even more then our emergency fund. *sigh*. Not, excited about it at all! :( Yet, there is still reason to be thankful and hopeful because after all our bills are paid, food is put on the table and gas in the cars, there is even more extra this paycheck then usual. Of course, I'd love to put that all toward our debt or some toward saving for our computer, but under the current circumstances, it is evidence to me of HIS provision. He is taking care of that bill for us. He is making a way for us to pay for something we didn't expect, but He did and He prepared a way for us. I'll still be praying that the repair is less then we're expecting though! ;) Wouldn't that just be a lovely extra blessing?!?! :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Putting our Emergency Fund to use

Yep, not so excited about it, but our emergency fund is really protecting us from a potentially financial mess this week.

Last week in the midst of all our Thanksgiving preparations and trip planning, our computer decided it has had enough. (A reason for the lack of posting this last week!) Anyway, we did see this coming to some extent, but had hoped we'd have a little more time to finish saving up for its replacement. We've actually been surprisingly calm about this situation that normally would have come as a huge disaster and create a lot of financial stress. We've got a plan in place to continue saving and hopefully be able to have our new computer within the next month or so. Thankfully, we have a back up computer that will get us by until then. It's nice to feel calm about this and not frantic about where the money will come from. Thanks to our budget we know exactly how much money we have and are able to set aside and are able to be realistic about when we'll be able to pay cash for it. We had considered using some of our emergency fund for it and I'm thankful we decided not to.

BECAUSE...yesterday, while driving home from our 13 hour trip to see my husband's family we broke down 15 minutes from home. (A HUGE blessing that we were close to family and friends that could help us and get our full van worth of stuff and us home while the van was towed to the shop!) Regardless, here we are again with a car in the shop! :( Ugh. We still don't know what the end result will be to this 'hiccup', but it's certainly an expense we hadn't planned for this month. Once again, I'm thankful that we are doing this budget and have the option of an emergency fund to draw from for these occasions.

It's been a week of breaking down for us and problem solving. I can't even express the gratitude and peace we're experiencing because we have a plan to handle these things financially. What had the potential to cause huge stress, chaos, arguments between me and my husband, and an overwhelming mess, has actually been the opposite. We've felt in control of the situation, knowing that it's not our plan or even how we'd like things to go, but at least we have some options of ways to handle these situations.

Once again, we are experiencing the benefits of this financial "overhaul" in our lives! :)

Family, Traveling, Recovering!

That's what this week has been for us! We went out of town to visit my husband's family after Thanksgiving and returned last night. We celebrate an early Christmas while we were there too. It's always extra work to get ready to go on a trip and then come home and recover! So, I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things. I'll have to keep up with the laundry and unpacking this time because we're about to hit a month worth of parties, celebrations and busyness! So today, I sit and wonder how does one keep from being a frazzled mess during this season of the year? Thankfully the frazzle-ness hasn't hit us yet and I'd love to avoid it all together, so I'm pondering and thinking of ideas to create a calmness and maintain some peace in our home despite the extra activities and busy schedules we will be facing.

Any and all ideas are always welcome! What do you do to minimize the stress and chaos of the holidays?
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